Sunday, June 20, 2010

super cheap eats edition: giving poverty law a whole 'nother meaning

We are moving at the end of this month, so we are extra poor right now. I'm trying to get through this week spending as little as possible while not eating garbage. Today I only spent $16.16 on groceries (for myself - the carnivore is on his own), and I think that will get me mostly through the week - breakfasts, snacks, and one meal. For the other meal I'll probably just do PBJ or something cheap.

My $16.16 haul

One caveat - I have a very well-stocked kitchen. Back when I had the enormous income of $10.99 per hour (plus tips!) and no debt, I accumulated pretty much every herb/spice/seasoning you could want, and being a baker, I always have flour/sugar/etc on hand. That's a big help in being able to create dishes that are tasty, cheap, and not half bad for me.

This week's Poverty Law Menu features smoothies, banana muffins, black bean tofu burgers, and Jolee Porter rice. All vegan, all tasty, all cheap.

Breakfast smoothie! - makes one 16ish ounce smoothie

1/2 cup frozen strawberries
3/4-1 cup orange juice
1 banana, broken into large chunks

Throw that shit in a blender and let it go.* Drink up!

*If you are using whole frozen strawberries, and I recommend that you do because they are usually wayyyy cheaper than sliced, microwave them for 20-30 seconds. This will soften them up just enough so that they don't screw up your blender. IF you have a wholesale club membership, you may be able to get your frozen berries even cheaper. I get a gigantic bag of strawberries at Sam's for about $8. It lasts me 2-3 weeks.

I was a smoothie proprietress for many a year.

Banana (Walnut) Muffins (vegan!) - makes 12 muffins

3 very ripe bananas (never throw away a banana! freeze them. the blacker and rottenier, the tastier they'll be in breads!)
1/4 cup applesauce (or canola or vegetable oil, or softened margarine or butter)
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour (or white if that's what you have)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (or raisins, or chocolate chips, or whatever you have around)

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mash bananas with a fork. Add the applesauce and sugar (and vanilla if using) and cream together with a hand mixer, or whisk vigorously. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda and stir gently just to combine. Don't worry about little lumps of flour - overmixing is bad. If using, fold in the walnuts. The batter will be kind of stiffish.

Spray or line a muffin pan and spoon the batter in evenly. If the batter piles up a little higher than the sides of the cups, that's fine. These muffins hardly rise at all. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. These are dense and have a wonderful hearty texture, so they're not too sweet and just perfect for breakfast. They are also fat-free if you don't use the walnuts, but even if you do, it's The Good Kind of fat.

Black Bean Tofu Burgers & Jolee Porter Rice (vegan!) - makes 6-10 burgers depending on thickness

These are not quite as involved as they may seem at first glance. Seriously.

for the burgers -
1 block extra firm tofu (from the refrigerated area of the produce section)
1 19 ounce can of black beans, rinsed, drained, and halfheartedly patted dry
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (this is available at frou-frou stores - you could probably sub extra flour or bread crumbs)
1/2-3/4 cup dry bread crumbs (I used Panko, but you can use any kind or make your own)
1/2-3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or regular if that's all you've got)
1 onion
1 green bell pepper, seeded and stemmed
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp burger seasoning
1 tsp soy sauce
hot sauce to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
cooking spray

for the rice -
1 cup rice
1 onion
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup salsa
big pinch turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp olive oil

Useful Equipment:
food processor
a reliable non-stick frying pan
the ability to flip pancakes without a spatula

Heat one tbsp of oil in a medium pot (you're going to make the rice in this later, so make sure it's big enough and you can cover it). Process one onion and the green pepper in your food processor until finely chopped.

Squeeze out as much of the water as you can from the chopped vegetables, and then add them to the hot pan. Sauté until vegetables are softened and lightly browned. Put the vegetables in a large mixing bowl and let them cool.

While the onion & pepper are cooling, heat another tablespoon of oil in the same pot. While it's heating, chop another onion in the food processor or by hand (doesn't matter how finely/roughly - your choice). Add the onions to the hot pot and cook til they soften. Then add the rice, vegetable stock, salsa, and turmeric and cumin if using. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, press as much water as you can out of your block of tofu. I do this by cutting a slit in the package and squeezing the whole thing, with the tofu still in the package. This way the water can drain out but the tofu stays in. The tofu will probably crumble inside the package; that's fine. Add the beans & tofu to your food processor and process until fairly smooth.

Scrape the bean/tofu mixture into the mixing bowl with the cooled veggies. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine. Start with just 1/2 cup of the flour and add more if needed to form patties. The patties will be pretty sticky, but if they hold their shape, they should be okay.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and spray it with cooking spray. Cook the patties individually, about 3-4 minutes per side. The best way to flip these is like a pancake. Don't touch them or use a utensil; just flip them in the pan. They are very soft while hot and will probably not hold their shape if you use utensils. The good news is, if you have a bad flip and they get mushed, they are very easy to re-shape while still warm. Cook until browned on both sides (about 3-4 minutes per side) and then transfer (without touching or using utensils - you can do it! But if they get damaged just mush them back into a round) to a cutting board or other flat surface to cool partially. Once they have cooled enough to be handled without breaking, transfer them to a cooling rack. Once they have cooled completely, you can pick them up with no problem.

Looks McDonaldsy

Serve with tomato slices (and mashed avocado if you've got it would be super tasty) on sandwich bread or a bun or naked with a side of Jolee Porter Rice.

Store leftovers in plastic wrap in a zipper bag in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave for about 60 seconds, flipping over halfway through.

NOTE: I think these would be even tastier with maybe a cup of whole black beans (drained & rinsed) folded into the mix for a beanier texture.


So there you go. You have breakfast, snacks, and one meal per day for a week for little monies. Hope you enjoy!

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