Monday, March 16, 2009

Living WELL doesn't have to be expensive

Everywhere I turn lately, I am reminded of how bad the economy is. Food costs are higher than ever. Magazines, newspapers, television and radio shows are all offering ideas on how to feed your family on a budget. All of this got me thinking... and now I am going to hop on the bandwagon. Part of this is a challenge for myself and part of it is to come up with options for those of you who read this blog. I tend to be a no holds barred, sort of chef. I believe in high quality ingredients. A person cannot have a spice cabinet that it too full. Much of this I get from my Mom who taught me that it is worth going to every store in town, to find all of the ingredients necessary to make a recipe. Over the years we have had many interesting wild goose chases, looking for unusual things like juniper berries, lemon grass and endless types of specialty liqueurs... Moving to LA increased my chances of being able to cook all of Martha Stewart's recipes, but even still, I often have to visit 3 or 4 stores. And when I lived in New York City, the ante was even higher because almost everything was available, the challenge was in finding it! Luckily, we lived two blocks away from Zabar's and not far from Fairway. No matter how much pavement pounding I did, it was ALWAYS worth it! And even now that I have two little kids, it remains a passion for me. But feeding a family, in dire economic times AND trying to work within all of Ella's allergy restrictions requires a little creativity. So now I am going to truly challenge myself to make a tasty, healthy meal for 4 with as few ingredients as possible. And I am going to try and do it once a week, at least. These meals can be made for less than $20.
Here is my first entry. If you ever need to quickly access any of these recipes, look to the column at the right and click on "Budget Friendly".

Budget Meal #1

Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Vegetables and Mashed Potatoes
Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin
1-2 Pork Tenderloins
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 can French Onion Soup
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup (Whole Foods has one that is organic and wheat free)
Place all ingredients (in the order listed) in a slow cooker/crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
When it is ready, you may slice it or shred it and serve on top of mashed potatoes. Top with some of the mushrooms and drizzle the au jus from the bottom of the cooker on top of the mushrooms.
Roasted Vegetables
2-3 vegetables of your choice (for budget purposes, look to what is in season), approx. 2 lbs total
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

Clean and cut vegetables into small pieces and toss with oil and salt in a large bowl. Spread in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan (1 inch deep) and roast, stirring and turning over occasionally, until tender and golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes.
Mashed Potatoes
2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes (preferably large)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Transfer to a 3-quart heavy saucepan and add 5 cups cold water and 1 teaspoon salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes in a colander, then return to pan and cook over moderate heat, shaking pan occasionally, until dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a bowl and keep hot, covered. Heat milk, butter, white pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in saucepan over moderate heat until butter is melted.

Force potatoes through food mill or ricer (or if you do not mind a few lumps go old school and use a hand mixer) into hot milk mixture in pan and gently stir with a large heatproof rubber spatula just until combined.
** I also really like using chicken broth and 1/2 & 1/2 in place of the milk. The two flavors and textures work well with the mashed potatoes.


Lisa Polansky said...

I'm printing out this dinner, looks great. Budget, slow crock, pork, say no more. Thanks Heidi!

Stuff-O-Rama Blog said...

Another way I save with baking is to go to the Mexican Food aisle, they have amazing amounts of all spices for around 79 cents. The come in a little bag instead of a jar or tin. I just pour them into some glass containers I got at Smart & Final. I once got 4 vanilla beans for $4. Woot!

Robert Boyle said...

This looks fantastic!!!!!! Wish it was dinner so Natasha could make it for me now. We will do this tonight. DAD