Too Thrifty Chicks

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Too Thrifty Chicks Cook: A twofer with three ingredients

The Too Thrifty Chicks are a day late and a dollar short these days when it comes to posts. We’ve both been living life on the run — Reese in Austin and me working my temp job — and things are crazy to say the least. But we haven’t forgotten you, nor have we forgotten the multitude of posts that we promised all of you. Person pairs and Affordable health care 101, anyone? We are hoping that things are going to even out soon, but in case it doesn’t, we encourage you to follow our motto: “Just go with it!”

We’ve been cooking sporadically these days and by sporadically we mean you-will-not-believe-how-much-we-have-eaten-out! Like seriously, we have been all Operation Do Worse instead of Operation Do Better. While it’s not impacting our budget so much, we have some concerns that it might be impacting our health. So at first opportunity we got in the kitchen and made some kitchen alchemy as Reese likes to call it.  We’ve been kind of stumped for ideas, but have vowed to stay out of the grocery store and eat what we have on hand when we cook.

Meal #1: Butternut squash and sweet potato curry

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There has been a butternut squash sitting in our kitchen and silently mocking us (what your vegetables don’t mock you?) each time we grabbed something out out of the bowl where we keep our vegetables. Did we want soup? A casserole? Roasted? What, oh what, to do with the butternut!

Turns out we didn’t want to do any of those things. Instead we decided on curry and boy were we glad we did. I found a fairly simple recipe for butternut squash and sweet potato curry. Ding, ding! We have a winner. We love Indian food and we make and eat Chana masala and even get our Tandoori on from time to time. The spicy curry powder in this dish was a nice foil to the sweetness of the butternut squash, sweet potatoes and sweet onions we used in the dish.

All you need to make the dish are things that you might have handy in your pantry: mustard seeds, curry powder of choice, coconut milk and veggie broth.  I’m not going to lie, I didn’t follow the recipe very closely, but it still turned out great. Here’s what I did:

Sauté the mustard seeds, but be careful they start to pop when they get hot. To avoid popping I tried to keep the heat at a medium flame and essentially put the chopped union in half a second after stirring the seeds just enough to get them coated with oil. Once your onions become a bit translucent, add in a teaspoon of curry powder. I only used a teaspoon to begin because Reese said the particular curry powder I chose to use was rather spicy. Coat the onions in the curry powder. Your house should smell amazing at this point. Then dump in your chopped butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

I sautéd the butternut squash and sweet potatoes much the same way I do when I make home fries, allowing the sugars from the veggies to carmelize and covering it with a lid to allow the steam to sweat the veggies at the same time.  At this point, I also sprinkled some sea salt over the mixture. To help the veggies cook down enough to get tender, I added a little organic veggie broth. Don’t overcook your veggies, or it will be mushy. I threw in a handful of curry powder that had much less spice and then another teaspoon of the spicy curry. If you like spice, but not this much, skip this step. I added a half can of coconut milk, stirred to incorporate, allowed it all another few seconds to heat through and Violá! Butternut squash and sweet potato curry. Serve with some brown basmati, or jasmine rice and red wine.

Meal #2: Roasted butternut squash and sweet potato as a side

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Warning: Objects should be bigger than they appear. We do not advocate these portion sizes.

It’s that time of the year when Mother Nature’s bounty runneth over, and that was the case with the fairly good sized butternut squash and gigantic sweet potatoes that started this whole thing. When I chopped up both the squash and the potatoes, I was overwhelmed with how much we had. Reese suggested that we curry half and roast the rest. She whipped out some traditional spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and olive oil. She tossed the veggies in the oil and then got her sprinkle fairy on and popped them in the oven until they were fork tender. Serve this as a side dish to baked fish, sautéd swiss chard and our crockpot black beans (not pictured) and you have an easy and colorful dinner.

We hope you find your way back to the kitchen and we hope it’s delicious. Happy feasting!

— Ricks


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Too Thrifty Cooks: Lookout for the Cookout

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There is very little that we love more than getting together with friends to eat, drink and make merry. But let’s face it, we all have lives and nailing down the schedules of a handful of our favorite friends is a beast! Lucky for us, everyone (including the thrifty chicks) was in town post Fourth of July, which weirdly fell on a Thursday this year.

We wanted to invite our friends for a casual cookout that included good eats and drinks, but what do you do when a friend is allergic to strawberries, another does not eat mushrooms, some friends are strict vegetarians, some are eating “clean” and the rest are flexitarians like the two of us?

You ask people what they want to eat, what they are willing to eat, you cook it and keep it moving! We bought the most adorable, tiny grill, some charcoal and prepped to get it in! To keep this thrifty gathering cost-effective we asked our friends ahead of the event to chip in $10. This way they didn’t have to cook a dish, or rush to the store last-minute to pick up something that everyone could eat.

If you’re sweating how to afford feeding everyone for a gathering, consider just asking everyone to chip in toward the cost, or do what you can to cover the food and ask your guests to contribute wine, spirits or some other extra thing. Most times your friends won’t come empty-handed and will want to contribute something so you might as well ask for something you need.

20130706_202444Our friend Kim makes the bomb sangria. WE MEAN THE BOMB! Instead of chipping in money we asked that she bring that. So she brought both a red and white wine sangria. We blended up our own summer fruit drinks including an adult beverage and…let’s just say a good time was had by all.

Check out our menu, which was a serious hit with our friends!

Lookout for the Cookout Delicacies

Seasoned wild-caught salmon skewers: These are previously frozen salmon filets that we cut into bite sized pieces seasoned with salt, pepper and a lemon herb blend to taste. You can certainly use fresh salmon if you can catch it on sale. We put about three pieces of salmon on each regular size skewer (four if the pieces were smaller). Let the seasoning marinate at least 30 minutes to an hour. Cook until to fish is firm and flaky.

Tandoori wild-caught salmon skewers: Same frozen salmon filets. Mix about half a packet of tandoori 20130706_202236seasoning that you can probably find in your local international market with a small container of greek yogurt. Coat the salmon in the sauce and let it marinate until you’re ready to cook. Bake until fish is firm and flaky.

Wild-caught shrimp and homemade pesto skewers: We used previously frozen shrimp of a good size to get about three shrimp to a skewer. Feel free to use fresh shrimp if you can catch it on sale. You can use store-bought pesto, but we make our own using basil, walnuts, grated parmesan cheese and olive oil. Coat the shrimp and let them marinate  for about 30 minutes to an hour. Grill until shrimp is firm and pink.

Wild-caught shrimp and barbecue sauce skewers: Same shrimp. We used a zesty store-bought barbecue sauce from Trader Joe’s and added some teriyaki stir fry sauce . We also let these marinate. Bake or grill until shrimp is firm and pink.

Baked sweet potatoes: Slice them in thin rounds and fold them in packets of foil. Add some cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar if you’d like. Roast in the oven until tender. The steam inside the packet will cook the potatoes.

Fresh “Creole” corn: Take fresh sweet corn ears and cut them in half. Put a pat of butter, the amount is up to you, for each half ear in a packet of foil with as much corn as you can hold without spilling. Add creole seasoning such as Tony’s or Zatarain’s, a generous amount of garlic powder. Wrap them in foil and roast in the oven until tender.

Farm fresh squash and zucchini: Toss with olive oil, grill in a grill pan on the stove, outside if you have the space (we didn’t), or roast in the oven.

20130706_183719Reese’s baked mac ‘n cheese: You’ll need pasta and at least two kinds of shredded cheese. Use whatever kinds you like, just not pre-shredded. We used monterrey, pepper jack and gouda. You’ll need about 1/4 cup of milk  and seasonings such as garlic, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste. You’,ll also need butter. Cook the noodles until Al dente, stir in about half the cheese and butter. Add enough milk to make it creamy but not watery. When the cheese has melted, transfer to a baking dish. Add the leftover half of cheese and stir until it is well mixed. Top with another 1/4 cup of shredded cheese and breadcrumbs if you’d like. Bake until brown.

We broke out our folding chairs, blankets and the Too Thrifty Chicks Photo Shoot playlist on Spotify and hung out in the park until long after dark! Good Friends + Good Food = Good Memories! This whole shindig was put together for less than $100 and a good time was had by all. To us, that is the hallmark of a successful, thrifty gathering!

Until next time,

— R&R


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Too Thrifty Cooks: A thrifty cooking series

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As you all know the Too Thrifty Chicks cook almost everything as part of Operation Do Better. I’m qualifying that “everything” with “almost” because the summer months have us all off kilter. The weather is warmer and we’re often away from home and under prepared to NOT eat out. Sad but true.

We’re trying to pull ourselves back from the eating-out brink by cooking for the week on Sunday because really it’s too hot to fire up the stove more than once or twice during the week. So we’re starting this cooking series to force ourselves to plan what we’re going to eat each week and to hold ourselves accountable for one of the most important things we do — EAT!

The goal is to cook enough food to last through at least three or four meals that we are willing to eat multiple times during the course of the week.

To kick off the first week we’re focusing on a few staple recipes that are not only tasty enough to eat multiple times.

On the menu and our plates this week:

Fish  and Shrimp Tacos: This is a favorite at the thrifty palace. Saute  your fave white fish and shrimp with some creole seasoning until fish flakes and shrimp has that pink/orange hue. I take a package of broccoli slaw (we added some fresh fennel and cilantro) and dress it with whatever concoction I come up with because I never make the dressing the same twice. This last time it was honey, rice wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and some left over Asian dressing from the fridge that likely had ginger and soy sauce in it. Trust me. It works.

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Vegetarian Tamales: We posted this recipe here before, but we found the masa to be tasty, but a little bit bland for our tastebuds. I found this amazing recipe posted by Natalie over at Tasty Kitchen Blog, and decided to pump it up in a few ways. One, I added cumin, chili and garlic powder until I could smell it wafting from the masa. We like things spicy, so if you don’t, you might want to stick to the recipe. Two, I chopped up some frozen corn kernels and added it to the mix. We had corn in our masa last time and really liked it. Three, I added some pepper jack cheese to the mixture too. We really like cheese. Four, I chopped up a bunch of greens we had on hand and actually added that to the masa too. We have a lot of greens from the CSA where we get fresh veggies and needed to use them before they go bad. And five, we used the veggies we had on hand for our filling, which included a lot more greens and jalapenos.

Crock pot Black Beans: We eat so many black beans that we now buy them dry and cook them in our crock pot. We quick boil them and then toss them in the crock pot with a little salt, cumin, garlic and chili powder.

Classic Israeli Salad: This is a new one on us. We love tabbouleh, but when I saw this recipe in my inbox from Vegetarian Times I knew it was right up our alley. We already had the ingredients on hand because we intended to make tabbouleh, but the bulgur wheat we purchased this time came out looking scary, and neither of us wanted to touch the stuff when it was ready.

So that’s what’s on tap for the rest of this week. If we need a quick meal like we did Monday, black beans plus rice is quick enough and if we run out of that there’s always pasta or homemade pizza. What are you eating this week? Got recipe’s we should try? Let us know down in the comments section and maybe we’ll give it a whirl. Better yet, we take dinner invites too. 🙂

Until next time…

— R&R


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Tidbit Tuesday: Cucumber Salsa + Veggie Tamales

The weather is getting hot, and we have been on the hunt for foods that don’t involve us firing up our oven more than is absolutely necessary since we’re still cooking everything. We combed the interwebs looking for recipes and these two became instant hits.

Cucumber Salsa

Ingredients: 2 cups finely chopped seeded peeled cucumber, 1/2 cup finely chopped seeded tomato, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley, 1 jalepeno pepper (seeded and chopped), 4-1/2 tsp minced fresh cilantro, 1 garlic clove (minced or pressed), 1/4 c reduced-fat sour cream (or greek yogurt), 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice, 1-1/2 tsp lime juice, 1/4 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp seasoned salt, tortilla chips

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Directions: In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In another bowl, combine the sour cream, lemon juice, lime juice, cumin and seasoned salt. Pour over cucumber mixture and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately with chips.

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Veggie Tamales (serving size 12)

Ingredients: 2 cups masa corn flour, 1/2 cup butter (cubed), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 pinch sugar, 1 1/2-2 cups broth (you might need more than this, use your judgment), 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, chili pepper (to taste),  2 1/2 cups corn (fresh or thawed frozen will work), 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese (mexican cheese is better, reserve about half for filling), 2 tomatoes, deseeded, pealed and sliced (can immerse in boiling water for 20 seconds, and then ice water to loosen skins), 1-2 jalepenos, parchment paper or corn husk

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Directions:

1. Soak corn husks for about 30 minutes.
2. In a food processor blend corn and cheese until corn is in nearly a meal consistency.
3. Add butter, Masa flour, salt, sugar, pepper and baking powder and process until the mixture is loosely mixed.

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4. Add broth and mix until just smooth
5. Fill with some cheese, jalepenos, and tomatoes.
6. Close parchment paper or corn husk around filling, trying to cover filling with Masa flour mixture. If you have trouble closing or have too much filling try using less in your subsequent tamales (we had a few chubby ones at the beginning)

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7. Roll wrapper closed, roll and fold over ends and set aside.
8. Once they’re done they can be refrigerated or frozen, or placed immediately in steaming tray above boiling water for about 30 minutes, or until Masa flour mixture is set.

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