Too Thrifty Chicks

Think.Thrift.Create


2 Comments

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

IMG_1286

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

IMG_1282

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


Leave a comment

Tidbit Tuesday: The Power of Pesto

It’s time for another installment in the Thrifty Cooking Series and today’s topic is pesto. Yes that deliciously flavored green slurry that makes certain Italian dishes taste so yummy — pesto. For a long time, when the Thrifty Chicks thought “pesto” we immediately thought “pasta”. But we are here to help you change how you think about this flavor-filled rock star and how it can bring more than your pasta dishes to life.

Around the same time we started cooking nearly every meal we’ve eaten since we started Operation Do Better, we began making our own pesto. Don’t get us wrong, the jarred stuff is delicious and convenient. But for the size, usually less than 7 ounces, and our money, pesto is pricey. When we read the ingredients on a jar, we were surprised at how simple the ingredients were.

Aside from the preservative ingredients that give jarred pesto its shelf-life, pesto is nothing more than parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, basil, or some other kind of green herb, garlic and some kind of nut, usually pine nuts. Blend them in a food processor and Presto! Pesto! There also are tons of other ingredients you can use to make pesto and plenty of recipes on the Internet to help you do it.IMG_3951

For our recipe we substituted pine nuts with walnuts because they were cheaper. We bought a rather large bag of walnuts from Trader Joe’s and it’s lasted us about six months. We keep the walnuts in the refrigerator so that the oil in the nuts doesn’t get rancid. We usually buy the biggest container of basil we can find and make a rather big batch.  We preserve our pesto, without preservatives, by freezing it in an ice tray with a layer of olive oil on top. The stuff keeps in the freezer, without getting freezer burned, for a pretty long time. We never leave it in the freezer longer than a month because we use the stuff in so many of our dishes.

When in doubt, add pesto

Pasta: Of course we use pesto very traditionally in pasta dishes, but the way we use it is probably a little different. We occasionally use it as a stand alone sauce, but often times we use it to add flavor to store bought white and red pasta sauce. We’ll soon be making our own pasta sauces, but we’ll likely still add pesto because we really love the flavor.

Fish/Shrimp: We discovered this summer that pesto is great on fish and shrimp. Slather it on skewered pieces of shrimp and salmon, grill or bake.  Not only is it delicious, but it keeps seafood from drying out in that cooking process. What you’ll have is succulent morsels of seafood that will disappear from plates.

Mayo replacement: During a recent tubbing adventure, our girl Sunny S. whipped out these mini-sandwiches with pesto, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. All served on mini-whole wheat bagels.  And she blew our entire minds! They were that good. The pesto was the delicious glue that held these bad boys together. And when you think about it, pesto would make a pretty awesome replacement in many of the salads and sandwiches that call for mayo. A new twist on potato and macaroni salad, you say? Why certainly!

Pizza: We like making homemade pizza more than we like ordering it out. The act of flavoring IMG_3771our dough and deciding what kinds of toppings we want to add to our pizza really is an ever-evolving thing at our house. We have put pesto in our dough and we certainly have made it the primary sauce on top of our pizza and mixed it in store-bought sauce.  It is delicious. Period.

If you’re bored with what’s on your plate and what it taste like, give pesto a chance. We don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.

— R & R


6 Comments

Too Thrifty Cooks: Lookout for the Cookout

PhotoGrid_1373170511973

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