If there’s one truism about being an Americorps member, it’s that you very quickly learn to eat very cheaply. Although you will probably qualify for food stamps (depending on the extent of any supplementary income you may have), it’s always good to have a stock of cheap, filling and delicious recipes on hand to make sure your food budget goes as far as it can.
With that in mind, allow me to pass on five quick, easy and cheap eats to help you live like a king on a peasant’s budget.
Pesto Scrambled Eggs in a Pita
1 whole wheat pita (whole wheat is usually the same price as white, so you might as well go for the nutritional bump)
Pesto (you can buy good concentrated pesto from Amore cheaply in a squeeze-tube – check your produce section or get it online. Amazon sells it by the 6-pack for 16.00 and it lasts forever.)
Cut a whole wheat pita in half and open up the pockets. Scramble your eggs, then scoop them hot and fresh into the pita halves. Drizzle with just a smidge of pesto. Enjoy.
Simply, quick, hot and very yummy. Don’t like or don’t have pesto? Try hot sauce or salsa for pitas rancheros, or a bit of shredded cheese, or a drizzle of stir-fry sauce…get creative!
Great Balls of Fry
stale bread crumbs (optional)
This recipe combines two kitchen-fu koans, “veggies taste better when they’re hidden” and “everything tastes better when it’s fried.”
Haul out whatever needs to be eaten – green bean casserole, leftover corn on the cob (strip the kernels off the cob), the remains of last night’s mashed potatoes, whatever. Try to use your kitchen sense to create a unique, but tasty, mixture of ingredients. Avoid using the brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, etc) since they tend to be strong flavored.
Put it all in a food processor (or mash by hand) until it’s all well mixed. It should be pasty enough to hold together, but not smooth. Taste it to see if the resulting mixture is evil or if it needs seasoning. If it’s evil, eh, compost it and order in. If not, add in an egg or two depending on how much you have (if the mixture is thin or runny, add some stale breadcrumbs to firm it up). Shape mixture into balls or small patties and fry until golden brown.
Serve with whatever else didn’t go into the mixture as a side dish, and drizzle with a complementary condiment depending on the final flavor.
A good universal sauce for any number of uses is a cup of sour cream or yogurt mixed with a tsp of paprika or chili powder. Mix this up first and let it meld while you fry up your fritters.
Clean the Fridge Quiche
1 cup grated/shredded cheese
1-2 cups cream or milk (or subs. 1/2 cup yogurt)
1-2 cups of leftovers and random stuff that need to be eaten
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
assorted seasonings, condiments and other flavor enhancers
A deep-dish pie crust (buy frozen ones cheaply at grocery store, or make your own)
Cook, steam, fry, saute or otherwise prepare your leftovers as desired. (See note at end of recipe). Sauteing and add a small amount of chopped onion or a few cloves of garlic never did anyone any harm.
Beat eggs, milk and seasonings together. Put your leftovers into the crust. Top with cheese. Pour egg mixture over top (if you’ve got leftovers, make the pesto scrambled egg pita to eat while the quiche bakes).
Bake 10 minutes at 425. Turn oven down to 350, bake 45 min or until golden brown and delicious, as Alton Brown would say. A knife in the center should come out clean. Don’t have a crust? Skip it, call it a baked frittata and dig in.
Leftover Notes: What can you use? Leftover rice from last night’s take-out? Sure! The last 4 carrots in the bottom of the bin? Grate ’em and toss ’em in. Oh, look! Half a chicken breast from Tuesday’s lunch. Strip it down, chop it and toss it in the pile. Hmm…*sounds of bottles rattling*…how about half a tomato from this afternoon’s salad and…ew, no, gotta pitch that…uhmmm…and the last few mushrooms that aren’t shriveled up, chopped and fried in butter? Why not?
Basically, anything that would remotely work together is fine. You can make theme quiches by combining like ingredients: Salsa, hot sauce, black beans and corn make a nice Southwest quiche, while spinach, feta and tomatoes make something more Mediterranean. Leftover Chinese takeout and stir-fry sauce with rice makes Peking Quiche and carrots, spinach, tomatoes, radishes and a drizzle of Italian dressing turns into Garden Quiche. Experiment. It’s fun!
Thai Peanut Noodles
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 -3/4 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbs vinegar (rice wine vinegar, if you have it)
1 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp hot sauce, more or less to taste
10-12 oz pasta (spiral or curly shapes work well, but even Ramen will do nicely)
This recipe makes everyone’s favorite budget stretcher – peanut butter – into something wonderful!
Put the pasta on to boil, and while it’s cooking mix the sauce ingredients in a processor. Start with the smaller amount of water and add the extra if needed to make a smooth sauce. You can add a handful of fresh or frozen peas, broccoli florets, carrot shreds or other veggies to the boiling pasta in the last few minutes of cooking, to add visual interest and nutrition to the dish. Drain pasta, toss with sauce and eat. Yummy! If there’s leftovers, keep in mind that the sauce will get thick in the fridge. Add a sprinkle of water and cover when reheating in the microwave.
This is less of a recipe than a reminder – if you have a blender, nothing beats a healthy smoothie for speed, nutritional density and cheapness. Toss a random handful of fresh or frozen fruit into the blender with milk (soy or moo), yogurt, or juice. Add some wheat germ or bee pollen, if you’re into that sort of thing. Drizzle in some honey to cut the fruit’s natural acid. Hit puree and watch the magic happen. Taste, adjust the ingredients until it works for you and enjoy.
Other ingredient possibilities include: green or herbal teas, coffee, canned evaporated milk, a spoonful or two of jam or jelly, dessert sauces, a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or other spices of choice, grated citrus peel (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit – whatever), small handful of your favorite dried granola (adds fiber and thickens the blend, and is a great way to use up the “dust” at the bottom of the cereal box), dried seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin), peanut or other nut butter…the combinations are endless.