Category Archives: frugal

Meatless Tuesday with Meatless Ground

We try to limit our meat consumption and, like many of you, are trying to eat healthy. Recently, I picked up a package of Gardein Meatless Ground. We had eaten at a friend’s house on Monday so we moved Meatless Monday to Meatless Tuesday.

beefless

It is in the freezer section of the grocery store and needs to be kept frozen until just the time you cook it. Last night I made some vegetarian chili from a terrific recipe and used the soy ground meat in the recipe. Delicious. The texture is correct, taste is fine. I was quite happy with how it turned out. I’ve used other products in the past, but I do like the Gardein version quite a bit. I will try some of their other products and report back on how those work as well. Meanwhile, do think about trying the Meatless Ground in vegetarian chili. Here’s a link to the recipe I used. https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/72508/the-best-vegetarian-chili-in-the-world/

The photo is of the Best Vegetarian Chili in the World from Jaxon’s Mom on Allrecipes.com where the recipe is posted:

recipe active photo

I made a few changes to the recipe. I prefer to not use canned beans, although I know they are fine. But I keep a variety of dried beans, peas, and lentils on hand and it is easier for me to use those. So, the night before I placed about 3/4 – 1 cup each of kidney beans, chickpeas, and black beans in a large bowl and covered with water. The next morning I put all in my Instant-Pot with a tsp. of salt and cooked for 20 minutes. You can do the whole recipe in a large Instant Pot. Mine isn’t quite large enough because the chili recipe makes a large batch, but I did use it to cook the beans and that saved considerable time. If you have a larger model you could do the whole thing in one pot.

The other changes I made to the recipe were that I used one, not two packages of the soy ground meat. I used two 28 oz. cans of tomatoes, not three and I added 1 small can of tomato paste. I think everything else I followed the recipe linked to above. It was very good.

We were very pleased with the whole combination. The Meatless Ground was actually easier to cook with than regular ground meat, at least in this recipe. When I do use ground meat, I use very lean grassfed, local, sustainably raised meat which has very little fat (a good thing) but tricky to saute with at times. The Meatless Ground was easy because I could just dump it into the mix and heat it thoroughly. I look forward to sharing some more soy ground meat recipes with you in the future.

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One recipe, 4+ different meals

I like to cook, but sometimes I am not in the mood to cook, do not feel inspired, and just want to get meal preparation done quickly. Something that saves me a significant amount of time is to prep ingredients common to several foods we like all at the same time, then pull out of the freezer as needed. An example makes it clearer.

We like soft tacos or burritos, chile, spaghetti and stuffed eggplant. All of those dishes can start with a ground meat, onion, green or hot pepper, and tomato mixture. So, to save time in a large skillet, spray with Pam or drizzle a small amount of oil and saute:

  • 2 lbs. ground beef (we use organic, grassfed, preferably local which will wind up being very low fat ~ 93% lean)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1-2 medium green bell peppers, diced or 1 green bell pepper and 1 jalapeno
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions and meat together, until onions wilt and meat loses its redness and is cooked. Break up large pieces of meat. Stir in the peppers and cook for a few minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer a few minutes and add a little water if needed to keep the dish from becoming too dry.

Now you are ready to divide into about four containers. Freeze three of them and save out the one you are using today.

To make chile, just add chili powder, beans, cumin, more heat if needed.

To make spaghetti sauce, stir in tomato sauce, pureed tomatoes or tomato paste and water, along with crushed garlic and oregano.

For burritos, add some chili powder and cumin, wrap in a soft tortilla with cheese, salsa, light sour cream, etc.

For stuffed eggplant, basically you make a lengthwise slit in the center of Japanese eggplant and then lightly saute the eggplants in a small amount of vegetable oil until softened. Remove from pan and let cool enough to handle. Gently open up the eggplant using the slit and stuff the opening with the filling mixture to which you may have added chopped parsley. Set all the eggplants in an oven safe glass dish and pour some tomato juice over everything. Cover with foil and bake at 350 F. for about 35 minutes. A more detailed recipe can be found in Turkish Family Favorites.

The possibilites are numerous but in each case if you have the meat mixture ready to go, you are significantly reducing your prep time.

Balsamic Mustard Vinagrette

Salad dressing is an area where homemade is usually far better than store bought. It is also so customizable and that allows your creativity and tastes to flourish. Plus, you can tweak the dressing to bring out the flavors of whatever is in your salad. I made a salad of romaine, green onions, a carrot, four or five celery sticks, a tomato and half of a large green pepper. I used probably half of a largish head of romaine. Cut the veggies in different shapes. I sliced the carrot on the diagonal and then in half to make half crescent moons (kind of ). Celery in rounds. Pepper in squares, tomato medium dice. The lettuce was strips. Toss the salad with dressing immediately before serving. Enjoy!

BALSAMIC MUSTARD VINAGRETTE

  • 1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1/2 T. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 T. mayo
  • 1/2 T. honey
  • 2/3 t. salt
  • 1/3 t. black pepper
  • 1/2 c. good quality olive oil
  • 1/2 t. basil

Asian Style Chicken and Lettuce Wraps

There are many many recipes for Asian style chicken and lettuce wraps. My inspiration for this came from an article in the Winston Salem Journal recently. https://www.journalnow.com/home_food/lettuce-wraps-are-the-perfect-low-carb-vehicle-for-chicken/article_810d4239-7706-5602-8175-78be310d1607.html

Wraps are among the most versatile of food forms. They are often easy to put together and the filling possibilities are endless. One of the things I like most about something like this is that one does not have to be a slave to the recipe. There’s lots of room for creativity. These wraps are also frugal because you can use what is on hand and substitute ingredients according to your own preferences and what you may need to finish.

I have an aversion to running to the store for one or two ingredients. It’s preferable to try to be creative and find a substitute for the missing ingredients. Sometimes, that is not possible, the recipe would be ruined. But, in other cases, it is just fine. For this recipe, I was missing a couple of items, so I found some creative solutions. The food was delicious, and that is what we value the most.

In a small amount of oil, I sauteed the chicken until it was done. Then I added chopped scallions, diced water chestnuts, dried basil, juice of one lime, the grated rind of one lime; 2-3 T. of black bean sauce (instead of fish sauce called for in the recipe since I’m allergic to shellfish and wasn’t completely sure I could eat fish sauce safely;) soy sauce to taste and probably 1 T. of crushed red peppers. I also stirred in one large spoonful of crunchy peanut butter, as I didn’t have the peanuts on hand called for by the recipe. I also added a little bit of blush wine. I’m not really a fan of blush wine, but we had a bottle open and it seemed a good way to add a hint of sweetness and a touch of wine flavor. You could add chopped celery, cilantro, garlic. It would all be good. I just stirred in the seasonings and cooked until it was done. I served it with cooked brown rice and lettuce leaves. Delish!!!

I will say that you pretty much need to have bibb or buttercrunch lettuce on hand if you are going to wrap the chicken mix in the lettuce. Of course, it was really quite good just along side the rice. For what we had leftover, I reheated the chicken mixture and the rice and made a salad with the rest of my romaine and some other salad veggies which is what I had on hand when I made the dish. Not exactly the same effect, but it was good, quick, and tasty.

Lentils: Ezo Gelin Soup

When people see “lentil”, probably the first thought for most of us is lentil soup. There are dozens of types of lentil soups, one of which I’ll share with you today.  Lentils are one of my favorite ingredients because they are healthy, inexpensive (at least for most of them) and very nutritious. For all of my adult life, we have always had lentils in our pantry. In the beginning of our life together, my husband and I went through some very lean years. Frugality became and remained a cornerstone of our life. Eating lentils provided us with good nutrition at an affordable price. We could always eat lentil soup and enjoy the meal. In many cultures, particularly those of the Middle East, there are countless lentil soups.  In subsequent posts, I plan to share some other really terrific lentil recipes including additional lentil burgers (see my Mushroom Lentil Burgers that taste great post from 2016) https://honeyandyogurt.com/2016/04/12/mushroom-lentil-burgers-that-taste-great) as well as lentil taco filling, lentil salads, lentil curry and stews.

Lentils are also a mainstay of plant-based eating, which is becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons. Plant based eating can be very healthy as well as very tasty.  Some reports indicate it can actually make a positive difference in saving our planet. See the recent articles in The Guardian for more on that. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/16/new-plant-focused-diet-would-transform-planets-future-say-scientists; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth

For today, however, I want to share with you my recipe for Ezo Gelin Soup.

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1/3 c. rice
  • 1 big spoonful tomato paste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 T. oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 7 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 T. dried mint
  • red pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and saute the chopped onion. Stir in the tomato paste and add the stock/water; the lentils, rice, and salt.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let simmer until the lentils and rice are tender, probably about thirty minutes. If using an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, follow the directions with your pot (using the pressure cooking feature) and this part will be finished in probably 10 minutes. At this point, if you want a very smooth soup, use an immersion blender to puree the mixture. Add in the lemon juice and garlic and let simmer a few minutes more. Just before serving, in a small pan melt the butter until sizzling, stir in the dried mint and red pepper and let fry just half a minute before stirring the butter/mint/pepper mixture into the soup. Stir well and serve.  Enjoy

This is such a delicious soup. (This recipe and others can be found in my cookbook, Turkish Family Favorites . (https://www.amazon.com/Turkish-Family-Favorites-Helen-Akinc/dp/1519376979)

Asian Inspired Salad

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I like some of the packaged salads for convenience- you rip open the bag, dump into a bowl, pour on the dressing and in two minutes lunch is ready. However, the variety of ingredients is not great and it is kind of expensive to pay that much for what in many cases is just chopped cabbage. So, I’ve switched to making our own and plan to pre-prep most of the ingredients in the future so I can just pick and choose. I’ve also taken to making almost all of our dressings. I put the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake at least 100 times. Shaking that much and using enough oil helps it to emulsify and really blend.  It thickens a bit and I wind up using less. OK, here’s the winter salad mix:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 medium head of cabbage, cleaned, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 5 romaine leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 large radishes, sliced
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 hot pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 2 pepperoncini peppers sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1/4-1/3 cup roasted peanuts or almonds

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup safflower oil
  • 1/4 cup almond oil
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1-2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. rice vinegar
  • 2 T. chopped ginger root

Mix all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Serve into serving bowls. Mix dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously at least one hundred times so that the ingredients blend and thicken. Use to taste on the salad. If you don’t have everything, sub other ingredients. Snowpeas are a delicious addition. Enjoy!

 

Zucchini Fritters for Meatless Monday

I LOVE zucchini fritters, called “mucver”  in Turkish. They are just a delightful meal, side dish or tea snack. Delicious. Beautiful green zucchini, a few green onions, a little white or yellow onion, dill, eggs, feta cheese, pepper, a few spoonfuls of flour and you are good to go. The recipe I adapted from Ozlem’s Turkish Kitchen is here:  http://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2010/04/zucchini-courgette-fritters-flavored-with-feta-and-dill-mucver/

I changed a couple of things. While fresh dill would definitely be ideal, I used dried because I didn’t have fresh and didn’t feel like going to the store. I also used generous heaping tablespoons of flour. I think it is best to taste one fritter before adding salt. The feta may be sufficiently salty that you don’t need to add more. Finally, and this is really important, is that yes, you need to drain the grated zucchini. But after draining the zucchini, dump the drained squash onto a clean kitchen towel. Bring the ends of the towel together. Holding over the sink, twist the towel so that it wrings out more of the zucchini juice. It makes a big difference in how well the fritters hold together. I also think it makes them less greasy since the mixture holds together better, forms a crust and then you have a nice crisp exterior with creamy savory inside. As for all frying, use vegetable oil that you get hot enough so that the fritters cook properly. If the oil is hot enough, but not too hot, you will actually use less oil than if the temperature is too low. And, take my advice here. I tend to multi-task when I cook. Do NOT multitask when you fry. Just stop the other jobs and focus on frying. It will not take much longer and you will have much better results.

Enjoy!!

East-West Dipping Sauce for Roasted Veggies

We like to eat roasted veggies. Often, on Meatless Monday, we will have roasted veggies for lunch. It is a great way to use up all those stray vegetables in your refrigerator drawer before they turn into science projects. Plus it tastes wonderful. It tastes fine with just a little salt, olive oil, and red pepper flakes on it, but sometimes, especially if you are eating only roasted vegetables for the meal and not just as a side, it is good to serve a dipping sauce. This is my favorite one so far:

  • 2 T. tahin
  • 1 T. tamarind sauce
  • 1 t. soy sauce
  • 1 large spoonful yogurt
  • 1 tsp. sriracha

Put the tahin in a small bowl. Dump in the tamarind and soy sauces. Microwave about 30 seconds. Then whisk in the yogurt and the sriracha sauce. Serve with roasted veggies. Yum.

Enough for two to three meal sized servings of roasted veggies.

Not Just Meatless Monday Quesadillas

These are so good, you are going to want to make them regardless of whether it is Meatless Monday or not. They are very quick to put together, nutritious, and filling. Here’s how:

  • 4 large flour tortillas
  • 1 can vegetarian refried beans (or see Bean Filling below)
  • 2 cups corn (frozen, canned, or fresh)
  • 2 small avocados
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt to taste.
  • 1 1/3 cups shredded cheese (American, Mexican)
  • 1 cup tomato salsa
  • butter for greasing skillet

Heat a skillet or cast iron griddle to medium. Meanwhile, warm the tortillas in the microwave for a few seconds to make them more pliable. Heat the corn and the refried beans (or bean filling) for a minute or two in the microwave. Peel and seed the avocados in a small to medium sized bowl. Add in the lemon juice, garlic, and salt to taste. Mash with a fork until it is kind of a chunky guacamole. Assemble the quesadillas. Lay the tortillas on the counter in a row. Spread a generous spoonful or two of the bean mixture on each tortilla. I like to cover about half the tortilla. Next, spread about 1/4 of the guacamole. Then, sprinkle 1/4 of the corn, and 1/3 cup of cheese on each tortilla. Lastly sprinkle the top with the salsa. Carefully fold in half. Quickly grease the griddle or skillet. Lay the quesadillas on the griddle and watch carefully so they don’t burn. Turn over and move to a serving plate. Repeat until all are cooked. Enjoy!

Delish Quick Main dish with Tri-Color Veggie Rotini

I have tried enough dishes calling for tri-color pasta to be dubious. I have found the flavors don’t always mix well with other ingredients or I undercook the pasta- it seems to take a bit longer to cook than non-veggie pasta. I don’t know, it just has not been a very positive taste experience. This one, however, is. It is an adaptation of a recipe in my cookbook, Turkish Family Favorites, which is available from Amazon.com (hint, hint). It sounds like a ho-hum recipe, but trust me: follow the directions exactly and be sure to use the yogurt sauce. That makes the dish.

  • 1 6 oz. package tri-color veggie rotini
  • Salt for cooking pasta and for seasoning meat
  • 2 generous soupspoonfuls of tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground beef, preferably lean*
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 T. oil
  • 1 tsp. (or more or less to taste) hot pepper
  • water if needed for meat and for cooking pasta

Yogurt sauce:

  • 1 cup plain, low-fat or whole yogurt (do NOT use fat-free)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed

Mix the salt, yogurt, and garlic together in a small bowl. Set aside to use when serving. This is one of the most delicious combinations ever, although when I first heard of it, I thought it sounded vile. But it is so yummy and elevates this simple dish to hard-core comfort food.

Cook the rotini in a generous amount of salted water until done. It will take about 11 minutes, but test it and be sure. Drain and set aside. In a medium skillet, heat the oil and saute the chopped onion until it softens and starts to brown. Stir in the ground beef, break up, and continue cooking until there is no more pink left. Drain the oil from the skillet. Stir in the tomato paste, hot pepper (I like Indian chile pepper but cayenne is also fine. Red pepper flakes are also good.) Add salt to taste. You may need to add up to 1/2 cup of water, but this part of the dish will be fairly dry, not soupy like spaghetti sauce.

When rotini is done and has been drained, empty into a serving bowl. Top off with the meat mixture and stir well. Serve and pass the yogurt sauce around so each person can put a dollop of yogurt sauce on their rotini. Excellent. 4-6 servings. Takes all of about 15-20 minutes and you control what’s in there. Beats takeout or packaged macaroni any time.

* There are several possible substitutions here. I think this would work well with soy protein, ground chicken, or ground turkey. I personally prefer the ground beef, but the others would work and would be very tasty.