"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue"
~ Vice President Richard Cheney

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


In pursuit of a cheaper, healthier and less wasteful lifestyle, I am slowly and awkwardly expanding my range of cooking. You probably already know more than I do, but I thought I would share some links to cooking blogs which have helped me get started.

SnoWhite's picture
Finding Joy in my Kitchen by SnoWhite (who may look familiar to SLP grads) is a lovely blog with clear directions and beautiful pictures. I used to eat a ton of cheap frozen pizzas and now instead I make these. My favorite is the Margherita. This is more expensive than the cardboard-crust frozen pizzas I was eating but much more delicious, and because more effort is involved than turning on the oven I eat less pizza which is good at my age. I haven't tried many of SW's non-pizza dishes but I will.

Shiksa's picture but I've made this and it's delicious
The Shiksa in the Kitchen by the magnificent Tori Avery (who is no longer technically a Shiksa) focuses on Jewish food with lots of great Mediterranean dishes. With the High Holy Days coming up I hope to make more contributions to the festive meals than I have in the past, and Tori will be my go-to girl.

Broke Ass Gourmet is not a site I have used yet but Gabi Moskowitz specializes in cheap and easy yet fancy meals. She hosted Read it and Weep's review of The Hunger Games and explained all the tantalizing ways to cook and flavor squirrels, grass and fallen enemies on the cheap.

My picture, mmmmm
Ends and Leavings is Sara's personal blog; she writes about movies, books, music, gender issues (sex lots of sex) and food. Lots of her recipes are easy and delicious and can be thrown together from ingredients you probably already have around. I often make her Crazy Delicious Vegetarian Improv Pasta although I sub in peas or edamame for broccoli if I don't have broccoli and sometimes I add chicken. Tonight I made the Delicious Blueberry Cake recipe she ripped off of Smitten Kitchen (which I have not used directly)'s Raspberry Buttermilk Cake except that I used frozen cranberries instead, I mixed them in the batter instead of leaving them on top, and I didn't sprinkle sugar on top because of the skyrocketing diabetes rate. It was quick, easy and delicious.

And an easy, vegetarian recipe I got from the Star Tribune in 1999:

Portebello Mushroom Steak Sandwiches
Serves 4

4 Portobello Mushroom caps with no steams
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp basil leaves
4 kaiser rolls or other large, sturdy buns
4 slices large, ripe tomato
4 lettuce leaves (or spinach)
4 slices provolone cheese

1.       Turn grill on to medium
2.       Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil and basil leaves to make sauce
3.       Lightly coat the mushrooms with the sauce
4.       Grill for three minutes
5.       Turn over and place a provolone slice on each mushroom
6.       Grill for 2 more minutes
7.       Assemble burger and eat while it’s hot

I made this tonight but was too hungry to take a picture before eating it. It was delicious and took about 10 minutes.

Update: Amanda M. has directed me to this index of cooking blogs: http://punchfork.com/

Monday, August 15, 2011

Glorious, Delicious Iced Pressed Coffee: How I Love Thee.

Hello Friends! If I seem a bit perky to you, its probably because I am one who absolutely ADORES coffee. The robust taste, the incredible smell, a happy cup of "good morning" to send me on my action packed day in the land of St. Louis Park Public Schools. I have a relationship with my coffee. After my husband, and violin, coffee and I are soul mates. Coffee gets me through 6:45am rehearsals on a cold, blustery morning. Coffee is there when I'm catching up with good friends. And I'm pretty sure when the treaty for world peace is signed, coffee will be there.
Unfortunately, (cue dramatic soap opera music: dun, dun, duuuun.) my deep and undying love of coffee was beginning to cost me a pretty penny. Now, I'm not and never have been one to buy coffee on a daily basis for long periods of time. However, being a full-time teacher and a performing musician, there are times throughout the year such as finals, long slews of concert evenings several days in a row, group travel/performance opportunities with little or no sleep, and covering conferences in the 5 buildings I teach in do in fact require large amounts of coffee. During these 1-2 week stretches, I am known to purchase a large iced skim-latte on a daily basis. Now I am naturally a high-energy person. But lets face it people: even I go into survival mode.
Unfortunately, my husband and I also have many, many student loans. In fact, more than half of my salary and my husbands salary go directly to our student loans and will... probably forever. This means that one week of drinking skim-lattes during survival mode = Peanut Butter and Jelly for every meal during the next two weeks. So I got to thinking: what if I made my own iced coffee at home? Would it be worth it? Would it still taste as amazing and inspiring as the iced-skim latte I could purchase at my local coffee shop?
Turns out: IT IS! So, I began to research on Dr. Google, and learned that it is not only dirt cheap in comparison to purchasing a skim-latte everyday for a week, but it is also extremely easy as well. The short? Mix ground coffee in a container and let sit for 12-24 hours. Strain. Pour over ice/add milk/creamer. Viola! Here is my favorite explanation at The Pioneer Woman: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/06/perfect-iced-coffee/
This is how I make my Iced Coffee
What you'll need
-1 Pound Ground Coffee (I generally buy fair-trade and rain forest friendly... about $9-$10/bag... if this is too expensive, you can mix it with another $4-$5 pound bag for a compromise and save the extra pound for next time). Friends of mine also use espresso ground or Turkish coffee.
-A large Jar or Container
-Strainer with coffee filter OR a metal coffee filter
-Spoon to stir
What you do
-Pour coffee in Jar/Container.
-Add 9-10 cups water.
-Mix with spoon.
-Cover and let sit 12-24 hours depending on desired strength. I let mine sit 18-24 hours. You can leave it out on the counter or put it in the fridge during this time. I put mine in the fridge.
After 12-24 hours
-Strain coffee mixture with strainer and coffee filter.
-Pour coffee over ice and enjoy plain or add milk/creamer.
-I store extra coffee in a jar in the fridge to drink throughout the week.
If you'd like to make a smaller amount, the ratio is 1/3-1/2 cup ground coffee to 1 & 1/2 cups cold water. The finer the coffee is ground, the stronger the iced coffee with be.
I use about 1 & 1/4 cups of cold pressed coffee + 1 cup milk per latte. Soy milk and almond milk are also delicious!
Other reasons for drinking cold-pressed coffee:
-The acidity is much lower. If you get heartburn, cold-pressed coffee can become a good friend!
-Like fine wine or chocolate, coffee has complexities on the palate. Cold-pressed coffee can bring out the earthy, carmel, and even smoky flavors of a dark roast.
-It can be much more refreshing to drink iced-coffee instead of hot coffee on a 90-degree MN summer morning with 70% humidity.
So there it is! I hope this brings hope to all those other coffee lovers out there who also live on a shoe-string budget but do not want to give up their "fancy coffee". And while the rest of us wait for world peace, we might as well enjoy an amazing glass of refreshing, iced, cold-pressed coffee.
-Miriam Zien Edgar

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Farmers Market Meal Fest

I was invited by Aleks to share some of my insight on living ethically on a limited budget. Being a starving artist, being frugal with money is kind of a life style choice. I am happy to discuss some of my habits. When I saw a post about Sun Tea and a post about Roller Derby, I was inspired.

First off, I am vegetarian and I try very hard to eat healthy, and do it without costing me a fortune. One of my rules is never to eat anything with more than three ingredients in it, and preferably only one. The great thing about this rule, is that most things with one ingredient are pretty inexpensive. Another rule I have been abiding by, is an effort to eat locally grown foods as well. The best place I've found, besides growing my own garden, to stick to my guidelines is to attend Farmer's Markets. Farmer's markets sell fresh fruits, veggies, dairy products, canned goods, meats, plants, and bulk items (each one is different). Tables at Farmer's Markets are usually from local farms from the area and feature incredibly good prices on extremely fresh and healthy foods.

There are a few disclaimers about buying food at Farmer's Markets. You need to cook. Because its easy to spend a few dollars and end up with a fridge full of rotting vegetables a week later. Secondly, you need to plan ahead what you are going to make with the food, and make sure you have time to make it. If you are crunched for time, it can be a bad investment. Also, if you are making small meals at a time it can hard to use all the ingredients, so it is extremely beneficial to make large amounts of a certain meal and eat the rest for lunch or leftovers over the next few days.

I often spend $20 dollars at a Farmer's Market and it can make 8-12 large meals, depending on the items I buy. And usually you will have food left over for snacks. That is some good value. And even with my modest cooking skills, everything tastes really good. I try to plan veggies to saute, cook in stew, chilies, soups, toppings for pizza and ingredients for burritos. In the future, I may try to put up a few recipes and the process of making bulk meals from one visit to the Farmer's Market. I often freeze my burritos, or tupperware future lunches.

Now, when I have a girlfriend, roommates, friends or family this Meal Fest is a fun gathering activity. Sometimes we will pool our money to buy even more things and share all the food and make many different meals to share. I also attend Farmer Markets when I am all by myself and although it takes more time and is not as much of a party, it is still a really smart move financially.

If you want to eat healthy, save money and support your local farmers; Farmer's Markets are the only way to go.