Archive for August, 2011

Week #1 Menus – Cooking for One on $100/Month

August 31, 2011

Week numero uno has come and gone along with the shopping and cooking but as promised in my post Can A Single Person Eat at Home for $100 a Month? I’m going tell you what I cooked and ate during the week.

Remember, I started with a fairly well stocked pantry and freezer so I needed to buy only a few pantry replacements, namely dried beans, split peas, oil and can of salmon.   I spent a total of $66.86 this week and will only need to spend about $10.00 each week for the next 3 weeks for milk, greens and fruit.   My neighbor gave me 4 huge, ripe avocados last week, 2 of which made a superb guacamole for the Nachos Grande I served to my card club on Thursday.  That comprised my free acquisitions for the week.  Those freebies add a lot of value to your diet so if you happen upon an over-turned truck of watermelons on the highway be sure to grab one or two.

Food preferences are very individual but for the most part I’ll eat anything except rutabagas.  As far as beverages go, I drink a lot of water but I do enjoy wine and mixed cocktails when my budget allows.  It’s very hot in the tropics so I drink water, at least 2 quarts a day.  It is essential to replacing the fluids lost in perspiring. My only daily indulgence is 2 cups of cafe au lait and a glass of my homemade ginger beer on a really hot afternoon. Drinking commercial pop daily is not healthy for your budget or your body.  Save the pop for a treat.

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Stewed Tomatoes and Okra with Bacon Over Rice

August 31, 2011

This recipe was inspired by The Neeleys at Foodnetwork.  I’ve tweaked the recipe with celery and green bell pepper since both go so well with tomatoes.  By all means, add chile or red pepper flakes for a kick and herbs such as fresh oregano or dill.  Serve it as a side dish or on its own over rice.  This is simple, quick and easy cooking when you don’t want a heavy meal or don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

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Zucchini and Sausage Casserole

August 31, 2011

For a quicky dinner try this pasta casserole with Italian sausage, zucchini and yellow summer squash, roasted red peppers and cream of celery soup.  Sprinkle some grated parmesan on the top and bake until the cheese has melted.

This recipe is so versatile…with a few substitutions you can easily make it your own.   Serve with a salad, crusty bread and a glass of wine.

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No-Knead Potato Bread

August 31, 2011

Don’t confuse no-knead breads with savory batter breads.  Though they both essentially yield a tender crumb and are a snap to make, obviously the term “batter” indicates a thinner, looser dough whereas no-knead breads have a heavier dough and require more time for proofing, usually overnight.   You could call a dough made in a food processor or a mixer with dough-hook, no-knead, but its not the same as mixing up the dough in a pot or bowl and letting it proof for 12 to 18 hours like sourdough or ciabatta breads.

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Avocado and Olive Dip

August 28, 2011

Hurrican Irene certainly has not affected the avocado harvest this year.  For the last 3 weeks we’ve had an abundance of big beautiful avocados for guacamole, salads, burgers, sandwiches, potato causas, fried avocado wedges and just eating right out of the shell with a little lime juice, salt and pepper.

I’ve also been pickling pequin chillies and jalapeño peppers which go in my salsas…some with Puerto Rican sofrito.  Last winter when the limes were in season I preserved some in salt using an old Fiji Indian recipe and they are really coming in handy for seasoning the avocados.
My card partner and I feasted on nachos with this dip on Thursday.   I gave some to my neighbors who called it “rico” en español, meaning delish in any language.  Its super easy to throw together, then stuff it back into an avocado shell for a simple presentation.  Enjoy!
  • 1 ripe avocado, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp jalapeño peppers, chopped
  • 1 scallion, sliced thinly
  • 8 black olives, chopped
  • 1 heaping Tbsp picante salsa
  • 1/4 salt-pickled lime (2 tsp lime juice plus salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together just until combined.  Try to leave some chunky texture.

Giveaways from Chefs Catalog

August 26, 2011

Besides William Sonoma, Sur la Tableau there is the Chefs Catalog for foodie gadgets and inspired cooks tools and supplies. I would love to buy Le Creuset cookware and Cousinart yogurt and ice-cream maker but they are way over my paltry budget so I’m entering every giveaway sponsored by these culinary sources. Nows your chance too. Jump on this $50 gift certificate from Chefs Catalog at Jane Doiron’s website. Check out Jane’s recipes and upcoming giveaways. Jane also has a cookbook at and Barnes and Noble.

Can a Single Person Eat at Home for $100 a Month?

August 24, 2011

Take this poll and see.

If you only have $100 per month to spend on food, what would your meals consist of?  I’ve searched for menus given this spending restraint but could find no menus, only shopping strategies and grocery lists.  My real question is how healthy and well can you eat on $100 per month?  As a single retired person living on a fixed income, its important to keep expenses at a minimum and health at a premium.  Dare say, struggling single-young-people  have the same quest.  To that end, I’ve devised menus for a month of meals that ensure high nutrition, comfort and ease of preparation.  Every week starting Monday, August 29th, I will blog one week’s worth of menus and a shopping list with prices so you can glean how this is being accomplished.  Shopping smart is the key.

Its important to note that certain food staples are necessary to have on hand when you begin creating menus.  A list is provided (below) of staples you should have on hand.  These will last for several months,  for example: a box of salt will last you 4 months or more; herbs, spices, vinegars, syrups and extracts will last at least 6 months;  ketchup, mustard and other condiments will definitely last more than a month.  Unless you love to bake, or dried beans and lentils are your thing, you can allow $10-$20 per month to buy new staples and replenish old ones.  Buying those “Lost Leaders” (sale items that get you into the store so you’ll buy more expensive items) will save a lot of money in stocking your staples for the freezer and pantry.  Once you have your staples you can buy more fresh produce and fish for immediate consumption.

Growing your own herbs and some vegetables will add flavor and nutrition to your diet plus save money.  Making your own condiments and cooking from scratch will also save money.  And, whenever you get a bunch of fresh fruit or veggies from parents or neighbors, its definitely worth the time and effort to preserve, freeze, dehydrate or pickle for future use.  Food Banks are often called to harvest fruit from backyards where the owners cannot deal with the abundance of fruit falling from their trees.  If your neighbor has a lot of fallen fruit and it doesn’t appear they are using it, ask them for it, u-pick it instead of letting the fruit rot on the ground.   Freeze fruit for pies, smoothies, coulis, etc. Make some jam, jellies or fruit butters for yourself and for gifts.  Check out my apple butter recipe and lots of other recipes at

List of staples to have on hand:

  • flour, all-purpose and whole wheat
  • yeast
  • dry milk powder, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk
  • baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, cocoa powder
  • creamed soups (mushroom, chicken, celery, etc) (I also like to make these from scratch and freeze them)
  • canned veggies (tomatoes, tomato paste, chipotle chile, roasted red pepper in particular) and fruit (black plums, peaches)
  • various spices & seasonings (the basics: garlic powder, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, thyme, salt, pepper, dried onion, dill etc)
  • various condiments (worcestershire, soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, Tabasco, olives, capers etc)
  • vinegar, olive oil and vegetable oil
  • rice, oatmeal and cornmeal
  • peanut butter
  • dried fruit like raisins, prunes, figs, and apricots, etc
  • canned tuna, canned salmon, sardines, etc
  • sugars, white and brown, powdered sugar
  • dried beans, split peas, quinoa and lentils
  • potato flakes, couscous, stuffing mixes
  • pasta

In the freezer and frigerator:

  • chicken broth homemade
  • beef broth homemade
  • homemade breads, rolls, plus store-bought tortillas, English muffins purchased on sale
  • pureed pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet peas, broccoli  and other fresh fruits & veggies frozen before they can go bad.
  • ribs, ground beef, turkey, chicken, sausage, etc.  All meats bought on sale, divided into portions and frozen.
  • nuts
  • ginger root
  • frozen juices
  • butter (real) and cheese bricks bought when on sale

Pequin Chile Sauce

August 24, 2011

According to the Scoville Heat Scale pequin (also spelled piquin) chile peppers are right up there with Tabasco and Cayenne pepper…30,000 SHU to 60,000 SHU.  Not as hot as a Scotch Bonnet or habañero pepper but plenty spicy and fruity for my tastes.  Pequin chiles grow wild here in Puerto Rico and I have also picked them in the wild bush of Tonga in the South Pacific.

One of the advantages to this recipe is its replenishable without having to add more chilies or start from scratch again…at least a couple times…all that is needed to fill up the bottle again is more brine and time.

Any size glass bottle or jar will work depending upon how many chilies you have.  If a gallon jar is used, strain the sauce through a fine-mesh and fill smaller bottles for table use.  If you can’t find fresh pequin chilies in local markets, there are dried pequin chilies available in most Latin markets or check out for seeds and all the instructions to grow your own pequins.  They also have several good salsa recipes.

Use this sauce like Tabasco.  It adds a little sparkle to just about any savory dish.

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Prune and Ginger Loaf

August 1, 2011

It’s egg-less, dairy free and fat free but oh so yummy with the flavors of molasses, ginger and those sweet prunes. It toasts beautifully and is perfect with just butter. However, this fruit loaf is even more tasty imbibed with brandy and aged like a fruitcake.
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