Penny Pinchers


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“Penny Pinching” an expensive recipe

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My sister got me a subscription to "Cooking Light" magazine a few years ago and renews it for me every year at Christmas.  I really enjoy it and especially love their variety of recipes: vegetarian, grilled, beef, chicken, fish, pricey, cheap, fast, slow...whatever you want, it's probably there.  I came across this recipe for crab and heirloom tomato salad in the most recent edition and really wanted to try it.  However, both of those title items are really expensive. Here's the ingredient list:

1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
4 mini sweet bell peppers, thinly diagonally sliced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, thinly diagonally sliced
12 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
2 1/2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves

Here's the prep:  Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine mayonnaise, rind, and juice in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add mayonnaise mixture to crab mixture; toss gently to coat. Arrange tomatoes on a serving platter; drizzle with oil. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper. Mound crab mixture over tomatoes. Sprinkle with basil leaves.  ~ Julianna Grimes, Cooking Light AUGUST 2014

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I looked at the lump crab meat (the recipe calls for 12 oz).  It was $8 for 8 oz!  But what was two feet away from the lump crab meat? The seafood clearance bin.  What was in the seafood clearance bin? Almost a pound of scallops for 50% off! I remembered that I had a little over half a pound of raw, ez peel shrimp at home that had also been 50% off, so I decided to change the recipe from crab salad to seafood salad.  I got the scallops for around $4.50. 

Heirloom tomatoes are always pricier than the regular ones, so I didn't even bother looking.  I had plenty of tomatoes at home from my own garden and my neighbor's.  I knew those would taste just as great as any I'd buy in the store.  I also had some leftover artichoke hearts from a pizza I made a few nights before (artichokes were on sale!) so I added those to my salad as well.  I had most of the remaining ingredients at home already.  I was growing basil and sweet peppers in the backyard, I had a lime and cilantro that definitely neeeded to be used, and I just used some thinly sliced sweet onion instead of shallot.

 I assembled the "tomato" part of the recipe first and set it aside.  Those sorts of things just get better the longer they sit (and yes, I do have the leftovers as part of my lunch today).  Here it is before I stirred it all together:

I thawed the scallops and shrimp and started some water with lemon heating on the stove.  When it boiled I threw all the seafood in and let it cook until the shrimp were pink.  Then I put the seafood on ice to cool while I assembled everything else. This salad was SO good!  The scallops added some sweetness to it and the subtle heat from the jalapenos was a nice addition.  I'll definitely be making this again with whatever combos I can find in the clearance bin: scallops and "krab" meat, shrimp, sometimes you can even find crab legs there...So don't look at recipes with expensive ingredients as being out of your price range; look at them as a challenge to make a Penny Pincher version!

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Squirrling away for winter…

By Julie Norman
Monday, July 28, 2014

Like a little squirrel hiding pine nuts and acorns for winter, I've been busy freezing zucchini and corn for that season too.  Though my zucchini is coming along slowly, a friend growing a different variety keeps bringing in huge ones to work.  If no one else grabs them, I take them home, grate them up and freeze them for zucchini bread later in the season. This recipe is my go-to zucchini bread recipe.

I also discovered City Market had Olathe Sweet Corn 5 ears for $1 this week!  WHAT A BARGAIN! I'd already gotten some from Safeway, but yesterday I ran down to CM and got 12 more ears for $2.40.  I mean...can you really beat that? I kept two out for tonight but blanched and cut the rest off the cob for freezing.  Between my Safeway and CM trips I have 3 quart bags of corn in the freezer.  Let me tell you, if it's still that cheap next week I'm buying more!

What's coming up later in the season? Well if the flowers on them are any indication I'll be overrun with zucchini, spaghetti and butternut squash.  My tomatoes and peppers are already producing lots and my cucumbers are right behind them.  While I can't freeze the cucumbers, I can most definitely freeze tomatoes and peppers.  The squash will keep just fine in a cool place for a while (the winter varieties anyway).

Finally, I"m keeping an eye out for City Market's sale on Hatch Green Chiles.  Last year they had them for .99/lb.  Yes, I can go buy them already done from a farm stand, but they make my house smell SO GOOD when they're roasting! Then I'll peel them and freeze 3-4 chiles per bag for chili verde, green chile and cheese quesadillas and all sorts of other awesome dishes for winter.

If you've got the space and the income right now, buy a chest freezer.  This is the time of year when everything from peaches to peppers is in abundance and you'll be grateful this winter that you were able to capture as much summer goodness as possible.

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Facing Reality

By Julie Norman
Friday, July 25, 2014

If money is becoming more and more of an issue in your life, sometimes it helps to just get a kick in the pants.  This article from Yahoo Finance will force you to take a cold hard look in the mirror!

I feel pretty lucky that these aren't serious issues for me.  I am rarely an impulse shopper and in fact will often "wait" until I just don't want something anymore. Or have forgotten about it...if anything I tend to be one of those annoying, "Man...I need some new tennis shoes..." people who will just continue to say that and not ever buy new shoes!

I do use my credit card, but I keep the balance low and to a point that I know I could pay off completely if I had to; I don't always try to because the card has a very low interest rate and I make way more than the minimum payments on it when there's a balance. Mostly this article seems to be aimed at those of us who think "things" will make us happy.  Here's the thing: they won't.  Those things are just filling a void and emptying your bank account at the same time. 

Listen to the words of Voltaire: I've decided to be happy because it's good for my health.

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Lunch on the Cheap

By Julie Norman
Thursday, July 24, 2014

Some days leftovers just won't cut it, right? You scrounge around but there's just nothing there! Even if there is, maybe this is one of those mornings when you just don't have time to make a lunch before rushing off to work. So, sometimes eating lunch "out" is just inevitable, but that doesn't mean it has to be expensive. 

While this isn't the best pic, this quesadilla from Taqueria Guadalajara (7th and Pitkin) is a great, cheap lunch.  If you just get the cheese one it's only $3.75.  Today I got that and a small horchata (awesome cinnamon and rice drink) and spent maybe $7 with tax and a small tip. It IS possible, to find great cheap lunch options without resorting to the Taco Bell!

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Is it Better to Rent or Buy?

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When you're just out of high school or college, renting is what makes sense.  You most likely don't have money saved for a down payment on a house, and you haven't had time to build up any sort of credit from owning cars, renting or having credit cards.  But as you get older, having a place of your own, whether it's a flat, a duplex, a giant house or a tiny house, makes all the difference.

This is the backyard at our little house.  We've had it for 2 years now and I wouldn't trade it for the world!  Before that we did own a condo, and that was great too for a time.  In both situations we have/had the freedom to make changes to paint colors, add built-in shelving, loft space and more.

This diagram and accompanying article from the New York Times provides a lot of insight on how to decide if renting or buying is right for you!

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