Recession Foods: Comfort for Your Wallet and Your Belly
In many ways I have been lucky during this economic melt down. In order to lose money, you had to have had some money to lose. Though I may have quit my job just as things started to really get bad in the US, the few dollars I had in my bank account are more or less still there. (OK, much less than more)
Lucky for me I've spent the last few months rent free, relying on loved ones for a warm bed in exchange for my engaging, graceful, hilarious, fun and humble company and dog walking skills.
I enjoy an excellent meal out as much as the next girl. Fancy, filling, frilly foods with local ingredients will lure me to any restaurant in the most dangerous part of town. Due to my lack of income though, I've made an honest attempt in the last few months in steering clear of meals that may break the bank.
Here are some tips I've learned along the way.
1. Get cooking. Easy for me to say, as I've grown up helping in my mother's kitchen. Many people are scared off at the idea of putting a meal together from scratch, but in reality it is much simpler, and much more fun than you think. Investing in a basic cookbook like How to Cook Everything or Better Homes and Garden's New Cook Book will get you on your way. These both have recipes covering the classics with simple, easy to follow instructions as well as food terms, ratios and substitution information if you get stuck. There are also numerous online websites with videos and Q+A sections. Before you know it you will have a full on relationship with epicurious.com and you won't be missing those dinners out quite so much.
2. Buy recession friendly foods. Pasta, rice, canned goods, potatoes and frozen pizza dough all can be filling base ingredients for inexpensive dishes. Now is a good time to learn how to cook your grandmother's famous macaroni and cheese or that three bean chili your tried at your crazy uncle's house last year. Make your own spaghetti sauce with canned tomatoes and your own hummus with a can of chickpeas. Once you know how easy it is to make your own, you'll never go back to spending over five dollars on something that cost you 99 cents to make.
3. Host a potluck. In troubled times, nothing is better than having a supportive community. Not only will you get a fridge full of leftovers, (even if you try to send them off with food, I guarantee you will have enough left behind to feed you for a week) but you will also have time to connect with people that are going through similar situations. Make sure you ask each participant to bring a specific course (you don't want 15 lbs of pasta salad in your fridge) and to bring a few copies of their recipe to share. With friends and family around, I am sure by the end of the night the economic crisis will not seem so bad.
4. Eat your veggies. Don't skimp on the important things when prices are going up. Most people don't eat enough fruits and vegetables anyway, but with added costs you may feel the need to cut back. Instead take a look at what you are spending your money on that does not add nutritional value to your day. Processed, pre-packaged foods are expensive and often offer little nutritional value. Put your dollars towards healthful foods and you will come out of this recession feeling healthy and maybe even dropping a few pounds.
5. Treat yourself. (And do it locally!) Don't forget to take yourself out once in a while. Not only will it make things feel not quite as desperate, but it will also maintain the community that you call home. Whether it is the multi-generation owned Italian joint where you first held your husband's hand, or the falafel stand that got you through your late night undergrad binges, be sure to choose for the people behind the counters as well as for the food, and in a few months they will still be there to thank you.
And now I am sharing my favorite soup recipe. Use it, share it, eat it, sell it. I don't care, as long as you enjoy it.
1 large butternut squash
2 yellow onions
3 cloved garlic, chopped
2 cooking apples (mac's work best)
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1.5 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
crushed red pepper (to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)
4 cups water, or veggie stock (will be saltier)
1-2 cups milk, apple cider, or OJ*
1. Cut squash in half and roast in oven for 45 mins or until soft and skin easily is removed.
2. While squash is roasting, sautee onions in a tablespoon of butter in large pot until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes.
3. Peel and cube potatoes and apples and add to onion mixture. Add ginger and rosemary and stir to keep from burning.
4. Add 2 cups of water and let simmer on medium heat until potatoes and apples soften.
5. When squash is soft, remove skin and seeds and cube. Add to potato mixture. Add the rest of the liquids and seasonings and simmer for half an hour or so.
6. Add soup to food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
* I used some cream and OJ and it turned out really well. There are multiple ways to adjust the recipe though. I believe I used to add carrots as well which enhanced the color. I probably used more than two tablespoons of ginger because I really like ginger, but it does have a lot of heat to it. I sprinkled with some Parmesan cheese, and YUM! Parsley garnish would probably taste good too.