Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recipe: Plum & Nectarine Crumble

They tell me it's fall somewhere.  In fact, they tell me it'll feel like fall around here any day now, but with our temperatures still in the high 90's, I won't  believe that until I'm forced to whip out my sweater & rain boots. 

That's okay, though.  We had a similar issue here in June when the weather was all turned around and we were getting winter storms rather than summer sun.  To combat the extended winter blues and encourage summertime to show its face, I started making ice cream and other warm weather food.  I figured it might be nice to try the same approach now to see if fall will finally appear.  After all, it is my all-time favorite season (as long as it remains relatively dry...).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Recipe: The Easiest Veggie Tacos EVER (Hunger Challenge 2011)

It never ceases to amaze me how many great meals I've made with leftover veggie scraps over the years.  You know, those odds & ends that you might have leftover from making a stew or a large salad; the ones that you might consider useless after awhile. 

But as I've shown here on PGEW time & time again, those little scraps come in very handy.  From salads to soups, all those little bits-of-this and pieces-of-that can add up to some fabulous dishes - and clear some valuable space in your fridge's crisper!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hunger Challenge 2011: Days 4 & 5



Day 4

In past years, I've usually gotten the "I'm over it" feeling by about the third or fourth day of the challenge.  Some of my fellow challengers may know what I'm talking about: you begin to feel a little antsy, a little bored with the same food, a little impatient for the week to be over so you can get back to "normal" eating.  Along with that, of course, comes the overwhelming sense of guilt that one has the nerve to feel this way when thousands of others actually have to live like this.  It's easy to regain focus after that. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hunger Challenge 2011: Day 3 - A Case for Quinoa & Other Grains

(Due to some technical issues, my recap posts for the Hunger Challenge had to wait until I could finally log back into my account [it appears someone was trying to hack in - eek!].  New, non-Hunger Challenge posts are in the queue, but I hate leaving a story untold!  So I'll be posting the last few recaps & recipes before we move on to the new stuff.  Thanks so much for your patience this past week!  And now, on with the show. :)  ~ Kimberly) 

Day 3

After some much needed rest and the promise of a bowl of quinoa for breakfast, I awoke feeling energized and ready to take on Day 3 of the challenge.  How could I possibly go wrong with a quinoa-filled day?  The mother grain has saved me from many a food crisis with its versatility and nutrition profile, especially in past Hunger Challenges, so I knew it would help me out this time, too.

I started off with a rather stripped down version of my Cranberry & Raisin Quinoa breakfast bowl (the lack of dried cranberries, yogurt & almonds will do that, lol), then proceeded to make my new favorite Hunger Challenge dish: Tangy Coleslaw & Quinoa Salad.  With the last of my hard boiled eggs on hand for snacking purposes, I was set for a day of eating quite well for less than the allotted $4/day budget.

But how is that even possible, Poor Girl?  Isn't quinoa ridiculously expensive?  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Recipe: Tangy Coleslaw Quinoa Salad (Hunger Challenge 2011)

I would normally be posting my Day 3 recap right now, but this particular recipe has me so incredibly smitten, I'm going to share it with you first.  Yes, it sounds a little odd for a salad, but trust me, it is good. -Kimberly

So I've been on this cabbage kick lately, and I place full blame on the fine folks at Wicked 'Wich, our latest Sacramento gourmet food truck.  They specialize in Pittsburg-style sandwiches that come with this amazing no-mayo coleslaw that I can't seem to get enough of.  A tiny bit tangy, a little sweet, it's not the goopy, mayo-y mess that seems to happen to most coleslaws.  I'm so in love it the darned slaw that I think I've become known as the "bucket of slaw" girl whenever I visit. 

Anyway, because of this crazy addiction, I've been toying around with different slaw versions at home.  After a few trial runs, I came up with an interesting little hybrid of my own: part 'Wich-style slaw, part curtido (a Salvadorean cabbage slaw that accompanies the national dish of pupusas), this little slaw is more on the tangy side than the Wich's, yet slightly sweeter than the curtido.  It's definitely the best of both worlds. 

Since I still had a head of cabbage in my fridge, I decided to make my own bucket of slaw for the last few days of my Hunger Challenge week.  Cabbage is a fantastic little vegetable with a ton of hidden health benefits, yet it is beyond cheap, making it perfect for financially lean times.  It may seem boring to some, but once you start playing with it, you'll find it's extremely versatile & tasty. 

But a bucket of slaw does not a balanced meal make, so I had to figure out what else to have with it that would be filling but relatively cheap.  Enter my favorite grain in the whole wide world: quinoa.  This tiny little powerhouse of a grain has become quite popular (which I hope is partly my fault!), and for good reason: it's a complete source of protein, good carbs & fiber, and is beyond versatile. 

Wait a sec, PG - isn't quinoa really expensive & hard to find?

It was, but as its popularity grows, so does its accessibility.  The easier it is to find, the more reasonable the prices have become.  Aside from the usual places like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and some large chain markets, even lower cost, bag-your-own-groceries type stores like WinCo are starting to carry quinoa in their bulk sections.  That's probably the best, most affordable way to get quinoa (unless you work at Bob's Red Mill and get a staff discount. In which case, I'm your new best friend).  But we'll discuss that more in depth in the Day 3 recap.

As I was spooning some cooked quinoa into a plastic container, it occurred to me that I could probably just throw the slaw in with it and just call it a salad.  Yeah, cole slaw & quinoa seem like an unlikely - and potentially boring - combination, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. 

But when I put them together and added a little red onion for extra crunch & color, I was truly amazed at the results!  It's light, yet filling, and filled with all sorts of interesting textures.  Not to mention that it pretty much covers most of my nutrition bases for the day. And it is dirt cheap.  Why hadn't I thought of this before?

So, even if this one seems a little odd, give it a try sometime.  It's a great salad for a work lunch or a light dinner after a long hard day.  It's a wonderful entree, but I'm positive it would be a great side for potlucks or picnics.  Tomorrow I'll post my Day 3 recap so you can keep up on what else I've been eating during this year's Hunger Challenge.  For now, let's check out the recipe!

Tangy Coleslaw Quinoa Salad (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: $0.89)

Ingredients:
1 c cooked quinoa
1/2 head of green cabbage, shredded
2 medium carrots, grated
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 c white vinegar
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 heaping T sugar (or 1 T honey)
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t salt
Couple dashes of ground black pepper

Directions:
1.  Whisk together the last six ingredients in a small bowl until well combined.  In a separate bowl, toss together the cabbage, carrots and onion, then pour the dressing on top.  Cover and let stand for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to incorporate.

2.  Combine the quinoa and the slaw in a large bowl & mix well.  If you like a lot of flavor, pour the rest of the dressing into the salad (don't worry, the quinoa will absorb it almost instantly!).  Otherwise, serve on its own or as a nice meatless side dish, and enjoy!

Recipe: Deviled Egg Salad Sandwich (Hunger Challenge 2011)

On Day 2 of this year's Hunger Challenge, I turned the the almighty egg for quick & affordable meals that would get me through the day.  Those of you who read PGEW regularly know that I've had a long-standing affair with eggs for many reasons, one of the main ones being their incredible value.  From the regular scrambled or sunny side up versions, to more complex things like omelettes, frittatas and beyond, there's a lot you can do with eggs without having to go completely broke.

Oddly enough, in the three years I've been writing this blog, I have yet to post a recipe for one of my favorite egg concoctions: egg salad.  I'm not sure why, as it's an easy-to-make, affordable dish that brings back fond childhood memories (and you all know I've been on my reverting-to-childhood kick recently).  And because I make my own mayo from scratch & add enough flavoring, it's not the usual bland egg salad so many folks have fallen victim to.  I guess I just figured it was too simple and not something you guys would want to read about. 

That is, until I saw the feedback from yesterday's blog post about Day 2. 

Had I known folks would love the looks of this simple little sandwich (which I snapped a picture of with my phone at work, lol), I would have bothered to take a proper photo & shown off my homemade mayo, too!  But since I know some of you want to make this right away, I won't make you wait forever.   

For now, here's the recipe for my version of an egg salad sandwich: easy, yet reminiscent of perfectly prepared deviled eggs.  To keep things simple, I've decided to save the recipe for the homemade mayonnaise for a separate post because it's just that good (it's my grandma's recipe; how could it be anything BUT amazing?).  But for Hunger Challenge purposes, please note that using jarred mayonnaise will definitely increase the cost of this sandwich, so if you can spare the eggs & oil to make your own, you'll be much better off!  Let's check out the recipe.

Deviled Egg Salad Sandwich (makes 1 sandwich; total cost per sandwich: $1.25)

Ingredients:
2 large hard boiled eggs*, peeled & coarsely chopped
1 T mayonnaise
1/2 - 1 t mustard (yellow or Dijon both work great)
Salt & pepper to taste**
2 slices of bread
1-2 leaves of lettuce
1 small tomato, sliced

Directions:
1.  In a small bowl, mash the eggs together***.  Add the mayonnaise, mustard, salt & pepper, and mix until thoroughly combined.  Check for flavoring and adjust with more mayonnaise, salt or pepper, according to your personal tastes.

2.  Assemble your sandwiches by scraping a tiny amount of mayonnaise on each slice of bread.  Load up one slice with the egg salad mixture and layer the lettuce & tomatoes on the other slice.  Put the two together, grab a napkin, and enjoy!

* For those of you who have trouble making the perfect hard boiled egg, check out Elise's fool-proof method on Simply Recipes.  If I didn't already have my own method down, I would totally use this one!

** For truly awesome flavor (and if you're not on the Hunger Challenge), swap out the regular salt for some garlic salt.  The difference is phenomenal!

*** (Final note, I promise)  If you want to lighten things up a bit without completely going yolk-free, use one of the hard boiled eggs and just the egg white of the second egg.  Save the other hard boiled yolk as a tasty little salad topper for a later meal. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hunger Challenge 2011: Day 2

Day 2...
Plagued by perpetual insomnia, my sleep schedule has been completely turned around as of late.  I'll go to sleep at a reasonable hour, wake up around 1:30 or 2am (yay for catching Jimmy Fallon!), and then I am UP for God knows how long.  Sometimes I can force myself to get back to sleep by 3 so I can get those last few precious hours in before I go to work; sometimes I can't. 

Sunday night/Monday morning was one of the "can't" nights, which meant my morning brain was not on at all.  On days like these I usually throw a bunch of ingredients into a bag and pray that I can come up with something relatively awesome once I get to work.  Feeling so incredibly tired, however, I just decided to take the rest of my leftover chili to work  for lunch.  But what would I have for breakfast?

Fortunately, I had enough sense to remember the eggs I still had in the fridge, and the heavenly hosts sang "Hallelujah!" right along with me - no brainer breakfast would be served in no time!  I decided I'd have my standard Hunger Challenge breakfast (Scrambled Egg & Tomato Sandwich), then hard boiled a few eggs to take with me to work as snacks later in the week. 

The beauty of using eggs when you're in dire financial straits is that they are so incredibly versatile, you can use them in practically anything.  And because don't cost that much compared to a lot of other foods, a little can go a very long way.  I discuss this at length in Tip #11 - Never Underestimate the Power of Eggs, and believe me, that tip - and the carton of eggs in my fridge - are coming in very handy for this challenge!

Back to the noms for Day 2, though.  The work day passed by quite easily for me, since I'd started out with a fiber & protein-packed breakfast and an equally filling lunch.  But it was such a hectic day I never had the chance to think about what to make for dinner.  When I got home the exhaustion from the busy day & lack of sleep began to set in, so once more I turned to the almighty egg for easy inspiration.

Since I had made some homemade mayo prior to the challenge, I decided to use that to make an easy, yet fabulous little egg salad. I like my egg salads to be reminiscent of my mom's killer deviled eggs, rather than have them be boring, bland little endeavors, so I'm always excited to have one, unlike some folks. With some bread, a tomato and the few pretty leaves of lettuce that could be salvaged from a head that was starting to go bad (note to self: never buy lettuce at Safeway again), I made myself a rather lovely little egg salad sandwich & side salad for dinner. 

Sure, it's not as glamorous as some of my other Hunger Challenge dinners, but it gets the job done by being filling and quite tasty.  So much so, that I had it for lunch again today!  But we'll discuss that more later this week in the Day 3 recap.

When all was said & done, I ended my second day of the hunger challenge at about $4.05. Because I went ahead and had a salad with my dinner sandwich, I went a little over my daily $4 limit, but still stayed within the challenge's limit of $4.72.  Not bad for being halfway comatose throughout the day! 

And the good food & rest helped a lot because I woke up with an amazing idea for a new quinoa salad that I can't wait to share with you this week!  (Quinoa for a Hunger Challenge, Poor Girl?  How is that even possible?  Believe me, it can be done!)  Stay tuned for that and another Hunger Challenge recipe tomorrow, as well as more recaps of the last few days of the challenge!

Hunger Challenge 2011: Day 1


My third year of participating in the San Francisco Food Bank's Hunger Challenge caught me off guard.  Sure, I had just written about it in my latest What's In Store... post, so it's not like I didn't know it was coming.  I just didn't have the chance to prepare for it like I did last year.  I hadn't made a plan, I hadn't done any shopping for the week, and I had exactly $0.58 in the bank until my next payday.  Ack.  (Don't you just hate rent time? Wipes you out!). 

But as I scrambled to get some breakfast & lunch ingredients together yesterday morning, I realized that this was probably a good thing.  After all, being hungry and subsisting on the bare minimum isn't exactly something for which one generally prepares.  Illnesses, unemployment, evictions - all these things catch you off guard; so does the inevitable hunger that follows when you can't pick yourself back up again after falling on those hard times.

Realizing I'd need some sort of strategy before I made a complete mess of things (because, let's face it: sticking to $4/day is HARD, even for me), I decided to put on my serious Poor Girl hat to see just how useful my own blog could be to someone who actually does need to live this way - the very same situation I was in just last year, when I had to go on SNAP myself.

So, I decided to approach things with the same mindset I had to have last year when I first went on the SNAP program.  Which, ironically, is similar to what I'm currently facing (only this time around I have the benefit of having a job & know I'll be paid soon, thank goodness).  I put myself in the shoes of someone who just got blindsided by a job loss, has close to nothing in the bank or even in the wallet, and who can only work with the little they have left in their kitchens because they're either waiting or have been denied for SNAP assistance.  Basically, what many Americans are facing every day.

Day 1...

Considering it was the 10 year anniversary of the day that changed our country forever, I didn't have much of an appetite at all for the first day of the challenge.  I'm one of those overly sensitive types that absorbs other peoples' hardships like a sponge, so the oversaturation of those horrifying 9/11 images on every piece of media was a bit much for me to take. 

Since I was so uninspired, I did what I normally do and shopped from my own cupboards & fridge for ideas. While many Hunger Challengers prefer to shop for the week (like I did last year), the reality is that when you're on assistance, you don't always have money on that handy EBT card.  Depending on when you applied there could be several weeks of waiting before you actually have money to use.  And if you're not good at budgeting, those few bucks can go really fast and you're left waiting.... again.

Because of this, sometimes all you can do is work with what you already have on hand.  This is pretty much the Poor Girl mantra, but it's not always easy to do because things may be so bad you may be stuck with just a bunch of rice and a bottle of mustard.  Still, it's one of the most important things I do to make sure I eat well on the cheap.

After doing a quick inventory of my fridge & food cupboard, I realized A) I'd been neglecting my Bare Bones staples as of late, and because of this, B) I had a TON of dried beans on hand.  This was a very good thing.  Beans are a wonderful way to get fiber, protein and good calories quickly, and while canned beans are more convenient, dried beans are infinitely more economical. 

I cooked up a few pots of beans to use the rest of the week in different dishes.  I froze 1-2 cup portions in plastic zip bags and used the rest to make a small batch of The Easiest 3-Bean Chili Ever for lunch & dinner.  I halved the recipe to make the most of the beans I'd cooked, and omitted the canned tomatoes & cheese since I didn't have them on hand.  It was uber tasty and even after cutting the amount in half, I still had enough for a generous lunch, dinner and leftovers for another day. 

With the small batch of rice I'd prepared to go along with my chili, a handful of grapes (which came from an awesome score I got from the Grocery Outlet - $1.99 for 2 lbs!!!), and my trusty water (I'm not a soda/coffee/etc. drinker), I spent $3.92 on my first day.  Not bad for having a heavy heart & very little inspiration!  Would I be so lucky on Day 2?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Photo Friday: Olive Oil Tasting Dinner at Greek Village Inn

Last night I joined a group of other Sacramento food bloggers for a fantastic dinner hosted by Star Olive Oil.  The company has just released their first California olive oil blend, and after hooking up with Ms. Munchie, we lucky bloggers were treated to an olive oil tasting and a fabulous five course meal prepared by the fine folks at Sacramento's Greek Village Inn.

Paired with wines from Sean Minor Winery, we feasted like kings & queens!  Being bloggers, we also took about 7.4 million pictures, and while they're not the greatest photos I've ever taken, it was a lot of fun being with others who share my obsession with photographing sexy food.

It was such an amazing spread of delicious, traditional Greek food that I swear I'm still full!  So how about we all sit back, relax and enjoy (albeit only visually), this lovely feast for the eyes, palate and soul...

Our olive oil tasting included Star's Extra Virgin (the one almost everyone knows!), Garlic, and the new California blend.  All three were fantastic, but the Garlic & California ones were by far the best!

Our delightful menu for the evening.  I was in feta BLISS, I tell you!!!

Grilled Artichokes w/Lemon Thyme Remoulade...

Spicy Feta Dip & Grilled Pita Bread.  Also known as The Snack I Could Eat Forever...

And then they brought us MORE cheese!!!!!  (Sadly, I wasn't able to get an action shot when they flambéed this tableside, but it was quite impressive!)

Well, hello there, heirloom tomato, kalamata olive & feta bliss... :)

Our entrée: Lamb Shank & Roasted Lemon Potatoes.  Best. Potatoes. EVER.  No, really.  EVER!!!

Grilled fruit drizzled with olive oil & served in a sweet meringue cup ended our fabulous meal...

Or so I thought!  With our dessert we were treated to a nice glass of ouzo!  Opa!  (Or yamas.  I think that's how it's spelled, but I'm not sure.  Any Greek readers have the right spelling & saying for those sweet ouzo moments?)

No party is complete without party favors!  Tiny & portable, these are so going in my "at work" pantry!  

It was a fabulous evening with great conversation, great wines and fantastic food.  Thanks to Star Olive Oil, Ms. Munchie & the incredible staff at the Greek Village Inn for such a wonderful evening!  I can't wait to go back & try more of what this Sacramento favorite has to offer... that spicy feta and the saganaki already have me sold!

That's it for this edition of Photo Fridays!  More recipes coming next week, so stay tuned for those.  Happy Friday, everyone!  

:) Kimberly

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Recipe: Spicy Baked Falafel Sandwiches with Homemade Tzatziki

This past holiday weekend I did something weird.  Well... it was weird for me.  For the first time in who knows how long, I took a real day off.  Not my usual kind of "day off" that's filled with errands and side projects and several hours cooking, photographing & writing (which is really just time away from the regular job, not an actual day off). 

No, this was the real deal: the kind of day off that actually left me feeling somewhat rested, rejuvenated & recharged, because that's all I focused on doing.  There was no blogging, no cooking (well, nothing special... though, that new sorbet was quite lovely...), no photographing, no volunteering for others' projects, no playing unofficial counselor/business consultant to everyone... in short, it was everything I dreamed a day off could be.  And I liked it. 

My mom used to do this many moons ago (only she called it going "on strike", lol), and now I understand why.  There's something to be said for a few moments of real "me" time, especially if you're like me and you're the "helper" type who thrives on helping others.  Sometimes I forget to take care of myself as well as I take care of everything else, so even if it was just for one day, I'm glad I took the time to remind myself that it's okay to take a breather every now & then.

After a relaxing day spent lakeside with a good friend & plenty of sun, I was absolutely ravenous.  Who knew vegging out could rev up the appetite so quickly, right?  I didn't feel like making anything too complicated, but I wanted to have something tasty & filling.  Top that with the random, mad craving I had for tzatziki, and a decision was made: it was time to make falafel.

It's a little weird that I haven't posted a falafel recipe yet.  After all, it pretty much covers all the PGEW bases: quick, easy to prepare, relatively healthy, and ridiculously affordable. Whether you use the canned variety or you cook your own from dried, chickpeas (the base for falafel) are very inexpensive.  Once you have that figured out, all it takes is some parsley and a well-stocked spice pantry, and you're just minutes away from falafel bliss.

Most falafel recipes call for frying as the cooking method, but I'm not all that into fried food.  Instead, I prefer to bake mine; they still have that same crispy exterior & soft interior, just without all that extra fat.  It's also usually served with hummus or tahini, but I prefer to serve mine with a healthy amount of tzatziki for some reason.  Not that I don't like falafel with hummus; there's just something about the tangy, garlicky coolness of tzatziki that really enhances the flavor for me.  And because I make my falafel a little on the spicy side, the tzatziki helps with some of that extra heat.

One last note before we delve into this super easy recipe: if you don't have any pita or lavash bread handy, feel free to deconstruct your sandwich & turn it into a falafel salad.  With the tzatziki drizzled on top as a cool, creamy dressing, you can't possibly go wrong!

Spicy Baked Falafel Sandwiches with Homemade Tzatziki (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: $1.75)

Ingredients:

For the falafel:
2 14 oz. cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T finely chopped parsley
1 T finely chopped cilantro
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1/2 T crushed red chile flakes
1 t salt
2 T flour
1 T olive oil

For the tzatziki:
8 oz. Greek yogurt*
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded & finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 T dill (fresh is preferable, but if you only have dried dill like I did, that works too)
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t salt

Other:
4 whole wheat pita pockets
1 large tomato, sliced
4 large lettuce leaves
Red onion slices, separated into rings

Directions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then prepare the tzatziki by combining the yogurt, garlic, cucumber*, herbs, lemon juice & salt in a bowl and mixing until well combined.  Cover & chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the falafel.

2.  In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas using a fork or a mortar & pestle.  Add the onion, garlic, herbs, spices & flour, and mix together to make a thick paste.  Roll small amounts if the mixture into ping pong sized balls, then flatten slightly to form small discs.

3.  Line baking sheet with foil.  Lightly brush both sides of each falafel disc with the olive oil and place on baking sheet.  Bake for about 15 minutes, turning about halfway through the cooking process so they're evenly browned.

4.  Assemble your sandwiches by stuffing each pita pocket with 2-3 falafel pieces and as many veggies as you can fit in there.  Drizzle with a generous amount of tzatziki (or hummus, or tahini, for the purists), and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What's In Store for September

It's been awhile since I've done one of these, eh?  This year has flown by so quickly that all the months seem to be blurring together, but I can definitely say it hasn't been boring!  I've been working behind the scenes on some pretty interesting projects that I can't wait to share with you in the next couple of months, so if I've seemed a bit absent, I promise there are some really good reasons for it! 

The good news is that in the next few months PGEW will become an even better resource for anyone who's trying to learn to eat well while on a shoestring budget.  There will be some great new features added soon, as well as a new way to communicate with yours truly!  For now, let's check out what's in store for this month...
  • More meatless recipes!  I love meatless meals more than most omnivores do for many reasons.  The two biggest ones are obviously health & affordability, but it's also fun for me to show folks that a tasty meal doesn't have to include meat.  It's good for your waistline and good for your wallet; what's not to love?  (But don't fret, my fellow meat lovers!  I've got some great beef recipes coming up this month, too.)
  • Hunger Challenge 2011 - I can't believe it's that time of year again, but lo & behold, here it is!  This will be my 3rd year participating in the San Francisco Food Bank's Hunger Challenge, and I'm looking forward to seeing just how resourceful I can be this year.  They've raised the rate to $4.72/day, but I'm going to stick with the $4 cap that we were given in previous years in order to stay focused on the reason for this challenge: to raise awareness about the hunger epidemic so many Americans face.  If you're interested in joining the challenge, please follow this link for more information. 
  • Just a few more days to vote for Drewski's!  If you follow me on Facebook & Twitter, you've no doubt seen my requests (okay, downright pleas) for your votes to help my pal Andrew make it onto next season's Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network.  He's been in the Top 10 for most of the competition, but only one truck can win, so any and all votes are greatly appreciated!!!  Even if you don't live in the Sacramento area, you can still vote to make Drewski's Americals favorite food truck!  To send some votes his way, please check out his website or follow this link.  Thanks in advance!
  • The $25 Shopping Cart is baaaaack!  Well, it will be as soon as I find some time to go to a new store.  This month I'm heading to one of the Sacramento area's best known chains to see just how far a few bucks will go there.  Wish me luck!
  • Stone fruit fan?  Stay tuned this month for some great peach, plum and nectarine recipes that go beyond the usual jams & preserves, but won't break the bank.
That's all for now, folks!  Delicious new recipe is on the way tomorrow, so stay tuned! 

Happy September!  :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Recipe: Blueberry Milk

I'm not sure if there's some sort of defense mechanism that my subconscious is using to cope with the aging process (because when I'm awake I'm certainly okay with being 35), but lately I've reverted back to childhood when it comes to food. Everything I've felt like eating recently reminds me of the simple things little kids tend to enjoy most: natural finger foods like grapes & berries, sandwiches like grilled cheese or my banana, almond butter & honey on whole wheat; heck, I've even had mad cravings for strawberry milk, of all things! 

Clearly, I'm going through another one of my many food phases.  The Hello, My Name Is Kimberly and I'm Four Years Old phase.

The other day I was assembling my favorite little breakfast sandwich to take with me to work, when I was hit hard with the strawberry milk craving.  Not being the type to have things like Nestlé Quik around the house, that quick fix was out of the question.  And without any fresh strawberries on hand, I couldn't even make real strawberry milk from scratch! 

A quick peek in the freezer resulted in finding berries of another kind: the very last of my blueberries from my berry-picking expedition earlier this summer.  At first I was a little bummed (because I was secretly hoping I'd find a forgotten stash of frozen strawberries), but as I stared at my little bag of frozen blues, I began to wonder how blueberry milk would turn out.  It made sense, considering its distant cousin, the strawberry, gets its own "milk"; but for a brief moment, it seemed a little too odd, a little crazy, almost a little wrong. 

Blueberry milk.  Is that even allowed?

Turns out it is and it should be consumed often because it is GOOD.  It's incredibly easy to make and much better for you & your family than the powdered drinks.  It also looks kinda cool, once you get over the fact that you're drinking a lavender beverage.  But if lavender food can be a good thing, so can a lavender (or periwinkle, come to think of it...) drink.

You can make this with any type of milk that works best for you & your family.  I love nonfat milk so that's what I used for mine, but if you have dairy allergies you can certainly prepare this with soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc.  I also like to use real sugar (not the processed refined junk) to sweeten my berries, but I know some folks prefer to use alternative sweeteners.  If you do use something other than real sugar, I'd recommend sticking with something with a neutral flavor profile, like agave nectar.  Honey is lovely and I use it often, but its distinct flavor would definitely change the finished product.

I hope you & your kids enjoy this as much as my inner four-year-old did!  It's tasty & different, and a refreshing change from the usual kid-friendly drinks out there.  It's a great way to use up those last few berry stragglers out there, too, if you haven't already used them all in jams & pies.

And did I mention it pairs beautifully with homemade chicken tenders?  Who says adults get to have all the fun? ;)

Blueberry Milk (makes about 1 quart; total cost: $2.75)

Ingredients:
1 c fresh or frozen blueberries
2 T sugar
1 t lemon juice
3-4 c well-chilled nonfat milk (or soy milk, almond milk, etc.)

Directions:
1.  Combine the blueberries, sugar & lemon juice in a small bowl and toss together.  Cover and let stand for about 15-20 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the berries have released their juices.

2.  Using a hand blender (or regular blender if you have it), puree the berry mixture until smooth.  Pour the blueberry puree into a pitcher, add the chilled milk, and give it a couple of pulses to mix everything together.  Check for flavor & adjust according to taste. 

3. Serve ice cold with a bendy straw (or a crazy straw if they still make those... do they?!), and enjoy!

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