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Ling

eG Foodblog: Ling - eating on a (very small) student budget

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Hi everyone! :biggrin: tammylc tagged me for the next week and I'm starting today since my menu will be a little more interesting since it's (Canadian) Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house. Starting tomorrow, however, you will be following me as I peruse the supermarket aisles looking for whatever's cheap, on sale, and halfway edible.

I've been lurking on egullet for awhile, so I guess I should introduce myself. I'm a 4th year English major at UBC currently living in sin as I am staying with my boyfriend. :unsure: Right now, we're trying to support ourselves while saving up for an apartment, and one area where we've had to drastically cut down on spending is groceries. I'm in school full-time, and work part-time as a private English tutor. I also work Saturdays at a tutoring center for peanuts.

Anyway, onto Thanksgiving. I've been preparing food for tonight's dinner since Friday! It's my first time making an entire Thanksgiving meal by myself. I guess I should mention that though I'm on a shoestring budget, I do appreciate good food. I live in Vancouver, and my bf and I have dined at some of the nice restaurants like West and Lumiere. I enjoyed my food at West more. (BTW: I hope David Hawksworth reads my thread...he is my hero :blush:)

Today I woke up late and had to grab breakfast on the run. I ate 10 sourcream Timbits (from Tim Horton's, a sandwich/soup/donut chain in Canada) and a few fun-sized chocolate bars (Mars, Twix). I should mention that today's menu might shock some of you b/c of the plethora of junk food consumed, but I assure you I don't eat like this all the time. I just got caught on a bad day. :laugh:

Tim Horton's sourcream donuts are my favorite. The sourcream donuts are very dense, with an almost creamy interior. Not covered in a cloying sugary glaze. I brought donuts for my student...raspberry-filled, a couple of chocolate ones, some chocolate and coconut. Mmm...

After our 2 hour lesson, I drove to Save-on-Foods to buy a pumpkin pie. Yesterday when I was there, I ate 8 samples from the (unmanned) sample tray. (BTW: That was basically yesterday's dinner. I told you I was poor. :raz:) Today the sample trays held pieces of supermarket-quality Black Forest cake, birthday cake, olive and asiago ciabatta bread (which I love) and garlic toast. I had a sample of the Black Forest. Bleah.

Got home, and ate a large piece of pumpkin pie. Since then, I've been picking at the rest of the pie every few minutes. I've already eaten more than a quarter of the 9" pie. No one else in my family will go near pumpkin, so I buy myself one every Thanksgiving. Also ate a handful of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts.

I then got started on a pistachio sponge cake and the cornbread. Cornbread doesn't seem to be very popular in Canada; I've actually only eaten it twice in my life. For the cornbread, I combined ingredients from 3 recipes that I found earlier in the week--1 from Epicurious and the other 2 right here in the egullet recipe archive! (I used mamster's Yankee cornbread and Rachel Perlow's skillet cornbread). Both the cake and the cornbread look good.

The turkey is in the oven and I just poured 2 bottles of beer over the big pan of veggies. This is what I'll be eating for dinner tonight:

-turkey/gravy/cranberry sauce

-sausage, artichoke, sourdough bread, cheese stuffing--found the recipe on Epicurious, and I followed it but doubled the amount of sausage :biggrin:

-cornbread (thanks mamster and Rachel)

-taboulleh salad

-garlic bread

(No veggies or roasted sweet potatoes for me when there's so much better-tasting stuff around).

For dessert, I made the pistachio sponge cake and I'm serving it with whipped cream. I also made this Cappucino-Fudge cheesecake on Friday for tonight's dessert. Here's the link to the recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/run/recipe/view?id=106231 I used Callebaut chocolate since you can get it in the bulk section of Superstore for 99 cents/100 grams.

Unfortunately, my cheesecake doesn't have a pretty lattice top since my (cheap) pastry bag exploded when I was trying to pipe the ganache. I bought the pastry bag for 6 bucks! What a waste of money... :angry: I had to instead pour the ganache over the top of the cheesecake. Decorated it with chocolate covered espresso beans.


Edited by Ling (log)

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keep talking.......... :biggrin:

Reading these blogs makes me realize just how little I snack during the day, I might occasionally have something in the afternoon but I really don't snack in the morning or evening...... :blink:

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Thanks Ling...I look forward to reading your blog this week. :smile:

BTW, for how many people were you cooking Thanksgiving dinner? Were they appreciative of your effort?

=R=

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I also work Saturdays at a tutoring center for peanuts. 

:biggrin: What do you teach the peanuts to do?

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Looking forward to reading this foodblog! I remember living on $10 a week for food - ate a lot of pasta, potatoes, and dried beans.

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It's too late now, but for future reference: you can use a plastic bag (preferably a nice heavy one) as a pastry bag: just load it up, clip off a corner, and you're good to go!

I think the kids of some friends of ours are at UBC; these friends keep telling us how beautiful Vancouver is. I really look forward to reading your posts. :smile:

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I cooked for about 10 people. There were supposed to be more relatives coming, but I had to change the date at the last minute (b/c I have to study for a midterm) and they already had plans for tonight.

My family was very appreciative of the meal, even though they paid for the groceries. :smile:

I was rather disappointed with the brined turkey. I've read how much tastier a brined piece of meat is, but I honestly couldn't tell the difference. Oh well. Still delicious slathered with cranberry jelly and gravy. For the brine, I used the Chez Panisse recipe off the internet.

I ate four servings of stuffing. I am...stuffed. Also had 3 big pieces of cornbread (I'll remember to adjust my recipe and add a little more sugar next time. It was moist and the crust was crisp though).

Now, half the pumpkin pie is gone. I also put away a slice of the sponge cake, and a huge slice of the cheesecake. Also had some chocolates that my bf brought over. OK, more like the first tier of chocolates.

I was 109 lbs. yesterday. I wonder how much I'll weigh tomorrow? :raz: I've probably had more sugar today than most people eat in a week!

I also took some digi pictures of my cheesecake. Maybe I'll post them up tomorrow if anyone wants to take a look.

Suzanne: I saw the plastic bag tip on FoodTV, but I couldn't find any heavy duty ones yesterday. Thanks for the tip though! :)

The doorbell just rang. My sister's bf just got off work and now he's eating dinner.


Edited by Ling (log)

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I also work Saturdays at a tutoring center for peanuts. 

:biggrin: What do you teach the peanuts to do?

English, of course! :laugh:

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I was rather disappointed with the brined turkey. I've read how much tastier a brined piece of meat is, but I honestly couldn't tell the difference.

It has always seemed like too much work for too little effort. There's a farm that sells free-range heirloom turkeys into Minneapolis. I buy one of those and baste it constantly.

Bruce

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:wink:

Keep talking. You remind me of my own beans-and-rice days.

Ziploc freezer bags have always served me well for pastry piping, by the way -- they're sturdy enough, where the fragile cheap stuff won't do. They're more affordable in the 15-count boxes.

:biggrin:

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Ling,

tell us more about the veggies and beer - roast in beer? do they get crispy? what veggies?

you have just made me very hungry for Thanksgiving.....

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Ling,

tell us more about the veggies and beer - roast in beer? do they get crispy? what veggies?

you have just made me very hungry for Thanksgiving.....

I'd love to see this recipe on my Thanksgiving Sides & Pies thread.

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Ling,

tell us more about the veggies and beer - roast in beer? do they get crispy? what veggies?

you have just made me very hungry for Thanksgiving.....

I'd love to see this recipe on my Thanksgiving Sides & Pies thread.

It would be even better to see these recipes on recipeGullet so we don't have to try and remember what page of what thread that "can't miss dish" is on.

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My dad likes to pour a couple cans of beer in the pan not for the veggies, but for the gravy. We roast our turkey directly on top of a huge pile of cut up vegetables: carrots, red onions, celery, a few tomatoes (too many tomatoes and the gravy gets sour), peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. The juices from the vegetables combine with the turkey juices and the beer, and then we strain the fat from the liquid and thicken the liquid for gravy when the turkey's done. The veggies don't get crispy--in fact, we usually just throw most of them away since all the flavor has been cooked out of them. Then you can just season it according to your tastes. There's no water, soup base, or anything else that goes into the gravy.

The gravy is always very good--better than any gravy I've had at friend's houses, or at steakhouses.


Edited by Ling (log)

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It's almost 4pm and I just woke up. :biggrin: I was up late watching 'Bend it with Beckham'.

I'm still full from last night's dinner, but here's a look in my pantry/fridge:

-7 cans of tuna (no-name brand, 87 cents a can)

-1 can of sliced mushrooms (generic brand that I bought at 4 cans for a dollar)

-a few eggs

-1 tired-looking piece (head?) of brocolli

-a couple packages of low-calorie jello (generic brand, on sale at 6 boxes for a dollar)

-some Diet Pepsi

-1 can of sardines in tomato sauce (79 cents a can)

-3 or 4 frozen dinners (on sale at Safeway...these have been sitting in the freezer for months!)

-1 jar of Healthy Choice tomato sauce (also bought on sale)

Sadly, that's about it.

What should I eat for dinner? :laugh:

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Hmmm.....I'd steam or stir fry the broccoli, so it gets eaten before going bad. I'd also make up one of the frozen dinners, again so they get eaten while still edible. At least, that would be the most frugal choice. Otherwise, I'd scramble the eggs, adding some of the mushrooms, and perhaps have the broccoli alongside.

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:shock: That list reminds me of the conversations I used to have with a friend in L.A. who was on one of those weird-ass food-combining regimes. He would call me and say "For dinner I can have three prunes, 6 oz. of monkfish, and all the kelp I want." And I'd tell him to throw it all in the blender and call out for a pizza.

Actually, I don't think your list is all that dire, but my suggestion would be to eat a frozen dinner and then pick up some cheap pasta and some garlic and onions. The garlic and onions will doctor the tomato sauce, and you can toss it all with the tuna and some pasta. I'd think you could get away without the pasta, even -- make a sort of tuna-and-tomato (or sardine-and-tomato) frittata, with some steamed broc on the side -- but I do think the onions and garlic are kinda key.

I'm sure the Jello will come in handy for a crafts project. :smile:

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Hmmm.....I'd steam or stir fry the broccoli, so it gets eaten before going bad. I'd also make up one of the frozen dinners, again so they get eaten while still edible. At least, that would be the most frugal choice. Otherwise, I'd scramble the eggs, adding some of the mushrooms, and perhaps have the broccoli alongside.

I like the last option.

We're serving eggs as a main course for dinner tonight. (Two of us, three guests.)

Bruce

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Yeah, the eggs and mushrooms sound good. That's what I'll be eating for dinner.

BTW: I also found a can of vegetarian chilli hidden in the cupboard.

What are you doing with your eggs, Bruce?

What are everyone's favorite low-cost, easy-prep meals?

I've been subsisting on meal-replacement bars for lunch at school. They're easy to carry, fairly cheap (compared to buying a lunch at school) but taste horrible!

My bf is eating leftover cheesecake right now, and he's going to a Thanksgiving dinner tonight with his co-workers at his boss' house. He invited me to come along, but I have to study. Guess he'll be eating something decent tonight though. He usually eats no-name mac and cheese (only 25 cents a box at Superstore). If you think Kraft mac and cheese is bad, you should taste this! The cheese sauce is really thin and pale yellow. His typical dinner is a box of this vile stuff with a big squirt of ketchup, eaten directly from the pot. :blink:


Edited by Ling (log)

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Getting creative with leftovers saves money. Two favorite things to do with leftovers...

Boil some pasta. Make a sauce either cream based or tomato based. You can get really creative. Keep canned whole or diced tomatoes in the pantry. They are cheap and make a good base. Frizzle some onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add the tomatoes or cream and cook down to whatever consistency you like. Add meat and veggies and cook just long enough to warm them up. Add the pasta and toss.

I do a similar trick with Thai curry pastes and coconut milk. The Mae Ploy brand is really good and it keeps forever. I don't know about Vancouver but here in Houston the Asian markets are the place to shop. The coconut milk is often 50 or 60 cents a can. Serve with rice, of course.

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Thai curry sounds really good! I've never made it at home before. I must try it sometime this week. :)

I went home and found one slice of cheesecake left in the fridge. At least it was a big slice. That was one good cheesecake recipe. (For those just skimming this thread, here's the link again: http://food.epicurious.com/run/recipe/view?id=106231) I usually double the cookie crust, b/c that's my favorite part of the cheesecake. :biggrin: Anyone else have a favorite recipe? I find that most of the ones on Epicurious are similar...4-5 packs of cream cheese, a couple of eggs, a cup or more of sugar, and a sourcream topping.

There was also some cornbread left, so I ate 3 generous slices covered in butter. Mmmm....

I also finished off the stuffing (cold, straight from the fridge and eaten with a fork from the tupperware container.)

Except for some turkey and gravy, the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone.

My dad is melting down rock sugar for the tofu pudding right now. I'll probably have some in a few hours as my pants are already straining.

Tomorrow I plan on eating a little healthier, doing some grocery shopping, and hitting the gym before I go to work. Wonder what goodies will be on sale. :raz:

OT: Just saw the pictures from Varmint's Pig Pickin'. The food pictures are amazing...especially the dessert table! http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST...97&t=21108&st=0


Edited by Ling (log)

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Oh. My. God. Having flashbacks to living on 25¢ cans of bonito and 8 for a dollar containers of yogurt during my last year of college. If I knew then what I know now . . . :biggrin:

Basics for cheap eats: canned fish, which you've already got. Canned beans (can actually be cheaper than dried, if you count the time). Pasta. Onions. Garlic. Good parmesan. Strong ready-to-eat smoked sausage. Canned tomatoes. Whatever green vegetable is in season. Dried herbs. Rice.

The best quality cheese and sausage will give you maximum flavor from minimum quantities.

And yes, shop the Asian markets. Fresh produce, strong flavors.

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What are everyone's favourite low-cost, easy-prep meals?

Holy sugar fix BATMAN......you must have been bouncing off the walls after the donuts, pumpkin pie etc....

I thought I would answer you question about the fav- low-cost meal.

I've just returned from Whistler, I've spent the day with a friend and future employee of the West kitchen. We drove past Whistler into the Pemberton Valley is search of Pine Mushrooms or other wise known as The Matsutake. Turning off the highway we drove for about 7 km along a logging road that opens up into this Autumn coloured valley that is just amazing. The mountain tops have just got the first dusting of snow in the last few days, next time I'm bring a camera - words can't do the scenery justice. Fingers crossed this will be an epic year for skiing! We parked at the bottom of a switch back road that went up for a LONG time. I haven't been hiking in a while so everything was long, difficult and exhausting for the first hour!! We started in through the trees and straight up we went. It's dark, smells of pines, everything is moist, colours are deep greens and browns. NOTHING to be found, as I'm walking up we keep in touch by shouting every few minutes so we don't go to far apart. On and on we go and it's looking as if " The Patch " has been picked already. As we are miles and miles away from anyone it's hard to believe somebody has already been here. My mind begins to wander and I start thinking about the food chain. Now we are hiking in deep, thick and unforgiving forest and I'm trying to figure out when the last bear was sniffing his way across my tracks. Only to bound into two large piles of you know what. That makes your eyes wider and you tend not to walk the rest of the way by yourself!!! ( reminds me of a joke - )

The California State Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, hunters, fishermen and golfers to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears while in the Yosemite and Mammoth areas.

They advise people to wear noise-producing devices such as little bells on their clothing to alert but not startle the bear unexpectedly. They also advise carrying pepper spray in case of an encounter with a bear.

It is also a good idea to watch for fresh signs of bear activity and know the difference between black bear and grizzly bear droppings.

Black bear droppings are smaller and contain berries and possibly squirrel fur. Grizzly bear droppings have little bells in them and smell like pepper spray. :laugh:

Anyway - we eventfully found some pines. What an aroma they have - amazing!!!

So tonight's dinner was Pine Mushroom Broth with Bok Choy, Pork, Green Onions, Soba noodles ( .79c ) I think the total was $6 for two !! absolutely delicious !!!!

PS. we had a snack after the first assault on the mountain made by John's wife, bonito rice balls wrapped in nori ......soooooo good. And water - lots!!

David Hawksworth


Edited by d.hawksworth (log)

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What are everyone's favorite low-cost, easy-prep meals?

None of this is anywhere near haute cuisine, but it's all cheap, easy, and tasty:

* Cook pasta, toss with sauce of choice, layer in a casserole with cheese of choice (believe it or not, cheddar is pretty darn good here!), bake at 350 until cheese is melted.

* To a can of refried beans, add: garlic powder, salsa, cayenne or hot sauce of choice, sliced green onions, and shredded cheese (lots). Heat on low in a saucepan until cheese melts throughout. Great with chips, or cut up veggies, or spread on crackers or bread, or off a spoon.... :smile:

* Scrambled eggs with lots of sauteed onions, topped with a little cumin and some cilantro.

* Cook up some spaghetti and toss in broccoli florets a couple of minutes before the pasta is done. While cooking, heat some oil, add in minced garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook until the garlic is fragrant. Drain pasta and broccoli, pour oil mixture over, then top with grated Parmesan (optional - still pretty good without it)

* Cold cooked rice, sauteed with chopped vegetables, onion, leftover meat, some soy sauce, minced garlic, and a bit of sesame oil. Scramble an egg in there if you have one.

* Baked potatoes topped with just about anything you can think of.

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