In “Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day,” author Leanne Brown has created a strategy guide to help people on a limited income stretch their food dollar.
She includes the cost for each recipe, which is meant as a guideline, as prices vary by city and neighbourhood.
For those who know little about cooking, Brown suggests regular practice helps.
“That doesn’t mean slaving away in the kitchen for hours. It can mean getting into habits of doing just small amounts of work here and there that have great results.”
Once people understand how to make a recipe, it can easily be varied.
“I think that’s what gets people cooking long term is suddenly realizing like, ‘Why the heck am I going to pay for a fettuccine Alfredo in a restaurant that’s $13 when it’s just butter and Parmesan and I can do that at home way better? And I can add a little bit of chili flakes and lemon because that’s what I like.”’
Here are three recipes from “Good and Cheap” to try.
VEGETABLE QUICHE, HOLD THE CRUST
Brown says this quiche is delicious hot or cold out of the fridge the next day. It makes a great fast breakfast or lunch paired with a side salad.
This is a good example of a recipe that can easily be varied at little cost.
“All you’re really doing is caramelizing onions to fake a little crust under there, a crunchy onion crust rather than having pastry, and then you are adding whatever vegetables you have and then you’re suspending it in this lovely egg custard,” she explains.
Instead of milk, you can use yogurt or another type of dairy. Any type of vegetables can work. At this time of year, use zucchini and tomatoes, in the fall use dark leafy greens or root vegetables and in the winter add potato and leeks.
Brown also likes roasted green chilies and cheddar, winter squash with goat cheese or spinach and olive.
Steam or cook hardier vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower or winter squash before adding to the quiche to ensure they’ll be fully cooked. For tomatoes, zucchini, spinach or any other quick-cooking vegetables, use them fresh.
15 ml (1 tbsp) butter
1 large onion, sliced into half-moons
5 ml (1 tsp) salt, plus more to taste
2 ml (1/2 tsp) pepper, plus more to taste
750 ml to 1 l (3 to 4 cups) chopped vegetables
250 ml (1 cup) milk
250 ml (1 cup) grated cheddar or other cheese
Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F).
Melt butter in a cast-iron or ovenproof skillet over medium heat. (If your skillet isn’t ovenproof, transfer everything to a pie plate prior to baking.) Add onion slices and sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over them. Cook onions until they are golden brown and starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and spread onions evenly across bottom. Spread vegetables evenly over onions. The dish or pan should look fairly full.
In a bowl, use a fork to beat eggs lightly with milk, cheese, 5 ml (1 tsp) of salt and 2 ml (1/2 tsp) of pepper, just enough to break up the yolks and whites. This is a savoury custard mixture. Pour custard over vegetables and onions and enjoy watching it fill in all the open spaces.
Bake for 1 hour. Once surface is lightly brown all the way across, it’s fully cooked.
Let quiche cool for about 20 minutes, then slice into wedges.
Makes 4 servings, about US$1.50 each.
PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY GRANOLA BARS
These bars are a little more crumbly than a store-bought granola bar. You can have them for breakfast on the go or freeze them.
“Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are great, of course, but you can get bored of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and so I thought ‘how can we recreate these really common ingredients to create something that’s a little different?”’ says Brown.
Peanut butter and jam or jelly and oats are often distributed from food banks and people almost always have those ingredients on hand.
Any kind of jam or jelly will do. Brown used blueberry, but grape, strawberry or any flavour would be tasty. You can use quick-cooking oats, but Brown prefers the bite and chew of rolled oats. For more crunch, you can substitute Rice Krispies for the oats.
Butter or vegetable oil, for the pan
750 ml (3 cups) rolled oats or 500 ml (2 cups) rolled oats and 250 ml (1 cup) Rice Krispies
125 ml (1/2 cup) peanut butter
125 ml (1/2 cup) jelly or jam, divided
50 ml (1/4 cup) hot water
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped nuts
125 ml (1/2 cup) shredded coconut
125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped dried fruit
125 ml (1/2 cup) honey (instead of jelly)
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Grease a 20-by-28-cm (8-by-11-inch) baking pan. If you have a different size pan, that’s fine — it will just change how thick the bars are, so you’ll want to adjust the cooking time a little. A larger pan may take less time to cook through and get crunchy, while a smaller pan will take a few more minutes. Keep an eye on it in the oven.
Pour oats into a large bowl.
Place a small saucepan over low heat and add peanut butter, half the jelly, water, salt and any additions. Stir until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Pour peanut butter and jelly mixture into oats and mix until oats are coated and you have a sticky mass. Dump mixture into buttered baking pan and press into an even layer. Spread remaining jelly over top.
Bake for 25 minutes. The bars are done when the edges are toasty and brown.
Leave bars in pan until completely cooled, about an hour, then slice into 12 bars.
Makes 12 servings, about US$0.30 per bar.
These bananas — cooked in just a bit of caramel — are crispy and gooey on the outside and almost like a soft pudding inside. Sweet, messy and irresistible.
15 ml (1 tbsp) butter
30 ml (2 tbsp) brown sugar
2 bananas, peeled and split in half lengthwise
Melt butter in a non-stick or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add sugar and let it melt into butter for about 2 minutes. Stir once to create a smooth mixture.
Place bananas flat side down in butter-sugar mixture, then cook until they become brown and sticky, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip them over and do the same on the other side.
Serve as is or cut into quarters. Drizzle any caramel left in the pan over bananas. Serve with ice cream or on their own.
Makes 2 servings, about US$0.35 each.
Source: “Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day” by Leanne Brown (Workman Publishing, 2015).