This isn’t a traditional What’s Cooking Wednesday post. In fact, it’s not even written by me (welcome dear Heather of Yummi Sushi Pajamas!), but it’s full of great information–and TWO recipes–for those trying to eat healthier and save money. Pretty much all of us, I imagine?
But before we get to Heather, in other food news:
All you have to do is tell us about your first time. Eating Nutella, of course. Get the deets, enter over at the World Nutella Day Facebook Fan Page–coming up on 1800 fans!–and why not become a fan while you’re there?
OK, take it away Heather!
I’ve been lucky enough to make three separate trips to the Mediterranean. Every time I come home, I look around and wonder how I can bring something of the Mediterranean lifestyle into my American living. It’s not an easy thing to do since in a lot of ways the culture couldn’t be more different, but there are some things I’ve been able to manage.
For me, food was the easiest change to make. Mediterranean meals are based on fresh, local ingredients with smaller portions of meat, healthy fats, and lots of veggies. I loved the food when I was there, and I knew I could find ways to work it into my cooking. Following the Mediterranean diet (whole grains, healthy fats, lean proteins in small amounts, and tons of produce) helped me lose six pounds without ever having to measure a serving or count a calorie.
The problem came when the economy took a downturn and I changed my shopping style. Instead of shopping from a preplanned list, I’ve started clipping coupons and shopping sales. It saves us a lot of money, but makes it tough to purchase particular items for specific recipes. Saving money meant changing the way I thought about incorporating the Mediterranean mindset.
Instead of searching for Italian or Greek inspired recipes, I’ve started shopping at local farmers markets. I spend a lot of time putting together recipes from whatever I’ve got in the pantry (lots of canned fruits, veggies, and beans) and whatever produce I am able to grab from the local stands. I am trying to embrace the fact that it’s not olives, capers, or lamb that make a meal Mediterranean. I am learning to embrace the Mediterranean mindset of using what’s fresh and local instead of trying to incorporate specific ingredients.
Last week’s attempt resulted in two extremely good dinners made from local ingredients and pantry leftovers. My first experiment was born from the need to use up two pounds of plums before they rotted. I peeled and pitted all of the plums, then put them in a skillet with:
- A clove of minced garlic
- 1 ¾ cups of sugar
- ¾ cup cider vinegar
- ½ tablespoon ground mustard
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
I boiled it all down, using a spoon to crush the plums a bit better, and waited for it to reduce. It took maybe a half hour total. I used the sauce to top some cooked chopped chicken I had in the freezer, and put it all over some ziti. It turned out really well, and went great with a simple side of sautéed zucchini.
Experiment two was even more adventurous. I sautéed the rest of the zucchini in a little bit of olive oil and garlic. I boiled some penne pasta while the zucchini cooked. After I took the zucchini out of the pan, I tossed in a little more olive oil and a can of sardines I’ve had sitting around forever. The sardines (I chopped them first) cooked down nicely until they were just crisp salty bits, and I tossed in some bread crumbs to soak up the leftover oil. Once that was all done, I tossed the zucchini and pasta into the pan just so it could all warm up together. It was really good and so easy!
Now I feel confident that I can get whatever is fresh at the farmers market every weekend and just make it work with what I’ve got at home. I try to keep some basics like olive oil, lemon juice and capers on hand, and just toss in whatever else I have. It takes some courage, and lots of experimentation, but eventually you’ll find your own style using things you can get inexpensively and creating quick, easy meals that are reasonably healthy.
I know these ideas don’t compare to the amazing recipes featured here on Bleeding Espresso [so NOT true, Heather!], but they’ve been a hit at my house!
They sound delicious!
How have you been saving money on food lately?
Do you enjoy the Mediterranean Diet?