$100 Cheap Food Project – Week 2

This post is long over due. We’re talking ridiculously long. The week 1 post was almost ancient history, but thanks to my readers who have pushed me to get the rest of this series out, I kept going. Cheap Food Here is showing our readers that it is possible to spend just $100 per person per month on food. Our week 1 post was created when we were living in Costa Rica so certain foods were cheaper (most produce and fruit) but certain other foods were more expensive (specialty items, imported foods, cheese, meat, seafood, etc) so it has surprisingly balanced out now that we’ve completed week 2 since moving to St. Petersburg, Florida. Continue reading

Guest Post – Fresh From the Farm to Your Table

Costa Rica Family Farmed Organic Food…Comida Organica Express Delivers Puerto Viejo To Limon

It has been a life changing journey driven by the desire for a better, sustainable lifestyle. It has been an adventure of seven years leading my wife and I to life on a jungle farm on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast and inspiring us to gather and organize organic family farmers from various regions of the country. The result has been a beautiful organization which can deliver (within reasonable time) exceptional organic quality goodies at family prices anywhere from Talamanca to Limon with delivery coming soon to the San Jose Metro area. Continue reading

Acorn Squash with Pear and Quinoa Salad

Acorn Squash, Pear & Quinoa make a perfect fall meal. Let me just start out by saying this is a breakthrough recipe. It stands far and away from most recipes I’ve discovered or created. Bravo to Sprouted Kitchen and thanks for sharing this with the world initially. Continue reading

Flatbread with Garbanzo and Fava Flour

Low Carb Snacks Using Garbanzo Flour

You may have noticed with some of our low carb recipe posts that we were on the 4 Hour Body diet for about two months playing around with recipes and trying to get more fit. We love the idea of low carb and cutting out wheat/gluten specifically so we started experimenting with bean flours. At the onset of our curiosity we were still living in Costa Rica where you couldn’t find bean flours at all and I suspect if they did have them they would be cost-prohibitive (think $10 per bag of flour), but I was told you could grind your own dried garbanzo beans into a flour if you had a strong food processor or coffee grinder. I looked up a few how-tos on the Internet and just decided to go for it. Dried garbanzos are cheap in Costa Rica, so if I screwed it up it would be no big deal.

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World’s Best Black Bean Veggie Burger

The Search for the Best Black Bean Burger Concludes

Cheap Food Here has been on the hunt for the perfect black bean burger recipe ever since eating at the Original Penguin restaurant in Charlotte, NC (I say ‘Original’ because there was an issue with the original owners of the brand who were leasing it to the ones running the restaurant and to make a long story short, management changed, the charm and delicious food was downgraded to less than mediocre and thus, I wouldn’t guarantee the new Penguin black bean burger is the same as it was. See newer reviews here.) who could tout the most fabulous bean burger on the planet. Having eaten it a few times and trying to dissect it before inhaling it, I decided it probably had black beans (duh!), mushrooms, beets (this was an educated guess because of the color) and some kind of chili pepper in it because they packed some heat. Plus, I have a suspicion that the patties were deep fried because they were crispy on the outside and no matter what I’ve tried in the past, they just never get crispy in the pan, on the grill or in the broiler.

I’ve tried plenty of recipes, some with eggs, some with bread crumbs some with Portobello mushrooms; the list goes on and on. They’ve all been edible, but nothing was even coming close to the coveted Penguin black bean burger. The black bean burgers that I was making were mostly mushy and couldn’t be flipped without them falling completely apart, which I tried to remedy in every way I knew how. Nothing seemed to work and now I’m convinced it was two things: the lack of a filler like rice and leaving the black beans course rather than completely mashed. This speculation was confirmed after finding BrownEyedBaker’s black bean veggie burger recipe.

I do believe the best part about a meal is having leftovers that taste as good, if not better, than the original meal and these black bean burgers have that exact promise (hello freezer meal!). After I pattied them all out, we only cooked two for each of us so that left us with four more leftover (this recipe makes a total of 8 black bean burgers). With the extra patties, before cooking them, I placed them on a plate with parchment paper and froze them. Once they were frozen (2-3 hours) I transferred them to a freezer storage bag and we just thawed them out and cooked them the next time we were ready for them (only a few days later because we just absolutely loved them).

These hearty, full, nutritious black bean veggie burgers are one-of-a-kind and this recipe has me thinking about a ton of other bean burgers we can create off of this base. I’m thinking lentil patties and garbanzo burgers just off the top of my head. I think it’s time for a bean burger series. Okay, so here is our rendition of the famed recipe:

Black Bean Burger Recipe Ingredients

  • 2 tsp grapeseed oil (or other saute oil)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup coarsely grated carrots
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 C. cooked black beans, rinse and drained (we used dried bean to cut down on cost, but canned works also)
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1½ cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper (adjust to desired heat level)
  • 1 Tbsp additional grapeseed oil

Black Bean Burger Recipe Directions

  1. In a large skillet heated to medium-high heat, add the grapeseed oil and allow to heat up for 1-2 minutes.
  2. sauteed onions and garlic for black bean burgers

  3. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes until translucent, but not brown. Turn the burner off.
  4. carrots and onions for black bean burgers

  5. Add the grated carrots, chili powder and cumin and cook for 5 minutes on risidual heat, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool.
  6. combine beans, mustard, parsley for black bean burgers

  7. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the black beans, mustard, soy sauce, and parsley.
  8. Mash together with a potato masher or your hands, making sure not to over work the mixture. Lumpy is good.
  9. Stir in the cooled onion and carrot mixture. Add the cooked brown rice and chopped mushrooms, stirring to combine. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
  10. Form 8 patties and make sure to press the edges to make a clean edge so the form holds during cooking.
  11. Heat the remaining grapeseed oil in a large, nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add the burgers and cook for 5 to 8 minutes per side turning only once, very carefully (reshaping them after the flip if needed).
  12. Remove from heat and enjoy on a bun or simply by itself with a fork!
  13. final black bean veggie burger photo

Cheap Dinner Recipe – Homemade Shepherd’s Pie

Homemade Shepherd’s Pie: An English Tradition

Shepherd’s pie is often the topic of debate by those who argue whether it was originally made using lamb (mutton) or beef. It would make sense that it started as a lamb dish since that’s the basis of the name, but I don’t believe I trust any web source to know the absolute truth. Certainly not Wikipedia, however, according to them, the name ‘shepherd’ didn’t come into the mix until about 80 years after the name ‘Cottage Pie’ was used. Whatever origin or name you want to give it, you can put ‘delicious’ in front of it and be safe, because that’s what it is.

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Cherry Tomato Salad with Homemade Croutons

Cherry Tomato Salad with Homemade Croutons: A New Summer Favorite

I don’t recall how I came across this recipe, but I believe it was from the Smitten Kitchen Facebook page since they are a regular in my feed. This tomato salad recipe stuck out because we had a bag of cherry tomatoes in the fridge for about a week or so and some home made bread in the freezer waiting to be used for breadcrumbs or croutons. With basil growing in the back yard and all but one ingredient already in the house, it was the perfect cheap side dish for us.

We varied the recipe ever-so-slightly since we recently ran out of shallots (which we bought SUPER-cheap at the neighborhood Asian food store – $2.50/lb), used all red cherry tomatoes, added some olives and we made the crouton topping from a left over homemade loaf of rye bread. But, it’s a really simple recipe and uses a pretty standard base, so, you can’t really mess too much up. What I love about cheap recipes using ingredients already on hand and not bought for the specific purpose of a recipe, is that they seem free. Not that I wouldn’t use those ingredients up on something else, it just seems overly convenient.

I do love a good salad recipe and when it has fresh, in-season tomatoes, it’s bound to be a keeper. If you’ve never done it before, you can find some really nice guides on how to grow tomatoes so don’t be afraid! Combine the acidic flavor of tomatoes with olives and red wine vinegar, and it really puts a summery zip into a meal. Salads also tend to be quick to assemble since there’s hardly any cooking time required but prep-time can be a little daunting depending on how many ingredients there are. But, this is also another reason to love this recipe: it has very few ingredients and very little prep time. Hooray!

Alright, let’s get on with it then. First, a photo preview:

The final assembled cheap salad with tomatoes, olives, croutons and basil

Cheap Cherry Tomato Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 extra thick slice of stale, homemade rye bread
  • 1/2 of a small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground Black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Lb of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 7-8 Large basil leaves finely slivered

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and coarsely chop the slice of bread
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place the bread crumbs, onion, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, 2 Tbsp of olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Toss to evenly coat the crumbs.
  3. Spread crumbs onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12-16 minutes, flipping the crumbs over once.
  4. Once they are golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet.
  5. Meanwhile, slice all of the cherry tomatoes in half and place on a large plate, cut side up. Sprinkle with chopped olives.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of sugar. Drizzle mixture over the tomatoes and olives.
  7. Sprinkle the cooled bread crumbs over the tomato-olive mixture, top with basil and serve immediately.

Square Buttermilk Chive & Cheddar Biscuits

Here’s a quick recipe based on a great recipe post for the best buttermilk biscuits from a fellow foodie, Pinch My Salt. I wanted to whip up a batch of my famous biscuits with chives and cheddar that I usually make, but this time I had buttermilk (powder). It’s actually not that difficult to make your own buttermilk from scratch and there’s a great article here that can show you the way. All the better my biscuits have become with the addition of buttermilk.

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Homemade Bread French Toast – With Granola, Peanut Butter and Bananas

French Toast made with homemade bread, granola, peanut butter and bananas

One of the many ways to save money on food is to bake your own bread. This is something I haven’t explored much with in the past, but since moving back to the States, breadmakers are a dime a dozen. It didn’t take us two weeks to find a yard sale with a $1 breadmaker. Holla! Now, I know that it’s not crucial to have a breadmaker in order to bake your own bread, but wow it takes the mess and manual labor out of it. I’m still learning the quirky differences in the various types of flours and yeasts but I love the smell and texture of freshly baked bread right out of the oven. My husband has been doing his pizza dough in there now too, cheater.

After the first few loaves of bread in the new-used breadmaker, I decided to revert back to a simple, no-fail, white bread recipe. It turned out amazing, with a beautiful crisp crust and soft, fluffy and warm inside. I was pretty proud of my bread machine at this point.

One thing to remember about homemade bread is that it really doesn’t last more than 3 days, and even that 3rd day leaves you wanting it fresh out of the oven instead. Yes, it’s true, you become a bread snob shortly after learning to make your own bread, but why shouldn’t you? Your bread is better than the bagged crap at the store selling for too much money. So, if you don’t eat all of the loaf by the third day and it starts to get hard, use it for French Toast.

French Toast is much better when you use thick slices of somewhat dry bread, so that it doesn’t become soggy when you dip it in the batter. My homemade white bread was at the perfect texture when I needed it most. I had been jonesing for some French Toast for a few days and this particular morning seemed to be the perfect one. So, I set out and remembered a recipe I did a few years ago that included peanut butter, bananas and granola. This batch came together slightly different. Here’s how I made it:

French Toast with Peanut Butter, Granola and Bananas

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup almond milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 thick slices of homemade white bread (2-3 days old)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 Cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 Cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp raw honey
  • 8 tsp natural peanut butter
  • 16 thin slices of banana
  • 2 fresh strawberries (for garnish)

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix up eggs with almond milk and cinnamon
  2. On a medium-sized plate, combine the oats, flax, and walnuts. Mix together with your hand until well-combined.
  3. Heat up 1 Tbsp butter in a small/medium frying pan on medium heat
  4. Cut the two bread slices into 4 equal squares
  5. Dip the first 4 squares into the egg mixture and drag the sides through the granola mixture.
  6. Place them into the frying pan and let cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Flip with tongs and brown the other side. Remove from the pan and set on a clean plate.
  7. With the remaining 4 pieces of bread, repeat steps 3-6.
  8. While the 2nd set of French Toast squares are cooking, spread a teaspoon of peanut butter and two slices of banana on each of the finished squares and stack them on top of each other.
  9. Slice the strawberry thinly and place on top of the stack.
  10. Pour honey over the top and add a dash of extra cinnamon. Repeat with the 2nd set of French Toast squares.
  11. Serve hot.