Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sometimes it's the little things.... yeast for about 1/2 price :)

I've been baking a lot of pizza dough, flatbread and what Max calls "Awesome Bread" - all very very tasty breads that are super easy to make and require just a few ingredients - flour, water, salt, and.... yeast.

I bought a jar of your basic Fleishman's Active Dry yeast at Safeway, and it cost almost $10.00. A relatively high-ticket item, but still a bargain when you're using it only a teaspoon or two at a time.

Then, a couple of weeks later I'm at Target and noticed that the exact same jar of yeast is only $4.95 - score!! On the advice if Michael Ruhlman I keep my yeast in the freezer where it will last a good long time - but at the rate I've been turning out the bread - it won't have to last very long........

No-Knead "Awesome Bread"

3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon active dry yeast

½ teaspoon sugar

1½ teaspoon salt

1½ cups warm water

½ teaspoon vinegar (balsamic, wine, or cider—whatever you have)

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. The dough will be thick and gloppy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and drape with a kitchen towel. Leave it in a warm spot in your kitchen. The oven works well; just make sure you put a note on it reminding you that it’s in there! Let the dough rise for about 6 hours. A little more or less is fine.

Spray a cutting board with oil spray (or film with a little olive oil) and turn the dough onto the board. Shape the dough into a round loaf and cover it with the plastic wrap and towel. Let it rest for about an hour.

Thirty minutes before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 450°F.

Put a Dutch oven, lidded casserole (ceramic, not glass), or other heavy lidded pot (I use my Grandma's old school pressure cooker) into the oven to preheat.

Scrape or pour the dough into the heated pot. The dough will be very wet—don’t fret.

Bake for 30–35 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 15–20 minutes more, until the top is browned and crusty.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Such a Deal

(This is a post I wrote about three years ago for my long-abandoned first blog. It says a lot about why I love bargain hunting)

There is no bigger thrill than a good deal. I can smell a bargain from a mile away. A red "sale" tag makes my heart skip a beat. I gravitate toward the back of the store, the odd collection of bits shoved to the side, thrift stores, free crap on the side of the street. Close-out, Overstock, and Liquidation are the most beautiful words in the English Language. Would that every day was Tuesday Morning. I brake for yard sales.

I consider myself a treasure hunter, not a shopper. Anyone can go to Nordstrom and pay $100 for a $100 shirt, or to a dollar store and pay $1 for a $1 bottle of glass cleaner. Neither scenario has any challenge. I want the $200 skirt for $35 (my beloved Eileen Fisher grey silk) the $5 Razor scooter complete with carrying bag (have fun Max!) or the $.50 mint-in-box genuine Snoopy mouth harp (the prized item in John's Christmas stocking)

When I grab a great deal I feel savvy, creative, smart - I am a winner and there are no losers. I recently read a book by the founder of one of my favorite web sites/communities "Get Crafty." The author put thriftiness and craftiness into a larger context she boldly calls a "manifesto." Bargain hunting and thrifting not about being cheap, mean or even particularly acquisitive. As much as I love yard sales, I don't have much interest in having one. I'd much rather find a good, appreciative home for my excess stuff than to try to squeeze a couple of bucks out of it. The real motivator is rejecting the mainstream consumer culture, extending the life of products, putting your own stamp on things and living well within your means.

I'm also intensely curious about things that are none of my business, and usually too shy to ask. Picking through the piles at yard and estate sales is a little window into other people's lives that is endlessly fascinating. You can learn a lot about people from their stuff, and it's fun to imagine the backstories behind the 1970's disco dress, the collection of self-help books, or the seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time orange dinette set.

So I've been feeding my passion this summer by mapping out a yard sale schedule using the Craig's List ads. I spend a couple of hours on Saturday, usually spend no more than $20 and collect fabulous things I never knew I needed. Highlights from this summer so far:

  • Black wrought iron Halloween candle sticks with orange beads - $1
  • Black iron "Haunted Tree" Halloween tea light holder - $1
  • Black and white striped knit Jack Skellington gloves - $1
  • Halloween "drip candles" - $1
  • Razor scooter with carry bag - $5
  • Play tent with quad chair - $3
  • Vibrating cold/hot neck massager - $2
  • Leap Frog Multiplication Twist Game - $1
  • Rollerblades for Max - $3
  • Bike Helmet for Max - $5
  • Pop-up Atlas of the World - $1
  • Little Lit Book - $1
  • Clip Mobile - $.50
  • Full bag of Papier Mache mix - $2
  • Huge bag of black & pink tulle - $1 (OK, this was a little silly - not sure what I'll do with this stuff...)
  • Three narrow storage units - $5
  • Set of 4 Little Rascals DVDs - $10 (more than I'd usually spend, but I got some free stuff earlier that day...)
  • Two 3-foot Foam Bolsters - FREE!
  • Set of architectural stamps and idea booklet- FREE
  • Big box of assorted beads and jewels - $.25
  • Wood box for organizing cell phones, watches, sunglasses - $.25
  • Set of glow-in-the-dark stars - $.50
  • Huge Rubbermaid storage pitcher - $.50
  • 20 red, gold and silver Chinese food boxes - $2
  • Huge tote basket with leather handles - $4
  • Rain boots for Max = $2
  • Cranium Cadoo Game - $1
  • Scrabble Junior Game - $1
  • Spider Man roller backpack - $5 (brand new - still had tags!)
  • Rubbermaid bottle for Max's lunchbox - FREE
  • YoYo - $1 (new - still in package)
  • Magnet set featuring antique map of Paris - $1
  • Wood slingshot - $1

Whew! I'm sure there are more that I'm forgetting. Can't wait to see what's out there waiting for me next weekend...

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Friday, June 5, 2009

From the "Small World" File!

I just this week got to see the layout for the interior for The Frugal Foodie Cookbook and it looks FABULOUS!

But something about the designer's name was ringing a bell deep in my brain... and then I figured it out, it was Frank Weidemann - who I worked with at Double Rainbow on Haight street way, way back in the late 1980s!

Circa 1989

Oh the fun we had back then, serving everyone from druggies and the homeless to bridge and tunnel wannabe hipsters and San Francisco's version of the Von Trapp family.

The crew also included Jason Mecier, who has gone on to fame (and I hope for him fortune) creating celebrity portraits in beans and noodles.

Frank is now an amazingly talented designer working on lots of cool posters, CD covers and more
check out his work here

Circa 2009

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Garden Goods: Tomato Watch '09!

Thanks to the wisdom, encouragement and well-appointed nursery of my friend Silke and her fabulous store, Local Flora, I am attempting to grow my own tomatoes. I love a good, sweet, juicy tomato - but not paying $1-$2 each for them at the farmer's market.

I could have paid $19.99 + S&H for an upside down tomato planter, but why would I do that when I can grow mine in a recycled grocery bag I got for FREE with the purchase of the Wall-E DVD?

And I could spend up to $200 for an Eclectic Tera Cotta Planter, but I think my 'maters will taste just as good grown in the cage of an old circular fan.

So far the little guys seem to be healthy and growing beautifully, and have sprouted a few flowers. At the end of the summer, I hope to sip a glass of wine and nibble a slice of homemade bread topped with home-grown tomatoes and basil. Stay tuned for further developments!

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Garden Goods: In Praise of Free Herbs

A friend recently loaded us up with stalks of thyme and marjoram from his garden. We used them to jazz up some fish fillets from Trader Joes.

I brushed Dover sole (a mere $4.99 a pound) with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped garlic and a dash of salt. I laid the herb sprigs on the fish, covered it with plastic wrap and let it marinate for about 1/2 an hour.

I baked it, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. To serve, I removed the herb stalks and squeezed a little (free from my tree) lemon. Delish!

Is it me, or does free food just taste better?

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Welcome to The Frugal Foodie!

How lucky am I? I've been given the chance to combine two of the things that give me my favorite cheap thrills - cooking and saving money - into a fabulous new cookbook. And, to keep the ideas and conversation going - I've started this blog.

My first cookbook The Party Girl Cookbook was written 1998. Back then I was newly married and kidless, the streets were paved with dot-com gold, and a young Ben Stiller taught us how to laugh. I had plenty of time and money for parties that included elaborate themes, silly costumes and the inevitable next-day hangovers.

Now, in 2009, like most of us I'm striving to make ends meet, faced un- and under-employment, and am looking to save a buck wherever I can. I've also added a kid to the equation and am always on the lookout for healthy, nutritious meals that the Young Master Picky, Mr. Meat & Potatoes and Ms. Frugal Foodie will all enjoy and won't break the bank.

It's been so fun and satisfying to discover and develop new recipes, find lots of little ways to cut spending without sacrificing a yummy lifestyle, and share it all in the book and blog.

Let's have delicious fun saving dough together!

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