Sunday, July 18, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons...

... make Lemon Snow!

I grew up in Los Angeles, which if not the land of milk and honey, is definitely the land of lemons and avocados. Almost all social gatherings included an exchange of surplus, and I pretty much figured that they were always free.

Imagine my shock when I moved out on my own to San Francisco, and was expected not only to pay for lemons and avocados, but to pay through the nose! Luckily, for the past two years I've lived in a home with a prolific lemon tree that thrives on benign neglect.

A few weeks ago I got up the gumption to pick a lot of lemons and spend an hour or so zesting and juicing. I used some of the juice for making lemonade for the boy to sell at our recent yard sale (yes, I squeezed the lemons and make the lemonade, and he kept the profits. I've got to fire my agent) Making the lemonade was not without its hazards - see the end of this post for what will go down in Starr family legend as The Lemonade Story.

While sales at the boy's stand were brisk (a few senior citizens even tossed him a couple of bucks extra as a reward for my, I mean his, industriousness) there was some leftover at the end of the day, which we froze in ice cube trays

Today I made the kid and his pal a treat of Lemon Snow - both to reward them for playing nicely all afternoon, and to kill the last 15 minutes before the designated Wii time

To make Lemon Snow, fit your food processor with the grater attachment

Pass lemonade ice cubes through the feeder tube

Et Viola! Fluffy, cold, sweet, tart lemon snow

For the kids, I piled it into a cup, added a slash of lemonade, and served it to them with Slurpee spoon-straws. For grownups, I'd add a shot of cold vodka.

And now...

The Lemonade Story

I made my first genuine batch of old-fashioned homemade lemonade

2/3 cup sugar
1 cup water
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 quarts water

Add the sugar, water and lemon zest in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let the syrup cool, and strain out the lemon zest. Combine the syrup, juice and water in a large pitcher and chill. Serve over ice

I'd made it in a gallon jug with a spigot and added sliced lemons. It was picture-perfect! I placed the jug in the fridge and spent 10 minutes or so cleaning up the kitchen. I went to put something else in the fridge and the lemonade was.... GONE!

There was only an inch or two in the jug. I hadn't left the kitchen, and no one else had come in or out. Can you guess what happened?

The shelf in the door of the fridge had activated the spigot, and the lemonade had flowed out and filled the fruit crisper drawer! Can you believe it? I was definitely glad it hadn't flowed onto the floor, but it was still a big ol' mess to clean up, and a waste of "free" lemonade which had been pretty darn time consuming to make.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Have you seen my bagel?

Some might call me a caffeine addict, I prefer coffee achiever. I drink strong black coffee and plenty of it. I can't indulge in the truly gourmet coffee and still afford to keep a roof over my head, and I'm not about to drink the swill they sell pre-ground at the grocery store. Trader Joe's French Roast beans fall right in the middle, and comes in these cool cans:

John Starr came up with a nifty idea that solves two of our breakfast-related dilemmas: how best to store bagels, and what to do with the empty coffee cans:


You can even peel off the TJ's label ....

And make your own!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This is the Happiest Day of My Life!

I started using these Ziploc 3-compartment containers for the boy's lunch back when he was in preschool. (with props to Mr. Starr, it was he who first spotted these things at the store)

They are the ULTIMATE lunch container. Cheap, easy to wash, holds a variety of food and plenty of it. No baggies, no millions of little containers to wash and dry before you can make a new lunch and the lids are easy for the kid to remove and replace.

AND they fit perfectly in a lunch box.

Then, when he was in Kindergarten, the unthinkable happened. Ziploc stopped making them. I'd been dutifully washing the ones I had, but every once in a while a lid might tear or the boy might lose one. No problem, $2.50 and a trip to Safeway and I could get more, right? WRONG!

I scoured every store I could. I looked on eBay. I sent a queries out on Freecyle and Craig's list. I enlisted friends and family far and wide in my search. I even wrote to Ziploc (they sent me the standard "crazy lady" letter and a few coupons). I freaked out a bunch of senior citizens when I squealed - yes squealed - upon spotting one at a yard sale. I poured my tale of woe to my friend Deborah at lunch one day and she said, "I think I have some of those at home, I'll send them too you" -I practically jumped her I was so excited. Except for those two infusions, I've been washing and drying the same two containers for the past 6 years. John Starr will go no where near them - he's not gonna get blamed when the last lid breaks.

And then... and then... tonight I get home and there are two brand new packs of Ziploc 3-compartment containers on the counter! John had been to the store and had dutifully done the usual check in the vain, valiant hope that they'd reappear on the shelves. And today, my prayers were answered.

I don't know what you use to pack your kid's lunch, but it's nowhere near as efficient as in these lidded trays. Run, don't walk to a store near you and get some - while you still can!

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cooking "Naked" on The View from the Bay

A View from the Bay is a live, local talk show here in San Francisco. I was thrilled to be invited on to demonstrate a recipe from The Frugal Foodie cookbook

I let the boy play hooky to come to the studio with me - he had a ball and everyone at KGO was so super nice to him.

Here's the full recipe - and a lovely photo of the dish taken by Steve Aja

Green Goodness Naked Quiche

Save time and money by leaving the crust off your quiche, and spend your effort and dollars on yummy fillings. A thin coating of breadcrumbs helps the quiche release easily from the pie plate, and browns to an attractive golden color.

2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, kale, or
collard greens, thawed and drained or 1 pound fresh greens such as spinach, kale, chard, escarole, arugula, chicory, or collard greens
tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely sliced
green onions
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
2 cups
shredded Swiss cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground
black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter a 9-inch glass pie plate and coat with the dry breadcrumbs. First, prepare the greens. If using frozen, thaw the greens completely. Place in a fine strainer and press with a wooden spoon to remove as much liquid as possible. If using fresh, soak the greens in cool water. Drain, and trim all tough stems and less-than-fresh leaves. Chop coarsely. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the greens for 1 minute. Drain in a fine strainer and press with a wooden spoon to remove as much liquid as possible. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for 3–4 minutes. Stir in greens and continue cooking for 5–7 minutes until any remaining liquid has evaporated. In a large bowl, combine eggs and milk. Add cheese, greens, salt, and pepper, and stir to blend. Transfer to prepared pie plate. Bake until eggs have set, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 6.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Crabby Patties - and a give away, kittens!

OK, they're not really Crabby Patties, but when you live with a 10 year old you can't help but think "Crabby Patties" when you've got round, fried seafood cakes. Squidward WISHES his were this good!

The fine folks at Safcol sent me samples of their canned salmon and tuna to try. Since Safcol comes in lots of tasty flavors - Lemon Pepper, Tomato Basil, Chipoltle, Spicy Chili, Cajun - I wanted to use it for something more than a run-of-the-mill sammi filler. My mind turned to crab cakes - which I love, but never make because good crab is so spendy. Subbing tuna or salmon is a yummy and frugal alternative. Are you ready, kids? Let's make:

Salmon Cakes with Aioli

1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 minced garlic cloves
1 cup olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice

1 egg
1/4 cup aioli
1/2 cup green onions*
1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence
3 6oz. cans Safcol Lemon Pepper Salmon, drained (about 9 oz)
2 cups fresh bread crumbs (made from sturdy bread)**
1 teaspoon sea salt

Oil for frying

First, make the aioli:

Put all of the ingredients into the bottom of a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Plunge a stick blender to the bottom of the cup. Turn on the blender, leaving it on the bottom while the mayo thickens. As it thickens, move it up a bit to incorporate all of the ingredients. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.

Chick here for a video on this technique

(Don't have a stick blender? Get one! They're not expensive, will last you forever, and are indispensable in the kitchen. I'll never make mayo/aioli any other way. And they're the best for making quick & easy veggie soups)

To make the patties:

In a medium bowl, blend the egg, 1/4 cup of the aioli you just made, green onions, and herbs. Add the salmon and 1 cup of the bread crumbs. Blend until incorporated.

Using a tablespoon, form the mixture into flat patties. Chill for 1/2 and hour or overnight to make ahead.

Place the remaining 1 cup of bread crumbs on a plate and sprinkle in the sea salt. Drop a patty into the crumbs, cover with crumbs and press to coat. Place the covered patty back on the plate. Continue with the remaining patties. Chill for 1/2 an hour.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch covered skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 of the patties and cover the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Turn, cover and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate covered with 2-3 layers of newspaper and 1 sheet of paper towel to drain (why? because its cheaper than 2-3 layers of paper towels!)

Serve with the rest of the aioli

Makes 18 nibbly-sized patties

The gears of my brain are turning with other ways I can season and flavor seafood patties. But yours is too. And to get you started, I've got 10 sampler packs of Safcol Tuna and Salmon to give away - just leave a comment here or on Facebook and I'll randomly select winners next weekend.

*Don't forget you can re-grow green onions

**I forgot to buy a baguette and used English Muffins. I muffin = 1 cup of crumbs

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Frugal Fun for All - The KGO GNO!

Grab your girlfriends, mom, sisters and co-workers and join me and the women of KGO Newstalk 810 for an event like you've never seen - it's KGO Girls' Night Out!

The new Mission City Ballroom at the Santa Clara Convention Center will play host to a night full of food, wine, music and fun. It's a combination of informative classes and demonstrations, food and wine tasting on Friday, October 23.

All of the women who make KGO tick will be on hand to share their hobbies, interests and we'll take the party to midnight with live music and karaoke.

Don’t worry about finding a ride home, the adjacent Hyatt Regency Santa Clara has a specially priced Girls' Night Out rate of $81.00 per room, including breakfast and a tickets to the Saturday activities including a live broadcast poolside with KGO's own fitness and health guru Joanie Greggains. Joanie’s show will include live guests and experts on topics on everything from skin care to the latest fitness trends plus more classes and demonstrations throughout the morning! Check out some of things we have planned:

Morning News Anchor Jennifer Jones –"My Big Fat Napa Wedding." Jen teams up with her sister-in-law Brianne Jones and shares cost conscious tips on how to plan a party or wedding on a budget. Top Chef’s Ryan Scott chimes in with great food ideas for your next shindig!

Business Reporter and Author Lynn Jimenez - "Lynn’s 4K Theory of Investing and other useful things." Author of Se Habla Dinero will share her 4 basic principals of finance.

Afternoon News Anchor Rosie Allen and MindBody Wardrobes present - "Self-Confidence in Times of Transition." Personal style changes during transition... clues to help you find your style. Wardrobe tips focusing on projecting the authentic you and tips on clearing out the 'past lives' in your closet that no longer work for you.

South Bay Reporter Jennifer Hodges, color forecaster Lark Coryell, and designer/abstract artist Janet Gordon-Roberts - "Home Design on a Dime."

Weekend Host Pat Thurston - "Mommy Cubed." Pat will take you through the rollercoaster of parenting -- the exhaustion, fear and fun of triplets!

Reporter Jenna Lane - "Mom’s the Word!" Jenna is getting ready to welcome a baby into her life, and maybe you are too -- as a mom, grandmother or aunt. With a reporter's zeal she's been investigating the healthiest and most affordable baby products.

KGO Web Producer and Newswriter Jen Poole - "Byte Me!" Jen, the proudest of nerd girls, talks about "PurseTech." From apps to gadgets, she'll share mobile solutions for busy women that'll pique your inner geek.

KGO Jetcopter Traffic Reporter Michaelynn Meyers - "Changing Careers Mid Stream." Michaelynn Meyers in conversation with KGO’s Career Coach, Marty Nemko, about choosing or changing careers.

Dr. Dean Edell’s popular producer, Heather, and Bombshell Betty"Burlesque 101"- Learn techniques of burlesque performance and get in shape while shimmying and shaking your way through a fun dance routine! Internationally acclaimed burlesque star, Bombshell Betty, will show you how to strut your stuff in a lighthearted and sexy class atmosphere.

Demonstrations and Authors

  • Chef Ryan Scott - from Bravo’s "Top Chef"

  • Mind Body Wardrobe Expert - Nancy Korbet 650-678-3034

  • Author and Lecturer Dr. Lara Honos-Webb

  • Zumba lessons from David Dixon Jr. owner of Xtreme Fitness Silicon Valley.
    A fun, sexy workout. Simple, yet diverse choreography from many Latin cultures. You do not have to be a dancer to take this class. The moves are carefully chosen to give you a total body workout. The music is always exciting and includes: Salsa, Merenge, Bachata, Cumbia, Reggaton, Soca, Samba.

  • Lara Starr, producer of "Consumer Talk with Michael Finney" and author of The Frugal Foodie Cookbook will demonstrate easy ways to decorate adorable cupcakes, and create soothing at-home spa treats for pennies. Make & Take you own mini cupcake and spa candy while supplies last!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Cheap Date with the Frugal Foodie: Doing the Math

Food + Drinks + Friends + Family + Music + Shopping + Money raised for a good cause = 1 Good Party!