Friday, September 25, 2009

Food-Stamp Diet: Day Four

Tonight: Chilaquiles con leftovers. What's Guerrilla: This is basically tortillas, salsa, and broth... What's Gourmet: But it's so good! Materials: Six homemade tortillas ($0.10) the recipe said store-bought and I'll definitely make it that way. The homemade ones are very cheap, but they get way too tough. One 12-ounce jar of tomatillo sauce ($1.99) Half of a cup of chicken broth ($0.25) Total: $2.35 Recipe after the jump. Method: 1) Let the tortillas get nice and dry (leave them out on the counter overnight or put them in a warm oven for an hour) then cut them into quarters. 2) Get plenty of butter hot in a pan and toss the tortilla pieces in to fry in batches until crisp. 3) Pour the fat out of the pan (save it!) and put all the tortillas back in. 4) Thin the sauce out with the broth, pour it over the tortillas, mix it together and let it simmer for five minutes. 5) Drizzle with crema and serve hot! This one was pretty weird. I've had this before with store-bought tortillas and scratch tomatillo sauce, and I think that's the way I'll do it next time. The cheap Trader Joe's salsa was thick and kind of nasty. Also the thick homemade tortillas were nasty and leathery, but it was inexpensive, filling, and cheap! We also had this with leftover beans (free!) and about $0.99 worth of sauteed Zucchini.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Balanced Diet

Here's a little video bit from Glenn Beck, to provide much needed ideological balance to our discussion of hunger in America. Glenn is such a very persuasive person. We might as well just scrap SNAP, and go with the solution that the Dead Kennedy's proposed 30 years ago...

Hunger Challenge Link List

There are a lot of other bloggers participating in the SF Food Bank's Hunger Challenge, and they've got some very creative ideas: Vanessa Barrington leaned back on a family recipe for cabbage rolls and poached a chicken in exotic spices. Cooking with Amy has a delicious, nutritious carrot salad, and a list of budget shopping tips, including a link to Noshtopia's 50 food items at Whole Foods under $1.50 (365 anyone?). Tyson (not a company I would usually endorse) has also very generously offered to donate 100 pounds of chicken for every hunger fact you tweet, up to 100,000 pounds. That's a lot of help. KPIX's consumer reporter Sue Kwon is also in the challenge, doing a report every day on what she is eating and how the SF Food Bank is meeting the challenge of feeding San Franciscans. We're all definitely learning how difficult it is to live on a tight budget. I even learned reading Been There Ate That, who took the same challenge last year, that part of the recent government stimulus package was an increase of a dollar per day in the allowance. It's difficult to do all of this on four dollars. I'm not sure I could do it on three...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Food-Stamp Challenge, Day Three: Chile Colorado

For the last two days, we've eaten mostly vegetarian and I've been craving meat. Tonight we'll have a nice little protein blowout and eat both chicken breasts! What's Guerrilla: This stew uses only a few inexpensive ingredients to make a little bit of meat stretch a loooong way. What's Gourmet: As any New Mexican will tell you, red chiles have a deep, sweet, complex flavor that warms you up inside. Read on for the recipe. Materials: Two chicken breasts (about $3 worth of the $7.03 chicken). 8 dried, whole red chiles (half of a $1.89 bag) deseeded, destemmed, toasted, torn into pieces and finely ground. A small onion ($0.12 at $.49/lb) roughly chopped. A bit of masa, 1 tbsp oregano, two cloves of chopped garlic, 1 tbsp cumin, 3tbsp butter, salt (about $0.25) A few radishes, lime slices, chopped cilantro, and crema for garnish (about $0.25) Two cups chicken broth (made from the chicken carcass, about $0.50) Total: $4.12! Method: 1) Cut the chicken breasts into half-inch chunks and sprinkle masa over to coat them lightly. 2) Get half of the butter melted up in the pan and brown the chicken pieces. 3) Remove the chicken and add the rest of the butter. Add the onions and stir five minutes. 4) Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, add half of the chile, all of the oregano, cumin and salt then stir until fragrant. 5) Add the chicken and stock back to everything else and stir. At this point, taste the liquid and add more chile until the liquid is as spicy as you want it. Also be ready to add more salt to develop the flavor of the sauce. Serve with tortillas or over rice! I'm getting used to not snacking and although I am VERY hungry when dinner comes around, I'm feeling healthy and strong. What really hurt me today was not having any spare cash to spend at the farmer's market. There is so much down at Civic Center to be found, and so much of it was cheaper than in the grocery store, but I had only $1.77. The cheap tomatoes at La Loma are really meally, acidic and gross, and they aren't even all that cheap. One of the stands at the farmer's market had oozy-ripe early girls for onle $0.50/lb!, so I grabbed two for later in the week. Still, I can't help but wish I had saved some of my cash for acorn or kabocha squashes (only $0.80/lb and nutritious) or big, fat $1 bunches of beets. There was even a stall selling big flats of eggs and $5 chickens! I had never noticed it before, but it must have been there all along...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Food-Stamp Challenge, Day Two: Beans!

What's better cheap food than beans? The Salvadoran market around the corner sells bulk beans for $0.50 less than the package price, so you can buy exactly what you need andd not waste any money. These beans were so good (or maybe we were just so hungry) that we forgot to take a picture... What's Guerrilla: Beans are cheap and good for you. What's Gourmet: There's bacon in it! Recipe follows below the jump One pound of Black beans ($0.99 at $0.99/lb) picked over for rocks (there were lots in the cheap bulk beans), soaked overnight and then drained. One poblano chile (about $0.33 at $0.99/lb) roasted, peeled and chopped. One small onion (about $0.12 at $0.49/lb) roughly chopped Two sliced bacon ($1.00 at $5.95/lb) sliced into small pieces. A lime ($0.10 at 10/$1) A few radishes ($0.25 at $0.59 per bunch) thinly sliced. One tbsp ground cumin, two tbsp dried oregano, one bulb garlic with the top sliced off, a bay leaf, and a small hanfull of cilantro stalks tied together, and a few spoonfulls of crema to garnish. (about $0.50 altogether). Total: $3.29 1) Fry the bacon over medium heat until it starts to get crisp. 2) Add the onions and fry five minutes until soft, then the tomato and chile for another five minutes. 3) Add the spices several seconds until fragrant, then add the beans and enough water to cover them by an inch. 5) Slip the buld of garlic, bay leaf and cilantro bundle in, and let everything to simmer for at least an hour. 6) When the beans are tender, eat them with stale bread, crema, some chopped cilantro, and sliced radish. I'm still missing potato chips, and I'm dying for anything sweet, but we're still going strong. Most of today I was thinking of delicious ways I could spend that last $1.77. Maybe a potato and a little bit of cheese, then wrapped in masa and fried? Or a bag of chile-lime potato chips? Or an ice cream bar or anything from the Mills tea shop. It's remarkable how much you think about food when you don't have any...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Food-Stamp Challenge, Day One!

For our first night, we decided to make a classic. mostly vegetarian Mexican meal: Calabacitas con Pollo.

What's Guerrilla: Zucchini, corn, chiles, and tomatoes are cheap in late summer, and this preparation brings our their flavor with a minimum of extra ingredients or expensive meat.
What's Gourmet: This stew brings delicious herbal flavors together with a gentle heat.

One pound of zucchini (about $1.00 at $0.99/lb) roughly chopped.
One tomato (about $0.25 at $0.99/lb) roasted, peeled, and roughly chopped.
One Poblano chile (about$0.33 at $0.99/lb) roasted, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped.
One small onion (about $0.12 at $0.49/lb) thinly sliced.
One ear of corn ($0.59 each) kernels cut off.
Two chicken wings and two chicken drumsticks (Part of a $7.03 chicken. Call it $1.00)
A bay leaf, two tablespoons of butter, two cloves of minced garlic, and two tablespoons of dried oregano, and a few spoonfuls of crema to garnish (Hard to calculate. Call it $0.25)
Total cost: $3.59 makes two satisfying bowlfuls!
1) Toss the Zucchini in a bowl with a large pinch of salt. Let sit for about 30 minutes.
2) Heat the butter in a skillet or saute pan and brown the chicken pieces on all sides.
3) Remove the chicken from the pan (leave the fat!) and toss in the onions to soften for five or ten minutes.
4) Add the garlic for one minute (until fragrant) then add the tomato and fry until soft.
5) Add the chile, corn, spices, chicken and zucchini. Pour in the chicken stock and stir thoroughly. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender. Serve with homemade tortillas (recipe coming soon).
A few notes on the experience so far. We feel full, and we're certainly getting our vegetables. I don't think I would be satisfied if I was doing hard labor, but it's plenty for slinging books. Also, this recipe requires significant time and preparation. I've practiced this one a lot and it still needs at least 45 minutes of work. I think it's worth the effort to have something fresh and healthy, but I might feel differently after a double shift...
I'm thinking we should have budgeted for a mid-afternoon snack and some dessert. That said, I'm probably just fine without potato chips and cheesy poofs.
Mood: Cautiously optimistic!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Food Stamp Diet: Shopping

The San Francisco Food Bank has issued an intriguing "hunger challenge" to foodies: live on what the average food stamp recipient receives to feed themselves (that's $4 per person, per day) for the week of the 20th through the 26th. We're coming late to the challenge, since I only saw the ad today, but we're going to try it until Friday anyway. Shopping on $40 dollars (that's five days and two people) is, to say the very least, quite a challenge. Here's what we bought to make it happen: One Chicken, $7.03 The rest of the story, including some minor thievery, after the jump! A Cabbage $0.75 2 Slices of Bacon $1.00 A Bunch of Cilantro $0.50 An Ear of Corn $0.59 One Bag Dried Guajillo Chiles $1.89 A Bottle of Crema Mexicana $2.89 One Pound Dry Black Beans $0.99 One Tube of Garlic $0.79 Two Pounds Green Chiles $1.98 One Can Hominy $1.29 Five Limes $0.50 One Pound Butter $2.49 Four Medium Onions $1.50 Bunch of Radishes $0.59 Tomatillo Salsa $1.99 Two Tomatoes $.50 One Pound Chickpeas $1.49 We also "bought" several things from our pantry at prices we found around town. Obviously most people on food stamps don't have the luxury of growing their own zucchinni or of buying 25 pound bags of flour, but we didn't want to waste spices and produce that we already had lying around. Package Dried Oregano $0.79 Package Ground Cumin $0.79 Five Pounds of Flour $3.00 Three Pounds Zucchinni $2.50 Some Masa Harina $1.00 Yeast $0.20 Jam $1.25 This last bit is pretty pathetic. There just wasn't any money left over at the end, so we swiped packets of the following ingredients from fast food joints. Salt Pepper Sugar Hot Sauce Taken together, our purchases amounted to $38.07. From that, we plan to make Calabacitas con Pollo , Chile Colorado, Posole Rojo con Pollo, Black Bean Soup with Bacon, and Chilaquiles with Tomatillo Sauce. That leaves $1.93 for a few more limes, another onion or tomato, and whatever unforeseen things may happen. Expect a recipe every day until Friday, with reflections!

Dinner Party Impossible? 6x6x6: Wrap up

Woah! Now that we've conquered the night, we can actually pause to reflect on what we've accomplished. First off, we were successful...mostly...for one we didn't have to get the wine (thanks friends!) Also, we have access to some really amazing local markets, farmer's markets and the ever thrifty Trader Joe's. Plus, we've enjoyed the added benefit of having a sturdy pantry, with things like bread flour and yeast. Without these things, there is no way we could have come under sixty dollars (we came in at $57.43 and we didn't need to buy about a quarter of our groceries.)

So, what did we learn? THIS IS REALLY, REALLY HARD! But, it's also totally possible. We're looking forward to our next great challange...who knows what it will bring? And, in the meantime, we've got three golden rules of guerrilla dinner parties to share with you:
1. Always be inspired by local foods and seasonal ingredients;
2. Let your pantry be your guide, check to see what you've got on hand before you make a menu;
The biggest take away lesson, was learned during the party 3. In addition to asking guests to bring wine, when doing a multicourse meal, assign different folks dish duty. Save the final courses for yourself, and you'll enjoy only doing that one round of dishes (instead of six!)

More pre and post pictures of food and fun after the jump! For now, the victorious hosts must take a nap and order some chow-in.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spicy Egg Drop Soup

As no one will be surprised to hear, San Francisco is a foggy place. While most of the natives will claim to love the fog, everyone who lives here has got their cure-all for those foggy mornings. Quick and easy homemade soups are a natural suggestion and this Spicy Egg Drop Soup draws from the Bay Area's Asian culture and uses fresh ingredients to really make things pop! What's Guerrilla: This dish can be made in twenty minutes using things you probably already have in the fridge. All of the ingredients are inexpensive and easy to find (the majority of them you can get at a 7-11!) And, with such small amounts of each ingredient, you're free to add, subtract or modify each taste component to match whatever is fresh and in season. What's Gourmet: The balance of the dish is perfect, creating a multi-faceted palate with a light finish. By using fresh ingredients, this soup blends the very best of each season, without relying on heavy starches for filling. And by drawing from classic Chinese preparation, this version of egg drop soup is clean and light, versus the take-out version that can be a bit sludgy. Recipe after the jump.
Spicy Egg Drop Soup Serves 1, multiply as desired
The Starting Five 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced 1 small chile or jalapeno, thinly sliced 1 green onion, white part only, thinly sliced (save the green part for garnish) 1 inch cleaned ginger, thinly sliced 1 Tbsp peanut oil
The Soup Broth 1 ripe tomato, cut into 1 inch wedges 1 cup stock 1 teaspoon caster sugar 1 Tblspoon rice wine vinegar 1 egg Salt and Pepper to taste Optional additions Red cabbage, thinly sliced Cooked vermicelli rice noodles Black Seaseme Oil Seaseme Chili Oil The Method 1. Heat oil to a nice shimmer in a thick bottomed soup pot. 2. Add the starting five and sautee for a few minutes, till they're beginning to brown but not soften. 3. Add tomatos and allow them to sautee for about five minutes, till they've begun to give off their juices and soften. Stir often, slightly mashing the tomatos against the sides and bottom of the pan. 4. Add stock, sugar and vinegar, bring to a boil and taste for salt and pepper. You can also add red chile flakes at this point if the heat is not where you'd prefer it. 5. Add the egg to the soup. There are tons of different methods of creating the perfect egg drop soup. However, the best method we've found is to break the egg into a seperate glass and add it to the soup through fork tines while stiring in a clockwise direction throughout. The beauty of this dish is that the citric acid in the tomato and the vinegar in the broth will help the egg poach cleanly, no matter what method you use, which will keep your soup from getting that slodgy texture. 6. Spoon the soup over whatever you'd like (I prefer sliced red cabbage and cooked noodles) and garnish with the green onion greens and the optional chile oil or black sesame oil. 7. Grab some chopsticks and enjoy!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Dinner Party Impossible? 6x6x6: Shopping & Chopping

One of our biggest secrets about dinner party is planning in advance. We typically plan our menus via inspiration and our meals through sheer will. After a number of stressfull events, pulled off at the last minute, we didn't want to mess around with six courses. We split our grocery list into two segments: pre-buy and purchase day of. Then we did a dry run, practicing how long each course would take to make. Lastly, we decided to nearly fully prepare the major courses the day before, reserving oven time for heating dishes up and time for plating.

Details and specifics after the jump, we've got to get cooking!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dinner Party Impossible? 6x6x6: Planning

So, now that we've decided to plan a dinner party for six of our friends with six courses for (ideally) less than $60...we're feeling a bit nervous. To be honest, I tend to over plan and worry too much, but this time I'm committed to keeping it balanced and stress free. So, to get everything started, we assembled our guest list- two of my coworkers and two of our college friends. All four are super into food and offered to bring the wine (whoo!) With the wine taken care of, we started to assemble the menu. Instead of choosing recipes that we're only interesting, we went to the Farmer's Market to be inspired. Late fall in California tends to squash, eggplant and chestnuts...which had us thinking of warm Italian kitchens. Rustic, hearty and down to earth, Itallian food has taken on a gourmet glint but lately has been returning to a simpler time.

High on Farmer's Market inspiration, we developed the menu that would define the dinner:

Course 1: Goat Cheese and Peperonata Focaccia
Course 2: Sardine, tomato and bread salad
Course 3: Eggplant Parmesean served alongside a shot of  Pappa Di Zucchini
Course 4: Desperate Women's Fettuccine
Course 5: Chicken thighs agro dulce with bacon, served with olive oil mash and roasted butternut squash
Course 5: Gorgonzola and Tagillia served with roasted chestnuts
Course 6: Baked Peaches with Amaretti and Vanilla Zabaglione

With this menu set, the guests selected and the wine taken care of...we were ready to start shopping, chopping and eating!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Feeling icky...

While the flu season may be a theoretical concern for most these days, it's become a reality in our house for the last few days. Yes, always the social debutante of germs and infections, Tiffany has once again fallen ill with something that's going around. This got us to talking about what foods make us feel better when we're sick.
For Tiffany, the perfect sick person food has two essential elements. Whatever it is, it needs to be A) liquidy and B) spicy! So from there you can take your choice of any dish from calabacitas to tom yum kai or all the way around to her close friend, Tore's infamous chicken soup with stars. And anything cooked by hand or with any kind of affection earns double points!
For Eric, sickness isn't the real issue. He doesn't get sick very often, but he does get some pesky hangovers. And the best thing for that is greasy and spicy! The smoked ham with string beans from Henry's Hunan is pretty good, as is the Tom Kha Gai from King of Thai Noodle. If I'm stuck at home at the time (and let's face it, I usually am) a grilled cheese sandwich with green chile is the best!
So, we want to know - What makes your sick heart feel well? Two lucky winners will be selected from those who comment to be the first vacinated for H1N1*.
*While supplies last and there are no current supplies as neither Tiffany nor Eric, nor anyone connected with the Guerrilla Gourmet can figure out how to do this. So instead both winners will recieve the first dose of our, one of a kind, special/wishful vaccination.