Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Greek Moussaka w/ Ground Lamb and Eggplant

When I made last week's lamb stew, I ground some of the trimmings and extra meat to make moussaka, the custard-topped mixture of spiced meat and eggplant that I loved as a child, when my parents would take me to one of the Greek restaurants on Eastern Avenue in Baltimore (my favorite one closed decades ago but Ikaros is still open - the link is worth following for the intro alone).

The recipe I followed (although halved) did not quite give me the results I wanted. I was able to salvage the meat filling by adding more allspice and cinnamon, plus lemon juice and oregano, but the real problem was the tomatoes. Upon further research I have found that more authentic recipes call for the tomato paste but not the fresh or canned tomatoes. I have written a revised recipe below.

Note: Moussaka has four steps and, from start to finish, will take you several hours and dirty 4 pots or pans. Luckily, you can either do the first three at the same time or each can be done separately and refrigerated prior to assembling and baking the final product.


Ingredients: 2 eggplant, 1 pound ground lamb or beef, 2 onions, 4 tbsp. tomato paste, 1/2 cup red wine (I actually like marsala for this), 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 cup grated cheese, olive oil, 4 cloves garlic
2 Cups Bechemel: 1/4 stick butter, 4 tbsp gravy flour, 2 cups whole milk, 1/4 tsp nutmeg (if grating fresh, use only 1/8), dash Worcestershire.

Equipment: 1 saucepan, 1 frying pan or dutch oven, 1 whisk, 1 spoon, 1 casserole dish, 1 cookie sheet

Step 1:
  • Peal eggplant and slice into 1/4 inch slices.
  • Salt eggplant slices, wait an hour, rinse
  • Toss eggplant in olive oil and roast under broiler until browned (15 min or so)

Step 2:

  • Warm 4 tbsp olive oil in 12" pan on med. heat and add all spices and herbs (borrowing from Indian cooking here)
  • When spices become fragrant, add meat and brown, then break up as much as you can
  • Add wine and tomato paste and lower hear, stirring and continuing to break up meat.
  • Preheat oven to 350 and keep stirring occaisionally while you continue to the next step ( Eventually, you want a relatively dry with meat broken up almost to a paste.)


Step 3:

  • In heavy saucepan on low heat, melt butter.
  • Whisk in flour and nutmeg and stir until flour mixture pulls away from the pan (or starts to burn)
  • Add milk, whisk furiously and crank up the heat, continuing to whisk ever minute until mixture begins to summer (many recipes want you to warm the milk first and slowly whisk it in a 1/4 cup at a time. It takes longer and dirties another pot, but otherwise has no noticeable effect)
  • When thick enough to coat edge of a spoon, take off heat and wait a minute
  • Then, whisk in three egg yolks and a dash of Worcestershire.
  • If it gets too thick, whisk in a little bit of milk but don't put it back on the heat after yolks are added
  • Add grated cheese

Step 4: Assembly

  • Oil casserole dish
  • Layer half the eggplant slices on the bottom (some recipes call for bread crumbs to line the pan first but I would rather have more sauce than pasty bread crumbs in my food)
  • Spread meat evenly
  • Layer the rest of the eggplant
  • Spread bechemel over top
  • Place in oven on 350 for 45 minutes or until browned. You may need to rotate
  • Allow to cool - when no longer warm but still hot, cut into squares and serve.
  • (an arugula salad tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and feta cheese would be nice)

Frugal Factor: Good thing this recipe is easy to freeze because it takes forever to make it. As for money, It was 1/4 of the leg of lamb I bought for $19. Let's just say $5. Tomato paste, $0.50; 1/2 cup wine, $1; eggplant, $2 at discount produce place, $4 at supermarket; milk, $0.50, butter, $0.25. Flour and spices are pantry items; let's say $0.50. This recipe made 8 portions so that's $1.22-$1.46 per portion.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jewish Stuffed Cabbage (Vegan)

This is the first vegan recipe I have posted here so far, because I had a pack of tempeh in the fridge. Usually I use cooked lentils. Of course, any ground meat would work too, but in that case you would brown it, drain the fat and remove from the pan before sauteing the other ingredients. In either case, for a firmer texture, add a beaten egg to the finished rice mixture before stuffing the cabbage. Also, I use vegetable juice rather than the traditional plain tomato juice here. It's mostly tomato anyway but it's a little more flavorful and it has extra vitamins, both especially important in a vegetarian dish. If you're a vegetarian though, make sure not to get "100% vegetable juice" not "vegetable juice cocktail" which has beef broth in it.

Stuffed Cabbage Recipe

Ingredients: 1 cup rice, cooked (not a cup of cooked rice), 8 oz coarsely diced mushrooms, 1 8-oz tempeh block crumbled, 1 savoy cabbage, 3/4 of a 48-oz vegetable juice (or plain tomato, either way drink the rest), 1/2 cup lemon juice (or vinegar), 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • Cook 1 cup rice
  • Cut core from lettuce and boil in a pot 15-30 minutes until very tender and cool under the faucet
  • Combine 32 oz vegetable juice with 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Saute onion, grated carrot, diced mushrooms and crumbled tempeh. When tender and browned a little, add the cooked rice and 3/4 cup of the vegetable juice mixture
  • Pour half remaining veg. juice mixture into large casserole dish.
  • Break apart cabbage into the large (and small) individual leaves
  • Place 1/4-1/3 cup of rice mixture in center of leaf. Tuck sides over, then roll. You can press it together a bit to form it into a roll. Place in casserole, and continue until done. At some point you will realize you have too many cabbage leaves for the remaining rice or vice versa. Deal.
  • Pour remaining veg juice mixture over cabbage rolls and bake uncovered at 350 for an hour, checking to make sure they don't burn (they won't).

Frugal Factor: 8 oz Tempeh; 2.99, 48 oz bottle/can vegetable juice; $1.49, 1 cup Jasmine rice; $1 (est.); carrot ($0.25?); onion, $0.30; 8 oz mushrooms (I spent $1 at the produce discounter but at Shop Rite it's $3); 1 savoy cabbage, $1.00; 1/2 cup brown sugar, $0.22; 1/2 cup lemon juice, $0.22 (based on the 32oz bottle, which at $1.79 is $0.40 cheaper than the little 7 oz one the looks like a lemon). $8.17 for 7 servings or $1.17/serving ($1.45 if I had bought the shrooms at the supermarket). As is sadly the case, using meat in place of healthful, sustainable tempeh and mushrooms would likely reduce the cost.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Stewed Leg of Lamb with Fava Beans and Fennel

I found boneless leg of Australian lamb at Shop Rite for $4.49/pound. That’s not much more than ground beef, so I bought a 4-pounder for $19. That was a little more than I needed to serve dinner for four, but when I started looking for recipes, I found one in the Silver Spoon that called for dividing a leg of lamb into boneless portions.

I adapted my recipe from their method. Chopping up the leg of lamb into chunks allowed me to cut away some of the fat and muscle membrane that give lamb the strong flavor that some find offensive. After discarding about 1/2 pound of that, I had one bowl of 10 large chunks, each about the size of a pear. This was about 2 1/4 pounds.

I also had a bowl with about 1 1/4 pounds of small or oddly-shaped chunks and a bunch of little bits of meat. These would have been great for Mongolian stir fry or something, but because I have a meat grinding attachment on my mixer, I ended up packing one a 20oz Ziploc container with ground lamb to use later.

Stewed Leg of Lamb with Fava Beans and Fennel Recipe

The rub: 3 tbsp fresh thyme; 2 tbsp olive oil; 2 tbs. salt; 2 garlic cloves; 1 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper; 3 anchovies.

The rest: More olive oil; 2 1/4 pounds lamb in pear-sized chunks (8-10 pieces); 1 bulb fennel, julienned; 1 chopped leak if you have it, 1 cup fresh frozen fava beans (thawed and shelled from tough outer pod); 1/2 cup vermouth; 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar; flour for dusting; 3 tbsp. lemon juice (or juice from one lemon)

  • Combine the rub ingredients and smash them into a paste in some way. I use a mortar and pestle. A wooden spoon in a bowl or a food processor will do the trick. Toss lamb chunks in rub. You can marinate them for a while if you choose.
  • Toss chunks with some flour, just to lightly coat. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over high heat. Brown lamb chunks on all sides. Deglaze pan with vermouth, scraping brown bits off bottom of pan.
  • Add a half cup of water, cover and place in 350 degree oven for 1/2 hour.
  • Check on meat. If the liquid has evaporated, add a little more water. Toss in the fava beans and sliced fennel.
  • Cook for 1/2 hour more. If sauce needs to be a little thicker, ladle it into a small saucepan and reduce over high heat, then pour back.
  • Stir in add lemon juice and some more fresh herbs and serve.
Optional: For a one-pot meal, add some thinly-sliced potatoes and some extra water when you first put in the oven.

Ingredient/Equipment Notes: Fava Beans are a staple of the Mediterranean diet . Their smoky flavor lends itself well to lamb and many other things. In season, Iovine's sells them freah but for mucho dinero. I have been a happier person since I discovered that Broad Beans are exactly the same thing, because First Oriental Supermarket sells four brands in their freezer case for $1.50/bag.

Rolled anchovies in a jar are superior to canned, because jars have lids. I keep a jar in the fidge. It lasts me about a year, as long as I keep it topped off with olive oil. Vermouth is the same idea; unlike wine it keeps opened for months (at least for cooking purposes), and cheap vermouth is also more consitant than cheap wine.

If you don’t have a dutch oven or another pot with a lid that can go from the stove top to the oven, this one from Ikea looks pretty good. I have another one of their cast-iron enameled pans and it's quite nice. Or, for four times the price (and maybe 10 times better), visit Fante's. I love my very un-frugal (it was a gift) Le Creuset more and more these days, but I have never tested it side-by-side with my trusty old cast-aluminum one.

Frugal Factor: At 4.5/pound I used 2.5 pounds of lamb here, tossed 1/2 pound of fat, and saved the rest. So that's $11 for the lamb. Frozen Fava/Broad Beans, $1.50, Fennel bulb, $1, Vermouth, $1, other items from pantry est. $0.75. Total, $12 for 4 portions, or $3/portion for the lamb, which I served with leftover squash, leek and turnip which was $0.55/portion. So that's $3.45/portion total.

Chicken Waffle Pie w/ Yeasted Multigrain Waffles

Ever since I got an old waffle iron at Goodwill (since replaced with a new retro Black & Decker) I have been disappointed with the waffles I made. The ones from a mix were passable but never had that crispy crust and tender interior I loved from the make-your-own Belgian waffle station in my college dining hall. My attempts to make them from scratch were even worse - rubbery and bland. Then, while researching my pretzel project, I came across a recipe for yeast-risen waffles which promised the qualities I was looking for.

They were the perfect foil for a fave of mine, Chicken Waffle Pie. Basically a chicken pot pie filling served over waffles. As much as I love chicken pot pie, pastry dough is fattening and time consuming (plus butter is $3.50/pound). Waffles can also be toasted separately, which makes for a more freezable recipe.


I followed this recipe, but I replaced 1 cup of white flour with 3/4 cup of whole wheat and 1/4 cup of multigrain flour. Actually, I didn’t have multigrain flour but I did have some rye, oats, barley and wheat hot ceral I don't care for, so I ground it by hand with my mortar and pestle for a couple minutes (you could use a mini food processor but mine’s a pain to clean). I also added 1/4 cup of some Mexican malt milk powder I had around.

These are supposed to be “overnight” waffles so I was worried about making the batter at 11 p.m. and then using it the next day at 7 p.m. (that’s 20 hours in the fridge) because some recipes said “no more than 16 hours” but it all worked out. I had to add a 1/4 cup of milk to the batter to thin it out a little. Otherwise, they came out great.I used 1 1/2 tsp. of instant yeast.

Optional: If you want to make waffles only for the chicken as opposed to saving some for breakfast, adding “better than bouillon” to the milk in the recipe and throwing in 4 tbsp. of thyme, dill, parsley etc. or even some cayenne can really kick it up a notch.

A few caveats: These rise in the waffle iron more than regular waffles so use a little less batter per batch. With my old-school 4-waffle iron, I had to spread no more than 1 cup of batter – I did 1/3 in each of the four compartments and had a waffle volcano. Also, they cook fast so the old waffle-making trick about waiting for the steam to stop will result in overcooked waffles. Use your nose.

Chicken Pie Filling

3 pounds chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-sized cubes; Flour for dusting; 2 onions, chopped; 1 20-oz bag frozen mixed vegetables; 1/2 cup white extra-dry vermouth or white wine; 2 cups chicken stock (better than bullion works great here), 2 tbs. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dry), 1/2 tsp. cayenne, 1/4 stick butter, 1 small can evaporated milk or heavy cream.

  • Toss chicken cubes in flour (season flour with salt and pepper if you wish) to lightly coat. Heat butter in 12” skillet and add chicken carefully un one layer. Brown and flip. When browned on all sides, remove chicken from pan and put aside.
  • Sauté onion in pan over medium-low until soft, ass vermouth to deglaze pan, scrapping brown bits (unless using a nonstick pan)
  • Add vegetables and chicken and half the chicken stock and heat on med-high until boiling, stirring frequently (but don’t use metal spoon on a non-stick pan). Mixture should thicken; keep adding the rest of the stock in 1/4 cup increments until thick enough to stay on a waffle but just a little gloppier than you would want to eat. Then, off the heat, stir in evaporated milk or cream
  • Serve over two waffles. Freeze separately from wrapped waffles so that filling can be nuked and waffles toasted.

Notes: This recipe calls for dark meat for several reasons: White meat is easy to overcook and that’s even truer when freezing and reheating. In fact, when people say they don’t like dark meat, it’s usually because dark meat tends to be undercooked, leaving it chewy and gross. In this recipe, you cook it long enough so that it is tender. It’s also cheaper. I use vermouth here in place of white wine because an open bottle keeps for a long time. This recipe works for a reg. pot pie or biscuit-topped casserole too, just add a little more water for a thinner consistency since baking will further thicken.

Frugal Factor: Readington Farms Free Farmed chicken thighs, $1.89/pound at Shop Rite ($5.67); 2 onions, $0.60, frozen veg, $2.00; 5 oz can evaportated milk $0.60; 2 cups chicken broth, $0.80 (better than bullion, free if made from leftover bones after cutting up chicken); vermouth, $1.25 (1/3 of a $4.00 355 ml bottle); 3 cups flour (2 2/3 cups for waffles and rest for dusting chicken), $1; 1/2 yeast packet, $0.25; 3 cups milk @ $4.00/gallon = $0.75; 2/3 stick butter @ $3.50/4-sticks, $0.58 (waffles and chicken) = $13.50 for 8 generous portions, $1.69/portion.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Product Review: Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base

Truly, there is nothing like a homemade chicken stock or broth. It fills the room with the smell of home and holidays, and when I debone some chicken, I always throw the bones in a pot with some water, carrots and celery and a bay leaf.

However, there are many times when I need just a little broth for another dish or some extra flavor in a dish that already has enough liquid. That's when I reach for Better than Bouillon, a concentrated chicken stock base. I first used concentrated soup base when I was cooking at a bistro/coffee shop. It's a restaurant staple, even in supposedly high-end joints. No, it doesn't have the same flavor of homemade, but it's a lot better than the pre-made cans or cartons of stock in the store, which are a waste of time, money and space. It is a bit too heavy on the celery and vegetal notes to use in a noodle soup or something, but in most recipes you won't notice.

The same company makes an absurd number of other flavors. The vegetable soup base is nasty, but I may try their "vegan chicken" or mushroom bases for vegetarian recipes. I am interested in/terrified of the lobster base.

Frugal Factor: One $4 jar makes 41 cups of broth, or $0.10/serving. Ready-to-use "College Inn" Chicken Broth is $3 for 4 cups (32 oz), or $0.75/serving, and is nasty to boot. Of course, making your own from the remnants of a roast chicken or other unused bones and stuff is free, and better, if you have the time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pumpkin Seed-Crusted Goujons of Chilean Hake w/ Butternut Squash, Leek and Turnip Saute

One reason I started freezing some meals in quantity was because other dinners are not even good reheated at lunch the next day. Fish, particularly fried fish, is one of those. Generally awful reheated, plus your coworkers will hate you for stinking up the kitchen. After consuming a lot of heavy stews lately, I was really needing to cook and eat something a bit more delicate.

I had a butternut squash that My Uncle and his wife grew in their community garden plot at the Schuylkill Center. I consulted the Silver Spoon cookbook, which has a recipe for every possible animal and vegetable. There, I found a recipe for pumpkin, leek and turnip w/ thyme and sesame seeds sauteed in olive oil. Since a butternut squash is pretty much the same thing as a pumpkin, I gave it a go. I didn't follow the recipe though - that book isn't long on detail. They wanted you to roast sliced squash in a foil packet. I gave it 90 minutes in the crock pot instead, and followed the recipe from there. I also saw a recipe for some kind of fish fried with crusted almonds. I had some kind of fish but I did not have almonds. I did have some tamari-flavored pumpkin seeds a bit past their prime, which actually worked with the theme better anyway.

I served it all with some fresh spinach salad.

Butternut Squash, Leek and Turnip Saute (serves 6, so I am serving it again tomorrow)

1 Squash, 1 turnip, 1 leek, olive oil, fresh sprigs of thyme, some sesame seed (optional)
  • Peel Squash, cut in half, scoop out the junk and slice 1/4 inch thick.
  • Toss squash with tsp olive oil, the leaves of one sprig of thyme and some salt.
  • Precook squash in one of the following ways: wrap in foil packet and roast in oven at 350 for 30 minutes, place in slow cooker on high for 90 minutes or steam until just softened.
  • Julienne turnip (cut into matchsticks)
  • Slice white part of leek from the green part. Discard green part. Separate layers, wash them a lot, and slice thinly.
  • Heat 2 tbs olive oil in hot frying pan on high heat. Toss in veggies. Allow to brown just a bit underneath and then toss a few times and cook until the turnips retain just a bit of crunch.

Pumpkin Seed-Crusted Goujons of Chilean Hake (serves 2)

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but there is a lot about cuisine, especially seafood, in which a name can make a $5 meal into a $20 entree. Such it is with my title of this dish. Hake is a fish I had to look up when I saw it in Silver Spoon. Turns out it is what people in England call the fish we call whiting (they have their own fish called whiting). Whiting is a dirt-cheap fish caught off the coast of Chile, sold frozen and filleted, $6 or less for a 2# bag.

1/2 pound hake/whiting filet (or other white-fleshed fishie), 1/4 cup soy sauce (preferably thick style, sold in Asian stores but nearly impossible to ID as such), 1/2 cup hulled pumpkin seed snacks (or almonds. pistachios might work too).

  • If filet has skin on the bottom, take it off or leave it on. Up to you. I took it off, somewhat mangling the delicate filet in the process. That's how the filets became goujons, which is like a chicken finger, only with fish. In fact, some of them became nuggets. It's all good. So slice your fish into goujons if you haven't mangled it into them already.
  • Coat fish with soy sauce, put on a plate
  • Crush the seeds to a course texture (pieces smaller than rice). I used a mortar and pestle, but a small food processor or blender is just as good. You can use a chef's knife if you've got all day to chop.
  • Coat fish in the crushed seeds, pressing firmly to adhere.
  • In a non-stick pan, add oil to a depth of just under 1/4 inch and heat to almost smoking (peanut oil is best because it is great with high heat. Apparently grapeseed is too, but I'm too frugal to buy it).
  • Carefully transfer fish to pan and fry for 2 minutes. Flip, cook for 2 more minutes. Remove fish to paper towel to absorb excess oil. Serve.

Frugal Factor: The fish (2 servings) was $5 for a 2# bag w/ 4 fillets. I used only one fillet. The pumpkin seeds were in my pantry for a year, but roasted shelled ones are sold for $2.29 for a 10oz bag. I used 1/2 cup (4 oz), so that's $0.92 (plus I ate some, so $1). Add .25 for the oil and soy sauce I guess. Price per portion: $1.25

Leeks are sold three to a bunch for $3. I used 1 (the rest will be used later). Turnips are $1/pound and the one I used was 1/3 pound. The squash was a gift but would have cost $2. This made 6 portions, at $0.55/portion.

The bag of prewashed baby spinach was $3.30 and I used about 1/3. $1.10/portion.

Total: $2.90/portion.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Buffalo Chili n' Waffles, Taco Night

Every now and then, I like to regress and have a good 'l fashioned middle American taco night. No fresh corn tortilla, braised tongue, lime and cilantro (although now I'm craving just that from Taqueria Michocana - scenic Norristown here I come). No, I'm talking about ground beef with pre-mixed spice packet, crunchy taco shelves, grated jack cheese, iceberg lettuce, etc.

The other night I had a pound of ground buffalo meat I wanted to stretch in to a base for chili. Instead of just cooking the meat with the spice packet, I sauteed it with two onions, then added half a can of refried beans. (For the vegetarians out there, this method is a great way to use TVP, which will benefit from being mized with stuff.) It was just as good, and I had lots of leftover meat mixture.

CHILI TIME! And what could be better with chili than cornbread? How's about cornbread WAFFLES? Waffles are great with savory meals because they catch all the sauce/gravy.

The Chili:

I use my 70's "Crock Watcher" for this but if you only have a pot on a stove, cook it on low for an hour.

Into the crock pot goes: The leftover taco meat mixture, a big 28 oz can of tomatoes, the rest of the refried beans and two 16 oz cans of beans (I like black beans. Your taco meat mix provides the seasoning, although I also add a tablespoon of cocoa and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook on high 2 hours or low 8 hours.

For the cornbread waffles, I used this recipe, found online at random. I used milk instead of buttermilk, subbing 1/2 cup of sour cream. I wasn't so crazy about it, so after the first batch, I added a quarter cup of honey to the batter. That helped a lot, as did waiting 10 minutes for the batter to set. I still think I'll try another recipe next time though.

The finished product looks great on a plate (above) with a dab of sour cream and some freeze-dried chives. Just don't reach for the syrup (or who knows...?) For the freezer portions, I filled my containers halfway and froze them solid. Then I wrapped the waffles, put one on top of each portion and put the lid on. That way, I can grab a portion and go, and toast the waffle while nuking the chili.

Frugal Factor: For the chili and waffles, I got 10 portions. The half of the meat left over from taco night was $2.50, $0.50 for half a spice packet, $0.25 for the onion, $1.50 for the refried beans, $2 for the tomatoes, $1.50 for the canned black beans. Let's say $1 for the waffles. Maybe $1.50. That's $9.50, or $0.95/portion. Use TVP or cheaper meat in place of the buffalo, mix your own spices and cook your own beans, I bet you could cut that in half.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lentil Loaf: Trying a Much-Maligned 70's Hippie Staple.

On several occasions, I have read articles on vegetarian food that said something like "These days, vegetarian cooking is about more than lentil loaf." Well darnit, after years of seeing lentil loaf badmouthed in the media, I decided to actually make it. It's actually pretty good. (Tastes better than it looks.) Shown here reheated from the deep freeze in my office cubicle, served with mac n' cheese w/ broccoli.

Lentil Loaf:

  • 1 bag dry lentils (2 ½ cups)
  • ½ cup dry TVP (texturized vegetable protein) (optional, use less water if omitting)
  • 5 cups water
  • ½ cup smoked almonds (hulled sunflowers or pumpkin seeds work too)
  • 4 eggs or 5 egg whites or egg substitute
  • 2 cups dry bread crumbs
  • 1 onion, 1 carrot + optional: 1 spear of celery, ½ Green pepper, ½ cup mushroom stems
  • 2 tbs. sage
  • 2 tbs. garlic powder
  • 2 tbs. hot paprika 9or sweet paprika + ½ tsp cayenne)
  • ¼ cup ketchup or BBQ sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce

  1. Combine lentils, TVP, half the garlic powder, sage (no salt!) w/ 4-5 cups water and cook covered on med heat until very tender (45 minutes) checking several times to make sure there is still some liquid in the bottom of the pan so they don’t burn (water absorption can vary)

  2. Meanwhile, finely chop veggies and sauté in some olive oil on low heat – add garlic powder or fresh chopped garlic after they become tender.
  3. Chop almonds in food processor, blender or by hand until finely chopped.
  4. Drain lentils, reserving cooking liquid. Pulse lentils and ½ cup cooking liquid in food processor so that there are still some whole lentils.
  5. Preheat oven to 350
  6. Pour lentils in mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients except the eggs and bread crumbs. Taste mixture and add salt and/or extra herbs and spices to taste. Add eggs and stir until combined. Slowly add bread crumbs until mixture becomes more firm but still very moist (like watery mashed potatoes). If it gets to thick, like clay, add some reserved cooking liquid to loosen)
  7. Spray loaf pan with oil. Line bottom with parchment paper. Fill with lentil mixture leaving ½ inch at the top, spread ketchup on top. Cover with foil.
  8. Bake at 350 for aprox. 1 hour, until center has domed up some (it will collapse again later).Refrigerate overnight or eat now but risk some crumbling. If eating now, make gravy in step 10 while loaf is in oven.
  9. Run knife around edge of pan and turn over on cutting board. Slice and serve (If chilled, reheat in microwave or in nonstick frying pan)
  10. Serve with gravy [sauté pint of thinly sliced mushrooms and one finely chopped onion, add two cups vegetable stock (wine or soy sauce optional), bring to boil and stir in 2-3 tbs. flour (or 1-2 tbs. corn starch) dissolved in ¼ cup cold stock.]

Substitutions: This is a versatile recipe. Go wild. Go nuts. Wild rice for ¼ lentils or the TVP. Pistachios instead of smoked almonds. Cooked rice or quinoa for some or all the bread crumbs. Omit all herbs and spices and soy sauce and use a taco seasoning or vegetable soup packet in step 6 instead. Cook in muffin tins instead of loaf pan.You can't go wrong - worst case you turn it into sloppy joe's.

Frugal Factor: This is a great budget food item - the recipe below is about 10 good servings and costs maybe maybe $4 for ingredients. That's $0.40/portion - cheaper than a potato.

Monday, December 8, 2008

His breath reeked of beer and pretzeled bread!

Like all good Philadelphians, I love soft pretzels. When I was a kid, whenever we drove to Philadelphia to visit family, my dad would always buy a bag of pretzels from the vendor at the end of the Cottman Avenue exit. In recent years I have come to love Fisher's in the Reading Terminal and their bastard cousins in every mall, Auntie Anne's, which are a very different experience.

Fisher's has a breakfast pretzel strudel, full of sausage eggs and cheese. It is mighty. I thought I would try to replicate it in bulk as a freezable breakfast item.
It turns out that despite the profusion of recipes on the web claiming to replicate Auntie Anne's, it is tough to get that Mennonite mojo, which comes basically from more butter and sugar than people who do not plow without tractors should eat.

Here is how I made these delicious Egg, Ham and Muenster Pretzel Buns

This pretzel dough recipe is very nice. I made mine in my Kitchenaid w/ the dough hook. You know you have added enough flour when it all holds together in one ball. I added a quarter stick of butter and an egg yolk for the dough. I also borrowed a trick from other recipes and added 1/4 cup baking soda to the water the raw pretzels are boiled in, which as a non-caustic alkaline is a stand-in for the lye used by professionals.

While waiting for the dough to rise:

  • Beat 6 eggs w/ 2 tbs corn starch dissolved in 1/4 cup milk (this keeps the cooked eggs from getting all nasty when frozen and reheated).
  • Dice four slices of deli muenster and about 1/4 pound of ham.
  • Distribute ham and cheese evenly in a greased 12-muffin tin.
  • Fill muffin tins with egg mixture (about halfway on each)
  • Bake eggs at 350 for 10 min or so, until they are cooked through but still a bit runny.
  • Turn out baked eggs and let cool.


Break off a piece of pretzel dough and roll flat with baking pin, very thin. Place an egg muffin on dough and fold to overlap, then twist each end like a tootsie roll until it breaks off (you can roll these together later). Once you have them all done, boil a pot of water and add some baking soda. Boil your pretzeled eggs a few at a time for five to ten seconds, remove with a slotted spoon and place on a cookie sheet (oiled and pref. w/ parchment paper).

With a sharp knife, score an X in the center of each one, sprinkle with salt and bake until browned (about 10 min). I deviated from the pretzel dough recipe and baked at 375 because my wonderful wife Shoshanna was cooking my favorite morning glory muffins at the same time. It worked okay, but I was using a cast iron griddle in the oven so you might need to up it to 425.

If you will be reheating these later, take them out when they are still pale like in the photo. If serving immediately, you can let them get darker.

To reheat from a non-frozen state, place unwrapped in a 400 degree oven for 25 min. Yum.

PS If you have extra dough, as I did, you could make pretzel hot dogs, sugar and cinnamon pretzel bites, or, uh, some pretzels.

Frugal Factor: 1/2 doz eggs, $1.25, 1 cup milk, $0.25, ham, 1/3 pound ham, $1.33, yeast packet, $0.50, two slices of muenster, $0.25. Baking soda and corn starch - I buy those once a year, so let's say $0.25. 12 portions, $0.32/each.

The Freezer

Introduction: Welcome to my new blog, The Ice Man Cooketh, devoted to cooking and eating food with a focus on all that is frugal and freezable. Just the thing for these troubled times, but I've always been a cheapskate gourmet. Origin story below:

For years I stressed out about what to cook for dinner. If I didn't make enough to have leftovers the next day or went out to eat, I would have to buy lunch. I knew the answer was freezing large quantities, but my freezer was overstuffed already.

Enter... the chest freezer. My memories as a child involve being sent down to the basement where my father kept a GE chest freezer stocked with meat from the butcher (Pepi's, to those who have ever lived in Bel Air) and bluefish my grandfather caught. The freezer was ancient and I don't think it had been defrosted since my parents moved into their house in 1980 and I assume it still hasn't.

I opted for a smaller chest freezer, a 5 cu ft model from Home Depot. All the chest freezers on the market seem to be made in the same Chinese factory. This one is labeled Magic Chef, a dead brand that, when it was alive, produced the 1965 stove in my old house which I loved until my contractor destroyed it. That's another story and this is not a kitchen renovation blog.

I looked all over for some stackable storage containers that fit in it, since otherwise food gets lost in the bottom. Milk crates didn't work but I found these tubs at Ikea, Trofast, that are actually part of a children'a furniture set. They are also the perfect size and shape to brine a turkey. Wonders never cease.

Anyway, I'll be posting at least once a week. Stay tuned for my series on savory waffles.

Frugal Factor: Retails for $189 but I got one somebody drove a lumber cart into for $134.