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What do families do? Especially those of you with teenagers.
Anyway, I am often on the look-out for ideas that fit my Campaign tastes but that will push me into a beer budget. Enter Beth Moncel, whose cookbook and blog, Budget Bytes, are focused on just this issue.
I'm still exploring Moncel's blog, but I've been devouring the tips in her cookbook, which start with her six principles of sticking to a budget. Some of these I've learned on my own--like using ingredients wisely and remembering to take advantage of the freezer. But some of Moncel's shopping tips are new: I didn't know, for example, that curry powders and pastes are often less expensive in Asian and Indian markets than they are in the grocery store.
Many of us here at Weekend Cooking have logged a lot of hours in our kitchens, and so I need to say that the focus audience of Budget Bytes is younger, more inexperienced cooks. At the same time, however, even an old hand like me found some fresh ideas. Besides, basic, easy recipes are perfect for everyday meals after a long day at work, and I'm always happy to cut that supermarket bill down to size.
So what are the recipes like? You might be surprised that I'm particularly interested in the breakfast chapter, which includes several make-ahead meals. Wouldn't it be great to streamline a busy morning?
At the heart of Budget Bytes are the main-meal recipes, most of which are freezer friendly. New cooks and young people watching their finances can rejoice: Moncel has proven the point that easy plus inexpensive doesn't equal boring. She has recipes for Southwest taquitos, Asian-inspired chicken sliders, Greek salads, and down-home barley soup.
All of the recipes are within the skill level of new(ish) cooks, and together the recipes offer a good starting point for anyone trying to eat well and save money. Note too that Budget Bytes includes a nice percentage of vegetarian and vegan recipes, most of which do not rely on soy products.
Each recipe is flagged by cost ($, $$, $$$) and by whether it can be frozen. Moncel also gives us useful cooking and buying tips.
Recommendations: Beth Moncel's Budget Bytes not only has delicious doable recipes but is also a solid resource for helping us make smarter choices at the store and for figuring out what dishes can be frozen. In fact, Budget Bytes has now become my favorite new cook/first apartment cookbook for friends and family. Hummm, Christmas isn't all that far away, is it?
Makes 3 cups
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 small red onion, quartered
- 1 medium jalapeno, stemmed & seeded
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole or diced tomatoes
- 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Juice of 1 medium lime, plus more as needed
Add the canned tomatoes and their juices, the cilantro, salt, sugar, olive oil, and lime juice and pulse the mixture until it reaches the desired consistency (longer for a smooth salsa, or less for a chunkier salsa). Taste and add additional salt, cilantro, or lime juice until the flavor is to your liking.
Published by Penguin Random House, Avery, 2014
Source: review (see review policy)
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