Friday, October 10, 2008

Universal Recipes - Tightwaddery at its Best

I have this amazing book called The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. It has helped my husband and I through these first few years of our marriage, during which we've gone through both of us being in school, two children, and very little income. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to save money. It's a great book - a conglomeration of hundreds of random money-saving tips, ideas, and ... recipes!!! My favorite recipes are the universal formulas, in which Ms. Dacyczyn gives ingredient types and amounts, and you simply use what you have on hand. One example of this is the Universal Bread Recipe I used to create my Italian Herbed Tomato Bread a while back. Another example is the Universal Pilaf Recipe I'm about to share!

Universal Pilaf
Grain: One cup of uncooked brown or white rice, bulgur, couscous, or other favorite grain.

Fat: Two tablespoons of olive oil, butter, vegetable oil, or other favorite oil.

Base vegetable: Two or three cloves of diced garlic and one of the following, cut up: one small onion, three shallots, or one small leek (white part only).

Liquid: Two cups vegetable broth, chicken broth, cooking water from boiled vegetables, or water.

Meat or protein (omit if using the pilaf as a side dish): From 1/2 to 2/3 cup skinned chicken (may be diced and boned or left whole), tuna, cooked white or red beans, white fish, hamburger, or cheap steak cut into cubes.

Additional vegetable: About 1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas, cut-up carrots, frozen corn, green peppers, celery, and/or any other favorite vegetable except for leafy greens and potatoes.

Seasoning: Salt, pepper, chervil, parsley, whatever works well with chosen ingredients.

Directions: Heat fat in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet. When hot, add the base vegetables and fry until golden and translucent. Add the meat and brown (but if using tuna, don't add it at this point). Add the grain and fry for a minute or so to coat it with the fat. Add the liquid and bring to a boil (add tuna now). Add the other vegetables, season, stir, return to a boil, lower the heat, so it just simmers, and cover. Check it often; if using whole grains, it will take up to 40 minutes to cook, while white rice takes only about 15 minutes. Don't stir too much. When the liquid is completely absorbed, it is done. Stir, season to taste, and serve.

Since this is such an inexpensive way to cook, and it's Friday, this meal is the perfect candidate for Frugal Fridays - serves four and costs under $10.

My ingredients tonight and their approximate cost:
Grain: 1/2 pound hulled millet - $0.45
Fat: Vegetable oil - negligible
Base vegetable: Bottled minced garlic and one onion - negligible, and the onion was gleaned and therefore free
Liquid: Water - free
Meat: 1/2 pound ground turkey - $0.68
Additional vegetable: one green pepper - $0.38
Seasoning: Bouillon and seasoned salt - negligible

Total cost: $1.51

Now that's cheap!!! I think it's my cheapest Frugal Fridays meal yet!

Normally I make pilaf with rice, but I chose to use millet tonight. Actually, this was my first time cooking with and eating millet. I learned a couple things - 1) millet smells funny while it's cooking; and 2) it tastes really good! I really enjoyed this pilaf, as did everyone else. And the best part is that is cost me next to nothing, because I was able to create it using inexpensive ingredients that I had on hand.


Barbara Bakes said...

I love the info about millet - I've never tried it either!

Meg said...

What a wonderful book and a wonderful meal!

Arika said...

Oh wow. That HAS to be the least expensive Frugal Friday EVER! Sounds great!