Recipes: Deviled Eggs & Easy Thai Curry

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Tofu veggie red curry

Tofu is widely regarded with suspicion by those on low-income budgets as it can smack of sprout-loving vegans, but I think it’s often overlooked. It’s high in protein, low in fat, endlessly versatile and inexpensive, about $1.50 a pound, or 38 cents per four-ounce serving.

What to do with it? Mike makes great Thai food, so I’ve never tried it. But inspired by the most recent issue of Fine Cooking, I wanted to see if Thai curry could work as a vehicle for budget cooking. At an Asian grocer, I found small tins of curry for 79 cents, a can of coconut milk (99 cents) and a can of chicken stock ($1.10). Since you use half of each can per four-serving meal, the three cans together can be leveraged for two meals up to eight servings.

Instead of using the more expensive lemongrass or lime leaves as an aromatic, I grated the skin of the lime (25 cent each) and then later added lime wedges. We loaded the curry with a pound of diced tofu and inexpensive vegetables including a quarter onion (20 cents), two large carrots (18 cents), a wedge of cabbage (20 cents) and a handful of mushrooms (25 cents). I skipped the fish sauce, kind of heresy for Thai food but I couldn’t justify the cost of getting a $3 bottle to use one teaspoon. I did add in some chili flakes in bulk (16 cents for a full ounce) and added in a few pinches for heat. I keep a basil plant on my window sill year round, so I chopped up a few leaves to add in at the end. I served our curry with a wedge of lime over brown rice, slightly more expensive than the white variety ($1.65 per pound versus $1.20, in bulk) but a better nutritional choice.

Skinny deviled eggs

Breakfast: We opted for what I refer to as “skinny deviled eggs,” a simple preparation of boiled eggs stuffed with the mashed yolks, dry mustard (purchased in bulk, in place of the Dijon I’d normally use), cottage cheese ($2.10 per pound) and salt and pepper. I decided I couldn’t live without coffee, and bought some in bulk to make a pot (60 cents). Cost: $2.40 for two servings.

Dinner: Ok, I’m just going to fess up. I had to go to a business dinner on Monday night. (I realize this ruins everything.) However, Mike was virtuous and ate half the leftover curry for dinner. We both had a small bit of cottage cheese and a carrot as a late-afternoon snack.

Cost for the day: If you counted the rest of the curry as my dinner and add in my coffee and our afternoon snack, $9.86. 

Observations: I’m a big believer in protein at breakfast, rather than carbohydrates such as cereal or toast, as it keeps you satiated longer. I missed fish sauce in our curry. I used packets of Sugar in the Raw shamelessly pilfered from a coffee bar, a tactic that I picked up years ago as a college student. I had major guilt eating out and while I ordered a simple chicken dish, even that single entrée exceeded our daily budget. I never cease to be grateful for a basil plant in the kitchen. Every few weeks, I start a new set of plants with seeds from a $1 packet I bought a year ago. Although there’s an investment in the soil, pot and seeds, in the long run growing herbs is a big money saver.

Recipe: Skinny Deviled Eggs

I love deviled eggs, but when they’re loaded with store-bought mayonnaise, they’re not so good for you. This is a guilt-free staple in our house, especially at breakfast.

4 large hard-boiled eggs
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (optional)
coarse salt, fresh ground pepper

Slice the hard-boiled eggs lengthwise and remove the yolks. In a bowl, mash the yolks with the other ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the mixture back into center of the eggs.

Tip for hard-boiled eggs: Start the eggs in a pan with cold water. Bring to a boil, then cover and remove from the heat and let sit for 12 minutes in the hot water. Shock with cold water and peel while still warm.

Recipe: Thai Curry

This is from the nifty “RecipeMaker” app for Thai Curry found on the Fine Cooking site. We make Thai curry regularly. It’s quick and you can keep the foundation for it in your pantry, plus it works well for using up leftovers. We normally keep some frozen lemongrass and lime leaves in our freezer, too. Although I didn’t use it, I left the fish sauce in the recipe.

½ of a 14-oz. can of coconut milk
1/4 cup red curry paste
1 cup lower-salt chicken broth, or homemade chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon light brown sugar or light brown palm sugar; more as desired
1 tsp. fish sauce; more as desired
Couple pinches of red chili flakes
6 whole fresh or thawed frozen wild lime leaves
(or substitute 1 tsp. finely grated lime zest)
1 lb. extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into bite-size pieces
½ cup sliced button or cremini mushrooms (1/4-inch-thick slices)
1 cup sliced cabbage (1-inch-wide bite-size strips)
¾ cup sliced carrots (sliced 1/8-inch thick on an angle)
¾ cup sliced onions (1/2-inch-thick slices)
Lime wedges, for garnish
A few basil leaves, chopped
Fresh red chiles, cut into 1/8-inch strips or sliced into rings, for garnish (optional)

Shake the can of coconut milk or stir it well to mix the solids and liquids. Add a half cup of coconut milk to a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Reduce by half, stirring occasionally. This should take about five minutes. Whisk in the curry paste, stirring for about a minute. Then add in the broth, sugar, fish sauce, chili flakes, lime zest and another half cup of coconut milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Add the carrots and onions continue to simmer. After 2 minutes, add the tofu, mushrooms and cabbage. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about three more minutes. Serve over rice, garnished with chopped basil and lime wedges.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.

Comments

  1. Laudable effort, Kathleen. I have a running battle with my wife about our grocery spending – our spending seems to average around $30-$35 per day partially due to teenagers. My wife argues that eating cheap means more carbs and more calories – pastas, etc. I argue it’s more about creativity and you don’ t need to live on pasta or meat and potatoes. These wonderful recipies show you can eat inexpensively, and healthy. Maybe you have another cookbook in the offing.

  2. This is a total aside, but THANK YOU for pointing out that recipe builder on FC’s site! I had no idea it existed, and I think it’s going to take up a substantial chunk of my near future.

  3. Loved this post. I didn’t know you could get curry in small tins like that. We have bought the larger sizes but we end up throwing it away because we don’t make curry that often. Having it in a can would make it so handy to have on the pantry shelf. I’m totally going to look that up and start making curry. I never really thought about it as a way to use leftovers.

  4. Kat, check Grocery Outlet. You can get a pound of brown rice for under $1 there….and many more bargains. Whole chickens are always 99 cents/pound there and you can buy family packages of chicken thighs (bone in) for about $6.

  5. Kathleen Flinn says:

    Thanks Traca. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Grocery Outlet. I did double check the price on bulk rice today and found that brown rice is actuallyl $1.39 a pound at QFC, and white rice is $1.19.

    Speaking of whole chickens, I got one for 99 cents a pound at QFC and broke it down today. I’m going to post it this week.

  6. Thank you for showing how difficult it is to feed a family on $12.00 a day. My husband and I within a short period of time have lost our jobs (though my husband has recently found a good job). Since the job lost, I’ve been keeping track of our expenses including our food costs. I’ve noticed that food is the most expensive item except for our mortgage. So I’ve had to look for ways to cut our food costs.
    Here are some ideas:
    -buying items like a whole chicken and breaking it down into pieces
    -look for cheaper cuts of meat/fish (examples: liver, pork spare ribs, mussels)
    -look for items on sale
    -unfortunately not buying organic
    -in the fruit/vegetable area they have racks of older fresh product available for half price. I use this product the same day as I buy it.
    -read the pricing labels in the store. They show the cost of the item per gram/ml. You can then compare cost of similar products.
    Hope this helps.

    • Kathleen Flinn says:

      Hi Janet,
      Those are all great ideas. I am doing a post tomorrow on breaking down a whole chicken. It’s one of my favorite lessons from my next book.

      It’s true. It’s really hard to eat organic while on this kind of limited funds. It also takes a fair amount of planning and culinary knowledge to make good meals out of whole products, unfortunately techniques that many home cooks simply don’t have in their bag of tricks.

  7. Nice blog right here! Additionally your web site loads up fast! Thanks!

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