Tuesday, August 31, 2010

IFBC Pt. II - Reception, Morgan Spurlock and Urbanspoon Seattle Scene party!

Friday night's IFBC kick-off was nothing short of amazing.  Between the incredible swag bag, the food, the wine, and those sexy little cocktail samples, the fine folks at Foodista & Zephyr Adventures really started off our conference experience with a bang.

We started off by getting our swag bag (approximately 17 metric tons of kitchen gadget & cookbook heaven) and visiting some of the other sponsors of the event at the reception held at Hotel Monaco in Downtown Seattle.  Three large rooms were filled with food, beer, wine  and spirits just for us, making it nearly impossible to know what to try next!  From wine to mini Banh Mi sandwiches, lovely endive hors d'oeuvres to seafood BLT's, not to mention cheese and chocolate and billions of tasty little cupcakes, we were fed quite well.

Some of the food highlights for me:
  • Roasted lamb "pops" (I'm sure their official name is far more euphonious but with the way we were eating them, this is a much more accurate description) - this fall-off-the-bone, tender, perfectly seasoned lamb was a huge hit with most bloggers.  Sadly, I was so immersed in their indulgent flavor that I forgot to take a picture.  Bad food blogger, BAD!
  • Bacon Peanut Brittle - Yes, you read that correctly.  In a word?  Amazing.
  • Theo Chocolate's Burnt Sugar & Ghost Chile Caramel chocolates - Need I say more?
  • Mini Banh Mi sandwiches with Mango Sriracha sauce (!!!!!)
  • Tonnino Tuna and all their lovely little hors d'oeuvres
  • Geoduck ceviche - Totally unexpected base for a very delicately flavored ceviche. Fantastic!
  • POM Wonderful Cosmopolitans - It turns all the other cosmos green with envy! 
  • Lamb pops.  LAMB POPS!!! - So good I had to mention them twice.  I will get over them eventually. I think.
As if that wasn't enough, we were also treated to some great moments with IFBC founders, notable chefs from the Seattle area and beyond, and the first key speaker of the weekend: Morgan Spurlock, Academy Award nominee for his film, Supersize Me.

Some of my oh-my-God-I'm-hanging-out-with-important-people moments:
  • Chris & Max of Modernist Cuisine explaining their craft and indulging my fan-girl moment by signing my MC "teaser" (And if anyone reading this is rollin' in it and feeling particularly generous this Christmas, Poor Girl would love, love, LOVE this 15lb set of cookbook perfection!)
  • Morgan Spurlock. Morgan friggin' Spurlock!!!  He was every bit as cool and genuine as I'd imagined, not to mention super hilarious.  I loved listening to his thoughts on how we as bloggers can continue to improve the food world by writing about our passions and connecting with our communities.  Plus, he said he definitely wanted to try my Black Bean, Chicken & Mango Stew (which was on the front of the business card I gave him).  Can't go wrong with a food-lovin' movie director who wants to try your food!  PS - Morgan, if you're reading this and you do try it, please let me know how you liked it!
And then there was the Urbanspoon Seattle Scene after the grand reception, which was held at The Purple Café and Wine Bar.  Though I was too full of lamb and chocolate to eat much more than a samosa and a Marcona almond with fig spread and cheese (thank you, Lynn of Sacatomato for putting that little hors d'oeuvre together!), there was just enough room in the upper left quadrant of my stomach for samples of the wine that flowed freely all evening.  It was a great way to get to know fellow IFBC attendees before the full weekend of sessions and panel discussions.  From fellow food bloggers to folks from Saveur Magazine, I chatted with some pretty amazing folks, some of whom I now feel fortunate enough to call my friends.  

Good food, good wine, awesome convo and great people - really, what more could a food blogger possibly ask for at such a shindig?  The answer(s) to that question coming in IFBC Pt. III, so stay tuned!

Friday, August 27, 2010

IFBC Pt. I - Greetings from Seattle!

So I made it to lovely Seattle safe & sound and was happy to find that all the rain had evaporated into the ether so that this California girl wouldn't go into culture shock.  Though I'm super bummed that I can't use my phone to talk or to access the internet, I'm happily ensconced here at the lovely Hotel Monaco and enjoying their free wi-fi.  Along with me is Ms. Munchie, and hopefully we'll be seeing Alison of Lemon Basil soon.  Ms. Munchie and I are eagerly awaiting the beginning of the reception so that we can finally get our goody bag!  For now, please enjoy some of the shots from this afternoon's lunch and brief stroll through Pike Place Market, which is pretty much urban foodie heaven...
Fish tacos at Anthony's on the waterfront...

Off to get my swag bag and schmooze with some new bloggers!  Catch up with all of you in a bit!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Recipe: Fresh Blueberry Crepes - The Birthday Edition

Wait a sec. Didn't I just have a birthday a few weeks ago?

Time has flown by so quickly this year that it really does seem as if my last birthday happened quite recently. Which would be ever-so-awesome because that would mean I'm still 33. Alas, here I am at 34, one year older and hopefully a few centuries wiser. Thirty-three was not easy by any means, but I learned a lot through its struggles and feel a bit more empowered and able to handle bigger challenges (Note to the Universe: This is NOT an open invitation to throw more bad stuff my way! Good stuff is always welcome, though. Danke.).

For today, though, I am not thinking of challenges or struggles. It's my birthday and I'm enjoying every moment of birthdayprincesshood, which began bright and early this morning with my celebratory breakfast. As many of you know, I love to start off my birthday by spoiling myself with a tasty breakfast, especially since the blessed event usually happens in the middle of the workweek. It'd be nice to host an elaborate dinner or go somewhere outrageous & fun, but for now, a scrumptious breakfast and happy hour with friends will do just fine. And since I haven't made crepes in awhile, it seemed the perfect time to treat myself with a fresh fruit-filled batch.

I modeled this a bit after the birthday crepes I made for my mom's birthday this year. Since I've become completely obsessed with blueberries ever since my berry-picking adventure earlier this summer, I thought it'd be nice to use the last of my delicious stash for the filling & sauce. And because my fridge is sans cream cheese, I made a simple creamy filling with some Greek yogurt and honey. Not nearly as decadent as the strawberry crepe filling, but still very tasty and minus 8-10 oz. of guilt.

As with most of my sweet crepes, these are great for breakfast or dessert, so feel free to serve them any time. It might even be fun to do a crepe "bar" the next time you host a brunch, where you can have several crepes ready to fill with the apple, strawberry or blueberry fillings I've featured here on PGEW. Can't afford those fresh blueberries? No worries! Frozen berries work just fine for the sauce and if they haven't been allowed to thaw for too long, they'll also be great inside the crepes with the honey-yogurt. Now let's check out the recipe that made me so sublimely happy this morning before I raced off to begin year #34...

Fresh Blueberry Crepes - The Birthday Edition (makes 4 large crepes; total cost per serving: ~ $2.75)

1/2 c all purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c nonfat milk
1 T butter, melted
1 T sugar
1/2 T butter for cooking

2 c + 1 c blueberries
1/8 c sugar
1/4 c freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 c Greek yogurt
1 T honey
Powdered sugar (optional for garnish)

Combine the yogurt and honey in a bowl and mix together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble your crepes. Prepare the crepes by following the basic crepe recipe in the Tips section. Cover the cooked crepes with foil or another plate and set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine the 2 cups of blueberries, sugar and orange juice, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and allow sauce to simmer gently for about 5 minutes, or until the blueberries have just started to break down and release most of their juices. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 more minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.

Assemble your crepes by spreading a layer of honey yogurt onto a crepe and topping with about 1/4 cup fresh blueberries. Roll up the crepe, top with plenty of fresh blueberry sauce, dust lightly with powdered sugar, and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Recipe: Cannellini Beans, Broccoli & Tomatoes with Dijon Vinaigrette

In my haste to get everything done these days, I've been going just ever-so-slightly batty. There never seem to be enough hours in the day and I'm seriously considering either petitioning for a 48-hour day, or hiring a personal assistant that doesn't mind getting paid in dessert shots (Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?). Granted, I'm busy with GOOD things, like birthdays, possible new writing opportunities, and prepping for this weekend's International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle, so that makes things a little better. But trying to make certain transitions in my professional life is proving to be extremely time-consuming and a little nerve-wracking.

Fortunately, I have good friends, great family (including my furbabies), and a pretty little garden to help me remember to breathe every now & then. The pretty little garden is also doubling as a great source of inspiration and free produce, too. As I posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, I recently inherited my neighbors' dying fruit & veggie garden and have been slowly bringing it back to life. The herbs were a lost cause, but the peppers, strawberries and tomatoes (3 different kinds! WOOT!) are doing remarkably well, considering how poorly they were doing. The grape tomatoes have been the most prolific and I've been using them in just about everything, marveling at the amazing flavor and convenience having my very own tomatoes.

I've also been taking some time-saving hints from my all-time favorite food blogger, Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. Though I often cook up giant batches of beans, I tend to use them all in different recipes right then and there, storing & freezing the leftovers as I deem necessary. Why it had never occurred to me to freeze the cooked beans by themselves so that I could use them at a later date, I don't know; but I'm ever-so-grateful for some of Heidi's posts discussing her use of previously frozen, cooked-from-dry beans to finally drive this point home for me. This practice has been an absolute lifesaver for me as of late, and even though the beans I use in this recipe were freshly cooked, their leftover friends have happily gone to hibernate in my freezer until I need to throw together something quick, tasty, and nutritious.

Today's recipe is just that. Much like the Simple Summer Squash Pasta recipe, this easy dish focuses on the beauty & flavors of fresh produce like my tomatoes and some fresh broccoli. Tossed together with some fiber and protein-rich canellini beans and a tangy vinaigrette, this is fast, filling, and perfect for the last sweltering days of summer. There's not much to this at all and it's a great side to serve at picnics or cookouts. The only thing I'd suggest if you'll be serving this at a potluck is to add the broccoli right before serving. That way the dressing won't end up pickling and changing the broccoli's color. If you're not that concerned about the aesthetics, just throw it all together and let it marinate for awhile! It's super tasty either way. :)

Cannellini Beans, Broccoli & Fresh Tomatoes with Dijon Vinaigrette (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: $1.25)

2 c cooked cannellini beans
1 c broccoli, cut into small florets
1 c halved cherry or grape tomatoes
4 T olive oil
3 T white wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together until completely combined. In a large bowl combine the cannellini beans, broccoli florets and tomatoes. Add the dressing and toss together until all the veggies are well-coated. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, serve with greens for an entrée lunch or on its own as a side, and enjoy!

NOTE: For stronger flavors, feel free to let the veggies marinate in the fridge for 1-2 hours before serving.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Recipe: Simple Summer Squash Pasta

Have I ever mentioned how happy summertime produce makes me? Well, all produce makes me happy, really, but there's just something about summertime produce that instantly brings a smile to my face. The colors are so bright and vibrant, the textures crispier, crunchier and juicier compared to the smoother textures of fall and winter produce; it all just inspires me to play around more with the simplicity of each fruit or vegetable rather than the spices and other additions that go into most dishes.

Case in point: my new favorite pasta. It's nothing revolutionary or radically different, but its simplicity of ingredients, preparation and flavors has me coming back to this dish time and time again. Using just five ingredients (okay, eight if you count the olive oil, salt and pepper), three of which many of you with gardens will be able to find right in your back yard, this is one of those prime examples of simplicity being best. No bells and whistles, no expensive, complicated ingredients; just fresh zucchini and summer squash, juicy tomatoes, and plenty of garlic to go along with your favorite pasta.

In its regular state, this dish is a delicious meatless option that you can put into regular rotation for the Meatless Mondays so many folks are doing these days. But for you omnivores, it's also a great way to help out with any poultry or seafood leftovers you may have in your kitchen. I've served this as an accompaniment to some roasted chicken and a nice salad for a light, yet satisfying summer meal; and other times I have tossed in a few shrimp to create a tasty, colorful entrée. I would imagine it would be a perfect side to some grilled fish, and know it would probably be great as a base for a summer salad with a warm, inventive vinaigrette.

That's why the simple veggie or fruit-based dishes are sometimes my absolute faves: there's no limit to what you can do with them! Let's check out this beautiful but super-easy recipe that will make even the most novice chef seem like a pro.

Simple Summer Squash Pasta (makes 4-6 servings; total cost per serving: $1.15)

1 c cavatappi, penne, or fusilli pasta
3-4 c water
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow summer squash
1 c halved cherry or grape tomatoes
2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
2 T olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh basil (optional for garnish)

Cook the pasta in the water according to package instructions. Drain and return to pot, adding a small drizzle of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking.

Slice the zucchini and summer squash into 1" rounds. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the minced garlic. Cook over medium high heat until the garlic becomes fragrant and turns a light golden brown. Add the sliced zucchini and squash and stir fry for about 1-2 minutes or until they just become tender, then add the halved tomatoes. Add the pasta to the veggies and mix together until completely combined and then season with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper.

Serve as an entrée or side, garnish with fresh basil leaves, and enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Newsworthy: Cocktails, Anthony Bourdain, and SF Chefs 2010

It's been another super busy summer month so far, and there's a lot more cool stuff to come!  Here are a few events I've been asked to share with you fine folks, as well as an opportunity to have a couple of your questions heard by one of San Francisco's premier chefs...
  • Some of you Sacramento locals have been enjoying the fun of Midtown Cocktail Week and from what I've been reading on Twitter, it's been a blast!  Mixologists in the area are certainly taking cocktails to a new level, and this week's event at Grange Restaurant will feature some fabulous selections!  On Friday, August 13thScott Beattie, author of Artisanal Cocktails, will be working with Grange's bartender Ryan Seng to create a number of specialty farm-to-glass cocktails. From the classic Mai Tai to the mysteriously exotic East Indian Sidecar, each drink will highlight the best of California, featuring locally made spirits and seasonal produce. Cocktails are $16 for 2, or $9/each. 
  • The fine folks at Grange will also be hosting a special dinner and book signing on Wednesday, August 18th, as part of their Summer Author Series.  Celebrating Joanne Neft, author of Placer County Real Food Cookbook: Recipes & Menus for Every Week of the Year, who along with Chef Laura Kenny have created some lovely dishes using the rich produce, meats and cheeses of the area's foothills, this event will feature an exclusive book signing by Joanne Neft and Chef Kenny, as well as a special dinner from Grange's Executive Chef Michael Tuohy.  The dinner will be based on one of Chef Kenny's recipes and is offered at $45/person.  For reservations, please call 916-492-4450.  
  • Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I scored some press passes to check out none other than Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations LIVE next month!  I'm super stoked to go to this event and listen to his stories (and hopefully ask a question or two!).  Mr. Bourdain will be here in Sacramento on Friday, September 17th, and tickets are still available.  I've been asked to share a special first come, first served $5 discount with all of you, so if you'd like an opportunity to see the man behind the hit show live, now's your chance!  Click here for tickets and enter "TRAVEL" as the discount code.  
  • Last, but certainly not least: as a great PGEW birthday present, I found out yesterday that I will have the opportunity to go to this year's SF Chefs event to interview one of San Francisco's premier chefs this Saturday!  Chef Jason Berthold is the executive chef of RN74 and winemaker of his private label, Courier, and I couldn't be more excited to interview such a talented & creative chef.  I already have a few questions in the works, but I also wanted to give you folks the opportunity to ask a question or two.  If there is something you'd like to ask Chef Berthold, please comment below.  I'll select a couple of my favorites and add them to my other interview questions.  
That's all for now!  New recipe featuring some of my awesome $25 Shopping Cart finds coming up soon, so stay tuned!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday to PGEW.com!

Two years ago, if you'd told me I would be taking sponsored trips to Seattle, have my recipes featured in the paper on a semi-regular basis, and be unofficially dubbed Sacramento's frugal food "guru", I would have told you that you were on crack. Life being what it is, however, all of these things and more are happening to me, all because of my little baby, my pet project, my almost accidental career: Poor Girl Eats Well. And I couldn't be happier or more grateful for every single moment!

Just like PGEW's first year, the second has been a wild ride filled with crazy life ups & downs, awesome new opportunities and, of course, plenty of good food. Here are some highlights and some of my favorite recipes from PGEW's second year...
  • 9/8/09: Poor Girl's first TV spot! Yours truly is featured on CBS13's "Save With Dave" feature, showing folks how to save up to $32 for 4 people while enjoying a tasty summer meal
  • 9/24/09: Spoke as one of the featured panelists for the Sacramento Press blogging workshop
  • 10/16/09: My first in-studio radio interview on Capitol Public Radio's Insights program
  • 10/17/09: Presenter for Child Action, Inc.'s Caring for Children in Stressful Times conference, presenting two workshops on making healthier, more affordable food choices for kids and caregivers
  • 10/20/09: Poor Girl gets her first award nomination! Foodbuzz Nominee for "Blogger You'd Most Like to See Have Their Own Food Network Show"
  • 10/30/09: PGEW becomes one of News10.net's first featured community bloggers!
  • 11/21/09: PGEW featured in The Catholic Herald's "Giving Back" holiday section
  • 11/24/09: Poor Girl gets in her first submission to Foodbuzz's 24 X 24 and learns that tapas parties are fun, but a whole lot of work!
  • 4/6/10: Yours truly teams up with News10 to show folks how to make the most of their farmer's market dollar
  • 6/28/10: One of PGEW's recipes is featured in Whole Foods Market's blog, Whole Story
  • 7/2010: PGEW scores sponsorship to the International Food Blogger Conference courtesy of Red Lobster! 
  • 8/3/10: My latest ceviche recipe makes the front page of The Sacramento Bee's Food & Wine section 
  • 11/22/09, 3/25/10, 5/23/10, 6/21/10: PGEW gets some Foodbuzz Top 9 love!
And here are some of my personal faves from PGEW's 2nd year of recipes.  Some you may be quite familiar with, while a few others might be new to some folks.  Either way, they're tasty, easy and affordable!  Let's take a short stroll down PGEW memory lane...

Grilled Eggplant & Veggie Sandwiches
Spiced Eggnog Cheesecake Shots

Hearty Mushroom & Potato Soup
Quick & Easy Seitan Fajitas

The "Spanglish" Sandwich
Poor Girl's Beef Stew
Shrimp & Asparagus Quinoa Risotto
Shrimp & Pasta w/Yellow Pepper Sauce
Creamy Navy Bean Soup w/Chicken
Apple-Stuffed Crepes w/Caramel Sauce
Ahi Tuna w/Avocado Chimichurri
Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad
Mushroom Fajita Omelette
Caramel Macchiato Cheesecake Shots
Pineapple Quinoa w/Sweet Curry Vinaigrette
Ultimate Fresh Strawberry Crepe

Grilled Steak Tacos!
Crispy MahiMahi w/Mango Cucumber Relish

Wow, what a year!  It's been an awesome ride and I can't wait to see what the 3rd year will have in store!  To my baby blog: Happy Blog Birthday!!!  Thank you so much for bringing out the inner chef in me, for giving me a creative outlet and reminding me how much I love writing, and for motivating me to always strive for the best.    

And to you, my dear readers, THANK YOU!  Thank you all SO much for reading Poor Girl Eats Well and for all of your amazing support and encouragement.  2010's been tough so far, but having such a wonderful project to work on and such awesome readers & fans really makes everything easier.  You are truly the best!



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The $25 Shopping Cart, version 11.0

Two $25 Shopping Carts in one month???

That's right, folks! Since there will be two birthdays this month - mine and PGEW.com's - my gift to you is a double dose of The $25 Shopping Cart this month. And it's all thanks to an unexpected trip to WinCo after my farmer's market run last week.

I didn't intend to go to WinCo at all, especially not after already having spent $25 at ye olde farmer's market. Not because I don't like shopping or anything; one of my favorite sports IS shopping, so I will always go if I can afford to do so. But after having bought so much awesome produce, I didn't think it was necessary to get anything else. Part of why my $25 Shopping Carts are so successful has to do with the fact that I pay very close attention to what I have at home before I go shopping so that I build around what I already have and avoid duplicates in the kitchen.


Funny thing about food is that you end up eating it and it never restocks itself on its own (kinda like how money doesn't just grow on trees... I've always hated that). I generally keep a tally of what bare bones staples are running low and pick them up along the way on bigger shopping trips so I can always have something on hand, but this time around I was running low on a lot of stuff. So when my pal, Catherine, mentioned she'd be heading to WinCo (a large discount grocery store chain in the western US) to pick up a few things from their bulk section, I figured it was a good time to tag along and get some bare bones staples for my bare cupboards. Here's what I got:
  • 0.77 lb spiral pasta - $0.59
  • 0.60 lb fusilli pasta - $0.47
  • 2 Ghiradelli white chocolate bar - $2.29
  • 1.69 lbs navy beans - $1.25
  • 0.62 lb melty vanilla chocolate pastilles - $1.41
  • 1.40 lb black beans - $1.19
  • 0.15 lb curry powder - $0.40
  • 0.24 lb sliced almonds - $0.80
  • 0.97 lb brown sugar - $0.63
  • 0.87 lb brown rice - $0.46
  • 1..11 lbs red kidney beans - $0.87
  • 0.43 lb Grated parmesan cheese - $1.62
  • 0.92 lb orzo - $0.69
  • 0.49 lb raisins - $0.73
  • 0.47 lb dried cranberries - $1.77
  • 1 lb bag frozen peas - $0.88
  • 1 lb bag frozen broccoli - $1.19
  • 1/2 gallon nonfat milk - $1.19
  • 32 oz. container Greek yogurt - $2.59
  • 2 cuts petite sirloin steak - $3.50
Minus some cat food ($0.39/can! StuKitty & Hana scored!) and some cleaning supplies, I spent a mere $24.58 on a veritable cornucopia of Bare Bones staples! Ahhh, happiness! I even scored some materials for a couple of baking projects I've been working on.

Now, it may not look like an exciting lot of goods to most folks, but what I see is a ton of possibilities. With a variety of grains and legumes in my pantry combined with all the great produce I scored at the farmer's market, I have the bases for things like:
The sky's really the limit when you're stocked with whole ingredients that you can stretch out by making healthy, tasty and sometimes even inventive combos. With just about $50, I was able to buy enough food to feed myself - and the occasional guest - for a good two-and-a-half to three weeks. Anything I don't use produce-wise I can always freeze for use in future recipes. Had I gone the frozen dinner or pre-packaged meal "kit" route, my $50 would have been used up on maybe 1 week's worth of food. Sure, those things may be tasty & convenient but when it comes to value, you're not getting much at all. It takes a little effort, but when times are truly tough and money's super tight, it's best to give up a little bit of time & work in the kitchen to save yourself a lot of money.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Recipe: Tostadas de Ceviche

When I was about 14, my parents decided on a change of pace for our summer vacations: instead of visiting Colombia for the whole summer, we would take a shorter vacation enjoying something different and closer to home. Somehow they learned of San Felipe, a tiny little fishing town on the eastern side of the Baja California peninsula. When we first started vacationing there, it was basically an unknown little spot that only retirees and the travel-savvy kept as their secret. Over the years, San Felipe was discovered by throngs of spring breakers, but somehow it has managed to keep its small town feel and unspoiled natural beauty. Surrounded by hot, dusty desert mountains on one side and the sparkling turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez on the other, San Felipe is one of the best places to go if you truly want to kick up your feet and relax. The scenery is breathtaking, the people some of the friendliest on the planet, and the food? In a word: phenomenal!

Of course it's not hard to have amazing seafood when you can open your front door and practically fall into the sea. San Felipe's beach fronts are dotted with hundreds of little seafood stands that sell all sorts of delicacies, like fresh fish tacos, seafood cocktails, and of course, outstanding ceviche. They serve hearty portions of either fish or shrimp ceviche on crunchy, freshly made tostadas and garnish everything with cool, creamy avocado slices. Paired with a cold Pacifico beer and a sweet paleta (popsicle), this, to me, is one of the most perfect summer meals one could have. And because it's been quite some time since I've enjoyed a good ceviche at home, I couldn't possibly resist the call to help the fine folks at The Sacramento Bee whip up an easy, tasty, and budget-conscious recipe of my own.

You may recall that I posted a ceviche recipe last year using a less traditional main ingredient: scallops. The beauty of ceviche is that you can use a wide variety of fish or shellfish and make each recipe your own, so I rather enjoyed going slightly more "gourmet" for that post by using scallops. Since they tend to be on the pricey side compared to other fish or seafood, that particular recipe was on the "high" side of the Poor Girl price spectrum. This time around I decided to go for a more traditional recipe and used some lovely - and affordable - red snapper filets as the main ingredient. I chose some crisp onion and cilantro to add some texture, as well as finely chopped tomato for sweetness and aesthetics. And as always, I marinated or "cooked" my ceviche in freshly squeezed Key lime juice. I'm a firm believer that this is the best citrus for ceviche, but a nice combo of regular lime and lemon juice also works beautifully.

Though the chopping of the veggies and the fish can be slightly labor intensive, the rest of the process is a cinch because the lime juice does all the cooking for you! After a few hours in the fridge, you have a nice batch of cool ceviche that's perfect for a light summertime meal. For a fun, low-cost twist at your next party or cook-out, try setting up a "ceviche bar" with tostadas, cool ceviche, avocado slices and cilantro sprigs, and let your guests build their own tostada de ceviche. At just $2/serving, it's a great way to enjoy a light, tasty and unique meal that won't break the bank.

Tostadas de Ceviche (makes 6-8 servings; total cost per serving: ~$2.00)

1.5-2 lbs fresh fish (bass, red snapper, mahi mahi are all good choices)
1/2 c freshly squeezed key lime juice
1/2 medium red onion
1 large tomato
1/4 c finely chopped cilantro
1 Serrano or jalapeño pepper, minced
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of cayenne pepper
6- 8 corn tostadas
1 avocado, sliced (for garnish)
Couple sprigs of cilantro (for garnish)

Chop the fish into 1/4" pieces and place in a medium bowl. Finely chop the red onion and tomato into 1/8" pieces and add to the fish along with the minced pepper and chopped cilantro. In a smaller bowl, add the salt, pepper and oregano to the key lime juice and whisk together. Pour the lime juice mixture into the fish & veggie mixture and mix together until completely combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until the fish is thoroughly cooked through by the citrus juice. Test for flavoring and adjust accordingly.

To serve, spoon a generous amount of ceviche onto each tostada, top with avocado slices and cilantro sprigs, and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The $25 Shopping Cart, version 10.0

I love it when serendipity takes over PGEW.

I'd had every intention of making another trek out to the 99-cent Store last month for a more leisurely $25 Shopping Cart experience, but somehow those 31 days of July flew by so quickly I barely had time to blink. Filled with events, mini-vacations, and a new broken bone (hey, I went a good 5 months without breaking/spraining/dislocating anything; I was long overdue), July was busy & exhausting. And with the drastic cuts to the public transit system in this area, heading out to run weekend errands outside of Midtown is no longer the easy, breezy affair it once was. Sadly, a trip into the Rosemont area of Sac was not in the cards.

But that's okay! There are a gazillion reasons why I live in Midtown, and proximity to eating establishments and stores is one of them. The Sunday morning farmer's market under the freeway at 8th & W isn't exactly next door to me, but even when I'm not hobbling around with a broken pinky toe, it's a cinch to get to. Plus, it offers me a kind of shopper's high that I only get at places like Trader Joe's right when they open in the mornings. Or Sephora. Don't worry, I won't go on and on about how much I *heart* the farmer's market, since I've already done that enough this year. But I do find it rather odd that I have yet to devote one post of this series to the amazing deals I find regularly at the farmer's market.

Now, most of the prices at the farmer's market are far more reasonable than what you'd expect to pay at a regular grocery store for fresh, sustainably grown produce. Cilantro for $0.25/bunch compared to $0.99/bunch or more at a regular store is a favorite example of mine, but there are a ton of great deals at your local farmer's market if you look carefully. Perhaps it was because I was walking a bit more slowly due to Evil Toe, but for the first time I noticed one particular stand offering a sale! Not the it's-the-end-of-the-day-and-we're-getting-rid-of-extra-produce sale, but a bona fide save-some-money-on-some-clearance-stuff sale. There, in a plain cardboard box hidden behind all the "pretty" produce, was a stash of "cosmetically challenged" peaches, nectarines and black plums at just $0.50/lb. !!!!!!!!!!! I mean, seriously! The last time I was that smitten with some banged up produce was when the Sac Natural Foods Co-op had their "clearance produce" section. Sure, some folks may see a bruiséd peach when they visit that particular box, but I see peach preserves and peach pancake syrup, both homemade and affordably priced.

Here's what else I was able to snag at this weekend's farmer's market:
  • 6 lbs onions (red & yellow)
  • 5 Haas avocados - $6
  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 1 giant eggplant - $1 (!!!)
  • 4 lbs summer, pan, and zucchini squash
  • 2.5 lbs "cosmetically challenged" yellow cling peaches - $o.50/lb
  • 2 bunches green onions - $0.40/each
  • 2 bunches cilantro - $0.25/each
  • 1 2 lb. bag spinach - $1
  • 1 lb Early Girl tomatoes
  • 1.5 lbs Shady Lady tomatoes
  • 1 lb grape tomatoes
  • 1 giant bunch rainbow chard - $1
  • 3.5 lbs apricots, nectarines and white peaches - $1.50/lb, mix & match
  • 1 lb black plums
Grand total for this trip: $25.75!!!

To tell you the truth, I hadn't planned to do a $25 Shopping Cart there until I counted my change and realized I had spent just $0.75 over the magic number. Granted, not everything I listed is featured in the posted photo, but that's only because my apartment is about the size of a thumbtack and there are only a few spaces where I can take photos of a ton of food. And despite my awesome memory, I don't always recall the prices of everything I buy, so some of the prices are missing in my list. Still, if I were to have purchased the exact same list at a regular grocery store, I would have had to start selling bodily organs to pay for the bill. My farmer's market produce was fresh, ripe, and full of delicious summer flavor, yet I left knowing that none of this good-for-me food was costing me a day's worth of pay. Which makes everything taste just that much better.

So what will I be doing with all this sexy produce, you may be wondering? Grilled Eggplant & Veggie Sandwiches will surely be on the list, as well as the aforementioned peach preserves and/or peach pancake syrup. But when added to one's bare bones staples and some great spice combos, there's no end to the tasty possibilities that fresh, affordable produce can provide! If I could do so within my urban city limits, I'd grow more produce than I already do (currently I only have tomatoes & basil, but hey... that's enough for a pasta sauce, right?), but since I can't, the farmer's market will provide for me. And once I add all these awesome fresh fruits & veggies to them, even the simplest grains & legumes can turn into amazingly tasty, nutritious, and affordable meals.

What's in Store for August

If we're to go by the weather the rest of the country is dealing with right now, it's definitely summertime. The sweltering heat that normally assaults the greater Sacramento area this time of year seems to be taking its own vacation in the Midwest and the South. Meanwhile, we are enjoying the most gorgeous late spring/early summer imaginable. In August! Though I hope the rest of the country starts feeling some relief from the heat soon, I also hope this beautiful weather sticks around throughout this great month. Like this rest of this jam-packed, super-busy summer, there's going to be a lot going on this month (like my birthday... can't believe it's that time again!), and it's just nicer to experience all of it without worrying about melting in the sun.

So what's goin' on in August?
  • My baby blog is going to be TWO years old this month!!! Can you believe it? It seems like only yesterday that I started PGEW, and now it's time to celebrate another blogiversary. Look for a special blog bday post on August 10th.
  • I went a li'l nutty at the farmer's market again this weekend, but when I got home I realized I'd done it again - spent just about $25 without even trying (I think the final tally was $25.85)! Methinks it's time to start incorporating the farmer's market into The $25 Shopping Cart series, so be on the lookout for that.
  • Some of my produce-induced euphoria was caused by all the crazy-beautiful & affordable tomatoes that are all over the place now! FINALLY!!! Poor Girl's idea of heavenly fodder has finally landed on Earth and that means my much-promised gazpacho - and a bunch of other tomato-centric recipes - will finally become a reality! I know, I know, I could have cheated long ago and used V8 or something, but...... no. Gazpacho is best when prepared from the freshest ingredients, and now that I've got 'em, I'm going to use 'em!
  • Street food. It's slowly making its way onto the radar of foodies everywhere, and some U.S. cities like Portland, OR, showcase an amazing array of food trucks, carts, and stands filled with great food. With such ethnic diversity here in Sacramento, we have a ton of potential for an awesome street food scene, but city ordinances won't allow it. Stay tuned for a recap on this past weekend's Taco Truck Tour and why Sacramento food enthusiasts are trying to Save the Taco Truck!
  • The big, big, BIG news is that yours truly is headed to the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle!!! Squeeee!!! (Yeah, yeah, I just squee-ed... I can't help it; this news excites me.) I was super lucky and scored sponsorship to the event courtesy of Red Lobster, so I'll be providing some great coverage of the conference and its highlights. Hosted by Foodista and Zephyr Adventures, the 2nd Annual IFBC will feature some foodie notables, including: James Oseland, editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine; Victoria Von Biel, executive editor of Bon Appetit; and Morgan Spurlock, the Academy Award nominated director of Super Size Me! This is a big deal, and the sessions which span everything from the art of recipe writing to improving one's photography sound phenomenal. Legend has it that the goodie bag alone is worth the trip (Sur La Table anyone?), but I'm looking forward to learning, meeting new people, and finally scratching Seattle off my Must Visit list! Stay tuned! It'll be a blast!
That's all for now, everyone! Have an awesome August!



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