Whole Wheat Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains]

Tip 9: Treats
[Brown Butter Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies]

I had a couple weeks this December (so far) where I fell asleep half a page into reading a book, every evening after I put Willow to bed.  A symptom of total exhaustion.  I work a lot you guys.  Probably too much, but our home is in working order mostly because it is managed by my husband and life partner, Jazz.  He does the laundry (like go to the laundromat, dreadful kind of laundry), cleans the house, does the dishes most of the time (because when it’s my turn I’m frequently too exhausted), makes the bed, shovels the walkway, spot cleans the sofa, runs any middle of the day errands, is enrolled in grad school full time,`and five days a week makes breakfast and dinner for our family.  He is also my personal barista. Besides the fact that I am one lucky son-of-a-gun, we have had to strategize in order to make all this work, and when it comes to food, without a weekly meal plan, our lives would be in utter chaos (ok, that’s a little hyperbolic, but you get the picture).

This series is finally/sadly coming to a close but the entire idea I have tried to portray is that you can eat well and live on a budget.  On average we spend $50-$70 a week on groceries for a family of 3. IN CANADA! And we eat well.  Tonight we’re having tacos with black beans, caramelized onions, fresh pico de gallo, avocado crema and a maple garlic aioli.  Tomorrow we’re having a balsamic spinach salad with candied walnuts and pizza with roasted peppers, onions, basil pesto and goat cheese. Um, hello…yum!  But eating this way takes a lot of work and some planning when your pocket book is slim.  Here are a few tips about menu planning:Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset

Before you go grocery shopping, decide what you will have for dinner every night of the week.  Sometimes I look at our grocery store’s weekly flyer to see if any of the items we typically use are on sale and base meals around that.  Sometimes I look what we have left in the pantry and plan around what we already have.  Or in most cases, I do both.  Put the menu out somewhere where everyone can see it.

Use Pinterest//
When I have too much time on my hands, I tend to go Pinterest crazy, but when it comes to meal planning, Pinterest is a really helpful tool.  Type in the search bar the words of some of the ingredients you want to use and an overwhelming number of recipes are at your disposal with really clear images of what that dish will be like.  When I find something I like, I copy the link to that recipe in an email to Jazz and note any modifications I would like him to make (by the way, you can follow me on Pinterest here).

Curate a Grocery List//
I know it sounds silly that something like a grocery list would be curated, but I have come to find that making a well thought out grocery list, one that keeps your buying on track and is not too distracting, is a lot of work.  So, as I’m browsing through Pinterest and choosing recipes, I make a note of the ingredients each recipe requires that we don’t already have.  Then I think about any fruits or veggies we need for snacks, breakfast items we need and ingredients for baking bread (we’ll get there, hold on).  I then sort the items on the grocery list in order of how the grocery store is laid out (for example: produce first, dairy next, dry goods…).  And typically, once that is done, I write how much I expect to pay for each item next to that item and give an estimated total at the top.  This way, if while I’m shopping, I notice a number of things are more expensive than I anticipated, I can remove a few things from the list on the spot rather than being surprised when I get to the check out counter (because that is a really crappy feeling).  In the end, the grocery list has helped you to buy exactly what you need for the week, kept you from overspending and avoided you from running back and forth all over the grocery store.

If you can master the art of meal planning, you will be eating well all the time.

The last recipe I want to share with you in this series is one that is a labor of love.  So, I bake all of our own bread every week.  I know, I know, I’m one of those people.  But I didn’t use to be.  We had a couple hard weeks where we really had to cut corners and baking our own bread saved us a few dollars.  And then we became totally spoiled by it.  First, baking bread by hand is a completely therapeutic experience.  Kneading dough relieves stress but also leaves you with that amazing feeling of “I made something really awesome” after you’ve finished.  And seriously, what can compare to fresh, out-of-the-oven bread (sorry, once again, my sans gluten and grain friends)?  So for breakfast we have an egg or two [as mentioned in a previous post] with a slice of homemade bread.

I had been making an easy, basic, and run of the mill, white loaf a couple times a week, and then I started to get bored.  I was reading a couple blogs who had featured a challah recipe and decided to try it.  Now, I’m kind of obsessed (maybe because of the amazing grilled cheese it makes, maybe because of the french toast. I use a lot of parenthesis, don’t I?).  What I am sharing with you here is my variation of the Kitchn’s Challah recipe.  Mine is made with a whole wheat flour blend.  The Kitchn also gives a detailed description of how to make this gorgeous, 6-strand braid (which is very easy by the way, but if it’s too intimidating, a regular 3 strand braid would be great).  I have also included weight measurements in grams for most of the ingredients.  I think it makes a more consistent loaf of bread.

There’s a good chance, that you may never bake this bread.  And that’s ok (although I do recommend that someday, if you eat bread, that you give bread baking a try).  What I really want, is to demonstrate that the art of eating well does not have to be hindered by a tight budget.  That the experience of enjoying a truly delicious meal is not only for the privileged.  Although it will take you time and some extra thought, it can happen.  I have truly enjoyed writing this series and I hope it can be of use to you.

If you find yourselves having a frugal food moment and want to share it, use the hashtag #frugalfood and tag @keepingwillow on Instagram and Twitter.  I would love to see what kind of culinary nonsense you guys are up to.

With that I give you this recipe and some photos of a large loaf of bread that didn’t last us more than 24 hours.


Braided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping WillowBraided Challah Bread [Frugal Food Series | Tip 10: Grains] // Keeping Willow

Whole Wheat Challah Bread

10 g active dry yeast (2 tsp)
1 cup warm water (like almost hot)
304 g bread flour + extra for kneading and dusting (2 cups +)
232 g whole wheat flour (2 cups)
14 g salt (2 tsp)
58 g sugar (1/4 cup)
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk (keep the egg white for the egg wash)
1/4 cup pure (not extra virgin) olive oil, or another mild flavored oil like canola or vegetable
Corn meal for dusting or parchment paper.

1. Turn the light on in your oven (this will be a warm enough place to proof your dough).  In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the water and yeast along with a big pinch of sugar and dissolve.  Allow to sit while you prep the other ingredients, or at least 5 minutes.  If by 5 minutes there is not a bubbly foam on top, your yeast is probably too old and is dead.
2. In a large bowl, combine your dry ingredients (the flours, sugar and salt) and whisk together with a fork until combined.  Make a well in the center.
3.  Add your eggs, egg yolk and oil into the well.  Whisk the eggs with a little bit of the flour until the eggs have been completely combined.
4.  Pour the yeast mixture over the eggs and with your fork slowly incorporate the flour into the liquid.  Once all the ingredients are almost completely combined, it is ready for kneading.
5. Pour the dough onto a clean, floured surface and knead any remaining flour into the dough.  Once you have a workable ball, begin kneading for 10 minutes.  You will need to continue to add flour if the dough becomes too sticky and sticks to your hands or work surface.  The dough should be fairly round and firm by the time you’re done.
6. In a large bowl, pour a small drop of oil. Put the dough in the bowl and flip once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover in plastic wrap and place in your oven.  (Which is off and has the light on.  If your light is burned out or something, I find turning your oven on at 170 and just setting the bowl on top of the oven is warm enough as well).  Allow to sit and proof until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
7. Take the dough out of the oven and punch down to remove any built up gas.  If you have a food scale, weigh your dough and divide it into 6 equal pieces.  If you don’t have a scale, just do your best to cut 6 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball by cupping your hands around the dough and dragging it across your work surface in a circular motion.  This step will help you roll out even pieces to braid with.
8. Roll each ball into a 16-18″ rope. Start with your fingers together, and begin to roll.  Spread your fingers as you roll to begin bringing your dough outward.  Combine the ropes at the top to begin your braid.  The trick is to take the outside rope and go over two, under one and then over two.  Then take the next rope on the outside and do the same thing.  Repeat until you have a braided loaf.  Tuck the ends of your braided loaf underneath itself.  Place on a cutting board that has been generously dusted with corn meal or a baking sheet with parchment paper, cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 1 hour in the oven.
9. 10 minutes before you are ready to bake the loaf, take the dough out of the oven and turn it up to 350F.  Brush the dough with your egg white.  If you are using cornmeal, dust a baking sheet with corn meal and slide your dough off your cutting board and onto the baking sheet.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating halfway through.  Allow bread to cool on a wire rack.  Cut yourself a piece while the bread is still warm.  Yum!


Breakfast, Staples

Frugal Food Series | Tip 8 : Eggs

The traditional chef hat is a silly looking thing.  A cylindric shaped hat with numerous folds along the edges, as tall as Abe Lincoln’s top hat.  Here is an old picture of me wearing one (giggle giggle).Frugal Food Series | Tip 8 : Eggs // Keeping Willow

These seemingly meaningless folds were originally a means to mark your masterfulness as a chef, like metals on a solider’s uniform.  Notice how my hat has more folds than my assistant on the right. That’s because I was the team captain of the competition we were competing in, which means, in a way, I held a higher rank. These folds don’t simply display one’s rank.  Each fold represents a different way in which the chef can make eggs.  Yes, eggs.  Why eggs, you ask?  Well, probably because eggs are delicate, temperamental, and can be high maintenance.  It took me a few tries to successfully make a meringue.  But I like to think eggs are the barometer for a persons cooking skills because they are the best food in the world.

I’m not being hyperbolic here.  Eggs are the best.  They are amazing.  There are nutritional rockstars.  They offer a great source of protein (especially for those vegetarians like me).  They are an ingredient in such a wide variety of dishes the list would be exhausting.  They add fluffiness to the most moist cake and substance to a bread like challah. Oh, and did I mention they taste like HEAVEN!  But only if they are properly cooked, right?  Nothing is worse than a rubbery egg white or an overcooked yolk. Duh.Frugal Food Series | Tip 8: Eggs // Keeping WillowIn our family we eat eggs every morning.  If we run out of eggs or time and have something else for breakfast, the day just doesn’t feel right.  Sometimes I’ll have eggs in the morning and eggs for lunch.  Yesterday I had eggs for every meal [It was an accident– kind of].  Some of my closest friendships include fond memories around the eating of eggs.

Frugal Food Series | Tip 8: Eggs // Keeping Willow

Ok, maybe I have a problem. An obsession, if you will.  But can you really think of another protein as frugal and delicious as eggs?  It is the perfect frugal food.

This week, rather than leaving you with a delicious egg recipe (I thought of many ideas…huevos rancheros, eggs benedict, quiche) I am going to teach you how to make a perfect egg, my favorite way, over easy.  An over easy egg is not by any means “easy” to make.  I have been perfecting it for years and still screw it up often.   So many things come into play.  The amount of heat, the time before the egg is flipped, the right kind of spatula and the proper time to let it stay “over” before you remove it from the pan, not to mention the chance that your yolk may break when you crack it, touch it or breathe next to it.  But the skill of cooking the perfect fried egg is invaluable.  You can eat it on toast, over pasta, on a pizza, on a burger.  The possibilities of the fried egg are endless. So to remove the years of perfecting I have endured off your timeline, here is my step-by-step, how-to of cooking the perfect over easy egg.Frugal Food Series | Tip 8: Eggs // Keeping Willow

How to Make a Perfect Fried Egg
1. Choose your pan.

The pan, in the egg cooking process, is very important.  It has to be non-stick in some regards, and be good enough quality to carry heat evenly throughout the pan.  I like to use a smaller pan, generally, but recently we have been cooking EVERYTHING in our 12″ cast iron skillet.  In my opinion, cast iron is the way to go.  It offers a non-stick surface without the fear of teflon flakes getting into your food.  It also has the bonus of adding flavor and natural iron into your food.  But any, good quality non-stick pan will do.

2. Choose your fat.
When it comes to frying eggs, some people are olive oil people, some people are butter people.  I used to be an olive oil person, but lately I have found butter to be the better option.  I find that olive oil repels the liquid of the egg causing brown, crunchy or rubbery edges.  For the perfect fried egg, use a small pat of butter.

3. Choose your tool.
Choosing the right egg flipper, spatula, or whatever you want to call it, is pertinent.  First, it needs to be wide enough to support the width of the entire egg.  Using a spatula that is too narrow leaves your eggs flopping around in the air while you make your flip.  Total risk for breakage.  Second, the spatula needs to be relatively thin.  A thick hamburger flipper is not going to cut it.  You want the spatula to easily get under the egg.  Lastly, it has to be just the slightest bit flexible.  As previously mentioned, a hamburger flipper is to thick and doesn’t offer the flexibility to bend the spatula slightly.  Go too thin and your spatula starts to bend underneath the weight of the egg. Here is what I consider to be the perfect spatula for eggs.Frugal Food Series | Tip 8: Eggs

Now that you are prepped and ready, let’s get crackin’ (oh my god, I’m my father’s child).

Step 1: Turn the heat source onto your pan on medium low.  If you have numbers on your dial, shoot for between 3 and 4, depending on your range, although 4 is generally too high.  Keep the dial on low and don’t touch it.You do NOT  want that loud sizzle sound you are used to when you make eggs.  Having a pan that is too hot is the biggest mistake when frying an egg.  Breakfast restaurants do it all the time.  Either your outside will be cooked and your inside will be too runny and cold or the outside will be brown and crispy and your inside perfectly cooked.  Low and slow is the way to go.

Step 2: Add your butter.  Once the butter had melted and shows just the slightest sign of bubbling, the pan is ready.

Step 3: Crack your egg onto a flat surface, like the countertop, and not the corner of your pan. This decreases the risk of breaking the yolk.  Hold the egg just above the top of the pan and open it onto your pan.  Very gently hold the egg in place with the shell of the egg for about 10 seconds, to keep the egg from sliding all over the pan.  Now we wait.


Step 4: Once the majority of the whites have set, your egg is ready to flip.  Here is a picture of what the egg should look like.  Season your egg with good quality salt.  Run the edge of your spatula around the outside of the egg.  Put your spatula under the white just before the yolk and quickly slide the spatula completely underneath.  When you turn the egg, try to flip it by going slightly up and then down rather than quickly flick your wrist to the side.  Don’t worry, this part will take some practice.

This egg is ready to flip!

This egg is ready to flip!

Step 5: Immediately turn of your heat source and count to 30. Your egg is done.  Quickly removing it from the pan by swiftly sliding your spatula under the egg.  Flip the egg right side up onto your plate.  You have done it.  Enjoy your perfect egg.



Dinner, Lunch, Staples

Frugal Food Series | Tip 7: Squash

It’s squash season!!!  Pumpkin baked goodies and butternut squash bisque and squash ravioli.  Mmmm.  Squash is delicious.

As we have been very mindful lately of how we spend our grocery budget, we have been turning to squash.  A lot.  We are currently paying $0.69 a lb at the grocery store for a variety of different winter squashes.  And a 3-4 lb squash has a large yield.  Not to mention the nutritional value of those vitamin dense, harvest season veggies.  To be short, it’s a lot of bang for your buck.

Growing up, my mom used to split an acorn squash and roast it with butter and brown sugar.  I was not a fan.  And (no offense to my mom) this is a lot of people’s experience with squash.  Just kind of boring mush.  While, now I like this boring mush, I have also learned how versatile a squash is.  Dont’ believe me?  Here look.

This is the 4 lb buttercup squash I bought at the store this weekend.  It has a deep yellow flesh with a rich, sweet flavor. We will use it for 2 meals this week, none of which will include mush, or most familiar squash dishes. Frugal Food Series | Tip 7: Squash // Keeping Willow

I preheated the oven to 350°F, cut the squash in half, scooped out the seeds, drizzled it with olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  I put the squash halves facedown on a foil lined sheet pan and baked them for 50 minutes.  I let them cool to room temperature.  I stored one in the fridge to put in the 3 bean chili we’re having for dinner later this week.  I kept the other one to make these black bean and squash burgers, which completely rocked.Frugal Food Series | Tip 7: Squash // Keeping Willow

I have made black bean burgers with sweet potatoes before but the squash worked just as well if not better.  This recipe makes enough for about 8 burgers.  Whatever we don’t eat gets frozen and saved for when we need a meal in a hurry.Frugal Food Series | Tip 7: Squash // Keeping WillowFrugal Food Series | Tip 7: Squash // Keeping WillowFrugal Food Series | Tip 7: Squash // Keeping Willow

Sometimes (and by sometimes I mean usually) veggie burger recipes turn out crumbly and fall apart.  But these hold together perfectly.  I served them on some fresh baked, whole wheat bread I baked yesterday with lettuce, tomato, avocado, goat cheese and Sriracha mayonnaise.  After I took some photos of this burger, I was cleaning up and turned around to find this little monster going to town.  Frugal Food Series | Tip 7: Squash // Keeping Willow

This should be enough proof that it’s really good.

I hope this inspires you to experiment a little with squash.  You know, do something crazy you’ve never tried before.  Like squash in a burrito, on your pizza (oh yum, with goat cheese, shitake mushrooms, walnuts and a chive, arugula pesto!!!) or in your oatmeal (with cinnamon and maple syrup).  And if you don’t like it, that’s ok because it literally cost you cents to buy. So happy, healthy, hedonistic and frugal eating to you all.  I hope you love these burgers!


Frugal Food Series | Tip 7: Squash // Keeping Willow


2 cups cooked black beans (1 can)
1/2 of a 3-4 lb squash (butternut, buttercup, kabocha, or acorn will all do) roasted and cooled (directions above)
1/2 small onion, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup packed, chopped cilantro
1 cup oatmeal (old fashioned)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (sub quinoa or millet if gluten free)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1-2 Tbsp pure olive oil

1. Scoop the flesh out of the skin of your squash.  Sometimes the skin peels right off.  Combine the beans, squash, onion, garlic, cilantro, spices and salt and pepper in a medium size mixing bowl and mash with a potato masher.
2. In a food processor or blender, grind up the oatmeal until it has a similar consistency to breadcrumbs.  Make sure to use gluten free oatmeal if you are making a gluten free version. Combine the oatmeal and breadcrumbs (or gf grains) to the bean and squash mixture.
3. Portion out the burger patties into half cup portions.
4. Warm up some of the oil in a cast iron skillet or frying pan on medium heat.  Cook the burgers on either side until they are golden brown.  Serve immediately garnished with your favorite toppings.

Dinner, Staples

Frugal Food Series | Tip 6: Roots

Root vegetables.  I wish I had a good story about them.  But I don’t.  All have is a deep love and appetite for the dirt, dwelling bulbs.  Roasted, mashed, fried or steamed, it doesn’t matter.  My infatuation for roots is broad.  Maybe it’s because I’m from the midwest(ish) where roots are regular fare, and/or because I’m Irish, where roots were all anyone could afford.  But most likely it is due to those fancy root chips they sell at the grocery store.  I. Just. Can’t. Stop!

Ok, I lied, maybe I do have a story.  As I said, I’m Irish (well, half Irish and half Dutch) and my mom’s side of the family, I would say, is pretty proud that they are Irish (not to say my dad’s side isn’t proud to be Dutch).  Every holiday celebration, whether Thanksgiving or Christmas, my great grandma Mildred Murphy, and later my aunt Kay after my great grandma passed on, would bring a dish of mashed rutabagas [or as my family says, although I’m not certain why, “rutabeggars”].  It was kind of just a thing that you had to do every holiday because you were Irish.  It was usually a small dish and usually no one ate them, or at least not much of them.  I was pretty young and usually the rutabagas were passed right by me.  But this particular holiday celebration I decided I want to try the “rutabeggars”.  Even at a young age, I liked to eat and I didn’t want something that looked an awful lot like cheesy, mashed potatoes to get passed over my head.  So I asked to try them.  I quite vividly remember family members asking me if I was sure I wanted to try them, as if they were snails or liver and onions or something.  Of course I wanted to try them!  It would be a predictable and entertaining outcome of this story if when I tasted these “rutabeggars” I hated them so much that I had a vile and over-the-top reaction, spitting rutabaga mash everywhere.  But the truth is, I loved them.  I remember eating a lot of them.  Even more than I ate of my old favorite, mashed potatoes (OMG, so passé!).

Rutabagas are now one of my favorite foods, if not my favorite. They are buttery and just enough starchy to give you that comforting feeling, but not enough starchy to make you feel like a sack of potatoes after you eat them (pun intended).  I am a rutabaga evangelist.  I always bring them to special occasions and I am the new, designated rutabaga preparer in my family.  I even bring them to holidays on my dutch side of the family!  And people love them.  They are weird looking and no one knows what to do with them or how to prepare them, so a lot of people have never made them.  Well, you’re in luck, because I’m ready to share with you my Irish wisdom.

First, here is a little tutorial on how to prep and cut a rutabaga.
That big purplish brown looking root, that’s a rutabaga.  They can sometimes be found by the potatoes or the squash at the grocery store and they are usually covered in thick wax to preserve their freshness.Frugal Food Series | Tip 6: Roots // Keeping Willow

The first step is taking off the skin.  Chop the top and the bottom off the rutabaga to give yourself a wide flat surface to work with.Frugal Food Series | Tip 6: Roots // Keeping Willow

Cutting from the top of the rutabaga to the bottom, run your knife along the side, cutting of the skin and staying with the shape of the root.  Work your way around until all the skin is removed. (Use a good, sturdy knife. You will have a hard time with a cheap, flimsy or serrated knife)Frugal Food Series | Tip 6: Roots // Keeping Willow

Cut the rutabaga into slices between 1/2″ to 3/4″ wide.Frugal Food Series | Tip 6: Roots // Keeping Willow

Cut each slice into cubes by cutting them lengthwise and then horizontally. Frugal Food Series | Tip 6: Roots // Keeping WillowFrugal Food Series | Tip 6: Roots // Keeping Willow

That’s it!  Now they are ready to boil but you can also roast them in the oven with rosemary and olive oil.  So good.
Hey! Bring a little Irish to your holiday celebrations this year.  Maybe you’ll start a new tradition.


Frugal Food Series | Tip 6: Roots // Keeping WillowFrugal Food Series | Tip 6: Roots // Keeping Willow

Mashed Rutabagas (Murphy Style)

1 large or 2 small rutabagas, peeled and diced into 1/2″-3/4″ cubes
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks (optional, I’ve done without it, but this is the Murphy way)
1-2 Tbsp or butter (depending on your taste)
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Put your diced rutabagas and potato into a large pot of cold water with a large pinch of salt.  Cover and bring to a boil.
2. Remove cover and turn heat down to a simmer.  Allow to cook for 18 minutes or until the rutabagas are tender. Drain the water.
3. Place the rutabagas back in the pan and mash with a potato masher.  Add butter, salt and a generous amount of pepper.  Whip with an electric mixer. (A food processor or immersion blender works well too.)
4. Put the mashed rutabagas in a casserole dish and bake for 1 hour.  Eat and share with your friends and family.



Dinner, Lunch, Staples

Frugal Food Series | Tip 5: Greens

In 2005, I spent a summer doing a culinary apprenticeship at a hotel in Scotland.  It was one of the more fun, hard and complicated things I’ve ever done.  I mean, the cooking wasn’t hard.  It was really everything else.  The homesickness, the lack of female co-workers, the drinking, the drama and the living situation.  The hotel provided their staff with accommodations, which were not much different from my freshmen dorm room.  No kitchen, tiny room with a dresser, a closet, and a shared bathroom.  Only, there was no cafeteria or Jimmy Johns close by to keep me fed and plump.  I worked 50 hours a week so most of my meals were taken from the kitchen.  Usually pockets full of shortbread and chocolate chips I took from the pantry.  Because we didn’t really get breaks, and dinner was usually eaten after your shift was over at 10 pm, I had to eat when I could.  It was no wonder with such sweet, buttery diet, along with all the beer I drank, that I gained 10 lbs that summer.  One particular day I was really feeling the extra weight, so I decided to make a beautiful, massive salad for dinner after my shift.  It was gorgeous, with loads of veggies, feta cheese, and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette.  I sat down by my co-workers and began to shovel salad into my face. After a couple minutes of silence, I looked up to see my colleagues all staring at me.  “What?” I said, with a extra long piece of lettuce still protruding from my mouth.  “What are you, a rabbit?” one of my co-workers replied.  Everyone started to laugh.

Apparently giant salads is an American thing.  Lesson learned: never eat a huge salad when you’re in Scotland.  Or maybe just go about it more attractively than I did.

I love greens.  They are a major staple of our family’s diet.  Willow has even grown fond of salad.  It is so good for you and tasty but the other great part is, it is frugal, frugal, frugal (the repetition of the same word, over and over for emphasis is called an epizeuxis.  Just because I wanted you to know that I know a big word). A giant bundle of kale costs a little over a dollar but adds so much substance and nutrition to your meal.  Many times, food considered “frugal”in our culture, are typically processed, boxed foods.  Although coupons and all that other “money saving” nonsense is typically for your packaged foods, I think they are a royal waste of your money.  With greens, you spend some change and the nutritional output is 100 fold compared to that garbage that food producers are making.  Oh, by the way, that boxed food, that is what makes grocery stores and food producers the most money.  Although it’s cheap, it would be so much cheaper for you to make it yourself.  And even if it’s not cheaper to make homemade mac and cheese, the most frugal foods are typically whole foods.  Ok, off my soap box.

We tend to eat a lot of kale 1) because we like it 2) because it keeps longer than other greens and 3) because it makes us feel better about ourselves [a little self-esteem boost couldn’t hurt].  Some other greens we tend to chow down on is swiss chard, spinach, romaine and arugula. The microgreens tend to be a little more expensive, but we indulge every once in a while.  And we have stopped buying boxed lettuces altogether.  They go bad quickly and are way more expensive per ounce than just buying a head of lettuce or bunch of spinach.

In honor of the green, I’m sharing with you one of our standard salad recipes that we really adore.  It is a vegan avocado, kale, caesar salad.  It is garlicky and citrusy and really gives the creamy dressing sensation that a traditional caesar delivers. It’s amazing. I hope you give it a try and tell me what you think.  Try to keep from shoving the entire salad into your face at once.


Frugal Foods // Greens-- Vegan Avocado Kale Caesar Salad | Keeping WillowFrugal Foods // Greens-- Vegan Avocado Kale Caesar Salad | Keeping Willow

Vegan Avocado Kale Caesar Salad

1/2 avocado
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon)
1 clove of garlic finely minced or grated
2 Tbsp tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1 bunch of kale

1. The key to a successful kale salad are 2 things.  1. finely chop the kale.  2. massage the kale in the dressing (like, with your hands– please wash them first).  This keeps that choking sensation to a minimum and tenderizes the leaves.  Wash, dry, and devein your kale (hold the stem with one hand and pinch the other end of the stem where it begins to turn into the leaf.  Quickly drag your pinched fingers along the stem, toward the leaf, separately the leaf from the stem.)  Finely chop the kale and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
2. In another bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except the olive oil.  Whisk them together fiercely until you get a smooth, creamy paste. Slowly drizzle in your olive oil while simultaneously whisking.  Taste to check if you need to adjust the salt and pepper. [You can also do this in a blender.  I just hate cleaning my blender.]
3.  Pour the dressing over the kale and massage with your hands, firmly squeezing it, until combined.  Serve immediately with croutons or as is [this is not a dressing you will want to make ahead of time as the avocado will oxidize].