Meal-Budgeting and a Frittata, the Universal Stretcher
Contributor Amy Maltzan is always saving us time and pennies with her seasonal recipes in print and her new online column, Headache-Free Meals with the CSA. But this week, we asked her to give us something special for this Slow Food $5 Challenge, which is having its country-wide potluck today. Pick up some tips here (and check back here for a $1 sweet corn chowder), then tell us what you make or share with Slow Food USA by registering here.
BY AMY MALTZAN It’s easy to be overwhelmed planning meals that are both budget-friendly and delicious and varied, whether cooking for yourself or (perhaps even more so) for a crowd, namely your family. Add to that the desire to eat locally-sourced foods, and some might think it impossible. But a little advance planning goes a long way.
Each Friday, I spend about 30 minutes writing out meal ideas for the following week. By the end of each week, I’ve just received our CSA share, so I know what vegetables I’m working with; I focus on rounding out and supplementing our CSA produce with fruit, proteins, and other pantry staples. Having a plan helps reign in my impulse buys at the farmer’s market and grocery store, and helps me stick to a budget. Here are some tips I find helpful when meal planning for the week:
- Establish a rotation Think simple dishes that can easily be adapted to whatever seasonal ingredients you have on hand. In our house, we have homemade pizza on Friday nights, and quesadillas or a frittata (recipe below) each week.
- Streamline your pantry Think oils, vinegars, grains, dried beans and legumes, pasta, stock, cheese, dairy, eggs, etc. Buy in bulk when you can. Having pantry ingredients on hand gives you the flexibility to cook lots of different dishes easily. Most vegetables can be added to a grain salad and tossed with vinaigrette to make a delicious meal—or lunch that stretches all week.
- Cook extra It’s often less expensive to cook a double batch of one recipe and eat it over the course of two nights (or use leftovers for lunches) than it is to make a new recipe each night. Not to mention, quite a timesaver!
- Go occassional-vegetarian Not only are beans and legumes, eggs, and soy inexpensive and healthy protein sources, but we have a wide variety of choices available from local sources.
Below, one thing that follows all these rules, as eggs are the universal stretcher.
Vary this frittata to use whatever bits of vegetables you have in the fridge. Great combinations include sautéed zucchini, basil, and tomatoes; slivered kale and diced potato; and greens, onions and feta. Use a little meat if you have it and some cheese if you like. Serve wedges of the frittata hot or at room temperature, with a side salad and crusty bread, roasted potatoes, or roasted root vegetables. Makes great leftovers for lunch the next day, too. Serves 4 to 6.
- 6-8 large eggs
- ½ cup cream (optional, but particularly useful if you’re using 6 instead of 8 eggs)
- Olive or canola oil
- 2 cups mix of chopped vegetables and/or meat
- A small handful of chopped herbs (optional, if you have them around)
- A good handful of cheese (think crumbled feta or goat cheese, grated cheddar, dollops of ricotta, etc.)
Preheat your broiler.
If they aren’t already cooked, sauté your vegetables of choice until just crisp-tender; set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream, if using, with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in the cooked vegetables, chopped herbs, and half the cheese.
Drizzle a few tablespoons of oil (enough to coat when swirled around) into the bottom of a heavy, oven-proof skillet (I like cast-iron). Pour in the egg mixture, and cook over medium-low heat until the edges are set.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the frittata and place in the oven on the middle rack. (This ensures you won’t burn the top by placing the skillet too close to the heat source.)
Broil several minutes, keeping an eye on it, until the frittata is set and the cheese melted.
Amy Maltzan is an Ithaca-based cook, gardener and mother with an indoor pizza oven. She is also the blogger behind Eggs on Sunday.