Recession Food: Emergency Recipes

So the economy is crashing and burning, and with oil pushing $150 a barrel, it’s unlikely that food prices will drop, or even plateau, anytime soon.  Most people are struggling to get by (link via What to Eat), and food banks are struggling to keep up with demand as hunger increases among the working poor.

As you might expect, the food media is following suit by publishing lots of money-saving tips.  We’re encouraged to pack our lunches, stop buying prepared foods, eat legumes instead of meat and use coupons wisely– good ideas all.  Our grandparents survived the Depression, and our generation has a lot to learn from them.

But what do you eat when you’re really, really broke?  When you’re down to the change in your couch cushions, what’s for dinner?  Is Taco Bell the only option?

Well, readers, my dear husband and I are card-carrying members of the Working Poor, and we faced this question very regularly in college and then during some lean years trying to survive in New York City.  Since Joe in particular is a master at making something from nothing, we’ve amassed some lovely food-emergency recipes to share with you.  Well… lovely might be pushing it, but they’ll get you through the day.   Here are our top five day-before-payday meals. Read the rest of this entry »

Up, Up, and Away: Food Prices Soaring Worldwide

Image from al-Arab Online.

A few years ago, when I started eating a strict gluten-free diet, my grocery bill tripled. I was shocked at having to pay $6 for a loaf of bread, and began using a bread maker to try to cut costs. Gluten-eating friends and family were invariably horrified when I told them how much gluten-free bread cost.

Today, a $6 loaf of bread isn’t uncommon. The price of flour has risen 40.6% this quarter, according to Forbes Magazine. Friend of the blog KeenEye, who owns a gourmet pizzeria in Oregon, reports:

Our flour?

Now at $37.52 a bag.

Yep. From $9 bucks a bag 142 days ago.

I’m pretty much freaking out.

She’s not alone. Wheat and rice prices are spiraling, causing a rising sense of panic. Business magazines have begun throwing around words like “famine” and “peak wheat.” Rice has hit a 20-year high, and many rice-exporting countries are instituting bans or caps on exports in the hopes of meeting domestic demand:

Vietnam’s government announced here on Friday that it would cut rice exports by nearly a quarter this year. The government hoped that keeping more rice inside the country would hold down prices.

The same day, India effectively banned the export of all but the most expensive grades of rice. Egypt announced on Thursday that it would impose a six-month ban on rice exports, starting April 1, and on Wednesday, Cambodia banned all rice exports except by government agencies. (New York Times)

Food prices are spiking everywhere: while US consumers are feeling the squeeze with an overall 8.9% increase, in Egypt, prices are up by 50%. Food riots have broken out in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen, according to the Times; the Globe and Mail adds Egypt and Cameroon to the list.

There are a number of reasons for the spike in prices. Read the rest of this entry »

Giwa: Satisfying Korean Food for Winter Days

bibimbap

When we lived in New York City, I went to school and worked at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School and University Center, more commonly known as CUNY Grad. One of the nice things about working there, which offset the constant annoyance of tourists (the Grad Center is on the opposite corner of The Empire State Building), was that the area is filled with really good Korean restaurants. They vary in price from cheap to very expensive. Our favorite was Mandoo Bar, which served up wonderful dumplings and noodles. I hadn’t really had great Korean since we moved to Philly– until Giwa opened up down the street from where I work.

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Chicken Soupy Rice (Arroz Asopado con Pollo)

When Sarah and I lived in Ridgewood, Queens, one of our favorite things to get at our local Puerto Rican or Dominican restaurants was the Chicken Soupy Rice. It was cheap and delicious, especially on winter nights. Sarah has come down with a cold, so I thought I would try my hand at a version off the cuff since we both have fond memories of curling up on the couch with soupy rice when we were sick in NYC.

The ingredients that I used:

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Fresh ginger, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)

2 shallots, chopped

2 sweet potatoes, diced

1/2 cup of snow peas, sliced

2 1/2 cups of chicken stock

1/4 cup of crushed tomatoes

2 chicken breasts, diced

Adobo seasoning

Cinnamon

1 cup arborio rice

Salt and pepper to taste

Toss chicken with adobo seasoning and cinnamon.  (Marinate for an hour if you have the time.)  Saute chicken in a pan and set aside. In a pot, heat a few tablespoons of oil and add the garlic and ginger. After a couple of minutes add the shallot and saute for a few more minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the arborio rice and the snow peas. Saute for a minute or two. Pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low, add the crushed tomatoes, stir and cover. Simmer for about twenty minutes, stirring every few minutes to ensure that the rice does not stick. When the rice is done, add the chicken. At this point check the consistency. You want it to be thick but still soupy, somewhere between a stew and a soup. If it is too thick (as mine was), add some more stock and water to get it to the thickness that you desire. Simmer another minute or two and serve. I topped ours with some chopped green onion.

A very comforting meal to share with your loved one while geeking out in front of Star Trek:TNG DVDs.

This is gluten and dairy free. Just be sure to check the chicken stock that you buy. Some of it does contain gluten.

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Rice with Broad Beans (Rezz ala Fool Akhdar)

This easy and adaptable dish is from Anissa Helou’s Lebanese Cuisine.  We had a pound of fava beans and a pound of meat, so we doubled the recipe, which calls for half a pound of each.  The recipe is actually for lamb, but we had beef so that’s what we used.  We also combined onions and shallots.   I’m relating the recipe here the way that we made it.

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Sugar-Crusted Salmon with Stir-Fried Purple String Beans

I can’t take credit for this idea. Emeril Legasse of Food Network did sugar-crusted salmon a number of years ago. It is really easy and very tasty. Take salmon and cut it into two inch wide strips. Coat with sugar and saute a couple minutes on all sides. Serve over rice.

I also made some purple string beans. I stir fried them in a wok with a bit of oil, sesame oil, dark soy sauce and a little rice wine vinegar. When they were done I chopped some lemon verbena and tossed it with the beans. Lemon verbena’s flavor is intense, so use it sparingly. Purple string beans are a little more fibrous than thier green counter parts. I sauted them until they turned green so I know they were done but they were still a bit chewy. They had a good flavor, though.  If we buy them again, I may just steam them.

Overall a quick, healthy and very flavorful meal. Totally dairy-free, and you can make it gluten-free easily by using tamari instead of soy sauce.

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Shrimp and Tofu Stir Fry

shrimp and tofu stir fry

This is a light and delicious version of the stir-fry mixture we did for Pan-Fried Noodles with Chicken, using shrimp and tofu.  My husband Joe and I were in the mood for a quick and healthy dinner.  We didn’t have any fresh noodles, so we just served this over rice.  (The sauce and marinade are the concoction of Eileen Yin-Fei Lo.)

Shrimp and Tofu Stir Fry

About an inch of ginger, peeled and chopped

2 cloves chopped garlic

handful of julienned snow peas

handful of julienned carrots

1 block firm tofu, cubed

1 lb or so of peeled and deveined raw shrimp

Soy sauce

Vegetable oil

For the sauce:

1 cup chicken stock

1 pinch each of cornstarch, ground pepper, sugar

1 dash each rice wine, dark soy sauce, sesame oil

For the marinade:

Mix dashes of sesame oil, rice wine, white rice vinegar and soy sauce with pinches of cornstarch, salt and sugar.

Marinate the shrimp and the tofu in the above marinade for at least an hour.

Get some vegetable oil very hot in a wok.  Throw in the ginger and garlic and give them about 20 seconds.  Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until they start to become pink and opaque (not more than two minutes).  Add the tofu and vegetables, stirring constantly.  When everything is cooked, but still crispy, pour in the sauce and let everything cook until it thickens.  Serve over rice.

You can be creative with the veggies on this– mushrooms would be great in it.  Julienned zucchini, eggplant– you could really experiment with whatever you happen to have.  Other than the sodium content, it’s a healthy dish.  Leave out the shrimp (maybe add mushrooms instead) and it’s vegetarian as well.

By the way, if you’re gluten free, you can use tamari instead of soy sauce to make this a delicious gluten-free Chinese meal.  Not all varieties of tamari are brewed without wheat, but San-J brand makes a wheat-free tamari that’s a perfectly tasty alternative.  Most Whole Foods and Asian supermarkets carry it.

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