Are you a frugaltarian?

October 4, 2009 in recipe


If you choose to delve deeply enough, you will find a food-atarian of every sort out there! If you are a foodie, you like know most of the sorts, I dont need to get pedantic about it.

Amongst the various types of -tarianisms that I play with, the one that is most apropo for today’s economic uncertainty and one that likely most of you practice at times is what I call Frugaltarianism.

Frugality is a spectrum that shines brightly in different places for different people.

Some people like to pinch a penny till it bleeds, just to do it (conquest). Some people think that eating a meal cooked at home on rare occasion is being frugal. Some will re-use plastic bread bags while others will think eating leftovers a couple times a month is really pushing the boundaries of frugality into disturbing realms.

We live in the boonies and have three young kids so we have not been out to eat as a family in 6 or so years (we have never taken the youngest out to eat). For one, there is no place worth the trouble around here and another – the budget really doesnt allow it.

I am not so good at pinching pennies to the point of blood loss. I can not bring myself to buy truckloads of ramen noodles or velveeta cheese just because its so cheap that it would feed us until the next millennium. It might literally have enough calories but those calories are profoundly empty. In addition to being empty, they are actually negative because they rob my children of nutrients their little bodies are trying to hold on to.

Some people are able to be frugal and vegetarian. Vegetables can cost less than meat. Good vegetables (organic small farm, preferably my back yard) and good meat (free range and 0% CAFO GMO Soy, etc) are expensive. Crappy conventionally grown veggies and CAFO meat – much cheaper, up front.

The quickest way for people to become more frugal in the US, assuming they are already saving by cooking at home 100% of the time, is to eat much less meat and make the meat they do eat high quality. But if your barrel is getting really low, any meat will do, I totally understand that.

When its time to stretch what meat you DO have, the following method is by far the most delicious and satisfying way I know how to cook it – with a pressure cooker. Investing in a pressure cooker requires some up front cost but then you have a way to take tough meats (like an old rooster or laying hen!) and make an amazing meal.

It also works magic on tough cheap beef cuts and beans and I can imagine a to DIE for vegetarian meal based on the powerfully meaty flavor of shiitake done this way.

Frugaltarian Cooking: served

Flavor Blaster Chicken Stew


  • 2 lbs chicken parts
  • 5 potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 vidalia onion
  • teaspoon minced garlic
  • Bells Poultry Seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons saved up bacon grease
  • you can add anything else that looks appetizing
  • enough water to cover chicken
  • 1 tablespoon salt


Saute onions in bacon grease until translucent. Add bells seasoning and sprinkle of salt. Add garlic. Add diced potatoes.

Frugaltarian Cooking: saute onions and potatoes

Add chicken parts.

Frugaltarian Cooking: add chicken

Add enough water to cover the chicken and only as high as your pressure cooker directions advises.

Frugaltarian Cooking: water and then peel for color

Bring cooker up to pressure and back off the temperature until it just barely rocks the pressure gauge. Cook for 1 – 2 hours.

Frugaltarian Cooking: on to cook

Remove chicken and allow to cool enough so that you can pick the meat off the bone and then put it back into the brothy stew.

Frugaltarian Cooking: done!

Cool and serve straight or over rice as shown here. You will need to taste it to see if you need to correct the seasoning!

Frugaltarian Cooking: served

I would love to hear about your favorite frugal comfort meal!

Tassajara Vegetarian Whole Wheat Lasagna

September 24, 2009 in cookbook, cooking, ingredient, recipe, review, vegetable


Some time ago I reviewed a cookbook called “Tassajara Cookbook: Lunches, Picnics, and Appetizers” by Karla Oliveira where I covered Tassajara, a magical mountain retreat for the San Francisco Zen Center.

Today’s review covers the related book Tassajara Dinners & Desserts by Dale and Melissa Kent, a beautiful and delicious cookbook that shares simple go-to vegetarian meals used at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Retreat to nourish the monks, trainees and students who live in this amazing place.


The photography is just fantastic, inviting you to dive into this book to learn how to make these tasty dinners. The front cover holds nothing back, just take a look at it!


Foreword by Senior Dharma Teacher Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts


  • What is it like to do active cooking meditation
  • How the zen kitchen works


  • Ginger Hummus
  • Grandma Chu’s Sweet & Sour Marinated Asparagus

Vegetable Side Dishes

  • Pungent Cucumber Salad with Black Sesame ad Ginger
  • Moroxican Spiced Potatoes

Vegetable Entrees

  • James Creek Farm Ratatouille
  • Tagine with Apricots, Olives, and Artichoke Hearts

Baked Entrees

  • Baked Muffaletta Crepes
  • Annie’s Frittata with Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese, and Sage

Beans & Legumes

  • Butch’s Black Eyed Peas
  • Chickpea Stew with Collard Greens and Indian Spices


  • Dragon’s Head Tofu
  • Mole Verde with Tofu

Grains & Pastas

  • Mushroom Squash Risotto
  • Mint-Cilantro Udon with Fresh Ginger and Meyer Lemon


  • Lemon Sponge Custard with Raspberry Sauce
  • Ricotta Chevre with Ginger Berry Compote

Basic Techniques

  • Vegetable Stock and Variations
  • Basic Ingredients and Sauces

Tassajara Dinners & Desserts: Tofu Lasagna

For this review I chose to make the a vegetarian lasagna with a change to the book’s recipe. Instead of just using a store bought past (fresh or dried) I used some homemade lasagna I made from organic sprouted whole wheat I had made (see this post for information on making your own sprouted whole wheat flour “Making Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour” and this post on how to make lasagna pasta out of it “Homemade Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta“). I also used homemade goat cheese (chevre) from our own goats in our backyard (Making chevre cheese from our home-milked goat milk) and organic chard I grew in our garden and egg from our chickens (Humble Garden).

Tofu Lasagna with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, and Chard


  • 1 pound dried pasta or 1.5 pounds fresh pasta
  • Sauce:
  • 1.5 cups chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minded
  • 1 tablespoon dried italian herb seasoning (I used fresh oregano and basil from garden)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cups crumbled tofu
  • 4-5 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • Filling:
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1 pound mushrooms, washed and quartered
  • 1 pound goat cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups grated Provolone, Mozzarella, Fontina, or Gruyere



Saute onions, carrots, and celery over medium heat until soft and a bit brown. Add garlic and herbs without stirring. Turn up heat to brown and then add wine to deglaze (scrape up fond – stuck bits). Add tofu and cook with much stirring until liquid almost gone. Brown the tofu a bit, coat with all other sauce parts. Add tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes.


Wash greens, remove stems, set the stems aside. Cop stems into tiny bits. Blanch greens and stem bits in boiling water (or steam them) until cooked through. Shock in icy water (this “sets” the chlorophylls so that the chard will be a bright green) and then drain. Chop roughly and then dry completely.

Bake the mushrooms in a 425 F oven or sear them on the stovetop. Set aside with the greens.

Mix the goat cheese, egg, parmesan cheese and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Prepare the lasagna pasta as per instructions.

Oil a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, ladle some sauce on the bottom, add first layer of pasta. Spread 1/4th of the filling over the pasta and cover with some sauce. Layer on some tofu, goat cheese, greens, mushrooms as well as mozzarella (if using). Put down the next layer of pasta and repeat as before, 3 more times. The whole thing should end with a layer of pasta at the top and some more sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and even, possibly bechamel sauce. (I didnt put the bechamel sauce, seemed a bit much to me).

Bake at 350 F for 30 – 40 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and top is toasty brown.

Our Take on this dish:
Everyone from the toddler on up completely enjoyed this dish. Remember that sprouted wheat yields a bit sweeter product (because the sprouting process started some of the starches on their enzymatic journey) and that any whole wheat pasta product will have a different sort of mouth feel than your usual “white bread” sort of “enriched” pasta product. In this case, the pasta had a lot of presence in this dish, lending an almost “meaty” sort of sensation, which was a plus to those family members who like to have meat at every meal!

My Take on this cookbook:

The book is simply beautiful, the recipes are diverse and quite inspiring for all sorts of eaters: vegetarians to omnivores! I can only say good things about this cookbook, it has been a pleasure to review and oogle over. I suggest giving it a try!

Tassajara Dinners & Desserts: Tofu Lasagna

Product Details:

  • Title: Tassajara Dinners & Desserts
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Gibbs Smith (January 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423605209
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423605201
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds

Papaya Ice Cream with POM Syrup

August 3, 2009 in dessert, ingredient, product, recipe, review


I recently received a case of really cute 8 ounce POM pomegranate juices sent to me by the kind people at POM Wonderful.

Pomegranates are the mythical or iconic symbol of fertility…… To read more of this review, please visit the Papaya Ice Cream with POM syrup review.

Making Queso Blanco with goat milk

July 23, 2009 in cheese, How-2, milk, recipe


Wow, our ISP (to remain unnamed for the moment) REALLLLLY screwed us over, on galactic proportions. I feel shaky having come out the other end of this nightmare.

My blogs are back and I am hoping our new ISP has more ethics than the last.

Today I am going to show you how to make an acid precipitated cheese called Queso Blanco. This is similar to paneer (Indian Cuisine) and is quite popular in latino cooking. We also have Queso Fresco which is different. I actually prefer queso fresco but I didnt have the cultures needed to make that cheese on hand.

I made 3 gallons worth of queso blanco because I had an over abundance of milk from our 7 milking LaMancha goats who are giving us between 2 to 2.5 gallons a day now.

You can learn more about our real local backyard food at my homestead blog Humble Garden.

I mentioned that this is an acid precipitated cheese. What that means is that the casein protein in the milk is rendered solid (and no longer able to float about in the fluid of milk) by changes made to the protein molecules by the acid. In this case, that acid is added (lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid, etc). Other cheese rely on lactobacillus bacteria to grow in the fluid milk. Over time, their metabolic byproducts include lactic acid which then, once the fluid reaches the correct pH, causes the change in the protein to form the curd. This second method yields more depth and allows for the creation of a cheese that stores long in some cases (versus queso blanco which must be eaten fresh).

Ok, without further discussion, lets get into the how-2.


  • 1 gallon milk (I use raw goat milk but it wont stay raw)
  • 1/4 C lemon juice or white vinegar (though you have to go slowly, you may need more or less)


Making Queso Blanco

Heat the milk in a non-aluminum pot to 185 F, do not burn!

Making Queso Blanco

Use a thermometer and stir to keep the temperature evened out in the pot.

Making Queso Blanco

Once it hits 185 F, kill the heat and add the vinegar and stir gently and then let it sit for 5 minutes.

Making Queso Blanco

If you do not see the curd separating from the whey (white clumps in yellowish greenish liquid) then carefully add more vinegar until you get the curd.

Making Queso Blanco

Stir for 5 minutes to keep it from clumping up.

Making Queso Blanco

Pour the whole mixture (its hot!) into a cheese cloth lined colander over a large bowl in the sink.

Making Queso Blanco

Mix this slightly in the colander to encourage release of more whey.

Making Queso Blanco

Now comes a 2 part pressing process. I do not have a proper cheese press yet and my scale died so I had to guess on actual weights.

What you want is:

  • 20 minutes pressed at 10 pounds
  • 2.5 hours pressed at 25 pounds

What follows is how I jury rigged it all!

Put your well drained cheese in it’s cheese cloth, made into a tidy little ball, on a plate, and then add what is called a follower (in my case the base to a spring release pan form).

Making Queso Blanco

Add 10 pounds of weight.

Making Queso Blanco

After 20 minutes, add enough weight to make it 25 pounds and leave for 2.5 hours.

Making Queso Blanco

Making Queso Blanco

When done you will have a well pressed cake of cheese! Refrigerate and eat within the week.

Making Queso Blanco

I love serving it with freshly made hot Colombian arepas.

Making Queso Blanco