3 ways to save on healthy foods
Want healthy, gourmet meals, without spending a lot of cash? Smart Cookie Katie Dunsworth shares her tips
Gourmet meals for less
This year, after trading up from a 700- square-foot condo to my 2,500-square-foot dream home, I finally understood the feeling of usable space. The problem? Every Smart Cookie cent I had saved went into the purchase of this home, leaving little to entertain with or splurge on my favourite gourmet indulgences. The prudent part of my brain recognized that a bigger mortgage meant a reduction in superfluous lifestyle costs. The repressed Julia Child part of my brain, however, was not so understanding.
I had waited years to have such a home, and envisioned hosting decadent dinner parties complete with Cornish hen. But the going price of delicacies such as artisanal cheese and truffled grilling oil were simply not in my spending plan. And after a mini-meltdown ahead of our first housewarming dinner, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and do what I do best: find financially feasible ways to live well on less.
Fuelled by Pinterest inspiration and a few fantastic culinary blogs, I dove into making my own fine fare, at a fraction of the price.
Nothing beats the taste of fresh pasta. But buying it from an Italian grocer or gourmet shop can cost as much as $12. Yet most fresh pastas are made with three basic and inexpensive ingredients: flour, eggs and water. Yes, there are pricey pasta makers out there, but in fact you can make beautiful farfalle (bow-tie, or butterfly) pasta without a single gadget or gizmo.
I began making fresh pasta as an inexpensive activity that my daughter and I could share. Not only can kids take part in the pasta-making process, you can’t beat the reaction of your guests when they dine on your homemade delight. To get started, all you need are a few ingredients, a rolling pin and a knife.
For two dinner servings, mix two cups of flour and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl, then create a hollowed well. Break three eggs into the centre, beat them with a fork and gradually incorporate the flour mixture. Knead the dough and add more flour or water as needed to achieve a soft yet firm texture. Form it into a ball, flatten it out a bit, then allow the dough to sit covered for at least an hour. Then cut it into three equal pieces and place on a well-floured surface. Roll each piece out to about ? inch in thickness. Flip dough and roll until even thinner; repeat this process-your arms will feel it!-until the dough is quite thin. Then cut the dough into rectangles two inches by one inch. Gently squeeze the middle of the rectangle together with your fingertips until the bow-tie shape is formed. Boil briefly and serve with your favourite sauce-homemade, of course!
Specialty olive oil
A bottle of herb-infused olive oil retails at my nearest gourmet grocer for $19. Though it is a fantastic ingredient for salad dressing or to drizzle over fresh bread, the price tag is hard to swallow when it can be made at home so easily and inexpensively.
Start with a good-quality extra virgin olive oil. Wash your fresh herbs, such as basil and thyme, and dry them well. Bruise herbs gently with your fingers to start to expose their oils. Place them in a bottle that you can seal (canning jars or IKEA’s Slom bottle will work well). Fill the bottle with olive oil, seal it, and let it sit in a cool, dark place for one to two weeks to allow the flavours to combine well. Do a taste test every so often to see how it’s coming along. Then strain out and discard the herbs, and re-bottle the oil. This summer, I experimented using garlic, rosemary and shallots, and enjoy the oils as dips for fresh bread and for grilling salmon.
When it comes to French cuisine, nothing beats the simplicity, versatility and elegance of a crepe. Parisian bistro crepes can be filled with chocolate, whipped cream and strawberries, or savoury cheeses, fresh veggies and meats. Homemade, the options are endless. And much like pasta, crepes require few ingredients and are surprisingly easy to make. Best of all, they’re a reliable crowd pleaser: After mastering my technique by practicing on my husband and daughter, I now serve this dish to my friends for Sunday brunch, which we take turns hosting each week.
I’ve learned it is possible to indulge inexpensively in gourmet foods, as long as you are willing to apply some do-it-yourself ingenuity.