Tag Archives: foodie

Waste Not! Foodies On a Budget

27 Sep

We only have one fork.

Cooking without a kitchen or my usual gadgets has made me a more inventive and skilled cook. My recipes are simpler, my dishes are few and I do just about everything by hand. Living out of the van has taught me to use my resources and to see every bit of food as having the potential for a gourmet meal. My boyfriend and I constantly surprise ourselves when we taste the dishes we’ve concocted and it’s inspired us to waste as little as possible and to stretch that dollar as far as we can.

We can still scratch our foodie itch while on the road and a budget – all it takes is a little creativity. We’ve always got a few non-perishables on hand, such as refried beans, canned veggies, rice, pasta and noodles, but we’ve also got the important stuff, like peanut butter, balsamic vinegar, truffle oil, olive oil, honey, Himalayan sea salt, and my homemade exotic spice kit. (We may be living out of a van but that’s no reason to leave my herbs de Provence at home!)

We also try to limit our trips to the grocery store, only buying fresh food once we’ve used up what we already have. However, sometimes we’re in remote areas and don’t have a choice. That’s when the real creativity blooms! Last week, for instance, we camped in Corindi Beach, NSW and the nearest grocery store was 30 minutes away. There was, however, a tiny corner store within walking distance but the half empty shelves, inflated prices and lack of gluten-free items forced us to see how long we could go before stocking up again. I saw it as a challenge.

Challenge 1:

We had some strawberries that had frozen and unfrozen and were no longer appetizing since they were a mushy mess. We also had some pork chops that needed to be cooked that night. We were coming up with side dish ideas when the light bulb went off and I suggested we mash the strawberries, add some honey and sage, and use it as a glaze for the pork chops.

“That could be alright,” said the boyfriend with a raised eyebrow, and I proceeded to cut off the leafy strawberry tops and mash the flesh with the glass bottom of my truffle oil bottle. I handed him the concoction for grilling and then chopped up some broccoli and spring onion (which was also approaching its expiry date) and tossed it in some truffle oil before giving it a quick saute.

The results were amazing and we mmm’d and smiled the whole meal through. We couldn’t believe how well we eat considering our circumstances. (I wish I had photos to share but it was one of those impromptu dinners made with a glass of wine in hand and some music in the background and, I guess I just wasn’t thinking about it. Sorry, readers!)

Challenge 2:

While looking through our “pantry” I found brown bananas that needed to be eaten two days earlier. Banana bread was out of the question so I made a toastie using our gluten-free bread, extra-chunky peanut butter, the sliced extra-ripe bananas, some honey and a little Himalayan sea salt. The ooey-gooey crunchiness of it all was enough to make me look forward to the next culinary challenge and that’s when I found the blue-brie cheese that expired in two days…

Challenge 3:

With the brie in hand I took stock of our fridge and some items stood out to me: a few slices of bacon, the last of the chicken lunch meat, some lettuce, one gluten-free wrap, a tomato, a very ripe avocado and heaps of condiments. This was a no-brainer: I’d make a chicken-cordon-bleu-style quesadilla! I smeared the wrap with our roasted raspberry chipotle sauce, covered one side with slices of the blue-brie, then layered the chicken and cooked bacon and threw it on one of the public barbies. I let it brown on each side then opened it up and added some chopped lettuce, tomato and avocado.

I surprised my boyfriend with half when he was elbows-deep in some IT work and he looked at me in wonderment, not knowing how I could look at the same half-empty fridge as he, and come up with this concoction. But then, he surprises me too sometimes…

Challenge 4:

Our fridge was empty. We had no meat, no eggs, no milk, no fresh veggies except for two small potatoes and half an onion. We were craving fish n’ chips and considered blowing our budget for the day and ordering some from the corner store. But then my boyfriend spotted the ‘prawn-man’ (think ice-cream man but with seafood, kangaroo, goat and duck meat instead of desserts).

My carnivorous boyfriend chatted up the prawn man and bought a couple of flake filets for the price of one mediocre fish n’ chips meal. He pan-fried some potatoes and threw in the filets, which he marinated in onion, lemon juice and herbs de Provence. It had  a beautiful flavor-complexity and was much healthier than the fried and battered stuff we could have gotten down the street. Halfway through the meal I asked what kind of fish flake was. He looked at me like I was a dumb blonde and said, “Shark, honey. Shark.”

I thought shark would be tougher for some reason but this was light and soft (which must be why Aussies call it flake). I ate the rest of my meal, with sadistic pleasure, happy there was one less shark in the water below.

 I daresay we eat better on the road than at home, but at the very least we enjoy it more because of the strategizing that goes into each meal. When I think of all the times in the past that I threw out the perfectly good leafy tops of a celery bunch or those broccoli stems, or when I let veggies go bad because I bought too much of them, I cringe because I’ve trained myself to view food differently. Now, I’d make a soup, a giant salad or I wouldn’t have bought more than I needed in the first place.

Once you challenge yourself not to waste any food, eating your meals has an added sense of satisfaction to it. Now I’m passing the challenge over to you – whether you’re backpacking, living in a home, on a boat, in a flat or in a van – let’s see how little you can waste!

What are some of your favorite cheap meals that pass the foodie test? Do you have any tricks for minimizing waste?

Tourist in My Backyard: San Francisco Treats

20 Aug

The fog engulfs the Golden Gate bridge one summer day.

When I get a case of the travel bug and running off to South America, Egypt or some other equally exotic location isn’t possible, I like to pay a visit to California’s ‘ City by the Bay’: San Francisco. Since my best friend, Kat, moved there two years ago I find any excuse to board the hour-long flight: The Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Halloween, spring break, a Tuesday in the middle of semester, a cheap flight alert… and I’m off!

The city’s charm extends beyond its unique architecture, hilly streets and foggy summers and into the culinary realm, delighting the palates of foodies and laymans alike. These are the five San Francisco treats I can’t miss:

1. The ‘Dirty Hipster’ at Loving Cup – You won’t find this amazing frozen yogurt concoction on the menu but it is the number one treat I have to have while in San Francisco. Frozen vanilla yogurt, oreo cookies and nutella swirled and ground to perfection make the Dirty Hipster a creamy, gritty indulgence that I don’t dare pass up. The Loving Cup specializes in rice puddings (which are also worth trying) but its their custom blended yogurt that everyone adores. 2356 Polk Street

2. ‘Green Eggs and Ham Benedict’ at Pork Store – This spin on traditional eggs Benedict is also not on the menu, but makes ‘special’ appearances  from time to time and is worth asking the waiter for, with a little wink and a nudge. Poached eggs, country ham and asparagus sit atop a toasted English muffin, covered in green hollandaise  sauce on a warm plate with hashbrowns. It is the ultimate hangover cure and the perfect way to start your Haight-Ashbury sightseeing since it sits right in the heart of the infamous hippie district. 1451 Haight Street

3. Cocktails at Absinthe – The only experience I had with absinthe before discovering this bar was a few wild nights in Europe – sugar cubes, lighters and all. I had to destroy the evidence because the burnt forks I used to melt the sugar into the strange green liquor connotated a heroin habit and I wasn’t about to raise any suspicions.

Absinthe is the perfect place for a date with its dim but warm lighting and impressive range of gourmet ingredients and appetizers. It has an old-fashioned feel and stands out in a world of generic bars and obnoxious clubs. If you’re a cocktail connoisseur who appreciates ingredients such as kaffir lime-pepper syrup and brandied cherries, then this is your place. 398 Hayes Street

4. Crepes at The Crepe House Any crepe is amazing here. Savory, sweet, a la mode … you can’t lose. I prefer ‘the Mediterranean’  (cheddar, onion, tomato, feta, olives, artichoke and avocado) or the ‘Hawaiian’ (cheddar, ham, onion, mushroom, brown sugar, soy sauce and pineapple) for my meals and the Nutella-strawberry dessert crepe for any other time of day. The Crepe House flourished in the last sixteen years and has expanded to included three San Francisco locations. Take your pick! 429 Gough Street, 1755 Polk Street or 1132 Valencia Street

5.‘The Breakfast Burrito’ at The Grove – Be warned, this breakfast burrito is huge! I like to get it for breakfast and save the other half for lunch. The scrambled eggs, refried beans, cheddar and jack cheeses, salsa, and avocado mixture wrapped up in a grilled tortilla is very Californian and the rosemary country potatoes are its perfect accompaniment. The inside of the Marina location has a ski-lodge vibe and the outdoor seating is prime for San Franciscan people-watching. And if you’re only in the mood for a drink, skip Starbucks and try their lavender lemonade or mocha chai. Choose from any of the four San Franciscan family-owned locations: 690 Mission Street, 301 Hayes Street, 2016 Filmore Street or 2250 Chestnut Street

%d bloggers like this: