Destitution diet week 4: Hosting on a pinched penny

pear_clafouti.jpgLast week, as I was trying to find ways to make a nutritious meal out of frozen bread, pasta and 100-calorie Klondike bars as part of last week's Destitution Diet challenge, I received an email from the lovely Nazy suggesting a recipe that only cost her a whopping $3.64. See, I do read your suggestions, so keep 'em coming! Nazy adapted the recipe for Lemony Chickpea Stir-fry from 101 Cookbooks, by omitting the tofu and subbing in spinach for kale. Well, this weekend as I prepared for my book club get together at my apartment, I decided to try my hand at Nazy's suggestion and made the recipe, making my own substitutions. Instead of kale I also used spinach, because I had some left over (one less thing to buy!), and using white button mushrooms instead of tofu. I often use mushrooms in recipes that call for tofu because I'm a total spaz when in comes to getting tofu to taste like something and/or not be an icky crumbly mess. Mushrooms are cheaper, but are also super absorbent of taste and are a light, squishy-like consistency. The chickpea stir-fry was a huge hit, at one point my fellow book clubber just put the serving bowl in front of her and started going at it with her hands (therefore claiming it as her own, after everyone else had some). I definitely suggest checking out of 101 Cookbooks for other cheap and easy meal ideas. (Also check out the yummy and healthy meal recipes)

One cheapo side dish out of the way, but I still wanted to satiate my guests with something sweet without breaking the bank. One of the easiest and yet always uber-impressive desserts to make is a clafouti. It's basically a French custardy fruit tart concoction that sounds like it takes a long time and lots of effort but is truly super easy and inexpensive to make (if you know how to cut corners.) I had most of the ingredients already, as they're basic staples in my kitchen: milk (low fat), eggs, flour, sugar. All I needed was some fruit and, well, fruit can be expensive. So to cut costs, I went for the canned variety. Instead of fresh pears that would require a bit of cooking to soften up, I got a big ole can of pre-pealed and halved pears in heavy syrup for $1.28. I rinsed off the syrup and sliced up my fruit that was picked and preserved a long, long time ago, and voila, cheap, easy dessert that wasn't particularly fattening (although there's quite a bit of sugar). Below is a recipe to make a clafouti of your very own, destitution style. (Read up on how Kim was able to cook a week's worth of food without spending a cent.)

The rest of the night was spent drinking (I had free wine that was given to me as a gift for a charity event I volunteered for) and the rest of my literate friends brought food to fill our tummies with as we discussed the book we filled our brains with (The Road by Cormac McCarthy was this months book of choice. Wonderful. I highly recommend it, in a it's not all that uplifting, but still kind of uplifting at the same time sort of way.) The lesson learned this week was that just because I'm trying to be thrifty, doesn't mean I have to be devoid of a social life. All in all, book club was fantastic. Everyone was well fed, and I spent less than $10 to entertain my guests. Being a good host doesn't need to mean going broke.

Destitution Diet Clafouti

2 eggs
1 (large) can of pears in heavy syrup (about 3.5-4 whole pears)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup 1% milk
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp granulated white sugar

Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees F. Put butter in baking dish to melt, then spread around edges with a brush or paper towel. Rinse and slice pears into thin slivers and decorate the bottom of buttered baking dish with slices. Set dish aside. Beat 2 eggs till foamy, add brown sugar and beat until thick, then add vanilla, flour, salt and milk. Pour batter over pears and bake for about 45-50 minutes (until a knife comes out clean from center of dish). Sprinkle granulated sugar to the top approximately 5 minutes before finished baking.

Related: Squeezing the most out of your food dollar.