I stumbled on the beautiful Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day cookbook one day on one of the Internet sites that I like dedicated to sustainable and conscientious eating.
The cookbook was thought up by Leanne Brown as part of her master’s degree project in food studies at NYU. The cookbook is designed specifically for SNAP (Supplemental Assistance for Needy Families, i.e. “food stamps”) budgets. While the problems with our food system are varied and layered, sometimes they seem to pit the “haves” against the “have nots.” This is unfortunate because it shouldn’t matter how much you have in order to enjoy great food. Sure, money certainly buys some of the finest and exotic ingredients throughout the world, but many of the best dishes we enjoy today started out as peasant food. This is the food of the greatest economy; using what you have and not wasting anything.
The Good and Cheap cookbook bridges the gap between eating wonderful food and budgeting. Often, the most economical way to feed yourself and your family is by cooking whole foods from scratch. Ounce by ounce and especially calorie for calorie, whole foods cooked at home are the cheapest. Cooking doesn’t always require much time or specialized knowledge. You just really have to have an appreciation for what kind of food you like and where it comes from.
You can download a pdf version of the cookbook for free. I only printed a few recipes, but now that I look at it again, I want to download the whole thing. It’s beautifully photographed, thoughtfully put together, and absolutely full of delicious recipes. This is my PROJECT RECIPE review of the recipe for poutine, and obviously, by how much I’ve gushed about it, it’s a keeper.
This summer, the Hubs and I went to Niagara Falls and tried poutine for the first time. Poutine is a French Canadian dish of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. It sounds gross, but it’s actually fantastic.
PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper, for sure. This was an easy weeknight meal, perfect for cool fall and winter nights. Instead of cheese curd, which can be hard to find (and is likely too expensive for a SNAP budget), the recipe calls for fresh mozzarella. There was no difference in taste or texture with fresh mozzarella, having had the real thing in Canada. I made this for Meatless Monday since the gravy recipe calls for vegetable broth, but you could easily use beef or chicken broth. The vegetable broth gave it a nice light flavor, though. It was very filling.
How I changed the recipe: I didn’t have any fresh sage, so I skipped that. I probably made too many potatoes too. I didn’t have russet, but I did have some good size red-skinned potatoes. The next time I make this, I will make the potatoes a little differently. I have always heard that potatoes will get crispier if you soak them in cold water after you cut them into fries, then dry them off and oil them before you bake them.
I will definitely make this again, and I’m going to download the rest of the cookbook. I would encourage you to download it too since it’s free. It’s full of really amazing recipes that are easy to make for weeknight dinners, and definitely won’t break the bank. Can’t we all use a few more of those?