summer staples for the funemployed

Essential ingredients finding their way into any and every meal this summer around Ginsberg’s House:

1.  Stonyfield Farm organic lowfat vanilla yogurt (tub).  Breakfast, lunch, snack, dessert and oh yes, a “brinner” favorite.  A fruit topping, smoothie base, and cereal accompaniment who is particularly dear friends with…

2.  Grape Nuts cereal.  I could take credit for discovering the delight of these barley nougats on vanilla ice cream, but some sleuthing tells me that New Englanders beat me to the punch by oh, a few decades.  No matter.  Also best enjoyed post-morning-run with yogurt, fruit, coffee, and the BBC News Hour/Brian Lehrer show on WNYC Radio.

3.  Preserved lemons.  Not just for Moroccan food anymore!  These tangy, salty pieces have found their way into salads, sauces, and beverages of all kinds since spring.  Particularly favorite uses of mine include: tossed with canned tuna, olives, sweet pickles, and dried seasoned bread as a salad; in any number of Moroccan chickpea stews; with cannellini beans and red peppers, simmered.  I put up a jar of these using a bag of lemons I found on sale for a couple of dollars; they retail for at least $11 online or more in person.  (Note to self…perhaps we’ve found a side business for Ginsberg’s House?)

4.  Canned tuna.   I’m trying to keep my diet varied on a nonexistent budget.  Canned tuna = mighty cheap.  I’m not fond of the taste, either (hence all of those briny/vinegary additions when I use it) but including Omega-3 fatty acids among dietary proteins is a good thing.  Until I can afford better quality and sustainably fished seafood again, Sunkist it is.  (In terms of environmental impact, canned tuna is in a few organizations‘ middle category of “not great, but no need to AVOID”.)

4.  Trader Joe’s organic baked savory tofu.  Reheat, fry, bake it in the oven; use in Thai stir fries, toss with pasta and steamed broccoli, or trim into slices, grill, and enjoy on a sandwich roll with tomato and honey mustard.  These firm bricks are versatile and tasty, and their pre-made savory flavor profile does much prep for you (they also come in teriyaki).

5.  365 (Whole Foods “house” brand) Macaroni and Cheese/Shells and Cheese/Shells and Alfredo: pick your poison, but these are the first and only boxes of mac I have EVER enjoyed eating.  Add a can of diced tomatoes (lycopene!) and even a dash of Bacos for some real kiddie nostalgia.  Though found at Whole Paycheck, around here these boxes are cheaper than Annie’s Organic and better tasting than their supermarket alternatives.  Incidentally, I may eventually deny admitting I’ve eaten these for lunch as an adult.  Please play along, particularly if we’re lunching somewhere with tablecloths and martinis.

6.  Chickpeas.  They go everywhere the Grape Nut cannot.  With pasta, couscous, or tossed with tomatoes and broccoli, an easy economical winner.  If I had a food processor I’d be prepping my own hummus.

7.  Smoothie: soymilk, banana, and frozen fruit of choice.  Rather than buying the packaged frozen berries and whatnot, I just buy what is seasonal/on sale, clean, hull, etc., and freeze that.  It saves money–quite a bit–considering how little time it takes to do a bit of prep yourself.

Once in awhile I’m making my beloved risotto or a more subtle pasta sauce, but by and large I have found the budgetary restraints within which I’m working to be provocative of a lot of thrift and creativity.  Learning which higher-end items (like preserved lemons) are actually a snap to make at home keep the flavorings for a fairly limited protein rotation interesting, and coming up with some form of food splurge occasionally really is important.


Author: mskristenmd