Dinner, May 21

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Tonight’s dinner was salmon, jasmine rice, buttered peas, and dill pickle hummus, with some dill and parsley sprinkled over all.

Food has captivated my imagination as of late. I may as well document this season (since my hobbies have seasons in sync with those of an as yet undiscovered planet) before I wake up a couple months from now with the sense that microwaving a frozen dinner could exhaust my interest in the subject. At least the phases when I deal with cooking no more than is necessary don’t last long.

Today’s dinner reminded me that making a festive plate doesn’t need to be expensive. I already had the herbs and hummus on hand, and the other ingredients costed just $6 total. The peas and salmon were the standard frozen versions, and the rice was bought in dry bulk. This dinner serves four, so we’ll have leftovers, too.

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Grape Sorbet, or what to do with extra grapes

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I can’t recall a time my family actually finished a bag of fresh grapes. I buy them with the best of intentions and am usually delighted with their jewel tones and bright flavor. Somehow I forget to eat them myself or offer them as a snack, and invariably I will fish the crinkled remainder out of the fridge a fortnight later. This weekend I found a way to ensure that this bounty will actually get eaten eventually: wash, pluck, freeze, and then blend them into a sorbet.

Technically, this is not a sorbet, but instead a frozen fruit puree. It has just two ingredients, frozen seedless grapes and a small amount of water. To freeze the grapes, just rinse and pat them dry. Next pluck each grape off the stem and place in a freezer bag. Freeze for a day, thaw in the microwave for thirty seconds (frozen solid grapes don’t blend well at all, btw), and whip in a blender with a tablespoon of cold water until smooth.

This treat is ready to eat straight from the blender. It is tart, sweet, and refreshing. In this frozen form, all of the complexity of the grape’s flavor is apparent and can be savored slowly. It costs about 50 cents a serving.

Grape Sorbet

Makes 2 servings

2 cups frozen seedless grapes

1 T water

Thaw grapes for 30 seconds in microwave or for 15 minutes at room temperature. Put grapes and water in blender or food processor and pulse until smooth.

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Yesterday’s Thrift Store Haul

Yesterday my daughter and I shopped at Goodwill. She’d asked me to go there several times since I showed her my haul from my last trip there, but various other errands seemed more pressing until yesterday. Part of me was in disbelief that she was volunteering herself for secondhand shopping. This must have been the sentiment that drove my dad to check if I had a fever when he’d spot me vacuuming as a teenager. Whatever caused this change of heart (she used to complain that she felt imprisoned when I’d lose track of time combing through the racks at thrift stores), I’m grateful for her sudden enthusiasm. If not for this change, we would not be the proud owners of a t-shirt that shows Mt. Rushmore redone with cats.

We found six shirts and a pair of shorts for $29.36 total.

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Two cat t-shirts!

Today’s Thrift Store Haul

At yesterday’s appointment with my spine surgeon, I heard that I am definitely returning to work on Monday. Today I thought I’d prepare for this transition by visiting the best sort of outlet for retail therapy, secondhand stores. I found three shirts, a dress, a jacket, and a pair of pants for $20.65 total:

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I also stopped at a walk-in salon for a hair cut. My hair had gotten so fuzzy and unruly that I was at risk of becoming my own bushy-haired stranger.

A Recipe for Cheap Diet Soup

I have a few recipes for inexpensive, diet-friendly dishes. Back when I was broke (not so many years ago), I made a goal of seeing how little money I could spend on cooking and still create something nutritious. This soup was part of that quest. The butter can be omitted, but I think adding a little fat helps with flavor and nutrient absorption. Of course, this recipe can be varied. I’ve found that mushrooms and a 1/2 cup of cooked barley are nice additions.

  • 8 cups chicken broth (boullion may be used)
  • 1 lb carrots, sliced
  • 1 bunch celery, sliced (include the leaves if you love celery)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 lb dried kidney beans, cooked
  • 1 bay leaf (optional, really enhances the flavor of the soup)
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 T butter

Melt the butter in a dutch oven and cook the onion over medium heat for five minutes. Next add the celery and carrots and cook for fifteen minutes more. Adding the remaining ingredients and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.

I plugged this recipe into a recipe calorie calculator at caloriecount.com and these were the results if the recipe were divided into 12 servings:

recipe calories