Friday, June 10, 2011


"The genius of our country is improvisation." – Ken Burns

Tuesday was my birthday. Rick kindly cut out a 5% off coupon for seniors 55 and older at the local grocery store and gave it to me along with my birthday present. I didn't realize 55 made me a senior. I'm not sure whether my frugal tightwad side should be dancing for joy—5% off groceries, what's not to like?—or if I'm bummed to be, gulp, so old. Time sure has a way of flying by especially, as Rick likes to say, when you're having fun.

And, I suppose, I am having fun. The past few years have been financially scary, and 2011 is the scariest so far, yet it has still been a time of learning and contentment. Despite an almost nonexistent budget, I have never felt less stressed over paying bills and I can look around and honestly say I like my life. One obvious place to trim money is in the grocery bill, and although I cook almost everything from scratch, I've been trying to be even more conscious of my food spending. Tonight's meal was delicious and fairly inexpensive. Granted, Rick and I ate alone (the girls were both busy), but had they been home I would have only bought a slightly larger cut of meat and bulked it up with more vegetables. I used what I had on hand. Feel free to improvise. It's been way too hot to turn the oven on so, once again, I cooked this meal in the solar oven. 

Ingredients (dinner for two):
3/4 – 1 lb. beef round shin bone-in (my piece was .88 lb. and cost $3.50)
1 large onion cut in chunks
1/2 bell pepper cut in chunks (I used a green pepper that was partially red)
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1 slice ginger, chopped
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup of canned crushed tomatoes
handful parsley

Cut meat off bone and into cubes
Dust with flour, salt & pepper
Warm some oil in a pot.
Brown the meat
Add onions, bell pepper, crushed red pepper, and garlic. Saute a few minutes.
Add the chopped tomato and chopped ginger. Saute another minute or two.
Add 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup beef broth, and 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil.
At this point, if you have a solar oven, cover the pot, put it outside in the oven, and leave for several hours. I put this outside just before noon. My solar oven read 325 degrees. I actually left it out in the oven until 5 pm, when it got cloudy and the solar oven dipped to 175.

If you don't have a solar oven, then this can be cooked slowly in a crockpot or a regular oven until you feel the meat has become meltingly tender. 

I served this over cous cous. On the side, I steamed some garlic scapes from the garden then dressed them with little olive oil, salt, and pepper. I also picked some lettuce and radishes and made a salad topped with feta cheese and croutons I made from a loaf of homemade bread that was pretty stale.

Improv solar cooked beef dinner over cous cous

I'm not sure the photo does the meal justice, but it was delicious.

Again, the whole idea of cooking frugally is to use what's on hand and be creative. Enjoy the adventure. Every recipe is really just an outline. I never make the same thing exactly the same way twice because I never have all the ingredients each time. I made this today because I had picked up some bell peppers and tomatoes at the farmstand as seconds—there were about 6 tomatoes and 4 peppers in a bag for $1 because they all had slight bruises, none of which were all that bad—plus it was a perfect sunny day to slow cook the inexpensive beef shin cut of meat. I make yogurt every few days, so there's always some in the fridge, and I have a huge selection of herbs and spices on hand. (I have to admit, though, that I don't use canned tomatoes because of the BPA in the cans, but instead use Pomi tomatoes in a box. I try and avoid all canned foods, but that's up to you. Canning my own is a goal for this year.)

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on joining the blogging community. It's a lot of fun and I've made a few friends along the way.