Sunday, June 13, 2010

For frugal living

I started to collect these in the tense weeks waiting to hear back from my first batch of interviews. You can clean just about anything with baking soda and vinegar, but there are products we use regularly that are sold in very small quantities (for marked-up prices) at bodegas. While we're on the subject of recipes:

Homemade toothpaste
6 tablespoons baking soda
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons glycerin
20 drops peppermint, spearmint or cinnamon essential oil

Combine and store in a small container.

Homemade dish soap
1 cup liquid Castile soap
3 tablespoons water
a few drops essential oil (if using unscented Castile soap)

Combine in a vessel of your choice, mix well, and use.

Homemade dishwasher detergent
1 part borax (see description of borax here)
1 part washing soda (see description of washing soda here)
distilled white vinegar

Homemade laundry detergent
1/3 bar Fels Naptha or other soap (link above includes specifics)
½ cup washing soda (baking soda is, sadly, not a sufficient substitute)
½ cup borax powder
A small bucket, about 2 gallon size

Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan. Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts. Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket. Now add your soap mixture and stir. Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel. You use ½ cup per load.

You can also make your own sunscreen, lotion, or bug spray.

Good luck constructing your Ikea furniture. Check out HousingWorks or the Brooklyn Flea for already-constructed furniture.


The Kitchn has been posting recipes for recent graduates all week.

Here are the recipes that have gotten me through since college. There's a farmers' market in my neighborhood, so each week I buy a tomato, an onion, garlic, eggs, a loaf of bread, and either some cheese or some nuts. A small basil plant, if you have an apartment with windows, can be an enormous asset. Most of the recipes are based on those ingredients. Cooking in the city is a treat & saves a lot of money at lunch hour.

Penne Frittata with Basil and Ricotta
This one's quick and leaves enough for lunch the next day. You can get fresh ricotta at Garden of Eden stores in the city. Ricotta is great just added to a little fresh pasta with marinara or vodka sauce, or used for stuffed shells.

Pasta al Pomodoro
Make sure to use red onion to get the sharp summery flavor.

Chop tomato, onion, garlic, and basil. Slice a loaf of French bread (about half) into small pieces. Pour olive oil onto a plate; dip both sides of the bread into the olive oil. Spoon tomato/onion/garlic mixture on the top & bake until the edges of the bread are brown. Try variations on this theme. You can make crustini with just bread & olive oil, which is especially useful if the bread is a day old. If you mix olive oil with balsamic vinegar, a little fresh pepper, and basil if you have it, you can serve it as a dipping sauce with plain bread.

Potato Pizza
Totally delicious, and you can bake leftover potatoes in the oven with butter and rosemary. Or make homemade potato chips, or rosemary roast potatoes.

Pretty much anything with quinoa
I never made quinoa until after graduation--a box will make at least four meals, and it's versatile. Sometimes if there's no bread to pack a sandwich for lunch, I sautee red pepper, onion, and katamala olives in a little olive oil, then mix in quinoa and a little cumin. Takes ten minutes.

Stir fry
Most fruit markets in the city and in Brooklyn carry fresh tofu, which is an added bonus once you've gotten the hang of cooking with it. Serve with rice.

If you have rice left over, cook rice with warm stock and white wine. Flavor with whatever is on hand.

Grilled Cheese
When our neighbors moved out, they donated a bottle of truffle oil to our cabinets. My roommate and I made many a grilled cheese with truffle oil. But you can do a lot with the basic recipe (check out the ten versions in the link above).

Omelettes, or eggs in general
Don't worry about perfecting Julia's style. Heat the pan with oil. Beat 3-4 eggs with a little milk, a dash of salt, and a splash of water (which makes them fluffy). If you have herbs d'Provence, add a sprinkling. Pour into the pan and cook over medium heat (err on the side of low). Run a knife over the edges when they start to brown. Add cheese (sharper cheese makes for a stronger flavor) and whatever toppings you have on hand, fresh basil if possible. Cook open-faced for a minute or two, then flip half the omelette over. Continue cooking on low heat until the cheese melts. Flip off the pan onto your plate & enjoy.

Here's how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. (Friends of mine once Googled for this and wrapped the wine bottle in a rug, then broke the top of it against the wall. 1/3 of the wine remained in the bottle.) Happy cooking.