Blue Palate: Edible finds around the world

by Lindsay Sauve on October 10, 2013 · 0 comments

Ile de la Cite 1

What would you eat in Paris if you could only spend 10 euros? Would you buy a baguette, a wedge of cheese, some fruit and a cheap bottle of wine and picnic around the city? Would you search for the cheapest hole-in-the-wall creperie? Or maybe a side-street boulangerie?

Blue Palate blossomed out of my love of this kind of puzzle. As a traveler on a limited budget, I’m always hunting for the best meal for the least amount of money. Sometimes this leads me to foreign supermarkets. I can spend hours in the junk food aisle hunting for the strangest flavor of potato chip, or browsing mysterious cheeses in the dairy section, or learning the national geography in the wine aisle. Other times it means sampling the street food, or researching which restaurants are tourist traps, and which cater to locals and serve fresh, authentic food for the best prices.

Blue Palate is ever practical, like finding the best cevapi at the bus station in Sarajevo. But it’s also a bit glamorous, like noshing on Greek mezes and ouzo while overlooking the beach. We’ll discover what other people around the world eat, not just the fine cuisine at restaurants, but what fills their grocery bags too. We’ll find out how they take their coffee. We’ll cook what they cook and share an occasional recipe. Hang around, sink your teeth in, but watch out, you might end up hungry.

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Your refrigerator is not a compost bin

by Lindsay Sauve on June 2, 2012 · 0 comments

old fridgeYou had wonderful plans for the pound of broccolini and two bunches of spinach you bought at the farmer’s market, but now it’s 10 days week later and the once lively vegetables are beginning to slowly compost in the crisper.  A few busy days turned into a busy week, and the Thai stir fry and Lasagna Florentine are merely wilted imaginations. After a few versions of this scenario, you begin to wonder why you buy fresh food at all, and consider a diet of canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

So how do you avoid turning your refrigerator into a compost bin? Use your vegetables ahead of time by steaming, roasting, blanching or even pickling them shortly after purchase. Prepared vegetables can even be tossed in the freezer if you don’t plan on using them within the week. You can make simple meals from pre-cooked vegetables or cut way down on recipe time. Here are some of my favorite ways to use veggies before they decompose:

Pickled vegetables – I love carrots for a snack but find the orange pellets they call “baby carrots” tasteless. Big, fresh carrots are best, but cutting them too far in advance just dries them out. One way to enjoy veggies as a snack throughout the week is to store them in water in the fridge or, even better, pickle them. Pour your favorite hot refrigerator pickle solution over jars of carrots sticks, cauliflower florets, radishes, and cucumbers and you have yourself a tangy, health snack.

Roasted vegetables – Root vegetables and cruciferous vegetables are wonderful roasted. They can be added to salad, pasta, pizza, or served as a side to any main dish (roasted sweet potatoes are a simple, heavenly side). Toss with olive oil, salt, and any spices or herbs and roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees until tender or desired doneness, approximately 10 minutes.

Blanched vegetables – Blanching is a great way to prepare vegetables al dente, so they can be added to recipes that might be cooked further such as stir fries and casseroles. Harder veggies such as roots, broccoli and carrots should boil in hot water for a couple of minutes (until their color turns bright) and then drained and shocked in an ice water bath. Softer veggies such as peppers, green beans, asparagus, and peas only need about a minute. I like to add blanched veggies to fried rice and baked macaroni and cheese.

Steamed vegetables – My new favorite quick lunch is brown rice, steamed vegetables and a curry or peanut sauce. Crazy delicious and healthy! All three items can be prepared ahead of time and then assembled throughout the week. Like roasted vegetables, steamed veggies do well as a side and can be reheated in the microwave or added cold to salads or other recipes. Spinach, chard and other greens can be steamed ahead of time then added to pasta dishes or soups.

Pesto – Basil is a warm weather plant, which may be why it doesn’t like the fridge and turns black within a couple of days. Pesto is so easy to make, can be made with a variety of ingredients, and freezes really well. No basil? Any leafy green – kale and arugula do well – blended with garlic, olive oil make a fantastic pesto you can toss with vegetables, pasta, or add to soups or pizzas. Experiment with ingredients.  If you don’t like pine nuts, try cashews. Add lemon juice or jalapenos. Rougher greens like kale and collards do better if steamed ahead of time. Arugula can be used raw like basil.

Put your veggies to action and stop throwing money into the compost bin. Your body, wallet and footprint will be much greener! What are your ideas for how to save time and money preparing vegetables?

 Photo credit: beautifulcataya

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I never thought I’d love you, Grocery Outlet

by Lindsay Sauve on May 10, 2012 · 0 comments

Grocery OutletMy little brother has a nickname for it: Gross Out. He has a point. Outlets are one of the places commodities go before they die, not a place to find fresh, wholesome food. It’s a place are where companies send their surplus of hotel and hospital food. It’s a place for the expiring but slightly edible.

It’s the place I expected to find:

  • dented cans of potted meat
  • unnaturally puffy jugs of milk
  • frozen shrimp of unknown origin
  • bags of super-orange shredded cheese product
  • seeping containers of sweet frozen ice milk
  • wilty, sad-sack lettuce heaps

But I was wrong. I never thought I’d love you, Grocery Outlet. But I do.

My friend Michelle is a mother of twins and an accredited expert in grocery shopping (and other amazing child-rearing and non-child-rearing skills). She’s been lauding the glories of Grocery Outlet for years, and I was often skeptical of this mystical land of cheap milk and discounted honey. I finally heeded her advice and had a blast saving all kinds of money.

However, shopping at Grocery Outlet should not be approached in the same way you approach other grocery stores. You’ll become overwhelmed with all the items you don’t actually want or need, and end up missing all the great deals. Following a few ground rules will help keep dollars in your pocket and the cheap but unnecessary frozen cream puffs out of your basket.

Not all Grocery Outlets are created equal. My first Portland experience was at the Hollywood store a few years ago, and it was a complete Gross Out. It’s small and dark and their selection isn’t (or wasn’t at the time) great. However, the Milwaukie store rules! It’s bright and spacious, just like a regular grocery store. I was amazed with the selection, especially of natural and organic brands, such as Newman’s and Choice Organic. If you are first dismayed with a Grocery Outlet, try an alternate location.

Stick to the items you normally buy and stock up. It was very tempting to buy items that weren’t on my list because they’re so cheap. But that’s counter productive to the goal of saving money. Adhere closely to your list but stock up on pantry items you use regularly. I use canned, organic bean on a very regular basis, so at $0.99 ($1.69 at Trader Joe’s) I bought several cans of each variety and avoided the Amy’s Pizza’s regardless of the deep discount.

If you don’t know where to start, begin with typically expensive items. Flour tortillas must be of the most over-priced items at the average grocery store. The ones I like at Fred Meyer are more than $3 for a bag of 10. Cheese, tea, coffee and alcohol also put a major dent in our grocery budget. I began with these items because I figured that’s where I would find the biggest savings. I was right: Cabot Sharp Cheddar for $3.99/lb, flour tortillas for $1.69, avocados two for a dollar.

Don’t be afraid. Yes, at Grocery Outlet you will find many items close to their “sell by” date. But nothing on their shelves (according to their  website) is sold after the expiration or sell by dates. Meaning the meat, cheese, milk and eggs you take home are still perfectly safe for you to eat. Not going to eat that pork tenderloin in the next couple of days? Freeze it. Same with cheese or butter that’s nearing its prime. The “best by” dates are different. When an item is past its “best by” date, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. It means by this time next year, it might be rancid, but eat it in the next couple of weeks, it’s perfectly fine.

And, really, stop being such a wimp.

Photo credit: kevynjacobs

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Cut it out: Eating for dirt cheap

May 5, 2012

At home, we’ve embarked on a new adventure. We recently sold our house, downsized our possessions and our expenses, and moved into a two-bedroom rental, with the goal of saving money from the mortgage and other home-owning expenses. Part of this adventure includes greatly reducing our food and entertainment budgets. I like to use the […]

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A plate of peas for 2012

January 1, 2012

My husband Peter has a saying: “Whatever you do on the first day of the year, you’ll do the rest of the year.” In the past, my New Year’s Day often included a greasy hangover breakfast and bloody marys. Not necessarily what I want to be eating for the rest of the year. More recently, […]

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How to feel fancypants

October 23, 2011

Last night I prepared one of the most gourmet dinners I have prepared in a very long time. It was incredibly fancypants. What’s really wonderful about this highbrow meal is I spent about 10 minutes preparing it and the cost was under $5. Pizza. Simple, glorious pizza. It was the ingredients that made it fancy. […]

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Blue Palate on the Road: La Tarasca

October 20, 2011

Sometimes a blogger has to take something back. A few posts ago I wrote about how the best Mexican food could only be found 500 miles south of Portland. Well, that was before I stumbled upon La Tarasca in Centralia, Washington. In my defense, I didn’t write anything about what lies north. Now I am. […]

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Queen of Convenience Foods

October 15, 2011

Okay, I’m not really the queen of convenience when it comes to food. I usually take the long way around, making recipes from scratch and chopping vegetables instead of buying them pre-cut and packaged. But the older I get, the less time I have to spend long hours in the kitchen. Cooking is a great […]

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Eating and drinking through Slovakia

October 4, 2011

I recently returned from a three week trip to this tiny, Central-Eastern European country, original home to my husband Peter, where my parents-in-law live in a communist-relic condo building in the eastern city of Košice.”You mean Czechoslovakia?” many people ask when I explain where I’ve been and why my husband has a slight accent. No. […]

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