Monday, March 29, 2010

Dollar Menunaires

Mandy Patinkin gives you some of McDonald’s ideas on responsible, frugal living. Or here are some of mine:

According to, “Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.”

“This year’s G8 summit pledged $20 billion over three years to poor farmers and consumers. This sounds generous but it equates to just $2 per hungry person per year.”

You can feed yourself and your family and friends for about a dollar and create less waste, except for the really satisfying poop you’ll have after this high-fiber meal.

The above Oxfam article says that about half of the world’s food supply goes to waste. Dried beans, covered and stored at room temperature, keep indefinitely and canned tomatoes take 18 months to go bad, so you can buy them without worrying about wasting food and make chili when you have some onions and vegetables that are about to turn. There are lots of things you can add to chili if you have it on hand. I’ve seen recipes that include zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers of other colors, even broccoli. Ground beef, ground turkey, and of course mock ground beef go great in this chili. If using meat, sauté just before adding diced vegetables and omit olive oil. Fake meat can be sautéed with the vegetables and olive oil. Firm tofu, drained, frozen, thawed, and crumbled, has a nice texture for chili, but the color is less “authentic.” You can also use canned beans, of course, just skip all of the soaking and boiling steps. These recipes are all about using what you have and being creative. My friend Emily puts pineapple in her cornbread, which sounds delicious.

This recipe serves 6 hungry people for about $1.02 each. I calculated the prices using my own grocery receipts and websites that list prices of their food, like, so it's a mix of store-brand and brand-name products and very low or very inflated prices. The most expensive thing in this chili is the can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes with chilies, but I don't like buying chilies or cutting them up by hand 'cause then I'd probably forget about it and touch my eyeball or something. Buying store-brand diced tomatoes would shave about ten cents off each serving.

Basic Vegetarian Chili:

2/3 cup dry black beans $0.32

2/3 cup dry kidney beans $0.32

1 tbsp olive oil $0.15

1 green pepper, diced $0.50

½ large onion or one medium onion, diced $0.68

3 cloves garlic, minced $0.25

1 16 oz can chopped tomatoes with chilies $1.09

1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes $0.59

Half of a 16 oz can corn kernels $0.39

½ tsp powdered cumin

½ tsp chili powder

Salt and pepper

Corn Bread:

2/3 cup corn meal $0.12

1 ¼ cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour $0.34

¼ cup sugar $0.10

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 egg $0.16

1cup milk $0.48

¼ cup vegetable oil $0.25

The other half of the can of corn $0.39

Rinse the beans in a colander and put them in a pot with enough cold water to cover them with a good inch or two. Soak for at least 6 hours. If you don’t remember to do this first thing in the morning, bring the beans to a boil then remove from heat and soak for 2 hours.

Bring soaked beans back to a boil, then simmer on low for 1 hour. In the meantime, mince the garlic and dice the onions and green pepper.

When the beans are almost done, heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy sauce pan or pot. Sauté the garlic, onions, and green pepper until softened, but not cooked through.

Drain the beans and add them to the pot. Add the can of chopped tomatoes with liquid, the can of crushed tomatoes, and half of the can of corn and stir. Add the cumin and chili powder and generous salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the chili simmers, make the cornbread. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Blend together the dry ingredients, then add the rest and mix until moist. Let the batter sit for a minute or two and then pour into a greased pan. I like to cook mine in a cast iron skillet and cut it into wedges when it’s done, but corn muffins are sometimes easier to eat and serve.

Add more cumin, chili powder, salt, or pepper to the chili if desired. The longer it simmers, the better it is. And it's even better the next day, so it makes great leftovers.

This chili is delicious and filling the way it is, but, if you have it, it goes great over brown rice and topped with cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions, and/or a squeeze of lime juice. When my mom made chili, I used to eat it with crumbled up Ritz crackers and shredded cheddar on top.

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