Fresh & Frugal

How to cook fantastic, fresh food on a tight budget

Month: November, 2010

Breaking the Habit

Before we get to the post proper: I know mom and grandma would both like good pictures of themselves, but I caught grandma telling a story and mom was determined not to look at the camera. Here’s the one photo of them both that didn’t come out completely blurry.

So I know the name of the blog is Fresh and Frugal, but dear God — what’s ever completely healthy about family get-togethers, especially around the holidays? I’m talking food-wise, that is. At the end of the day, I think everyone brought at least one pumpkin pie this year (sorry Aunt Lynn and Aunt Kristen. Hope you’re both very fond of pumpkin pie). My grandmother told me that my Aunt Mary-Jo was going to be making pumpkin cheesecake, what I had planned on making, so I didn’t make it, only finding out on Thanksgiving that Mary-Jo isn’t coming. Dagnabit! All in all though, this Thanksgiving is one I’ll never forget for a myriad of reasons.

Grandma and her Watergate Salad. Messing around with a bare-bones recipe she found in a magazine, we wound up talking in terms of handfuls, globs, and glugs, but it all worked out in the end. That’s the recipe (neither fresh nor terribly frugal, but it is delicious) that I’m posting at the bottom, if only because I didn’t have a hand in anything else. To be completely honest though, it was nice to not have to worry about the food turning out, or what who would think of which food, or who is allergic to this or that. Not like I ever had to in the past, but maybe next year I’ll get to make something.

One of the reasons I love going to Thanksgiving in Ohio is because everyone goes there. By this, I mean that I have family ranging from 3 to 80-some years, and get to talk to them all, even if only for two seconds before someone else drags them away. My younger cousins are all adorable, and I was startled when Joseph (who I haven’t seen since he was 3 or 4) pointed out that it’s been 5 years since he’s seen me last. “Nikki, that’s too long.” What a little grown up. I just can’t get over how much bigger and more mature they all are. Matthew is in 8th grade, Lauren is nearing my height, Patrick is quick as lightening and such a caring kid, Zach and Rachel are both talking and are no longer babies… Man, it makes me feel like a geezer.

And that was the most I saw of those two. Honestly, almost all of my photos came out blurry, so these are the few that came out well. There was also more running around and playing with the kids, talking to the grownups (I’m awkwardly in the middle of both groups, really), Trivial Pursuit, and Apples to Apples than photo-taking, so it’s mostly my fault. Though I am hoping that anyone from the family who wants these images will feel free to steal ’em from this site and will also send their own awesome photos (AUNT LYNN) my way. I’ll post again, when I make the pecan pie I had also planned on bringing to Thanksgiving, and will include a handful of not-mine photos for those of you who care to see them.

The only thing I regret from this Thanksgiving was that my car isn’t big enough for (nor do I have a big, strong, lumberjack boyfriend to help me carry) the most beautiful piece of woodworking I have ever seen in my life. Pictures of this one will have to wait until Christmas, because my parents took home the gorgeous trunk that my Uncle Bill made. More gushing about this one later, when you can see it and gush, too. It’s honestly the best gift anyone has ever given me. Anyway. More photos of family for now!

And last but certainly not least, our beautiful Thanksgiving hostess. Looks like it should go on that inside flap of a cookbook, doesn’t it?

Grandma’s Watergate Salad

1 package Pistachio pudding mix

1 large can of crushed pineapple (save juice)

1 can of mandarin oranges, drained

1 container whipped cream

3/4 bag of mini marshmallows

2 handfuls of dried dates

2 handfuls of walnuts

one small bunch seedless grapes, halved (Red grapes add good color)

2 handfuls of shredded coconut (optional)


Mix the pistachio pudding mix, pineapple and its juice, the mandarin oranges, marshmallows, dates, walnuts, and grapes together. Everything will look like it’s coated in green slime.

Add the coconut if you like, and mix again.

Gently fold in the whipped cream, then dust the top with some walnuts for decoration if you like. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.  Serve.


Passionate About Pasta

I love pasta. ┬áHonestly. I love pasta. I really really love pasta. No, you don’t even know. I. Love. Pasta. Of course, this isn’t a great thing, since I spend all day, day in and day out, working at a desk, whether it’s with a computer or with old documents. Anyway, the colder it gets outside, the tougher school gets, the less time I want to spend thinking about what to make, and would rather just… make it. Pasta is something I can just make.

There could be just about anything plopped on top of pasta, and I’d dig in — unless the pasta is cold. Cold pasta freaks me out a little. But nice warm, perfectly al dente pasta? Very little in this world makes me happier.

Angel hair and I have a very loving relationship: I buy him, he cooks quickly, and together we make lovely meals. Lately he’s been nestled in garlic, tomatoes, and kalamata olives, or he’s been dotted with brilliant green peas, topped with bacon, and dashed with parmesan. My dearest pasta, can we ever go wrong?



Kalamata and Tomato Pasta

1 Serving angel hair pasta

3 Roma tomatoes (roughly chopped)

5 small white mushrooms (chopped or sliced)

1 small handful of pitted kalamata olives (halved)

1 tbsp parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic (peeled and chopped finely)

1 tsp dried rosemary and/or basil


Set some water to boil.

Drop the garlic, with a touch of olive oil, into a skillet on medium heat.

When it becomes golden-brown, plop the tomatoes, mushrooms, and olives in. Let simmer for 5 minutes or so, before adding the pasta to the boiling water. Finally, mix in the dried herbs and parmesan cheese.

After 3 minutes, drain the pasta and dump into the same skillet with the tomato sauce, or put the pasta on the plate, then dump the sauce on top. Eat.


Green and Red Pasta

1 serving angel hair pasta

3 slices bacon, halved

2 handfuls of frozen (or fresh) peas

1 tbsp parmesan cheese


Set some water to boil for the pasta and peas.

On medium heat, cook the bacon.

Just before the bacon is finished, and once the water is boiling, drop the peas into the water. Cook until the water returns to a boil, then add the pasta. Cook for 3 minutes

Drain the peas and pasta, and plate them. Then tear/chop/break up the bacon, and add to the top of the pasta, with the parmesan cheese. Enjoy.