Fresh & Frugal

How to cook fantastic, fresh food on a tight budget

Month: March, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

About this time last year, when we’re all just about at that point of going absolutely stir-crazy, a curious thing happened. Rhubarb appeared. I don’t mean I suddenly saw oodles of it at the farmer’s market or at Reading Terminal. It stormed across nearly every blog I knew, dragging poor little strawberry along in its wake. It dug its heels into tarts and cobblers, burrowed into scones, and slid into jams and compotes. Let’s not forget the famous rhubarb pies, either. Absolutely everywhere, I was seeing something I had never tasted before.

You can imagine how badly I wanted to try some of it. The weekend after I was absolutely swamped in images of red celery (that’s what I always thought it was. No, seriously.), I trolled through the farmer’s market. No luck. On to general grocery stores. Nothing. Trader Joe’s? Zero, zip, nada. Finally, at this little Asian convenience store in West Philly, I found it. Well, I found one twisted, sad, withered little stalk, almost purple, and certainly bordering on mushy. Foolishly, I pinched a piece off with my thumbnail and stuck it in my mouth.

My eyes just about popped out of my skull. It was all I could do to inconspicuously leave the store before spitting that little bit out. It was far past its prime — that was my first mistake. The second mistake came, I think, in eating it raw. It tasted like moldy week-old mown grass smells. No, I thought to myself. I don’t care how pretty it is, I am never ever ever ever eating this stuff willingly. Never. Ever. And I didn’t. Not until yesterday.

I had seen it at Reading Terminal, bright and frisky, sitting up where only the tall people can reach. If you’re short, you’ll know what I’m talking about — I’ve been asked to reach for things by little ladies more often than I can recall. It hid behind the mound of yellow wax beans, and I probably wouldn’t have spotted it were it not for the fact that I stopped to scoop out about a pound of wax beans. Such a bright reddish-pink, brilliant and stunning in the drab hum-drum of the very last stretch of winter. What better way to welcome spring than to give it a go? Six stalks of rhubarb and two pints of strawberries later, I was zipping through the checkout and on my way to catch the bus.

Let me tell you — the grassy taste didn’t completely leave. I think that bit is seared into the crannies in my brain. But when baked with strawberries and a smattering of sugar, oaty goodness, and just enough flour to make it gooey? That, my friends, is what should usher in spring every year.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

1 Pint of strawberries, cleaned and sliced

6 Rhubarb stalks, cleaned and sliced

1/2 lemon (juice only)

1 tbsp flour

4 tbsp sugar

light sprinkle of salt



1/2 c oats

1/2 c flour

4 tbsp chopped walnuts

3 tbsp sugar (I like brown or raw, but all I had was white)

1/2 stick butter, melted

dash of salt


Preheat to 400.

Toss all the ingredients except those for the topping together in a bowl. Dump into an oven-safe container.

Mix all the ingredients for the topping except the butter. Mix well, then add the butter and stir until.. well, crumbly. Top the fruit mixture, and slide into the oven.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top becomes a golden-brown.

Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.


Tip: Delicious with vanilla ice cream!


Belated Chili

Alright, so I’ve had this post in the works for about a month. Maybe a little bit more. Seriously. It’s not really the right time of year for it anymore, and with the weather warming, I doubt you’d want to make this just now unless we all get another cold snap (knock on wood), but here it is anyway. This recipe is too good to not share with you all. I should definitely warn you though, to go a little easy on the spices if you’re not a huge fan of spicy food. With that said, I unveil: Hungry Girl’s 10-Alarm Turkey Chili!

We had just gotten slammed by another winter storm/snowpocalypse when I realized I had everything in the house that could be tipped into a pot and set on simmer for hours and hours to yield a delicious dinner. Even better? It would feel as though I’d done nothing to prepare the dinner itself, since all the work would have been done hours earlier, and the only bit left was to taste and check its progression. Honestly, there must be something about that ripe-tomato smell, sweet mingling with the chipotle and cumin seasonings that doesn’t just make your mouth water, but warms the room. Add a slab of garlicky, crusty bread and you’re in heaven.

It does make me miss my mom, though. The feeling of coming in from a freezing day to see that mom’s got something going in the crock pot, as rare as a crock pot meal is at home, makes it impossible not to smile to yourself while hanging up your coat. Speaking of mom, she’s going to come visit in a couple of weeks, and I just can’t wait to see her. Hopefully we’ll get to cook together, so you’ll have something else to read about. With any luck, it won’t take me two months to get it posted, either!

This makes a huge amount, so unless it’s headed for a Superbowl Sunday (or any other kind of) party, you’ll want to have plenty of containers ready for refrigerating and/or freezing.


Hungry Girl’s Ten-Alarm Chili


Roasted Purple Carrots

Remember that purple potato goop called purple potato and leek soup? I swear it tasted so much better than it looked. Well, I’m on to purple carrots, now. Alright, so they’re not purple all the way through, but that just adds a gorgeous sunburst to the equation. There’s not much to say on this front, except that these are ever so slightly spicy, and ought to have fresh slices of avocado added (oh that green color), but for $3 a pop the last time I saw them, they had to be left out this time.

Hopefully they’ll be cheaper in August, as almost all lovely produce is. For right now though, spring is still yawning and stretching in Philadelphia. It’s all I can do to eat a grapefruit for breakfast — that bright splash of brilliant orangey-pink first thing in the morning, the snappy citrus making a much better wake-up call than coffee could do. It also makes me want to take a shot at a recipe for orange-butter I spotted over at The Kitchen Sink last late-winter-slash-early-spring. The color, the citrus… It just screams hurry up and sprout! to spring. I just can’t wait for the bright green snap peas, the dreamy-purple chive blossoms, and brilliant red rhubarb.

I have to apologize (again, s’more) for the rare posts. I’d love to tell you I’m out living life to the fullest, running from one falling star to another (thanks Kerouac), but I’m holed up, writing presentation papers in every waking moment. I can’t complain, though — already I realize how much I’ve learned about the Bronze Age Aegean during my first year in grad school, and can’t wait for the chance to see the sites in person this summer. Oh, and look at my little daisies coming up!


Roasted Carrots

1 lb purple carrots (they can be expensive, so I went half purple and half orange)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 lime

2 sprinkles cumin

1 sprinkle red pepper flakes

salt to taste


Preheat the oven to 400.

Peel the carrots and slice them into relatively thick little stumps. 1/2 inch, maybe.

Toss the carrots, olive oil, and spices together in a bowl so the carrots are well-coated, and lay them out on a baking sheet.

Slip the sheet into the oven for 20 minutes or more, until the carrots are tender.

Juice the lime and toss the juice over the carrots. Eat while warm!


Tip: If you grab an avocado, slice it up and add it to the top of the just-roasted carrots, then toss on the lime juice.