Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Being a budget gourmand

People that know me aren't going to be surprised at all by this, but I'm kind of a food freak. Sure I'm in great shape but that is from exercise, the truth of the matter is I'm a gourmand, a lover of food and on a budget that is hard. Sure classically a gourmand loved pretty much all food, and I'll grab a sack of McFatty's every now and again, but I prefer to find really good food at low prices and on that count Aldi's and the local farmer's market have been my friend. Aldi's is a really great bargain store because they rely on the overproduction of the big companies, there are very few things beyond the staples (frozen fish filets and boneless, skinless chicken breast are so versatile if you know how to cook) that you will find time and time again so it is a store that actually kind of makes you expand your epicurean horizons.

My local farmer's market? Well, I live in Florida so it kind of spoils me when it comes to produce, I can get almost anything all year and have it fresh and locally sourced. As great as that is it isn't the only reason I go there though, I love the weird little niche shops, like the pickle place or the hot sauce booth, or the lady that makes all sorts of loaves of cake, or the coffee shop with their chocolate dipped espresso beans. There are so many little weird food vendors who are passionate about what they sell and how they make it (I'm looking at you, organic, locally sourced honey guy) that I know every time I go there with a few extra bucks I'm coming away with some good stuff.

Actually that brings to mind people blaming obesity on poverty, it's a really stupid argument because yes there is a ton of premade crap out there but no one is forcing it down your throat and it really isn't cheaper than buying the ingredients and working a little DIY magic. The reason people do it is primarily because people are lazy and while cooking is easy, learning to cook is hard. I'm going to be sharing some great recipes, either of my own making or ripped from the net here every time I run one of these budget gourmand articles. Here comes the first.

Ravioli Lasagna: A fun take on an Italian classic


    1 pound ground beef
    1 jar (28 ounces) spaghetti sauce
    1 package (25 ounces) frozen sausage or cheese ravioli
    1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


    In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. In a greased 2-1/2-qt. baking dish, layer a third of the spaghetti sauce, half of the ravioli and beef and 1/2 cup cheese; repeat layers. Top with remaining sauce and cheese.
    Cover and bake at 400° for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1-1/2 cups) equals 438 calories, 18 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 77 mg cholesterol, 1,178 mg sodium, 42 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 26 g protein.

I'm a bit of a cheese fiend so with this dish I usually toss in a bit of extra mozzarella which does raise the fat content but it is still a pretty good meal, if a bit high calorie. That's fine, dinner is supposed to be the big meal of the day where you get all the stuff you missed in earlier meals. I usually like to start off with a spinach salad in light Italian dressing, or bleu cheese dressing if I am feeling a bit decadent and a glass of red wine (you can find some great cheap ones, I rarely spend more than $8 a bottle) paired with the main course, usually a merlot though I've been really enjoying sangria lately.

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