Sunday, November 24, 2013

Frugal & Flexible

In a prior blog post, I wrote about my recent attempts at frugality... Shopping at discount grocers, reading sales circulars, sticking  to shopping lists, making foods from scratch instead of buying them prepared. Planning is key, as is flexibility, whether you're making lists of ingredients or mapping out errands. For example, I now think through where I need to go in advance, sometimes putting off one errand for another day or selecting alternate store locations so as to save on gas.

Flexibility also plays into other circumstances, including ingredient selection.  Having a daughter who's been either vegetarian or vegan for a number of years, I've been adapting new ingredients to older recipes for some time now. The easiest adaptations often involve newer, prepared food products such as Tofurky Italian Sausage or Boca Crumbles that allow you to simply swap out a traditional ingredient for a vegan alternative. Such products can be expensive, though. By using other fresh ingredients such as eggplant or lentils, an equally delicious meal can be made at less cost.

Another frugal and flexible practice is to build on, and even combine, prior tried-and-true recipes as needed to meet current needs. I've recently used my favorite scratch sugar cookie dough recipe to make both fruit-filled cookies for a charity auction and a desert for the local shelter. Most recently, I combined an old scratch biscuit recipe with an adapted version of my "Quick and easy eggplant and sausage" recipe to create "pocket pizzas" that were both vegan and gluten-free.

What I really like about this recipe is that it can be shared with practically anyone, it's appropriate for both lunches and dinners, and it freezes and reheats well too (Note: If you're planning on using your FoodSaver, as I did, make sure you freeze your pocket pizzas in advance of sealing them). Here's the recipe, let me know what you think of it.

Vegan & gluten-free pocket pizzas *








2 medium eggplants
2 medium yellow onions
2 medium red, yellow or orange sweet peppers
Dried oregano
Course-ground sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 jar store-brand (cheese-free) pizza sauce
GoVeggie!-brand vegan 'mozzarella' shredded 'cheese'
Olive oil spray (Note: I use my own refillable olive oil sprayer filled with inexpensive Kirkland-brand olive oil)
5 cups Nameste-brand brown rice flour
2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
5 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
5/8 teaspoon table salt
1 1/4 cup shortening
1 2/3 cups soy milk


Rinse off the eggplants, remove their tops/bottoms, cut each into 3/4" cubes leaving the skin on, and soak the pieces in the refrigerator covered in brine (i.e. water with a generous sprinkling of sea salt) for approximately two hours. Preheat the oven to 375F. Coat a cookie sheet with olive oil spray. Drain the eggplant, arrange the pieces on the cookie sheet, cover with onions and sweet peppers sliced into strips, spray with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano/sea salt/fresh ground pepper, and roast for 35-40 minutes until onions/peppers start to caramelize. Combine roasted vegetables and pizza sauce in a bowl and set aside.

Stir together rice flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tarter and table salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles course crumbs. Make a well in the center; add soy milk all at once. Stir until dough clings together. Turn dough onto a cutting board lightly coated in rice flour and need gently for 10 to 12 stokes. Divide dough in two, hand form into two equally long rolls, slice each roll into six pieces.

Press or roll each piece of dough until ~7-8" in diameter, place 1/2 cup of the vegetable/sauce mixture onto each rolled/pressed circle and sprinkle shredded 'mozzarella' on top of vegetables/sauce. Brush the edges of the dough with soy milk, fold over to form half moon-shaped pies, lightly press together the dough's edges and place on olive oil-coated cookie sheets. Brush tops of pies with soy milk. Bake at 450 for 14-16 minutes until golden. Serves 12.

* NOTE: Portions of this recipe were inspired by Weight Watchers "Roasted Vegetables" recipe and Better Homes and Gardens "Biscuits Supreme" recipe. 

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