I've become an "envelope stuffer." That's what my friend calls people who put cash in various envelopes and only spend what's in the envelope each week. It seems a basic enough concept, and having never lived with a food budget in my life, the prospect of keeping track of my food money seemed daunting so I adopted this envelope method of keeping track of food money.
The first week I spent nearly the entire wad I had at the farmers' market as usual, then I ran out of bread and there wasn't enough money in the envelope, because good bread is up to $5 a loaf these days.
With a food budget, meal planning is important. You've got to picture the week ahead in meals, and what your money can actually put on the table to make a budget fit. But planning meals in advance has never been one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes I just jot down ideas and hope I have enough imagination when it comes time to make it work.
Last Friday I was too busy or too lazy to look up recipes and when Thursday arrived, I drew a blank. I'd written "quinoa again," but that left a lot of room for getting creative with quinoa which is on the menu at our house a lot these days.
It's frequently on our menu because I got this Cost-Co-size bag of quinoa from a friend who had bought it to try on his cereal. He said, "I sprinkled it on my cereal and it was too hard to chew. How do people eat it?" I told him quinoa is cooked like rice in water, and he suddenly wasn't interested. Maybe he really wanted flax seeds, I don't know, but I wonder what would make somebody who claims he's a tightwad buy a big bag of quinoa when he'd never tasted it.
For people who have known about quinoa for years the idea of sprinkling it on dry cereal is funny, but at the same time I couldn't believe my luck. I love quinoa and an entire bag coming my way was too cool to pass up. Okay maybe I was a little sorry he didn't take the time to try cooking quinoa, but now my food budget money can go for other things.
Anyway, Thursday rolled around and as I looked for quinoa recipes to try, I found quinoa fritters in The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac. So that's what I made.
I have to say these fritters were so amazing, I'd make them again and again. Tom took two helpings last night and my Cooking Assistant and cohorts of course shared one. These fritters were so good, I had to share this budget friendly recipe.
Bocados de Quinoa
(Makes 12 fritters)
This Bolivian recipe is inspired by a similar recipe in The South American Table. We enjoyed these with black-eyed peas cooked in enchilada sauce from Gathering Together Farm and a basic coleslaw from my cookbook. I think these quinoa fritters would also be great with roasted sweet or hot chile's later in the season.
1/2 cup pecans
1 3/4 cup water
1 cup quinoa
1 cup corn (frozen)
4 chopped sundried tomatoes (from a jar)
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 large eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
Canola or peanut oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
Salsa (use your favorite)
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Toast pecans for 9 to 10 minutes. Chop into very small pieces.
2. Heat water in a small pan over medium heat. When water boils, add quinoa, corn, tomatoes, and salt. Bring to a second boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
3. Place cooked quinoa and corn in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, salt, pepper, eggs and parsley and mix well. Stir in the pecans last. The mixture should have the consistency of a very thick batter.
4. Pour enough oil in a skillet to cover the bottom of the pan and heat over medium heat. When the oil glazes over start adding the fritters to the pan. Use about 1/4 cup of the mixture to make each fritter and flatten it slightly when you put it in the pan. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes on medium-low heat and flip the fritter. Since it was my first time I realized too late that it's better to slightly under cook and flip again rather than allow the fritter to brown too darkly or burn. When the fritters are done, place them on a towel to drain, then serve with beans and salsa. A helping of coleslaw from a recipe in my book rounded out this perfect humble meal.
I hope you like these as much as I did. I love the way the oil caramelizes the outside of the quinoa and makes the outside crispy. I put salsa on top of these and it looks like my Cooking Assistant is ready to dig in anyway.
Finn gave these fritters the 4 paws up nomination.