Special Addition This post is the first of a series: Penny Pincher In Paradise. It is also a response to the ever-popular posts, Penny Pincher In Paradise and How Can You Afford To Live In Hawaii?… You, my Dear Readers, keep asking for numbers. And here you have them.
After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives. ~Oscar Wilde
Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentiis have no worries from me. They are both much thinner and much richer than I am. But our cooking habits have a similarity. I’ve always preferred scratch to prepackaged. I try for good ingredients, fresh and organic if I can afford it and it’s available. I am on the cheap side, always in search of the bargain and sale. I’m not much of a coupon clipper, because they tend to advertise items that are “value-added” which I don’t find much value in.
Dinner For One and Two More Meals
I’m in the habit of cooking for three. Two decades of single-mom-dom ingrains such habits. It’s not too infrequently that I have a guest pop in. In fact when we lived in Northeastern Oregon, Bob Jackson, octogenarian and renowned tree-farming bachelor, used to “just be passing by” with such regularity that my daughters would often set a plate in anticipation. We enjoyed Bob’s company (especially when morels were plentiful on his property) as we did many of our frequent dinner guests, no matter where we were calling home.
- 1 1/2 medium-to-large tomato
- 1/2 a head of garlic
- Tablespoon fresh thyme
- Teaspoon fresh rosemary
- 1/2 lb dry pasta
- dozen good olives
- splash balsamic vinegar
- splash extra virgin olive oil
- grinds cracked pepper & sea salt
- dusting parma cheese
For three decades now, I would be nothing without my toaster oven. I hardly use my microwave which sits unplugged but for the rarest occasion. Hawaii is breezy but why go through all the trouble of heating up a big oven for something so quick and easy?
I coat the bottom of a toaster oven tray with olive oil. I smash and peel cloves of garlic (about a half a head) and arrange them around the perimeter. Then cut up the tomato about 1/3 of an inch slices. Roast in toaster oven for about 20 minutes. Dust with rosemary and thyme. Add some salt and pepper and return to toaster oven for 10-15 minutes. (Oven times and temps vary) Tomatoes should be well done, extra juice caramelized, garlic soft and sweet.
Transfer roasted tomatoes and garlic into serving dish. Use balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. Combine with tomatoes and olive oil. Add about a half dozen good olives and slosh in some olive juice for good measure.
Boil water for pasta. Cook in salted water on the longer side, not al dente. Al dente is for pastas that cook the rest of the way in the sauce, and this particular sauce doesn’t have that kind of residual heat.
Remove from cooking water and stir into serving bowl. Combine well and let sit for the pasta to absorb the flavors. Plate up one serving. Dust with parma cheese. Grate fresh, if you can.
The Break Down (Hawaii Prices)
- Tomatoes: $2 for a bag of 4 at Blaisdell Farmer’s Market= 75 cents (1 1/2)
- Garlic: $2 for a stocking net of 5 heads=20 cents (1/2)
- Thyme: $1.50 at Blaisdell=5 cents
- Rosemary: my own plant=free
- Dry Pasta: Sale at Longs 99 cents=49 cents (1/2)
- Good Olives: Sale $3.99 at Safeway=40 cents (about 4 doz in jar)
- Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Parma=less than $1
- Grand Total= $2.89
- Three Servings=96 cents each
Although what you see up at the top is actually what I ate today for dinner, I could have added some romaine lettuce for a simple salad, some crusty bread (I grow my own sourdough), or even splurged (more than likely what I will have tomorrow) by adding a wild salmon fillet or a chicken breast (Target frozen section). Often I have a jar of artichokes in marinade in the fridge to throw in the mix.
The real question is: How could I afford fast food? Eating well hasn’t been too much of a problem for me. It takes some planning and a well-stocked pantry. It takes regular trips to the farmer’s market or subscription to a CSA. If you like this sort of thing, there are plenty more tips I’ve got up my sleeve. Got a favorite of yours to share? We’d all love to hear.