Eat Local Nutritious And Tasty Food Without Breaking Your Food Budget


Beet SaladBy Mary Ellen

Is it really possible to eat nutritious and tasty food without breaking your food budget? To go even further, is it possible to eat organic and/or local and still spend wisely? Slow Food, a global, grassroots organization dedicated to supporting small scale, sustainable food production, believes the answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

Slow Food encourages the appreciation of quality food – eat real food with gusto and be an exemplary steward of the earth. A challenge was issued: What sort of a meal can you prepare for $5.00 per person?

People across the country got involved.  On Saturday September 17th, a tableful of the Olympia convivia (the local organization) gathered to share a feast. The three-course meal was anchored in seasonal produce, which is always a great choice for fresh tastes and reasonable pricing. This is the time of year for tomatoes, leeks, beets, various greens and squash. The first course featured a lovely salad of roasted golden beets, leeks and toasted walnuts. An easy marinate cut the under note of harshness in the beets. The main course consisted of a casserole of chicken, rice and vegetables accompanied by a gratin of potatoes, leeks, tomatoes and onions. Gratin is a fancy word for a dish with a browned crust of breadcrumbs, butter and cheese. The meal was topped off with slices of zucchini bread, whose combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cherries and orange zest reminded me of the holidays.

The meal had a variety of tastes and textures, and the conversation was lively. I was impressed with the quality and quantity of food. The meal came in under $5.00 per person – also impressive. All four recipes follow.

Additionally, there is a comprehensive grocery list. Evergreen faculty member Martha Rosemeyer, PhD, whose expertise includes agricultural ecology and food systems, took a shopping trip to the Olympia Food Coop during a week in August. She shopped for all the food items needed for the $5.00 Challenge.


Eat Well – Be Well.


Chicken CasseroleChicken, Rice and Autumn Vegetable Casserole

Serves 11, estimated cost of $18.03


The rice, chicken and beet stems can be prepared a day or more in advance so the casserole can be put together quickly from already prepared ingredients. For richer flavored rice, use the chicken stock created when preparing the cooked chicken. The casserole can be fully prepared then refrigerated for a day before baking.

▪     4 cups cooked rice (preferable brown basmati rice)

▪     2 cups cooked white and/or dark chicken meat cut into half-inch cubes, or pieces carved from a previously roasted chicken.

▪     Stems from 1 bunch of beets sliced in quarter inch pieces and microwaved or steamed until tender (3-5 minutes) – (can substitute chard stems)

▪     1 bunch beet greens, roughly chopped (can substitute chard greens)

▪     1 large onion chopped

▪     3 tomatillos or 1 large tomato, chopped

▪     1 large tomato chopped

▪     Salt and pepper

▪     1 1/2 cups low fat yogurt or cream cheese

▪     1 cup shredded mild farmer’s cheese. Or substitute Monterey Jack with jalapeño or another mild cheese

▪     1/2 can sliced ripe black olives (optional)

▪     Rendered chicken fat, butter, or oil to grease the casserole

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease a 5-6 quart casserole with rendered chicken fat, butter, or oil.

In a large bowl, combine rice, beet greens, onion, tomato and, if used, tomatillo and chicken. Season with salt and pepper. In a smaller bowl combine the yogurt, cheese, prepared beet stems and olives, if using. Spoon half the rice/veggie mixture into the casserole. Cover with half the cheese yogurt mix. Spoon in the other half or the rice/veggie mixture and cover with the remaining cheese yogurt mix.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes (an hour if previously refrigerated) until bubbly and slightly brown on top. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving at home.


Beet SaladRoasted Beet, Shallot and Toasted Walnut Salad

Serves 8 side salads, estimated cost of $5.40


▪     1/4 cup walnuts

▪     1 pound medium sized Chioggia and/or golden beets, tops removed (save beet tops for other recipes), leaving about 1/2 inch of stem

▪     1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped (can substitute garlic)

▪     1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

▪     1 tablespoon either white wine or apple vinegar

▪     Salt and pepper to taste

▪     3 tablespoons olive oil

▪     1 head of lettuce or bunch of lose leaf lettuce with large enough leaves to create a lettuce cup for the beet salad

Toast the walnuts in a small pan over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, and then let them cool. Break or chop so that each walnut half is in 3 pieces.

Add the shallots to the two vinegars. Let them set together for at least 30 minutes. This can be made a day in advance and stored in a jar at room temperature.

Rinse any dirt or debris from the beets – some beets may need to be scrubbed clean. Either boil or “roast” the beets. To boil cook them covered in boiling water for 35 to 55 minutes. To “roast,” preheat the oven to 400˚F. Put beets in a baking pan. Add just a splash of water, and then cover the pan with a tight lid or foil. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until easily pierced through with a knife.

Regardless of the method used, it is important that beets be cooked until tender, though not mushy, as undercooked beets can retain a bitter flavor. When done, uncover and let the beets cool for about 10 minutes.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, cut them in quarters. If the skins are ragged or tough, use your fingers to peel them away. For young beets there is no need to remove the skins. Add the shallot and vinegar mix, and salt and pepper to taste. Let this sit for at least 30 minutes before adding the oil so the beets can absorb the vinegar, which accentuates their flavor. This can be prepared a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.


Tomato GratinPotato, Leek, Onion Tomato Gratin

Serves 10, estimated cost of $13.50

▪     2 1/2 pounds medium potatoes, unpeeled, cut into halves

▪     3 medium onions, thinly sliced

▪     2 medium leeks, thinly sliced into rounds

▪     1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

▪     3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

▪     Salt and pepper to taste

▪     1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes, stem end removed and thinly sliced (1/8th in thick)

▪     1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

Parboil the potatoes until they are nearly cooked, about 13 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool for about 15 minutes, or until they can be easily handled. Some types of potatoes may need the skins rubbed off it they look ragged after cooking. Then cut them into 1/8 inch slices.

Meanwhile, sauté the onions and leeks in a few tablespoons of olive oil and when they have softened, add half the garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until soft and lightly browned.

Layer the onion/leek mixture in the bottom of 9 by 14 inch baking pan, then layer with the sliced potatoes overlapping slightly like shingles. Season with salt and pepper and half the oregano. Then layer the sliced tomatoes. Cover with the remaining garlic, olive oil, remaining oregano, salt and pepper.

Bake in a 375˚F oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned, the whole thing is sizzling, and the potatoes have cooked through. Serve while slightly warm or at room temperature.


zucchini breadZucchini Bread with Dried Cranberries and Vanilla Bean Glaze

Serves 10, estimated cost of $11.62

From Food Network Magazine. Can be mixed by hand – good to make with kids.


For the Bread:

▪     1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled (or 1/2 cup vegetable oil), plus more for the pan

▪     1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour or a mix of whole wheat and all purpose flour

▪     3/4 cup brown sugar

▪     1 teaspoon baking powder

▪     1 teaspoon salt

▪     1/2 teaspoon baking soda

▪     1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

▪     1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

▪     1 cup dried cranberries (can substitute dried cherries)

▪     2 large eggs

▪     1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

▪     1 teaspoon vanilla extract

▪     1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)

▪     1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed dry


For the Glaze:

▪     1 cup confectioners’ sugar

▪     1 tablespoon milk

▪     Seeds from 1 vanilla bean (split lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the bowl in which you make the glaze)


Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly butter one 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

Flour mixture: Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add the dried cranberries.

Liquid mixture: Whisk the eggs, melted butter, yogurt, vanilla and orange zest (if using) in a medium bowl. Stir in the shredded zucchini.

To make the batter: Fold the liquid mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes for a standard loaf. Cool 30 minutes in the pan on a rack, then remove from the pan onto the rack to cool completely.

Make the glaze: Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla seeds in a bowl. Pour over the cooled zucchini bread and let set for at least 20 minutes before slicing into 10 servings.

This dessert can be made (including the glaze) a day ahead.


What can we eat for $5?

A bountiful, local, seasonal meal

Credit to Martha Rosemeyer, PhD. Evergreen faculty for the below list


Roasted Beet, Shallot and Toasted Walnut Salad ( Serves 8 )

Total Per Serving
1/4 cup  walnuts



1 lb beet roots


split – salad/chicken


1 shallot



2 Tablespoons vinegar .48 of balsamic and .22 of apple cider


Salt and Pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons olive oil

$13.97 org

750 ml 15 ml/T


1 head of lettuce




  $  0.67



Potato, Leek, Onion, Tomato Gratin (10 servings)
Total Per Serving
2.5 lbs potatoes

$1.19 Yukon Gold/lb


3 onions

$0.98 yellow WA

2 lb


2 leeks


1 lb


1/4 c olive oil

$13.97 org

750 ml

15 ml/T


3 garlic cloves

$8.59/lb local

1/2 oz



salt and pepper
1.5 lbs tomatoes

$2.39/lb slicer CA


1.5-2 t fresh chopped oregano


1 c/bunch







Chicken, Rice and Autumn Vegetable Casserole (11 servings)
Total Per Serving
4 c cooked rice preferable brown $2.29 aromatic basmati CA


2 c cooked chicken


1 bunch of beet greens


split – salad/chicken


1 large onion



1 large tomato and 3 tomatillos


0.5 lb


salt and pepper
1.5 c low fat yogurt or cream cheese $2.12/16 oz. Nancy’s low  fat organic


1 c shredded cheese

$6.14/8oz org Pepper Jack

0.5 lb


1/2 can olives

2.46 per can



  $  1.64



Total Cost for Our Meal of Seasonal, Local Products

Total Per serving
Roasted Beet, Shallot and Toasted Walnut Salad (Serves 8 )


 $  0.67
Potato, Leek, Onion, Tomato Gratin (10 servings)


 $  1.35
Chicken, Rice and Autumn Vegetable Casserole (11 servings)


 $  1.64
Zucchini Bread (serving 10)


 $  1.17




 Zucchini Bread with Dried Cranberries and Vanilla Bean Glaze (serves 10)

Total Per Serving
1 stick unsalted butter $6.90/lb (with 0.50 off)


1.25 c all-purpose flour $0.94/lb 5 1/4 oz whole wheat pastry flour


3/4 c sugar $1.16/lb


1 t salt $0.56/lb 5 g = 1/6 oz


1 t baking powder $1.67/4 oz


1/2 t cinnamon $24.09/lb


1/2 t baking soda $1.10/1 lb


1/2 t nutmeg $31.36/lb


1 c dried cranberries $21.79/lb


2 large eggs $3.69/doz


1/2 c yogurt $2.12/16 oz


1 t vanilla $15.74/lb


1 t grated orange zest optional


1 c shredded zucchini $1.79/lb 0.5 lb


1 c confectioners sugar $4.97/lb 120g or 1/4 lb


1 T milk $2.59/qt


1 vanilla bean $0.89/bean



 $   1.17


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