Friday, April 20, 2012

A Dozen Frugal Cookbooks You've Never Heard Of (And Two You Have)

I've been having a great time rummaging through my recipe box, cookbooks and frugal living books to come up with a week's worth of Flat-Broke Foods for the Holiday Goodies blog. Although we're not as tight financially this month as in the past, it's been a good reminder of how well you really can eat on little cash.

The garden is starting to show possibilities -- the peas are about 2" high, and the greens are beginning to tuft a little. I've got big plans for putting in some bushes and filling the planters, as well. (Stupid, stupid -- we're bound to get at least one more snowstorm and/or freeze before mid-May!) Can't help it -- the sun feels so good right now.
   Charley and Abby have 5 large holes dug...who knows, maybe they're trying to communicate with the dogs from China. I've heard that putting dog poop in each hole, then refilling it, will keep them from re-digging. It's worth a try.

Don't forget about the Money book giveaway this week. This practical book is good for page-through by you...but even better passed on as a birthday or graduation gift. One comment gives you an entry for the giveaway; mentioning that you 'follow' or are subscribed to e-mail for this blog will get you three entries. Contest ends Sunday at midnight, and entries are pretty low right now -- you've got an excellent chance of winning!

Now on to the meat of this post -- a dozen cookbooks, in no particular order, that have provided excellent -- and frugal -- meals over the years. (Well, 15, if you count the series mentioned.) Some are billed as frugal, some not. I've not heard these mentioned very often, but they're essential to my kitchen shelf. Double-starred items are the best of the batch.

**A Cookbook for Poor Poets and Others by Ann Rogers. Hands-down one of the very best save-a-buck cookbooks I've ever read...and still use, decades after stumbling onto it in a library paperback rack. Ann is very good at bringing out the full flavor of meats and vegetables, even in small amounts. Her salads are especially inventive. This one's hard to find, but worth it.

**Family Circle All-Time Baking Favorites. I have never had a recipe fail in this wide-ranging look at All Things Baked. (In fact, my favorite banana bread recipe comes from here.) You name it -- everything from lemon meringue pie to cookies to cake can be found on its stained and floury pages.

*Stories And Recipes of the Great Depression of the 1930's, Vol. I-IV by Rita Van Amber and Janet Van Amber Paske. Recipes compiled from a wide range of people who lived through the Great Depression, along with their experiences. I don't always make some of these dishes (potatoes and bread figure heavily in them, and we're careful with these right now), but I recognize many of them from my childhood via the Mama, who was a kid during the Depression. So far, everything I've tried has been delicious, and the stories are memorable.

**Good Cheap Food by Miriam Ungerer.  There's some unusual stuff in here -- like a recipe for goatmeat. The dishes, though, have an interesting range of flavors and techniques, often with an international touch. One chapter on "scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel" foods (including a variation on Chowder de Pisces) is worth the book, all by itself.

*Hard Times Cookbook For the 70's by Sheri Lynn Smith. Like Poor Poets, a sleeper that surprised and ultimately delighted me. Sheri Smith cooked for a school, using a miniscule budget, then went on to cater for weddings and other large celebrations. Along the way, she learned to improvise with unusual foods, including a whole chapter on 'mock' dishes. An amazing cookbook that really does march to its own drummer -- because with little money, it had to.

*The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker. Laura and her Ma had little to work with most of the time -- which makes this cookbook a treasure of hard-to-find basics like making cheese. If you're interested in 'old-time' foods, like switchel (a gingery beverage for hot weather), this is a perfect stop. (Reread the Little House series, too, while you're at it.)

*Dining During the Depression by the editors of Reminisce Books. The recipes in this Depression cookbook are more detailed than the Van Amber books mentioned above -- but they've got the same wonderful stories and inventive ideas.

*The Pioneer Lady's Hearty Winter Cookbook by Jane Watson Hopping. Jane's written a whole series of Pioneer Lady books that are excellent; this one is a favorite. Hearty foods, excellent desserts, and recipes ranging from Christmas to spring are here.

**Father Orsini's Italian Kitchen by Father Joseph Orsini. Orsini grew up poor on the East coast. Like his Italian parents, he was teste dure (a hard-headed individual from Calabria, Italy). A stint at a Little Rock, AR seminary cut him off from his beloved childhood foods -- so he learned to cook them. Fortunately, he passed those recipes on to us. Many are meat-lovers' dreams...even those with just a dab of protein. I haven't read Orsini's other book, Papa Bear's Favorite Italian Dishes, but am betting that it also will change your preconceptions on the cooking skills of Catholic priests. (Maybe it's in the genes -- see the monastery cookbook below.)


*The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups: Recipes & Reveries by David Ansel. A good soup is hard to find, but easy to make once you know how to go about it. Ansel made his living for years by delivering large pots of soup via his bicycle. Excellent recipes -- he wanders a bit getting there, but you get to know his California world of oddballs and enthusiasts along the way.

**More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. Another favorite, with recipes collected from Mennonite missionaries around the world. (Doris herself was a missionary to Vietnam for years.) One of the easiest ways to introduce international dishes to your repertoire. This covers a lot of ground in just a hundred or so pages.

*Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette. Originally purchased for a friend's birthday -- but I couldn't bear to give it up. The soup combinations can be unusual, but they're easy to duplicate, and the taste is incredible.

And the two frugal cookbooks you already know? Joy of Cooking, by far the most detailed and widest-ranging of the general cookbooks, as well as the one my grandmother and mom learned to cook by: Betty Crocker. (Betty's cookies are second to none.) The Better Homes & Gardens cookbook was next for Grandma and The Mama -- but I always ran back to Joy of Cooking or Betty, instead.

     Whichever cookbook on this list you choose, you'll find something delicious inside. 

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