A favorite among foodies is fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, dubbed an “Insalata Caprese” or Caprese Salad for its Italian roots in Capri. Although less pricey than the original’s buffalo milk mozzarella, fresh mozzarella made from cow’s milk is still a luxury item when you’re eating on a budget. And, like many types of cheese, it has a relatively high fat to protein ratio. So, this poor man’s version substitutes cottage cheese and serves it up on crackers or bread. This still has that light, fresh taste, but it’s higher in protein and lower in fat, even if you use full-fat cottage cheese. You can use any bread or cracker as the base; I used a thin rice cake for this gluten free version, but it would be great with a rye crispbread or sliced baguette, too. This makes a great snack or light meal. I think I’d like it with tomato soup, too, despite the redundancy.
Poor man’s caprese
- Crackers, crispbread or sliced baguette
- Cottage cheese
- Thick-sliced tomato
- Basil leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- Salt & Pepper
Spread 2-3 Tbsp cottage cheese on each cracker. Top with tomato slice, a drizzle of EVOO, salt, pepper and basil leaf. Nosh & enjoy.
Dietary notes: Lots of lycopene & Vitamin A, C & K from the tomato and a healthy dose of protein and calcium from the cottage cheese. ♥ Vegetarian ♥ Gluten Free
Cost: about $2.50 with a half-pound organic tomato.
Cucumbers are one of my favorite summer vegetables. I love their cool crispness and often snack on wedges on their own or with hummus. This simple salad is another way to enjoy them and a wonderful way to use both cucumber and mint when your summer garden is bursting with them.
- Diced cucumbers
- Coarsely chopped mint
- Chopped scallions
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt (kosher or ground specialty salt is nice)
- Toasted caraway seeds (optional)
Toss all ingredients together, going lightly with the olive oil and vinegar. I tend to use a ration of 2-3 part olive oil to vinegar. Serve sprinkled lightly with caraway seeds, if you like. This is lovely with cottage cheese, on a salad, or as a cooling side dish. I sometimes toss in tomatoes right before serving.
Dietary notes: vegan, gluten free, grain free.
Cost: about $.75 for a 1-cup serving
The egg has been called a perfect food for years, but they’ve gained recent recognition for being even healthier than we thought! Throw in some fresh organic veggies & herbs and maybe a little cheese from grass-fed dairy cows and you’ve got delicious, nutritious Nirvana! Fritattas are a quick and super easy way to whip up a well-balanced meal – for one or for a crowd. Here are the basic ingredients:
- Fresh local eggs (I use 2 per person)
- Onions, veggies & herbs of choice
- Crumbled or grated cheese (optional; 1/2 – 1 oz per person)
- Extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
- Salt & pepper
Saute your veggies in some olive oil (starting with the onions) til soft, sprinkle on your fresh herbs and cheese, then top with your beaten eggs seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook on low heat until top is fairly firm, loosen around the edges, then give it a minute or two under the broiler to brown the top. Slice into wedges and serve. That’s it!
And the beauty of this delightfully easy healthful dish is that in can be made for about $2 per serving with healthy real foods. What’s not to love?
Dietary notes: Grain Free, Gluten Free, Ovo-lacto Vegetarian
Cost: $2.00 per serving
Break a couple eggs, not your budget! A simple fritatta, made with local eggs, feta cheese (from grass fed cows), organic veggies and sliced tomatoes on the side costs less than $3. Eggs have been called the “perfect food” for their high food value and amino acid profile. I made this with zucchini, scallions and basil. Vegetarian & and gluten free. Yum!
Here’s one from the Five Minute Foodie page on Facebook in a more traditional recipe format. I used Tinkyada brown rice elbows (gluten-free), but you can use any pasta you like and any vegetable that can be quickly blanched. Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach or chard would all work nicely too (greens will need less time in the water – perhaps just a minute). You can vary the cheese and herbs as well. A nice, easy summer meal that’s just as delicious as a cold pasta salad the next day!
- 1/2 lb. pasta
- a few cups of zucchini or other vegetable, cut in bite-sized pieces
- a plump, fresh tomato, cut in bite-sized chunks
- large handful of chopped scallion tops
- handful of chopped basil (and/or other fresh herbs)
- a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
- splash of lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- 2 oz crumbled feta cheese
Put the pasta on to boil. Add veggies during the last 2-3 min of pasta cooking time (less if using greens). Drain pasta and veggies, but leave a little wet. Throw them back in the pan or in a large bowl and add other ingredients. Toss well & serve warm. Serves 4.
Hints: Pre-cutting vegetables in batches is a huge time saver! Also, leaving a little pasta water after draining is a trick that “old school” Italian cooks like my grandma use to get a nice, light, sauce from all the melded ingredients. The bottom of the bowl will look something like this (and it will be delicious!) Grilled Italian or chicken sausages (I love Blinkski’s organic), grilled chicken, a salad and crusty wholegrain bread would all go nicely alongside.
Dietary notes: Gluten Free, Ovo-lacto vegetarian
Cost: $2.00 per serving (less if using conventional pasta)