I decided to do a review of my all time favorite cookbook, the More-with-Less Cookbook, by Doris Janzen Longacre. But first a little story (it is what you have come to expect from me, right?). When I was 20 years old I was a student in my second year of college. Actually, to be more accurate, I was not a student in college - I had opted to stay in the college town I was living in and get a job rather than go to school. I was burned out on college and I really couldn't decided what I wanted to major in and felt I was wasting my money. While reading the campus newspaper one day I noticed some ads - "Nanny Wanted." Seems there was a booming business finding cute college coeds to be live-in nannies for families on the east coast. Hey! Since I'm not going to school anyway, why not travel, get paid, and not have to pay rent - all at the same time!! Sounds like a winner to me. So I interviewed with an agency then had phone interviews with several families. The family that I immediately clicked with was a family in Washington DC. The Bentons had two little boys, ages 18 months and 6 weeks. They had amazing red hair and the pictures were of some of the cutest kids I had ever seen. A few weeks after Christmas I packed up my life, boarded a plane and flew off to live with a family I had never actually met in person. I look back now and marvel at my chutzpah and bravery. I should have been scared to death (and at moments I was), but overall I was just excited for this new adventure.
My year in Washington DC, turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. The first month was a huge adjustment period and I cried often, but I learned to rely on myself and to trust myself. I made amazing friends and traveled all over the east coast - Maine, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut. The Bentons are vegetarians and one of my jobs was to cook dinner for them on week nights. I learned how to cook vegetarian dishes and founds some great vegetarian recipes. And, I found my favorite cookbook, More-with-Less Cookbook.
This cookbook isn't strictly vegetarian, it does have lots of meat recipes, but as the name implies, this book is about eating better with less and sometimes that means less meat. The book was inspired by a 1974 resolution by the Mennonite Central Committee. Part of this resolution was the call for all Mennonite and Brethren in Christ households to reduce their food budgets and consumption by 10%. This cookbook was intended to help them figure out how to do that.
This cookbook is not gourmet and it doesn't even try to be. But almost every ingredient in the book is something you probably have in your pantry right now (or you should if you consider yourself a frugal healthy cook!). There are "from scratch" recipes for sandwich bread, granola, tortillas, pizza, white sauce, "cream of" soups, and much more. The recipes are simple, cheap and quick. These recipes do not rely on heavily processed convenience food (no Velveeta here!), they rely on vegetables, beans, grains, and small portions of meat. Some of my favorite recipes from this book are:
- Basic Dry Cereal Formula - granola from scratch but this recipes allows you to customize it for what your family likes or what you have one hand or what happens to be cheap!
- Basic Baked Beans - baked beans from scratch - yummy and oh so cheap!
- Baked Lentils with Cheese - a vegetarian dish that is so good.
- Cottage Cheese Casserole - another vegetarian dish that tastes like comfort food.
- Indian Fry Bread - not low cal but cheap and can be used in a myriad of ways.
- Torta Pascualina - Argentine Spinach Pie. Trust me on this one, it's great.
For me cookbooks are kind of like good literature. I enjoy reading them even if they don't apply to my life directly. But when I find a cookbook that inspires me to get in the kitchen, that one I keep. This book is a keeper.