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Garden Gumbo Recipe
Casual Kitchen: The 25 Best Laughably Cheap Recipes at Casual Kitchen

Today’s recipe, Garden Gumbo, is yet another laughably cheap dish. Like most of the recipes in this blog, it scales well and is easy to make. And since it contains brown rice and a wide variety of veggies, it will satisfy all of your daily nutritional needs in one easy dish.

What prompted me to share this recipe was reading about Congressman James McGovern's food stamp challenge. If you’re not current on the story, McGovern is a Massachussetts Democrat who ate all of his meals for one week on an “average” food stamp budget, which he defined as $21 a week or $3 a day. If you want to learn more about the subject, here's his blog.

Don't worry, I'm not trying to inject any political issues into this blog. I could care less. But what fascinates me is how everybody seems to think it has to be expensive to eat well in your own kitchen.

I’ve already written on the subject of not letting yourself get rattled by upfront spice costs, and other tips on how to make cooking at home laughably cheap. I've even made "laughably cheap" one of the primary tags on this blog under which you can find several unbelievably inexpensive yet delicious recipes--the most obvious one, of course, being fried rice for under $1.

To think that people will happily pay extra money for special food so they can lose weight (see Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig), and yet this guy lost three pounds in one week just by going on food stamps! The irony is not lost on me.

So today I’m using Congressman McGovern’s little PR coup as an opportunity to share with you my Garden Gumbo recipe, which is modified from one of my favorite cookbooks: Jay Solomon's Vegetarian Soup Cuisine.

I'll admit it ain't easy to live on a grocery bill of $21 a week. But I'm here to tell you that IT CAN BE DONE. And today’s recipe is a perfect example. So thank you Congressman McGovern for prompting me to put out yet another inexpensive recipe--which by my math costs roughly 80c per serving.


Garden Gumbo
(modified without permission from Jay Solomon's Vegetarian Soup Cuisine)

1 Tablespoon oil (prefer olive oil)
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 cups water, chopped (...just checking if you're actually reading this)
1 14-ounce can stewed tomatoes

Spices:
2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if desired)

3/4 cup brown rice
1 15-ounce can red beans

In a large stock pot, heat the oil and add the chopped onion, green pepper, zucchini, celery and garlic. Add in the spices, then saute for 10 minutes on medium heat until veggies are softening.

Add water, stewed tomatoes and brown rice. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes.

Stir in the beans and simmer another 5-10 minutes, then serve! Serves 6+ easily.



Here my math on the cost of this dish:

onion------------------------------25c
green pepper---------------------75c
3-4 sticks celery-----------------25c
Band-aid for Dan's finger-------25c (nicely sliced while cutting celery)
zucchini---------------------------90c
3-4 cloves garlic-----------------25c
spices, oil--------------------------25c
stewed tomatoes------------------69c
brown rice-------------------------25c
1 can beans----------------------79c-99c

Total cost: $4.63 to $4.83 for 6 servings
Cost per serving: 77c to 81c

(Once again, I have to thank the genius finance professors at Columbia for giving me the skills to work out this one....Now if that MBA could only help me pick better stocks!)