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Of course they were on sale. Strawberries, $1.25 a pound; blueberries, $1.25 a pint. I bought five of each and made the hell out of some jam, and when I was done, there were leftover berries. What to do with them? The answer seemed obvious: Make a tart.

I live about two blocks from my office, and smack-dab in the middle of that short distance is the Whole Foods, a gleaming, delightful emporium of products that someone more ethical than me would be able to figure out a way to afford. I, on the other hand, merely wander its aisles occasionally marveling at the otherworldliness, and/or run in there begrudgingly when I realize I’ve run out of sugar halfway through jam-making and don’t have time to drive to a cheaper store. Whole Foods: my corner bodega.

Anyway, one of the many things I covet at Whole Foods is their tarts. Behind the gleaming, curved glass of the pastry counter, they beckon me with their bright colors and perfect sugar glaze. And they are like $4.99 for a two-bite tart. Now, I will not lie and tell you I have never succumbed. Even the stingiest coupon maven has to throw caution to the wind sometime. But I simply cannot justify the frequent consumption of those tarts.

When berries are on sale, though, I can damn sure make my own.

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Beff inspired me, and so I made blueberry jam.


I am eating this RIGHT NOW. Are you jealous? I don’t blame you. I finished this jam about midnight last night, and all I have been saying since then is “I made jam! I made jam! I made jam! I made jam! Hey, [Husband], did you know I made jam? I MADE JAM!”

But seriously, y’all, this is delicious. And frugal! I did what Beff said and followed the instructions inside the pectin, but here are the details if you are curious:

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No, really! Completely free cake! Read on.

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You don’t need a physical copy to read Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book. I first fell in love with the digital version here, on Google Books. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to curl up with it in bed, which is difficult to do even with a laptop, so I ordered a copy from Alibris. The one I got was printed in 1912, falling apart (I sort-of fixed it with packing tape), and contained a clipping from another book tucked between its pages (“Miss Olive Allen’s Tested Recipes,” which turned out to be an ad for Crisco).


Unfortunately, it had a disappointing lack of penciled notes in the margin. I did so want my old cookbook to have penciled notes in the margin.

It’s obviously been used, though; some of the pages are a little grease-spattered and wrinkly, and it has that general air of being heavily thumbed through, even more than you can chalk up to its being 100 years old. I started at the very beginning and have read straight through page 475 so far. (OK, I’ll admit I skimmed some of the recipes for cold jellied fish soup and stuff like that.)

Why do I love a 100-year-old cookbook?

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Step 1: Before you leave for work, tell your husband, “Man, I’d love meatball subs tonight.”

Step 2: Return home after work; express delight when a plate like the one above is put before you.

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I grew up in Michigan, but I lived in Texas for many years. While I was there, I learned to love Mexican food. In fact, when I was first visiting the college I ended up attending, a bunch of students took me to the most kick-ass taqueria on the planet and schooled the Midwesterner in the ways of chile con queso (I kept wondering where the chili figured into it) and horchata (still one of God’s great gifts to man in my eyes) and how not to order brains in your taco (don’t ask for sesos). I loved it, and I went back to that taqueria many, many, many times, and to its brethren all over the city in both restaurant and taco-stand form.

But secretly? I still harbored a quiet lust in my heart for Taco Bell.

I know. I know. I was living in a city with some of the greatest authentic Mexican food possible, and I still wanted Taco Bell. It’s like, I don’t know, willfully opting for a McDonald’s “apple pie” over the one your grandma makes with the apples fresh from her backyard. I know this, and yet sometimes? Sometimes, a Taco Bell value meal is the only thing in this cold world you want to grab onto and hold. I’m from Michigan, dammit, and part of me is still six years old and absolutely convinced that a packet of Taco Bell Mild Sauce is the spiciest, most exotic taste on the planet.

So when a bunch of relevant stuff went on sale at Giant, I decided I’d do my best to replicate a Taco Bell taco salad for my lunches at work this week.

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Raspberries were two for one at Harris Teeter this weekend, and I bought some, because raspberries are the food of the gods to me. Seriously, when I was a kid on summer break, I used to take my babysitting/lemonade-stand money and ride my bike up to the grocery store and buy as many raspberries as I could afford and take them home and nom them up without restraint. It’s been much too long since I had fresh raspberries, and I was nomming today’s up like the berries of old when it occurred to me: Hey, you can cook with these things.

So I looked around the Internet a bit, seeking a recipe that didn’t call for a bunch of stuff I didn’t have (cream cheese, Cool Whip, graham crackers). Finally I found this and it looked good, so I decided to make it.

Here’s the recipe, copied and pasted from Allrecipes:

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Over the course of my misspent youth, I have lived in many parts of the U.S. of A. I’ve lived in the South and I’ve lived in the North; I’ve lived in big cities and I’ve lived in small towns. Most places I’ve lived have been awesome. Odessa, Texas, is the exception; its only selling point is that it has drive-through stores where you can buy Jell-O shots right from your car, thus drastically lessening the amount of time it takes to get drunk enough to forget how much Odessa otherwise completely sucks.

Anyway, the point of this is that I’ve shopped in many a grocery store in my day. And being cheap, I must admit that any town is improved by a grocery store that is willing to triple a manufacturer’s coupon. This is more common in big cities, where there’s a lot of competition; in the sticks, where Wal-Mart is sometimes all you got, triple coupons are harder to come by. Here in DC, two rival stores (Harris Teeter and Shoppers) have been running triple-coupon specials up to 99 cents every three weeks or so lately, and I have profited mightily from their competitive spirit. Behold, what I brought home today for a total of $7.71:


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Like I may have mentioned, y’all, I’m cheap. I am so cheap that to me, paying for an iced coffee at McDonald’s is tantamount to SETTING MONEY ON FIRE. That’s two whole dollars I could have kept in the bank, where with the magic of compound interest they could turn into $4,329,317.39 by the time I retire!

Er. Anyway, the point was, you can make a delicious McCafe-esque iced vanilla coffee in your very own home. It is easy, and it is cheap. Here is what you do.

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My fellow Kitchen Dorks are ladies of grace and refinement. They make beautifully lit hummus, gorgeous sorbet, delectable pies, and (inexplicably) small cakes shaped like bugs. Me, not so much. For better or worse, I am one cheap cook, and I am here with my wobbly camera and my generic spices to show you how to make The 43-Cent Burrito.


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