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Cookbook review: Author offers recipes to eat cheap and good

"GOOD AND CHEAP: Eat Well on $4/Day," by Leanne Brown, Workman Publishing, $16.95, 190 pages

For some people, frugal living is a lofty goal. But for people on fixed incomes, frugal living is a daily necessity. The second edition of Leanne Brown’s recently released book, “Good and Cheap: Eat Well On $4/Day,” succeeds in showing that spending less on food can still be tasty.

Originally written in fulfillment of a master’s degree project in food studies when Brown was a graduate student at New York University, the book sets out to take basic recipes and offer up variations of those recipes while still maximizing every ingredient and teaching economical cooking methods.

According to Brown, the key to great food is kitchen skill and not budget. She writes: “If you can become a more skilled, more conscious cook, then you’ll be able to conjure deliciousness in any kitchen, anytime.”

The recipes in the book have a cost guideline to be about $4 a serving or less (prices vary from region to region), and she offers a cost analysis based on her research at several grocery stores in her neighborhood and online along with averages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it's based on the amount of each ingredient used in the recipe. There is a chart in the beginning of the book of when produce is in season and generally less expensive, along with tips on shopping, using leftovers, pantry staples and kitchen equipment.

Brown's basic foundation to eating well on a tight budget is keeping things such as butter, eggs, garlic, dried beans and canned vegetables on hand. The cookbook includes photos of practically all of the recipes and is divided into soup and salad; snacks; dinner; food that can be prepared in big batches; pantry food (such as sauces and pasta); drinks; and desserts.

Just as Brown's book utilizes items easily purchased at most grocery stores, her writing style is clear and personal, making the 70-plus recipes accessible and easy to make for novices and kitchen wizards alike.

Brown pledges to donate a printed book to a needy individual with every book purchased. The first edition of the book is available as a free downloadable PDF on her website at

Taco Salad

This salad is a great use for leftover beans or pulled pork — crunchy, fresh, yet satisfying enough to be a whole meal. I like to make taco salad for a weekday lunch in the summertime.

Serves: 2, or 4 as a side

Estimated cost: $2.60 for two/$5.20 total

4 cups chopped lettuce

1 cup cooked beans, pulled pork or ground beef

2 small tomatoes, chopped

½ cup corn kernels, canned or fresh

2 or 3 scallions, finely chopped

1 cup tortilla chips, roughly crushed

¼ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese or queso fresco


¼ cup sour cream or yogurt

juice of 1 lime

salt and pepper, to taste

Additions: chopped cucumber, chopped jalapeño (remove seeds for less heat), bell peppers (stemmed, seeded and chopped), grated carrots, salsa

1. Mix the lettuce, beans, tomatoes, corn, scallions, tortilla chips, cheese and any additions in a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, lime juice, salt and pepper. Taste it and adjust the salt, pepper and lime to your liking.

3. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Eat immediately, maybe with a few extra chips on the side.

— "Good and Cheap: Eat Well On $4/Day,” by Leanne Brown

Half-Veggie Burgers

When a reader named Quinn suggested a recipe that used both lentils and meat, I started thinking about how veggie burgers and beef burgers each have their own strengths. Why not combine the two ideas to create a burger with meaty flavor but the lean protein and low cost of lentils? And so I offer you the half-veggie burger. May it rest a little lighter in your belly.

You can use almost any vegetable to make these burger patties, except for lettuce and other greens or super-watery vegetables such as tomato or cucumber. Make sure the vegetables are either small to begin with (like corn or peas) or finely chopped so that they cook evenly. I went for a bell pepper this time. Vegetables such as potato, squash or eggplant, which are inedible raw, should be fully cooked before you add them to the patty.

Serves: 8

Estimated cost: $0.90 per serving/$7.20 total

3 cups cooked lentils or beans

1 cup finely chopped bell pepper or other vegetable

1 pound ground beef or other ground meat

1 egg (optional)

salt and pepper, to taste

8 buns

1. Roughly mash the lentils with the back of a large spoon.

2. Mix the lentils, bell pepper and ground beef with your hands in a large bowl. If you’re grilling, add an egg to keep the patties from crumbling. Season with salt and pepper and form into 8 patties.

3. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat (or fire up the grill, if you have one), and add the patties. Sear them until they’re dark brown on one side, about 5 minutes, then flip ’em and do the same on the other side. If you want cheeseburgers, lay cheese on the patties after flipping them once.

4 Serve on toasted buns with your favorite condiments and fresh vegetables. Burgers are a great place to be adventurous!

— "Good and Cheap: Eat Well On $4/Day,” by Leanne Brown

If you go ...

What: Leanne Brown presentation and book signing

When: Thursday, Sept. 17, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City


Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of the featured book from The King's English.

Paul Kruze is a San Diego-based professional, multiple-award-winning multimedia journalist who has covered political, multicultural and technology stories. He is also a professional musician. Email: