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Friday, July 12, 2019

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for Early July

sauteed garlic scapes

Friday (I gave myself the night off from cooking by making extra the day before)
leftover chicken from the 4th
leftover dinner rolls
leftover rhubarb jello
leftover blueberry pie

pizza (another take-out pizza using the balance on the same gift card from a week ago)
green salad
garden raspberries
fresh cherries
candy-coated pretzel rods

lentil, barley and vegetable soup
homemade French bread

bean and cheese burritos using homemade tortillas and scratch refried beans
sauteed Swiss chard and onions

ham sandwich
microwave-baked potato

baked beans and ham
scratch macaroni and cheese
sweet and tangy cole slaw (with dehydrated, sweetened rhubarb bits in with the cabbage)
scratch brownies

leftover baked beans and ham
leftover macaroni and cheese
oven-roasted carrot sticks
sauteed garlic scapes
toast, using whole wheat bread and the leftover salted oil from the carrot-roasting pan and some of the oil from the scapes

It's summer and my family, like others, likes to do as many outdoorsy things as possible while the weather is nice and the days are long. Saturday evening, we wanted to have dinner at the beach. dinner at the beach, bringing our own food, is my family's way of "eating out" during good weather. We sacrifice the table service that a traditional restaurant would offer, but we get the most amazing view of the water and really enjoy our evening. We had the balance on a gift card that we could use to pick up a pizza, ordering off of a "specials" menu for a $7.99 large 3-topping pizza. We paired the pizza with a salad made with greens from our garden and a scratch vinaigrette, raspberries and cherries freshly picked from our property and the last of the candy-coated pretzel rods. Like many of us here, I have an assortment of leftover paper plates and napkins (from various celebrations and parties), and plastic cutlery (washed and reused). Once at the beach, we found a bench that was front and center for viewing a spectacular evening on the waterfront. After we had dinner, we played some frisbee and walked along the water's edge. I think that evening picnics are even more enjoyable than midday ones, as the public areas are not as crowded, the evenings are cooling off, you don't need sunscreen, and sunset views are beautiful. This is cheap and cheerful dining at its finest.

I wanted to talk a bit about the garlic scapes. If you don't have a garden or don't grow garlic then you may not know what I'm talking about. So I'll fill you in. Garlic plants send up a flower stalk in June or July. The leaves of a garlic plant are flat and tender like grass. The green part of the flower stalks are thicker, sometimes as thick as thin asparagus, and curl noticeably. The head of the flower stalk is pointed before it opens. It is at this point that garlic scapes are harvested, cutting off the curled section of the stalk along with the unopened blossom end.

This is how I use the scapes:
As is, the scapes have a very strong flavor. To temper this, I blanch the scapes in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or just until the stalks turn bright green. I then heat a small skillet with about 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, and saute the scapes in the oil until they are a darker green and very tender, turning frequently. Warning -- in this much oil, they do pop and splatter some oil., so after the initial cooking, I turn the heat down to low for the rest of the cooking.

Once cooked, I remove with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with a bit of salt. These are so yummy, as is. I could eat a whole pile just snacking. But they are also delicious chopped and sprinkled over other dishes, such as a cream-based pasta dish, on pizza, or inside sandwiches. I pour off the extra, now garlic-infused oil and use to flavor other foods, such as focaccia and French breads, plain pasta or rice, meat and veggies, or as a dipping oil for breadsticks. Do any of you cook with garlic scapes? Have you ever noticed them at the farmer's market or in a CSA box? They're very tasty, so if you do come across some, either in your garden or in a CSA box, definitely try them.

In a home-garden, there are many opportunities to harvest produce items that you never see in traditional grocery stores, such as the blossoms from summer and winter squash plants, edible flowers and leaves such as nasturtiums, rose hips, currant leaves, young pea vines, grape leaves, and the flower stalks of garlic.

Most of our produce this week has come from our garden and included Swiss chard, lettuce, baby kale, garlic scapes, rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, snow peas, oregano, rosemary, and basil. With the money that our garden is saving us, I am stocking up for winter with an extra purchase or two. This past week, I was able to buy a case of #10 cans of tomato paste. At Cash & Carry, the tomato paste was on sale for about $1 less per #10 can, saving me about $6 by buying a  6 to 9-month supply now. I paid $4.79 per #10 can, 6 cans total. Each can contains 111 ounces. I previously would buy 6-oz cans of tomato paste for making spaghetti sauce, ketchup, or tomato soup and would spend between 50 and 60 cents for each 6-oz can. My #10 can purchase yielded 6-ounce portions at about 26 cents each, or half of what I would typically pay at Fred Meyer. For the most part, the rest of this summer we'll be using fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes and will save these cans of paste for fall and winter. So this was truly a winter stock-up item.

Canned tomato products in the smaller sizes go on sale in grocery stores in my area a couple of times per year. One of those sale cycles usually hits in August or early September, as stores clear out last year's stock before replenishing with this year's. The cans are stamped with sell-by dates, so it's easy to see if stocking up with a year or semi-year supply at a sale price will work for one's household.

In other news for my area -- we had an earthquake in the night last night. Just before 3 AM, my entire household was awoken by the shaking. The epi-center was about 12 to 15 miles from my home. It wasn't a huge quake, just a 4.6, but it was definitely felt here. At first, I thought someone had jumped onto the bed or broken into the house. Then one daughter shrieked. We all poured into the hallway and talked about what we each had felt. One daughter and I stayed up for an hour reading tweets online then when the news finally caught up, we watched for updates. I checked the house and discovered that nothing was damaged. Exciting night, but I think I'd rather have less excitement. Anyway, hopefully you had a much better night's sleep than I did, and that you week was pleasant.


  1. I learn so much from you - so did you purchase a garlic plant, use seeds, or plant a garlic clove? That is so interesting. Thank you for educating me on many different levels.

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Hi Ruthie,
    I planted grocery store garlic cloves several years ago, and I have saved some for each year since. Some people say that grocery store garlic will not form scapes or even sprout, but this was not my experience. If you are afraid grocery store garlic won't work for you, you could also try an organic head of garlic or some seed garlic from a catalog. To plant garlic, in the fall about 6 weeks before frost, separate a head of garlic into cloves and plant in the soil about 3 to 4 inches deep and about 6 inches apart with the pointy end up. In June or July, depending where you live, the scapes form. Cut those to use then let the garlic plants continue to grow. You can dig around the tops of a few if the garlic plants in July or early August to see if they have formed big enough heads. If you forget to dig them up, the heads will separate. You could still use them, save them to plant in the next fall, or leave them in their spot just for growing scapes. I have a small patch that is just for scapes. I get quite a few scapes and I don't have to do any work at all with them. They last in the garden for several summers.
    Hope you have a great weekend, too, Ruthie!

  3. Hi Lili, sorry I've been MIA...but upon hearing the news of the quake, I wanted to check in on how you are doing. Glad you're ok. The epicenter is so close! Do you watch Dutchsinse on Youtube? He has a wealth of knowledge about quakes and volcanoes and is probably discussing this quake today.

  4. I forgot, this is YHF

  5. Hi YHF,
    thanks for checking on me. I haven't seen that youtube channel, but will look it up. We do get a lot of really small quakes, but never feel them. I am curious to learn more about earthquakes, so thank you for the recommendation. I hope all is well with you this summer and that your husband is doing well. I keep you two in my thoughts and prayers. Take care of yourself, too!
    Have a great weekend.

  6. Hi Lili, As always your meals sound so good - gives me inspiration. I have cooked with garlic scapes back when I belonged to a friend's CSA. I'll look for them the next time I go to the Farmer's Market. They really are good.

    I felt the earthquake this morning as I was reading (couldn't sleep) and Maggie, my cat, was snuggled in on my lap. A moment before I felt it she suddenly lifted her head and perked up her ears. I'm in East King County so far enough away that it was slight. Sounds like you are at the epicenter. Shirley

  7. Yikes, glad everything is okay from the quake! We had 2 near LA last weekend. They were pretty big but luckily we were over 100 miles from the epicenter. It's a terrifying feeling though!

    Whenever I find garlic scapes, I like to make garlic scape pesto! It comes out the most gorgeous vibrant green color.

  8. Scary! In Michigan we don't really have earthquakes much. We did have two of them in the last 10 or 12 years but we hardly feel them.

    Nice work on your lovely menus this past week. They all looked amazing.

    We are really making work on using freezer foods. We had a really good stir fry on Thurs. night with 3 to 4 small pkgs. of various meat from the freezer and we had guests. Everyone thought the meal was really good and it was all made from freezer and pantry. I then defrosted the deep freezer because it needed it. I didn't find any surprises except maybe that there are 9 whole chickens. There is ground beef but no beef roasts and no pork. So meals will be chicken and ground beef!


  9. I have never heard of garlic scapes. While I like garlic, I like just a little at a time so I might not seek out the scapes. But anything that's fried has to be good.

    Your picnic at the beach sounds lovely and the evening sounds perfect. I'm for anything to get out of the crowds.

    Glad you earthquake wasn't more involved. I don't live in earthquake country, but we have had a couple of them about the size of your recent one in the last few years. One had a large boom associated with it that was quite remarkable. The boom was related to the quake and not a subsequent explosion.

  10. So glad you are safe from the earthquake!

    I've never heard of garlic scapes. I can't remember if I mentioned this before or not, but my husband planted kohlrabi for the first time ever. Tonight was our second experience with them. We all prefer the bulb. The leaves are ok cooked, but they require a long time cooking to make them tender enough for our preference. None of us liked the stem.

    Like you, I prefer the beach at "off" times. I took my kids for breakfast-at-the-beach this week. It's the second time we've done it and we all love it. So quiet and peaceful at that time of day. When it started to get a little busier, we went for a walk on the boardwalk. Around here, evenings at the beach are still pretty busy--mornings are the time to be there if you want a quieter atmosphere. What a great evening with your family!!


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