I met a woman yesterday who complained about the high price of healthy food here in the capitol. She had just found out she was pregnant and was told to stop eating all the junk and fried food she regularly consumed. She is young, newly married, carrying a mortgage back home and a rent here. She said she just couldn't afford the healthy food. She has a valid point - if you don't know how to cook or aren't willing to spend some time in the kitchen, buying and preparing healthy food can hit your budget harder.
Of course, Pollan and other food researchers have discussed the total cost of all that prepared, processed food and fast food--think government subsidies and poor health costs.
But, if we spend a little bit of time in the kitchen, we can make some wonderful, mostly healthy, fresh food out of basic product. Yes, the fresh veggies and fruits are expensive, but they go a long way usually. A $8 box of mandarins this time of year gives our family five or six days of lunchtime and snack treats. Think Italian, Mediterranean, Chinese, Indian and you will see how well you can eat on about the same as you spend on the cheap, boxed foods and much less than going out, even to McDonalds.
This weekend we bought bok choy at a Chinese food market--tender, green, sandy-as-could-be bok choy. Price: a ridiculous $2. At a local supermarket the same bok choy would have cost me three times as much. I don't know why--supply/demand volume?
Boy choy is usually quite sandy and needs to be washed. Trim off just the very bottom, seperate the leaves and put them all in a colander for some really good individual washing or float them in a sink of cool water.
*You can make this with spinach, kale, bok choy or whatever greens you have. You could make it into a Spanish torta if you wanted to flip it. I find flipping a large fat omelette a bit intimidating so I go the frittata route.
1 Tbsp butter
As much greens as you like, cleaned well, drained and chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 onion (mild), diced fine or quickly pureed in mini-blender
Dash of white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar depending on your mood
1/3 c. milk
1/2 to 1 c. shredded cheese - I used a mild goat cheese we had in fridge. Gruyere, cheddar or any other nice melting cheese would work
In a medium stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the greens and onion. If too dry, add a Tbsp water. Cook over medium heat until greens are wilted and to your desired degree of softness. Towards the end of the cooking time, sprinkle in a dash of vinegar and some salt.
Place 2 paper towels layered in a colander. Drain the greens in the colander.
Mix eggs and milk together, hand-beating until smooth. Stir in cheese and greens. Add salt and pepper. You can also add spices at this time. Nutmeg is a nice addition. Or, try oregano or basil.
Heat broiler and position a rack under broiler.
Heat a large (10" or greater) pan over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray or rub with oil. Pour in egg mixture. Tilt back and forth a bit as it sets up. Run a spatula round sides to loosen. Let it cook slowly. Once bottom is set and top is soft-set, place pan in over under broiler. Watch it carefully! You want it to puff a bit, set all the way and brown, but not become dried out.
Slice the frittata and serve warm or at room temperature. It packs well for lunch.