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Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Frugal Foodie Cookbook: An Interview with Lara Starr

Cookbook author, cake decorating teacher, radio producer, marketeer, card-carrying cheapskate, wife and mom. Those are just a few words that describe Lara Starr: Whew!

Lara’s first cookbook, The Party Girl Cookbook, was written 1998. Back then, she was newly married and kid-less, the streets were paved with dot-com gold, and a young Ben Stiller was teaching us how to laugh. Lara had plenty of time and money for parties that included elaborate themes, silly costumes and the inevitable next-day hangovers.

Now, like many of us, Lara is striving to make ends meet, has faced un- and under-employment, and is looking to save a buck wherever she can. She also added a kid to the equation and is always on the lookout for healthy, nutritious meals that the Young Master Picky, Mr. Meat and Potatoes, and Ms. Frugal Foodie will all enjoy...and won't break the bank.

For Lara, it's been so fun and satisfying to discover and develop new recipes, find lots of little ways to cut spending without sacrificing a yummy lifestyle, and share it all in The Frugal Foodie Cookbook! As someone who loves good food, I was excited to talk to Lara more about her latest project.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about your book, The Frugal Foodie Cookbook.

Lara Starr: It's got lots of delicious recipes for food that doesn't cost a lot to make, and that makes the most of every ingredient, such as "The Exponential Chicken" which can feed two people for five days! It's also got lots of advice for saving money around the house—like how to make you own low-cost cleanings supplies, and fun quotes from foodies and frugalistas.

Shelly Rachanow: What do you tell people who say it isn’t possible to be a foodie while also maintaining a budget?

Lara Starr: I say you're dead wrong! My secret is meal planning. I know what's for dinner every night of the week, and have an arsenal of lunch and breakfast items. That way I only shop for what I need and I only shop once a week at two stores (the regular supermarket and Trader Joes). The less time you spend in a store, the less you're going to spend.

Shelly Rachanow: I love the “Frugal Foodie Tips” from the book. What are some of your favorites?

Lara Starr: I don't fry very often, but when I figured out that I can use newspapers and one paper towel to drain fried food instead of a pile of paper towels, it was a revelation. I only like to use a paper towel if my life depends on it.

I also love re-growing green onions. Who knew, right? I've always got a bunch of them in a glass jar in my window.

Shelly Rachanow: Your book contains recipes for breakfast, brunches, lunches, dinners, kids, snacks, and more. What’s one that you can share with us?

Lara Starr: These Biscotti are my one of favorite recipes of all time. They're easy, delicious and so inexpensive to make. I've made them dozens and dozens of times to rave reviews. Sometimes I get fancy and add chocolate or orange peel, but I really love them just as is.

Not Your Bubbe’s Biscotti

“Look at all of the fancy, schmancy mandel bread!”

That’s what I imagine my great-grandmother “Mimi” would have said had she lived long enough to see the platters and jars of dipped and decorated biscotti at upscale coffee shops. I grew up eating her mandel bread, a twice-baked almond cookie very similar to biscotti.

Mimi’s recipe contained butter and was a little more cookie-like than these. My biscotti are not only less expensive, but are more crisp and hold up very well to dunking in coffee, tea or wine.

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
3/4 cups almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil and grease well.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour and baking soda and continue beating until blended. Mix in the almonds. With floured hands, form half of the dough into a 12-inch log. Place on the baking sheet and press down to flatten to about 3 inches. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake the cookie loaves for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on. Let the loaves cool for 5 minutes, then remove them to a cutting board. Slice each loaf diagonally into 12 slices with a sharp, serrated knife. Don’t press hard, let the knife do the work for you.

Put the slices back on the cutting cookie sheet, on their sides. Return to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

Cookies will keep for about a week in an airtight container or for up to three months in the freezer.

Shelly Rachanow: What are some tips you can give people who want to throw a foodie-worthy party without breaking the bank?

Lara Starr: Make a signature spiked punch or sangria instead of serving beer, wine or an open bar, and don't be afraid to ask people to contribute—people like to help! Take care with presentation. Use a tablecloth, set out flowers, light candles—these touches really make a difference, and even simple spaghetti seems fancy and festive in the right setting.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Lara Starr: My cheeky answer is I'd ban all boxed cake mix and canned frosting. I weep for the children whose only experience of cake is boxed cake mix and canned frosting.

My serious answer is that I'd ensure that all children have access to safe, stimulating and challenging schools, delicious and healthy food, and the love and support of caring grown-ups.

For more information or to contact Lara, visit her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/frugalfoodiecookbook

1 comment:

  1. Bravo...Lara Starr is amazing!