Recipe: Eech (An Armenian Salad)

I make a lot of Armenian recipes at home.  While some are very labor intensive, others are really simple and use a lot of the ingredients on my list of pantry staples.  Lately I’ve been making Eech, a delicious Armenian salad that is usually served as an appetizer with pita bread.  It tastes like tabbouleh and uses most of the same ingredients but is less labor intensive.   This tasty vegetarian dish doesn’t require any cooking so during busy weeks or heat waves (like this week in NYC)  I know I can turn to this recipe.  I hope you will too!

Eech

1 cup of bulgur wheat (medium or fine blend)

1 8 oz can of tomato sauce

¼ cup of lemon juice (either 2 fresh lemons or RealLemon)

¼ cup of vegetable oil

1 small onion or half of a medium onion finely chopped

A handful of parsley, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.  Refrigerate 1-2 hours until bulgur expands (it will cook itself in the liquid).  Give it another mix before serving and serve with pita bread.  This pairs really well with hummus in a sandwich.

I’ve found myself making this on Sunday nights and letting it refrigerate overnight.  As far as entertaining, it’s a TOTAL crowdpleaser people will think you’re the greatest cook ever when all you’ve really done is put ingredients in a bowl.  My aunt takes this to people’s houses and it’s devoured in seconds.

Drop a comment if you decide to make this, I’d love to hear your raves!

May Check In

English: Central Park Bridges (view from Bridl...
English: Central Park Bridges (view from Bridlepath looking southwest), Gothic Arch, Spanning bridlepath south of tennis courts at nort, New York City, New York County, NY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

May has come and gone and  I’m one month closer to paying off my debt.  Since I started this process my debt has decreased from $10,500 to $7100!  The other morning I was thinking “wow, in two months I will be 50% toward paying off my credit card debt.  When I first made this commitment, I was scared of the period that I’m in right now, the in between period.  I envisioned myself getting bored and depressed in my new life style and throwing away this quest altogether.  Despite some peaks and valleys and fall backs it hasn’t been that bad.

Here are some helpful ways to stay on track if you’re in the same boat:

Stopped Impulsive Buying

This has been easier than I thought.  I don’t buy coffee, takeout, or shop for cheap clothes (a la H & M, Forever 21) and I don’t feel devoid or deprived of anything.  Often times I would get an afternoon craving for a snack and buy a  cookie from  a bakery, often paired with a second coffee.  But in order to satisfy that craving, I go to the dollar store a block away and stock up on some snacks to keep in my desk.   I used to find that if I didn’t bring lunch, I wouldn’t end up leaving the office during the day.  Instead I’ve started doing errands instead, such as going to the bank or post office.

Popcorn and Movie Night 

One weekend it was the end of my budget and I couldn’t spend money.  I still wanted to see my friends so I sent the following email:

Hi Girls!  So, you all know that I’ve put myself on a tight budget and vowed to pay of my cc’s in the next 12 months. My budget doesn’t start again until Monday and I’ve kinda run out until then. I have the apartment to myself this weekend, and in an effort to not be antisocial this weekend, would any of you be interested in a movie night with popcorn and wine tomorrow evening?  I know it sounds really low key, but I’m too new into this life change that I don’t have the will power to go to a bar and not drink just yet.

Most couldn’t attend on short notice, but to my surprise they were all welcome to the idea in the future.  My friend Aline came over and we drank a bottle of wine and ate popcorn.  I’m going to start a series of entertaining on a budget so stay tuned for ideas and inspiration for at home gatherings!

That same weekend, I mentioned to my friend Lindsay that I was going to go to Buffalo Exchange to sell some clothes.  She wanted to come too.  So I was able to find other ways to see my friends that aren’t expensive like going out to dinner or to a bar.

Plan for Spontaneity

Two blogs that I follow, The Debt Breakup and Budget and the City, both wrote recent posts about planning for spontaneity.  I’ve tried to buy ahead of time when possible and plan nights out.  To me, this means purchasing experiences on daily deal sites, prepaying and budgeting for known plans ahead of time.  I purchased some Bloomspot deals a couple weeks ago for a Saturday night out and a Central Park bike rental. Be careful with these purchases though and plan to use them carefully so they don’t expire and go unused. (I’ve learned the hard way that I shouldn’t purchase fitness classes because I never use them in it’s entirety).  On the other hand, I always buy the $7 Central Park bike rentals when they’re available, and split the bottle service deals with 4 or 5 friends.

After I’m done paying off my debt, I’m going to put that money toward savings accounts for various leisure activities.

Find a Support System

Special thank you to my family and friends who have been supportive and encouraging through this process!  You’ve been so understanding and this would be so much harder if you weren’t.  Also, some other bloggers who regularly comment and cheer me on have been great.  They are going through the same process and I know we will all get there.   (Re)Creating Carly, The Debt Breakup, Budget in the City, are the folks that I regularly turn to.  Cait from Blonde on A Budget, is the veteran who really motivated me to start my blog in the first place.  I first read her story on LearnVest and after two years she is debt free 🙂

Tuesday Ten: My Pantry Staples

English: Uncooked bulgur wheat
Bulgur Wheat – For those who don’t know what it is!

Lauren Conrad’s blog is great for quick, healthy recipes, fashion recommendations and budget friendly workouts.  Last Tuesday she wrote about her top 10 pantry items so I thought that I would create my own to share with you, a week later.  Keeping these on hand at all times is crucial for preparing my budget meals especially at the end of the month when you’re waiting for the next budget cycle to kick in.

Canned Tomato Sauce 

I keep about 3-5 8 oz cans of tomato sauce on hand at all times and use it in place of  jarred spaghetti sauce.  (Saute garlic in a pan for a few seconds, add sauce and season with fresh or dried Italian herbs). It’s also a base for some Armenian dishes that I make pretty often which I will share with you later.

Frozen Vegetables

Inexpensive, long lasting, healthy shortcut.  Thaw and add to a salad, saute for a stirfry, or for a pasta toss.  Make sure you buy the ones without sauces or added flavorings since those have a lot of sodium and even cost more.  You probably have the seasoning in your pantry s well.

Frozen Shrimp

I used this in paella, pasta, on salads, when I’ve run out of meats I know that I have frozen shrimp on hand.

Bulgur Wheat  

I swear to god this is the next trendy grain.  But Armenians have been eating this forever.  I make bulgur pilaf as a side to chicken or beef, or in some Armenian dishes.  Mix with meet and stuff into peppers.  Mark Bittman has a few recipes for breakfast bulgur, something I haven’t tried before, but similar to an oatmeal dish.  I buy in bulk at international grocery stores, it can run from $1-$2 a pound and comes in xtra coarse, coarse, medium and fine.  The medium is the most versatile so I usually go with that one.

Canned Tuna

When you run out of EVERYTHING, you always have a can of tuna.  One of my new favorite combos is tuna salad with avocado just together without bread.  Top with salsa for an even more delicious combo.  When I’m craving comfort food I usually whip up a tuna melt.

Cheese

Cheese is one of life’s guilty pleasures, who doesn’t love to snack on cheese all the time? I usually keep sliced deli cheese on hand to put on sandwiches or in salads.  Whenever I go to Trader Joe’s I stock up on multiple varieties from goat to gouda.  If  you have small pasta on hand then you have the makings for homemade mac and cheese.  No need to spend extra on the box.

Oils and Vinegars 

In my cupboard I have sesame, canola, and olive oils, white wine, red wine, rice wine and balsamic vinegars.  The number sauces and salad dressings you can create is endless and you’ll never have to buy the bottled kinds again.  Mix sesame oil and rice wine vinegar with peanut butter to make peanut sauce, mix any of the vinegars and oils with a bit of Dijon mustard to make your own vinaigrette.

Onions

Onions are an aromatic that creates a base of flavor in many dishes.  I always have these on hand to cook with to add a layer of flavor.

Peanut Butter

A hearty protein to spread on toast before a run, or on top of apples to make a more satisfying snack.  Also, I often make my own peanut sauce for Asian noodles.  Try this recipe from We Are Not Martha.

Eggs

Good for breakfast, egg salad (when you’re low on sandwich goods), also boil some up to put on top of a salad.  You can always make your own omelette with a side salad for those nights when you really just don’t feel like cooking.  Here’s the recipe I posted a few weeks back on baked eggs.

I hope you find these helpful!

What are your pantry staples?