6 Cheap Furlough Food Recipes & 8 Management Lessons Reinforced

Readers of my blog may know that I've never had much luck with cooking. But since I'm off-duty due to the government shutdown, necessity is forcing some invention here. Especially considering that I'm into super-healthy food which has a high markup if you buy it prepared.

Below are this week's results:

  • Blended spinach + anything: Spinach is an unbelievable superfood. Take handfuls of the leaves, dump them in a blender, and surround with liquid. I've tried chicken soup, V8 tomato juice, and cream of mushroom soup and they all work well. Heat this up before you drink it, obviously.
  • Cauliflower mashed potatoes: They sell this at Whole Foods and it is literally to die for. Boil or microwave 2 packages of frozen cauliflower until overcooked and mushy. Dump into blender. Add milk, olive oil, salt and pepper. (They don't use milk but I couldn't get the right consistency without it.) Recipe here.
  • Carrot "pudding": Microwave a package of baby carrots with some water until it has no crunchiness left. Dump into blender with the hot water. Add some butter, honey and cinnamon. Microwave it again to get the consistency right. (This is sort of like a Jewish kugel recipe absent any flour or egg that I made up - sorry no link to a recipe.)
  • Baked sweet and sour tofu: Cut up 2 packages of extra firm tofu into cubes. Blend together barbecue sauce, honey, ketchup, soy sauce, and some hot sauce. Pour over tofu and let sit for an hour. Then bake at 375 until it's done. Check the oven after half an hour. Recipe here.
  • Chopped lunch salad: If you go to Washington, D.C. or any food court in our area and get a large, custom-made lunch salad you can easily spend $9-10 or more. Making it at home is a lot cheaper and helps you skip the line. Chop up greens, add tomatoes, mushroom, cucumber, red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, salami or bologna, hard-boiled eggs.
  • Garlicky Kale (Whole Foods style): In blender put tehina, smushed garlic clove, lemon juice, soy sauce and water. Blend and pour over chopped up kale. Recipe here.
Some time-tested but true management practices that this experience has reinforced:
  • Be yourself: I like smooth comfort foods. Spinach is a highly blendable food. It goes into anything. Cauliflower makes amazing fake mashed potatoes.
  • You don't need to reinvent every wheel: The recipe for Whole Foods' garlicky kale is online. It is the only way I can eat kale. I copied that recipe, didn't try to figure it out myself or make one up. It's great.
  • Cheaper can actually be better: A bunch of kale was $1.29 on Friday. That's like a missile's worth of nutrition. Don't devalue it because you can afford it.
  • Know when to buy the best: Pay for a good vine-ripened tomato, a good peach, good grapes. Other things you can get a little cheaper and nobody will know the difference.
  • Ignore the crowd: I've known for many years that food is actually medicinal, most grocery store food is junk, and that marketers have a field day scamming people out of money in the name of hawking "health food." It can be hard with all the marketing pressure out there, but I'm always glad when I just follow rationality and common sense instead of the herd.
  • Listen to the people whose advice you trust: One of the best pieces of advice I ever got: Shop only on the ends of the grocery store, never in the aisles. I used to read Dr. Mercola's newsletter every day and I still think it's excellent. There are tons of great free tips on Lifehacker and other sites. Point is, nobody can figure everything out alone.
  • Pay attention: You can't put the food on the stove or in the oven and walk away. It will burn. You have to be present to make sure it comes out right.
  • You can't please everyone: Some people will just never like kale no matter what you do to it as a food. For them, there are fruit smoothies - throw the kale in and pray.
In the end, every business is really an organized effort to deliver results. And the underlying principles are similar, whether you're talking about manufacturing cars, running a government, raising kids or cooking. Though there may be an infinite number of activities to undertake, the dynamics of success are always the same.

* All opinions my own.