Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Frugal and fantastic

Winnipeg-born and raised foodie Ken Kostick has a new book full of money-saving, tummy satisfying recipes

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It's always good to see a hometown kid make good, and Ken Kostick has done just that.

He is arguably our most successful foodie, having been broadcasting for 15 years on television (not to mention his Gemini-nominated work on radio).

He was here last week promoting his 15th cookbook as well as doing a cooking demonstration for the students at his alma mater, St. John's High School, where they're getting ready to celebrate the school's 100th anniversary.

We chatted for an hour next to a sunny window at The Star Conservatory Restaurant.

Kostick grew up in Winnipeg's North End along with his sister, and several foster children the Kosticks welcomed into their family. He says he got his love of cooking from his parents.

"I came from a family where their kids were gold," he says, laughing. "They called me the Golden Boy...

"My mother was very ahead of her time in the sense that she didn't cook on the weekends, my dad and I did. My dad and I did the shopping for the family. On Saturday afternoon we'd go down to Avenue Meat Market on the corner of Selkirk and MacGregor, and I have to tell you, we came up with some of the weirdest concoctions. And that's really where I got my knowledge of food," he says.

Kostick's North End sensibility, where everyone needed to be fed well, and where families and money were tight, informs his newest cookbook The $10 Gourmet: Restaurant Quality Meals That Won't Break Your Budget (Whitecap, $24.95).

But he says that the economy wasn't the only reason he wrote the book. He says that folks want to eat food that isn't always processed. The key is how you shop, and you will save money. Kostick says research shows that Canadians waste about a third of everything we buy.

"So just think about this: A family of four spends $15,000 a year on food. They're wasting $5,000 and they could be putting that towards their kids' education, their mortgage, you know, other things. And it's really a matter of how you shop," he says.

"I have to tell you, I was actually embarrassed at myself when I did this research. I thought, 'Oh my God! I can't imagine how much money on a daily basis I'm just wasting.' And I come from Winnipeg, where food is a big deal!"

He researched the cookbook between last January and March, checking out grocery stores from budget shops to high end, all across the country on his travels, filling out spreadsheets, keeping track of prices. He says his discovery was threefold.

"There are certain stores that you go to that you can get produce really inexpensively, if you don't care that the pepper is not a perfect pepper shape. And there's nothing wrong with the pepper, then you can probably get it for 50 per cent less than you get somewhere else."

The second thing he found is that are certain stores that are better for protein, in particular where major retailers offer "value packs," and especially in the frozen-food sections.

"You really have to look at the frozen areas," he says. "I found companies that do steaks, really nice eight-ounce steaks, that go for about $12 a four-pack. That's $3 a steak. For an eight-ounce steak that's great! And believe it or not, I buy that company all the time now. It's Canadian beef, it comes from Alberta."

The third key was finding the retailers that specialize in deals on dry goods, items like canned tomatoes and beans.

"If you have a 750 millilitre tetra pack in a high-end store, it's going to be $2.99 to $3.99. You can actually find it in some stores for under a dollar. Once you figure that system out, and I do it now in Toronto where it's pretty expensive, you can actually save a lot of money," he says.

He says to buy in bulk, and separate things into smaller amounts that are right for your family. That money-saving ethic, combined with his time-savvy, three-step approach to producing gourmet-style meals, and an eye to preventing wasted food, has been well-received.

"It's getting an extremely positive response because whether people are looking to save money or not, it's just responsible."

You can see Ken Kostick along with his longtime partner in crime Mary Jo Eustace on the W Network and on Viva Network as they host He Said, She Said with Ken & Mary Jo. Kostick is a busy, busy guy, getting ready to launch an e-magazine as well as working on editing a movie about the wedding event he staged for his two pooches Napoleon and Josephine (think Best In Show meets Bridezillas). You can find out more about his shows and upcoming projects at his website

Here are three recipes to try from The $10 Gourmet. The recipes in this book aren't just beans and rice, either. The recipes feature quality ingredients, thoughtfully planned and purchased. In addition to the three-step meals for two, Kostick's book features three plans for dinner party menus that each feed six people for under $30.


Homemade clam chowder with chili powder and cheddar

45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 L (4 cups) vegetable or fish stock
250 ml (1 cup) canned clams, rinsed and drained
15 ml (1 tbsp) chili powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) dried basil
2 ml (1/2 tsp) dried thyme
2 ml (1/2 tsp) sea salt
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground black pepper
125 ml (1/2 cup) light cream or whipping cream
125 ml (1/2 cup) shredded cheddar cheese

1. Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot. Sauté all of the vegetables for 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Add all of the other ingredients, except the cream and cheese. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

3. Add the cream and cheese and stir until smooth.


Pork tenderloin medallions with apple and cinnamon

30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil

500 g (1 lb) pork tenderloin cut into 2.5 cm (1-inch thick) medallions
1 small onion, chopped
1 apple, cored and sliced
125 ml (1/2 cup) apple sauce
125 ml (1/2 cup) apple juice
30 ml (2 tbsp) balsamic vinegar
2 ml (1/2 tsp) cinnamon
2 ml (1/2 tsp) dried basil
2 ml (1/2 tsp) sea salt
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Sauté the pork for 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the onion and the apple. Sauté the mixture for 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Add all of the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Serve.


Bow-tie pasta with goat cheese, garlic & basil

500 g (1 lb) bow tie pasta
45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
4 medium shallots, chopped
125 ml (1/2 cup) vegetable of chicken stock
125 ml (1/2 cup) white cooking wine
30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice
2 ml (1/2 tsp) dried basil
2 ml (1/2 tsp) sea salt
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground black pepper
125 ml (1/2 cup) crumbled goat cheese

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in the pan. Sauté the garlic, red bell pepper and the shallots for about 2 minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients, except for the goat cheese. Sauté for 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Stir the goat cheese into the pasta. Serve immediately.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 9, 2009 D1

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