Book review: ‘Poor Girl Gourmet’ helps you eat in style — for less

Gary Brown

You don’t have to pay a lot even if you love eating well, according to “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget,” by cable television cooking personality Amy McCoy.

McCoy wasn’t always thrifty. The freelance writer and frequent TV show guest “once enjoyed gourmet food with little concern for price,” noted her publisher, Andrews McMeel Publishing. “Then the recession hit and the freelance work all but disappeared. But in the economic downturn, Amy found her mission: to eat the best food she and her husband could while spending as little as possible.”

Her blog ( and her new book stress the word “gourmet” as they serve up advice on food finances.

“While it was important to me that I rein in my food spending — significantly — I didn’t want my food values to be compromised,” she writes in the opening to her book. “I don’t want to eat junk, so I had to figure that out, as well. ... I spread my produce shopping around, and frequent farmers markets and my favorite farm stand.”

As she provides tips for pinching pennies, the author also presents sound basic cooking techniques and menu suggestions that break down the cost for each meal — food that is plentiful.

“Each recipe serves at least four people, so it’s perfect for families on a budget,” said the publisher.

McCoy’s book is broken down into sections on Soups and Salads, Entrees, Vegetables and Sides, Bakery and Desserts, and Splurges, the latter including top-end Entrees for Special Occasions and Otherwise Serving Four for $15 to $30.

The author also provides a chapter of “Poor Girl Gourmet Pointers” and pages on “Value Wines” that can accompany your budget-minded meals.

Abundant recipes make up the bulk of the book, of course. Each is published with a section explaining how the author managed to make the dish and stay under her $15 price limit.

“They’ve done the trick at my house,” she writes, “and the transition from shopping fool to parsimonious gal — or Poor Girl Gourmet, as it were — has been painless.”   


Title: “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget”

Author: Amy McCoy

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Price: $16.95

ISBN: 978-0-7407-8990-0


Espresso Granita

(Serves 6 to 8, $5 or less)

1 1/2 cups brewed espresso or coffee

1 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa powder, plus additional for garnish (optional, but I do love a little chocolate flavor in my coffee)

Whipped cream, for garnish

1. Combine the espresso, water, sugar, and cocoa powder in a large mixing bow and get out your whisk. Whisk vigorously to ensure that all of the sugar dissolves and the cocoa is combined into the mix. If it isn’t already cool, cool the espresso mixture completely in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

2. Now, here comes the personal choice part of the recipe. If you like a creamier texture, process the granita in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then transfer it to an airtight container, and freeze for an hour before serving.

3. If you prefer a little more of the shaved ice-style texture, place the espresso mixture in a 9-by-13-inch freezer-safe roasting pan, such as Pyrex, and allow it to freeze for 2 hours. Scrape all of the contents of the pan up with a fork, and I do mean all of it. Do not leave any ice bit unscraped. Return it to the freezer for an hour, and then serve it forth with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder, in an espresso cup if you’d like to earn additional adorable points.

NOTE: I often have this as my morning coffee in the summer. Simply add enough milk to get it to your desired lightness, and there you have a super-inexpensive fancy coffee shop-style drink. Sweet.



(Serves 4, $5 to $10)

4 chicken legs, about 3/4-pound each

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 pound good-quality olives, such as Kalamata or Castelvetrano, unpitted

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large baking dish or lasagna pan, arrange the chicken legs in a single layer, skin side up. Using a basting brush or your hands — your hands are the best tools you have, remember — lightly coat the skin with the olive oil. Sprinkle the legs with thyme, and season them with salt and pepper.

3. Scatter the olives around the chicken such that they have their own space in which to live. It is OK if a few olives reside in the fold of a leg, but you do want to try to get the majority of them onto their own space in the baking dish so that they are marinated with the chicken fat as they cook.

4. Roast the chicken until the skin is crispy and juices run clear when the legs are pierced, 55 minutes to 1 hour. Serve each leg with one-quarter of the olives per person, even to the olive haters, for they need to taste and then find themselves transformed to olive lovers, or at least roasted olive lovers. Be certain to remind your dinner companions that the olives are not pitted so that no one loses a tooth. That’s no way to start a meal or inspire a love of roasted olives.

ESTIMATED COST FOR FOUR: $6.67. The chicken legs should cost no more than $1.49 per pound. Rounding up, we’ll call it $4.50 for the four legs. At 6.99 per pound, 1/4 pound of olives will cost roughly $1.75. The olive oil will cost us 24 cents, and the thyme approximately 18 cents. If you do not have a good Italian or specialty deli in your area, jarred olives (with pits) are fine to use. In that case, you will use approximately half of the jar and at $3.59 per jar, that’s an increase in price of approximately 30 cents.

— From “Poor Girl Gourmet,” Andrews McMeel Publishing

The Repository