Friday, December 31, 2010

Food Waste Friday

This was a pretty good week for me. I ate mostly a lot of leftovers, plus venison sausage. Thus, I wasted:

NOTHING!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tomato and Bulghur Soup

It was kind of chilly, and I wanted soup. Plus, I wanted to use some of the bulghur I have for something other than tabouleh or mujadarra. It's a pretty easy recipe, taking about an hour to make (and most of that is just letting it sit there while you wander off and get the laundry done). It's also got a clean, fresh taste with just a hint of spice. Hope you enjoy!

1 tablespoon each: butter (I used samneh here, but whatever), olive oil
1/4 onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
splash rosemary vinegar (to make this, stick some rosemary sprigs in some vinegar and let it sit at room temperature a couple weeks)
1 teaspoon each: minced garlic, sumac, marjoram
1 15-ounce can stewed tomatoes, cut up a bit in the can
dash cinnamon
1 14-ounce can chicken broth (use vegetable broth if you want this to be vegetarian)
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 large handful bulghur (or 2 if you have baby hands like I do)
1 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in the oil over medium-low, then add the onions and half teaspoon salt. Let cook 10 minutes. Add the splash of vinegar, sumac, garlic and marjoram and cook another 5 minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients and simmer 30-45 minutes. Serves 2-4.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Storage

Here's what I used up for the week. Not a lot of stuff, but that's okay. This is probably more typical for what I'll use each week, given that some days I spend the night with friends, and other days I'm home.

1/4 pound white, long-grained rice
spelt
some bulghur
1/2 the golden raisins

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Saturday Spending

I hope you all are having a happy Christmas.

I actually didn't do any shopping this week. There's nothing I needed, plus I knew I was going out of town (which is where I am now; out of town). This also helps compensate for the overage from last week.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Food Waste Friday

This was a really bad week for me, in terms of waste.

I wasted:

4 clementines (I went to open the 5 pound box so I could turn it all into juice, and 4 were rotted)
1/8 watermelon (this fermented before I got to it, which has no excuse other than laziness on my part)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spelt Salad

I wanted to use up the last of the spelt today. Mostly because it tastes good, but secondarily because I'm trying to work through the stuff in the Cave. I wasn't really looking for a meal, so much as a filling snack, which meant that a salad was the way to go. By the way, is it helpful to you all when I put links that describe what might be considered exotic ingredients? Or do y'all not care one way or the other? You could use regular whole wheat in this in place of spelt, if you wanted to. I don't think there'd be a significant difference of any sort. Also, you could add some grilled chicken or tuna if you wanted some meat in it. Hope you enjoy!

1/4 pound spelt
1 teaspoon each: vinegar (I used tangerine-basil vinegar), orange blossom water
water

1 carrot, diced
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 cup diced quick pickles
1/4 cup shaved onion

juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons za'atar
1/2 teaspoon each: harissa, tomato paste
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses

Combine the orange blossom water, vinegar, wheat and water and simmer until the wheat is soft but still has some bite. This takes about forty minutes or so. Let it cook completely, then drain. Add second batch of ingredients and stir to combine. Whisk together the third batch of ingredients and fold into the salad. Chill and serve.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chicken Pesto

I think I might not be getting enough protein lately, so I decided to get into that bag of chicken to work on the problem. I also have some pesto left over from when Sarah and I made it at her house, and it seemed like a good idea to use the pesto as a sort of paste to marinate the chicken. I had this with rice, but I think it'd be equally good with pasta. Mainly I had it with rice so as to be able to use even more pesto. :) Once again, this is a pretty quick and easy meal. You could put the pesto on the chicken, then go to work and it'll be ready to cook when you come home. I just let it hang out in the fridge while I got some work done here at home. I had a lot of research to do in a pretty short period of time (because apparently I've turned into a massive procrastinator), so it was a good work day meal for me.

As an aside, I cannot figure out if my neighbour's kid is taking singing lessons, or if they just listen to really bad music. A lot. Like, the same three songs, over and over. Just sayin'.

Also, I wanted to mention something unrelated to chicken (well, kind of). Some of you might be really interested in fitness and weight loss and stuff, and so I wanted to point out that I've got an affiliate link up for bodyrecomposition (the link in this post is NOT an affiliate link) on the side-bar over there (-->). The first edition of his Rapid Fat Loss book contained recipes I'd written (that's my direct link to that specific book), though they were later removed for a variety of reasons. Perhaps I'll post some of them here at some point. Lyle McDonald, the owner of the site, does some really amazing and reliable work that's founded in science instead of the hocus-pocus, magic-pill nonsense that never actually helps anyone. I really believe in his work, so I definitely recommend his books. And not just because I get a kick-back if you buy one using my affiliate link. If you don't feel comfortable buying his stuff using my affiliate link, just go to his website and buy it from there so you can still get his great information without worrying about me getting a kick-back. Or check out his free forum to find out more information before you buy stuff. (the chicken is only kind of unrelated, because working out sorts of people tend to eat a lot of chicken; I'm a corned beef hash kind of girl, myself).

Anyway, back to the food. Simple, yum, not expensive. Hope you enjoy!

2 chicken tenders (or 1 breast)
1/2 cup pesto

Slather the pesto all over the chicken and toss it in the fridge. When you get done working, put it in a frying pan (with the pesto) and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes per side, or until the chicken is done. Cut the chicken up and serve it all over pasta or rice. Serves 1-2.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Potato Chili Bake

Here's another simple meal. I got home recently after a long night, and needed some nourishing, filling, excessively salty and somewhat fatty food. So here's what I had. Hope you enjoy!

1 russett potato, peeled or not, but cut into cubes
1/4 large onion, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil (mine was rosemary infused)
1 1/2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar (or any other sort you like)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon harissa (or other hot sauce)
10 ounces chili, homemade or canned (I used meat chili but vegetarian chili works too)
cheese (optional)

Heat oven to 350F. Combine all ingredients but the chili (and cheese), and bake for 45 minutes. Add chili (and cheese) and bake another 10-15 minutes. Serves 2. Also, I ate this with chopped pickles on top.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Storage

This week was not really good in terms of using food storage for me. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I had so much food outside the house that I didn't get the opportunity to cook a single thing (between eating up my leftovers so they wouldn't go to waste, and the actual eating out).

So I used up... Nothing.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday Spending

Oops. I went over this week. Only by about 3 dollars, which is fine since I'm usually under by more than that. But nonetheless, it still happened. Mostly because I decided I wanted some meat in the house, in the form of a large bag of chicken breasts. I like to keep those bags of chicken around because when I want meat, it's very convenient to just take a little out and go from there. Then the fruit section captured me. I had already mango and pumello so watermelon and blueberries seemed like the perfect way to round out the fruit salad I wanted to make. I used to always eat a bowl of fruit salad for breakfast, and I'd like to get back to doing that. But okay, I'm lying. The chicken isn't the reason I went over. The reason is that I had some potatoes and I wanted to bake them and put chili on them (and then I saw the least expensive can of palm hearts I've ever seen in my life). THAT is really how I went over. Regardless, here's the spending for the week. :)

Kroger:

$1.00 - 2 cans stewed tomatoes
$1.00 - 2 cans diced tomatoes
$1.00 - 2 cans crushed tomatoes
$1.50 - banana peppers
$6.99 - chicken tenders (3 pounds)
$2.39 - corned beef hash
$1.88 - blueberries
$2.69 - Frank's hot sauce
$1.49 - watermelon

Total: 19.94


99 Cent Store:

$2.00 - Chili
$1.00 - Palm hearts

Total: 3.00
Grant total: 22.94

Friday, December 17, 2010

Food Waste Friday

This week I wasted:

radishes

Not really sure what happened here. I started with best intentions to make that wakame salad, but then life got in the way. When I went to do it, the radishes had turned into this sad, shriveled little mass of red and green. :(

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Three Bean Cholent

Okay, I'm kind of a liar. This isn't really a cholent. I mean, I didn't add any rice or barley, and there's not much by way of meat. But whatever. It's close enough and was cooked the same way. I'm not really even sure why I was craving cholent, though I suspect it happened the moment I read "low 29F" on weather.com.

Did you guys know I used to hate beans? I mean, seriously; I hated them like Pythagoras hated them (okay, that's kind of a lie too since I never thought they were evil). I'm not entirely sure what happened to me to change my mind, since I suspect the beans haven't changed a bit. But as you know, I've been sitting somewhere near 30 pounds of beans, this seemed like a good way to use up a bunch. I didn't have any raw meat in the house, so I just cut up some jerky instead. Plus, I could eat it for days and not be sad.

1 cup dry adzuki beans (little red ones)
1 cup dry lima beans
1 cup dry black eyed peas
2 carrots, cut up
3/4 cup each: chopped, cooked sweet potato and chopped celery
1/2 onion, cut up
4 cups water and broth mixture (I used half chicken broth and the half water)
1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, including liquid
1/2 cup beef jerky, cut into 1/2" or so pieces
salt to taste
3 dried limes (omani)

Put the beans in bowls and soak overnight (or all day, as the case may be). Combine all the ingredients in a large casserole dish and cover with a lid. Bake at 275 overnight, then eat for lunch. Serves 8.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sweet Potato and Avocado Spring Rolls

My second half of avocado survived long enough for me to make spring rolls. Are you proud I didn't chow it down without doing anything with it? These are really easy to make, and are perfect for on the go eating. I would normally serve these with a peanut sauce, but strangely I have no peanut butter. You can make a peanut sauce if you like for them, though. Then I thought I'd just make a quick sauce with hoisin and sriracha, but I was too lazy so I just ate them all plain. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 package rice or tapioca vermicelli, broken in half
water
salt
2-3 tablespoons sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 sweet potato, roasted and sliced thinly
1/2 large avocado, sliced thinly and sprinkled with the lime juice
juice of 1/2 lime
10 spring roll wrappers
large bowl of very cold water

Boil water with salt, then add vermicelli and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain and add sesame oil and vinegar to noodles and mix well. Soak one sheet of spring roll wrapper in the cold water, then put it on a plate. Put a slice of sweet potato and a slice of avocado on the wrapper, then add a bundle of the noodles. Wrap tightly and put on another plate, then cover with a damp paper towel. Repeat. Makes 10 rolls.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Storage

Dried guava
Dried papaya
Dried mango
1 package rice vermicelli
lima beans
1/2 pound small red beans

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday Spending

It's a little weird when you realise you've got a house full of exotic ingredients but you're missing basics such as peanut butter. Does that happen to you guys ever? I'm glad I was made aware that I was missing this, though. Next time I make spring rolls I'll be able to make a proper sauce. This week's spending involved missing staples, stuff to make stew and a lot of junk food.

On to the spending.

HEB:

$1.19 - eggs
$2.99 - shelf stable milk (4 little ones, since I rarely need more than a cup at a time to make stuff)
$2.07 - kosher salt
$2.48 - triscuits (I was really craving triscuits with banana peppers again)
$2.50 - ding dongs
$0.69 - large mango (seriously? awesome deal)
$1.45 - creamy peanut butter
$0.69 - 1 can crushed tomatoes
$0.68 - crystal's hot sauce
$1.02 - salad mix
$0.50 - cucumber
$0.84 - potato

Total: $16.41

Friday, December 10, 2010

Squirrel Stew

Okay, so if you're anti-hunting, or sensitive about animals, this might not be the post for you. Just sayin'. Today is a special day, since you get two posts today ;)

Over the summer, my friend Daniel walked into our class and said, "Hey Allie. How do you cook squirrel?" And there it started. A friend of his was moving and didn't want to move all the meat in her freezer. In this batch of meat is what he thought was 2 squirrels but which we now know was actually 4 of them. We had some discussion on the various techniques for cooking squirrel meat (I did actually have to research this, since it's not a game meat I'd eaten before), and then I forgot all about it. Until a week or so ago. For the final project in one of our classes, we were also having a potluck. Squirrel stew was brought up, and we went for it.

Daniel came over and we made the stew. It made significantly more than either of us expected, actually filling the 6-quart crock pot. The broth we made is one of the better ones I've ever seen come out of my kitchen. And by the way, did you know squirrel tastes like turkey? Really, really good turkey? I didn't. Here's how we made the stew. I'm sure this recipe won't actually help anyone who reads this blog, but I hope you enjoy reading it!

Broth:

1/2 teaspoon each: dill seed, allspice, peppercorns, juniper berries
1 tablespoon each: salt, sage
2 each: cloves, bay leaves, carrots broken in half, celery broken in half
5 each: dried shallot slices, dried shitake mushrooms
1 each: dried galangal slice, star anise, onion cut into quarters, dried chile arbol
3 omani (dried limes)
4 squirrels
water

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot or dutch oven (I used the 7-quart Le Creuset dutch oven) and bring to a boil. Boil for about 2 hours, or until the squirrel is falling off the bone, replenishing water as needed. Remove squirrels to a cutting board. Remove large pieces of everything else, then strain the broth into a large crock pot.

Stew:

2 bay leaves
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 large onions, chopped
2 large russet potatoes, chopped
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup truffle vodka
1/8 cup rosemary vinegar
2 celery hearts, chopped
1 pound carrots, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
broth from above
squirrel meat from 4 squirrels

Debone the squirrel and put all the meat into the crockpot with the broth. Add all the other ingredients and cover. Cook in the crockpot overnight. Makes 6 quarts.

Food Waste Friday

This week, I wasted:

1 spring roll - Despite my best efforts, I just couldn't eat 10 of them. But now I know, and I won't make quite so many without planning to take them elsewhere for sharing.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Pasta with Clams

You guys remember Presto Pasta Nights? It's one of my favourite challenges, because it's so non-restrictive. The best challenges for me are the ones that leave you free to be as creative as you like. So this here (I have no idea why I wanted to say "so this here," but I just really wanted to) is my submission for the week (I know; it's been a while since I last did it). PPN is being hosted this week by Rachel at The Crispy Cook. She's got some tasty-looking stuff over there, so y'all should go check her out.

So, you know those little pastas? The stars, and the ones that look like rice, and the mini-wheels? I really love those pastas. How I most love to make them, though, is like they're risotto. It's a lot faster and everything gets done in one frying pan. Which basically means a lot less dishes for me (especially when I just eat it while it's still in the pan). Anyway, I have a couple cans of clams, so I figured I'd use one for this since mostly the only other thing I use canned clams for is stuffed mushrooms. Plus, Aleister was able to eat/drink the broth for a nice kitty treat. It's an easy meal that easily can be made in a half hour. Hope you enjoy!

1 pound little pasta (I used stars)
1 can clams, drained (you can use the broth if you like, but I like to give it to the cat)
3 cups (ish) chicken broth
1/4 onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 diced sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 preserved lemon, diced
1/2 teaspoon harissa or other hot sauce
salt and pepper as needed
1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat the oil and harissa in a pan, then add the onion (season here). Set the heat to low and cook the onions until the house smells like hash browns. Add the garlic and pasta, and fry another minute or two (season here). Add in the tomatoes, lemon and clams, then start adding broth 1 cup at a time. Stir frequently and add more broth as needed until the pasta is done cooking (about 6 minutes). Serves 2-4.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Salami Avocado Salad

I just can't seem to eat enough avocados for my happiness right now. Mostly I love to just mix them up with tomatoes, as you know, or eat them with a spoon straight from the shell. But sometimes I like to poke around in my fridge and see what's in there that might be good with the avocado-of-the-day (speaking of which, if enough of the avocado makes it, you'll be seeing some in spring rolls soon; if enough doesn't make it, you won't be). Today I found some beautiful artisan salami tucked in a bin in the fridge, and of course I always have several kinds of pickled foods. So I made this. It's really nice with the creamy, sweetness of the avocado, the firm-but-yielding fattiness of the salami and the salty crunch of the pickles. All made better with a little lime. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 large avocado, cubed
1/3 cup diced salami
1 pickle, diced (I used Arabic pickles this time)
juice of 1/2 lime
salt if desired (I didn't use it since salami and pickles are both salty, but you could)

Mix together, then run away where no one can see you so you don't have to share. Eat. Serves 1.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sunday Storage

This week, the following were used:

Dried figs
5 pounds pasta (don't get used to this; it'll never happen again since I don't typically have athletes in my house)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Saturday Spending

Has anyone noticed that the new way of drafting posts on Blogger is a little spotty and weird? Or is it just me? I preferred the way it used to be set up.

I know. Off topic. Turns out there's a Save-a-Lot by my new apartment, so I went in there to check it out and pick up some stuff. I like that things are quite inexpensive there, but I'm not fond of the severely limited choices. So I'm not sure if I'll keep shopping there, since I feel like I can get comparable prices at other supermarkets (so long as I pay attention to what's on sale and stuff) without relinquishing my ability to have more than one option for each item.

Usually during my summer challenges (where the budget is far lower than it is now), I include eating out in my weekly money. Which basically means I don't really get to go out ever, unless someone is feeling generous enough to feed me in exchange for my company (which does happen, but not often enough for me to actually get to see my friends if eating out is part of my grocery budget). But it occurred to me that I'd kind of like to have a social life, so I'm trying to work out a monthly budget for eating out. More on that later once I've determined how I should do it.

Anyway, on to the spending. Aside from a bit of produce, I mostly got some staple items I like to keep in the house, and milk for the rice pudding.

Save-a-Lot:

$1.69 - dill pickle slices
$0.10 - one lime
$1.59 - massive avocado (seriously? That was pretty expensive but I decided to go for it anyway)
$0.33 - large onion
$0.53 - sweet potato (Francis is with me this weekend, so he'll be delighted to share this treat with me)
$0.89 - radishes (for wakame salad and the greens for something else)
$0.99 - ramen
$0.37 - tomato
$1.77 - 3 cans of tuna in water

Total: $8.26

Fiesta:

$0.99 - milk
$1.15 - buttermilk

Total: $2.14

Gas Station:

$0.99 - chips

Total: $0.99

Total spending: $11.39

Friday, December 03, 2010

Food Waste Friday

I just can't say this strongly enough. Having a cyclist in your house is the most amazing way to avoid food waste. They eat EVERYTHING. The more, the better.

Thus, this week I have wasted:

NOTHING!!!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Saffron and Fig Rice Pudding

Okay, so j. requested a rice pudding, and I figure that since she's off her budget right now, it'd be the perfect time to throw a little saffron into the mix. Also, I had some dried figs laying about that I really did need to use up, so here they are (and look at that - me using stuff in storage!). Sorry for my lateness in posting this; I've had a couchsurfer staying with me and my need to be an almost decent hostess has gotten in the way of me posting. Hope you enjoy!


1 cup rice
1 3/4 cups water
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/8 teaspoon each: cardamom pods; pink peppercorns

1 1/2 cups milk
1/8 cup vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon rose water (don't use too much of this or it comes out tasting like flowers, and no one likes that sort of thing)
1/8 cup almonds, chopped
8 dried figs, cut into quarters

Boil the water and pour it onto the saffron. Let stand an hour or so. Then combine it with the remainder of the first group of ingredients, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand 15 minutes. Add second group of ingredients and cook over low heat, stirring periodically. Serves 2-4.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Storage

I know that a small amount of accountability to make me get through all my food storage is a good thing. So Sundays are the day where I tell you what I've used up from the food storage.

Also, I want to take this opportunity to let you guys know that if you have specific stuff you want to see me make, post it on the Sunday posts and I'll start doing requests for either Mondays or Tuesdays.

I will not include standard canned goods in my list of "used up," since I have them in normal-person quantities rather than hoarder quantities. I'm also not going to include stuff from the fridge (unless it's staples I'm storing in there), spices, or anything that falls under normal-person quantities of stuff. But everything I consider to be part of my food storage will be listed as it gets used. I will not torment you guys with a list of precisely what is IN the food storage, since I think it's simpler to just put what I used and let you guys work out how much food it really was I was holding onto later. I guess you guys will also find out how much stuff I cook that I don't tell you about, too. And it'll also be pretty easy to tell how long it takes me to eat whatever I've cooked, since the storage using will vary based on that.


So, here's what I used up:

2 ounces jasmine tea
1/2 - 1 ounce roobios (I believe this is all I had, though I'll look once I get through the teas on the top of the fridge which is when I'll restock from the tea bin)
Somen noodles (finally!)
Forbidden rice

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Spending

Like I mentioned yesterday, holidays make life a little easier for me. Most years I go somewhere for Thanksgiving, and this one was no exception. So I didn't have a lot of food shopping to do for the week, since I spent most of it out of town. I'll need a little produce and perhaps a day's worth of meat since I'm back home now, but that's not too bad.

I wanted to mention also that I needed to add one more rule to the ones I posted last week, which is that I can't be buying rice either. I still have a massive amount of white, brown, red, jasmine and medium rices left. And, I wanted to admit I already broke one of my rules by buying a package of spinach noodles. I just couldn't help myself.

So, on to the shopping. Normally I don't count the food that I buy while I'm in transit between one city and another, and I'm not going to count it now but I am going to mention it.

Gas station:

$3.29 for three bags of chips
$1.50 for a Diet Coke

Total: $4.79

Gas station:

$0.99 - Diet Coke
0.99 - Reese's peanut butter pumpkin

Total: $1.98

Likewise, I tend to not count money I spend at restaurants and bars while I'm out of town (because really, what's the point of a vacation if you have to stick to your $20/week budget), but I'm going to mention this too.

Restaurants:

Nomad: $6
Pablitos: $1
Chuy's: $17
Magnolia: $34.90

Total: $58.90

And, on to the real spending that actually counts toward my budget:

Walgreens:

$4.99 - Massive bin of pretzel rods

Total: $4.99

MT Supermarket:

$2.49 - Kombu
$1.58 - Tamarind candy
$0.79 - Can of coconut juice
$4.99 - Sesame oil
$2.39 - Spinach noodles

Total: $12.44 (including 20 cents tax)
Grocery grand total: $17.43

Friday, November 26, 2010

Food Waste Friday

With it being Thanksgiving week, this was a pretty easy week for me. I mean, I was only in town from Friday until Tuesday. I'm still actually not back home, and I won't be until tomorrow. However, I was careful to eat up leftovers and perishables so I wouldn't come home to any waste, except one tiny thing. I just couldn't get that last one down, and it was too old for me to give it to someone else and feel good about it.

So, for this week, I wasted:

One maple bar. I know, I know. Who wastes junk food, right?

How'd you guys do? Were you able to foist off holiday leftovers on others, or did you wind up wasting food?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Spending

And, this is back too. Obviously, it's not summer anymore. And also obviously, I'm not still on the $10/week budget. Also, I get to use the Cave again.

But, now that I'm living on my own and my whole life is different, I wanted to lay out some new rules for my grocery spending. This week I forgot to save any receipts from buying groceries, but I'll be doing that from now on again so y'all can see what kind of stuff I'm up to, in terms of shopping and also in terms of keeping the new budget.

So, the new rules:

1) My new budget is $20/week. I actually believe this is far more money than I need, but I wanted to make sure that if I go on an olive and/or cheese binge, I've got enough wiggle room to compensate for it. Also, I'd like to entertain more. This means, since I only have a two person table, that I'd have only one person over at a time (well, unless people want to eat on the couch and/or floor). But still, I want a little extra food monies for days I want to have someone over (maybe 1-2 times a month is what I'm shooting for right now).

2) No more pasta. Seriously. Due to the limited storage space in my new place, it's time for me to start using up more of what's in the Cave without replenishing it. Once I get down to bare bones (which realistically should take me the duration of my lease), I'll have a better idea of whether I'll be staying in Houston for a little while longer (thereby making me want to start rebuilding food storage) or moving to New York (thereby making me NOT want to move a bunch of food storage across the country). So, since I have a bin full of pasta, pasta is off limits for grocery spending. I have a couple exceptions to this: torellini (since I'm not going to make that myself) and ditalini, which is the only type of pasta I like to make macaroni pasta with. I'm starting my new life with 2 boxes of tortellini and probably 8-10 pounds of ditalini, so I won't be needing to replenish any of that for a while.

Where I see pasta issues coming up is that I have deep associations with specific pastas for specific types of dishes. Maybe everyone does, but I don't know. So for me, the trouble will be when I'm out of long pasta and want puttanesca and I have to force myself to use penne or another shape. And so on.

3) No more beans. This is for the same reason as the pasta. Except that I feel a lot more flexible with beans than I do with pasta, so I don't really have any exceptions here. Possibly chick peas but I'll decide that later, once I get through the four pounds of those I currently possess.

4) Before I go to the grocery store (for anything other than fresh produce), I have to look through the Cave to see if I already have it. If I do, I can't buy it. Period. If I'm out of whatever the item is (after looking through all the bins of food and in the pantry and anywhere else I might have food squirreled away), then I may buy one and only one of the given item.

5) Stop buying tea for anyone other clients. Seriously. No, seriously. And once the Sleepy Time tisane is gone, no more of that either until I get through the pound of chamomile flowers I have. Seriously. I can buy tea again once I have no more than two pounds in the house. Currently I have... well, a lot more than that. I don't really want to talk about it.

And I think those are my only rules right now. Can anyone think of something I forgot to include?

On a completely unrelated note, I had no idea River from Firefly was going to be in Chuck at all. But I am pleased.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Food Waste Friday

It's back! In my effort to post more, I want to bring this back. Right now my cooking has been more related to comfort foods you guys already know about, but next week I'll start trying to do at least one new recipe per week.

Anyway, back to the waste. As you might expect, I've created a lot of trash while I've been moving. But that's got nothing to do with food.

This week, I wasted:

NOTHING!

Let's see how many weeks I can keep this up for!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Avocado Salad

When I was a teenager, my friend T and I used to slice up avocados and tomatoes. We'd put the avocados in a layer on the bottom of the plate, then top with tomatoes, then top with lots of salt and lemon juice. It always felt like a wonderful treat eating that (and drinking all the juices left on the plate).

I'm all moved into my place. A few things are still at P's (mostly athletic gear), which I'll pick up as I can, when I'm visiting Francis. But other than that I'm moved and completely unpacked. I even managed to get all my art hung on the walls. My kitchen, however, is pretty small. It's a big transition going from the large kitchens I've used over the last 15 years to a little bitty kitchen. It's small enough that I'm using the dishwasher to store dishes rather than to wash them. Now, I'm not complaining about the size; it's cozy in there and it seriously limits the amount of kitchen stuff I can buy (i.e., I bought an old Oster blender on eBay and I'm still not sure where it'll fit). But it is a bit of an adjustment.

Here, take a look for yourselves:






Anyway, while I'm learning how to effectively work in a small space, I'm going with simple foods, often uncooked. I bought an avocado, which made me think about all those times T and I had eaten that plate of simple salad. I woke up craving that salad for breakfast. Since, as per usual, I woke up not too long before I needed to dash out the door to get to class, I didn't want to spend a lot of time working on slicing and arranging things nicely. So I just diced it all up, and added some celery for crunch. It was a really refreshing breakfast, which would be more filling if you ate it with some bread (and maybe pickles). Hope you enjoy!

1 avocado, cut into cubes
1 roma tomato, cut into cubes
1/8 cup celery, minced
salt to taste
juice of a lime

Mix together and eat. This is good chilled or room temperature. Serves 1 (maybe 2 people if it's being eaten as a small side).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hiatus... Again

Hi guys. I think I mentioned to y'all that aside from the health problems I've been dealing with, I've had some other major life changes underway. One of those changes is that P and I are not together anymore. I'm moving out of our house and into an apartment on Friday (well, I'm sure it'll take the whole weekend, but I start moving Friday), and I cannot imagine trying to get all my things packed and moved, figure out what P is keeping and what I am taking from the shared items, etc. while having to do the dishes after cooking. And while keeping up on my homework so I don't fail my classes. Moving mid-semester? Not something I recommend, so if you can avoid it please do so.

My plan is to cook nothing until after I am done with the move and am unpacked. This, I think, should not take me more than a week or two. I'm moving into a really small place compared to where I live now. This means I have to think carefully about what I'm bringing. I will, however, be bringing The Cave, so no one needs to worry about that. :) My plan is to leave P the foods he would actually cook and eat, which means most of the food in the house will come with me.

The upside is that once I'm on my own in the new place, I will probably be cooking a lot more (since you know I rarely seem to go for take out when I'm on my own), which means a lot more posting.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you guys know I'd be missing again, but that there should be more regular posting finally once I get back.

I think I normally give y'all dog pictures, but today is a cat picture. :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chorizo and Black Beans

Why aren't Dennis Haybert and Eric Balfour in more tv shows? I mean, at least with Haybert you can always refrain from fast forwarding through the Allstate commercials. But still. And why am I so equally fascinated with both actors that I can't help but alternate reruns of Conviction, The Unit and Haven? And why am I wondering about this when I should be reading my linear book? And what does this have to do with food (nothing)?

Here's another quick and mostly health meal. I think given how little chorizo is in this, it might even count as healthy. Well, unless you have dietary restrictions. Anyway. I had cooked the last of the chorizo so I could make a pizza with it (pizza crust, salsa for the sauce, monterrey jack or cheddar, chorizo on top) and I had some left over. Not wanting it to go to waste, and also discovering that I like chorizo a lot less than I used to (or perhaps it's just the brand?), I figured if I put it in with some other stuff I'd get the lovely fattiness without the heavy, cloying thing chorizo can do (heavy, says the girl who types this while nomming sickening quantities Ruffles and full fat onion dip) to a dish.

Plus, I hadn't cooked beans in a while, and that seemed not right somehow. So here we have it. Hope you enjoy!

1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
3/4 cup cooked chorizo
1 can black beans, drained
1/2 onion, chopped
3/4 cup sliced celery
juice of one orange
salt and pepper as needed
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint

Put all of these things together in a saucepan and simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve over rice. Add a little water or broth while it's cooking if you need to to keep it saucy enough for the rice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tilapia and Potatoes

This is really similar to the dish I made a while back, with the tilapia (incorrectly spelled, if I recall) and the spinach. The same basic principle is what I used here, cooking all the stuff and then throwing the fish on top to steam right before serving. This dish took me forever to cook, though, because I kept adjusting the heat to stall on the food being ready so I wouldn't have already eaten and set a plate aside for P. If I'm going to cook, I prefer everyone be home to eat it I suppose. So the times I put here are kind of a guesstimate based on how long I think this should have taken as opposed to how long it actually did take. Also, this meal was made entirely from food storage (including the freezer). I really don't want to go to the store. Hope you enjoy!

1 can sliced potatoes, drained
2 cups frozen and thawed pearl onions
1 cup frozen and thawed kernel corn
1 tablespoon each: schmaltz, olive oil, sesame oil, tomato paste, harissa, lemon juice, minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste (I was pretty liberal here, you might not want to be)
1-2 teaspoons dill weed
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 can artichoke hearts, drained (I used whole ones, not quartered, canned in water not marinade)
2 tilapia filets

Heat a large pan over medium. When hot, add all the oils (fats), plus the tomato paste and harissa and stir it around to integrate the tomato paste and harissa into the fats (or you can be a dolt like me and forget to put this in until later, when the potatoes are frying and it's a huge ordeal to get it evenly throughout everything). Then add the potatoes (season!) and fry them until brown. Turn them over and fry until the other side is brown. Add in the corn, garlic and onions (season!) and give them about 10 minutes in the pan. Then add the artichoke hearts, the dill and the paprika (plus more salt and pepper!) and give another 10 minutes (really, you could give it just 5). Then put the fish (season!) on top and sprinkle the lemon juice over (plus any more dill you may feel like adding, if you're in a mood). Cover for 5 minutes. Serves 2.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Extra Corn Grits and Bacon

I was poking through the freezer looking to see what might be in there that I haven't eaten in a while that might be good. I know I have the white board on it, but sometimes it's good to just get your hands in there and touch stuff to decide what you want. I had forgotten that there were some Anson Mills grits, which are super expensive (hence I don't make that often. Not that, in fairness, I've cooked a whole lot recently) but incredibly delicious (that's the company that made me stop hating grits). Their expense is probably why I forgot they were tucked in there anyway, but it seemed like a good thing to eat for dinner. With bacon.

This is probably more of a breakfast thing than a dinner thing, but it's what I wanted for dinner. I like grits (when they're made well), but sometimes I like a little more textural variance in there. So I decided to add kernel corn. I've had grits made that way in restaurants before and I find it's a really nice touch that results in me eating more grits than I'd originally intended to. But I can't just be eating corn and corn for dinner because I have eaten so much less food on a daily basis lately that I try to pack in enough fat and protein into each meal to keep me going (more so than I used to when I ate constantly). So I decided to add in some Farmer's Market bacon that we didn't really like for just eating bacon strips but which I thought would be nice as lardons (they have a different kind of spice than we like for strips of bacon). And then I figured, while I'm at it, I might as well fry up an egg and have a full breakfast for dinner.

So this is simple, hearty food and doesn't take a lot of work to prepare. Which is what I'm all about right now. Anyway, hope you enjoy!

3 ounces bacon, cut into cubes
3/4 cup kernel corn

1/3 cup grits
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
tablespoon of butter (for this whole grits section, you should use whatever ratios are appropriate for the type of grits you have, but this is the ratio for the kind I have).

tablespoon butter (or the fat from the bacon, which is what I used)
2 eggs

Put the bacon in a pan set over low-ish heat and render the bacon until the bits are crispy. Set aside. Cook grits to package directions, but put the kernel corn in while the grits are cooking (I put the corn in when I first started cooking the grits so the water in the corn wouldn't mess up the texture like it might've if I added it later in the cooking process). Fry eggs. Spread grits into a bowl or plate, top with one egg and half the bacon bits. Serves 2 (this might only serve 1 person normally, but it makes 2 meals for me now. If you have a big appetite, scale it up to feed more than just you). Oh, I also like to eat this with pickled okra to add a little acid to the mix, and of course an egg gets made for the dog. Can't eat eggs and not give him one too.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Warm Sesame Noodles with Pomegranate-Steamed Cabbage

I cooked something.

I think that probably doesn't seem noteworthy, but I haven't cooked anything in over a month. Aside from one loaf of banana bread, which I gave to one of my doctors. And I only made that because I could sit on a chair while the blender did everything.

I think I mentioned previously that I've had a lot going on. Aside from normal life changes that people expect (or don't expect), I've also had some health issues. It's made it nearly impossible to eat, and for a while I was subsisting on a can of soup a day and a few sneaked pieces of junk food. I lost 20 or so pounds. Finally, thankfully, I have an appetite again and I can eat without getting sick. So that's good.

That doesn't mean I'll be cooking up new stuff and posting it daily, but it does mean occasionally I might actually have something to say. I'm kind of taking eating one day at a time right now, trying to get a workable appetite so I can eat more than an appetizer portion per day. It was nice, but weird, to be in the kitchen again. I was kind of worried I'd forgotten how to cook. But it turned out I still cut things just as fast and I can still put dinner on the table without mucking it up.

However, I have had this bizarre craving for somen lately. I think about it a lot. When I say a lot, I mean that I've thought about it so much that I have no idea what's going on in some of my classes. So today I decided to make food for dinner instead of letting P try to sneak more food into my belly than I expect to eat. I really like sesame noodles cold, but I wanted to add some bacon and stuff and make them warm. Also, we got some beautiful baby bok choy at the farmer's market, and this seemed like an awesome opportunity to make them. Particularly given that the lovely people at POM sent me the new flavour of juice they're releasing later this month, and I thought it'd be awesome in a steaming liquid (I was right about that, by the way). Anyway, this is really simple but filling food and not in the slightest bit fancy or even interesting to look at. So, hope you enjoy!

8 cups water
8 cubes bouillon (I used 4 beef ones and 2 double-serving tomato ones)
2 slices galanga
1 package somen (or 1/2 package normal somen and 1/2 package carrot somen)

1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 small red onion, diced
2 pieces of bacon (I had these already made in the fridge, but we eat our bacon soft so they still have much fat), diced
2 stalks celery, sliced

1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup broth from above
1/2 cup POM brand pomegranate cranberry juice
1 bundle (I think there were 6 or 7) baby bok choy

Put the water, bouillon and galanga in a pot. Boil it and let it boil until it's a nice, warm, brothy-looking brown colour. Heat oil over medium or medium high in a pan. Add bacon and cook 5 minutes. Add onion and cook 5 more minutes. Add celery, and cook another three minutes. Put the somen in the broth and cook 3 minutes. Drain broth and set noodles aside (throw away the galanga), reserving the 1/2 cup, and add the juice to it. Bring them to a boil, then toss the boy choy on top, cover with a pan and steam 5 minutes (I think; I went 7 and it was a little too long). Remove bok choy from the pot (and drain the pot), and put a little more oil in the pot. Add the somen, lemon juice and the bacon mixture and stir well (I used tongs). Serve with the bok choy. Serves 4 or more (I think this should probably serve 6-8 people, but P really liked it more than I expected and ate about half of the pot's worth of noodles).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Quick Cucumber Pickles

I'm here, and I'm not here. There's a lot of restructuring going on in the house, so not a lot of actual cooking is going on. There's also a lot of restructuring going on in my life, which kind of makes me not want to cook. Among other things, I've got a new semester starting (and I'm trying to get ahead instead of the staying afloat I did over the summer) and I quit smoking. It's a lot of stress, most of which I don't really want to get into here. But I wanted to pop in and say hi, and let everyone know I haven't forgotten you (despite the fact that I haven't even been reading other blogs as of late). I've just sort of been in my own little world, and oddly, food hasn't even been part of my life outside of quick take-out for the most part. I haven't even been grocery shopping, other than to pick up some juice here or there. I guess it's a good thing I have a lot of food storage, so at least there'll be food to eat if I do wind up wanting to cook without shopping first. :)

I had a really good time in Nebraska, though it was entirely too short. I lost close to 20 pounds over the summer. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but it does mean I've had to replace some clothes (which is kind of lame, since I hate shopping). The new semester is going well, and I'm plodding through in my efforts to get ahead of the game. That way, when things are tougher further into the semester, I won't need to worry that I'll get behind. So a lot of work there, though most of it happening because I'm imposing strict time constraints on myself to get it done early.

My plan is to start doing Food Waste Friday again in the next couple weeks, as well as resuming the Saturday spending logs. I'm no longer on the $10/week budget, but I do feel that being accountable to someone other than myself with my food spending keeps me from spending excessive amounts of money on food that may or may not get eaten. I won't be including shopping trips P makes in those lists, since he mostly shops as I've been doing lately (juice, sometimes some fruit or snack foods). I'll post recipes as I feel like cooking, but I think the most realistic expectation is that they'll be sporadic, since I'm mostly interesting in eating comfort foods, and y'all have all those recipes already.

So, that's the basic update on what's going on, and what'll be happening here in the near future. I'm not really sure if there's a time line we can expect for me to be cooking up a storm again or not, so I don't want to give one. But, I expect that once my life makes sense to me again, I'll be in the kitchen more often.

All that being said, I didn't want to leave you with nothing to eat here. When I was in Nebraska, D and I were extolling the virtues of my beloved banana peppers. He mentioned that he'd been told by a friend of his that using the brine from pepperocinis to brine cucumbers was really good. So, when my next bottle of banana peppers was empty, I reused the brine for cucumbers. 3 times. I don't think a fourth would work out so well. So, hope you enjoy!

1 bottle pepperocini or banana pepper brine
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced

Put the slices in the brine, and refrigerate. Let sit overnight. If your slices are thick, give it two days. If they're really thick, give it three. If they're thin, eat them the next day. You can keep them for a week before they need to be eaten. Serves one (in my house).

(No picture, because I ate them all before it occurred to me you might actually want to see them)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hiatus

You guys know I'm going out of town tomorrow, and that's well and good. But what you don't know, is I might be gone from the blog for a couple weeks or possibly as long as a month. I have no interest in cooking right now, and I've got a lot to do to clear my head space so I can do well in the upcoming semester. I kind of feel like being responsible for anything I'm not truly responsible for (i.e., paying my bills) is a little more than I can handle right now. If I thought I wouldn't be lynched for tossing my phones in the Gulf, I'd do that too. I'm just not really in a people kind of place right now.

So, I'm not ditching you guys, but I am ditching you. For a little bit.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Surprise Eggs

We ate these when I was growing up, and I just loved them. I believe my mother learned to make them from her Depression-era parents (though I could be mistaken), but given the economy I thought it might be nice to recirculate this tasty breakfast. I'm just listing it as serving one, but you of course can multiply it to serve as many people as you're feeding. One of the best parts of this recipe, other than it being inexpensive and tasty, is that the egg and toast are combined. If you're a runny yolk kind of person, it's set up perfectly for the dipping. Hope you enjoy!

1 slice bread
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
pat of butter (or you can use saved bacon grease or any other kind of fat)

Heat up a pan. Melt the butter in the pan, then tear out a hole from the middle of the bread (ball this up and eat your bread marble, or it's a nice treat to appease the dog who is going to be angry you didn't make him an egg too). Put the bread into the pan and break the egg into the hole (season at this point with salt and pepper). Fry until the yolk sets a bit, then flip (seasoning the other side) and fry until done as much as you like it. Serves 1.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Summer Plan Update

This was a really weird week for me. I broke down and needed some synthetic food, in the form of a Big Mac. So I got one. Then I went to a baby shower which was at a sushi restaurant. I didn't think I'd ever had food budget money again, but apparently the shower organiser had decided to cover the bill. So that was good and I was off the hook for another total potential fail this week.

So, here's the business of the week. P gets back in town tomorrow. He tends to like for certain things to be on hand that don't necessarily fit into the $10/week budget. However, I'd intended to stay on this budget until the 21st. So what I'm going to do is reopen access to the Cave, in order to defray some of that increased cost, and also to try to stick with the budget. I'm not sure how well this will go, so it's possible I might go over. But I'll try not to. If it looks like going over is unavoidable, I might modify things to give me $10/week/person instead of just $10/week. So, we'll see how that goes.

However, I am being sent to Nebraska on Thursday (and from now until then I'm studying for my final), so I'll be out of pocket for a little bit (my plan is to eat the foods I've canned, which means I'm not likely to be going to the grocery store again until I get home from Nebraska). So if you don't hear from me for a little while it's because I'm not here. I'll try to keep track of any monies I spend while I'm on vacation, but I'm excluding this trip from the budgetary concerns since I'm not actually spending my own monies while I'm away. If I get any grocery shopping done before I leave town, I'll schedule a Saturday post so you guys can see what happened. If I don't, then that's okay too. I should be back around the 18th or 19th, so we'll proceed from there. Also, I will try not to forget my camera, so I can show you what I eat while I'm away.

In terms of progress, I only have one can of corn left. This makes me a sad panda, a little. I used a couple more chicken breasts, and that was pretty much it from the freezer. Normally I eat chicken only rarely, but I've been eating it a lot lately. Francis has been eating some too. I found this box on the pantry (I'd had cans on top of it so I guess I forgot it was in there) that had some bean soup mixes in it. I used one of those to make a bean porridge, and I ate a lot of that the last week in lieu of really cooking. This last week I've tried to avoid spending a lot of time in the kitchen, since I've been under a lot of stress with my class (and it's stupidly hot here which makes me not want to eat, let alone cook). I can't wait until it's over. Just a few more days, I keep reminding myself. It's just not a good sign when you adore the professor but can't deal with anything else about the class. Anyway, I digress. Again. I've eaten up most of the canned pineapple. What a surprise, huh? There're some mandarin oranges that went the way of the belly as well. I used up most of the salad dressings in the fridge, though I didn't actually have a single green salad. And of course, you already know the frozen mango is gone. I've eaten all the shells I'd frozen, and about half of the cheese breads.

Everything else in the freezer is basically the same, so there's plenty of stuff for P to eat without him needing to grocery shop. He's not obsessed with banana peppers, so I didn't get more of those. My guess, though, is that he'll eat out every day since that's more his style. Or alternately, he'll eat lots of the home-canned meat sauce w/ pasta. Or the other jarred sauces from the guest spending with pasta. Apparently he learned some cooking in Chicago, so maybe he will eat some stuff in the freezer!

Additionally, some pistachios were donated to the cause by a friend of mine. I put those together with some walnuts and butter from the freezer and the last of the phyllo dough, to make baklava for everyone at school. It seemed to be enjoyed. So that also helped eliminate some ingredients from the freezer. Oh, and I moved a bag of almonds to my nightstand to snack on in bed.

On to the spending!

This week I spent:

McDonalds:

Big Mac - $3.56

Kroger:

Bread flour - $2.75
Healthy balance juice (2) - $1.29 (had a BOGOF coupon for this, and then the bottles both had $0.55 coupons on them, which the cashier rang up too, much to my surprise and delight)

Total: $4.04
Grand total: $7.60
Total to date: $99.24/$95.84

This puts me under budget, regardless of how each individual person feels about the $4 kraut mishap. So, lookin' good. See y'all in about a week and a half!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Mango Smoothie

So, mangoes. I think you guys heard about the mangoes in the freezer for like, 2 months. I actually managed to do something with them. I thought about mango quick breads and mango cupcakes and all sorts of other mango things, but at the end of the day, I mainly just wanted a smoothie. Kind of a creamy-ish version of pureed fruit. So, here it is. Hope you enjoy!

2 cups frozen mango
1/2 cup almond milk

Put them in a blender, and blend, blend, blend. If you want to make it protein-y, add some protein powder. Serves 1 (2 if you're more polite than I am).

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

I wanted to eat some chicken recently, but I wasn't quite ready to eat the Italian dressing thing again (though there's no particular reason why I wasn't - I just wanted to do something different with it this time). I was peeking around in my Fridge-of-Holding, and I remembered I had some Caesar dressing in there. I probably should use that up, since I honestly don't remember when I bought it. If you want to make your own Caesar dressing, here's my favourite recipe for it (with the extra bonus of other dressings as well). Anyway, I really like chicken caesar salads, but I didn't actually have any romaine lettuce. So I decided to turn it all into a pasta salad. It's more filling and stretches further this way too, which is also an extra bonus. Aside from the addition of pasta and the lack of lettuce, there are a couple other deviations from the normal Caesar-type thing, since I wanted to have some variance in texture. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 pound pasta, cooked according to package directions (I used gemelli)
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
salt and pepper to taste
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 - 3/4 cup Caesar dressing
Extra parmesan shaved or grated for serving

Season chicken with salt and pepper, then cook in a non-stick skillet. Cool and cut into cubes. Combine with cooked and cooled pasta, celery, carrot and dressing. Toss well then chill before serving. Add extra parmesan when serving. Makes about 4 cups.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Queso

I mentioned yesterday that this was a really pedestrian version of Magnolia's Mud. That's pretty much true. I went the super lazy route, not bothering to buy a tomato to make a proper pico, using the last of the pickled jalepenos instead of ponying up the 5 cents for a fresh one, and using entirely less cheese than one probably should use. I also didn't add the fresh items (avocado excepted) to the mix after it was cooked - I just dumped everything into the saucepan at once and let it figure itself out. I was really hungry, what can I say? Though on the cheese front, I actually used less because I like my queso a lot more tomatoey than most people do. Given I'm the only one eating it (with pita chips!), I figured I should just do whatever I want. So, I'll put the normal person way in parentheses below. I ate this as a meal (okay, 2 meals), but mostly it'd be served as an appetizer to feed more people. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 pound Velveeta or similar (1 pound)
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes (I leave the juices in but I think a normal person wouldn't)
1 cup cooked and drained black beans
1/8 cup pickled jalepenos (1 fresh, sliced thinly)
1/8 red onion, diced (use pico here in place of the onion and pepper)
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup canned black olives, sliced (I don't think this is really supposed to be in there but I like olives so I don't care)
1 avocado, sliced or diced

My way: Put everything but the avocado in a saucepan and turn it to low heat. Let it cook until the cheese is melted, stirring periodically. Add avocado and eat with chips. Serves 1.

The right way: Combine cheese and drained tomatoes in a saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring frequently. When melted, stir in beans (or you can put them on the bottom of the serving vessel then top with the queso and let your eaters stir it in themselves) and jalepenos (and olives if you're using), then heat through. Top with pico de gallo and avocado, then serve with chips. Serves 4.

This, by the way, is another one of those recipes that looks utterly disgusting but tastes awesome.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer Plan Update

This was an interesting week for me. I went to a birthday dinner, and got an $11 entree (and water). I figured this was going to put me way over budget, giving me grocery money of $8.88 for the next week (from the 12 cents of last week plus the dollar over the $10). But as an awesome matter of circumstance, I didn't actually pay for my meal. It was kind of neat eating out at a restaurant. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed doing stuff like that. One negative byproduct of doing a highly restrictive food budget is that unless you exempt eating out (which I don't), it's very isolating. Most of the time when my friends want to go out for dinner or do something that ultimately winds up resulting in eating out (such as going to the movies; because really, who goes to the movie and doesn't get popcorn?) I can't go. Well, I could, but then I couldn't buy food that week. It's a downside that anyone on a restrictive food budget is aware of, and I'm not convinced that outside circumstances of necessity (i.e., you really only CAN afford to eat for the week on a highly restrictive budget), it's a good way to go. It's not part of my rules currently, but I think the next time I do a challenge of this sort, I might allow myself two meals a month of eating out. That way I could do fun things with my friends too. Anyway, I had these amazing chimichangas. My plate came with 2 (who can eat two?) of them, once with a spicy-ish chipotle sauce and one with a tangy green sauce. I enjoyed them both, but I liked the green one better. Everyone I convinced to sample my food seemed to enjoy it as well (also with a preference for the green one). Had we not been going bar-hopping directly following the meal, I would have taken my leftovers home with me. You all know how much I hate wasting food. I also enjoyed most of the foods I sampled from other people's plates as well. All in all, it was a great time and it totally would have been worth it to go way over budget to participate in the birthday festivities.

You saw all the things I went through last week, and since I've been making food faster than I can post it (since I so dislike making more than one post per day), your viewing of my eating is actually a little bit behind. So, where we're at right now is that for the most part, what you see one week is actually what I ate the previous week. Unless I start subsisting on frozen shells and things I've posted in the past, it'll probably be like that for a little while. Hope you guys don't mind.

In terms of freezer progress, I've eaten some of the shells in the freezer and added some cheese breads to it (uncooked - freeze the dough and cook it from frozen). The mangoes I thawed went back into the freezer and then later into a smoothie (my blender is back from vacation!!!!!!!) and I really enjoyed it. That also used up the remainder of the almond milk in the fridge.

I took the Velveeta (gross; how is it I had that to begin with, when I know I don't even like "processed cheese food?") out of the freezer in order to make queso (not gross) and made pita chips to dip in it. This queso is my pedestrian recreation of Magnolia's Mud. It worked out pretty well, though it wasn't exactly the same.

I still haven't made the cocktail onions I intended to use the whole, frozen onions for, so I guess it's a good thing I've yet to thaw them. I'll get to it eventually, I'm sure. And, I still have corn and peas. Oh yeah, also about 4 cups of pumpkin mash. I might just thaw some and eat it (with Francis) plain. In terms of fruit, nothing has really changed in this area. The orange juice is still in the freezer, so I haven't needed that. I'm still torn as to whether I want to use that bag of mixed fruits to make a pie (which has the side benefit of using up the frozen pie crust), for smoothies or just to eat by itself. I portioned out some of the curd and froze it. I'm strongly considering adding it to a modified pancake batter and making pancakes. It's so delicious, but so gross to look at. For meats, I used a chicken breast. I think I have 4 or 5 left. Still got the sausage, some bacon (though I used some of that), the salt pork and the tilapia.

I've still got 3 kinds of pickles left: slices, klaussen halves and the Arabic pickles. I haven't eaten up all the olives yet, nor the makdous (isn't my restraint impressive?). I am, however, going through those pickled banana peppers like wildfire. They seem to be on my shopping list nearly every week. I can't stop eating them. I guess that's not too bad, since there's a massive amount of flavour to be added to everything imaginable, for the low-low cost of $1.39. Not bad at all, really.

I think I've reached the point in my freezer purging where everything is going to disappear in the span of a week or two, or where I move along at a snail's pace. I'm just not pulling things from it quickly anymore. I'm not sure if that's because I'm not particularly interested in what's left in there, or because I'm preserving it. It's hard to say, since it's most likely a combination of the two possibilities. I'm just not self-aware enough to know for sure. Additionally, I seem to be adding leftovers to the freezer which is less than optimal. I mean, it's great for days I don't feel like cooking, but it's not great for purging the freezer.

Anyway, that's my progress. On to the spending!

It occurred to me that sometimes my grocery store purchases seem really disjointed and random. A wonderful benefit of having been a long term food storer (hoarder?), and one that really is necessary for making a highly restrictive food budget work, is that I am really good at looking ahead. I know pretty much all the time what food is in my house (well, at least the part I'm allowed to use), and I also know what I'm getting low on but don't really need at the moment. So if I have room in the budget, I buy the things that I know will be needed around the bend so I don't put myself in a situation where I didn't shop "because I didn't need anything," only later to go over my budget because I ran out of a bunch of stuff at once. That's pretty much what happened this week. Aside from some sort of snack food (and probably more banana peppers), I didn't need a single thing. So I decided to get things I knew I'd be out of in the relatively near future. I only had enough matzot to get me through this week, and maybe (but unlikely) next week, so that went on the list. I only had 5 cans of tuna left (I don't know why there were five since I mostly use tuna in pairs of cans, not singles), so that went on the list too. And I've only got enough bread flour left for either a large batch of bread or a batch of pizza crust (I think we all know what I'll use it on). So that was on the list too.

When I got to the store, I could've bought matzot and bread flour, bread flour and a snack item (Triscuits, in this particular case), or matzot and a snack item. In the end, I decided that since I've probably got 3-4 pounds of all-purpose flour left, and I've been replacing some of my normal flour with whole wheat, that I may as well just leave the flour for another week. So that's what I did.

This week I spent:

Banana peppers: $1.39
Avocado: $0.50
Tuna (2): $1.24
Matzot: $3.69
Triscuits: $2.75

Total: $9.57

That puts me completely back on track, so I'll actually get the full $10 next week. I was curious how much I've actually spent on food since I started this challenge (because I figured I should've spent $90, if I'm correct on how long I've been doing this), so I tallied it up for us. I think I'll do this weekly now, so we have an accurate measure of what's happening here.

Total spending during challenge: $92.24/$88.24

That total includes the $4 kraut mishap, and I think we decided to leave that off since I didn't know Wal-Mart would fix it next time I came in. So really, the spending total is $88.24. So I'm a little under budget. I might see if I can make up the $2.24 just in the interest of curiousity, but if I don't, so be it. I'm not going to sweat it since according to the rules, I'm really $1.76 under budget for the time being.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

BPT Sandwich

You have no idea what that is, do you? Don't feel bad. I didn't either, until I made it up. It's a bacon, pita and tuna sandwich. If you think bacon with tuna salad is weird, you are not alone. Everyone seems to think it's weird until they eat it. But really, they're perfect together. Anyway, I have all this "new" pita, so I didn't see the point in taking normal bread out of the freezer when I could just make a tasty wrap instead. So that's what I did. Hope you enjoy!

1 pita
1 line of mustard (or I guess mayo if you're into that sort of thing)
3/4 cup tuna salad
1-3 slices of bacon (your call; I went with 1 slice this time, but sometimes I like as many as 3 slices of bacon per sammie)
handful banana peppers (optional)
cheese (optional)

Lay out the pita. Put the tuna salad along the middle. Top with the line of mustard, then add the bacon and banana peppers. Roll up, like a wrap or like a burrito. Eat. Serves 1.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuna and White Bean Salad

As I'd mentioned Saturday, I still had some beans left to eat, and that I intended to put them together with the tuna salad I wanted to make (the same salad, by the way, that caused me to go over budget). So, here we are. Makin' tuna salad. I did this one a little differently than I normally would, because I didn't want to lose the specialness of the beans in there. If that makes sense. I don't really know how better to express my thoughts on the whole, beans and tuna combination. Mostly, I excluded the majority of the spices I normally put into tuna salad, and swapped them out for the beloved za'atar blend. It perfectly accented the flavours in the salad. And, for those of you who don't think mayonnaise is disgusting and should only be used as a binder, feel free to increase the amount in there. Hope you enjoy!

2 cans tuna (I use water packed), drained
1 cup cooked white beans
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 pickle, finely diced
1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon creole mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon za'atar seasoning
1 teaspoon salt

Mix all together. Chill, then eat on bread or with a spoon. Makes about 3 cups.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pão de Queijo

Okay, okay. I made the cheese breads. As promised. Here is the link to the recipe I used, but I will, of course, repost it here, as per usual (with my changes in italics, also as per usual). These things are just awesome. They chewy and happy and nutty and cheesy and just.. well, they just make me smile. Once they're baked, that is. Not while I'm making the dough. It's actually kind of difficult to stir the dough together, and I think the first time I made them I nearly had a bubble-over in the saucepan.

Anyway, you need to make these. They don't require any particularly hard-to-find ingredients, and it's totally acceptable to use the cheap, green can cheese. I've done it with high quality cheese and with cheap and it doesn't make a bit of difference. Hope you enjoy!

"1 cup each: water, milk (I used almond milk this time)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 package (450 grams) tapioca starch (Goya makes this and it's sold in the ethnic aisles of most stores)
2-3 eggs
200 grams parmesan cheese

Bring the water, milk, salt and oil to a boil. Remove from heat (do this! don't forget!) and add tapioca. Stir with a wooden spoon until fully integrated and let cool. Put it in a bowl, and add the eggs then knead the eggs in. Knead in the cheese, kneading until it's completely smooth. Roll 1 tablespoon of mixture into small balls. Tip: Grease your hands with oil before making the balls (she means this part pretty seriously too). Wash your hands once in a while if necessary. Place the balls on a baking tray greased with oil or lined with baking paper (I prefer to grease a mini muffin pan and put one ball in each muffin cup). Bake the cheese rolls in hot oven (350 degrees) for about 20 minutes or until golden brown (sometimes these don't get quite crispy enough on the outside, so sometimes I do them at 375; the insides should be soft and the outsides crispy-ish). Put the cheese rolls in a basket and serve them warm.

Remarks:

* This recipe makes about 70 small cheese rolls.
* Tapioca starch can be found in Asian grocery stores. It comes in a clear plastic bag and the standard pack has 450 grams. (The Goya brand is usually 650 grams or something like that, so you'll either want to buy this at an Asian grocer or break out your scale; I break out my scale)
* Brazilians usually knead the dough by hand. It’s really hard work. I prefer to use a mixer to knead the dough. I do it by hand but I understand completely why she uses a machine. It really is quite a pain to do by hand, though it's great exercise if you're into that sort of thing (which I am not).
* “Pão de queijo” can be served as an appetizer or snack. Or a meal by itself.
* “Pão de queijo” can be frozen and baked directly from the freezer. Tip: Place the cheese rolls on a tray lined with baking paper. Put the tray in the freezer. When the cheese rolls are frozen, put them in a plastic bag and put them back in the freezer. I do it this way. I bake about a dozen at a time, since they're tastiest fresh and I keep all the rest in the freezer until I'm ready to bake them.
* You can find "pão de queijo" mix (Yoki) in Brazilian supermarkets. It's very practical and convenient for those people who don't have time or don't like cooking. I have this, but I don't speak Portuguese, so I can't read the instructions. I'm told the mix is great though, by those who've used it. If anyone can translate the package for me, please say so and I will happily type it out for you.
* "Pão de queijo" is gluten-free."

Monday, July 26, 2010

White Bean Pizza

Oh, the last of the white beans. How did I want to use them? I had a lot of ideas, but I'd already made pizza crust which meant for two days I would be eating pizza. As you might guess, I am not complaining about this fact. I would've used canellini beans, but they're in the Cave so technically I don't own them right now. Instead, I used the last of the navy/great-notherns/what-ever-they-actually-are. Now I have to decide if I am going to buy more white beans, or forgo this in favour of the beans I already have in the kitchen. I've got appaloosa, Anasazi, lima, black, pinto, adzuki, pinto and cagamananto. Possibly some other kinds, but these are the ones I'm aware of having. So I probably shouldn't buy more white beans. But I still might.

Anyway, I digress. I used the same pizza dough recipe that's on the fridge - the one I normally tell you to use. But since P is gone, I swapped a third of the flour for whole wheat flour (see? I'm trying to use some of the flours in the freezer; I really am!) since there's no one to complain about whole wheat breads. Then of course sauce, and beans, and I added some pickles and the last of the feta to the mix. It seemed like a good match. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 recipe pizza dough
3/4 cup pizza sauce (or whatever sauce you like to use)
1 cup cooked white beans
1/4 cup marinated artichoke hearts
2-3 sliced, rehydrated (or not) sun-dried tomatoes
1-ish cup pizza cheese
1/2 cup feta
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup caramelized onions
1/2 cup banana peppers (c'mon, did you think I'd leave 'em out?)

Heat your oven to the hottest temperature possible. Shape dough (i.e., roll out or press out w/ hands), then top with garlic and sauce. Add beans, pizza cheese, tomatoes, artichokes, banana peppers and feta (I was going to mention to layer them all on in that order, but then I forgot to do it myself). Bake 5 minutes, then turn 180 degrees, then bake another 5 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Serves 2.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer Plan Update

This week was pretty good for me, in terms of using things up. I used up the blueberries (as you saw), and so my frozen fruit supply is dwindling. That's good; it means I'm making lots of progress there. I've still got the cranberries, the mango (which I just thawed, either to eat by itself or for mango muffins for my study group this afternoon), the mixed fruit bag, bananas and lemon rinds. I feel pretty comfortable with the way this has gone. However, it turned out I have quite a lot of canned fruit (I had completely forgotten how delicious canned pineapple is, by the way). Which I'm fine with, since I probably will not buy tons of fresh fruit as a result. Totally different animals, but that's okay. I put some fruit in the freezer, in the form of the grapefruit curd and blueberries. There's so much of it that there's no way I'll eat it all before it goes bad. So I portioned it out and froze the portions, leaving enough in the fridge for me to munch on during this coming week.

In terms of the frozen veggies, I have plans for the whole onions this week (but as per usual, we'll see how my motivation levels look later on), and so I have pumpkin, peas and corn left to use. Not bad, not bad.

I used some whole wheat flour, which you saw already, and I made the dough for the Brazilian breads, though I haven't actually baked any yet. The flour "stared" at me every time I walked in the kitchen because I finally measured out what I needed, so there was an open bowl of flour on the counter. Isn't that lovely? Turned out I had the exact amount of tapioca for two batches of the breads, but I only make one.

I cooked up the last of the white beans, so that's something. I have a bit of them left to eat, so I think they'll go into a tuna salad. I'm still good on other kinds of beans, lentils, and assorted grains. I don't have any millet, which I really wish I had, but that's okay. Why I'm craving millet is beyond me.

I also used up all of the egg whites in the freezer, so that's good (my intention was to make something nice with them, but in reality I put some in my matzot brei and I fried the rest since it occurred to me I like fried egg whites with salt and pepper). Also, the hot dogs got thawed and eaten (which you already know). I haven't used any of the other meats, but that's quite alright. Oh, and I used the last of the frozen pizza sauce. So there's that. Additionally, one of the two jars of yeast in the freezer is nearly empty, which means I've been baking, at least a little bit. So that's good too. And all the hamburger buns in the freezer have now been used up. Some with hot dogs, and some eaten by Francis in the form of his beloved peanut butter sandwiches. I still have about a half loaf of bread to eat that's in there. Additionally, some of the pitas I bought this week will probably make it into the freezer in the next day or two, since it appears they'll go bad before I'm actually done eating them.

This week was by far the most difficult for me, in terms of shopping. I was out of olives, so I decided I'd do my weekly shopping at Phoenicia this time. Scary. Normally I can't make it out of there for under $60, especially when faced with the olive bar. However, I knew they sell cans of those delicious, buttery Israeli olives, and I wanted them. Also, I wanted some more pita bread. Or another kind of Arabic bread. I didn't really care which, and my choice was going to be made based on which one I could get the most of for the least amount of money, since they always make all the breads fresh there, I wasn't constrained by flavour/staleness issues. I want to be able to make more pita nachos, makdous sandwiches and other assorted treats of that type. Plus, I was thinking the upcoming tuna-bean salad would be good as a wrap. But still. This place is like a treasure trove of everything I could possibly have a food fantasy about. Everything. It's pretty easy to stick to a budget when there's nothing to be surprised and delighted by the presence of. There, they have all my favourite dried fruits, fresh fruits, veggies, breads, pastries, cheeses, yogurt, drinks, olives, beans, grains, canned delights... Everything. I could live in that store for years without ever yearning for daylight.

So, anyway. You can see why I was a little nervous about going. I simply didn't trust myself in this store, and it's fair not to have trusted myself. It took an iron will to get out of there without spending the budget for the rest of the summer. But I was pretty good. I had a list, and I aimed to stick to it. I did touch everything in the store, and I spent a really long time peering at the lamb hearts, but ultimately I passed them by (seriously, when I'm looking at organ meat with extreme longing, I really do need to focus on increasing the fat in my diet). I also paused at the olive bar, but the smell was overwhelmingly delightful so I wandered off before I broke down and bought everything.

This week, it finally happened. I managed to go a full 8 (?) weeks without going over budget, but this week did me in. Had I not made that rule that I didn't get to carry forward any unspent monies from week to week (which is not a rule I'd have if I truly could only afford $10/week instead of doing this as a pantry/freezer cleaning exercise and means of conserving savings), I wouldn't have gone over. Not by a long shot. But because I have that rule, I did. Basically what happened is that I went to Phoenicia, bought my groceries, left, traveled through the rivers that used to be roads (I mean that literally; the streets were SO flooded when I did my shopping), and remembered I'd forgotten I needed a bell pepper. But I only have $0.38 left to spend. So, I went to Fiesta and got one, and it put me over. By 12 cents. That is lame. I think if I was going to fail a week, I should've failed it big (i.e., with the addition of junk food), not by a few pennies. But, it still means I only get $9.88 for next week. On the plus side, I didn't buy any junk food this week.

So here's what I spent:

Phoenicia:

20 ounce can of olives - $1.99
23 ounce can of pickles - $1.89
Celery - $0.69
Red onions (2) - $0.56
Ginger root (.59 pound; I wanted to make crystallised ginger and ginger ale-ish drink, which I actually managed to do with half the ginger) - $0.88
Ricotta salata (0.5288 pounds) - $2.11
9 loaves large pita - $1.50

Total: $9.62

Fiesta:

1 bell pepper - $0.50

Total $0.50

Grand total: $10.12

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grapefruit and Blueberry Bowls

You guys wondered what was going to happen with that grapefruit curd, didn't you? I fretted for a while over what to do with it, but happily, curd lasts ages in the fridge so you have time to think about it. Initially, I was going to make little mini tarts with it. But the texture was off a little and I thought it'd be rude to serve those to people. Bringing oddly textured curd to class isn't going to be helping my grade any, I'm quite sure. ;)

At the end of the day, I decided to pretend it was yogurt. It doesn't have the same texture as yogurt, so that's not why. But what it does have, is breakfast appeal. I figured I could load myself up on curd in the morning before class, and then I might not be sleepy (thank you, sugar high) by the time class was over. Which means I'd get my studying done a lot sooner in the day than I previously had been. As I mentioned before, I thawed out all those yummy blueberries. Since they're in season, you should use fresh berries in your curd if it's within budget. But they're not in my budget, and I'm trying to use up the frozen fruit (did I mention I discovered a massive stock of canned fruit in the fruit bin of the fridge? Something else to think about). So frozen it was for me. Anyway, this is a pretty simple breakfast meal, and it follows the same principle as stirring some fruit into your yogurt. Hope you enjoy!

1 recipe grapefruit curd
1 1/2 - 2 cups frozen or fresh blueberries

Stir the berries into the curd. Put into little bowls for individual servings, or keep in one big bowl to serve family style. Serves 4-8.

This is not even remotely pretty, but it tastes good.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hot Dog Pizza

You can use proper sausage for this, and it might be better than what I made. I just didn't want to thaw my sausage and be left with no sausage for the rest of my summer budget stuff. Plus, the hot dogs were already thawed and I had one left. Woo! Anyway, most of the time I make pizzas that are a little more traditionally American in their style: sauce, extra cheese, etc. This is kind of a weird thing, but I was trying to stretch out the one remaining hot dog in the house. I thought about all the things I love about hot dogs: mustard, kraut, banana peppers, onions! Then I decided to put them all on a pizza because I knew it'd feed me for two meals (not to mention using some of the dough I'd made). It was either going to be really amazing, or really disgusting. It turned out far better than I thought it would. And it's super cheap to make. I really enjoyed how some of the mustard baked into the crust while other parts of the mustard stayed really soft. The dog drooled all over the floor while I was eating it, but as I told him, "onions." My only regret is that I didn't try hot dogs this way sooner. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 pizza dough recipe
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
1 hot dog, sliced
1/2 cup kraut
1 diced shallot (use onion if you actually have these)
1/4 cup banana peppers
sprinkle celery salt

Preheat the oven to the hottest temperature possible. Press/roll out your dough, then spread with the mustard. Top with hot dog slices, kraut, banana peppers and shallot. Sprinkle celery salt on top. Bake 5 minutes, then turn 180 degrees and bake another 5 minutes. Let rest 5-10 minutes before cutting. Serves 2.