Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Red Bean and Couscous Salad

I think I've mentioned before that P really hates the smaller, Moroccan couscous. Luckily for me, P's not here. I was poking through my pantry, amazed by how organised it can be while still managing to obscure things I haven't seen in ages. Like those little Japanese red beans. Hm. I'd forgotten those were there. What I love about those little beans is that they have a natural sweetness and creaminess to them that most other beans don't have. And since in addition to using up the contents of my freezer, I'm also trying to reacquaint myself with some of my pantry storage, this meal seemed like a big win for me. I have 10 or 15 different types of beans in the house, yet I normally defer to using black beans, chick peas and great northerns. Do I just forget about all the other guys? Do I simply not care? Am I just too lazy to peek around and see what's out there? It's probably all three issues. I really would like to correct this. After all, what's the point in storing diverse pantry staples if you aren't going to use them?

So for this salad, I wanted to incorporate the red beans with some couscous to offset the colour of the beans (lately I've been really into things that have contrasting colours in the main ingredients). I also wanted to utilise a bit of fresh produce in conjunction with frozen and preserved things. I was looking for something a little tangy, crunchy, soft, creamy, sweet, savoury and salty. Is that too much to ask for? You be the judge. Lastly, I wanted something that was mostly hands-off, since I'm in the middle of the last week of this summer session. Anyway, this worked well for me; simple to prepare and travels well. Hope you enjoy!

1 1/2 cups broth
1 cup couscous
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/4 cups cooked adzuki beans
2 stalks celery, minced
2 carrots, minced
1 cup chopped, marinated artichoke crowns or hearts
1 cup coarsely chopped pickles (I used this kind, but you should use what you have on hand)
1/2 cup feta crumbles

1 teaspoon each: harissa, tomato paste
juice of 3 limes
1/8 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Boil broth with salt and oil. When it comes to a boil, add couscous, stir, cover and remove from heat. Let sit 10 minutes then fluff and put into a large bowl. Mix with beans, celery, carrots, artichoke, pickles and feta. Whisk together harissa, tomato paste, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well into the couscous mixture, chill and serve. Serves 6-8.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cheesy Pita Roll-Ups

This is another really, really simple recipe. So simple you can even do it in the microwave (though you don't have to; but I did). It's kind of like the pita nachos, kind of like a Taco Bell cheese roll-up (which I am experiencing incredible withdrawal symptoms regarding) and kind of like a quesadilla. At one time. You guys probably already know all these simple recipes I've been doing lately, but that's okay. Maybe a couple of you don't, in which case I'm "helping." Sometimes I have trouble thinking of things that take almost no time to prepare so I don't know if you do too. Right now, simple meals that are super fast to prepare are crucial to me, as my first summer session semester draws to a close. Also, these are good to eat when you're sick because you only have to be standing up long enough to put some cheese on the pita, to push the microwave button and to get it out of the microwave. It's pretty substantial food (albeit not the healthiest), so it can be a nice change from the usual soups you eat while sick (can you tell I've been sick? Contrary to the dog's theory, lots of kisses do not make you get better faster).

As I work through my freezer, I find that I have a never-ending supply of pita in there. I make it sound like a bad thing, but I'm going to be bummed if I run out.

This works with whatever cheese(s) you have on hand. I like this with Monterrey jack or with cheddar. You should use your favourites, though. Hope you enjoy!

1 large pita
1/2 - 1 cup shredded cheese (again, use whatever you like here)
salsa, tabasco or Crystal's hot sauce to garnish (optional)

Lay the pita on a board and sprinkle a 1/4" thick layer of cheese all over the pita, up to 1/2-1" away from the edge. Roll it up, then put on a plate and in the microwave. Heat for about 1 minute, or until cheese is all melted. Top with hot sauce or salsa of your choice. Serves 1.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

CSN Stores Review Opportunity

This is a nice, non-food post. Don't you love how I mostly put them all in a row, so you know exactly which days to ignore me on if you're only here for the recipes? Makes life easier for me too. ;)

Anyway, the people at CSN Stores offered me the opportunity to review one the items from their billion online stores (okay, really it's more like 200 stores, but you know how I love the word "billion"). They have a lot of stores, including one that has a section of like, 800 headboards. Thankfully, I already have a bed because I don't know how I'd be able to choose after looking at so many (and sadly, despite already having one, I still looked at them all). After much debate and indecision, I finally selected a product to review. From the cookware site, of course. I'm a sucker for an awesome new kitchen item, especially when it's not costing me my life's savings. I selected a Le Creuset baking dish that seems perfect for stratas and the like. I don't have one of these, but I do want one. So now, it appears, I shall have one. More casseroles for me! Woo!

Anyway, keep an eye out, as I'll be reviewing this little gem of cookware soon, in addition to how the service was from CSNStores.com.

And obviously, I'm being compensated in the form of a new casserole dish, but I'm not being compensated with the monies, nor am I being bribed to say anything other than exactly what my experience is (good or bad).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summer Plan Update

This week was not so good for me, in terms of planning. Also in terms of junk food. I completely spaced getting something out of the freezer to eat one day, but by the time I realised it there wasn't enough time left to deal with it and still get to work on time. So I stopped at McDonald's and got a happy meal. It was freaking delicious, but not a really good use of my available funds. Then I had a candy bar episode at CVS, except this time without the CVS monies to cover it. So that happened too. Both of these events happened on the same day at the beginning of the week (my budget week goes Saturday through Friday), so I ended up leaving me with only slightly more than $5 for the remainder of the week. Fortunately, there wasn't a whole lot I really needed to buy (especially since I'm still well-stocked on brined foods). And also I won a free massive jar of synthetic iced tea from the grocery store, which was good because it gave me a "treat" that I didn't actually have to pay for. I'm far too lazy to be spending time looking about for deals and free food, but when they fall into my lap I don't complain. Not one bit.

It's starting to become clear that it's the fruit I'll have the most trouble using up. Although I have the whiteboard listing all the fruit, it just never occurs to me to open the freezer when I want fruit. So I do need to start thinking more about the fruit so I can avoid being saddled with nothing but fruit in the freezer at the end of summer. But let's not fret about that - I have ideas coming around the bend for you to see!

I'm going out of town on Friday, so I'll still be doing the $10 thing. However, I'll be spending more money than my allotted money, so I can stock the foods and drinks my house-and-dog-sitter prefers. I haven't decided yet if I will itemise just my food, or if I'll do both and just set them as separate categories. I guess we'll know when we cross that bridge. But I wanted to let you know.

This week, I spent:

McDonald's happy meal - $2.70
Take 5 candy bars - $1.79
Cheetos - $1.79
Orange juice - $1.15
Pesto sauce - $1.99

Total: $9.42

Friday, June 25, 2010

Food Waste Friday

This was another good week for me. I wasted:


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fried Red Rice

After the chicken and rice, I still had quite a lot of rice left (despite having a guest over). I had considered just eating with some lemon juice on it, as well as that Japanese rice seasoning, as I'm wont to do. But then I realised if I did that I'd have nothing to talk to you guys about, and that just didn't seem like a very nice thing to do. Don't want to y'all, since I'm prone to neglecting you for rather large spans of time on occasion. Plus, j threw out a second challenge, and this fit nicely into it. This challenge is for a full meal that costs $5 or less. I made it barely under $5, but it would've been cheaper without the bacon.

Anyway, this a primarily a pantry meal, and a super simple one at that (see a theme this week? My class is MADNESS!). There's a little fresh produce in it, but it's mostly comprised of canned stuff. This is also really easy to veganise, simply by removing the bacon (but increase the oil in that instance). Hope you enjoy!

2 cups leftover rice (any kind; mine just happens to be red, you should use more rice if you want it to be the more dominant ingredient) - $0.25, maybe
3 slices of chopped bacon (yum) - $0.50
1 small tomato, cut into strips or diced - free from the garden
1/2 cup sliced celery - $0.10
1 onion, sliced - $0.33
1 carrot, sliced - $0.07
1 can each: bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, baby corn and bean sprouts, drained - $2.68 total
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (navy, great northerns, cannelini, whatever you have and like) - $0.25, cooked from dry
small squirt sriracha - $0.05
1 tablespoon each: sesame oil, hoisin, rice wine vinegar, lime or lemon juice $0.65 total
soy sauce to taste (in place of salt) $0.10

Heat a large pan, then add sesame oil and bacon. Fry until bacon is crispy. Add carrots, celery, onion, sriracha, and hoisin, cooking for about 5-7 minutes. Then add beans, cans of food, vinegar, citrus juice and cook another 5-7 minutes. Add rice and soy sauce, then give another 5-7 minutes. Add tomato and cook 2 more minutes. Serves 4-6.

Total cost: $4.98
Per serving cost: $1.25 - $0.83

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars

I found a really amazing-looking recipe for these granola bars in cookie_chef's LJ, and it neatly coincided with j's new challenge. The premise of this challenge is to make something that normally costs a lot of money less expensive. $5 or less, to be precise. Well, I usually cook everything pretty inexpensively, so (once again, but this time with permission) I modified my participation a little, instead making something cheaply that normally is expensive to buy. Granola bars, as we all know, cost quite a bit of money to buy. They're what, $3 or so for a box of 6 of them? Not a good deal when you're on a budget. So I'm making these instead. Some of the costs I was guessing on, since I already had everything I needed to make these, and some of the ingredients I've had too long to remember what I paid for them. As per usual, my changes or added comments are in italics. Hope you enjoy!

"2 cups rolled oats - $0.30
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (I may drop this to 1/2 c next time) - $0.50?; I used 1/2 cup
1/2 cup wheat germ $0.40?
1 cup all-purpose flour - $0.10
1/4 heaping cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky - $0.10; but really $0.20 because I misread it and used 1/2 cup; but don't worry, it didn't hurt it one bit
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips - $0.30?
1/2 cup honey - I have no earthly idea what honey costs, but I'm assuming this quantity is under 75 cents
1 large egg, beaten - $0.17
1/2 cup vegetable oil - $0.25
2 tsp vanilla extract - free, since it's homemade

Preheat the oven to 350. Generously grease a 9x13 baking pan. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, peanut butter, flour, and chocolate chips. I used my hands to rub the peanut butter into the other dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, and pour in the remaining ingredients. Mix, using your hands if necessary. It worked fine for me using a spatula. Spread or pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. It isn't necessary to use the entire pan. I filled the entire pan. The dough will hold its shape. Bake for 24-25 minutes, depending on your oven and pan selected. Watch it closely. You want the edges to begin to get golden brown but the center may not look quite set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan. Overcooking will result in hard bars that are difficult to cut."

Total cost: $3.07 for a boatload of bars

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Italian Dressing Chicken

I think everyone knows this recipe, but I thought I'd post it just in case. When I first learned it, I learned it from someone who'd cut the chicken into little bite-sized bits before marinating and cooking it, but I hate dealing with raw chicken so I tend to cook my chicken in its current incarnation and then cut it afterward. Not always, but mostly. There is a big bag of chicken breasts in the freezer, and I took a large one out. I picked a big one so I'd only have to cook once in the day (and also because I have more beef barley soup to eat because it's thawed, and also more tortellini because it's already cooked so I didn't want to overwhelm myself with food to use up anymore than I already had done). What I really like about this recipe is that it requires absolutely nothing from me - some salad dressing, some chicken, some time and some heat. And that's it. Once it's done cooking I like to cut it into bits and serve it over rice. It's simple, but it's still quite tasty. With rice, it can also be stretched so serve more people. Even more so if you add some veggies. ;)

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
3/4 cup bottled Italian dressing (I buy the generic brand)

Pour the dressing over the chicken in a bowl, container or Ziplock bag. Put in the fridge and marinate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Heat a skillet (I used nonstick so as not to have to worry about oiling the pan, but you can use anything) to medium and pour the chicken and dressing in it. Cook 5-7 minutes, then flip and cook another 5-7 minutes. Double check to be sure the chicken is cooked through, then remove from heat. Cut into 1-2 inch pieces and serve over rice. Serves 2.

No picture today. I didn't anticipate eating this with a guest, so I spaced off taking a picture before I served the food. The very next time I make it, I'll post the picture.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rosemary Spaghetti Squash

This is not really a seasonal recipe, but by some stroke of luck I managed to keep a spaghetti squash "alive and well" until I was ready to use it. I was having (more) sausage for dinner but wanted something light and delicious to offset the heaviness even a chicken sausage can have. This is what I wound up with. I had plain strawberries for dessert. Hope you enjoy!

4 tablespoons butter
1/4 red onion, diced
1/3 cup (ish) sliced celery
1 small-ish sprig of rosemary, diced very fine
salt to taste
1 spaghetti squash
1 cup of water

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Put in a baking dish, cut side down, then add the cup of water to the dish. Put in the oven and turn the oven onto 350F. Set timer for an hour, and come back later. When you take the squash out of the oven, scrape its insides from the shell using a fork. Set aside.

In a small pan, melt butter over low heat. Add onions, rosemary, salt and celery, and sweat for 10-15 minutes. Add squash to the onion mixture and toss to coat the squash evenly with all the other goodies. Cook another 3-5 minutes (or until your sausage is done cooking). Serves 2.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

OXO Canisters

I won some canisters from OXO, and they arrived this week. They are freaking amazing. They're airtight, and neither a hassle to open nor to close. I'm using them to hold things which I don't use often but which are prone to staling (i.e., oats, cocoa powder, cereal, etc.). I just wanted to mention this to you guys in case you were on the lookout for new cabinet/pantry containers. I'm not being compensated in any way (other than the fact I got some free containers, but that wasn't contingent on a review), but I just thought you should know these things rock.

I used their picture from the website (which I hope they don't get mad about), since I still have one container I haven't decided what to fill with yet. Plus, their picture is all styled and pretty and stuff.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Plan Update

I decided to switch this post from Friday to Saturday. Not for any real reason, but just because I felt like it. Keeps y'all on your toes and all. ;)

It's been a weird week, food-wise, for me. Lots of "leftovers" to get through. I had taken some beef barley soup out of the freezer to eat, and it was WAY more food than I thought was in one bag. So that took a couple days to eat. Plus, I made a great deal of pasta with meat sauce when I had guests over, which resulted in lots of leftovers of that to eat as well (waa. Woe is me). So I think I cooked a little less than I'd intended this week, since some of my eating this week was all about NOT wasting food. Despite cooking less than I'd intended, I discovered that pita nachos are far, far more fabulous than regular nachos (not to mention a good way to use up stale pita). So that's a plus.

I also discovered I've lost my taste for lox. This makes me sad. I've eaten it my entire life, and now I just don't like it anymore. It tastes exactly the same as it always has, so this is definitely me and not the lox. My mom told me that she stopped liking lox when she was 35, which I hadn't known, so maybe our taste buds really do just change in funny ways as we age. However, Francis was kind enough to help me not waste all those eggs I made. They made excellent treats for him. I wish I still liked lox, because I think the eggs were pretty good.

I went to make some chocolate pudding and then I made the saddest discovery of all time - I was out of milk. Crap. I don't actually drink milk (the aftertaste seriously icks me out); I mainly use it for pudding, mashed potatoes and baking. And that's it. So it didn't make sense to go buy more milk, since the containers are larger than I can use before it goes bad. Even the small ones. But man... No pudding? Seriously? This thought was not working for me. Then I realised I had a container (and maybe a second one, but I haven't looked yet) of DRY MILK!!! Dry, whole milk. So I "made" milk, and then made my pudding. Thank god. I really needed some pudding. Sometimes, a girl just needs some chocolate pudding, and that's all there is to it. So, that's a staple that's been languishing in my pantry, that I forgot about, that is now being used. Woo!

I took the last of the tomatoes from the plant, and now it's got the little buds of new tomatoes. Sweet. It'll probably take another month before my next crop of tomatoes, so we'll see how that goes for me. I have a hard time imagining I'll buy fresh tomatoes when I already have some growing, but if I can't keep from needing a pasta salad, then I'll buy one I guess.

I made an inventory of the freezer also. Since my goal is to go through the stock of food that's in the freezer, it didn't make much sense to try to do this without knowing exactly what was in there (although honestly, there is some appeal to the whole treasure hunting method I'd been using previously). So now I have a list on a white board attached to the freezer. As I use something, I'll just cross it off the white board. This new system allows me to plan meals based on what I'd like to use up in there, and based on what I'd like to see rotated out first. By crossing items off instead of erasing them, I'm also able to easily track my progress on using things up.

In terms of spending, here's what happened:

I spend $1.29 on another bag of chips at the gas station. It's like I just can't seem to stop myself, some days. I know that if I simply took the time to eat breakfast before I taking the dog to get a new bag of food and more treats, I wouldn't stop at the gas station for chips. But, there we have it. I am weak.

At the grocery store this week, I bought the following:

Huge bag of BBQ flavoured chips - $1.67 (they were on sale. I'm weak, as mentioned above)
Tub of rolled oats so I can make granola bars since I didn't have enough in the house - $0.99
Quart of almond milk - $1.93 (on sale, shelf stable, and works for my baking needs; whee!)
Salad dressing, 2 bottles - $1.71 (had a coupon which made this a good deal; plus I don't mind using cheap dressing to marinate chicken in)
Bag of precut romaine salad - $0.24 (was on sale and they let me use 2 coupons for one bag of salad)
Pound of carrots - $0.79
Pound of strawberries - $0.97 (these weren't on my list, but looked beautiful and were on sale so impulse happened)

Total at the store: $8.30
Grand total for the week: $9.59

Which means I'm slightly under budget for the week. The chips, romaine and the strawberries are the only things I'll use up this week. Since I won't need all that other stuff again (and hopefully I can resist the chips next week), I should be way under budget next week (which is good, because I want to buy a bottle of that lemon soda beer, which will probably cost me a few dollars). Admittedly, I have a pretty impressive stockpile of food, which definitely is helping me spend small amounts of money. But I still think it's pretty fun finding good ways to challenge myself to use what I have and to improvise to overcome what I don't have in order to make new meals without spending much money. This challenge is coming along really well.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Food Waste Friday

This week was a pretty good week for me. Admittedly, it's really, really hard to waste food when you aren't buying any. But, you know how it goes.

This week I lost:


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Makdous Sandwich

I think I haven't bothered you all with the more exotic foods recently, but today is the day. Makdous. Probably my favourite of all the brined foods I've eaten (of which there are many). So much so that if I had to choose only one food to eat for the rest of my life, this would be it. I love makdous. I sing songs to makdous while I eat it and I do the "makdous dance." It's kind of stupid, but I love them that much. More, even, than olives. Who would've thought that was possible?

So, for those of you who don't know the joys of makdous, let me tell you about it. Makdous is a Levantine snack, that's made from eggplant, walnuts, garlic and chile (typically Aleppo pepper), then brined in olive oil. P won't eat them (or even try them!) because he doesn't eat grey foods. More for me, I say. They're just so amazing that I can't even describe it. Well, actually, I can: they're sweet, they're spicy, they're firm and crunchy yet soft, oily but not greasy, and just delicious. They're so good, it's almost criminal not to try them (but again, more for me if you don't). You can buy them in most Middle Eastern markets, in jars or in the bulk aisle where you get the loose olives. Apparently I was a wise, wise Allie, far before I started this challenge. Because, you see, I normally buy a pound of them every time I go to the market, but a couple months ago I bought a jar as my "back-up supply." And since I haven't been to the market in a couple weeks, this is a fortunate thing indeed. For those of you without a good market to buy them at, I offer you Mercedes' recipe, Marianna's recipe and Chachi's recipe for them. They are well worth making. Really, just do whatever you have to in order to get some makdous in your life.

Anyway, onto the sandwich. Normally I get a makdous and I put it in my mouth and I do the dance and I sing (quietly) and I chew. And it's a wonderful, wonderful experience. But then, I heard about a place in Baltimore that makes a sandwich from them (which made me consider moving to Baltimore), and I thought I should just make my own sandwiches instead of moving to another state to eat them. So, here they are. You could be cool and add some chopped tomatoes or lettuce to your sandwich if you want to, but I'm not cool so I didn't. Hope you enjoy!

1 pita, warmed slightly
3 makdous, chilled
1/8 cup feta crumbles
a little drizzle of makdous oil

Put the makdous in a row in the middle of the pita bread. Top with the feta, then drizzle with some oil the makdous is stored in. Fold up your pita and eat with relish (relish as in delight, not as in the food type). Serves 1.

This picture is a little fuzzy, because my hand was moving toward my mouth when I was trying to take the picture. Sometimes my hands do things I'm not asking them to do. ;)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pita Nachos

I mentioned pita nachos the other day, in reference to the salsa and the pita chips. But I didn't actually really tell you about the pita nachos. Like I said before, I had a lot of frozen pita, and also a lot of frozen cheddar. Some of the simplest nachos we can have are just some tortilla chips topped with cheese and baked. I didn't see a reason not to do this with the pita, since there really was a LOT of it. Now I am down to maybe 7 more loaves of pita, but I doubt they'll last that long, using this recipe. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 - 1 batch of pita chips
1/2 - 1 cup cheddar cheese (I like a lot of cheese, but I don't know what y'all like)
some sort of pre-cooked meat, if desired (I didn't use this)
refried beans, if desired (I didn't use this either, but I like to keep my options open)

Heat oven to 400F. Put chips on an oven-proof plate (if you're like me, and don't have one of those, just use a baking dish - they eat just as easily off a baking dish as they do off a plate). Top with beans and/or meat if you're using it, then top with cheese. Put in the oven and let cook a few minutes, or until cheese is melted. Top nachos with corn salsa and maybe some extra slices of pickled jalapenos if you like that sort of garnish. Serves 1-4 (depending on if this is an appetizer for several or a meal for one).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pita Chips

First came the salsa. Now come the chips. This is a general, all-purpose way to make pita chips. You can use them for pita nachos, to dip in things, in salads or for whatever your imagination tells you they'd be great with. Feel free to add any spices you like. I made mine intentionally un-spiced because I knew I would want to use some (all?) of them for nachos, and the salsa has a lot of flavour that I didn't want the chips to compete with. Hope you enjoy!

4 small-to-medium pitas, cut into eighths or sixths, depending on how big you like your nachos (I cut them into triangles, basically)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt (you can reduce it if you're a low salt kind of person)

Preheat oven to 400F. Brush the pita with oil and sprinkle salt all over it. Put on a baking sheet (you can put either parchment down on it, or you can use a silpat) and bake 5-7 minutes.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

I found a surprisingly large number of pitas in my freezer, in addition to quite a lot of cheddar cheese. It seemed to me that I like nachos, and I like pita chips, and maybe I could combine the two concepts and make pita nachos. But nachos just aren't very good if you don't have any salsa to eat. I didn't really want to make a traditional salsa, because I knew I wouldn't actually eat it all in a timely fashion. But by making a bean and corn salsa, it's more than likely that I'd eat any leftovers with a spoon. I like using the white corn because the contrast between the black beans and the white corn is really striking. So here it is. Hope you enjoy!

1 can white corn
1 cup black beans
1 diced tomato
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 stalk diced celery
1-2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeno (you could use fresh if you have it)
juice of 2-3 limes
salt and pepper to taste

Mix well. Chill before serving. Makes about 3-4 cups.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer Plan Update

Since I last posted about this, I've done pretty well with my food planning and buying. As you've seen, I've been posting a lot - because I have been going to town making foods and then eating them. My food waste is even lower than it normally is, because nothing has been escaping me as I peer around looking for new things to make with things I've had for ages. I'm going to start doing an update every Friday, so that it posts on the same day as Food Waste Friday. Apparently Friday is my no-recipe-just-tell-you-guys-random-stuff day

I've spent about $14 since that last post on food. And $6 on Vitamin Water. I'm not including those Vitamin Waters in my food budget, because they're a twice a week treat that I will stop having as soon as they stop being on sale 2 32-ounce bottles for $3. Plus, they're really not food. Aside from those (which I drink Friday and Saturday), I've pretty much just been drinking juice (yay POM!), water and tea (of which I have a truly boundless supply).

In the junk food arena, which I constantly battle an addiction to, I had 2 bag grabs of chips, 1 large bag of chips and 2 candy bars. I only, however, paid for 1 grab bag. The rest was "purchased" with CVS monies. So I don't really count those in my food budget either, since I didn't actually spend money on them.

Of my $14, 1 dollar was for chips. $4 of that money was spent buying sauerkraut to replace the kraut I'd try to buy at Wal-Mart but which hadn't actually been placed in my bag. I was already home when I discovered this, and figured it'd cost more in gas to go back to Wal-Mart than it would just to buy a new jar. So I bought a new jar. So... yeah. $7 kraut, basically. I also bought some pickles, and eighth of a watermelon for Francis and I to share, a bell pepper, and I bought something(s) else which I can't for a life of me remember.

Oh, I also spent $10 at a dinner with a friend. So that puts me $4 over my budget, but if we don't count that extra kraut money I'm still good to go.

All in all, this is working out really well. I haven't been making a ton of money lately, so this project is corresponding nicely to my desire to slow the rate at which my savings gets used. It's also really awesome seeing some of the stuff that's been languishing in my freezer get used up. I used an entire bag of frozen fruit; some in the turnovers, some just straight to my belly (I discovered that I find the texture of previously frozen fruits quite pleasing). I used the last of the spinach and some of the corn. I discovered some pitas in the freezer which I will enjoy making things with them the upcoming days. There is so much more fruit that I don't even know what I want to do with it. Happily, the corn, brussels sprouts and such I found are easy. It's hard only to choose what to do with them, not to come up with ideas. And my god there's a lot of meat. But at least there's some progress happening there. My ultimate goal is to not put anything new in the freezer, and to empty it to the point that all that's left is Francis' stuff and staple items (flour and such, though I'd like to work through a lot of those).

Food Waste Friday

This week was nearly perfect, once again. And then, when I went to get an onion, I discovered the onion in my hand was moldy. Not fun.

So, this week I lost:

1 yellow onion

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lox Deviled Eggs

I had some lox leftover from P's most recent camping trip, but this time I knew it was in the fridge before it went bad. I don't have any bagels and I really don't have time to make any (this new class has a truly extraordinary amount of reading in it, plus projects and papers). Plus, I'm trying to do that whole, "don't go to the store" thing so I didn't buy any. But it was still there, in front of the orange juice where I'd have to see it, staring at me (in as much as something that has no eyes can stare at a person). So I decided that since I somehow wound up with almost 2 dozen eggs, I should use up some of those with the lox. Enter deviled eggs. Hope you enjoy!

2 ounces lox
11 large eggs, hard boiled
1 teaspoon dill
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Slice eggs in half. In food processor, combine the severely deformed whole eggs and all the remaining yolks, plus all the remaining ingredients. Puree in the processor. Pipe or spoon (I'm a spooner, myself, most of the time) the mixture back into the egg white halves. Makes 15-20.

Well, my camera and I just have an incredible talent for making perfectly good food look gross, don't we?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Tilapia Florentine

Thanks to an unintentional memory nudge from a friend, I actually remembered to pull a filet of tilapia from the freezer. Holy cow, pre-planning. Who would've expecting me to capable of it when I'm just cooking for myself? Certainly not me! Anyway, tilapia thawed, I had originally considered using it with loads of capers like I usually do. But then I thought I'd do something different with it. In the spirit of trying to use up some of the things hiding out in the freezer, I opted to look for some veggies I normally don't pair with tilapia. In the end, I settled on corn and spinach. It was a surprisingly refreshing dish. The vegetable medley on its own was really delicious, so it might make a nice vegan or vegetarian side dish. I hope you enjoy!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin into half moons
1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
salt and pepper

1 cup frozen corn
1 1/4 cup frozen spinach
grated zest and juice of 2 limes
salt and pepper to taste
1 tilapia filet (4-6 ounces)

Add oil, onion and celery (plus salt and pepper to taste) in a skillet over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes. Put corn, spinach and grated zest in the pan and season, then cook 7-10 minutes. Add seasoned tilapia to the top of the veggies, then pour lime juice all over the whole thing. Cover and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Serves 1.

Sorry about how bad the picture is - I didn't realise I'd taken a horrible picture until I was more than half way done eating.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

POM-Pomme Granita

It's so hot here already. Summer didn't even consider waiting for spring to be over. In fact, I don't think spring even happened this year. It's sad. My tomato plants are definitely going to stop producing with this insane heat. As I mentioned yesterday, the POM Wonderful people sent me juice to play with. With the heat, I can only thing of cold things to do with it (okay, that's a lie - I've thought of other things, but the thought of roasting lamb right now is more than I can bear). And a granita sounded really lovely to be eating after time outside with the dog. Even his fur is hot to the touch when we come back in from playing in the yard.

Anyway, I like granitas because they don't actually ask you to deal with special equipment - just a whisk and/or fork and a pan. They don't take too too long to make, and they're light, refreshing and delicious; perfect for a summer day. Like a snow cone, but not so cloyingly sweet. Hope you enjoy!

16 ounces pomegranate juice
8 ounces unsweetened applesauce

Whisk together juice and applesauce. Pour into a metal baking pan and put in the freezer. Every 30 minutes, whisk or stir the mixture and put back in the freezer (4 times). Let freeze the rest of the way, then scrape with a fork and serve. Serves 4 people or 1 person and 1 Francis.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Pomegranate "Jell-O"

The lovely people at POM Wonderful sent me more pomegranate juice to play with. I had several ideas for its use, but a friend of mine from work mentioned that she might like to taste it in "Jell-O" form. Given that she tends to be averse to any food item that has nutritive value (she primarily subsists on things like pizza rolls and questions me at length about any foods I try to feed her as to whether or not they're "healthy"), I couldn't resist the chance to feed her something that she knows is healthy for her but wants to try anyway. So, "Jell-O" it is. Because pomegranate juice is often tart-sweet, I sweetened this up a touch. Hope you enjoy!

24 ounces pomegranate juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup cold water
2-4 packets Knox gelatin (2 if you like it loose, 4 if you like it really stiff)

Sprinkle gelatin over the cold water and let it sit for 5 minutes or so (this is called blooming the gelatin). Combine juice and sugar in a saucepan and heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil (or close to a boil; your choice), then stir in gelatin until well-integrated. Pour into 4 cups or little bowls. Chill until firm. Serves 4.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Oil-Cured Olive Pizza

I discovered some oil-cured olives tucked into a corner of the fridge. They must be leftovers from the last time I made puttanesca. Luckily for me, there was enough for me to not only have a pizza, but to munch on a few as well. Since I had the last half of the pizza dough to use up before I started cooking new meals, it seemed like the best choice for them. Again, it was a simple meal that was easy to make and tasted amazing. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 batch pizza dough
1/2 - 3/4 cup pizza sauce
1/4 cup roughly chopped and pitted oil-cured olives
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup mozzarella or pizza cheese mix
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Preheat oven to 500F - 550F. Roll, press or toss out your dough (I've really enjoyed pressing them out recently with my fingertips). Top with half the onion, then sauce, then cheese, then olives and remaining onion, then sprinkle feta on the top. Slide into oven and bake 5 minutes, then rotate the pizza 180 degrees and bake another 5 minutes. Let rest 5-10 minutes before cutting. Serves 1-2.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Tomato Feta Pizza

Oh, pizza. How do I love thee. Let me count the ways.

Anyway. It's been a while since I last made pizza. Happily, that while has ended. I used some of the sauce I made earlier this week for pizza sauce, and I sliced a garden fresh tomato with it. It was simple, filling and emotionally satisfying. Sometimes, all you need to be happy is an awesome pizza. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 batch pizza dough (today I used this recipe)
1/2 - 3/4 cup pizza sauce
1 tomato, sliced
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1 cup mozzarella or pizza cheese mix
1/2 cup crumbled feta

Preheat oven to 500F - 550F (I like to preheat for an hour or sometimes more, since I have a stone). Roll, press or toss out your dough (I like to make 8-10" pizzas, but you could use a full batch of dough and make one big one). Top with sauce, then cheese, then tomato and onion slices, then sprinkle feta on the top. Slide into oven and bake 5 minutes, then rotate the pizza 180 degrees and bake another 5 minutes. Let rest 5-10 minutes before cutting. Serves 1-2.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Food Waste Friday

So close. So, so, so close. There goes my no waste streak.

This week I lost:

2 slices of lemon

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Mixed Fruit Turnovers (Hand Pies)

I have a package of puff pastry, and I have too much frozen fruit. Unexpectedly, I wound up with 2 extra bags of frozen fruit and since they're mixed fruit instead of single fruits (these bags have mango, peach, pineapple, grapes and strawberries; their intended use, according to the bag, is smoothies) I was kind of at a loss for what to do with them. Enter puff pastry. I figured I could use one bag of fruit and 2 sheets of pastry to make a billion little hand pies. Perhaps I'll make a regular pie with the other bag. I have no idea, but I suspect it'll be a while before it comes up.

By using puff pastry, we get the flaky, wonderful crust without doing any actual work. The process is pretty simple, which is important to me in all I cook right now because I'm reading about 50 pages a day for the class I'm taking right now. Either way, it's not a bad deal to open a couple packages and wind up with a lovely pastry as the result. I'm eating one then bringing the rest to class with me tomorrow. Hope you enjoy!

2 sheets puff pastry

2 cups thawed (or fresh) mixed fruit (or just one fruit; you do what you like)
1/2 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Mix the second group of ingredients together. Roll one sheet of the pastry out into a 12"x12" square, then cut into 6 pieces. Put a spoonful of fruit on the middle of one half of each square. Make sure you leave about a half inch of "border" around the edges of the pastry. Whisk together the egg and water, then dab a little around the edges of the pastry. Fold the pastry over itself to make little rectangles then transfer to a sheet pan. Brush the remaining egg wash onto each pie. Cut a couple slits in the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape. Repeat process with second sheet of pastry (I actually do the second sheet once the first one goes in the oven. Refrigerate while you heat your oven to 400F. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown and puffed nicely (mine took nearly 25 minutes, because my oven has been really wonky lately; but yours should NOT take that long), then cool on a rack. You can eat them warm or room temperature. Makes 12 pies.

My picture looks a little funny, but pay no mind.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Lemony Sauteed Mushrooms

Apparently I'm not quite ready to eat that tomato sauce, because I ate a bunch of hot dogs today. I didn't have any hot dog buns, but I did have hamburger buns so I just cut them in half and stuck them in the burger buns. Yum. Anyway, that's not really the point. I felt a little snacky a few minutes ago but didn't feel like eating more hot dogs at the moment nor did I feel like making pasta (it's possible I'll change my mind later), and I remembered I had some mushrooms still in the fridge. I figured they'd be nice to saute and be done with it. So that's what I did. Okay, I didn't really saute it, because this was some pretty inactive cooking, but you get the gist. These were simple and incredibly delicious to me just by themselves, but you could eat them with rice, burgers, steak or whatever you like. Hope you enjoy!

4 ounces mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons each: butter, lemon juice
sprinkle of salt

Take a small pan and heat it to medium high with the butter in it. When the butter is melted, add mushrooms, salt and lemon. Let it cook for about 10 minutes. Serves 1.