Monday, April 27, 2009


Lest anyone out there think that my meals are a constant stream of home-cooked, from scratch, organic concoctions, I thought I'd post tonight's dinner.

Pasta. Mini wheels, because they were on sale and I had a coupon, making it $0.50 for a pound.

And jarred sauce. Though I did add one bunch of steamed chard, and used the immersion blender to mix.

Pasta with sauce and chard:
1 lb pasta: 0.50
1 28-oz jar pasta sauce: 1.00
1 bunch chard: 1.00
4 oz grated parmesan: 1.49
Total: 3.99 for 8 servings, or $0.50 per serving.

Though I'll run out of sauce before I hit the 8 servings (only have enough for 6 - use some frozen pesto for the rest, or make a quick sauce with some leftover tomato paste).

And I'm trying to watch my weight, so I did actually measure out the pasta so it will be 8 servings.

Fava Beans

Fava beans are another thing we get from the CSA that I never *really* know what to do with. This week we got 2 lbs. Here's what I did:

Favas with garlic and carrots:
2 lb unshelled favas
1/2 c. shredded carrots
2 stalks celery, diced
2 T. rehydrated dried onion ('cuz I didn't have regular onion)
2 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
1 T fresh savory (savory goes well with favas...oh, what do I know. We got savory from the farm.)

Shell the favas. Boil a pot of water, drop in the shelled favas, and boil 3 min. Drain and cool.

When cool, peel the outer skin off the beans.

Saute the celery in the olive oil until soft. Add garlic, onion, savory, and carrots, and saute 1 min. Add favas, saute one min. Add 1/2 cup water, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 min. Remove cover and continue to cook until water is evaporated and beans start to brown a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Grocery Budget So Far

An update on the annual grocery budget. Budgetary goal (family of three):

CSA: $850 for the year

in addition:
Odd Months: Jan, Mar, May, etc: $160/month
Even Months: Feb, Apr, June, etc: $300/month

This does not include:
wine (seriously, couldn't fit it in that budget)
soda (I used to have such a bad habit that I gave it its own category. I'm much better now.)
dining out and certain snacks (my husband's desk snacks, and chocolate)
paper products

None of these are huge expenditures, but I want to know what I spend on FOOD. The other food-type products go into "entertainment" category (which I also track).

So far:
Jan: $159.77
Feb: $297.92
Mar: $145.65
Apr (so far): $214.75


Breakfast...the most important meal of the day, depending on who you ask.

My husband travels a lot. Now, compared to some men, maybe not a lot. But 6 times in four months seems a lot to me, especially when I become a single parent for a few days (while working full time).

I get by with lunches and dinners by cooking two big meals and eating leftovers. Yeah, I get sick of the leftovers after 4-5 days.

Breakfast, however, I don't mind eating the same thing for a week. When we returned from our vacation at 12:30 am last Saturday, our fridge was bare. Dry cheerios were fine for my spouse (he prefers them that way), but I needed something else. So Sunday morning I cooked up a big pot of steel-cut oats (1 cup oats, 4 cups water, boil, reduce heat, and simmer until water is absorbed. Be careful, they will spill over. Stir frequently.)

And thus, I reheated parts of it every day for breakfast, and topped with yummy things, like:
1. diced dates, raisins, and figs, with cinnamon, honey, and toasted almonds
2. homemade plum jam, and more almonds (shown)

One cup of cooked oatmeal is really filling, and pretty cheap. At $1.99/lb for organic steel-cut oats, that comes out to:

1 cup oats = 5.625 ounces (yah, I weighed it): *1.99 per lb / 16 oz per lb = $0.70, for 5 cups.

1 cup cooked oats = $0.14.

Yum! Half an ounce of almonds is $0.11, and you'll have to add a little for fruit, sugar, honey, syrup, whatever. Still a deal. Breakfast for under 50 cents.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spanish rice

I love Spanish rice. This recipe comes courtesy of Dan Feeney, a cooking instructor for a class I took for a couple of years (it's such a fun class that a lot of people take it over and over). Post-child, it's not in the free time budget.

I've adjusted it a bit...switched from white rice to brown, substituted tomato paste (which I always have) for tomato sauce (which I never have), and most recently - switched it over to the pressure cooker.

The white rice version is good too, and in a regular pot, cooks about as long as the brown rice cooks in the pressure cooker (20 min).

Spanish Rice
1 T. olive oil: 0.11
1 small onion, chopped: 0.20
1.5 cups brown rice: 0.62
2 3/4 cups water
2 cloves garlic, minced: 0.10
1 tsp salt:
1 tsp cumin: 0.03
1 tsp dried parsley: 0.02
1/2 tsp pepper
1 spoonful of tomato paste (about 1/4 of a small can - tablespoon or two):0.08
Total: $1.16 for about 5 cups, 5 servings, $0.23 per serving.

Saute onion in oil until soft and starting to brown. Use pressure cooker if you have it, regular lidded pot if you don't.

Add rice and coat with oil, saute until it starts to brown.

Add remaining ingredients and stir well.

If using a pressure cooker, cover, turn heat to high. When high pressure is reached, turn down until it stays at high pressure. Cook 20 min, remove from heat, allow to return to pressure naturally.

For regular pot, cover, reduce heat and simmer. 20 min for white rice, 45 to 50 min for brown.

My first harvest

Okay, it might not be terribly exciting, but I picked my first two radishes today. Toddler ate 1/2 of one, rest went on my salad.

It's not my first harvest ever (I did have some tomatoes the last two years, green beans the year before).

Hopefully everything else grows well too!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Back from Vacation

It should be no surprise that I prefer to cook, even when on vacation. I don't like gaining weight on vacation. I do enjoy eating out (yum, food!) and the social aspect too. But the social aspect takes a back seat when you have a three year old. And the more I cook, the more disappointed I am in restaurant food.

So on this one-week trip to the east coast (Myrtle Beach, um, brrr), we ate in a fair bit. My sister cooked a delicious dinner our first night there (scallops with mushrooms and spinach). She also stocked us with some delicious banana muffins and coconut cupcakes.

We were in Myrtle Beach for 6 nights. Saturday night was the arrival day, and we just all ordered pizza. Sunday was a night out for Chinese buffet/ Mongolian BBQ. I hadn't planned on going out that night, but Mongolian is a build-your-own stir-fry, so there was the opportunity for lots of veggies (not terribly common in the South).

Monday, we ate in (spaghetti and salad)
Tuesday, out again (Mexican). Turns out Mexican, when you are trying to be vegetarian, isn't very good. Mostly a lot of cheese. This is also true in many California restaurants, so I'm not blaming South Carolina.
Weds, in (veggie burgers and broccoli, bean salad)
Thurs, out (a steak place, I got seafood and chicken. More meat than my body is used to, so I wasn't feeling too well after that).
Fri, out (we were en route back to Raleigh to fly out). We ate at Ruby Tuesday's. Can I tell you how much I love this place? Ate there last year too. They have brown rice and broccoli on the menu!

Saturday...well, that was the fiasco of a trip back (9 hours in the Houston airport...if I never see it again, it will be too soon). We didn't actually get dinner because we flew standby on a flight we didn't expect to get on. Oops. We luckily (because it's how I am), had a plethora of carbs in my backpack (chocolate, pretzels - thanks Sis!!, animal crackers, nuts, raisins, carrot sticks, and granola bars). Dinner was actually 13 hours after lunch, at 11:15 pm, Taco Bell drive-through half way into our 2 hour drive home. And don't even get me started on the hotel - the 11:15 pm fire alarm and the teenagers who were yelling and running down the halls at 2 am!!

Breakfasts and lunches were eaten in. For lunch every day, I had a middle-eastern sandwich. Flatbread, hummus, red onion, red pepper, olives, balsamic dressing, cucumber, and feta. I never took a picture. But it was GOOD. Despite a daily run or walk on the beach, and 50 pushups a day for a few days, I gained a pound or two. Eh.

Our 3-year old had an awesome time too. Thoroughly spoiled by cousins, aunties, parents, and farmor. His first words after waking from the nap the day we left was "Where's farmor?" And then a few more times "I want to go get her".

Now we're back home to 95 degree weather. I am not joking. Hubby is off to ANOTHER business trip. And I'm making falafel and caponata and lots of good veggies. Stay tuned for a spanish rice recipe.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Use It Up

Well, my family and I are soon heading on a little vacation. My challenge has thus been using up all of the fresh food in the fridge and some pantry items.

I've used up the eggs. Last night I finished up two half-bags of pasta (whole wheat rotini and plain macaroni) and the broccoli. Tonight most of the remaining vegetables from the CSA are going into a stir-fry with ramen (the answer to "what's for dinner"). This will include onion, yukina savoy, and carrots. At some point, I'm going to toss the last couple of tablespoons of parmesan, goat cheese, and feta on something.

Luckily there is red lentil soup in the freezer for when we return to an empty fridge.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Spring Vegetable Risotto

I have a confession. I have never made risotto before. I've eaten it in restaurants a few times. But when I read the directions, the idea of constantly stirring something for 45 mins is not very appealing.

Enter (again) the pressure cooker. I am aware, because of Lorna Sass' Complete Vegetarian Kitchen, that a pressure cooker greatly reduces the time it takes to make risotto, to about 15 min of cooking time. I just didn't do it.

Until now.

This week, I got a new issue of Vegetarian Times. And there was a "Spring Vegetable Risotto" recipe. For one thing, it called for green onions (we got a bunch at the farm this week) and fennel (which we got a few weeks ago). Sold! I looked at that recipe and a lemon-and-asparagus one from the Lorna Sass cookbook, and did a little combining.

Voila! It was delicious. And easy. And boy, I wish I had better camera skills. I look at many blogs and mine pale in comparison. But the Corelle dinnerware doesn't help. Then again, my photos aren't in published cookbooks, like Susan Voisan's are ( Her photos have graced the pages of Nava Atlas' Vegan Express.

This recipe also got a thumbs up from the toddler.

Spring Vegetable Risotto
1.5 cups arborio rice: $1.96
0.5 lb asparagus, tough stems removed: 1.00
1 c. fresh herbs (I used dill, basil, and parsley),c hopped: 1.94
4 oz goat cheese (I actually used a bit less): 2.49
1 bunch green onions, chopped: 1.00
1 fennel bulb, chopped: 0.75?
3.5 cup vegetable stock or water: free (see below)
5 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.30
1 T olive oil: 0.11
Total: $9.55 for 6 1-cup servings, or $1.59 per serving.

Put about 1.5 cups of water in the pressure cooker. Bring to a boil. Snap the asparagus spears to remove the tough ends. Add asparagus, and cover. Steam at medium-high heat for about 3 minutes.

Remove asparagus to a bowl with tongs. Pour cooking water into a heat-safe measuring cup (why waste it?) At this point, I add water to make 2 cups (because that's how big my measuring cup is), and I add some vegetarian stock bouillon. Which I don't know how much I paid for it. When cool, chope the asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat oil in cooker over medium. Saute onions and fennel for 6-10 mins, until nice and soft. Remove half of the mixture and set aside. Add rice and garlic. Stir to coat with oil (I had to add a little more oil) and saute one minute. Add the 2 cups of stock from above, and another 1.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Cover and close the cooker. Bring to high pressure. Reduce heat enough to keep it at high pressure (2nd line for a Kuhn Rikon, or still rockin' for my Presto). Cook 5 min.

Remove from heat. Reduce pressure using fast-release method (running the lid under running cold water). Remove lid, facing away from you. It's hot! Stir.

Add in half the herbs and all of the asparagus. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve topped with the remaining herbs, the set aside onions and fennel, and crumbled goat cheese.

For the leftovers, I just mixed in the rest of the herbs and onion mixture.

Now, this is actually a bit pricey for me, as far as recipes go. You could decrease the cost by limiting or eliminating the goat cheese (but why?) Actually, I did limit it. Eliminating it makes it a vegan recipe. It would be cheaper with your own fresh herbs...the fresh parsley came from the freezer for me. I generally don't go buy fresh herbs, but it wasn't basil season here, so I made an exception.

You can use any spring veggies...leeks and peas are other good options (including frozen peas, which should be added after everything is cooked).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

March tally

March's goal was $160 for grocery.

Total tally: $145.65

Red Lentil Soup for Crockpot

This recipe comes from 125 Best Vegetarian Crockpot Recipes.

It's tasty. I made a couple of adjustments. It makes about 15 cups (a lot). It came out...crunchy. I think it was crunchy because I cooked up the veggies the night before, and put the lentils in the crockpot with everything else the next day...cold. I think I should have followed the directions and added the lentils and stock or water to the hot veggies the night before, cook a bit, then move to the crockpot and put in the fridge overnight.

So, we're eating crunchy soup. Hey, I was really tired, hub was out of town, it was late. I took a shortcut.

Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

1 T. canola oil: 0.04
2 cups dried red lentils: 2.25
6 cups water or vegetable stock (I used water and veggie bouillon)
2 large onions, finely diced: 0.40
2 large carrots, cut in half lengthwise and sliced: 0.30
2 14-oz cans diced tomatoes: 1.12
4 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.20
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp turmeric: 0.15
1/2 tsp cumin: 0.02
pinch cayenne
1 14-oz can light coconut milk: 1.99
2 T lemon juice: 0.15
Total: $6.80 for 15 cups, or 10 1.5-cup servings. $0.68 per serving.

Saute onion and carrot in oil until very soft. Add spices, salt, pepper, and garlic. Cook one min. Add tomatoes and cook 2 more minutes. Add stock and lentils, cook a few minutes.

Put into crockpot and cook on low 8-10 hours (or put in fridge at this point, and put in crock in the morning. I did my prep at night.)

After 8-10 hours, use the immersion blender to blend up the veggies a bit (my preference). Add the lemon juice and coconut milk. Cook on high 30 min. Add cilantro if you like, and hot sauce to taste.