Sunday, June 29, 2008

Weekly grocery and CSA roundup, 6/20 - 6/27/08

Grocery total: $50.41

6/23 Costco: $22.23
2pack strawberry jam: 4.99
3pk honey: 9.29
2 lb havarti cheese: 7.95

6/23 TJ's: $11.23
Cornbread baking mix: 2.49
Blueberry bars: 1.69
Romano & Parm cheese: 4.01
3 bananas: 0.57
1 doz eggs: 1.49
2 apples: 0.98 (Nick is on an apple kick right now)

6/25 TJ's: $16.95
1 L EVOO: 7.49
1 gal lowfat milk: 3.49
1 loaf WW bread: 1.99
Sea salt: 0.99

CSA ($20) what we got, amt, and what I plan to do with it:
broccoli - 1 lb (saute)
summer squash - 1 lb (tacos)
green beans - 1 lb (Asian saute)
peaches - 1 lb
plums - 1 lb
cucumber - 1 lb (salad)
carrots - 1 bu (ginger saute)
basil - 1 bu (pesto)
lettuce - 1 hd (salad)
beets - 1 bu (roast)

Random Free stuff: 4 avocados from friend's tree.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Birthday Dinner

Dh made pancakes and bacon, and I roasted beets, onions, and carrots with a "mystery herb" (I used to know what it is). It was supposed to be roasted turnips too, but those turnips from the CSA last week that dh picked up "I traded the fennel for turnips" are actually radishes...I knew they didn't smell right when I was peeling them. They are large white radishes with hot pink centers. And tasty.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Grilled Cheese with Pesto, sauteed green beans

Made pesto with the CSA basil and put it in a grilled havarti cheese sandwich.

Sauteed green beans with garlic, soy sauce, and honey.

Had a really big salad (not shown), in my "pasta bowl" with avocado, blue cheese, carrots, radishes, olives, lettuce.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Traveling with Toddlers

So we've been thinking a lot lately about our upcoming vacation...actually, a two week trip to visit family, a plane trip cross-country, followed by two 5 hour drives on two consecutive days, and then a plane trip cross-country.

I really try to avoid gaining weight and spending too much money on these trips. The plane tickets are expensive enough (especially now that there are three of us...and we did always buy my son a seat, even under the age of two).

So here are my tips on traveling the frugal-healthy-simple way, with a toddler.

1. Plan ahead. I can't stress this enough. If you have already purchased your tickets, go to the airline's website to check on their policies...from checking bags, to charging for soda (oh yes they are! Thanks USAir!), to checking carseats, to early boarding.

2. If you haven't purchased plane tickets, check the few carriers you usually fly, and figure the cost of the checked bags. Then, when you comparison shop for seats, you'll have the information handy.

3. Drink. Take a refillable water bottle. No, you can't take it through security. But you can fill it once you are through security. There is, of course, the issue at my local water fountains.

4. Food. You'll have to stay away from liquids and gels. So things like applesauce and hummus are probably out, unless you are traveling with a baby. Good, healthy, cheap things to pack include: popcorn, carrots and celery sticks, sandwiches (cheese, PB&J, turkey if not going to sit a long time), apples, oranges, (bananas do NOT travel well), pasta/veggie/bean salads in tupperware, nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, diced fruits. You want to stay away from foods that are too salty or too sweet. Generally I carry a lot of food on the plane...enough for the three of us, plus probably three more.

The same goes for road trips...a small cooler can be a lifesaver, and you don't have the airline restrictions.

5. Entertainment: Even though many of the airlines made the movies free (but started charging for food and drink), they aren't necessarily showing as many. At least not on the flights that I've been on. For a toddler, your best bet is to plan ahead...set aside a few toys a month ahead of time, so that they are "new" for the trip. Or hit up a garage sale or thrift store for new toys. It is good to have books, and DVD's if you are into that (hey, even I am planning to have some Thomas DVD's for this next trip).

Now I'm sure you are much luggage? Well, yes...with food, drink, books, toys, diapers, and a change of might have room for your Ipod after all that, but you won't have time to listen to it anyway, so why bother?

6. Luggage: Be careful of weight restrictions and number of bags. And make sure your bag is labelled. I won't go into the trip I took with my one-year old last year, alone, where I never did get my bag in 5 days. 5 days of talking to a bunch of people in India trying to find my bag...needless to say, if they lose your luggage, save your receipts. I did get reimbursed for the diapers, toothbrush, clothing, underwear, sunscreen, etc.

7. Eating at your destination: This is a tricky one. I try to "go with the flow" as far as this goes...but...I eat pretty healthfully. I don't eat out very often and almost never eat fast food. So, my body can't really handle it. I try to avoid eating out too often with family and friends. I would much rather do the cooking. At a minimum, I try to keep healthy snacks handy like yogurt, fruit, and veggies. That way I don't starve if everyone else is eating hot dogs and french fries.

8. Laundry. To keep your checked bags's just best to assume you can do laundry at your destination. Check with your family, the hotel, etc. I always take a *little* bit too many clothes.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Weekly grocery and CSA roundup, 6/13-6/20/08

Grocery total: $45.72

Vons 6/13: $6.98
balsamic vinegar: $3.49
2 loaves fancy bread for party: $3.49

Tri County Produce 6/14: $1.56
2 large red onions: $1.56

Costco 6/15: $11.28
3 lb cottage cheese: $5.29
2 lb sharp cheddar: $5.99

Trader Joe's 6/17: $14.91
32 oz organic yogurt: $2.99
1 gal 2% mil: $3.49
BBQ sauce: $2.49
3 bananas: $0.57
whole wheat bread: $1.99
16 oz sour cream: $1.69
6 whole grain english muffins: $1.69

Scolari's 6/19: $8.49
2 green peppers: $1.00
24 oz salsa: $1.99
1.5 lb tortilla chips: $2.50
2 head garlic: 0.70
2 onions: $0.80
1 cantaloupe: $1.50

Kmart: $2.50
crackers: $2.50

CSA: $20
plums: 1 lb
strawberries: 1 pt
cilantro: 1 bu
basil: 1 bu
green beans: 1 lb
lettuce: 1 head
beets: 1 bu
turnips: 1 bu
onions: 1 bu
carrots: 1 bu
radishes: 1 bu
summer squash: 1 lb

Free stuff
4 oranges (Yejin's tree)
6 plums (Kevin and Julie's tree)
1/2 cantaloupe (from Michelle)
4 corn muffins (from Michelle)

plus invited to dinner 6/16 and 6/17 at friend's houses, and free lunch tomorrow 6/21 (company picnic)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Serving Sizes

I want to rant a little about serving sizes. We all know that eating out can be an issue, because serving sizes have gotten astronomical over the years. I have gotten pretty good at eating only 1/2 or 1/3 of a restaurant meal, and I'm pretty good at eating at home.

At home, often our meals are "one pot" meals. Soups, pastas, rice dishes. We sometimes have this with salad. I will make our salads in large bowls (ironically called "pasta bowls"). For the main dish, rather that using a plate, I use a small soup bowl that only holds 1 to 1.5 cups. This is a perfect way to portion out food for me.

I've noticed that even cookbooks have gone crazy. Now I haven't checked my old Betty Crocker standby. And of course, the Weight Watchers cookbooks are all well-portioned (that is their thing). But I've been disappointed with the portion sizes in my new Rachael Ray cookbook. And now I've discovered that even Vegan With a Vengeance has the same issue.

I made the Pad Thai again, and noticed that the recipe says it is 4 servings. Now, these are very generous servings. A "serving" of cooked noodles is 1/2 cup. Generally for a main meal, one cup is sufficient for most except maybe teenage boys and active men. This recipe calls for 1 pound of dry noodles, which makes 8 cups...2 cups per meal!

I decided to enter the information into my Fitday calorie counter. One "serving" per this recipe is 903 calories! That's 1/2 of my daily value. It also has 34 g fat, 7 g fiber, 19 g protein.

By simply changing it to 8 servings, it is a more manageable 452 calories, 17 g fat, 3 g fiber, 9 g protein. And my own adjustments (less oil, less sugar) improve it even more to 400 cal, 13 g fat, 3 g fiber, 9 g protein.

So, even in cookbooks, watch your portion sizes!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Toaster Oven

Well, today our toaster oven died. I was toasting nuts for the salad, and I heard dh say "um, something's on fire", and we noticed that the heating element had broken.

So we went off to Sears to get a new one. Now, normally we're pretty good about looking for used things. School's out, so there are deals to be had. (We got a good mini-fridge for dh's office and push mower just this week from craigslist. We are looking for lawn furniture, a freezer, some shelving, and ??? a couple of other things I think.)

But we eat toast for breakfast pretty frequently, and I want toast tomorrow. It was $35, and since the last toaster oven (a gift to my dh from his grandparents) lasted 16.5 years, I really don't feel too bad about the expense (as long as this one lasts as long!) (Yes, we removed the plastic.)
There was also a big sale on a 3-pc luggage set. With the toddler, it is getting increasingly hard to travel with our old college-era duffel bags with no wheels, especially when you are lugging a carseat. So, for $30 we got a 3 piece red set. Two bags with wheels, one without. And luckily for me, I opened the outer two bags to check...the first one I picked up was missing the third bag.
Now if only all these airlines would stop charging for a checked bag...I think that if I have to pay a full-price fare for a 27-lb toddler, then I should get AT LEAST two free checked bags.

Grocery and CSA roundup, 6/7-6/13/08

Grocery: $34

Farmer's Market: $9
3 avocados: $2
6 pt strawberries: $6
2 onions: $1

Lazy Acres: $1.48
bagel: 0.49
cinnamon roll: 0.99 (both from the discount rack)

Trader Joe's: $16.12
tortilla chips: 2.29
gallon skim milk: 3.29
14 oz tofu: 1.19
rice vinegar: 1.99
maple syrup: 6.79
3 bananas: 0.57

Indo China Market: $1.25
rice noodles, 1 lb: $1.25

Albertson's: $6.15
2 onions: $2.46 (accidentally picked up the sweet not the brown)
36 corn tortillas: $1.69
2 1-lb bags frozen mixed veggies: $2

CSA: $20
1.5 lb cherimoya (5 small)
1 lb nectarines (6 small)
1 pt strawberries
2 avocados
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch kale
1 bunch collards
1 bunch green onion
1 bunch cilantro
1 head romaine
1/2 lb summer squash
1/2 lb spinach

Random Free Stuff: $0
My friend gave me 6 free avocados from her tree...


Tonight's dinner was tacos. I used up the rest of the veggies from the CSA last week.

11 small corn tortillas: 0.55
taco filling:
1.5 carrots, diced: 0.33
bit-o-broccoli: 0.25
leftover corn-black beans-zucchini-onion-chicken from the freezer...? It's hard to say, this was leftover from the chicken enchiladas. I tossed what I didn't use in a freezer bag.
1/2 onion: 0.25
2 small summer squash: 0.50
4 oz leftover tri-tip: $1.03
1/3 cup salsa: 0.19
3 oz cheddar (the good stuff, that's all I had): 1.30

Total: $4.40for 11 small tacos, or 0.40 each. I had two, dh had three. Toddler had one. We're having the same tomorrow for lunch.
I served this with a salad. The only thing left from the CSA then was one carrot, a handful of radishes, and maybe a cup of lettuce.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Red Kidney Bean Curry

I found this recipe on line (several versions) and decided to try it. I adjusted it based on what I had. It was very good, my toddler begged for it (but he can't have any...tummy bug). I think it needs a little green chile (jalapeno?) and maybe some cilantro. And a little more onion.

Red Kidney Bean Curry

2 cups dried red kidney beans, soaked 6-8 hrs ($1.20)
4 cups water
1 large onion, finely chopped ($0.70)
2 bay leaves
1 T chopped garlic (0.20)
1 T chopped ginger (0.20)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
4 tsp coriander
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, pureed (0.70)
3 T canola oil (0.06)
salt to taste

Total: $3.06 (plus spices) for about 8 servings.

I served this over brown rice (3 cups for 0.45, about 5 servings for us).

Drain kidney beans. Add beans and water to pressure cooker. Bring to pressure and cook for 12 min.

Saute onion, garlic, ginger, and bay leaves in oil in a heavy pot. When onions are golden, add spices and saute 1-2 min. Add tomatoes and cook until the oil starts to separate.

Add this point, I drained the beans first, then added in more water later. But the recipe calls for adding the liquid.

When I make this again, I will add a little more onion, maybe some jalapeno (when sauteing the onion), and then add fresh cilantro at the end. I like mine spicy, but my toddler can't handle the heat, so I have to hold back. The original recipe called for garam masala, not curry powder, but I didn't have that.
We were going to have this with a salad...we still have 1/2 head of lettuce, zucchini, radishes, carrot, broccoli left from the farm. And tomorrow is pickup day. But with a puking toddler...I skipped it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Salmon patties and carrot salad

Salmon patties...I grew up on these things. Landlocked as my home town is, fresh fish was a rarity, even if you were Catholic. So canned salmon it was, along with canned tuna.

I still love them, dh tolerates them.

Salmon patties

1 14-oz canned salmon (1.50)
1 egg (0.11)
breadcrumbs (free)
diced olives (0.10)
optional: diced peppers, onions, herbs

Total: $1.71 for four, or 0.43 each

Drain the salmon, pick out the bones and skin if it grosses you out (doesn't bother me). Mash salmon with a fork, blend with remaining ingredients, adding breadcrumbs to get the right consistency.

Fry in a pan in a little oil until brown

Carrot salad - originated with "Cooking Thin" and Kathleen Daelemans, slightly adjusted

3/4 lb carrots, shredded (0.75)
1/4 c raisins (0.25)
1/4 c lemon juice (free from neighbor's tree)
2 T olive oil (0.21)
2 T red wine vinegar (0.17)
1/4 tsp paprika (0.03)
1/4 tsp cumin (0.03)
1/4 tsp cayenne (0.03)

Total: $1.47 for 4 large servings or 0.37 each

Mix all ingredients. Tastes better when the raisins have had time to "plump".

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tri tip

Tri-tip is a bit of a local phenomenon. BBQ'd tri tip is very famous here in Santa Barbara county. Alas, we don't have a grill. However, it's a roast, so it can be done in the oven.

I purchased the tri-tip on sale for $2.99/lb. It's on sale right now at 1.99/lb (this is really good). I would go out and buy some...but we really don't eat beef all that often. The beef we are eating now, I purchased in April.

The roast was a little less than three pounds at $8.34. It will provide about eight servings. (I'm guesstimating). That comes out to about $1.04 per serving. Certainly a little on the high side for us, but tasty.

I served this with guacamole and chips and roasted kale. Tips on the chips: it is almost always cheaper to buy tortilla chips in 2lb bags. But they go stale faster than we can eat them. Tip #1: put into a ziploc bag. Tip #2, because they will still go stale...bake at 300F in a toaster oven for about 5 min.

We marinated the tri-tip using this recipe (scroll down, it's the marinade #1):

and roasted in the oven at 425F for 45 min, until the meat thermometer read 150F. Let rest, covered with foil, for 15 min. Slice. The larger areas were pink (not my fave, but most likely "correctly done"), but the ends were perfect for me.
...and it's strawberry season! 6 pints for $6.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


This recipe comes courtesy of "The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood" by the Dr. Sears' family. It is adjusted, of course, based on what I had on hand.

The original recipe called for fresh vegetables, about 6 cups total, a combo of shredded zucchini, onion, tomato, spinach, and mushrooms. And different cheeses.

I sauteed the onion and diced zucchini, and steamed and chopped broccoli for mine.


2 cups whole wheat breadcrumbs. (free, we save the heels of old homemade bread)
6 cups vegetables. Raw is okay for soft veggies, cooked is better for hard veggies.
I used:
3/4 lb broccoli (1.50)
1 onion (0.50)
1/2 lb zucchini (0.50)

1 T olive oil (0.10)
12 eggs (1.33)
2 cups shredded cheese (1.45) - I used a mixture of cheddar, mozzarella, blue cheese
1 cup milk (0.22)
salt, pepper to taste
rosemary, chopped

Total: $5.60 for 8 servings (0.70 each)

Saute onions and zucchini in olive oil until soft.

Spray 9x13 pan with nonstick spray. Spread breadcrumbs on bottom. Layer vegetables on top. Top with 1/2 of the cheese.

Mix the eggs and milk in a bowl. Add salt and pepper and rosemary (garlic powder would be good too). Pour over vegetables and cheese in pan.

Bake at 400F for 30 min. Remove from oven, add remaining cheese, bake another 5 min.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Grocery and CSA 5/30 to 6/6

5/30 to 6/6

Grocery: $41.31

Trader Joe's:
Gal milk: $3.49
olives: 2.29
parsley: 0.99
Joe's O's: 2.29
32 oz organic yogurt: 2.99
4 pk veggie burgers: 2.49

2 pints Ben & Jerry's: 3.00
18 eggs: 1.99
2 whole chickens: 5.31
whole grain bread: 1.49 (discount rack)

Farmer's Market
6 lb oranges: 3.00 (17 oranges)
2 avocado: 2.00
3 lb onion: 3.00 (5 onions)

Lazy Acres
bagel: 0.49
cheddar: 2.80

Rite Aid
cinnamon: 0.69
2 cans salmon (14 oz): 3.00

CSA: $20
1 large head romaine
1 bunch beets
1 bunch turnips
1 bunch carrots
1 pt strawberries
1 onion
1 lb summer squash
1 large kohlrabi
1 bunch kale
1 bunch radish
1 lb broccoli

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Question: what to do with radishes

Answer: toast an old hamburger bun, spread with cream cheese, add sliced radishes and salt...voila! It was a snack with dinner, and I'm having it for lunch again tomorrow.
The radishes from the farm are getting bigger...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pasta with Kale and Garlic

This dinner was adapted from an old Weight Watchers recipe. I had pasta, I had general, I am a huge WW devotee (lost 57 lbs and then the baby weight later). Their recipes can be time consuming, but are healthy and tasty.

Pasta with Kale and Garlic
8 oz dry pasta, cooked (save 1/2 cup pasta water): 0.38
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes: 0.60
6 cloves garlic, chopped: 0.20
2 small red onions, thinly sliced: 0.70
1 T olive oil: 0.12
1 bunch kale, chopped: 0.99
1/4 c. grated parmesan: 0.42
salt and pepper to taste

Total: $3.41 for 4-6 servings

Heat oil in nonstick skillet. Saute onions until golden, 8-12 min. Add kale and garlic, saute until kale is soft, about 1 min. Add 1/2 cup water, reduce heat, cover, and cook until kale is cooked, about 8 min.

Add tomatoes, pasta water, salt & pepper. Cook a few minutes until thickened (depends on how much liquid are in your tomatoes). Add cooked pasta & cheese. Stir. Serve.

Monday, June 2, 2008


I made Chicken Enchiladas with some of the leftover chicken from the roasted chickens. Some of the chicken went into sandwiches for lunch, the rest is in the freezer for later use.

I used this enchilada sauce:

with the following changes:

1. Double the recipe
2. Use chicken stock instead of water.
3. Use 1/4 of a fresh onion in place of dried.
4. Add about 1 T pureed chipotle in adobo. Before I added this, the sauce tasted tomato-y, and not really smoky/saucy. I puree a can, put in a freezer tray, and pop into a ziploc bag. I used 1/2 of a "cube".
5. Use tomato paste or puree instead of sauce, and basically just add it until it looks right.
6. Cook 30-40 min until the correct thickness.
7. Puree using an immersion blender.

Red Enchilada Sauce
1/4 fresh onion: 0.25
chicken stock (free, homemade)
spices: 0.25
garlic: 0.20
chipotle: 0.10
tomato paste: 0.50
salsa: 0.50
total: $1.80, makes about enough for three 9x13 pans of enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas
Roasted chicken: 0.52
1 onion: 0.75
1/2 lb diced zucchini: 0.50
1/2 lb corn, cooked: 0.16
8 whole wheat tortillas: 1.00
1/2 lb dried black beans, cooked: 0.32
1 serving enchilada sauce: 0.60
6 oz shredded cheddar: 1.09

Total: $4.94 per tray, makes about 7-8 servings.

I made two trays and gave the other to my neighbor who had a baby a couple of months ago. I sauteed the zucchini and onion until soft, mixed in corn, beans, and chicken, and rolled into the tortillas.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Roasted Chicken

Roasted Chicken...this falls into the same category as pizza dough...the "staple" and "Something I must master."

I can give you a brief history of me and pizza dough. It was probably 1997-1998. I was trying to master homemade pizza dough. I tried about five times...water too hot, water too cold...many times of a burned and/or sticky mess, ending 45 mins later with a phone call to Rusty's pizza.

Then, one day, I got it. And I never made it again...I immediately started using the bread machine for the dough.

So Roasted Chicken. I am not much of a meat person. We eat a lot of vegetarian and more vegan meals now. But once a year my husband attempts to roast a turkey. And our results are spotty at best (the best years were the first year of brining, and the year my mother-in-law was in town and we used a bag). My one or two attempts to roast a chicken resulted in burned on the outside, raw on the inside (not fully defrosted...)

This weekend, I noticed a sale at Ralph's, $0.59/lb for whole chicken. So I revamped my dinner plans and bought two chickens for $5.31. I found a recipe on for Roast Sticky Chicken. I omitted the marinating time, and cooked the two chickens at 325F for 2 hours instead of 250F for 5 hours.

Yum. The breast meat was a little dry because we put them back in the oven for another 15 mins. But otherwise delicious.

So, lesson learned. Don't waste effort trying to perfectly time the defrosting of the bird in the fridge (who has room for that anyway?) Just cook the bird fresh.

So that's what we're going to do for Thanksgiving. Get a fresh bird.

(I am aware that this isn't the most frugal thing...many a frugal person has written about the "turkey trot" done to fill their freezers with cheap turkeys for the year. But that's just too much work, we don't eat that much meat, and I'm only feeding a small family of three.)