Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Life's been crazy, what can I say? Here are a few tidbits of food from the week:

Saturday: Boo at the Zoo, and burgers on the way home. And a chocolate malt. Yum.

Sunday: Beef Goulash from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Beef from the farmer's market (free range and all that). This is not the kind of goulash I grew up on. This is more of a beef with a lot of paprika goulash. Delicious! But at $14 for 2.3 lbs of beef, it's not exactly frugal. Beef, onions, paprika, garlic, chicken stock, tomato paste, parsley, red bell pepper... I made another loaf of no knead rye bread.

Monday: pasta with homemade pesto and fresh tomatoes

Tuesday: soaked up some beans during the day, pressure cooked 'em, and fried them with chicken stock and oil and onions and spices to make refried beans, which went in burritos

Wednesday: rice and quinoa in the rice cooker. Eggs from my friend's chicken. Stir-fried veggies from Costco (freezer section).

On the fitness front: I totally bit it Monday biking to work. Zoned out, then realized that I was going to hit the curb. "Don't hit the curb, don't hit the curb." Well, hitting the curb beat swerving in front of cars. So, nice bruise on the calf.

Today, my sciatica has been so painful. I have been seeing a strong correlation between the day of the week and sciatica. See, Wednesday is the day that I don't work out. And the sciatica goes crazy. I think I will have to start getting up at 5:30 am and working out a bit at home (while my spouse is at the gym), see if that helps. My best days are Sat/Sun/Mon/Tuesday, which are big workout days.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Picture's Worth a 1000 words, right?

I hope so, because I don't really have time for recipes, just pictures.
Split pea soup.

No knead rye bread (which I kneaded, because I needed it to be done more quickly. This stuff is AWESOME!)

Lemon-poppy seed cake (a little bland).

Mexican-style fried rice and quinoa

Baked chicken

Red beans with garlic

We layer the rice (too spicy! Man, only 1 TBSP of last year's roasted hot peppers, and the kid can't eat it), beans, chicken, and cheese into one bowl/plate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Update on the chickpea stew and pita bread

oh my goodness, it is SO good! I mixed up a little yogurt with lemon, garlic and parsley to serve with it. It was also good, except my son yelled "too spicey", which means I think he got a huge chunk of raw garlic. Oops.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Enchiladas and Pizza

This week I did it. For the first time. I made enough food to last the week. 10 meals worth. On Saturday, it was pita bread and chickpea stew.

On Sunday it was a tray of enchiladas, and two large pizzas. All told, 10 meals' worth, so we are set on lunch and dinner all week. I hope everything tastes good.

This time, I didn't forget the yeast in the pizza dough. That's because my hubby made the dough, while I was working. On a Sunday. Yeah.

I found a GREAT deal on cheese this week. You know how the coupon queens always talk about how coupons for cheese are a great deal? Loss leaders the way to go? Not for me. I've never found shredded cheese or block cheese at a grocery store on sale for cheaper than Costco. This weekend though, I got 2-lb bags for $4.99. Hence the pizza and enchiladas.

The pizzas - one was pesto (I have a lot of pesto), and one had a tomato sauce, made from the leftover tomatoes from the chickpea stew, a few cherry tomatoes from our plant in the garden that survived the winter and is still giving us tomatoes. We planted this guy from seed last April (2009). I added some italian seasoning. Toppings were sauteed onions, peppers, mushrooms (all diced so small that hopefully my kid can't pick them off), olives, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and blue cheese.

The enchiladas were an experiment. I can't really estimate the cost. There are too many unknowns.

Experimental enchiladas:
1 T canola oil.
1.5 cup leftover cooked brown rice and quinoa
1 mason jar of tongue of fire beans from CSA, cooked 1 hr till soft with a clove of garlic.
3 small peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp shaved hot pepper from freezer
2 c. enchilada sauce from freezer. I don't know how old it is, nor whether it was homemade or from a jar.
4 whole wheat tortillas
3 eggs
cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper
2 c. shredded cheese (colby-jack blend)

Saute onions and peppers in oil until soft.
Cook the beans
Mix the rice, beans, and veggies in a bowl with the spices.

Layer a little sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Scoop out 1/2 of the bean/rice/vegetable mixture. Cut two tortillas in half and arrange to fit the pan. Put half the remaining sauce on the tortillas. Put the rest of the mixture on top. Crack 3 eggs on top of the mixture (why not? Figured I'd try it.) then another layer of tortillas. Top with rest of the sauce and then the cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, at 350F for 30 min, then remove foil and bake another 15 min.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chickpea Stew and Pita Bread

Today has been a whirlwind of activity. I started the day by making up some arugula-basil pesto (got a bunch of each from the CSA). Then I cooked up up some chickpeas. Then I hit the gym and tried Zumba...I liked it, my knee did not. Owee. And my back didn't like it either.

Then home where I hung laundry to dry, made lunch:

Why do I hang laundry? (a friend asked me once). It's frugal, but that's not the only reason! It's better for the environment (sunlight and wind are FREE, and don't require fossil fuels), and it's better for the clothing. They last longer - you don't lose fabric that becomes lint. AND they smell great. I had a relatively new shirt that smelled moldy. Probably because it ended up in the laundry basket under a wet towel from my ocean-swimming-triathlon-training days. One day washed and hung outside...good as new!

I also hemmed new jeans. I always feel a bit guilty cutting 3 inches off the bottoms of jeans. But I'm short. I buy pants to fit over my, ahem, hips, then end up shortening them and taking in the waist.

I also made chickpea stew, based on a recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Her recipe, while simple, included a step of using a mortal and pestle on garlic, herbs, oil, and salt. And I don't have a mortar and pestle. So, I made it even more simple. I also made my first attempt at homemade pita, from a bread machine cookbook that I loaned a friend. I jotted it down while at her house (she uses the cookbook FAR more than I ever would). They look yummy!

I'd like to say that's our dinner, but we're hitting the pumpkin patch and going out with friends. This will be lunches and dinners during the week.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew
2 T canola oil
1 onion, chopped: 0.40
1 small zucchini: 0 (free!)
3 small mild peppers (from CSA) or one bell pepper, chopped: 0.80
6 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.30
1 Tbsp hot peppers: 0.10 (from last year, in the freezer)
2 tsp paprika: 0.10
1.5 tsp cumin: 0.08
1/4 tsp thyme: 0.05
1/2 tsp turmeric: 0.05
1 tsp dried parsley: 0.05
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 cans garbanzo beans: (I actually used 1 can and made more from dried): 1.58
2/3 of a 28-oz can diced tomatoes: 1.13
Total: $4.77 for 6 servings, or $0.79 each

Saute onion, zucchini, thyme, and peppers in oil until soft, about 10 min. Add garlic, chickpeas, and remaining spices and saute a few more minutes.

Add tomatoes and simmer, covered, for about 30 mins, enough for the tomatoes to break down and flavors to blend.

Pita bread
2 c. bread flour: 0.41
1 c. whole wheat flour: 0.23
1 T. olive oil: 0.11
1 tsp sugar: 0.01
1.5 tsp salt: 0.01
1 tsp yeast: 0.08
Total: $0.85 for 10 pitas, 9 cents each

Put ingredients in bread machine and run on pizza dough setting.

When down, punch down on floured surface. Break into 10 pieces and rolls into balls. Cover with oiled plastic wrap, let rest 10 min.

Preheat oven to 450F, and put two baking sheets in oven to warm.

Flatten and roll pitas to 1/4 inch thickness. Set aside and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let rest 10-20 min.

Remove heated sheets from oven. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Put 2-4 pitas on a sheet, depending on size. Bake 5-7 mins. (Mine took 6-7 mins). Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for 2-5 min. Cover with damp kitchen towel to keep moist.

Continue with remaining pitas. They should puff up nicely.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Budgeting While on Vacation

The family and I just returned from a 4-day mini-vacation to San Diego. You can tell a lot about a person by how they vacation, I suppose. Where they stay, how they eat, how they get there.

There are many ways to save money on vacation:
Lodging: hotel, motel, camping, VRBO, housing swap, couch surfing
Transportation: airfare, flight schedule, train, car, bus
Food: eating out, eating in, full meals, snacks

When I go on vacation, I don't really like eating out. It's both a money thing and a health thing (I mean, even trying to be "good" on this trip, I gained a few pounds. Hopefully mostly water.) So my lodging planning includes food - that may mean choosing a hotel that includes breakfast, or it may mean choosing a condo, or it may mean a hotel with a fridge and/or microwave. I generally plan to eat out while on vacation only once per day.

On this trip, we had a fridge and a microwave. There are many options in San Diego...too many to count. By the time you look at distance and reviews, and special deals (includes tickets to Seaworld! But parking is extra!) you can drive yourself crazy. So the first thing to do is to decide your budget AND the type of experience you are looking for.

When younger, budget and habits meant that I stayed at the cheapest motel possible. Age, increased income, and a family has changed that. I really like staying at condos for extended vacations, so that I can cook. But I cook pretty regularly at home, so it's no big deal. Here are the things I considered this time around:

Room with fridge and microwave, or a kitchen, or breakfast. (we got fridge and micro)
Decent pool (yep)
Family atmosphere (yep)
Free or reduced parking (only paid for 2 of 4 days)
Ease of getting to Seaworld (we had a shuttle, and it was only a mile's walk, so we walked home)
Reduced price tickets to parks (we got tickets to SeaWorld included, and it was actually cheaper than booking the room and tickets separately)
Two queen sized beds (yep)
Gym - didn't get this, but as luck would have it, we found a 24-hour fitness a very short drive away (next to the grocery store). And we're members.

This took a little planning, but probably saved a few hundred dollars. And the microwave and fridge were key. I packed up my picnic basket and a few extra items. We had cereal and milk, microwaveable noodles (love Trader Joe's). Veggies and dip. Veggies that steam in the bag. Hummus. Cheese and crackers. Tea (which tasted like coffee for the first two days because we used the coffee pot). Apples, oranges, grapes, and bananas.

If you are basically eating in a hotel room, you need to make it #1 - easy, and #2 - fun. Have some extra-special snacks that you don't normally get.

I started keeping good track of what we spent on food, but probably missed stuff:
1. Groceries: $59, but some of that came home with us
2. Lunch at SeaWorld: 24 (you can sneak in food if you want)
3. Lunch at Legoland: 20
4. Beers: $12
5. Lunch on the way home: $15
6. Dinner out with a friend: $60

That brings our total for 4 days to under $200, or under $50 per day. Which is pretty good for a family of three on vacation with just a fridge and a microwave. If we had to eat all our meals out, we were probably looking at (these are very conservative numbers that do not involve eating at the hotel):

Breakfast: $17
Lunch: $20
Dinner: $40

Which is about $67/day or $308. Saved over $100. Probably more, since beer isn't included in the second budget.