Monday, February 28, 2011


So, last week I opted to use $5 of my $50/week budget to buy a 10lb bag of pinto beans. What a GREAT way to stick to the budget!

And this week, I blew it. $110 and counting. I knew it would happen someday...that there would be a day when I ran out of a bunch of things at once. And a day when I just got tired of the mental mathematics required to stuff all these items that I WANT into $50. But still, I did pretty good while it lasted, and I'm still going to pay cash for my groceries and try to stick to $50 starting next week.

Last night was bean night! How do you "dress up" beans so you don't feel deprived. Frankly, I LOVE beans, so that's not necessary for me. But the answer is "tacos!" with homemade corn tortillas. Homemade tortillas are so delicious, so awesome, and so easy. But a little time consuming.

I'm sorry that I have no new pictures. We were so hungry that we sat down and mowed through 13 of the 16 tortillas that I made in about 30 minutes. But here's an old picture of the last time I made homemade tortillas.

Sadly, as I was preparing peppers and onions, I realized the problem with a week where I don't cook for 2 nights in a row: a moldy onion and a half moldy bell pepper. Ah well, they go into the compost. I salvaged half of the bell pepper anyway.

Bean ingredients:

1 lb pinto beans, soaked: $0.53
1 bunch limp chard, washed, boiled 5 min: $1.50
to taste: dry onion flakes, garlic powder, salt, cumin, chili powder: 0.25

Drain and rinse soaked pintos. Cover with water. Cook pintos (I use a pressure cooker). Feel proud that you've cooked so many beans in the cooker now, that you don't need to get out your measuring cup for water.

Leave the beans in the pot when they are done and add spices and simmer.

In the meantime, chop the boiled chard and add it to the beans with the spices.

Peppers, onions, beef:
1 Tbsp canola oil: 0.03
1 onion: $0.25
1/2 red bell: $0.40
Plus lost to moldiness: $0.65
1/2 lb beef: 2.50

Saute onions and peppers until soft (I usually start them covered on low and finish on medium to med-high), then add the pre-cooked frozen beef. I used 1/2 lb of grass fed beef.

Buy masa. Follow instructions on the bag. It was probably $0.50 to 0.80 for 16 tortillas.

whatever you like. We used store-bought guacamole (haven't made it to the farmer's market for avos), sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese. But also good with cabbage, onion, cilantro, lime...

Total: $9.19. There's a bunch of beans left and three tortillas.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Skillet pasta with lemon, onion, and fennel

I love skillet pasta and I made this on a Friday when I was trying to make the "sauce" without using a red-sauce or a cream-sauce. Just a broth-sauce.

Skillet pasta is great for Friday because it's not a ton of work if you are tired after a long week. I tried to have my son help me...he helps my husband cook a lot of the time. I guess it's "fun" with daddy and not with mommy. But mommy does a lot more chopping, a lot less mixing. He did weigh out the pasta for me.

Skillet Pasta with lemon, onion, fennel, and a ton of other stuff:
1 Tbsp canola oil: 0.03
1/2 onion, diced: 0.15
1 piece fennel, chopped: 0.75. I don't like fennel.
10 oz frozen chopped spinach: 1.00
2 Tbsp rosemary/ italian herb blend: 0.25
1 clove pressed garlic: 0.05
1/2 c. dry white wine: 0.40

5.5 to 6 cups water
1 vegetarian bouillon cube: 0.38
12 oz pasta: 0.75
1/4 c. cream cheese: 0.25

2 cubes homemade pesto: 0.40
2 oz mozzarella: 0.13
1/4 c sliced olives: 0.30
1/2 c. frozen peas: 0.15
zest and juice of 2 lemons: free
S&P to taste

Total: $4.99 for 8 servings. $0.62 per serving. Most cookbooks would call this 4 servings. But that's why many of us are overweight. We ate this with steamed beets on the side.

Saute the onions and fennel in a large non-stick skillet until soft. Add the frozen spinach and cook until the water is mostly gone. Add the spices and the garlic and cook one more minute. Add wine and cook until the liquid is gone.

Add the pasta, water, bouillon cube, and cream cheese and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer (stirring occasionally) for 15 to 18 minutes, or until water is absorbed. I had a bit too much water and had to take the lid off.

When you've got your desired consistency, add the rest of the stuff that you don't want to over cook: peas, pesto, cheese, olives. Stir until well mixed. Finish it off with the lemon zest and juice.

This was SOOOO lemony and delicious. A little to salty, which is odd, since I normally undersalt things.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Red Cabbage Slaw

So, there's this red cabbage slaw recipe that I dream about. I got it in one of our CSA newsletters years ago and it was fabulous. And then, I lost it. I tried in vain to replicate it, but to no avail. And many google searches got me nowhere.

Then one day. I was going through my cookbooks. And in the back pocket of one of the "hometown" cookbooks, that has a pocket for recipe cards, I found two - yes TWO - copies of this recipe.

And here it is. Still fabulous.

Red Cabbage Slaw
1 small to medium head red cabbage, shredded
2-4 carrots, shredded
1 small onion, diced
1 medium apple, diced

1/4 c. cider vinegar
2 T olive oil
1 T dijon mustard
1 T sugar

1/3 c toasted walnuts
2 oz blue cheese

The recipe calls for only adding the walnuts and blue cheese when serving. I found that it's fine to add the blue cheese earlier, but definitely put the walnuts on last so they don't get soggy. Hence, this picture has no walnuts, because I haven't added them yet.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sick again, budget update - and cookies!

Wow, third time in 3 months. I must have a lot of work stress. I haven't gotten sick this often in years. This time at least it's pretty mild. Yesterday was the worst day. I think I'm already recovering. Good thing, it's a holiday and I'm home alone with my child! We'll probably go out to see the butterflies today and have lunch with daddy. Hopefully the butterflies are still there. I've never successfully seen them in all my years here.

Well, here's the budget update. As of 2/25/11 (I know, we're not there yet, but that's when this week ends), I've spent $351.80. That's with my budget of $50 a week, at the end of 7 weeks. How did I end up going over? Simple. I have a couple of change purses full of coins. The advantage to spending cash is that I can actually USE my coins. That $1.80 is from coins. How does my pantry look? I've got a couple of pounds of pasta (whole wheat and regular), plus rice and quinoa. A pound of chickpeas, 10 lb of pinto beans, and plenty of flour for baking. I still have some frozen fruits and veggies, and lots of canned veggies (mostly because I don't like canned veggies. They are for emergencies. I get plenty of fresh at the CSA.) I still have 2.5 lbs of ground beef (local, grass fed free range!), and one large steak. Plus some salmon. We're doing just fine.

Feeling sick, and feeling sorry for myself, I wanted cookies. And my spouse, who hates chocolate, loves me enough to help me make chocolate chip cookies. These are basically off the back of the Ghirardelli bag. And are they delicious. Unfortunately, I ate 6. And then, the Girl Scouts showed up. I had exactly $9 in my wallet, and my family wasn't home. That was enough for two boxes. One of course, lemon for my spouse. The other, samoas, which are so atrociously expensive because I think you only get 10 in a box. In any event, there will be cookies going to work, and some are already in the freezer.

I also made soup for dinner. We bought these two buckets of "emergency rations" a couple of years ago (we get fires, mudslides, and earthquakes, though in 14 years, I have yet to feel an earthquake). They come in these little foil packets where you just add water. I periodically pull one out. They last 10-15 years, but I figure we should try them out once in awhile, and I bet they'd work for camping. They tend to be a bit grainy. So I took this soup one, added homemade turkey stock, a can of chicken (yes, a can, from TJ's), celery that I had blanched and frozen (I can NEVER finish a celery bunch), a couple of carrots, a package of ramen (no flavor packet), half an onion, a handful of fresh spinach, and some sage. It was pretty decent, and I served mine with some hot chili paste. My boss's trick when you have a cold - chicken soup with hot sauce.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Guide to a Cheap Night at the Movies

Impossible, you say? Not really.

Step 1: donate blood 3-6 times per year.
Step 2: forget about these "point" things they give you when you donate blood.
Step 3: get reminded when you make your next appointment.
Step 4: redeem your points for 3 movie tickets.
Step 5: Make Trader Joe's boxed mac and cheese with frozen peas for dinner (fast, easy).
Step 6: Go to the movies.
Step 7: decide whether you will be a rebel and sneak in your own food, or not. We paid for popcorn and drinks and parking. Total cost: $15.

Our normal movie night is at home courtesy of Netflix. But it's nice to go to the theater once in awhile.

Not sure how many posts are coming up. I think I am getting my third, yes third cold since Christmas. This winter sucks!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grocery Budget Update

Well, I'm 5.5 weeks into my self-imposed $50/week grocery budget challenge, and here's how it's going:

Week 1: $35.84
Week 2: $34.83
Week 3: $34.68
Week 4: $26.49
Week 5: $45.21
Week 6: I have about $3 left to last until Friday night.

Now, from weeks 1 to 5, I had $74 in my slush fund. Which I decided was going to go to local, grassfed beef that my friend and her fiance bought in a big amount. Which is too much for them. So they are re-selling to me. I love the whole group buying/ cooperative buying thing, and I think I finally have found someone who I can do this with occasionally, yay! At $5/lb for ground beef and $13/pound for steak, it's not cheap. But really, high quality beef shouldn't be cheap. Anyway, that was $55 for 5 lb ground beef and one 2.3 lb steak. So, my slush fund now has $19.

On another note, my freezer and pantry are pretty bare. I've eaten through a lot of my beans and grains. A lot of my weekly budget goes to maintaining the level of dairy that is necessary in this house (which is low compared to some...we go through about 1/2 gallon of milk a week, for example). I can see that in a week or two or three, we'll have to ease the budget a bit. Today I have a grocery list for "the $18 I have left this week" and "things we have to get next week when we get the next $50." The last thing that I want to do is welcome my mother-in-law in March with an empty freezer and pantry, and tell her that Cheerios aren't in this week's budget. ;-)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grass Fed Beef Burgers

1/4 lb each
Beef, steak seasoning
$1.25 per burger

OMG these were awesome. Leftovers tonight.

Beef from a local rancher, about 45 minutes up the coast.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stir Fry Rice - my Go To Meal

I'm sure most people have a "go-to" meal. If you read around the blog-o-sphere, you can see it. The meal that shows up more frequently than others. Something quick and easy to put on the table.

For me, this is that meal.

I generally get home from work at 5:05-5:10 pm most days. Dinner is at 6:15 or 6:30 pm (shortly after my husband gets home). That gives me an hour. Now, it's not like I have a solid hour. I like to spend time hanging out with my son, talking about his day, coloring, and playing (usually while drinking a little wine).

That's why this meal is perfect. Get home, carry in all the "stuff" (my bag, lunch bag, his stuff). Throw the rice/quinoa mixture in the rice cooker (it takes about an hour).

Then, hang out until 15 mins before dinner.

I know that I am a member of a CSA. The CSA does not provide quite enough veggies for the family for the week. I often shop at the farmer's market or the local produce stand to round out the week. But I also have frozen and canned veggies on hand too. Costco's Kirkland brand of stir-fry vegetables is pretty good.

Here's what I've learned about Costco - different locations carry different items. For every time I've read someone wax poetical about the great frozen broccoli - I realize that mine doesn't carry it. I've learned to work around that, and usually have two bags of frozen SOMETHING in my freezer at any given time.

It takes all of 5-6 minutes to stir-fry these vegetables from frozen. During that time, I can whip up a little sauce (soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar) and grate some garlic/ginger. If I am feeling ambitious, I may press and saute tofu or fry some eggs. If I have leftover meat (which is rare), I will mix that in. Most of the time, I toss in chopped cashews or steamed edamame for extra protein.

Last night I took what was leftover from Thursday's stir-fry, and mixed the veggies and rice mixture with more stir-fried veggies. I added some oranges from our tree to the sauce and diced in a mango from the discount rack (35 cents!) It was very delicious, and took all of about 15 minutes. Today, there's almost enough for me to eat for lunch, so I'll toss in some chickpeas.

What is your "go to" meal?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Creamy Curried Cashew Greens and Chips

sorry for the fuzzy photo!

No, I'm not being "British", I mean actual chips.

You see, yesterday, we had a company meeting. They used to be about every 3 weeks, update of how things are going. They used to be at lunch time, but boy, that gets expensive. Since they moved them to the afternoon, I never go. Mostly because, I can't. I'm gone by then to pick up my kid from school. But yesterday was a school holiday and kid and hubby were home.

The snacks for these things are water, chips, and cookies. Now, I'm not a huge junk food fan normally. I don't mind salty snacks that are "natural". You know, corn, oil, salt. Or potatoes, oil, salt. But it's not something I like to keep around the house. However, I'm also not going to turn down free food.

As I grabbed a bag of baked BBQ Lays (I wouldn't recommend them...the Kettle BBQ chips I had for lunch were much better...uh...I have PMS, so sue me), my coworker Ed asked me "you going to blog about that?" I said "no, I didn't make it". You see, now there are 4 or 5 people who know about my blog at work, not just 2. So, I get some razzing now and then, but who cares really. It just means I have to think about what I post. :)

There were leftovers, so I grabbed some more for the road (as did everyone else). So Ed, this is for you.

Back to the greens...I have a new coworker (someone I've known for awhile), who is a member of a different CSA. I mentioned that I LOVE kale, and he's not really into it. Always composts it. So, I came in to work on Friday and found 1/2 dozen eggs (from different friend), avocado (from boss), and kale and a couple of clementines. Wow, it's awesome to be me.

In my attempt to work my way through my cookbooks, I found this recipe in Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair. I've had this cookbook forever, but have only made a few things. I've adjusted the recipe here, mostly because I didn't have the "curry paste" made, and I didn't want to make a couple of cups of it. So, I winged it and of course added garlic. I didn't measure much either so...these spices are approximate. This was really really delicious.

Creamy Curried Cashew Greens adapted from Feeding the Whole Family
canola oil: 0.06
olive oil: 0.11
2 large bunches greens - I used one kale, one collard: 2.00
1/2 to 2/3 c. cashews: 1.25
2 Tbsp soy sauce: 0.25
1/2 onion, diced: 0.20
3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole: 0.15
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger: 0.15

1.5 tsp cumin seeds: 0.10
4 whole cloves: 0.02
5-6 black peppercorns: 0.01
1/4 tsp dried mustard: 0.02
1/8 tsp allspice: 0.02
pinch cardamom: 0.01
1/2 tsp cinnamon: 0.05
1.5 tsp turmeric: 0.05
1.5 tsp coriander: 0.10

Total: $4.45 for about 5 generous servings (2/3 to 3/4 cup?), or $0.89 per serving

Grind the spices up in a coffee or spice grinder.

Wash the greens. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the greens, boil for about 8-9 minutes, depending on the type of green. Both kale and collards are pretty hardy. Drain in a colander, run a little cold water on them, and let them cool until you can handle. A metal colander works better for this, better heat transfer. But you can always take the top handful, squeeze dry, then run a little cold water on the lower hot stuff. In any event, squeeze dry and chop.

Meanwhile, cook the onion and garlic in 1 Tbsp canola oil until soft. Add the spices to let them "bloom" (heard that on Aarti Party). Here I added a little olive oil because it was too dry. Let cool a little bit.

In a blender, mix soy sauce, cashews, onion mixture. At this point, I had to add a little water to get it creamy.

Heat a little more oil in a frying pan (this step not totally necessary. You could do it in a pot without oil, but I like the crunchyness). Put in the greens and use your spatula to break up into small pieces. Because when you cook, squeeze dry and chop greens, you get clumps. I don't like clumps. Then add the cashew sauce and mix well to heat through and get that crunchyness. While you do this, wish you were either taller or stronger so that your right arm didn't get so tired from the stirring.


Note, the only saltiness in here is from the soy sauce (I used no-salt cashews), and it was plenty flavorful.

We also made pizza. Hubby did the crust, worried that it didn't look right, looks the same as mine does. It was good.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pasta with Asparagus and Goat Cheese

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe in Martha Stewart's Fresh Food Fast. I have to say, it is really fast.

I adjusted the amount of asparagus (original recipe called for 2 lbs), and butter (because...this is what I do. Unless I'm making brownies or biscuits, I cut down the butter).

Pasta with Asparagus and Goat Cheese
1 bunch asparagus (approx 1 lb): 1.97 (on sale!)
3/4 lb fusilli: 0.75
5 oz goat cheese: 2.49
2 T butter, divided: 0.13
salt and pepper to taste

Total: $5.16 for 6 servings (1.25 cups each). $0.86 per serving.

Remove woody ends from asparagus. Preheat oven to 425F. Toss asparagus with salt and pepper, and add 1 Tbsp butter on top. Roast 12 minutes in a rimmed cookie sheet, stirring at 4 min and 8 min. Remove from oven and cut into 1.5 inch pieces.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Save 1 cup cooking water before you drain the pasta. After draining pasta, put it back in the pot.

Place 1 Tbsp butter and all the goat cheese in a bowl. Add 2/3 to 3/4 cup pasta cooking water and stir until well blended. Add asparagus and sauce to the pasta. Salt and pepper to taste.

Wow, for something that only took 30 min, this was surprisingly good. And plenty of time to toss a salad.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I have a cookbook problem. I have a lot of them. And I love reading new ones. So when I read a review of a good cookbook, I will often put it on my Amazon wish list, as a reminder to look for it, or check it out from the library, or something.

But then Christmas comes along, and between my family and my husband's, I find myself with 7 new cookbooks for christmas. Which is overwhelming, to say the least. Yikes. I put them all on the shelf because I just went a little nuts.

But this year, I have a goal. I've decided I want to try and make at least one recipe from each cookbook this year. Now, I'm not going to promise to cook the recipes exactly as written. that's just crazy talk. And I'm totally taking credit if my spouse makes something.

Thus far, here's how I've done:
Better Homes and Gardens: buttermilk pancakes
Best 30 minute recipe: posole
Vegan With a Vengeance: falafel
Perfect Vegatables: Sauteed chard with bacon and onion
Fresh Food Fast (Martha Stewart): Pasta with asparagus and goat cheese

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Turnip and Potato Gratin

See here.

Except, no collards. And half of the potatoes were substituted with turnips. Finally, a good turnip recipe! All I have to do is bury them in cheese. :)

These were quite delicious.

I'd like to tell you more about them, but...kinda busy. Go Steelers!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


So, this recipe comes from "The Best 30 Minute Recipe" from Cook's Illustrated. You see, I decided to make posole. I decided to make it because my son's school had it a month ago, and when I picked him up from school he talked about it for an hour. You see, my son loves soup. He will eat anything (almost) in a soup. This comes from when he was in childcare and his babysitter made homemade soup for lunch almost every day for the kids. Well, she probably made it 1-2x a week, and served leftovers.

In any event, he went on and on about the hominy "looks like corn, but isn't exactly like it, it's a lot bigger, and it's white, and ...." So I decided to make it for him. And today, our new computer died. So I couldn't surf for a recipe because I didn't feel like booting up the laptop. And really, I have 100 cookbooks. I wish I were exaggerating. I haven't counted. I started looking through cookbooks (turns out the Mexican cookbook didn't have a recipe). Found it.

Now, I didn't follow the recipe EXACTLY. Because I never do. Mostly, I subbed the last of the leftover turkey meat from the $56 Thanksgiving turkey instead of pork.

It was delicious!! Really really a keeper recipe.

Turkey posole
1 to 1.5 lbs leftover turkey: $5.00 (this was the free range turkey, I gotta be honest)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes: 0.60
1 28 oz can hominy: 1.39
4 cups chicken broth: free/homemade
1 Tbsp canola oil: 0.03
2 Tbsp flour: 0.02
1 onion, diced: 0.30
1 tsp dried oregano: 0.05
1/2 Tbsp chili powder: 0.05
1/2 tsp salt: 0.01
6 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.30
salt and pepper to taste

garnish: shredded cabbage (0.05), sliced radishes (0.20), lime wedges(0.40), diced avocado (free)

Total: $8.40 for about 10 cups, or $0.84 per cup.

Heat the tomatoes, oregano, stock, and drained/rinsed hominy in a saucepan. This is necessary if, like me, you use homemade stock which is frozen in a big cube.

Saute the onion with 1/2 tsp salt and the chili powder in the oil until soft, about 10 min. Add garlic and saute 1 more minute.

Add flour and cook about 5 mins on low. Slowly add the stock and stir until well blended. Add the turkey. Cook slowly for at least 10 min, but I think I did 30. Add salt and pepper to taste, but oops, I think I forgot that step. Ah well, it was still delicious.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Couple of Links, and I love Mark BIttman

Mark Bittman's Blog this week was pretty awesome. Say it, brother! Couldn't have said it better myself.

There were some interesting comments. liza from MA:

Great points, with which I couldn't agree more; however, I can't imagine how Americans can possibly eat well until they are working less hours. Eating well cannot happen in a country where most people are working and commuting so many hours: no matter how "simple" the meal is, a healthy one - unprocessed, fresh food - takes time, time to shop more often, perhaps drive further, requires more preparation - cannot be just thrown into the microwave, etc.
As long as we put up with an economic system where so many working hours are essential to survive, we will not be able to eat well or be healthy in any way, body, mind or spirit. There are a finite number of hours in the day, and the way Americans are living now, this does not leave time, especially for families with young children (and little money) to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, take care of all the household chores and errands, etc.....never mind smelling the roses.
Well, from a personal standpoint, I still manage to cook healthy meals, but I also don't watch the US average of 5 hours of TV per day.

Silvie from CT:

Mr. Bittman's ideas are interesting but how can we expect the government to withdraw subsidies to industries that exist because of them? The risk to known, taxpaying corporate sectors, with seriously powerful lobbies is enormous. The payoff, while probable in terms of public heath and the environment, will be very difficult to quantify.
Certainly (as we saw with the 'Public Option' fiasco in the health debates), there is no one in congress or the Presidential Administration or at the state-government level with the courage to begin to examine these questions, never mind actually back the withdrawal of subsides.
I for one will take care in my choices of where my food dollars go, will continue to marvel at how much corn sugar (up to 50% of products) is in the average supermarket, but I will not hold my breath and wait for our farcical, utterly unprincipled political class to 'save us' from the food they enable.

Sad, but true Silvie.

On another topic: working moms are the source of all evil.

In the blogosphere:

Squawkfox did a great job of cooking a lot of meals with one chicken.

This blog shows the AMAZING weight loss journey of one woman. Simply amazing.

And Cook for Good has a great recipe for Savory Onion Muffins.