Happy Holidays!

 

Happy Holidays dear readers!

As we roll on towards the end of the year, all the festivities await. The Budget Epicurean will be taking a little hiatus this year, to focus on family and memories and food! I wish you all the very best, and look forward to rejoining the blogosphere in 2019.

To keep you satiated until then, please enjoy some classics over the years from the archives:

And if that just isn’t enough, feel free to head on over to the Archives page, where every single post (650+!) is listed out by category.

<3
B.E.

Weekly Eating – 11/5/18

 Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

 

Oh man, the weekend at the cabin was glorious! Since it was later in the fall than when we went last year, the colors were absolutely breathtaking.

fall colors at the cabin

It is just the best feeling to know there is nothing you have to do right now, just relax and enjoy. It was a great group of people too, which helps. Everyone just kind of comes and goes and does what they want to do. Sometimes you play games, sometimes you read, we went for a lot of walks, kayak and canoe trips.

fall colors at the cabin

We also went apple picking in a town nearby! I thought apples didn’t grow in NC very well, but I guess by being up in the mountains the weather and terrain make it possible. So we had a really fun day, and picked over 30 pounds of apples. They will go home with each of us to become snacks, pies, and sauce.

apple picking

And of course there was no shortage of food. Everyone brought at least one meal to share, and everyone also brought snacks. I think a few spoonfuls of broccoli and a pinch of lettuce were the only vegetables consumed all weekend haha

cabin food

But that’s ok, life is all about balance. When you’re hanging out with friends, on a once a year trip, if your diet is 90% meat, beans, and cheese, I think we will survive.

cabin food

The dogs were definitely interested in the pumpkin chili…

I miss it already. Can I go back yet?

Monday:

Breakfast – Pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing! Spoilers, this was breakfast all week  🙂

pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing

Lunch – Pumpkin Risotto! Exactly the same as the Butternut Squash Risotto, I just used pumpkin puree I’d done in the instant pot.

pumpkin risotto

Dinner –Loaded nachos with sweet potato and black bean southwest bowl. Just put a can black beans, 1 can pinto, 2 large diced sweet potatoes, 1/2 lb beef, and 1 can tomatoes in the instant pot. Cook for 15 minutes, done. Topped w plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 avocado, and cheddar.

loaded nachos

Tuesday:

Breakfast – attempted to make oatmeal stuffed apples in the instant pot. They ended up way overcooked, and turned to mush… so no new recipe for you guys sorry.

oatmeal stuffed apples

Lunch – Leftover buffet! Leftover buffets are an amazing way to clear out the fridge, and keep from wasting food.  We usually do so once a week or so, on the weekends. Just pull everything out, and let everyone pick and choose what to put on their plate.

leftovers buffet

I had eggplant and okra curry with brown rice.

eggplant and okra curry

Snack – tea time! I found the Stroopwaffels I bought a while ago, and decided now was the time to try persimmons for the first time. I had a cup of green tea with a Fuyu persimmon & Stroopwaffel and it was awesome. If you’ve never had a persimmon, do yourself a favor and get one now!

tea time persimmon and stroopwaffel

Dinner – Quinoa, free range organic chicken breast, local green beans and cherry tomatoes, peppers, and corn cut off the cob.

chicken quinoa casserole

Wednesday:

Breakfast – pumpkin bread, what?!

pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing

Lunch – Cranberry walnut chicken salad in lettuce wraps, with homemade mayonnaise

chicken salad in lettuce wrapschicken salad in lettuce wraps

Snack – Garrett’s popcorn, Chicago mix, from the wedding

chicago mix popcorn

Dinner – more leftovers! I had the remaining tuna puffs and some lentil loaf.

tuna puff leftovers

Then I was watching Fat Salt Acid Heat on Netflix, and the salt episode gave me intense cravings, so I ate a literal plate of rice doused in soy sauce and sprinkled with salt. Mmmmm. Don’t worry, I really do have chronic hypotension.

salty rice

Thursday:

Breakfast – I’ll give you one guess.

pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing

Lunch – Leftover steak tips stroganoff with frozen peas

leftover steak stroganoff with peas

Snack – an apple and a pear

apple and pear

Dinner – Lasagna! Possibly my best lasagna ever. With Nature’s Root Farm pastured mozzarella and ground beef, it was so crazy flavorful, and I added a few handfuls of spinach and parsley to the sauce so I can claim it even had some veggies.

homemade lasagna

I also learned my lesson, do not pressure can marmalade. It set up perfectly and was gorgeous, but canning means it will last longer in the pantry rather than fridge. But, it re-liquefied the marmalade, and turned it an icky brown. I’m a little heartbroken.

sad canned marmalade

Friday:

Breakfast – hmmm… sensing a trend? Trust me it’s worth it. This bread is the bomb.com and I have no problem eating it daily. In fact I won’t know what to do with myself once it’s gone.

pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing

Lunch – Leftover lasagna and a salad

leftover lasagna and salad

Snack – someone at work brought these and left them in the break room. Freeze dried bananas, the only ingredient is banana. They were weird, like astronaut food you convince your parents to buy you from the science center as a kid. And the packaging, for like .2 ounces of fruit, ugh. But they would otherwise be trashed, so.

freeze dried bananas

Dinner – This stupid easy 5 ingredient sausage & kale soup. (Sort of this one too… just use what you have okay.)

Kale and sausage soup

The Weekend

So… you may or may not know that I want to have a farm someday, or a homestead. Not a secret to those who know me, I love gardening, and animals, and DIY, and eating things local, especially from my own hands. But the thing is, I live in a city. On about 1/3 of an acre, with lots of trees.

Not ideal for farming.

But I have dreams.

Been trying to convince the boy for 2 years now that we should get chickens. Yes, they are allowed. But only 6, and no roosters. Which is reasonable, as I don’t want a rooster anyways. But he is insistent that they smell and are loud and we don’t have enough space and the dogs will eat them, etc.

So… what about quail? Turns out quail are way underrated. They are tinier and quieter than chickens, you can fit way more in the same amount of space. And they also lay eggs almost daily. Yes, it will take about 4 quail eggs to equal one chicken egg. But if I can have 20 quail rather than 2 chicken… I’m ok with that.

First things first, we need to try quail eggs and see if we even like them. So I procured some quail eggs, and in my search for recipes found this one from Jo Cooks. 

quail eggs in hashbrown nest

IT WAS AMAZING GUYS.

quail eggs in hashbrown nests and radish saute

The eggs are the teeny tiniest most adorable things. And they look really cool in the tiny hashbrowns. And then for dinner, quail just happened to be on sale at HT!

So we are going to get to try both the eggs and the meat, and hopefully this will be the clincher in letting me get some.

Food Total: $way too much

I think the produce box this week was $28? I tried the build-your-own, with lots of fall goodies like brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. Hooray for cruciferous veggies!

But then I went to HT, and got a lil carried away… I spent $102 there. I stocked up on several small things that all added up; EVOO cold pressed olive oil, sunflower oil, lime and lemon juice, Bob’s Red Mill spelt, pasta, the quail, biscuits, shredded cheese…

Plus, we tried Butcher Box for the first time. It was $129, for about 12 pounds of all free-range, organic, non-GMO, no-added-anything meat. We got the mixed box, so there was chicken, beef, and pork in there. I think we had a beef roast, a pork loin, 3 chicken breasts, a pound of bacon, and some sirloin steak tips. And it is delivered right to your door! I don’t love the copious amount of packaging though…

Everything we have tried so far has been wonderfully delicious. And I love that I can eat meat again! I know that health-wise, plants are king, and they will remain 80% or so of my diet. But boy, was it nice to have chicken salad, ground beef, and sausage soup again.

And I love knowing these animals were raised as they should be. With plenty of grass, sunshine, and love. If you are wanting a more ethical source for your animal protein, I’d recommend looking into them, if you don’t have a more local meat source near you.

If you decide to check them out and sign up, and use my link: http://fbuy.me/kXzkj  I will get $43 off my next box order, and you get $20 off your first order plus a pound of FREE BACON!

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Holiday Diet Round 2

 

In case you haven’t noticed, or live in a place without seasons, it is fall! The leaves are changing beautiful colors, pumpkin spice and apple everything is everywhere, and the mornings are starting to get a little chilly.

And you know what that means.

Holidays are coming!

We just survived Halloween, with more than a little indulgence, and I’m sure several readers still have a little stash of candy that wasn’t handed out to Trick or Treaters like me.

Next on the docket is Thanksgiving!

The nights getting colder, the trees getting more naked, & probably some stressful traveling that is worth it to spend time with family.

ALL THE GOOD FOOD.

Green bean casserole.
Sweet potato casserole.
Stuffing.
Turkey.
Ham.
Rolls.
Mashed potatoes.
Pumpkin pie.

There are so many things I am thankful for, it is tough to list them all.

(Please give Thanksgiving its due and hold your horses on the lights and the Santas and the snowmen and the carols. Please.)

And then, the Big Kahuna.

The holiday everyone adores and waits for all year.

Christmas.

I get it. It’s super exciting.

The lights.
The trees.
The smells.
The cookies.
The generosity.
The gifts.
The love.
Hot cocoa.
Sledding.
Snowmen.
Snow angels.
Family.
Traditions.

THE FOOD.

Lord, the food. And the cookies. And more food. And a few more cookies, just because.

Because food is love.

There’s a reason that the very first thing most people associate with any given holiday is the food. Just Google Thanksgiving, you will get a million photos of turkey. Or Christmas, and prepare for a deluge of cookie recipes.

And that is all well and good. And I will most certainly be indulging.

The problem is, I’ve already over-indulged.

At a wedding shower. A birthday party sleepover. Food swaps. Baseball games. Brofest. My brother’s wedding. My cousin’s wedding. Food tours. Halloween party. Cabin weekend.

Every time, I’d tell myself “it’s just this once”.

“I’ll do better next week”.

It’s hard being the Budget Epicurean and eating delicious food all day every day! 😉

I’ve also been extremely lazy, and essentially fallen off the exercise wagon completely. I’ve run… twice? This year.

Basically, ten pounds have snuck up on me.

And I’m going into the holiday season minefield with the equivalent of what I’d normally gain, already taken up residence.

Not good.

So it’s back to my stand-by rules, that I really should follow at all times, to whip myself into shape again (just to blow it all up again soon… is this what yo-yo dieting is??)

Again I will be focusing on whole grains, proteins, and plentiful fruits and veggies. I also downloaded the My Fitness Pal app to track portions (as that tends to be my downfall) & calories.

Hitting my 10,000 steps per day, and shooting for even more.

Getting back to yoga at least 3x/week, and cardio/HIIT 3x/week.

Following my own advice on how to avoid over-eating.

And there are a few more rules this time:

  • No snacking after 8pm
  • No drinks at all after 9pm
  • Wine limited to 5/week
  • Popcorn limited to 2/week

By putting this in writing, I hope to solidify my intentions, and force myself to be accountable.

After all, I publish what I eat every week so…

Let’s see how well I can do in the next few weeks!

At least there is no beach at stake this time.

Weekly Eating – 10/29/18

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Last weekend’s Halloween party was a blast! I bet you can’t guess correctly what both of our costumes were.

halloween costumes

It was nice enough that we could all hang out outside and play cornhole and beer pong and enjoy the bonfire. And the trick or treat shots were a hit! We did three rounds, and used almost all of them. Yes, I came up with 50 different liquids. They included everything from juiced celery to tequila to bean cooking water. And people were really good at guessing correctly!

trick or treat shots

I also had time on Sunday to whip up a batch of homemade mayo, and some hemp milk since we ran out of almond. Uhhh sidenote, how did she get all the milks to stay clear?? Am I the only one, every time I make any plant milk (almond, coconut, hemp, cashew, rice, oat…) it separates in like 0.4 seconds. I swear I do filter it… maybe I need cheesecloth. But then the yield is lower.  🙁

Monday:

Breakfast – sad bowl of cocoa puffs… I’ve been less inspired about breakfasts lately. Normally I turn to warm oatmeal when fall rolls around but that isn’t sounding so great. I may need to try intermittent fasting as a double win…

Lunch – big warm bowl of leftover white bean & barley soup

white bean and barley soup

Dinner – Some ravioli I defrosted with corn on the cob, microwaved broccoli and cauliflower, and a big salad with toasted pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and homemade apple cider dressing

ravioli and tons of veggies

Tuesday:

Breakfast – it is not possible to take a good picture of oatmeal. It had peaches in it though.

Lunch – Rest of the barley soup & a salad

white bean and barley soup

Dinner – Tuna salad puffs! Throwback Tuesday, to 2014.

tuna salad puffs with guac

Wednesday (Halloween!):

Breakfast – a breakfast boo-rito

egg and potato boo rito

Lunch – potluck at work!

halloween potluck

Dinner – more Booritos! (we didn’t want to stand in line at Chipotle)

halloween boo-rito

Thursday:

Breakfast – coffee and tangerines

coffee and tangerine

Lunch – leftover bowl: potatoes and cauliflower and stuffed mushrooms from the party

bowl of leftovers

Dinner – the rest of the empty the refrigerator Dal

finishing the Dal

Friday:

Breakfast – golden grahams with hemp milk

golden grahams and crockpot of pumpkin chili

Lunch – Pumpkin chili when we get to the cabin!

Dinner – I think we are grilling brats tonight

The Weekend

This weekend we are going up to a friend’s family cabin in the mountains!! I can’t tell you how excited we are. We got to go last year, and it is such a blast. There will be almost a dozen people, which may be cramped, but it will be such a great opportunity for community. It is miles away from civilization, so it is perfectly silent and pitch black at night.

the cabin

Watching the sun rise over the lake, with steam coming off the water, kayaking into the middle and laying back to look up at the stars… I can’t wait to totally relax and refresh. We all take turns cooking, plus people bring crafting projects like knitting, and there are games galore from ping pong and frisbee to board and cards.

I’ll be bringing the crock pot full of pumpkin chili, along with the fixings for tacos and lentil sloppy joes. A build your own taco bar is always filling and fun. And for the lentil sloppy joes, I stuffed all the ingredients into a near empty pasta sauce jar. Just dump into a pan and simmer for 40 minutes!

jar full of lentil tacos

Food Total: $52.50 + 49.58

Weekly Produce Box = Grape Tomatoes, Broccoli Bunch, Potatoes- Yukon Butter Gold , Red Onion (1), Lettuce – Field Grown Romaine (1), Navel Orange (1), Green Beans

Then I also added on quite a few things: kale, pears, persimmons (because there’s a persimmon tree I’ve spotted near me; I want to know if I like them before risking my neck climbing it to pick some), and I also went for it and ordered a pound of ground chicken and some tenders from Joyce Farms in Winston-Salem, NC.

fall produce box

I’m hankering for some white chicken chili, and when we eat meat now, I want it to be sourced very carefully.  The chickens on this farm were not crammed into cages with their beaks cut off, fed a diet of antibiotics and ‘vegetarian’ corn (chickens are not vegetarians, by the way). I know these chickens lived as chickens were meant to live, out in the grass, happily foraging for seeds and bugs.

And I stopped by HT for some sale items, organic potatoes, tons of yogurt since we were out, and more cabin things.

Lessons Learned

Leftovers are the best, worst thing. They are awesome to have, for when you just don’t feel like cooking, or don’t have the time. And I’ve been not feeling like it often lately. Which is great, because we also really needed to finish up all the things from the party and clear out the fridge since we will be gone all weekend.

But sometimes leftovers keep getting left, because you don’t really want to eat them again. Then there’s the “should I throw it out” struggle, because we both hate food waste. So sometimes, leftovers can be quite unfortunate. We both just powered through a few times just so we didn’t toss it. It’s always a lesson, sometimes that lesson is ‘don’t make that again’.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 10/22/18

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Wow, weddings always go by in a flash don’t they?! The weekend in Chicago was a ton of fun, food, and fast paced sightseeing. The boy had never been, so of course we had to hit Millennium Park to see the Bean, the Chicago River, the Magnificent Mile, and Navy Pier.

Chicago downtown Millennium Park

The town was lovely, as was the church and the wedding itself. The reception was at a cool glassblowing studio, where they had some live demonstrations going on! The food was divine, as expected, and we danced the night away. No joke, I had 24K+ steps Saturday! Of course, I’m sure I negated that with the obligatory deep dish pizza.

Chicago deep dish pizza

In the airport, we ate at a cafe that had a brilliant device: you press the button to order, or get a check. I think that is just the smartest thing. No more getting interrupted every two seconds when you don’t want anything, and waiting around trying to flag someone down when you do.

restaurant button

Also of note, I’ve got baby beets, radishes, collards, and wheat popping up all over! Fingers crossed I actually get something edible before Jan/Feb freezes it all.

seedlings sprouting

Monday:

Breakfast – Berry oatmeal with chia and walnuts

berry oatmeal

Lunch – Leftover bayou chicken pasta I’d pulled from the freezer

Dinner – pasta, because when you’re exhausted from traveling and the fridge is empty, you don’t want to go to a store. And a box of pasta plus a jar of sauce is as easy as comfort food gets.

desperation pasta

Tuesday:

Breakfast – berry & kefir smoothie

berry smoothie

Lunch – leftover defrosted veggie burgers with hummus, sauerkraut and avocado

veggie burgers

Dinner – the Butternut Squash Risotto that lit up Twitter. Yes, it really is as delicious as it looks, and you should go make some. Now.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Sage

Wednesday:

Breakfast – ham egg and cheese breakfast bagel sandwich; I found these bagel thins in the freezer too. Can you sense a theme? Oncoming winter always prompts a drive for freezer clean out for some reason.

bagel sandwich

Lunch – Leftover Thai sweet potato and carrot soup over rice, with a small chunk of leftover brisket

leftover mishmash

Dinner – Thawed pork chops with cranberry sauce, sweet potato and carrot casserole, and green beans. Basically Thanksgiving prep for taste buds. Eaten by a fire, as all fall meals should be.

Thanksgiving dinner practice by the fire

Second dinner – So uh, we went out to meet up with a friend for a beer. And we chatted and had a great time catching up. Then as we were about to leave we got on the topic of sushi (which, you should know by now, I freaking LOVE). And of course I perked up like, we can has sushi now?!? And the boy. said. yes. !!! I don’t care that I had dinner and it’s 8:40pm and they close soon. We goin! And, we went. And it was glorious. #sorrynotsorry

second dinner sushi

Thursday:

Breakfast – PBJ toast, which, I ended up not eating until the way home from work later bc I was still kinda full… weird…

Lunch – leftover risotto! and homemade soda.

butternut squash risotto

Dinner – Burritos! Always satisfying.

burritos

Friday:

Breakfast – sad bowl of cocoa puffs…

Lunch – I forgot to pack a lunch, so I dipped into my emergency food drawer at work for canned soup.

emergency work lunch drawer

Dinner – “Make Room In The Fridge Dal”, that gives the Angry Leftovers Man heart palpitations. It was super good though.

leftovers dal

The Weekend

Saturday is the big Halloween party! I haven’t thrown a good holiday party in a long time, and I finally know enough people in NC to pack the house, so I’m pretty excited about it. Been decorating, cleaning, planning, and cooking all week.

Halloween decoration

There will be a bonfire outside, lights all around the porch, games set up inside and outside, and creepy music on YouTube. I’m making a couple dips and a veggie tray, and people are bringing all kinds of goodies too. But the real highlight will be the Trick or Treat shots!

trick or treat shots

Food Total: $64.43 + 28.05 = $92.48

Weekly Produce Box and a trip to ALDI for last minute party foods. We were also down to our last container of coffee, which is a good reason for all out panic. I picked up some cute fall scented candles as well, because we will have a housewarming to go to soon!

Crescent roll dough was on sale, which if I get motivated and have enough time Saturday morning, I’ll turn into cute dough ‘fingers’ with marinara ‘blood’ dipping sauce. I also picked up tortillas in anticipation of a taco night next (next) weekend.

Dairy $9.24 Staples $22.89 Fruit/Veg $11.23 Extras $21.07
cream cheese 2.37 Coffee 4.79 vine ripe tomatoes 1.89 cake mix – for work party 1.7
berry kefir 3 6.87 Cooking spray 2 2.98 romaine 1.99 Graham crackers 1.25
crescent roll dough 1.78 celery 0.89 Marshmallows (s’mores) 0.89
Dipper chips 0.89 3pk bell peppers 1.99 Fancy choc bars 2 3.98
tortillas x2 3.28 butternut squash 1.57 Jello (shots…) 0.7
100% fruit juice x2 5.18 seedless cucumber 0.99 Mason jar candles 2 9.98
Red blend wine 3.99 pineapple 0.99 taco mix seasoning 0.29
bananas 0.92
Tax 2.28

 

And then my Harvest Box contained: Avocado XL green (1), Apple Cider (1), Green Beans, Fall Glo Tangerines (4), Garden Cucumber (1), Red New Potatoes, White Sweet Corn (3), Sweet Onion (1), Fuji Apples (4).

the Produce Box Harvest Box

So we are very well stocked up, and if I can contain myself and stay away from stores, I shouldn’t have to grocery shop at all next week!

Lessons Learned

Guyyyyyys. Avoiding plastic is SO hard. Especially when throwing a party, with many people you barely know. On the one hand, most of the things I already had (forks, plates, water bottles) and will do my best not to purchase more of in the future. I want to overall move more towards smaller dinner party style, with real plates and cups and silverware.

But plastic food packaging too. My beloved ALDI, the purveyor of low prices, why must you use so much plastic? I feel like we could get an additional savings if you just sold me peppers naked, as nature grows them.

Another lesson? A stocked freezer is so amazing. Especially when you get back from a trip and do not have the energy to go to the store for food. But also, you should look in there routinely and make sure to actually eat the stuff. I think it’s time for a big purge, a la my January pantry and freezer challenge.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Creamy Butternut Squash Risotto: Stovetop or Instant Pot

 

Man, this fall I am hitting some serious home runs with new recipes!

The other rave review so far was my crispy spinach gnocchi with sage brown butter. You’ll notice this recipe also uses sage brown butter. Coincidentally, my sage bush is quite prolific this time of year, but is about ready to be fully harvested and cut back for winter. It is also squash season, so the butternut was from a local farm, fresh picked just days before I cooked it.

This tells me a few things.

  • Keep trying new recipes
  • If you or someone you love doesn’t like a particular ingredient, try it in a new way, or try it again a year later
  • Eating seasonally and locally makes it far easier to cook delicious meals with simple ingredients!

The inspiration came from this recipe on Serious Eats, but of course I tweaked it to what I had on hand.

This can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock rather than chicken, and can be vegan as well by omitting the cottage cheese and sprinkling with nutritional yeast rather than Parmesan. If you do eat cheese, I highly recommend the best, large curd cottage cheese you can find. It makes a great difference in flavor and texture.

You can also make this insanely cheap by using water rather than the stock. But you will lose a lot of flavor by doing so.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Sage

Ingredients:

  • 1 small or 1/2 large butternut squash (about 2 cups cubed)
  • 1 cup medium or short grain rice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or water)
  • Black pepper, sea salt
  • Handful of sage leaves
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Optional: 1/2 cup cottage cheese, sprinkle of Parmesan

I already had cooked the squash earlier in the week, but if you haven’t, do that first. I’ll wait.

There are 2 ways to do this: on the stove, or in an instant pot. I used the instant pot, because I have one now and it’s magical!

BUT

This is just as easy on the stove, it just takes a little longer.

Below are the steps for the instant pot, and then I’ll do stove top too.

Step 1: Add the rice and stock to the instant pot, close pressure valve, and cook for 8 minutes. Quick release the steam.

Step 2: Add the butternut squash, and cottage cheese if using. Close, and cook another 8 minutes. Quick release. Mash up the squash a little with a spoon, stir well to combine.

Step 3: While the second cooking session is going, melt the butter on the stove. Toss in the sage leaves, and let it sizzle until they look brown and crunchy. Watch carefully, you don’t want it to burn, it honestly only takes a minute or two.

Step 4: Serve the risotto topped with a sprinkle of Parmesan, some sage, and a grind or two of black pepper and sea salt.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Sage

As for the stove top:

Step 1: Put the rice and 1 cup water/stock in a pot, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and simmer 10-15 minutes, until water is absorbed.

Step 2: Add more water 1/2 cup at a time, simmering for a few minutes in between. Stir every few minutes or so, until all liquid is absorbed. Should take about 30-40 minutes total.

Step 3: Add the butternut squash, and smash it up a little with a spoon. Stir to thoroughly combine.

Step 4: Same as above if you want to serve with crispy sage!

Weekly Eating – 10/15/18

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Last weekend was great fun! You can read all about the farm adventures and refillable soap here. Then on Sunday I went to my first Cary Food & Flea Market to represent Triangle Food Tours. It was a drizzly day, but we still had a good turnout.

triangle food tour

I also got the last of the fall seeds planted, and we had a lovely bonfire in the evening, complete with farm fresh milk hot cocoa.

fall bonfire time

This week I processed several of the giant pile of Carolina Reapers still hanging around my kitchen. Their season is nearly over, so I’m trying to stock up as much as I can to get us through the cold winter with some heat. I think we will have more than enough… in fact those tiny containers are literally just reapers and vinegar, destined to be traded with some brave soul at the next Food Swap!

Monday:

Breakfast – banana muffins

Lunch – leftovers

Dinner – I made a white bean stew with butternut squash steamed in the pressure cooker and blanched sweet potato leaves. Served over quinoa, it was healthy, local, seasonal, and delicious.

white bean and squash stew over quinoa

Tuesday:

Breakfast – blue berry oatmeal

blueberry oatmeal

Lunch – leftover Chinese from the weekend & berries

chinese and berries

Dinner – summer squash, peppers and onions stir fried over quinoa

stir fry over quinoa

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smoothie with berries and kefir and frozen banana

fruit and kefir smoothie

Lunch – leftover brisket, roasted carrots, and steamed sweet potato leaves, with peppermint tea + ginger & lemon

leftover brisket lunch with tea

Snack – a friend at work gave me this Kind banana and chocolate bar because she didn’t like them. It was certainly weird, but okay, and kept the hangry at bay until it was dinner time.

KIND chocolate banana bar

Dinner – Cod in the instant pot with fresh green beans, red potatoes, a sprinkle of cranberries and walnuts. IT WAS SO GOOD GUYS. So simple, so tasty, and so fast (15 minutes). I get why people are all about the instant pot now.

instant pot cod with potatoes and green beans

I bet this same combo would also be amazing with Thanksgiving turkey! Or just minus the cod as a delish side dish.

instant pot cod with potatoes and green beans

Thursday:

Breakfast – more blueberry oatmeal! This time I sprinkled them on after cooking rather than cooking them in with the oats, and added a few walnuts too.

more blueberry oatmeal

Lunch – kale salad and carrot/sweet potato soup

kale salad with carrot sweet potato soup

Dinner – summer squash ‘zoodles’ with rustic tomato & kale sauce and chickpeas. Basically threw a bunch of things from the fridge together in a pot and called it dinner!

squash zoodles with tomato kale sauce

Friday:

Breakfast – uhhh just coffee oops! I’m off, and slept in, then got caught up packing and cleaning and doing things around the house

Lunch – whatever is left in the fridge; probably red beans and rice

Dinner – hopefully, deep dish pizza!

The Weekend

We will be in the Windy City this weekend for a family wedding! By the time you’re reading this we will probably be home already. My cousin has excellent taste so I can only assume the wedding/ reception dinner will be excellent. I’m sure there will be at least one deep dish pizza involved, and probably a glass or five two too many of wine. But that’s what celebrating love is all about right??

Food Total: $61.62

Not bad at all, especially when you consider half of that was decorations for the fall/upcoming Halloween party! I didn’t have a Produce Box delivery this week since we’re out of town for a wedding, and we have plenty of produce/ dairy/ pantry items that need used up prior to that. Next week will be a big spend for party food items and beverages though.

Staples $1.87 Fruit/Veg $19.15 Extras $37.11
Baking soda 0.49 Strawberry quart 1.99 Mums x3 8.97
Baking powder 0.99 Blueberry 2 pint 2.99 Pumpkins 2 big 4.98
Iodized salt 0.39 Acorn squash 1.19 Halloween candy 100pc 9.99
Butternut squash 1.96
Bananas 0.97 Winking owl 3L 10.89
Lemons 2.79
Red onions 1.19 tax 2.28
Avocados 6 3.49
Yellow onions 1.09
Pineapple 1.49

Lessons Learned

This week was all about quick, easy, and healthy. Sometimes you just go through phases in life where you don’t feel like cooking big or complicated recipes. (For some, this is every night). And that’s okay. Actually, sometimes the simplest things are the healthiest, a quick steam or stir fry of some frozen veggies and you’re good to go.

It’s also helpful to prep a big batch of something to have on hand, like a grain, some steamed veggies, some fruits, and some proteins. Then you can just mix and match for almost instant dinner. Having already cooked quinoa, pinto beans, rinsed and shredded kale, and washed berries ready to go was great all week long.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

One Small Thing: Bags

 

In the One Small Thing series, I am highlighting small changes you can make to your daily habits to reduce your waste and make the world a little greener, and your wallet a little thicker.

Check out all the habits already discussed:

Today we are going to talk about a personal favorite of mine: reusable bags.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

If plastic straws and plastic bottles are the top 2 offenders found on beaches, the lightweight, ubiquitous bag probably rounds out the top three problem children. We have all been walking along, or driving down the road, only to see the tumbleweed of the twenty-first century, the plastic bag, float across our view.

These bags are small, lightweight, and tear easily. They can be pulled out the open window of a car on the highway, fall out of a shopping cart, or sneak under the lid of a trash can.

America is by far not the only nation with this problem. In fact, in a release from Earth Policy in 2014: “Before a ban on thin bags—which tear readily and get caught by the wind— went into effect in 2003, plastic bags were christened South Africa’s “national flower” because of their prevalence in bushes and trees.”

This problem has been ongoing and recognized for years, and many nations are trying to combat it with both taxes and bans. Many states and countries around the world have instituted taxes on merchants, consumers, or both, for using plastic.

Many more have outright banned single use plastic bags, instead imploring suppliers and citizens to use glass, cloth, paper, or cardboard instead. In America: “U.S. cities with bag bans include San Francisco (as of 2007), Portland (2011), Seattle (2012), Austin (2013), Los Angeles (2014), Dallas (to begin in 2015), and Chicago (2015).”

Some more facts from ConservingNow.com:

“Worldwide

  • A person uses a plastic carrier bag on average for only 12 minutes.
  • On average we only recycle one plastic bag in every 200 we use.
  • Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.
  • Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC, one group alone harvests 30,000 per month.
  • According to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone “from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere.” Plastic bags have been found floating north of the Arctic Circle near Spitzbergen, and as far south as the Falkland Islands. Source: British Antarctic Survey
  • Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.

Sources: International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies or persons as cited.

reusable grocery bags

So you know it’s a problem.

You know bags take 500 years to degrade, and even then don’t fully break down, but become toxic micro-plastics.

If you have a bag tax or fee, you’re tired of paying it.

You have a bag full of bags under your sink, or in a closet.

You don’t want to add to your stock anymore.

You’re ready to do something about it.

Now what?

Recycle or re-use old plastic bags

Since you already have a stash of plastic bags (you know you do), the first thing you can consider is recycling them. Many grocers are now putting up collection bins for old plastic bags right at the checkout or store entrance.

Those bags may be recycled into composite wood, which is a mixture of plastic and wood scraps. Or they may be melted down into a new batch of plastic bags. And a small portion may even end up in the space-age-sounding field of nanotechnology:

“Scientists at the University of Adelaide have developed a new way to recycle those plastic bags and create carbon nanotube membranes, which may potentially be used for energy storage and biomedical innovations. ” (source)

If you don’t have a store near you that offers plastic bag recycling, you can at least get creative and give them a second life.

Options include craft projects like turning bags into rugs or purses. You could also use them as liners for small trash cans, to hold dirty diapers, or pick up dog poo. But all these uses ultimately get them into the landfill anyways, now they also have gross stuff inside.

A better choice?

Don’t collect them in the first place!

How? Read on…

Reusable grocery bags – freebies/synthetic/plastic

I have at least 100 reusable bags at this point in my life.

This is not an exaggeration.

I fill the trunks of two cars, and there are even more sprinkled all around the house too.

And I think I paid for… 3 of them?

reusable grocery bags

Tons of events now give away bags, because it is easy branding.

They plaster their logo on the side, and you carry it around town.

If that bothers you, maybe you’ll have to scroll down to the you-buy-it options that can be plain or patterened.

As for me, I don’t give a hoot what’s on the bag. Only what’s in it.

BUT

These bags do come with some risks.

Most shoppers do not separate their groceries into produce – dairy – canned – meats, etc. And a very tiny number of people actually wash their reusable bags, ever, let alone after every shopping trip.

Myself included.

Guilty as charged.

I don’t think I’ve ever washed my reusable bags.

I know I know, how can I even blog about these things? Because honesty is the best policy. And honestly, I’ve never yet gotten sick. I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

And I’d still rather take that chance than keep accumulating bags full of bags.

The biggest message here: reusable is awesome! But wash them often. And never put raw meat in them, this is one case where plastic wrapping is A-O.K.

reusable grocery bags

Reusable bags – natural fibers like cotton, hemp, wool

The best option is to use an extremely sturdy bag made from organic, natural sources.

Emphasis on organic.

Crunchy granola gurus tout cotton bags, but neglect to mention the devastating impacts of pesticides, herbicides, and water usage demanded of conventionally grown cotton.

“The larger takeaway is that no bag is free of environmental impact, whether that’s contributing to climate change, ocean pollution, water scarcity, or pesticide use. The instinct to favor reusable bags springs from an understandable urge to reduce our chronic overconsumption, but the bags we use are not the big problem.” (source)

So look for organically grown cotton or hemp bags.

Or best yet?

Make your own!

Take your old clothing or linens that are destined for the landfill or Goodwill, a little bit of time and DIY sewing, and create yourself an arsenal of free, eco-friendly shopping bags.

Here’s a nice no-sew DIY for a t-shirt tote bag: https://www.mommypotamus.com/no-sew-t-shirt-tote-bag-tutorial/

And 7 more ways to do the same thing: https://thethingswellmake.com/recycled-t-shirt-bags-review-of-7-ways/

As with the reusable bags warning, remember to wash these often, preferably after each use with hot water.

 

Other uses for bags:

  • Corral trash/recyclables/compostables to bring home
  • Keep your car/office space organized
  • Hold wildflowers you pick or a bouquet you buy
  • Forage wild fruits, herbs, mushrooms, or nuts
  • Use instead of giftwrap/tape/bows for the holidays

reusable grocery bags

 

Tell me! Have you ever done any fun DIYs with old bags? Made bags yourself from scratch? How do you avoid single use plastics?

Weekly Eating – 10/8/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

The weekend was a blast! I got to meet and hang out with Steveark and wife, and give them a nice walking tour of Durham, to which they are thinking about moving. And they I led an actual Food Tour of Durham, made new friends, and tried all the foods. I definitely had well over 10K steps!

little dipper durham food tour

Sunday was a quiet home day, with lots of reading and kitchen time. I made a big spinach quiche, and some homemade rolls for the week. We also finally got house cleaners to deep clean from Bro Week, and It Is Worth Every Penny.

Monday:

Breakfast – spinach quiche

spinach quiche

Lunch – leftover mashup: some lentils from sloppy joes & veggie fried rice mixed together

leftover lentils and rice

Dinner – pasta with blender pesto

pasta with pesto

Tuesday:

Breakfast – spinach quiche

Lunch – I baked a few sweet potatoes in my pressure cooker and packed them with black beans, spinach and pickled onions & radish. Garlic hummus and veggies for a snack.

baked sweet potato and black beans

Dinner – these Crispy Spinach Gnocchi with Sage Butter

crispy spinach gnocchi

Wednesday:

Breakfast – fruit smoothie

fruit smoothie and coffee

Lunch – more baked sweet potato and black beans. Yogurt & moon grapes as a snack.

baked sweet potato and black beans

Dinner – Thai Carrot  & Sweet Potato soup in the pressure cooker

thai carrot and sweet potato soup

With some quick flatbread to eat it with. Drizzle in some hot sauce, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. YUM.

thai carrot and sweet potato soup

Thursday:

Breakfast – peppers & onion 2 egg omelet w pastured eggs <3

pepper and onion omelette

Lunch – pressure cooker stuffed red peppers with couscous and lentils. I learned an important lesson: pressure cookers cook FAST. Ten minutes turned the peppers to mush.

stuffed red peppers with couscous and lentil

Dinner – Date Night! We had red wine braised steak with roasted root veggies and listened to the storm.

steak and root veggies with red wine

Friday:

Breakfast – peppers and onions and egg burrito

Lunch – leftovers and more moon grapes

leftover meat and veggies

Dinner – Leftover beef & veg soup with rolls

leftover beef veg soup

The Weekend

sweet potatoes from the garden

I GOT SWEET POTATOES!!! If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you already know I’m pretty excited about it. There is no cooler feeling than pulling up handfuls of food you grew yourself.

sweet potatoes from the garden

I also found an amazing farm called Nature’s Roots Farm that offers tons of pastured meat and dairy options. Yes, I believe your diet should be mainly plants. Yes I think CAFOs and factory farmed meat and dairy is awful for you, the animals, and the planet. Yes I think you can survive off just plants forever, and thrive.

petting a cow

But I also think these are some happy cows. This is some well managed pasture. They are well-loved pigs, and a healthier forest because of it. I think this kind of meat is good for the planet, the animals, and the people who choose to eat it.

Fillaree refill

I further voted with my dollars for zero waste, Earth friendly processes by stopping by local business Fillaree for a hand soap refill! They sell soaps in glass bottles, and refill from large bulk tanks in store. It’s all natural and organic ingredients, and naturally smells fantastic (I chose the Lime Lavender scent).

Yes, it’s five dollars, for which I could get five bottles at the Dollar Tree. But I choose to support local Durham based family business, and eco-smart, waste free practices.

fall garden planning

I also got the last of the fall garden items in the ground. Since I ripped up the sweet potato vines that were taking up all the garden real estate, I had SO MUCH space to work with. It may be a bit too late in the season for some of these, but I’m hopeful at least some of these cool-loving crops will bring me something edible.

fall garden planting

Lovely rows of winter wheat, kale, chard, collards, radish, carrots, spinach, and beets. Let’s see what comes up!

 

Food Total: 24.46 + 86.15

My usual Produce Box delivery, plus a cooler full of farm fresh pastured milk, cheese, sausage, and brisket.

Lessons Learned

Living holistic values can be overall more expensive, for sure. But it tastes so good! It smells great. IT FEELS AMAZING. It’s worth it.

 

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

 

 

Crispy Spinach Gnocchi with Sage Butter

 

Do you ever do “clean out the fridge” nights? If not you should think about doing it! Food waste is a very serious issue, and one way to prevent it is obviously to throw less food in the trash.

But if you don’t know what food you have, it can be very easy to forget about it until your produce liquefies or grows a weird-colored fuzzy coating of something you do not want to eat.

Clean out the fridge meals help prevent that!

Basically, just take a look in the fridge. Not just the shelves but also the doors and drawers. And then try to think of a way to use up those food items! Soups are always a good bet, as are casseroles, burritos, omelets, and more.

This one was inspired by 2 baked potatoes, and a half bag of getting-soft spinach. I went to Google for inspiration, as I usually do, and found this recipe for Potato Spinach Gnocchi. I’ve made my own gnocchi before, using both butternut squash and acorn squash, so I knew that veggies are easy to hide in the wonderful pillowy dumplings.

So I decided to add the spinach to create green gnocchi! Because why not. But I also decided to pan-fry rather than boil them, because I was craving a cripsy coating. You can stop at Step 1 and boil, but I’d recommend the frying route.

I also pared down the prep time by microwaving my spinach rather than steaming and draining, and had already cooked potatoes. If I didn’t I would have microwaved them too. All together, this can be on the table in less than 30 minutes!

Not only do these taste a bit like french fries, but they also count as a vegetable and are healthy for you! Win win. Top with whatever sauce you prefer and enjoy.

spinach gnocchi

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 baked potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • ~1 cup flour
  • ~1 cup cooked spinach (fresh or frozen, fresh is about 3-4 cups packed that cooks down)
  • 1 tbsp garlic or 2-3 cloves
  • Optional: 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Sage Brown Butter

  • 3-4 tbsp butter
  • Handful of sage leaves
  • Sea salt
  • Optional: black pepper, salsa, etc.

spinach gnocchi

Step 1: I started with potatoes I baked the day prior, otherwise bake your potatoes in the oven or microwave. Similarly, if using frozen spinach, thaw it and squeeze out the water. I microwaved my fresh spinach for about 2 1/2 minutes with a cup of water next to it in the microwave.

You can do the mixing and mashing by hand, but I prefer my hand dandy food processor. Mix up the potato well, then add the spinach. Process until well combined. Add the garlic, Parmesan, and flour, and process until a thick dough forms.

spinach gnocchi

Step 2: Using 2 teaspoons, scoop little balls of dough into a frying pan set to medium with olive or coconut oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes, flip, and fry on the other side. My pan held about half the dough, so I moved them to a paper towel covered plate while I cooked the other half.

spinach gnocchi

Step 3: Optional – at this point you can enjoy your fried gnocchi with marinara, pesto, alfredo, or whatever sauce tickles your fancy. Since I have an abundance of sage right now, I made a sage brown butter sauce (like I used on my butternut squash ravioli).

Melt the butter in the pan. When barely bubbling, add the sage leaves, and fry for about 2 minutes, until crispy. Do not over cook or the butter will burn. I also tossed in a teaspoon of my Reaper salsa, for a little bite, and it was just enough.

 

The fusion of food, fun, frugality, and curiosity.