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.

 

Weekly Eating – 10/1/18

 

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!

 

As promised, I spent a big part of the weekend planting the fall things and ripping up the summer things. Tomatoes and beans are now composting, and kale/beet/radish/broccoli/cabbage are in the ground. Fingers crossed we get something edible. I’m already planning next spring’s garden.

Monday:

Breakfast – Avocado and egg sandwich, quite filling and tasty

avocado and egg toast

Lunch – Leftover from the weekend roasted vegetables, with a small piece of steak under there (hah, I bet at least one person thought “under where?”)

roasted fall vegetables

Snack  – homemade creamy hummus and raw veggies (I ended up not being hungry enough to eat the peaches I canned)

creamy hummus and raw vegetables and canned peaches

Dinner –

 

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Peach oatmeal

Lunch – out to lunch with a coworker

Dinner – Lentil sloppy joes! My new favorite. With dill pickles and homemade purple sauerkraut

sloppy joe with lentils pickles and sauerkraut

Wednesday:

Breakfast – A friend at work keeps chickens, and she brought me a gift of a dozen free range eggs! I was so thrilled, because happy healthy free range chickens make the best eggs. I had a tasty breakfast burrito with bell peppers and onions and hot sauce and eggs and cheese. Nomnom.

free range egg breakfast burrito

Lunch – Leftover lentil sloppy joes! Not mad about it.

lentil sloppy joes

Dinner –I made a big batch of my crispy oven baked tofu

oven baked tofu

And whipped up a quick teriyaki stir fry to go with it

tofu teriyaki stir fry

Oh and I also have a jar of homemade apple cider vinegar that’s finally getting going! It’s a great way to use apple cores and peels and scraps. Just fill a jar 2/3, cover with water. Add about 1 tbsp sugar per cup of water needed, and cover. That’s it. Let it sit in a dark place for 2 weeks, strain, and let it sit again until tart enough.

bubbling apple cider vinegar

Thursday:

Breakfast – Another breakfast burrito!

breakfast burrito

Lunch – Out again! Shocking, I know, twice in one week. The down side of trying so hard to make friends for 2 years is that now I have them haha but at least our work meal card gets us 10% off so this was just over $4

chinese at work

Dinner – Ya’ll! Remember how when I went home for a wedding shower, I ended up coming home with a pressure cooker my mom didn’t want? I finally used it! My first item: baked potatoes.

potatoes in a pressure cooker

The good news is, it didn’t blow up! The better news is, it steamed perfect soft potatoes in 15 minutes. These things are pretty legit. And WAY less energy used than an oven at 350 for an hour.

loaded baked potatoes

Friday:

Breakfast – At the grocery store, I found an insane sale on smoked rainbow trout (like 75% off). Given my love of smoked salmon, I figured it might be similar. So I got it, because luckily for me someone brought leftover Panera, and I nabbed an everything bagel with cream cheese, the perfect lox canvas. Turns out, definitely not the same as salmon. But pretty good.

smoked rainbow trout bagel

Lunch – Leftover tofu teriyaki stir fry

leftover stir fry

Dinner – My second experience with the pressure cooker. Some tiny acorn squash that came with my Produce Box.

acorn squash in pressure cooker

Took 15 minutes yet again, perfectly fork-tender. They got whipped into a creamy cheese sauce for acorn squash mac n cheese.

acorn squash mac n cheese

Dessert – Wooo what a crazy week, out for lunch twice AND dessert on Friday! I had 2 peaches that desperately needed used up, so I cut them into a bowl with an also-near-death banana and some frozen pineapple. Topped it with some butter/brown sugar (crack) and granola, then I microwaved it for about 8 minutes and bam. Instant sweet tooth satisfaction.

fruit cobbler with ice cream

The Weekend

Saturday is a busy day! My pal Steveonomics is in town, his company is trying to convince him to move here. And so am I.   🙂  Then I have a downtown Food Tour afterwards. So definitely getting my steps in!

Then Sunday is the opposite, no plans whatsoever. Well, just getting down the Halloween decorations from the attic, because you know I’m having a party! Gotta brainstorm a good costume.

Food Total: $98.19

Uhhh… oops. I swear I went to the store with a list in hand… and then there were just a lot of good sales. At least most of the things I got were staples and fruits & veggies. The canned goods will stay for a long time, and we were down to almost nothing on rice. We had like 3 rice based meals this week, and burritos are a main way the boy stays alive, so running out of rice would be a disaster.

Meats $23.57 Staples $40.27 Fruit/Veg $30.32
smoked rainbow trout 4oz 2.97 wheat bread 3 bag spinach 2 4
frozen whiting fillets 2lb 4.97 tomato sauce 1.18 bananas 2.28
frozen cod fillets 2lb 9.97 tortillas 1.48 avocados 4 3.58
Stew meat 1.5 lb 5.66 long grain white rice 10lb 2.99 cucumber 0.69
basmati rice 5lb 8.99 carrots 10lb 5.99
brown rice 3lb 4.49 sweet onion 1.21
cereals x3 5.89 bell peppers 9 8.91
Pasta – various x4 3.96 Limes 0.99
4pk org garbanzos 3.29 Pears 2 1.88
Pasta sauce x3 5 Lemon 1 0.79

Lessons Learned

Ugh guys. I need to admit that I am not doing as great with Zero Waste as I’d hoped. But this blog is supposed to be safe space though right? How do I get better? My biggest issues continue to be cheese (sliced and shredded) and anything frozen. The boy is the main cheese consumer, and he will definitely not shred or slice his own, I’ve tried buying blocks before and they just get moldy. And I’m not that much of a saint to do it for him weekly.

 

 

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

 

 

One Small Thing: Coffee Filters

 

In this series I am highlighting one small change you can make to your daily routine or one small thing you can do to make the world a little less wasteful. Don’t miss the previous posts about cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, water bottles, straws, and travel mugs.

Today we are continuing the caffeine chat with: Coffee Filters

This includes regular-sized coffee pot filters, as well as Keurig-style pod cups.

one small thingone small thing

A Brief History of Coffee Filters

As the story goes, all coffee used to be brewed the same way as Turkish coffee insists on being brewed: hot and dark and with the grounds still in the finished drink. This often led to an unpleasant taste and gritty texture.

One day, a housewife decided she was tired of chewing her morning drink. She tried a few different items around the house and found that her son’s blotting paper and a copper pot with holes put in it were the perfect combination for getting the black gold liquid without the gross solids.

And thus, the filter was born.

Through the years we have improved and refined filters based on material type, thickness, and adding ruffles. Those variegated sides help the liquid flow better, and the thickness and grade of paper determines how finely it can filter.

There are even filters made from a far wider array of materials than wood pulp, such as metal, bamboo, even gold.

What Are Coffee Filters Made Of?

Let’s imagine that at least one of those 2.7 cups of coffee per day consumed by 150 million Americans is made at home. That means at least 150 million coffee filters are used per day. And probably at least 149.9 million of those are tossed into the trash, destined for the landfill.

Every day.

coffee filter

Enter the Keurig

Coffee was chugging along, enjoying a slow but steady rise in popularity, when along came an invention that shot it to meteoric fame in homes and offices alike.

Yes, the Keurig.

Originally founded in 1992, Keurig launched its office brewers and line of products in 1998. As the single-serve brewer gained popularity among our instant gratification, everyone-is-unique culture, the Keurig became a household name and expanded for home use in 2004.

Green Mountain Coffee bought the Keurig company and brand in 2006, and business boomed for both through that partnership.

Several more acquisitions and mergers later and they are now part of the Keurig Doctor Pepper brand, and is now “a publicly traded conglomerate which is the third largest beverage company in North America.[

And of course, I must step up onto my soap box for a moment to lambast the Keurig k-cup, or pod, or whatever you want to call this insidious piece of single use plastic crap.

An estimated one in three homes has a Keurig brewer, and the company is on pace to sell over three billion cups per year.

That’s a sh*t-ton of plastic.

Even the inventor of the K-cup says he sort of regrets it… and he doesn’t even own a Keurig machine, saying “They’re kind of expensive to use”.

There’s been much backlash against the waste produced, even to the point of a YouTube video entitled “Kill the K-Cup” which dramatizes the damage it is doing and ends with “Kill the K-Cup before it kills our planet”.

<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/116606409″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

When the patents expired, tons of knockoff brewers and cups flooded the market, many of which are better choices based on being recyclable, compostable, or reusable.

Though thank goodness, they are finally trying to change the composition of the cup such that the material is more attractive to recyclers and thus can be diverted for re-use rather than sent to landfills worldwide.

 

How Can You Do Better?

If you use a paper/bamboo filter, compost it

The first point is that most coffee filters are totally compostable! Yes, most are made of paper, and you can toss them into a compost pile or bin, coffee grounds included. The coffee grounds will provide a great source of nitrogen to your plants, while the filter itself will provide some great carbon.

 

Consider re-usable filters

Next, consider a re-useable coffee filter. I bought myself this one, and use it every day. Each night I dump the spent grounds into my compost bin, give it a quick rinse, and restock with fresh grounds for the next day. Easy peasy. I will probably never have to buy another filter in my life! How awesome is that.

We also have 2 sets of these reusable Keurig cups, which hubs uses in his home office, and I took one to work as well. They fit in most Keurig-style coffee makers, but make sure you read the full list in the product description to make sure yours is one with which it is compatible.

 

Another Option: the French Press

A French Press is a (usully) glass container into which you pour raw grounds and hot water to let it steep. It has a filter attached to a pump / handle that you simply press down, and it filters out the grounds. You then pour out your hot coffee, leaving the solids behind. A quick rinse of the press, and you’re good to go.

If it’s just you, try a small 1L size press, or if you have a big thirst or multiple java fiends try the larger 12 cup version. The press is reusable for many many years, and some say even makes a better tasting, less bitter brew, since it doesn’t soak in any oils from the grounds the way a paper filter does.

Can’t Forget My Tea Drinkers!

Oh yes, don’t think just because you don’t get your caffeine from coffee that I’ve forgotten about you. If you morning caffeine hit comes from a nice hot cuppa Earl Grey or a London Fog, this still applies to you.

If you already use only loose-leaf tea with a filter of some sort, then thank you, and feel free to tune out.

Filters and french presses can definitely be used for tea just as easily as coffee grounds. And they can be just as impactful on the environment. In fact, individual tea bags are responsible for several thousands of tons of non-biodegradable waste.

Though like filters, most are made from paper, least 20-30 percent are made from non-recyclable and non-compostable materials. And even the paper kind rarely gets put into a compost pile, most just end up tossed in the trash bin.

Then there are the foil or plastic or plastic-lined packets that some individual bags are further wrapped in, the boxes that are plastic wrapped, the little metal staple that holds the tag on the bag… you get the picture.

Step 1: If you must have individual tea bags, then at least read up on your favorite companies about their production line. Learn which companies have better or worse practices, and maybe switch. Choose tagless, natural sourced bags with minimal packaging.

Step 2: When you use tea bags, compost them! If you don’t have a pile and don’t want to start one, see if there are any local gardens, community gardens, or schools that will take them. Most gardeners won’t turn down extra, free compost materials.

Step 3: Graduate to loose leaf! The bonus is that it is usually far cheaper per pound versus bagged since you don’t have to pay the “processing fee” of bagging and packaging them. You can also get creative a make your own mixes. Go ahead and put a teaspoon each of green tea, spearmint, and chamomile in a cup, you crazy lady you. And then use a filter, steeper, or French press. And compost the leaves, too!

 

Reasons you should consider reusable filters:
  • Saves you money
  • Saves you time – never shop for filters again
  • Saves you hassle – no more forgetting to pick up a new pack of filters at the store and having to buy to-go coffee or -gasp- go without
  • Saves the planet – keep hundreds of pounds of plastic waste out of the landfills

And now that you have your delicious, hot cup of low-waste coffee, don’t forget to put it in your own to-go mug!

 

 

How do you get your caffeine fix?