All posts by BudgetEpicurean

Long-time student turned young adult with varied interests, mostly food and frugality. Pursuing wealth so I can help others pursue health.

Weekly Eating – 1/7/19

 

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!

 

Well I got to go mushroom foraging with my friend finally! I’ve been wanting to since last year, but finally we both had time, hunting season was over, and it had just rained, so I got to frolic in his acreage and benefit from his knowledge.

mushroom foraging with a friend

And what knowledge he has! This friend has been in the food business for decades, and foraging for many years. It was quite eye opening to have all the things pointed out, like light and tree types and ages and water and elevation. What kinds of things to look for at what time of the year.

mushroom foraging with a friend

And when we found a cache of oysters, what they should smell and look and feel like. We then compared them to two different books when we got back, just to be extra sure. If he says it won’t kill me, I’ll eat it.

homemade pierogi

I also made a big batch of pierogi because since I took them to a food swap last year people have been asking for them again. I did 3 types: mashed potato, sauerkraut, and applesauce; all the fillings were also homemade.

vegan lasagna

Oh, and totally nailed my first vegan lasagna! The boy even said the cashew-tofu “cheeze” tasted “ricotta-y” haha I followed this recipe pretty much to a T. Full disclosure: pretty sure the noodles were not vegan. But the “cheeze” and lentil “meat sauce” was delightful.

Monday:

Breakfast – smoothie

Lunch – veggie burgers of the leftover curry mixed with leftover chili and oats and flax added as binder. I love veggie burgers for using up any leftover odds and ends. Topped with green sauce, hot sauce, and cashew cream.

veggie burger with cashew cream

Dinner – I made a mushroom deuxelle stuffing type thing, but added some pickled figs because why not. And a red beans and brown rice to go with this lovely foraged topping.

red beans and rice with mushroom deuxelle

Tuesday:

Breakfast – 1 blueberry organic yogurt

Lunch – leftover sweet potato fries  with avocado and BBQ jackfruit

leftover jackfruit and sweet potato fries

Snack – blueberries and walnuts

Dinner – leftover pumpkin gnocchi, and a salad

leftover pumpkin gnocchi

This was food swap night, and we had a ball at Durty Bull Brewing.

food swap goodies

Wednesday:

Breakfast – local chicken eggs on toast with vegan pepperjack cheese. I finally found some brands that taste like actual cheese, not chalky, and melt! It’s wonderful.

vegan pepperjack and egg sandwich

Lunch – veggie burger with vegan cheddar, sauerkraut, and avocado, and a big side salad with green goddess dressing.

veggie burger and salad

Snack – blueberries and almonds

Dinner – Annie’s organic shells and white cheddar mac, with a can of white beans, nutritional yeast, almond milk, garlic salt, and turmeric for color as the sauce!

beef mac

It looked convincingly like real mac n cheese. I had a pound of pastured beef from the Butcher Box thawed, and added it for a super healthy but hamburger helper like meal.

Thursday:

Breakfast – smoothie with bananas and coconut water, citrus fruits, frozen mango and peaches

Lunch – leftover red beans and rice and a salad

Snack – dried prunes and figs, and almonds

Dinner – Corn and potato chowder in the instant pot!

corn and potato chowder

I just put 5 potatoes, quartered, a tbsp veggie stock, 1/2 cup cashews and some water in for 15 minutes. When it was done I used the immersion blender to make it smooth and creamy. Then I added 2 more potatoes, diced, a can of corn, not drained, and some spices, and put it in for another 5 minutes. BOOM. Delicious.

Friday:

Breakfast – toast with 2 quail eggs and vegan pepperjack cheese

quail eggs and vegan cheese on toast

Lunch – went out with a friend to our favorite Chinese spot. They had a new tofu curry, so of course I had to try it! It was pretty good, though the tofu was a bit overcooked and chewy, the sauce was nice and had a slow burn to it. Great with the fried rice.

tofu curry

Snack – a banana in the morning, and chocolate cherry pecan mix on the way home! I just mixed a tbsp pecans, a tbsp dried cherries, and a tbsp chocolate chips in a small container.

chocolate cherry pecan trail mix

Dinner – sister in law is in town, and she is vegetarian. We took her out to Bull City Burger and Brewery, because I heard they have the Impossible Burger and I am dying to try it!

bcbb green monster

But, turns out, they got rid of it  🙁  Apparently, once you dig into the details of how it is made, it actually takes a lot more resources to make and transport that patty than they take to obtain locally raised pastured NC cows for their burgers and process them in-house. Which is actually a decision I can get behind. Hence me having the Green Monster instead.

The Weekend

While sis-in-law is in town, we are going to take her around Duke’s campus and downtown Durham, to show her all the things she might do and places she might live if she ends up being matched here. Since I am a tour guide on the side, this is right up my alley! And Durham has SO much to offer, it’s not hard to persuade people that living here is pretty cool.

Oh, and this weekend is Step 2 of my grand food experiment this year: home fermented soy sauce! I think this is a thing most people don’t want to know how it’s made… but I find it fascinating.

soy bean mold patties in brine

Basically you create a dough from cooked soy beans and flour. Then cut it into rounds, and let it grow mold, on purpose. After 12-14 days, you put the rounds into a brine, which only lets the right guys keep growing (hopefully). Between 6 months and 2 years later, you have a salty, complex and flavorful sauce!

 

Food Total: $129 + 29.98 + 15.66 + 41.17 = $215.81

Yikes.

That hurts a bit, totaling it all up. So, first there was the Butcher Box that I forgot to unsubscribe from, so another box came. The promo box that included 2 free pastured chickens was totally worth it, but this one not so much.

But, the deal they are running now includes the normal box, plus $25 for 2 pounds of Alaskan wild caught salmon. If you use my affiliate link –> http://fbuy.me/lwpAj <– and sign up, we both get 2 pounds of wild salmon free! I would keep going for another box for that!

Second, the Produce Box, which this week included broccoli, winter strawberries, pears, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, and potatoes. And then a stop by the Co-op with sister-in-law just because she was curious and it turned into some bulk stock up shopping. Finally a quick trip to the regular grocery store because we were out of tissues, yogurt for the boy, and almond milk.

 

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

 

 

Weekly Eating – New Year 2019

 

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!

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Boxing Day, Happy New Year!

Whatever and however you celebrate, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I know we did, even if the driving sucks it is always worth it to see family.

skyline in virginia

We also went to Niagara Falls, which was the boy’s first time seeing them. He thought they were “pretty cool”.   🙂

Niagara Falls

It was amazing being off Monday and Tuesday, and a rough reality waking up at 6am again come Wednesday. But at least it was a short week! Back to the usual grind come next Monday.

Monday:

Breakfast – I honestly don’t remember… we probably just slept in since we had driven home from Ohio the day prior!

Lunch – Leftovers from Christmas week. We came home with like 4 different meals  🙂  Several were not vegan, but I do not waste food if at all possible, so we ate them up this week.

Dinner – mom sent us home with a bag full of leftover turkey and gravy, so I added frozen mixed veggies and flour, topped it all with biscuits, and called it a pot pie

leftover Christmas turkey pot pie

We watched Bird Box on Netflix and drank fizzy wine for the New Year, and went to bed like the old folks that we are haha

Tuesday:

Breakfast – big smoothie of frozen mixed berries, amla powder, flax seed, and almond milk

Lunch – cooked a batch of sorghum and made a “everything in the fridge” lentil curry to go with it in the instant pot. And I thawed the leftover injera from Dec to make it more fun to eat.

sorghum curry

Snack – banana bread a friend gave us for Christmas

Dinner – I made a batch of saffron rice and a crazy lazy version of Hoppin John with black eyed peas for the New Year. No greens though, so this year might be disastrous for our finances haha

new years hoppin john

Wednesday:

Breakfast – big smoothie of frozen mixed berries, amla powder, flax seed, and almond milk

Lunch – leftover half of a tofu sofritas burrito from Chipotle on the drive home

Snack – hummus & cucumber slices

hummus and cucumber

Dinner – we tried jackfruit for the first time. The internet says it is a vegan superfood, and they are right! It doesn’t have much of a taste on its own, but it shreds just like chicken or pork, and cooks into whatever you want.

canned jackfruit

I made some rolls to put it on, and added some shredded carrots and cooked beans for bulk, and we had bbq sandwiches with baked sweet potato fries.

jackfruit bbq sandwich

Thursday:

Breakfast – banana bread from a friend & coffee

banana bread

Lunch – leftover mushroom soup from Christmas with a big salad of spring mix, blueberries, dried apricots, and walnuts.

soup and salad

Y’all this mushroom soup recipe has been in my family for generations, and we all wait all year for it. Is it vegan? Hell naw. Cause heavy cream and butter are lyfe in Ohio. But am I gonna let it go to waste? Hell. to. the. no.

Dinner – Pumpkin gnocchi with pumpkin I froze earlier, and thawed pesto, topped with cashew cream and hot sauce

pumpkin gnocchi with pesto and cashew cream

Friday:

Breakfast – big smoothie of frozen mixed berries, amla powder, flax seed, and coconut water

Lunch – a big salad, and leftover eggplant parm with frozen mixed broccoli and cauliflower

eggplant parm and veggies

Snack – Hummus & cut up cucumber

Dinner – I forgot to add one exception to my Veganuary rules… sushi. Sushi, wine, and popcorn are my kryptonite. So when a friend invited us to an over-due AYCE sushi night, I wasn’t about to say “no, put a pin in that until February please”. I had the most plates. 😀

The Weekend

The weekend will include cleaning the house from the tornado it has become. We need to put away Christmas things and generally tidy up the clutter. Mari Kondo has a show on Netflix now, so that’s hopefully gonna motivate me to keep purging clutter. I officially accepted the Dragons on Fire’s challenge to de-clutter and get rid of 1000 items this year!

shoes

I’m off to a strong start, decluttering 11 items starting with hats and gloves on January 1st. Then I tackled shoes, purging a total of 15 pairs and keeping another 28 pairs. Pretty sure the boy has maybe 5… (2 tennis, 1 formal, 1 hiking/snow, 1 slippers).

It’s not fair, for girls we have so many different styles compared to dudes, and need all the styles in different colors too! (Flats, flip flops, running shoes, ankle boots, tall boots, heels, formal or casual, black and brown…) But it’s a start.

quail

I’m also oh so happy to have my covey back! I missed these girls over break, and the pure jolt of joy when I find an egg. They had a great time on my friend’s farm, though one met a tragic end… the flock also accidentally expanded. Someone left a box with several quail, and the two groups were combined.

The person watching them kept a few, but I ended up coming home with 11 rather than 9, of which 9 or 10 are girls! So I’m not mad, that means oodles of eggs come spring time.

Food Total: $66.95

No produce box, deliveries resume next week. I also forgot to cancel the Butcher Box subscription, so that charge will show up next week, oopsie… At least their meat ‘meets’ my strict criteria! So the boy will get one treat night next week.

By the way, the deal they are running now is $25 for Alaskan wild salmon. If you use my affiliate link –> http://fbuy.me/lwpAj <– and sign up, we both get 2 pounds of wild salmon free! I would keep going for another box for that!

Meats $7.08 Dairy $7.06 Staples $24.17 Fruit/Veg $25.55
vegan burgers x2 kinds 7.08 flavored Greek 1.58 org salsa mild med 3.78 org avocados 4 x3 10.47
plain Greek yogurt 32oz 3.49 coconut water can x2 1.96 frozen berries x2 3.84
organic hummus 1.99 1.99 coconut water box x2 4.98 sweet potatoes x2 bags 3.38
hot sauce 1.49 bananas 11 1.39
organic seed bread x2 7.98 blueberries 1.99
wraps x2 3.98 big box spring mix 3.49
seedless cucumber 0.99

 

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

 

 

Veganuary: What is it, should I try it?

 

So, if you recall, one of my main health goals for 2019 is to do a Veganuary: one month of eating vegan (with a few caveats). This will  definitely also help kickstart my goal to follow Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen checklist of healthy foods you should eat every day.

Dr McGregor Daily Dozen

I’ll be drawing inspiration from their website’s many free monthly vegan meal plans, and will try to use their free downloadable template too. (But I’ll probably end up just writing in meals on the whiteboard like I usually do).

Curious to know more? Read on…

What is Veganuary?

Veganuary actually started in 2014 in the UK as a nonprofit. It has since grown by leaps and bounds every year, with more than 250,000 people in 193 countries signing up for 2019.

From their own site: “Veganuary is dedicated to changing public attitudes, while providing all the information and practical support required to make the transition to veganism as easy and enjoyable as possible.”

So, before you start rolling your eyes and saying “I’d DIE without cheese!”, just realize it doesn’t mean you have to never eat those things you love ever again.

Just try one day, one week, without it.

Try ONE plant-based meat or cheese alternative. Try one meatless meal, there are plenty out there. I bet you eat some already without realizing it. Veggie lasagna, a million kinds of soups, salads, curries, tacos, pasta, all kinds of ethnic foods like Ethiopian and dal.

I bet you can make it one week. And then keep going, for one month.

Why should I try vegan for a month?

There are a ton of different reasons why people try or choose a vegetarian or vegan diet. If any of the below things are of concern to you, then give it a go.

Health -it is no secret by now that vegetarian and vegan diets are crazy good for your heart and your health and lowering your cancer risk. I don’t want to belabour the point too much, but whole grains, legumes, and veggies are f*@%ing good for you. Eat them.

Nutrition – today’s industrial, monocropped, chemicalized, carbohydrate-and-corn based “foods” are basically leading to a double pronged epidemic of obesity and malnutrition. Think about how crazy and confusing that is. Meanwhile, plants are jam-packed with the fiber, vitamins, and minerals your body is so desperately craving, which it uses to maintain blood pressure, rebuild cell walls and proteins, and keep your guts working normally.

Environment – if you think about what it takes to raise an animal to slaughter weight, you realize all the resources that go into it. Tons of food, perhaps literally, that had to be watered and fertilized and processed and trucked to where the animals live. Water, for them. Probably some amount of antibiotics or medications. Several months or possibly years of feed and care.

Then they must be transported to wherever they will be processed, be processed so they use electricity and manpower and machinery, then be packaged up and transported to the store, and finally be transported to your home. So each 1 pound of pork or chicken or beef costs gallons of water and oil and feed. Meanwhile, one pound of raw barley, oats, tomato, beans, or zucchini also takes water and oil, but far far less. A diet heavier in plant products than animal products is easier on the planet with very few exceptions.

Money – any diet can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be, depending on how much self control you have at the grocery store and how good your home cooking skills are. Unfortunately, due to demand, it is ususally cheaper to prepare convenience foods with animals, like a $12 salad versus a $8 burger. But it is always cheaper to cook at home, and better for you too. Want to know more about just how you could save nearly $200 a year by trying vegetarian? Read here, here, here, here, and here.

Animals – the industrial scale food production system is horrific. Just watch any documentary like Forks Over Knives, Food Inc, etc. or do some basic internet search. Beaks and teeth and tails cut off, animals crammed into living spaces just inches larger than they are, constant streams of antibiotics and growth hormones just to keep them alive and increase profit per pound, substandard and contaminated feed. Opt out of the industrial system at the very least, and if you eat animals, choose ones that were raised the way nature intended, out in the open on fields of grasses and bugs. Find a Farmers Market near you, there will definitely be people there you can ask.

tomatoes cucumbers and peppers

How do you Veganuary?

One of the New Years’ Goals this year is for the boy and I to do a one month Veganuary. I foresee this not being too tough a challenge, as we already eat a large volume and variety of plant based foods. This will be harder on the boy, without turkey burritos, but I will try my darnedest to make him enjoy it with creative cooking!

We do have some specific caveats to our Veganuary, which is more like a “healthy-foods-only-anuary”, but that’s not as catchy.

  • Animal foods we raise are okay. My quail eggs specifically.
  • Animal foods that meet very strict criteria are okay: basically free range and/or mostly pastured, no added hormones or antibiotics or other non-medically-required chemicals. I.e. the dozen free range chicken eggs a friend gave to us for Christmas.
  • No wasted food. If someone gives us a consumable gift, that can’t be preserved, we will eat it. Like a delicious banana bread loaf.
  • The boy will keep using plain Greek yogurt on burritos and such. Because I don’t want this month to be torture.
  • I will eat honey, dates, and things made with yeast. Because that definition of vegan is too strict for me. I’m in it for the health of it.

And that’s pretty much it! If it is made from or literally is a plant, we will eat it. We are trying to check all the boxes on the Daily Dozen by starting with a smoothie containing frozen berries, flax, and amla powder, with occasional banana or other fruit or almond milk or chia seeds tossed in. Lunch and dinner will be leftovers or a rotation of meals I know we like and new ones we will try together.

Is it too late to start?

No way! Just because it is no longer January 1, you can still start wherever you are.

You don’t even have to commit to a full month if you don’t want to.

Try vegan for one week maybe. Or go all in and do 6 months, it is up to you and your family. But I highly recommend giving it a shot, at least once. Worst case you end up finding new foods you might not have known about before.

Best case?

You feel better than you have in years, you get off all long-term medications, your skin clears up and is radiant, your hair and nails are shiny and strong, and you are as regular as a clock.

What do you have to lose?

 

 

What do you say? Would you try eating more plants?

Resolutions or Goals?

 

Happy New Year everybody! Welcome to 2019.

It always comes so fast, I don’t know why I keep being surprised by it. Happens every year.

Know what else happens every year?

Resolutions

People resolve to:

  • Get more fit
  • Lose weight
  • Sleep more
  • Drink less
  • Eat better
  • Save more
  • and so on

New Year 2019 champagne glasses

And many people are kind of “over” resolutions, because we are so bad at keeping them.

I have for years resisted the resolution bandwagon, for this reason. But I have discovered that there is a big difference between a resolution and a goal.

“If there is a specific achievement it’s a goal, but permanent changes to your life are resolutions since you keep doing them every day and not just until a specific achievement is reached.” (source)

Under this definition, I do actually make resolutions, several times per year.

I have in the past made changes to exercise more often, to eat less meat, to create less waste, to clean more often, to create better sleep habits, and so on, with the intention of doing these things every day. Of course I fell off the wagon on a few of these things, and have tried more than once to instill these habits.

But life is a journey, a work in progress, and I do still believe in incorporating these things into my life.

For the New Year though, I decided a goal is a better practice. One that follows the SMART principles:

  • Specific – no “eat better” allowed here
  • Measurable – what gets measured gets improved (just ask Erik)
  • Attainable – a big dream with small steps to get there
  • Realistic – a thing which can actually be accomplished
  • Timely – set a time limit! You need to feel the urgency

Goals, when written down and as specific as all the above, have a much higher likelihood of being completed or achieved than vague promises or following the social media crowd.

list of goals

I want my goals to improve the things I value the most: relationships, finances, health, and happiness.

Thus, my goals for 2019 include:

Call one family member per week

I usually am pretty good about using the commute time home to chat with my mom. But I need to also make it a priority to talk to the more remote family members like aunts, uncles, and grandmas. They won’t be around forever, and they have plenty of wisdom and stories to share. I want my family to never doubt that they mean the world to me, no matter how far apart we all are. That will equal out to at least 52 phone calls over the course of a year!

Date night at least once per month

My relationship with my boy is the most important one in my life. Not just because we live together and see each other every day, but also because so many things depend on this relationship, like our weight and health habits, happiness, and finances too. Luckily, I think he’s pretty cool, and he thinks I’m pretty cool too. We need regular, focused, one on one time away from typical distractions like video games and cell phones and bills to keep that spark strong.

Savings rate of 50% or better every month

I have slacked on calculating this for far too long. No more. My goal is to, at the end of January, and each month, calculate our actual savings rate. This will be complicated since we both have a work mandated 401k, as well as an HSA and Roths to factor in, before any contributions to our mortgage, taxable investment accounts, and money market. But I want to do it, at a minimum quarterly, to better see where we are. The market is crazy and net worth is not a thing I can control. But savings rate, we can control, and improve.

Max out both Roth IRAs by end of February

I know there are all kinds of arguments for dollar cost averaging and putting a set amount into the market each month no matter what. But there are some potentially big changes coming in 2019 (if they pan out, I’ll tell you all about it!) and we want to put that money to work as soon as we have it and not worry about it for the rest of the year. So the goal is both fully funded Roths by the end of February to the tune of 11k*. Limits increased for 2019 to 6k each, therefore it will be 12k total! Thanks Josh for catching that!

Veganuary (ish) – one month of 99% vegan eating

This will be a way to detox from the insanely overboard consumption over the holidays. (#TMIwarning) I’m a fraction of a pound away from 160 and had a bowel crisis over Christmas, if you must know. (#sorrynotsorry) It will also ease me back into my intended way of 80/20 plant-based life-long eating. Exceptions include animal products that meet my extremely stringent criteria, and I will not make a nuisance of myself if invited to someone else’s house or event, I will eat the food offered.

The Daily Dozen – I will do my best all year to stick to this

The Daily Dozen is based on the book “How Not To Die”, which I loved, own, and highly recommend reading. I also aim to re-read it through by the end of March. It is taped to my refrigerator to make it easy to remember. Basically loads of high antioxidant foods, whole grains, and veggies. Plus water and exercise. By eating all these things every day, you have a lot less room for junk.

Do more of what is good or good for me

OK, this is the closest one to a resolution rather than a goal. This loops into the health goal, in that I want to do more of what is good for me, like eating plants, doing yoga and HIIT, and sleeping. But I also want to do more of anything that makes me happy, within reason. Obviously popcorn and wine makes me happy, but shouldn’t be every day. But reading? That I can, and should, do every day. A nice warm bubble bath? Sure. Gardening and loving my quail? Yup.

Make someone smile every day

That person can be my husband, a stranger I smiled at, someone at work whom I give a genuine compliment, or even myself. There is too much doom and gloom and selfishness in the world, we need to pay more attention to the good all around and within us. Like thanking the stranger on the bus, or Penny from ShePicksUpPennies who celebrates money wins, large and small.

champagne cheers

Cheers to making 2019 all we can dream!

 

 

How about you guys? Any resolutions, or goals, for the new year of 2019?

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!