Category Archives: Comfort food

Cincinnati Sweet Chili Pasta

 

For those of you who know what Cincinnati chili is, you don’t need me to tell you how great it can be! But it is also a pretty polarizing food, like cilantro, you either love it or hate it. Basically, you plop chili on top of cooked spaghetti, and then add a handful of cheese.

This all started back in the 1920s, when some Macedonian immigrants wanted to sell more food to people who were wary of ethnic cuisine. They developed a Mediterranean spiced tomato based mixture that they then put on hot dogs, which they called “coneys”.

This sauce then was added to alter Greek style pasta dishes, to make what he at first just called chili spaghetti. It was all cooked together, until customers began requesting it as just a topping. Then cheddar cheese got involved, beans were added, chopped onions, and now there are many “ways” to have a coney or Cinci chili.

IMG_4996

Ingredients:

  • 1 box spaghetti noodles (any shape will do)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

IMG_4999

Step 1: Ideally, make the chili first, and let it simmer for a while. Simple mix the beans, tomatoes, chili powder and sugar together. You can do this on the stove, crock pot, or pressure cooker.

Step 2: Boil and drain the pasta noodles. Serve the sauce on top! You can alternately cook the noodles right in the chili, by adding an extra cup of water or so while simmering.

IMG_4997

The ingredients are super cheap, easy to find, and you probably have it in your pantry right now! If the thought of sweet pasta is weird to you, simply leave the brown sugar out of it, no problem.

This is a quick, tasty, very filling meal you can have on the table in 15 minutes flat! If you have the room in your budget, you can also top it with a mound of fresh grated cheddar.

 

Faux-fil-a chicken tenders

 

This recipe happened right after I had just said “I don’t know what I want and I don’t feel like cooking tonight”. But then I looked in the refrigerator, and realized I had thawed some chicken tenders. I looked in the pantry and realized I had an open half bag of chips.

And I really wanted to get some fried chicken fast food, but knew it isn’t good for me. Eureka! I will make my own!

Whether it’s Sunday and you just want chick-fil-A, or anytime, these tenders are tasty. And while they bake, you can whip up a honey mustard dipping sauce that will impress the pants off whoever is lucky enough to be sharing with you. And if you’re eating it all yourself, more power to you.

For the chicken:

  • 2 pounds chicken, either tenders or breasts cut into chunks/strips
  • 1 cup flour
  • ~1 tsp each: garlic powder, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne (optional)
  • 2 eggs + 1/4 cup pickle juice (optional)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup crushed potato chips

Step 1: If you have breasts, cut them into strips or chunks. Put the flour and spices on one plate, scramble the eggs with the pickle juice in a bowl, and mix the breadcrumbs with the chips on a third plate. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Step 2: One piece of chicken at a time, roll it in the flour and spices, then dip into the egg/pickle mixture, and then roll to coat with the breadcrumbs/chips mixture. Place them on a baking sheet.

Step 3: Bake at 350 for ~20 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center.

Meanwhile, for the honey mustard:

  • 3 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 tbsp whole grain or spicy mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup mayo or plain Greek yogurt
  • Splash of lemon juice

Mix all the ingredients together for the honey mustard. You may need to heat the honey briefly to get it liquidy enough, I put it in the microwave for 22 seconds. Then dip and enjoy!

Weekly Eating – Jan 10, 2021

 

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, seems like everyone saying “2020 will be over and 2021 will be so great!” made 2021 go, “hold my beer!”

Wed. January 6th, armed Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, apparently to stop the affirmation of Biden as the next President. It’s on Wikipedia already, so there you go. We are living through some pretty historic times. And it seems we’re not done yet.

I don’t have any answers. I’m just getting through one day at a time just like all of you guys. Still processing, still coping, still trying to hold onto hope. All I can say is, keep doing what you need to do to keep you and your loved ones as safe and sane as possible.

Anywhoooo… let’s talk about food!

I had a long stint of not feeling very inspired to cook, I’m sure caused by many factors. Hormones post-partum are no joke people, but that’s a long a$s story for another day. Now I’m finally feeling a little more hopeful, a little more myself, which means a lot more obsessed with food and cooking.

I re-read How Not To Die again, which always reminds me of the million little things I can be doing/eating to be in even better health. My favorite point is ‘eating is a zero sum game’ meaning every thing you put in your mouth, you are choosing not to eat any other of the million things out there. So make the majority of choices good ones.

Oh, we are also on a good workout kick so far! The boy has decided this is the year to focus really hard on optimizing overall health. That means mental and physical, in every way. We are cutting down on caffeine, basically cold turkey stopped alcohol, and doing a veganish couple weeks. Plus workouts every other day. This is always a goal of mine but boy is it a hundred million times easier with a partner on board!

 

Monday:

Breakfast – I made a big batch of hummus over the weekend, and had a crazy idea to put it on toast. So I had toast with hummus and pickled onions, and avocado toast with some strawberries. Pretty great actually. Savory for breakfast works.

Lunch – leftovers from the weekend

Dinner – was planning to make a white bean pasta, but the boy requested the fanciest of dinners… boxed mac n cheese. I can’t say no to that! At least we both had a salad with it.

Snack – yeah, so then I had ice cream. With pecans and caramel sauce, cause go big or go home.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – avocado toast, like a good milennial, with hummus too (basically combined both yesterday’s into one)

Lunch – leftover mac n cheese, a veggie dog, leftover mashed potatoes and green beans

Snack – a peanut Clif bar

Dinner – a fanTAStic curry! I basically simmered 2 diced sweet potatoes, half a head of cauliflower, 1 can chickpeas, 1 can diced tomatoes, and 1 diced onion with turmeric, 1 tbsp garlic paste, and ginger for about an hour. Then I added some cayenne and 1/4 cup of coconut concentrate, and served over rice.

2 walks and 2 HIIT sessions! Boy were my glutes mad about all the squats health people love to do so much.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – super fail… y’all I’m gonna throw myself under the bus here, I tried to make a delicious egg scramble with mushrooms, peppers, and potato… but I saw a can of diced potatoes in the pantry. Figured I should use it. Didn’t check the date.

Guys. It expired in 2017 💀  So… um… that tasted weird, and we threw it out. I had peanut butter toast.

Lunch – leftover curry yum yum

Snack – an apple & orange

Dinner –a bomb Mexi casserole that I posted about on Instagram. Basically bake quinoa and a boatload of beans and veggies, then top with salsa, guac, and vegan queso and sour cream. Mmmmmm

Did a short 15 minute walking video. Leslie is my girl, but Get Fit With Rick is my new favorite to mix it up.

Thursday:

Breakfast – berry oatmeal! I microwaved a handful of mixed berries, some oats, and almond milk. Added some flaxseed and cinnamon, and YUM

Lunch – leftover curry

Dinner – terikayi tempeh stir fry. I used this recipe for the sauce and wow, do not use a full cup of soy sauce! It was salty, even for me, which is saying a lot, and wayyyy too wet.

Snack – I was good in the morning and had homemade hummus with bell peppers, but then in the afternoon the sweet tooth attacked, and I may have allegedly eaten some frozen cookie dough… and also some leftover mac n cheese… hey, I’m still breastfeeding!

More HIIT, because we are gluttons for punishment.

Friday:

Breakfast – everything bagel with cashew cream cheese and cherry butter, yum yum!

Lunch – more leftovers and a salad

Snack – hummus with chips and peppers

Dinner – vegan chili over baked potatoes, with tofu sour cream and avocado! this was super quick and easy in the instant pot.

The Weekend

This is a long weekend thanks to Martin Luther King day on Monday. I didn’t realize until halfway through the week that it was a holiday, so that was a nice little surprise. We will spend the weekend relaxing and catching up on chores.

We are lucky to have an auntie nearby who LOVES kids and is willing to watch the little guy. So he is going to go hang out there while we get stuff done. I’m going to do a big batch cooking day, plus lots of laundry, organizing, finishing the bathroom remodel, and probably taking down Christmas decor (sad face).

Food Total: $88

Did a Harris Teeter run last weekend to re-stock produce and pick up a bunch of necessities for Veganuary like tofu and tempeh. I got some salad, frozen berries, whole grain bread, and lots of flour for my homemade bread and rolls since I was OUT after the holidays. Plus some deli meat in case of emergency for the boy.

Lessons Learned

We are definitely creatures of habit and convenience. In order to make healthy eating as easy as possible, I need to have food ready to go. If it requires much more than put bowl in microwave and heat, there is not a big chance it will happen. Good thing my cooking mojo is back! It definitely makes more and more sense why people eat so much takeout and pre-prepared foods though. Especially with kids, good grief.

 

 

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

Weekly Eating – December 2020

 

Mid-December, and I’m going through periods where it feels very Christmasy because so many people are going big on decorations this year, and periods where I’m still kind of in denial/limbo with time; what even is it, you know? Between a 6 month old baby and all *waves hands helplessly* THIS stuff… who knows what day it is.

We continue to count our blessings in a big way. I am in a stable job, with a team I love, where I can work from home. We have a home. We were able to get a folding table so I could move my work station upstairs and be warm for the winter. Now my commute is literally 1 foot from my bed, which is both good and bad in ways.

Baby is growing and learning and becoming more and more delightful by the day. He is settling into a more predictable pattern of feeding and naps, and sleeps through the night a little more than half the time. This is *peak* baby cuteness, and I am so thankful for this time to fully enjoy and savor it. He will be crawling and walking and terrorizing us and the dogs in no time!

Anyways, we are also blessed with steady income, which means a stable grocery budget. Our budget has definitely gone up, as food prices keep inching upwards and now I’m eating a bit more from breastfeeding, as well as kiddo is trying solids too.

So we shoot for $400-500 a month now, between groceries and takeout. We are trying to order once a week from local independent restaurants since this all happened.

Going into December, we had a fair stock of meats from the most recent Butcher Box, but were down to nearly no fresh produce as I am shopping only every other week now. So I shop less often, but bigger when I do. I try to rotate between canned goods, pantry staples like flour/rice/tortillas, frozen items, and pick up the fresh stuff each time.

A run to ALDI restocked the dairy, oodles of fresh produce to last 2 weeks, and some more meats that I could individually package for the boy, as Veganuary is coming up soon!

Hubs will eat some of the same things, but I do not expect him to be fully on board for a whole month. Therefore, I put chicken quarters and 1/2 pounds of meat in the freezer, so he can add to whatever we are having or whip up some burritos anytime.

ALDI – 12/10/2020 $132.34
Meats $36.94 Dairy $28.35 Staples $31.09 Fruit/Veg $28.27 Extras $7.69
meatless sausages 4 2.89 greek yogurts mixins 4 3.56 guacamole 2 5.98 frozen broccoli 4 3.4
1lb deli ham 2.95 blueberry rasp yogurt 12 3.84 almond milk 2 3.58 spring mix 3.59 quart bags 1.89
salmon side 13.46 cottage cheese 2 3.18 baby teething rusks 1.79 brussels sprouts 1.49 oreos 2* 3.1
3lb ground beef 7.95 plain greek yogurt 3.29 baby blueberry puffs 1.15 spinach 1.19
whole chicken 4.65 unsalted butter 2 3.58 baby pouch prune 0.79 romaine 2.19
chicken quarters 5.04 eggz 3 dozen 1.74 mayo 1.79 grape tomato 1.79 tax 2.7
shredded cheese 2 5.58 pita chips 2.29 3 bell peppers 2.69
sliced cheese 2 3.58 pumpkin seeds 2.05 cauliflower 2.29
mild salsa 1.9 zucchini 3 1.67lb 1.99
pinto beans 4lb 2.99 yellow squash 3 1.65lb 1.96
potato 10lb 3.89 broccoli crowns 1.63lb 2.36
red potato 5lb 2.89 avocado 5 2.19
bananas 5 1.14

 

*I think ALDI brand Oreos are far superior, sorry Nabisco. They are more chocolatey and crunchy, which I love. They have become my absolute favorite indulgence. Too bad the Bitches Get Riches team didn’t have an ALDI to include them in their ranked chocolate cookie taste test! ALDI would have won for sure.

I also got some baby puffs and teething biscuits to try out. I’m so excited to have him try avocado for the first time! Snacks will include hard boiled eggs, bananas and apples, and homemade hummus with peppers and pita chips.

The meal plan includes lots of salads and fresh veggie sides. We will have salmon, crock pot lasagna, and some sort of mexi dish for sure. I will probably also make beans and rice, some sort of soup, and lots of potato dishes. Half of the salmon I will use to make my own lox! It is super easy, and way cheaper than buying it.

Then the week before Christmas, I did another stock up run to Harris Teeter to get things we would need for Christmas. Our parents both drove in from out of town, to spend kiddo’s first Christmas together!

We planned for at least 1 big fancy dinner and several smaller meals plus some takeout. I had been watching the Great British Bakeoff, and was inspired to make a super fancy sausage wreath! It was my first time working with puff pastry, and I think I cooked it slightly too long, but overall I was quite pleased.

It was definitely a holiday that no one expected, but we still got to spend time together and that is what is most important.

I also made some more sweets, because you must. I did a big batch of chocolate peanut butter Buckeyes, which I shared with some neighbors, and also made a big batch of Cracker Cookies with mom while she was here.

Dairy $20.44 Staples $38.93 Fruit/Veg $51.20 Extras $98.86
chobani 4pk x2 3.99 HT Peanut butter x2 3.98 can whole plums 0.99 fizzy water cans 2
yogurts 10 4 wheat cheerios 1.49 can mandarin oranges 1.98 frozen choc chip cookies x2 3.98
half and half 1.69 dry chickpeas 3lb 3.87 markdown produce 4.77 pecan pie 4.99
sliced cheddar 24 4.99 canned beans x6 2.94 bananas 2.07 puff pastry 5.49
block cheddar 1.49 simmer sauces x2 4 carrots 10lb 5.99 popcorn 1.5
block colby jack 1.49 granola cereal 2.99 sweet potatoes 1.43 ice breakers 7.98
vanilla ice cream 2.79 maple syrup 4.99 canned peaches 3.75 choc chips x3 6
gerber splashers x2 5.68 broccoli/carrot mix x2 5 lara bar x3 3
tortillas 5.99 beets 2.99
rice x2 3 baby carrots 0.99
kalamata olives x2 7
less sugar wild 3.99
brussels sprouts x2 5 tax 7.49
red cabbage 2.8
jicama 1.65
turnips 0.8

 

We had a wonderful holiday, with lots of presents, looking at lights, walks outside, and baby giggles. My mom taught me another type of crochet stitch, and brought me some super soft yarn. So now I have a scarf project, ETA 2025.  😀

We also celebrated another birthday season, with more presents, more sweets, and some lovely alone time for me! Once you have a kid, it’s amazing how hard it is to find any time to do literally anything that requires two hands, and/or some amount of focus.

Moving into January, we have tons of leftovers still from the holidays. We have several containers of dirt cake, shredded meats from the boy’s request for “the ultimate burrito” on his birthday, lots of cookies still, etc. So we are eating up those things, and then will attempt a more vegan-ish rest of January!

 

Hope you all had a restful holiday season!

Weekly Eating – 2/18/19

 

 

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!

 

 

Over the weekend I had many adventures, mostly food related of course. I pickled some carrots, cauliflower, and beets. They turned out pretty great. I had a food tour on Saturday that was super fun, everyone was very talkative and there for a good time.

Durham Food Tour

I finally got my egg incubator! That meant that I got to put 14 of my quail eggs in for their 18 day journey. I am impatiently waiting and checking the temp and moisture levels daily. We should have baby chicks by the first week of March and I cannot wait!

quail egg incubator

And Erin from ReachingForFI was in town! We went to AYCE sushi on Sunday, and made an impressive tower of empty plates. She was the most perfect house guest and is welcome back any time.

AYCE Sushi wall of plates

Monday:

Breakfast – cinnamon raisin bagel with almond butter and an apple

bagel with apple and almond butter

Lunch – leftovers from tour

Dinner – I made what was meant to be a sausage and kale soup, but then I decided to let it thicken a bit and eat it over rice. Fabulous decision! Even the boy loved it.

sausage and kale stew over rice

Tuesday:

Breakfast – tropical smoothie and a nut kolachi

tropical smoothie in blender

Lunch – leftover homemade Ethiopian dal, kale, and beet hummus with grape tomatoes and a black bean brownie

leftovers lunch

Snack – apple

Dinner – made a killer mac n cheese, then added some leftover cooked sausage, spinach, and pinto beans

mac n cheese with beans, spinach, and sausage

I also meal prepped a pork roast with beans in the insta pot and a big tray of roasted veggies

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smoothie

Lunch – leftover sausage kale soup and roasted veg

sausage and kale stew over rice

Dinner – had dinner at a friends house, with sausage made on his farm, green beans, rosemary potatoes, and pickled goodies made by yours truly (beet pickled veg and pickled watermelon rind)

pork sausage with veggies and pickles

He’s also a woodworker, and gave me piece of a barrel stave that was smoked and then used for whiskey followed by beer. I added it to my soy sauce, and it has darkened considerably already! I can’t wait to see what the difference in flavor is like.

homemade soy sauce color

Thursday:

Breakfast – spiced pear and raisin oatmeal

spiced pear and raisin oatmeal

Lunch – the last leftover enchilada from last week with avocado, rice, tomatoes, and spicy salsa

leftovers lunch

Snack – leftover from Valentine’s day cookie & chocolate covered strawberry. And then a nut bar on the drive home.

valentines day treats

Dinner – tortellini with sauce (that smelled suspiciously like salsa…)

tortellini

Snack – big ol bowl of popcorn. Clearly I was a bottomless pit for some reason this day…

popcorn

Friday:

Breakfast – burrito of 4 quail eggs scrambled with salsa and spinach

quail egg burrito

Lunch – rice & beans with roasted veggies

leftovers lunch

Snack – bits of PB&J and an apple

snacks

Dinner – leftovers

Food Total: $53.23

Harris Teeter + Weekly Produce Box = Eat the Uglies

Produce Box: Uglies

I am so in love with the movement to eat “ugly produce” that is gaining traction around the US and the world in general. Grocery stores usually have pretty strict standards on produce they will accept, like the size, shape, and color. Anything that has the slightest bruise, dent, nick, or blemish or doesn’t fit these requirements just gets rejected, and thrown out.

So this produce is wasted, sent to landfills, or left in the field to rot. The farmers lose out on money, and it does the world at large a lot of harm, just because we want our apple to look “perfect”.

Guess what folks?

Nature ain’t perfect.

Sometimes carrots have 2 legs, or taters are alien shaped, or apples get gnawed on a little bit. Produce grows from literal dirt, and poo is probably involved somewhere (hopefully, it’s the most perfect fertilizer). It’s still perfectly edible and healthy. Just give it a rinse before you eat or cook it.

The Weekend

I will be avoiding the online hullabaloo over the recently published Alt-FI Manifesto. This blog is not a place for politicking or arguing; it is a place to talk about food and money and health. The end.

I will say I am happy to see those who are willing to have a respectful dialogue regardless of beliefs, and saddened by those who seem to delight in attacking and generalizing.

I will also be attending my first NC Drag Show!

Not my first ever, but first since… oh, over a decade for sure. So I am nervous and excited to see how it goes! It will surely be full of fun and music and glitter.

Then Sunday we have brunch plans with our recent CA transplant Steve & his wife! They came to Durham from San Fran, and I am going to do my darndest to show all the ways the Triangle is far superior! Friendly people, great weather (maybe a losing battle here), and phenomenal cost of living (for now…).

One last announcement…

The boy has decided we are doing a Whole 30

Starting now.

🤪

 

 

 

 

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!

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 – Wedding & Hurricane Edition

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!

 

Whoa buddy, what a crazy few weeks! Just as we were recovering from the hurricane of Brofest, where 6 grown men lived in my 3 bedroom house for a week and I fed them all, actual hurricane Florence blew into town, on the eve of my brother’s wedding!

On Sunday, we finally had a quiet, empty house. We did I don’t remember how many loads of laundry, and not much else. The plan was to spend Monday and Tuesday figuring out a cleaning service to deep clean, before flying to Ohio on Friday for the wedding. Well, turned out we spent Monday and Tuesday totally rearranging our plans, and driving to Ohio!

We got the travel alerts on Tuesday morning saying flights were very likely to be cancelled, and there were no penalties for rescheduling or cancelling flights if we did so now. So we talked it out quickly over email and a phone chat, and decided to take advantage of that deal.

I was quite proud of myself over the weekend for making a really nice travel lunch for myself, since Tuesday’s are crazy days at work now. I also re-used the plastic packaging from the Starbuck’s I ended up buying last Tuesday due to craziness, which eases my guilt just a little bit.

weekly eating hurricane edition

Then we also had our planned puppy sitter back out at the last minute, which worked because we were now forced to drive rather than fly. Now the pups could come with! So we were resigned to doing the drive we swore we’d never do again. In looking ahead at the weather, and the fact that many things were already closing or preparing to close by Wednesday, we made the call to just get the F outta dodge.

I’m very lucky my workplace was supportive of anyone who wanted to ‘evacuate’ and we could choose to work from home. Hubs already works remotely, so as long as we had internet we could still get things done and get a paycheck.

This was my first experience firsthand of how people react to impending disaster. I kid you not when I say that I had to go to three gas stations on Tuesday before I found one that still had gas. And it was completely out of regular, I had to buy premium at $2.99/gallon at that. After waiting in line for like 15 minutes.

weekly eating hurricane edition

There were lines to get into the ABC store parking lot (the only places in the state to buy liquor. People have their priorities straight…).

A friend I called said they had already gone to 4 grocery stores in the area and no one had any water left. The storm was planned to hit on Friday night. This was Tuesday at 4pm.

I got home to a madhouse of activity. Washer, dryer, and dish washer are going. There are still piles of random things all over the house, the refrigetrator needed gone through to freeze or toss anything perishable, and on top of it all we are now frantically packing to run away from a hurricane and into a wedding weekend that just got unexpectedly doubled in length.

We threw a bunch of things in bags, hustled it all out to the car, and hit the road by 7.

The drive was fine at first but we started getting a little worn out by 10. We had on and off rain, with a good hour of intense downpour on a windy country road, and plenty of traffic. By 11, we decided that stopping around midnight to rest might be a good call, and finish the drive early in the a.m. in time to log in to work.

First hotel we call: sorry no rooms.

Second: all booked. Third: no rooms.

No rooms at the inns.

Any of them.

All the way through West Virginia, and Virginia, and by the time we got to the Ohio border we only had 2 more hours left to go, it was 1 am, and we said screw it let’s just get there.

People are crazy, y’all.

Anywho, then we were finally in Ohio and beyond exhausted. I got almost 4 hours of sleep. I tried.

Luckily we stayed with my sister who is wonderful beyond belief. We both managed to get actual work done, but didn’t really get off the couch all day. I did buy some groceries to fill her pantry and cooked a nice dinner of Bayou Chicken Pasta for them to say thank you.

weekly eating hurricane edition weekly eating hurricane edition

Thursday we were a little more refreshed after a full night’s sleep. We decided to finish the 3-more-hours drive to my parent’s place where we were staying for wedding weekend because we had taken Friday off. I wanted to show hubs a little of my hometown, and it would be nice to sleep in and already be there to start the day.

Before we left, I cooked a 100% vegan meal to balance out the dairy and carb heavy dinner from yesterday 🙂

weekly eating hurricane editionweekly eating hurricane edition

Friday I took the boy to Mill Creek Park, a gem in the middle of Youngstown. It was approved in 1891, and covers over 4400 acres of hiking and biking trails, ponds and streams and waterfalls, and gorgeous greenery.

weekly eating hurricane edition weekly eating hurricane edition

We had lunch at Fellows Riverside Garden cafe, overlooking the lake. It was lovely, and their bagel & lox was divine.

weekly eating hurricane edition

My parents took us out Friday to a vegetarian place that they have repeatedly raved about called the Courthouse Inn & Restaurant. It’s by a couple who live (lived?) in NYC and have a very… unique sense of style. I can’t say I didn’t like it though. And the food was divine. The cauliflower legit tasted like wings, they had the best red wine I’ve ever tasted, and the sweet and spice sauce was delish. The stir fry over forbidden black rice was everything I wanted. And the carrot cake for dessert! Oh mama.

weekly eating hurricane edition

We also got to try a flight of wine at a local winery Sundog Cellars.

weekly eating hurricane edition

At my parent’s, it was pretty much just scavenge and find things to eat. But among the many meals that were “on the house”, so to speak, were the amazing rehearsal dinner that included a 16 oz ribeye steak and the cutest dirt cake of all time (the theme was fishing, because deep sea fishing is the couple’s favorite thing to do)

weekly eating hurricane edition weekly eating hurricane edition

and the wedding buffet itself was BBQ put on by Barry Dyngles, “Authentic Southern BBQ” lol. It was all good, but the brisket! Outta this world. I wish I’d had thirds.

weekly eating hurricane edition

And of course, it just wouldn’t be a Youngstown wedding without a cookie table. Cookie buffet really. Like, over the top a lot of cookies.

weekly eating hurricane edition

On the road, I had snagged a few sandwiches from a platter that were left over, so we just snacked and drank coffee. It was worrisome seeing all the signs reporting roads closed and to “limit travel in North Carolina”. Evidently there was a tornado and also flash flooding Monday morning!

But it was all fine, and we made it home safely. The boy and I had very different ideas of what qualifies as “comfort food” when we got home haha: Supreme frozen pizza, vs all the veggies stir fry.

weekly eating hurricane edition

The rest of the week was a bit of a blur, with oatmeal frequently the breakfast of choice since it’s easy and I had some peaches to use up in the refrigerator.

weekly eating hurricane edition

Wednesday the boy wanted to get creative and cook together, so we decided to have a make-your-own-sushi night. He got the rice started and thawed some seaweed salad, salmon & shrimp and when I got home I pulled out the nori sheets and we had fun mixing and matching and rolling.

weekly eating hurricane edition weekly eating hurricane edition

It provided about 10 rolls total, which was plenty for dinner and lunch the next day for me too.

weekly eating hurricane edition

Since I was on an Asian food kick, I also whipped up some quick  soup for lunch the next day with miso, veg broth, cilantro, hot red peppers, and enoki mushrooms. I ate that with the rest of the seaweed salad.

weekly eating hurricane edition

And of course on Thursday I went to the Durham Co-op dinner, which was sausage and peppers and onions. I met up with some friends, and met some new ones. I also got some cans of pumpkin pie filling on sale for an idea I have for next week’s Food Swap items…

weekly eating hurricane edition

And finally we ran out of almond milk, so I soaked some almonds overnight and made my first batch of homemade almond milk! So easy and so delicious. I think I’m going to try making my own more often so I can stop buying the plastic lined boxes. Plus you can customize the taste a little too, with salt, sugar, or vanilla. I need to find something to bake with the pulp now.

weekly eating hurricane edition

 

Food Total: uhhh, way too much

I usually keep travel and “entertainment” and groceries separate, but this trip kind of smushed everything together. We had some meals at my parents house (which obviously we didn’t pay for) and a lot of meals out provided (for rehearsal dinner and the actual wedding) but we also went out a few times, and I bought groceries twice for my sister to thank her for letting us stay with them.

Plus there’s the several coffees and sports drinks along the way to keep us awake and happy for ~20 hours in a car that I consider worth the cost in exchange for not dying or fighting.

Lessons Learned

Sometimes life can throw you curves. No matter how much you plan or think you’re ready, you just never know. We had to totally overhaul our plans and roll with it when the hurricane came to town. Luckily we were refunded for the flights, or this would be a very expensive surprise. As it stands, we did the best we could with limited time. Much of what was in the fridge could be frozen, so we didn’t waste too much. And yes we spent more than we likely would have otherwise, but life happens.

 

 

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

Weekly Eating – 8/6/18

 

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!

 

Well, I survived my long drive last weekend to Ohio, and turns out it was pretty worth it. The bridal shower was beautiful, they did a great job of decorating and making the hall magical. And it was so nice to see family, I hadn’t been to town in about 2 years.

weekly eating budget epicurean

We caught up on life and things, and just being around the people who raised you is always comfortable. I also benefited, as there were several items I brought home that I previously hadn’t been able to get because I flew rather than drove. I inherited an Instant Pot my mom used once and didn’t like (hello, canning in my future!), a cast iron griddle that was too heavy for my grandma to use, a box full of mason jars, and handkerchiefs from my great grandmother.

weekly eating budget epicurean

I’m pretty excited to use some family heirlooms in my Zero Waste journey. It goes to show you that you should always ask around, old folks lived in times where zero waste was just a way of life, and they know things that we as a society have forgotten.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – potatoes, eggs, and pancakes

Lunch – chili at work. It was a crazy busy day, so I would not have been able to eat at all if a co-worker hadn’t brought chili and pretty much forced me to eat a bowl. The cornbread muffin was really good

Dinner – Chipotle! I know that’s 2 weeks in a row. I’m not mad. Does derail the diet plans a bit…

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Leftover pancake, with bacon and candied walnuts

Lunch – Baked sweet potato, black beans, avocado, and salsa

weekly eating budget epicurean

Dinner – Rest of the Chipotle

weekly eating budget epicurean

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Corn tortillas with fried potatoes, peppers & onions, and sweet potato leaves! Turns out they taste just like spinach when cooked, and we have an abundance of them right now.

weekly eating budget epicurean

Lunch – baked sweet potato with black beans, avocado, and salsa

Dinner – Slow cooker tofu masala. I chopped up onions and bell peppers, mixed garlic, ginger, tons of spices, tofu, and coconut milk and let it simmer on low all day at work. When I came home, the house smelled amazing and as soon as the rice cooker was done our dinner was ready. Ridiculously healthy, tasty, and satisfying.

weekly eating budget epicurean

I made a big batch of blueberry banana muffins using this recipe from Amazing Paleo because I want to experiment with more gluten free recipes (so I have things for next time my sister visits). I used local NC blueberries instead of nuts.

weekly eating budget epicurean

I also made 2 more loaves of my favorite white bread because we were out. It was getting late, so I decided to let it rise overnight and go to bed rather than rush it or stay up too late baking. In the morning it turned out they had risen into monster blobs!

budget epicurean weekly eating

Haha still tasty, and actually the loaves were extra light and fluffy due to the overnight rise time. I bet I could turn this dough into 3 loaves with the extra rise time.

Thursday:

Breakfast – Paleo blueberry muffins

Snack – hummus & raw veggies

weekly eating budget epicurean

Lunch – tofu tikka masala

weekly eating budget epicurean

Snack – my favorite chocolate PB bars, and a salad because they had a potluck at work for someone’s retirement

Dinner – Thursday night Co-op $3 dinner! Loaded baked sweet potatoes with black bean and corn salsa, vegan butter and sour cream, and cinnamon sugar & raisins.

It was a blast, and I also finally made the leap and became an owner… It’s a one time fee of $100 and you get discounts and deals all year long. This was also my first Zero Waste grocery shopping adventure!

weekly eating budget epicurean bulk grocery shopping

Bringing jars and tare-ing was a little awkward at first but the cashier clearly is familiar with the process. And the per pound deals are pretty great. Sadly I did smash my biggest pickle jar, so I was quite sad about that…

weekly eating budget epicurean bulk grocery shopping

Friday:

Breakfast – PBFit on fresh bread

weekly eating budget epicurean

Lunch – lunch out with a friend. I did half great with this. I remembered to bring my towel as a napkin, and even brought my own real fork for the salad. But I did not have a container, so I was stuck with a huge plastic clamshell. Baby steps, this is still progress.

weekly eating budget epicurean

Snack – fresh fruit! I cut up a TON of fruits last night, so we have a wall of containers in the fridge with local NC fruit now.

Dinner – Last of some leftover beef n vegetable soup with my homemade bread.

The Weekend

This will hopefully be a pretty chill weekend. We don’t have any real plans yet, besides several potential friend hangouts, weather permitting. I will probably do some sort of baking or sewing project, like trying a batch of tortillas or crepes, maybe some gnocchi. We are still slowly sifting through the freezer and pantry and cleaning it out, so I’m trying to come up with recipes to use what I have that the boy will also actually like and eat.

We also have a lot of yard work to do, and various housekeeping and cleaning. Vacuum, sweep, laundry, clean the bathrooms… you know, adulting things. I may make some time for relaxing, a new sewing project I have in mind, and/or taking my books back to the library too.

Food Total: $44.12 + $146.27

This is extra high because it includes the $100 membership fee to become an owner in the Durham Co-op. It is a one time fee, and without it I still only spent $90 on food this week! Yay!

Lessons Learned

Bulk shopping is super cheap, and not as hard as you may think. Any glass, or even plastic, container will do. I did learn that a wide-mouth jar is best, as the pour spouts for the bulk containers are very wide, and if your jar you’re pouring into is too narrow, you will fling pinto beans and dried rice all over the place. Don’t be that guy. Luckily my store had a handy wide mouth cup to use, to pour from the container into and then pour from the cup into my smaller containers. It’s like they’ve done this once or twice.

 

 

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