Category Archives: Dips and Sauces

Easy Eggs Benny with Garlic Chive Toast

 

Many people are afraid to make eggs benedict at home because it is perceived as a highly technical dish. You must cook the eggs in a way to not break them, and the Hollandaise sauce is especially revered.

But I’m here to tell you, if I can make it in a 1-bedroom apartment kitchen, so can you!

I can share with you two tricks to make this breakfast a snap. It still does take more than a few minutes, but honestly is so simply you could make this on a typical weekday morning. This is a recipe for one, but can easily be scaled up.

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You will need:

  • A sauce pot to boil water
  • A coffee cup or two
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Garlic salt
  • Chives or green onion, about 1 tbsp
  • Paprika, optional garnish

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Trick number one: to make a perfect egg, use a coffee cup. Just place the cup inside a pot, and fill with water. Obviously you should make sure you are using a ceramic cup, or one which otherwise can withstand boiling.

Then, once the water is at a rolling boil, crack the egg into the cup. Gravity pulls it down, but since it is safe inside the container it can’t get rolled about by the boiling bubbles, and stays together to cook into a perfect little package. Boil it for 5 minutes for a still-runny interior, or longer if you want it cooked through.

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Trick number two: use a blender to make the easiest  Hollandaise sauce ever!

Melt 1/2 stick of butter, not to boiling just enough to become liquid. Add to the blender, along with one whole egg, lemon juice, and a dash of salt or cayenne if you like. Blitz, and you’re done!

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Schmear some toast with some butter, sprinkle on garlic salt and chives, top with your egg and drizzle liberally with sauce! Sprinkle with some paprika if you fancy like that. Enjoy!

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 – 7/23/18

 

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!

 

Having the in-laws in town was really great. I’m lucky that they are awesome and we enjoy spending time together. We explored the area, did some shopping, went for walks, cooked good food and went out a few times, and they helped us fix our fence that got smashed in a storm a few weeks ago.

budget epicurean fence fix
The big ol tree that did the smashing is still there next to the fence on the right.

I’ve also decided that I need to get back to my pre-cruise diet habits. I’ve gotten quite lazy about working out (i.e. I don’t…) and more generous in portion sizes, and it’s showing on the scale and in the fit of my pants lately. I hate it.

But it’s all my own doing.

Since I’m tracking other things anyways (like our trash) I started tracking calories on my Fitbit app again. And have been consistently over-shooting my target range by 300-500 calories… whoops. That explains a lot.

So, after we work our way through the silly amounts of leftovers (am I the only one that ends up with infinite leftovers when family comes to visit?) meals will get more boring for me.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – a peach Almond milk yogurt

Lunch – leftovers from the weekend

Dinner – shrimp garlic fettuccini with broccoli & cauliflower

Tuesday:

Breakfast – homemade wheat toast with raspberry jam

Lunch – leftover turkey gyro & fries

Snack – 1 peach, 2 matcha energy balls from a previous food trade

budget epicurean weekly eating

Dinner – Leftover sopas from the weekend. Sopas are a super easy corn pancake basically, then you top with whatever toppings you like. I had pinto beans, guac, tomato, a tiny bit of pulled pork, and lettuce.

Tonight was also a Bull City Food Swap, to which I took my pickled watermelon rind, and some fresh rosemary garlic bread.

In exchange, I brought home Cherry Rum Jam, 6 oz fresh smoked bacon, spicy and garlic dill pickles, gingersnaps, “British flapjacks” and the happy feeling of making several new friends. 🙂

budget epicurean weekly eating

Wednesday:

Breakfast – 2 slices of homemade wheat bread with 1 tbsp PB & jelly

Lunch – Big salad with avocado, cucumber, and tomato

budget epicurean weekly eating

Dinner – we went out with a couple from work to a Mexican place, and got some delicious fried things with beans and rice and all the fixings. I swear, my diet starts tomorrow…

Snack – a peach

Thursday:

Breakfast – fruit smoothie with watermelon, mango, banana, flax, and amla powder

budget epicurean weekly eating

Lunch – tuna salad sandwich and peach & tomato salsa

Dinner – pinto beans & brown rice with steamed cauliflower, broccoli, and corn on the cob

budget epicurean weekly eating

Friday:

Breakfast – green tea matcha latte

Lunch – leftover tofu alfredo. Seriously some of the best alfredo I’ve ever had, ridiculously healthy, and tons of protein. This needs to be a staple in our meals. Also you can see the hand towel I brought to work peeking into the corner of the photo 🙂 This has been awesome to wipe my fingers after lunch, and dry my hands after washing.

budget epicurean weekly eating

Dinner – we had some people over for games, bonfire, and fun. I didn’t have time to eat dinner beforehand, so food ended up being all the snacks: pepper jelly cheese dip, chili cheese dip, raw veggies and hummus, and chips and my soon-to-be-famous Carolina Reaper Salsa! I made a new triple batch with fresh peppers, and a whole pint disappeared easily.

budget epicurean weekly eating

The Weekend

This weekend was supposed to have a food tour, but it ended up getting cancelled. That’s okay by me. We have a huuuuuuuge pile of mulch from cutting down some trees that we need to spread all around the various gardens, some weeding to do, watering, and hopefully some harvesting. And of course a big dose of relaxing.

Food Total: $34.73 + $27.51 = $62.24

This week we got our second delivery of a local produce box, and supplemented it with a trip to ALDI. I’m going to give it a few more weeks, and then I’ll tell you all about this service.

$27.51
Dairy $4.18 Staples $10.93 Fruit/Veg $12.40
Almond milk 1.89 Tortillas 4 4.66 Watermelon 2.69
organic hummus 2.29 pita chips 1.99 Pineapple 1.65
blue tortilla chips 1.89 Mini bell peppers 2.39
gallon vinegar 2.39 Mango 0.59
Celery 0.89
Bananas 2.06
Cherries 2.13

I adore ALDI so much for their low prices and no-frills shopping experience, but boy do they love packaging. The produce especially makes me sad now, all the things are individually wrapped.

I get that people want a sanitary food shopping experience, but why do I need peppers wrapped in plastic, apples in plastic, plastic boxes for the fruits and lettuce, styrofoam under my mushrooms and zucchini and jalapenos with more plastic wrapped around it?

I don’t.

Give me my produce naked! The way god intended.

Take that however you like.

Lessons Learned

The process of cutting down on grocery shopping waste is going to be a long one. Tortillas are a not-optional meal staple here, as the boy will wrap literally anything in one and call it dinner. And though I have made my own tortillas, both corn and flour, it is not an easy process. And without a tortilla press, I can’t get them thin enough without breaking or sticking to my counters.

Another part of the process will be having ‘convenience’ foods on hand at all times. We decided to have people over pretty last minute (like, barely 24 hours in advance last minute) so I did not have time to make things that require forethought, like homemade hummus which requires overnight soaking.

So perhaps I need to rethink the freezer situation. Once we work our way through all the things still waiting inside and empty it out more, I’m thinking a big batch cooking day is in order. That way I can stock it with pre-prepped things like rice, beans of all sorts, waffles, breads, cookies, granola bars, etc.

 

 

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

Restaurant Review: The Little Dipper

In case this is your first BE review article, I’ll remind you of the rules.

Food locations will be evaluated based on:

  • Taste: 1 (wet toast) – 10 (your taste buds have died and gone to heaven)
  • Atmosphere: 1 (gas station bathroom) – 10 (best you’ve ever experienced)
  • Value: 1 (not worth it) – 10 (super duper deal)

All opinions are those of the Budget Epicurean.

Tucked inside the North Building of Brightleaf Square on the outskirts of downtown Durham NC is a hidden gem. Called “The Little Dipper: Fondue on Main”, Durham is its second location. The owner is from Durham, and followed a girl to Wilmington. Their first date was at the Wilmington location, and it must have made quite the impression. When they eventually married and moved back to Durham, they decided to take a leap and open their own here.

The Durham location opened in April of 2013 as a full service fondue restaurant. Each table has at least one burner built into the center for the table to share. The owners also designed, built, and painted the entire interior from booths to eclectic decor to crazy sand wall art. They are known for our specialty sauces, all homemade and delicious for dipping cooked meats and seafood.

The Durham location also offers a “LOCAL ‘919’ MENU,” which includes options for each course made with locally sourced farm ingredients.  The Durham Dipper is proud to be part of such a strong community who supports local farmers by offering seasonal features and sustainable menu items changing on a regular basis.

The Menu is insanely huge and can feel a bit overwhelming at first glance. It is set up to be a three-course experience, so make sure you have plenty of time set aside to fully enjoy this meal! You get to choose your cheese dipper appetizer, a soup or salad, and you main entrees and cooking style.

The desserts are priced separately, but honestly it is the best part of the experience! Make sure you also have a lot of room, and very stretchy pants 😉

review the little dipper durham

The servers are extremely helpful and friendly as well, and can answer all your questions and provide suggestions based on what you like and are looking for. We decided on a premium fontina and basil starter. They light your burner, and bring over a massive cast iron pot full of molten cheese and a sampler tray, and then the fun begins!

They supply long fondue forks which you use to spear your fruit or veg, and then dip into the lava like bowl of cheese. I was a little leery of the fruits, but it turns out cheese covered grapes are delicious. We ate and ate and then realized we had 3 more courses to go!

review the little dipper durham

Once you throw in the towel on the cheese, they whisk it away and bring your salads. It is not the star of the show to be sure, but it felt nice to have a light lettuce moment between the heavy cheese and the goodies to come. And the salad itself is large enough to be a meal, so I ended up packing up half to take home.

Then your main course arrives. We went with the traditional peanut oil, which is again brought out in a huge iron pot. You can choose a pre-selected variety of meats, or like we did, the “undecided” where you get 3 different protein options.

I went with tuna, dumplings, and filet while my dining companion chose scallops, shrimp and filet. It comes with your choice of 3 of their homemade daily dipping sauces, as well as a plate of mushrooms which you stuff with their aphrodite herbed cream cheese, dip in breading and fry.

There is a handy tip sheet on suggested cooking times for each item, in case you don’t know how many seconds in boiling peanut oil it takes for a scallop to be considered done. They also supply a long “rescue spoon” for anything that happens to jump off the fondue fork for a swim.

It was great fun dipping and dropping different cuts into the pot while chatting about life and stuffing our faces. The wasabi lime sauce on the filet was my personal favorite of the night.

review the little dipper durham

Drumroll please……

Then they cleared the table, and brought out the steaming bowl of molten chocolate laced with caramel and topped with pecans that I’d been waiting for! Oh yeah, you better believe we went with the Turtle dipper. And a ‘classic dippers’ plate, because we’re indecisive like that.

You can also go with just fruit dippers, or upgrade to the “supreme dippers” or “Swanky Fondue” options for things like rice crispies, oreos, or liquor-laced dipping sauces.

review the little dipper durham

The Turtle fondue was so amazing, I wanted to just eat it with a spoon. Thankfully I was in so much pain from being too full so I couldn’t do it! 😉

The whole meal took about 2 hours total, and was a very relaxing experience. I loved the funky atmosphere, and the energy of the place. I cannot wait to go back!

 

Overall I’d rate The Little Dipper:

  • Taste: 10
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Value: 9

Weekly Eating – 4/2/18

 

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!

 

Easter weekend was filled with relaxing and outdoor adventures! Friday was a day off, which was awesome, and I got to take a 5 mile hike, resulting in a new high score for daily steps this year. Then on Saturday we were all about gardening. I got broccoli, spinach, and romaine sprouts in the ground, as well as some beans and peas.

We also are trying berries this year, with 4 blueberry and 4 blackberry bushes. The back yard is super shady (thanks to a million trees) but we are planning on taking several down this summer, and hopefully there will be enough light that the bushes can at least survive and establish themselves. It would be amazing to have pounds of free organic berries every year!

And on Easter Sunday, I decided we should at least do a little something to celebrate. We have no kids and no family nearby, so your typical church or egg hunt or Easter baskets or brunch were not happening. Instead, I made some French toast, and cut a piece in half to make bunny ears! Then I used colored white chocolate and sprinkles to make a cute face. It was tasty, and we hadn’t had French toast in a long time so we both enjoyed it.

bunny rabbit french toast

Oh, and back to Lowes we headed, because the boy wanted to complete a project we had talked about several times: building a stone fire pit! We had a small plain metal fire pit that sister in law gave us for our housewarming gift, but we wanted to spruce it up and make it look more permanent. So we got a big pile of stones (thank goodness they were on sale, why are literal rocks so expensive?!) and he built up a lovely fire pit ring.

And while the boy was playing with rocks and building that, I was playing with tortillas and building some enchiladas. I consider that a fair trade. For Sunday dinner we had turkey or black bean enchiladas with Spanish rice and  watermelon mojitos I’d found in the freezer from last summer. Then we hung out outside during sunset & into the night to enjoy it. I’m looking forward to many bonfire nights.

Monday:

Breakfast – Coffee with protein powder, & an energy bar

Lunch – Frozen lamb stew, & a salad. Over the weekend I also did a quick freezer inventory, which happens a few times a year. This way we find ‘lost’ food and hopefully waste less. I pulled out a few things to thaw and eat up this week.

Snack – I had a meeting after work, and was planning to go to dinner afterwards. But I was also pretty hungry by 5:30pm, so I stopped real quick at a Walmart, and they had a snack box on sale 1/2 price. So I grabbed it, and enjoyed the apples and grapes and cheese. I ate about half, and gave the rest to the boy at home later.

Dinner – Chicken fajitas! It’s always so fun when they bring out that sizzling plate, and I feel like an artist crafting my tacos. I also always end up with leftovers, which is like a 2-for-1 meal deal.

chicken fajitas

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Blender crepes with Lemon yogurt filling! I followed the recipe almost exactly (I know, gasp) but also added in a spoonful of cottage cheese to the filling, because I honestly forgot I had it and needed to use it up. I also microwaved a cup of blueberries to put on top. SO GOOD.

blender crepes with lemon filling and blueberry topping

Lunch – Leftover black bean enchilada and Spanish rice

Snack – If you are my friend on Twitter you know I succumbed to the sugar demon… someone at work is having a baby, so there were tiny cute cupcakes in the office! I ended up having 2, 2 days in a row…

Dinner – Lemon garlic asparagus pasta, a recipe Kroger sent me in the mail with my ‘super shopper’ coupons. For the boy I cooked some chicken quarters too.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Skinny vanilla latte and pumpkin bread. I have a Starbucks gold card (I don’t know how that happened either, but it has my name on it so it’s not a mistake…) and today was super double star day! That means I get 4 stars per $1 I spend. Starbucks is a rare treat for me, and I hoard giftcards just for these days.

Lunch – Chickpea salad sandwich with some carrots. Y’all. This has seriously changed my life. I added a sheet of nori seaweed in the morning when I made the sandwich, so the bread wasn’t soggy and the seaweed was soft by lunch time. This is mindblowing, it is seriously better than tuna salad. I’m in love.

chickpea salad sandwich

Snack – a cherry yogurt

Dinner – Chana Saag and brown basmati rice

I’m so excited its spring, because Farmers market Wednesday is back! I didn’t know and as I walked by the tables I was drooling over all the gorgeous in season greens. I dug through my pockets and came up with 3 dollar bills, and don’tcha know, that was the price for a big bundle of collard greens!! My lucky day.

Thursday:

Breakfast – More crepes with lemon yogurt and blueberries

Lunch – Chickpea salad sandwich with carrots and clementine. I ate the CLIF cherry-chia-apple bar as a snack around 4pm. It was really tasty, and I’m so sad I didn’t buy every single clearance box.

Dinner – I needed to do something creative with the gorgeous leafy Swiss chard I bought yesterday, so I made some spring rolls!

Swiss chard spring rolls

I used this recipe (mostly because I have a childish sense of humor and liked the site name) and even remembered to cut the veins out, but totally forgot to steam them… oops! The leaves were tender enough though, and they were really good. And actually really filling.

Swiss chard spring rolls with peanut sauce

Even the boy said they didn’t suck. He said the peanut butter sauce made him nervous, but it was surprisingly good.

Friday:

Breakfast – Crepes filled with peanut butter and banana and drizzled with honey

Lunch – Leftover Chana Saag

Dinner – I finished off the Swiss rolls. And then went out for some drinks with friends, which was so fun! But, also, led to Taco Bell on the way home… What can I say, sometimes a rice and bean burrito and cinnamon twists just has to happen.

 

The Weekend

There’s a slight chance I’ll hit the stores again Saturday, because Kroger is running some really good sales. But I told myself I’m not allowed to go unless I take the boy with me, so he can keep me from browsing and over spending!

I’m actually really happy it’s raining this weekend, it should help the berry bushes and garden plants we planted last weekend get more established (and let’s be real, I can be lazy and not water!). But it does put a damper on my hopes of hiking a lot… probably will be a very chill weekend.

I definitely need to do some laundry, I think it has been almost a month! I re-wear heavier things that don’t get dirty, like blazers and jeans, and the only things that automatically go into the wash pile are undies, socks, and workout clothes when I actually sweat in them… so… since I’m nearly out of all of them I guess it’s time!

 

Food Total: $26.93 + $3 cash

Woo hoo for low grocery totals!

I meal planned a bunch of things that were already in the pantry, and cleaned/inventoried the freezer. So the majority of our meals this week were ‘free’, or pre-paid basically. Then I made a quick stop to a WalMart while in the area, because we were nearly out of yogurt and that makes the boy sad.

Dairy $6.48 Staples $4.46 Fruit/Veg $7.17 Extras $8.82
4-pk Greek yogurts 2 4.48 Ravioli frz 3lb 2.58 Bananas 8 (0.52/lb) 1.42 Bistro snack box 1.9
4pk reg yogurts 2 2 Cucumber 0.54 Softsoap refil 64oz 3.84
A H DEO 1.88 Sweet potato 3 (.88/lb) 2.21 Mascara 2
CLIF fruit bars 4 3 Tax 1.08

And this total includes mascara and soap, which aren’t even food! So really it’s more like $20 total, plus $3 cash for Swiss chard.

Lessons Learned

I definitely need to keep up with eating from the freezer and pantry. I come from a family that is borderline Hoarders, never wanting to throw things out and always maximizing sales. I definitely think if you have the initial cash that stocking up will save money over time… but only if you then use the items!

At this point my pantry is full to bursting and it’s getting ridiculous. I need to work pantry items into the meal plan each week, not only to use things up before they expire but also to keep our future grocery totals low. So the focus will be on using up staples with interspersed seasonal produce, until my pantry is as sleek and gorgeous as Dr. McFrugals! #goals

 

 

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

Hand-Dipped Chocolate Covered Strawberries

With Valentine’s Day being tomorrow, you may be one of those people who is desperately searching the internet for the perfect “last-minute” ideas. Maybe you are almost ready to run to the store and shell out way too many dollars for over-priced and sub-par drug store candy.

Or perhaps you are celebrating solo, or with your friends, and just want a little treat for yourself or your girls, to make the day extra special. But you don’t have all day to slave over a hot stove.

Here’s your answer!

Chocolate dipped strawberries. They are universally loved, as who could resist a sweet, juicy fruit dipped in chocolate? And they are marvelously easy to make, taking mere minutes plus a little bit of chill time. But, you could make them as fancy as you wish, by mixing dark, regular, and white chocolate, sprinkles, coconut, crushed nuts, or any other whim of your imagination.

coconut oil and chocolate with a strawberry

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chocolate chips (whatever kind you like)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Berries

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Step 1: Put a smaller pan over a large pan of water, and bring the water to a boil. This helps to melt to the chocolate, but keep it from burning or getting scorched on the bottom. The coconut oil also helps to make the melted chocolate smooth and glossy.

very last minute valentines day dessert idea

 

Step 2: Once melted, dip your strawberries in! Hold them by the green parts and the top, and drag through the melted chocolate.

Dipping a strawberry in chocolate

Mmmm look at that melty goodness! You could use any kind of berry or fruit for this honestly, bananas or pineapple would also be great.

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Step 3: Lay your chocolate covered berry on wax paper, on a plate or cookie tray that can fit in your refrigerator or freezer.

Chocolate dipped strawberries

Step 4: Put the berries in the fridge or freezer, to harden, at least 10 minutes. If using the freezer, don’t forget about them! You don’t want strawberry ice cubes. They are best fresh!

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The fun part about making your own chocolate-dipped treats is that sometimes you have extra melted chocolate. And you can go as crazy as you want! I had some almonds and peanuts, so I made nut clusters with mine, and sprinkled it with sea salt. The same idea applies, just let them chill for 10 minutes to an hour in the fridge before enjoying.

 

Do you have any Valentine’s Day plans tomorrow? If you want to avoid the crowds and overpriced “prixe-fixe” food, I’d suggest a simple yet impressive meal at home; everyone loves to be cooked for 😉 <3

Easy Spinach & Mushroom Pasta Sauce

Sometimes, when you just need a quick dinner and don’t feel adventurous, it is easy to discount pasta as “too easy”, or feel guilty about all those carbs. But the good news is, pasta is a great blank canvas on which you can paint all sorts of tasty, healthy flavors.

You can use generous amounts of pesto, which can be made in a blender and contains easily 2 servings of vegetables per plate. You could also whip up a white bean alfredo sauce, which is essentially watered down hummus, and is super healthy and filling.

Or you could make my favorite veggie-packed sneaky healthy red sauce of all time: spinach and mushroom sauce.

mushrooms and spinach

The beauty of this is its simplicity. You only need spinach, mushrooms, some spices, and a giant can of crushed tomatoes.

You can easily substitute in a jar of pre-made sauce, and add the veggies; or use diced or even whole tomatoes, just whir them in a blender before simmering. Canned or dried mushrooms would work just fine as well. You can also use frozen or canned spinach, but it will make the sauce much waterier and it would be best to simmer the sauce for an hour or more to thicken.

homemade pasta sauce ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pint of any type of mushrooms
  • 2 heaping cups fresh spinach
  • 1 tbsp dried onion/onion powder
  • 2 tbsp Italian spice mix
  • Garlic salt, pepper, to taste

spinach and mushroom pasta sauce ingredients

Step 1: In a pan, add the mushrooms and a bit of water, wine, or stock. Cover with a lid and bring to a simmer. Cook 5-7 minutes, and then add the spinach. Cook another 3-5 minutes until wilted.

simmer tomato sauce for pasta

Step 2: Add in all the spices, and the tomato. Bring to a gentle simmer, and place the lid on, slightly askew so that the steam can escape and your stovetop isn’t covered in sauce bubbles. Simmer until thickened to your liking, usually about 15 minutes for me.

spinach mushroom pasta sauce

Serve with or without meatballs, sausage, or any other sauce additions you like. The flavors all work together beautifully, and most people won’t even notice there are extra veggies! If you want to really fool them, you can puree the sauce with a blender or immersion blender before serving.

 

What’s your favorite way(s) to sneak more vegetables into your diet?

Carolina Reaper Pepper Hot Sauce

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a new top dog in the world of spiciness. You probably know all about jalapeños, maybe even serranos and habañeros. If you’re a true spice afficianado, you might even be aware of the previous holder of the record for the world’s hottest: the Scorpion Pepper.

Well, since August 7, 2013, the new top dog in town, crowned by the Guinness Book of World Records, is a gnarly looking pepper with a shape reminiscent of a flame: the Carolina Reaper.

Bred as a child of the previous record holders the Bhut jolokia (also known as the Ghost Pepper or ghost chilie) and a red habañero, the Reaper was developed by pepper expert Ed Currie in South Carolina. A man driven by the pursuit of health which led to the pursuit of heat, Ed has been breeding and processing peppers for several decades.

One day while strolling, I noticed a bush, with some strange looking orange fruits. Of course I was interested, as an incurable foodie and forager. I snapped some pictures and went home to research. In short order I found out the above information, and confirmed these were indeed Carolina Reaper peppers! They happened to be in a public garden space, so I quickly snatched a few with no recipe in mind, but a burning curiosity (see what I did there??).

Carolina Reaper pepper plant

Once I got home with my trio of terror, I started googling recipes. Turns out not many people want to tangle with the Reaper in their kitchen, and for good reason. Too much heat can produce burning sensations, raise your temperature and blood pressure. In extreme cases, you can lose feeling in your hands or face, start shaking or even have a seizure, and become unable to breathe.

The way pepper heat is measuring is using the Scoville Heat Unit scale. An average jalapeno hits about 8,000 SHU, whereas pepper spray (the kind meant to completely disable attackers) is around 2 million SHU. The Reaper averages about 1.5 million, with the hottest plant on record hitting 2.2 million Scoville units.

So basically, a Reaper is the equivalent of pepper spray.

This recipe is for a homemade hot sauce; if you are using Reapers or other similarly strong peppers, please use caution. Make sure you have food-grade gloves to protect your hands, and make it in a well ventilated area. Leaving the seeds in always makes it hotter, so if you truly want to bring the pain, leave in the seeds. I did not…

The recipe works with all types of hot peppers, so you can sub in your favorite kind, or mix and match. This makes about 14 ounces of hot sauce.

Carolina Reaper hot pepper hot sauce ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 2 Carolina Reapers
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 a red onion
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • garlic salt to taste

Carolina Reaper pepper hot sauce ingredients

Step 1: Cut the tops off the peppers and discard. In a food processor or blender, chop the garlic, onion, and peppers. Add the vinegar and spices. If you want it totally smooth, add the tomatoes and blend well until liquid. Otherwise, add the tomatoes just before canning.

Carolina Reaper pepper hot sauce

I could have cooked the sauce down to thicken it a bit more, but I didn’t want to take the chance. Even just boiling it on a stove might create fumes that I didn’t want to deal with.

I jarred it in two glass jelly jars. If you want to process them in a canning or pressure bath the sauce can be stored in the pantry for years. Otherwise, store in the refrigerator for up to one year.

Hubs insisted on labeling the sauce appropriately: “Death For Sure”.

He had a burger, and put about 4 drops on it, spread all over the patty. He said that was a good amount to create a “nice burn” for the next several hours. I stuck a fork in the sauce, let the actual sauce drip off, then licked the fork, and my mouth and tongue tingled for at least 2 hours after… suffice it to say, I won’t be using much of this! The sauce should last us a good long time.

 

Have you ever, or would you, try a Carolina Reaper? Do you make your own hot sauces?

Vegan Green Goddess Salad Dressing

Remember my Salmon & Couscous salad that I was 100% addicted to for a few weeks last year? During a BOGO sale on salad dressing, I got a bottle of “Green Goddess”. How in the world, as a food blogger and obsessive reader of recipes, have I not heard of this thing prior to then? The world will never know.

The Green Goddess was amazing, perfect in every way. It was creamy, tangy, smooth, and light tasting. It made me feel like a goddess every time I drizzled it on a salad. And then I ran out. I couldn’t find it at the 3 stores I usually go to. So I decided to try to make it myself at home.

And then I read the ingredients.

Corn syrup, xantham gum, colorings, “natural flavor“, sugar, cultured skim milk, dried buttermilk… all kinds of things I’m trying to cut down on, and that I don’t 100% understand but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be eating.

So I went on a quest. A mission of sorts. To re-create a dressing just as tangy, creamy, and satisfying, but with a far less questionable list of ingredients.

Friends, this is the answer.

With a base of avocado and tahini for that rich healthy fat, spinach for that vibrant green color, garlic and green onions for a bit of a spring kick even in the dead of winter, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar for a note of acid, and a sprinkle of salt and dash of honey to balance it all out, this stuff is darn near irresistible.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup spinach or herbs, packed
  • 2 small avocados
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (or almond butter)
  • 1/2 tsp honey or sweetener of choice
  • 1/4 cup green onions
  • Juice of one lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 4-5 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Salt to taste, I used about 1 1/2 tsp

Step 1: In a food processor, chop your garlic, spinach, and onions.

Step 2: Add the avocado, and all your liquids. Whip well, using a spatula to scrape down the sides, until smooth.

Feel free to add the liquids slowly, and add more of the acids or even some plain water to reach your desired consistency and flavor.

The recipe is 100% vegan, but you can also mix in some plain unflavored yogurt, mayonnaise, or sour cream at approximately a 1:2 ratio for extra creamy flavor, and it tastes pretty radical. Though it is already good enough that I basically want to eat it with a spoon.

The awesome thing about this dressing is that you can customize it to your tastes too. You can easily sub half or all of the spinach for fresh herbs like dill, basil, parsley, or cilantro. The sweetener can be xylitol or stevia, maple syrup or brown rice syrup, or like I used, a flavored honey (whipped lemon, mmm mmm!). If you don’t care for tahini or it’s too expensive for your tastes, try almond butter, sun-butter or peanut butter instead.

The only limit is your imagination!

Plus, not only is this the best dressing of all time on salads, it is also great on wraps, sandwiches, burgers, baked potatoes, chicken, steak and fish. Basically, put it on anything and everything.