Category Archives: Less than 5

These recipes take less than 5 ingredients, less than $5, and/or less than 5 minutes

Salade Niçoise with Quail Eggs

 

This cold salad lends itself perfectly to meal prepping, or a quick weeknight dinner. Pulled together in under 20 minutes, you can have this light, fresh, tasty salad anytime.

With the hearty ingredients and a little babying of the fresh greens, these salads can also hold for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Naturally Whole30 compliant, paleo, low-carb, Mediterranean.

Prep once, enjoy twice.

And, the best part, you only need 1 pot! Boil all the ingredients, staggering the start time, to be ready all at once.

This recipe makes 2 giant salads. Feel free to double to be covered for lunches all week long!

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 small redskin potatoes
  • 1 large tomato
  • 2 packs or tins of tuna
  • 6 quail eggs, or 2 regular eggs
  • 1 cup fresh green beans
  • Optional: 1/2 cup olives
  • 4 cups salad greens (lettuce, romaine, spinach, mixed)
  • Dressings of choice

meal prep: nicoise salad

Step 1: Dice your potatoes into 1/2 – 1 inch chunks. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Step 2: Cut the ends off your green beans (you can also use canned, drained green beans).

meal prep: nicoise salad

Step 3: Boil potatoes for ~5 minutes. Then add the fresh green beans and boil another 3 minutes.

Step 4: Add the quail eggs, and boil a final 3 minutes. IF using chicken eggs, add at the same time as the green beans. Drain all.

meal prep: nicoise salad

Step 5: Fill 2 large salad containers with 2 cups of whatever greens you like. Cut the tomato into eights, put half into each salad container. Add half the potato and green beans and olives and eggs.

meal prep: nicoise salad

Step 6: Keep the tuna and the dressing separate until the day you serve the salads.

To keep the greens from getting slimy, add a paper towel or cotton towel to the bottom of the container to absorb excess moisture.

meal prep: nicoise salad

Enjoy within 4-5 days!

 

Vegetarian: Omit the tuna; add chickpeas or white beans if desired
Vegan: Omit tuna and eggs. Add chickpeas, and/or tofu
No red potatoes: Use whatever kind you have; or use roasted or boiled pumpkin, squash, or sweet potato
No olives: For salty flavor add capers, anchovies, or feta. For fat add avocado, olive oil heavy dressing, or cheese

 

Price Breakdown: $4.73 – $2.95

For the cost per salad, there is of course a range based on the ingredients you choose. For the “Highest Quality” I checked out the prices of individual ingredients from the Produce Box, which is all local NC produce, and similar to what you would find at a farmer’s market. For the “Lowest Price” I checked current ads for Harris Teeter and ALDI to see what the lowest price on items is. You choose the range that makes sense for you.

Highest Quality Lowest Price
1 lb green beans: need 1/5 $0.50 $0.20
1 lb red potatoes: need 1/2 $0.98 $0.67
tomato 3: need 1 $0.75 $0.50
lettuce: about 2/3 $3.00 $1.99
tuna pouches: need 2 $3.00 $2.00
olives: 1/6 the jar $0.39 $0.39
eggs: (free) 2 from store $0.83 $0.15
Cost for 2 salads $9.45 $5.89

This is a powerful example of how cooking for yourself at home saves you money over time. A similar salad out at a cafe or restaurant would cost you $12 – $20. By making it at home, even with the highest quality ingredients, you save $7 each time.

 

Weekly Eating – 3/11/19 thru 3/22/19

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!

 

Whoops, missed a week there! Sorry guys. We’ve got a lot and not a lot going on at the same time.

The coop is making steady progress. We got 4 pallets for free, plus some dumpster-diving got me a half sheet of plywood. For about $40 I bought a roll of hardware wire and chicken wire, and all we need is nails, staples, and time.

quail coop in progress

The frame is built and the floor is braced and wired, we just need a run for some hinges and a way to keep the door shut. Then the final pieces are putting on the door and roof, and the babies have somewhere to move to when they are no longer babies (which is like, in 2 weeks!)

coop with wire flooring

They have grown so much bigger, and have upgraded to a larger feeder. They are also on a mix of chick and regular flock food, and I use a bigger mason jar for their waterer. They’ve begun to start jumping and bouncing, and trying out their wings. And we had our first escapee when I opened the screen to feed them the other day!

two week old quail

And we (i.e. just the boy) have started adding back in food groups to see if any spark reactions. We had cut out everything but meat, fruit, vegetables, and nuts & seeds. He added back in grains first, and had oatmeal, my homemade bread, and pasta all in one day. No problem.

homemade bread

Then dairy, so I stocked up on kefir, milk, butter, and plain Greek yogurt. Made a huge pan of the tastiest mac n cheese you ever saw. Again, no problems. He did say that he missed dairy way less than he thought he would, so that’s nice. Corn is back, without issue. I think soy is the only thing left, and we don’t use much added sugar products anyhow so I don’t mind permanently dropping those. He will go back to adding honey to tea, for instance.

amazing mac n cheese

Gardening

The seedlings I started have not come up yet. I am concerned that this week of 30-s overnight will kill them… it gets quite hot inside during the day, but not if there is no sunshine. Come on, actual spring! I need warmth so my fig can finally go in the ground.

greenhouse with fig tree

On the bright side, I found some surprises in the garden. I had planted some brassicas and root veggies last fall, but they are super slow growing due to next to no sunlight… and they overwintered quite nicely, such that I may actually get to harvest some kale, cabbage, carrots, and/or radishes soon!

daikon radish

And, this is the first year I have annual flowers coming up. I bought three packs of bulbs on clearance last fall, and planted them even thought it was a bit late in the season. I figured, why not. And now, all these lovely irises and hyacinths and tulips are coming up! It makes me very very happy.

purple flowers

Food Swap

March’s Food Swap was awesome, it was at Hi Wire Brewery in Durham. I had never been, so I was pleasantly surprised with how huge it was, all the indoor lawn games, crazy wall art, and delicious beers on tap. It was Spring Break for UNC and Duke, so it was blessedly empty of students. AND on Mondays they sell a LITER of their own beer for $7!

I made pickled quail eggs the week prior in expectation, one batch turmeric and one batch beet pickled. It was like Easter come early with the fun egg colors. I also took a few jars of my candied orange peels.

turmeric and beet pickled quail eggs

I ended up going home with a half dozen chicken and a half dozen goose eggs, some jam, garlic pickles, homemade yogurt, Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, enzymatic orange cleaner, beef jerky, and preserved lemons! Quite a bounty.

March 2019 Food Swap

Breakfasts:

Egg sandwiches – since I got oodles of eggs and also my quail keep giving me at least 2 a day, we eat more eggs now than ever before. And what better way than on homemade bread?

sausage egg sandwich

Cinnamon sugar toast – speaking of homemade bread, if you’ve never had cinnamon sugar toast on hot out the oven bread, you need to get you some right away! It’s magical.

cinnamon sugar toast

Breakfast burritos – you can see why grains were the first thing the boy wanted to add back. It brings things like toast, pasta, and wraps

breakfast tacos

Snacks:

Apple with almond butter & raisins –this has definitely become my top favorite snack. It is great for the morning, when it’s ten and I will die if I have to wait one more hour for food, or afternoon when it’s 2 or 3 pm and I need a lil something to tide me over until dinner. Peanut butter works too, but I prefer almond.

sliced apple with almond butter and raisins

Nut bars – I’m glad a friend with a Costco membership let us go with them once and buy a ginormous box of these bars. I have one in every bag, car, coat, and purse, and it has saved me more than once.

Kirkland nut bar

Gummy bears – another Costco purchase. I know these are in no way healthy for me. And we also didn’t realize until we got home and opened it that they are not a huge bag of gummies, but a billion individually wrapped packages of like 5. I was crushed. Wasteful and full of HFCS… no use crying over spilt milk, they’re already bought and opened so now we gotta eat them all.

gummy bears

Lunches:

Greek salad – Been trying to get more salads into my daily diet, and to make it more interesting I opened a jar of kalamata olives, and combined with grape tomatoes and cucumber from my Produce Boxes, made a couple delicious Greek salads.

Greek salad

Stuffed potatoes – I had some cheese sauce left from the mac n cheese, so we did a baked potato and sweet potato bar. Mmmmm.

stuffed sweet potato

Lentil soup – lentil soup is super quick, easy, and good for you. It’s a perfect “kitchen sink” meal, because you can toss in whatever veggies or herbs need to be used up soon. This one had celery, carrots, leftover mashed potato, onion, and kale.

lentil soup

Dinners:

Pesto pasta – pesto is one of my all time favorite ways to get anyone to eat greens, and use up any leafies or herbs that are wilty. Things I’ve successfully mixed into pesto: basil, parsley, cilantro, kale, spinach, collard greens.

pesto pasta with shrimp and sausage

Colcannon – we went all-in on the Irish for St. Patty’s Day. We are not Irish by heritage but you know I love me a good food holiday. I made a corned beef brisket and some colcannon, which is basically mashed potatoes with cabbage in it. I’ve heard you can also use kale. It’s a great way to sneak in veggies.

corned beef and colcannon

Taco bowl – since it’s starting to warm up and finally feel like spring some days, we’ve been eating outside on the weekends. Once rice was allowed back, and tortillas, you better believe burritos are back in full force too. And I keep adding in salads.

burrito bowl and salad

Lentil sloppy joes/janes – one of my alltime favorite vegan meals, these are so easy to prepare and crazy healthy for you. I told my grandma I ate mine with pickles and sauerkraut and evidently that is insane? What do you put on a sloppy joe?

lentil sloppy joes

AYCE Sushi – got a bunch of friends who love sushi as much as I go together and went out to RocknRolls sushi! It’s a conveyor belt style all you can eat place, for $12. I love it so much. We put down 73 plates worth of sushi and sashimi.

towers of plates

Food Total: $206.68

Weekly Produce Box = the Harvest Box 2 weeks in a row. Winter strawberries grown in high tunnels, green beans, blueberries, lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, grape tomatoes, corn, onion, sweet potatoes, and purple cauliflower!

the produce box harvest box the produce box harvest box

I’ve started baking bread again, and we’ve gone through about three loaves in a week 1/2! So when flour was on sale for under a buck, I was not about to let that pass me by. I stocked up on some sugar free sausages and a few roasts, plus some organic cheeses and dairy for adding those back. Most of the produce we got from the boxes.

4.92 lb brisket colby & cheddar brick cheese 3lb flour x3 3lb mandarins
pork sausage patties Greek yogurt dipper chips
Bananas 2 bunch
85/15 ground turkey Fairlife milk & choc milk flax wraps
Simply orange juice
2lb peeled shrimp Plain kefir canned tomatoes
Canned diced pineapple 2
lunch meat Kerrygold org slice cheese
grapeseed oil for mayo
Angus sirloin 3lb Org raisins
2lb brown rice
Dry chickpeas x4 lb
Flour 5lb x2
Sugar 4lb

 

Lessons Learned

Cooking from scratch is always the best. The boy could have bread back because I made it, and without added sugar. I tried to find bread at the store that didn’t have honey, or sugar, or high fructose corn syrup, and it was impossible. But also, convenience foods have a place in life. Sometimes when you’re super busy or just not in the mood to cook, it’s really nice to have something you can just pull out and microwave or otherwise not think too hard.

That’s why I try to make my own “fast food”. I batch cook a huge portion of black beans, or pinto beans, or rice, and have it in the fridge or freezer ready to go. Then you just pull out a tortilla or bowl and pile things in and you have ready to go food! And especially with the boy, he will eat whatever is the absolute fastest and easiest. So the easier I make healthy eating (cutting up fruits and veggies ahead of time, portioning out healthy meals into individual containers) the more likely we will eat healthy.

 

 

 

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 – 8/27/18

 

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, Saturday ended up being MUCH more productive than I expected! I took that 20 pounds of peaches and turned it into 10 jars of peach jam (4 of which are destined for the food swap) and 6 jars of quartered canned peaches in the pantry! The pantry is slowly coming along as I edge out plastics with glass jars and canned items.

budget epicurean pantry

At the thrift store I also found some nice baskets for pantry items and a ton of excellent glassware. I also spent some time hanging up pants I bought at the thrift store for $4 each to dry, and ironing a batch of freshly laundered handkerchiefs. Oh, and had my first taste of a fresh fig! They are seriously amazing.

budget epicurean ironing handkerchiefs

Also, that ridiculously expensive spirulina? Yeah, turns out it turns all smoothies a really unappetizing brown/black color… The boy and I are both not impressed. Chalk that up to a costly lesson. No photos here… you’re welcome.

And I almost forgot, Sunday I hosted another tea party! I had a few girlfriends over for a few hours, to snack and chat and drink tea (of course). It’s always nice to have time to relax and catch up on each others’ lives. And also the food. I love making it, and I love sharing it, and I love eating it!

budget epicurean appetizers
Local tomato bruschetta and goat cheese stuffed dates and figs with sage and balsamic drizzle

Monday:

Breakfast – smoothie with banana, frozen mixed berries, and spirulina

Lunch – I had a later than usual breakfast, and an earlier than usual dinner, so no lunch today

Dinner – Tonight was Food Swap night! I inhaled some leftover quinoa with veggies before running out the door.

Hosted at Bull City Ciderworks, we had a good turnout, and lots of new faces. I made some new connections, and came home with a pretty great variety of stuff. My first time making biscotti turned out great, thank goodness, and the pistachio cardamom was a hit.

budget epicurean pistachio cardamom biscotti

Tuesday:

Breakfast – smoothie with frozen cherries and blueberries and fresh peaches. Yes that is a plastic straw but it is the heavier reusable kind.

budget epicurean breakfast smoothie

Lunch – I prepped two big kale and chickpea salads over the weekend to have for grab and go lunches. It couldn’t be simpler: 3-4 handfuls of kale, rub with olive oil and lemon juice. Split a drained can of chickpeas between 2 salads, sprinkle on garlic salt, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese if desired.

budgetepicurean kale and chickpea salad

Dinner – leftover chicken and rice soup

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smoothie with frozen tropical mix, fresh peaches, cherry juice, and amla powder. I love this mix of fruit, but I hate that they put coconut chunks in it. Just why?

budget epicurean breakfast smoothie

Lunch – thawed homemade ravioli from a previous food swap with thawed pesto made from my own basil 🙂

budget epicurean ravioli with pesto

Snack – fresh heirloom tomato pico de gallo and blue corn chips

Dinner – I had a bunch of random odds and ends to use up: some pinto beans, a tiny bit of pico de gallo, a couple wet bruschetta. So I figured, why not make a Mexican strata? I layered the bruschetta in a pan, topped with pinto beans and pico, and poured on a few eggs. Baked at 350 for 40 minutes, and top with cheese and avocado.

budget epicurean breakfast strata for dinner

YUM! And now the fridge has more space! #nomorefoodwaste

Thursday:

Breakfast – Leftover pancakes with coffee. Whenever I make more pancakes than we can eat, I pop the rest in a bag in the fridge. Then all it takes is a quick reheat in the toaster, and good as new.

budget epicurean pancakes

Lunch – the other kale and chickpea salad, with grape tomatoes and an apple

more kale

Snack – I had myself a lovely tea time in the afternoon with green tea, my own biscotti, and a johnnycake from a previous food swap

budget epicurean tea and biscotti

Dinner – Thursday $3 Co-op dinner! Tonight was biscuits and gravy. None of us were brave enough to try the vegan biscuit, but the vegan gravy was okay. Not my favorite meal ever, but 8 of us all got together, there was much laughter, and live music. I’d eat cardboard and be happy in that situation. There’s nothing I love more than chill and cheap hangout with friends time!

budget epicurean co-op dinner

Friday:

Breakfast – a sad bowl of cocoa puffs. It was so tasty though!

Lunch – the rest of the leftover Turkish red lentil stew & some more grape tomatoes

budgetepicurean red lentil stew and tomatoes

Dinner – I started a crock pot full of chili this morning, and cannot wait to come home to that delicious smell! It also used up tons of odds and ends: field peas from the last produce box, rest of baked pinto beans, several heirloom tomatoes that needed used up.

The Weekend

Well, this weekend kids off Brofest at our house. Hub’s closest friends from childhood through college are all turning 30 this year, so they decided to do one big reunion /get together / celebration. At our house. For a full week. I have several friends with spare bedrooms on standby and a bag packed if I need a quick escape.

I kid. I’ve met all these dudes, and love them to pieces.

Anyone who is vetted by the boy and remained that closely in touch for two decades or so is clearly a good person. This week of relaxation, bonding, video games, and beer could not be more needed at a stressful point in his career, and I could not be more excited to have a houseful of hungry boys to cook for!

Though that does lead to the next point…

 

Food Total: $366.76

Ouch. Feeding a half dozen grown men for a full week is not a cheap ambition, let me tell you. But I am up for the task. We are now stocked for sandwiches, cereal,oatmeal, grilled cheeses, pizza, and more burritos than I would know what to do with.

There isn’t a spare inch of unused freezer space at this point. And I bet it will be nearly cleaned out by next Sunday. (HOW do parents with multiple boys in their teens at the same time stay solvent??)

But you know what?

Worth it.

Lessons Learned

As Mrs. FAF just pointed out, leftovers are a beautiful thing! I am so thankful both of us not only tolerate but actually enjoy eating leftovers. And I quote often even cook twice or three times as much food on purpose, to save us time later in the week. This is definitely one of my top tips for eating well on a budget.

 

 

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

 

 

Tamarind Margarita

 

Tamarind is one of the up and coming ingredients right now, being “discovered” by chefs and home cooks alike. And for good reason! Tamarind is sour, tart, slightly sweet, sticky, and a great “secret ingredient” in sauces, stews, drinks, and chutneys. Along with the culinary uses, it also has a whole host of health benefits.

But, what is it? A fruit, a nut, a spice?

Tamarind is the fruit of a tree, but is actually technically a legume. It grows as a long pod, sort of similar looking to a peanut. Inside the pod are the seeds, surrounded by the sticky sour pulp. This pulp can be used fresh, but most often it is dried and turned into a paste, which makes it even more potent. The trees grow best in tropical areas, meaning it can be found as widely dispersed as Thailand, India, Mexico, Africa, and the Mediterranean.

When I found a bag of tamarind paste at my favorite Indian spice store, I just had to have it. I don’t yet know what other tasty creations I will make, but I knew as soon as I saw a Tamarind Margarita recipe that would be my first experiment!

Y’all know I love me a margarita, whether mixed with fruit, hot and spicy, or as a two-for-one lower calorie fizzy drink.

tamarind margarita

Given that all the hype about tamarind is that it is sweet yet sour, a margarita seems like a natural pairing. I could use tamarind paste rather than the usual “sour mix”, which to be honest I have less than no idea what the ingredients are! I love swaps where I can use real food items that I can see and pronounce over a bottled chemical alternative. Even when the end purpose is not super healthy… but I digress.

We all have our vices, no? 😉

I did learn one important lesson about tamarind paste: this stuff is thick! It is very viscous, and not easy to dissolve in ice cold water. So after I made the first one, where I put ice in the shaker, and had to shake for what felt like half an hour, I learned my lesson.

On the second one I did not add ice, until after it had already been shaken and poured. So take note, ice cold water = paste staying paste and not dissolving!

This makes one pretty strong 4-ounce margarita, and is easy to double or triple. I used bacon rim salt because the internet said smoky flavors pair well with tamarind, and I truly agree! The boy, however, hated it and said he preferred just the drink alone. He wiped off all the salt. So, you do you, you’ve been warned.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces silver or gold tequila
  • 1 ounce lime juice (or lemon if you don’t have lime)
  • 1 generous teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • Optional: rim salt or sugar, ice to fill your glass

tamarind margarita

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a shaker, and shake well. You can also pour it right into a glass and mix it with a spoon, but using the shaker makes me feel like a bartender. Plus mine has cute recipes on the side.

tamarind margarita

Step 2: If using rim salt (or sugar!), put some lemon or lime juice on a shallow dish. Rub the glass in the liquid, then dip into your salt or sugar, and gently shake off the excess. Fill with ice, and pour the margarita over.

tamarind margarita

Step 3: Enjoy (responsibly, please!)

tamarind margarita

If you don’t have agave, or are trying to cut out sugar, feel free to leave it out, or substitute brown sugar or stevia. But it will be quite sour and tart if you use no sweetener. You could also omit the lime juice, if the tamarind is strong enough of a flavor. It does make the drink an odd brown color but I promise it is worth the taste!

 

5 Freezer Meals for 1 or 2 in 30 minutes

 

I know that’s a lot of numbers in the title, but what do you expect from a finance & food blog? 😉 There are many ways to save money on one of most people’s biggest budget categories (after housing): food.

  1. Eat at your parents house
  2. Eat only Ramen noodles
  3. One meal per day
  4. Intermittent fasting
  5. Freeganism
  6. Vegetable garden/farming
  7. Bulk buying
  8. Couponing
  9. Meal planning
  10. Freezer meals

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

But every tip will not work for every person and every situation.

If you are in a dorm with just a small refrigerator and 6 months until you move again, your life is drastically different from a family with four children in the suburbs with two chest freezers.

I’ve designed meal plans for the Dollar Tree, one week of dinners from one pork roast, and 10 freezer meals in one hour.

The Freezer Meals For 2 Plan

This plan is designed for smaller households, who have a freezer.

One or two people.

I made all of these meals for a friend who was about to have a baby. Having freezer meals on hand makes feeding yourself when sleep deprived and stressed so much easier! But these meals are also great for single people or couples who don’t like to cook, as they are super easy and stress free.

So if you have a big family or a big appetite, these recipes might not be for you. However they are very easy to scale up, simply double or triple the ingredients, and use larger freezer bags.

This is also designed to go straight from ingredients –> bag –> freezer –> thaw in refrigerator –> oven or crock pot.

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

To complete these 5 freezer meals, in addition to the food ingredients you will need:

  • 5 quart sized freezer bags
  • Sharpie or other permanent marker
  • Container in which to thaw the bags in the refrigerator (otherwise they will leak condensation all over)

The ingredients are pantry staples (at least in my house!) and items you can easily find at most any grocery store. You can of course step up your game slightly and use dried beans you cook yourself, or produce straight from your garden. These tricks will lower the total cost even further.

But the total for this should be less than $30, for 5 nights of meals for 2 servings each, possibly with leftovers. I will also include some tips at the end on how you can jazz up each one to make it your own.

Per serving total = $3 or less

Recipes included:
  • Chicken & Rice Casserole
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • 3 Bean Vegetarian Chili
  • White Bean & Barley Soup
  • Corn & Potato Chowder

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

Entire Ingredients List:

  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can corn (can use frozen)
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 large chicken breast, cut in half, or 2 total
  • 1 cup barley
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1-2 large baking potato
  • 1 onion, diced, or dried onion
  • Garlic powder or fresh garlic
  • Italian seasonings
  • Chili powder
  • Bouillon
  •  1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup rice

You will be using half or a third of some of these cans, I did not measure it out, I just eyeballed it. If you feel more comfortable with exact numbers, go ahead and get out a measuring cup.

Step 1: Cut up your carrots and potato and onion into a small dice. I did not peel either the potatoes or carrot, but you can if you want. You can also use canned potatoes, though the end product will be soggier. You can also use dried onion, like I did.

Step 2: Label your bags and write the instructions out. Trust me, you want to do this part before the bag is full and possibly wet outside.

Step 3: Open and drain all your cans.

Step 4: Cut a large boneless skinless chicken breast in half, or use two smaller cuts. You can leave the breast whole, or dice it up, either way works. You could also use canned chicken, 1 per recipe.

 

Once you have your labeled bags ready, just dump the ingredients into them, in the order listed. You want to put the meat in last, so it is the first thing to come out when you cook it. Then push out any air in the bag, and seal. Freeze laying flat if possible, as they are then easier to stack and take up less freezer space.

 

Chicken & Rice Casserole

  • 1/2 can corn
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed veggies
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 bouillon cube
  • 1 chicken breast

*Thaw overnight. Bake at 350 in a casserole dish for 1 hour, or in crock pot on low for 2-3 hours, shred chicken before serving.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 can pinto beans (or black beans)
  • 1/3 can diced tomatoes or 1 cup salsa
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • Diced or dried onion
  • 1 chicken breast

*Thaw, simmer on stove for 1 hour, or in crock pot on low 2-3 hours. Top with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheddar cheese, avocado…

 

3 Bean Vegetarian Chili

  •       1 can of 3 different kinds of beans
  •       1/3 can diced tomatoes
  •       Dried onion, garlic powder
  •       2 tbsp chili powder

*Thaw overnight. Add to slow cooker with 3 cups water, cook on low 6-8 hours, or high for 4-6 hours, stirring every hour or so if possible.

 

White Bean & Barley Soup

  •       1 cup white beans (or 1 can)
  •       1 cup barley
  •       ½ – 1 cup cut up carrots
  •       ½ white onion, diced
  •       1-2 cubes bouillon
  •       1/3 can diced tomatoes

*Thaw overnight. Add 6 cups water, simmer 2 hours on the stove or cook in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.

 

Corn & Potato Chowder

  •       2 potatoes, diced
  •       ½ can corn
  •       ½ cup flour
  •       Garlic, onion, bouillon
  •       Optional: 1tbsp Italian seasoning

*Thaw, add 2 cups water and simmer 2 hours on the stove or cook in slow cooker on low 4-6 hours.

 

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

 

 

 

Simple Chickpea Salad

 

Do you struggle with what to bring for lunch to work, or to eat at home, or to send with the kiddos?

Trying to incorporate more healthy food into your diet, like plant based recipes and legumes?

Need a new flavor combo after years of tuna salad sandwiches and chicken salad sandwiches?

Tired of spending $6 or more on lunch every day?

Have I got the solution for you!

Meet the magical, miracle, chickpea salad.

I cannot believe I went 3 decades without knowing what chickpea salad is, or ever eating it! This stuff is so delicious! It is:

  • salty
  • crunchy
  • creamy but with a bit of texture
  • filling – no more 3pm tummy grumbles
  • super simple to make
  • cheap af
  • ridiculously healthy for you
  • everything I’m looking for in a brown bag lunch

The cheapest option is to buy dried chickpeas and cook them yourself. Just put 1/2 pound in a bowl and cover with water. (LOTS of water, these babies plump up like nobody’s business).

After 6-8-12 hours, drain and either simmer on the stove for 4 hours or so, or put in a crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.

That’s it! Then you can store them in the fridge or freezer for whatever and whenever.

You can also totally use cans, no judgment here. Not everyone has time for that, or remembers to soak the night before, or has space on the counter or a crock pot in your house. Just drain and rinse.

However you do it, just get yourself about a cup of chickpeas, and get ready to make some magic happen.

chickpea salad sandwich ingredients

This simple base recipe makes enough for 2 good sized sandwiches or wraps, but I recommend double or tripling! And below I’ll add some ideas on how to further customize it to whatever flavor combo you’re feeling.

Ingredients:

  • 1 heaping cup cooked chickpeas, or 1/2 can drained
  • 1 small-medium pickle, chopped (or 1 tbsp relish)
  • 1/4 red onion, diced small
  • 1 tbsp mustard of your choice
  • Optional: 1 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • Optional: Green onion or celery, diced

Step 1: Soak your beans ~8 hours and cook until soft, or open and drain the can. Put about 1 heaping cup in a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher. You want it mostly crushed but with some small pieces left for texture.

chickpea salad mixing

Step 2: Add your other fillings, and mix well.

Layer on bread, in a wrap, or on top of a mixed greens salad. Put inside or on top of biscuit mix and make puffs. I haven’t tried it yet with pasta to see if it can sub as tuna noodle salad, but if you have please report back!

 

If you want it extra salty:

  • Add 1 tbsp capers
  • Layer on seaweed (nori) sheets between the salad and the bread
  • Sprinkle with sea salt or garlic salt
  • Add a tbsp powdered kelp

If you want it extra crunchy:

  • Add a few tbsp chopped cucumber
  • Add a few tbsp sliced radish
  • Add a few tbsp diced celery ribs
  • Sprinkle in some slivered almonds or walnuts

If you want it to be creamier:

  • Add 1-2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • Add 1-2 tbsp thick coconut milk cream (the top part when you open a can of cold coconut milk)
  • Add 1-2 tbsp cashew cream

If you want it a little bit spicy:

  • Add chopped jalapeno or green chilies
  • Drizzle on a tsp or 2 of hot sauce
  • Sprinkle a little cayenne on top
  • Add a tbsp horseradish or wasabi

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?

Sweet Potato & Kale Breakfast Hash

Sometimes all you have time for in the morning is a bowl of cold cereal before you rush out the door. But sometimes, you want something warm, hearty, and filling. And also healthy. And also pretty quick to make… Seems like a tall order right?

Well, this is one of my best kept not-secrets! It is hands down one of my favorite hot breakfasts, and I talk about it all the time when people ask for super healthy, but also cheap, and also fast, recipes.

With a power duo of sweet potatoes and kale, you have a whole slew of vitamins and nutrients and fiber running around your body, and it’s not even 9am yet!

Or, you could easily make this a breakfast-for dinner situation, or serve it over brown rice for an even more filling anytime meal. Sweet potatoes are scandalously cheap for how nutritious they are, and you can use whatever green is on sale, kale, collards, swiss chard, spinach all work great here.

sweet potato and kale breakfast egg bowl

It is simple and perfect just the way it is, with only 3 ingredients. However, you could also top it any way you choose. I’ve enjoyed hot sauce, salsa, avocados, or adding black beans or chickpeas (in addition to or in place of the egg).

The best part? You can turn it to simmer, put on a lid, and walk away for 15-20 minutes. That gives you time to shower, dress, do some yoga, or find the kids’ shoes, and still have a hot and fresh breakfast ready when you are.

Protip: you can also make one big batch of this at the beginning of the week or on the weekend. Just roast a big pan of sweet potato, or heck any type of squash too, and steam some greens and keep it in the refrigerator. The all you do is heat it up and toss on an egg and you’re ready to take on the world.

Ingredients:

  • 1 sm-med sweet potato
  • 4-6 stems kale, stems removed
  • 1 egg (cage free/pastured if you can)
  • Optional: lemon juice, garlic salt, hot sauce

sweet potato and kale breakfast hash

Step 1: Dice your sweet potato, the smaller the faster it cooks. I usually don’t peel mine, I want all those lovely vitamins. Spray a pan with cooking oil, brush with olive oil, or add a tbsp broth or water. Add the sweet potato, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until soft when poked with a fork.

sweet potato and kale breakfast hash with egg

Step 2: Rinse the kale, and remove the stems. Tear into bite sized pieces. Once the sweet potato is soft, add the kale and cover again for another 5-7 minutes. The kale should wilt and become soft. If you like, add a squirt of lemon or lime juice and some garlic salt here.

sweet potato and kale breakfast hash with egg

Step 3: Remove the sweet potato and kale to a plate, and crack in an egg. Or, you can just cook it right into the greens! Once the egg is cooked to your liking, top your plate, and dig in. I usually leave it just a touch runny, to swirl the potatoes around in the yolk. You could also add in some toast for dipping.