Category Archives: Salads

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.

 

 

Vegan Green Goddess Salad Dressing

Vegan Green Goddess Salad Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup spinach or herbs, packed
  • 2 small avocados
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 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

Instructions

  1. In a food processor or blender, chop your garlic, spinach, and onions.
  2. Add the avocado, and all your liquids. Whip well, using a spatula to scrape down the sides, until smooth.
  3. Feel free to add the liquids slowly, and add more of the acids or even some plain water to reach your desired consistency.
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://www.budgetepicurean.com/vegan/vegan-green-goddess-salad-dressing/

Weekly Eating – 10/23

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!

 

Monday:

Breakfast – I had a few applesauce muffins still left from making friends with the neighbors, and half a raspberry NOOSA yogurt

Lunch – the rest of a pasta salad I made from last weekend’s Triangle on FIRE Meetup, and a mason jar salad

Dinner – Minestrone Soup. I had this bag in the freezer from my batch freezer meal prep session a long time ago.  I defrosted it overnight, and then tonight just put it in a pot with the broth from the rib bones last week until boiling.

I was a little worried that the noodles would be mushy and gross from being frozen and then thawed, but it actually turned out to be the perfect consistency. This was a really tasty batch, I would use this recipe again.

Snack – I had a little packet of a nut butter sample in my desk drawer, combined with some pretzel crisps I keep as well it made a perfect little afternoon pick me up snack

Tuesday:

Breakfast – applesauce muffins 

Lunch – the last of the Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake leftovers

Dinner – I had a quick burrito before running off to the October Bull City Food Swap. This month’s swap was awesome, there were some really outstanding goodies. Especially the homemade smoked sausage made by my new best friend!  😉

I had brought several items for trade, including some marigold seeds from my yard, hickory nuts (we have 3 trees, and more nuts than we know what to do with) and some homemade garlic rosemary bread. The bread was a hit, as baked goods usually are. I think I found my niche, as you can trade for really good items with homemade bread.

I got lots of caramel corn, jerky, baked goods, fresh pasta, and some pesto. Luckily, pesto was already on the menu for tomorrow! I had also taken out a giant pack of chicken quarters I got on crazy clearance a few weeks ago.

It was $4.44 for 6 leg quarters! That is a lot of chicken for less than a buck a piece. I roasted them up on a sheet pan to keep in the fridge for the boy to snack on whenever he’s hungry this week.

Snack – blender hummus and veggies

Wednesday:

Breakfast – peanut butter granola bar

Lunch – leftover minestrone soup

Dinner – Pesto pasta, using up the fresh pasta from the Food Swap and the rest of some frozen blender pesto I’d made when the basil was done for the season. So garlicy and delicious!

Snack – a mini snicker bar at work

Thursday:

Breakfast – egg sandwich with 2 slices of my garlic rosemary bread

Lunch – a chicken quarter with some brown rice and edamame

Dinner – Beef roast in the slow cooker. I just chopped up some carrots, celery, and potatoes and tossed them in with a beef roast from the freezer. I paid about $10 for a ~3 lb roast, which is not bad

Luckily I have a programmable slow cooker, so I could set it on high for 4 hours, and then it automatically switches to “keep warm” setting so it doesn’t burn. It was a perfect meal for a chilly fall evening. I love that it is just starting to turn kind-of-cold now.

Friday:

Breakfast – I bought a pack of white corn tortillas with the idea to make quick breakfast burritos this week. They were delicious, but the tortillas fall apart and are way too flaky to eat in a car. Flour tortillas from now on.

Lunch – Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with a coworker. I did spend about $7, but this is my first lunch out all month, and the salad was really delicious. No regrets.

Dinner – Burritos, because there is never a bad day for a burrito.

Snack – chocolate peanut butter granola bar

The Weekend

This weekend is pretty exciting, we have a housewarming for a neighbor on Friday and will take a bottle of red wine over to say welcome to the ‘hood. They are about our age, so I’m hoping for a future friendship there. We got invited because I am the only one who has come to say hi since they moved in! It pays to be friendly.

Saturday is the NC Wine Festival in Raleigh! There will be 36 wineries, all from North Carolina, and all tasting is included. There will be food places too I believe, but you probably have to pay. We plan to have a big lunch, and hydrate well prior to going. The tickets were my 1-year ‘paper anniversary’ gift.  🙂

And then Sunday will be recovery and chores. Sleeping in, raking leaves, doing dishes and laundry. You know, all the fun adulting things you have to do. But probably a healthy dose of video games thrown in too.

Food Total: $63.85

This week I am quite pleased with groceries, especially since I was going for super healthy and lots of produce. Most people see winter as the time to gain a little “insulation”, but since we have plans for the holidays which may involve a swimsuit, I’m actually cracking down on my diet, meaning even more produce than normal, and hopefully lower volumes of carbs and dairy. We will see how the next few months go.

I did find some great deals, for example grass fed free range bison, which is absurdly expensive, was marked down nearly half off. It is still shockingly expensive to me, but we do love the flavor and so since I was far within my budget I picked it up to have as a treat at some point. Eggs were on super sale, at 79 cents per dozen, so that will likely be my go-to snack this month. And I found marked down crab meat for 0.99, so I’m going to try some new recipes.

Lessons Learned

This week really reinforced the benefits to eating leftovers. Every dollar spent on food is a sunk cost, so not eating leftovers and throwing away food is like throwing dollars in your trash can. I’m so glad hubs and I both don’t mind, and in some cases prefer, leftovers. I even plan many meals to make more than we can eat in one day, so that we have easily reheatable meals and snacks around.

I also am finding that I have way more food than I think we do! Just pulling most of our meals from the freezer this week, has helped tremendously in keeping overall cost down. And those stocked freezers come from picking up things on sale as I see them, then putting them away for future meals. The flexibility of being able to put together a meal from pieces picked up over time is a skill which can be developed by practicing over time. I’d highly encourage it!

 

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Restaurant Review: Rock’n’Roll Sushi

Since it’s been a while since I’ve done a food review, I figured it was about time! I’ve been to several wonderful places now throughout the Triangle, including Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill. Even a few far-flung places like Asheville and Sunset Beach. 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.

 

Today’s review is for a new sushi restaurant in Durham: Rockin’Roll Sushi Express! Located in a shopping plaza at 3405 Hillsborough Rd, Suite E, Durham, NC 27705, they are convenient to downtown Durham as well as the rest of the triangle via highway 85 & 147.

Y’all know I love my sushi, whether homemade or with a burger inside, and was a regular at my old favorite sushi place in Connecticut. Hubs and I have been known to take down plates of nearly 100 nigiri before. So now that I’m a Carolina girl, I had to find an AYCE place to satisfy my insatiable sushi cravings, without breaking the bank.

For only $10.99 each, this place fits the bill!

Not only is it quite affordable, and all you can eat, it is also free entertainment! The restaurant operates with 2 large conveyor belts on each side of the room, which rotate around several tables and chairs. There are little doors in the glass that the customer opens to pull out the dish they want as it rolls by.

According to the adorably named Get-Offline.com, “The conveyor belt sushi (Kaiten-sushi) is a Japanese fast-food style sushi concept. Initially invented so that sushi chefs could quickly serve customers with fewer servers, the “Kaiten-sushi” has since taken off as a fun and fresh way to dine out.”

The conveyor belt rolls by at a pretty decent clip, not so fast that you can’t grab the things that catch your eye but fast enough that by the time you polish off your third roll the thing you wanted seconds of is coming back around.

They have a good assortment of your standard expected rolls like California, Philly, Tuna and Spicy Tuna. They also have some pretty creative specialty rolls, like the Crazy Monkey Roll with fried bananas, or my favorites, the Naughty Crab and Volcano Roll.

Seriously, the Volcano Roll is deep fried goodness. I’d recommend you eat your fill first, because this bad boy takes up a lot of stomach space. They also have plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, including a cucumber roll, avocado roll, and seaweed salad roll.

Obviously, as an all you can eat place, you cannot expect the most amazing delicacies of all time. You get what you pay for, folks, and this is pretty typical American style sushi. Though I must say, the nigiri slices are generous for the fact that you can have as many as you can handle.

If you’re like me and enjoy a light bowl of miso soup before digging in or in between courses, you’re in luck! There is a miso soup dispenser. Yup, you just put your styrofoam bowl underneath and press the button, and a stream of piping hot miso comes pouring out.

The down side is you cannot choose your volume, every pour is the same amount. But they do offer traditional toppings of tofu pieces and chopped green onion. Not to mention literal gallons of soy sauce, yum yum sauce, and teriyaki sauce.

There is also a salad and toppings bar that is included. This has goodies like seafood salad (which is apparently some of the best my grandma has ever tasted, and she is a bit of a seafood salad connoisseur so that’s quite a compliment!) regular green salad, edamame, pickled ginger, and seaweed salad.

I personally had at least 2 big helpings of the seaweed salad. Something about that slimy stuff, I just can’t get enough of the salty umami flavor. There are few dessert options, but they do have oranges and a strange cheesecake like thing. It isn’t very powerful, but it is somehow perfect after a belly full of fish, rice, and soy sauce.

I see this as a personal challenge now, every time I go I need to have more plates! The rolls come with 4 or 6 pieces, and the nigiri come as a set of 2. The plate colors don’t matter, because it is all included in the admission price. This makes me more willing to try things I’ve not had before, and I appreciate not losing out because I like the typically pricier raw fish pieces the best.

There is some soft rock and pop mix playing as you eat, and generally all the diners keep to their own tables. The decor is really fun, with bright photos and definitions of common words like unagi and kani salad on the walls. The bathrooms were quite clean, as was the entire restaurant. There is a self-serve trash area to clear the plates and put them in bins for washing. And you can see the sushi chefs behind the bar at the back, making rolls as fast as you can eat them.

Overall, I’d rate Rock’nRolls:

  • Taste: 7
  • Atmosphere: 8
  • Value: 10

Weekly Eating – 10/16

 

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!

 

Hey y’all, for those who don’t know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (along with a whole host of other causes I’m sure). Though I agree with BitchesGetRiches on how empty the promises of “raising awareness” I do want y’all to be aware that:

  • It is estimated that in 2017, there will be at least 252,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer among women
  • 40,610 deaths will be caused by breast cancer
  • A self-exam is the best preventative thing you can do
  • Men can also get breast cancer
  • Mammograms aren’t always the best idea before 40
  • About 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their life
  • Costs of cancer care can easily be in the hundreds of thousands, even with great insurance
  • Diet and exercise can lower your risk of developing cancer

(Sources: Susan G Komen.org, breastcancer.org, cancer.org, MayoClinic.org, The CDC, USNews.com, Washington Post)

Ways you can help:

Save the boobies!

Monday:

Breakfast – I had made another big batch of smoothie in jars for this week, so I had a strawberry banana smoothie. It was also nice and pink!

Lunch – Salmon Couscous Salad: I brought enough for 3 days lunches

Dinner – Ham & Bean soup. I had some veggie soup leftover, plus some of a pork loin from the weekend. To use them both up and make it into something new I just chopped the pork, added a can of white beans, and simmered it together for about 20 minutes. With the rest of the leftover rolls, it was delicious and perfect!

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Smoothie in a jar

Lunch – Salmon Couscous Salad

Dinner – White cheddar shells with pork. I just could not even, Tues was a stressful day. So I said F it, I’m making boxed mac n cheese. Hubs was sweet and took over, and decided to tear up the remaining piece of pork loin and add it to the mac n cheese.

It turned out really really good actually! Since the mac n cheese was a Friday Freebie at Kroger and the pork was leftovers, this was basically a free meal. Not bad for not wanting to cook.

Snack – 2 Cookies & Green tea

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smootie in a jar

Lunch – Salmon couscous salad

Dinner – Ribs with potato wedges & roasted cabbage. I had planned to make stuffed cabbage casserole, but the face hubs made when he saw that on the meal plan board was so sad… since I was grocery shopping today, I decided I’d pick up whatever was on sale and surprise him. And boy, when I saw organic grass-fed ribs on sale for $5, you better believe I snatched that right up!

Even better, when I got to the checkout, the sale price rang up wrong, about $2 more than it should have been. I politely pointed it out to the lady, who checked the sticker and saw I was right. Turns out, if something rings up incorrectly and you catch it, you get that item for free! So we had FREE ORGANIC RIBS! Best day ever.

Of course, having ribs meant having bones leftover. And I’m not one to waste an opportunity, so of course I tossed the bones into the small crock pot overnight with some spices and odd and ends, so now I also have a quart of organic beef broth!

Snack – a coworker brought in pumpkin oatmeal bars, so I had one of those with some green tea. Delightful. I’m trying to cut back from 2 cups of coffee a day to only one, plus it is finally getting chilly around here, hence all the green tea this week.

Thursday:

Breakfast – (free) Raspberry Noosa & my homemade tropical granola. Noosa was another Kroger Friday Freebie, and I already know I love this brand, so I was pretty excited about it. I used half the container and added about 1/2 cup of granola for a perfect and tasty breakfast.

Lunch – Peanut butter and banana sandwich, (free) peach cottage cheese, mason jar salad. The cottage cheese was another Kroger Friday freebie (I really love these things) and it sounded interesting. I love cottage cheese, and I love peach yogurt. but I gotta say, not a fan of them mixed together. I could only handle about half, and then I threw the rest in the trash. I know, I’m sorry!

Dinner – Spaghetti with meatballs, garlic bread, and zucchini. I had a half loaf of garlic bread in the freezer, so I pulled that out and roasted it on a pan with some meatballs and zucchini while we went for a nice walk. When we got back I just boiled up some pasta, added sauce, and pulled the pan out of the oven.

Snack – granola bar

Friday:

Breakfast – mason jar smoothie

Lunch – Employee Appreciation Day picnic! We got free lunch of bbq pulled pork, baked beans, chicken tenders, pasta salad, and coleslaw. I haven’t had chicken tenders in ages, so that was delightful. There was live music and games and tons of free swag too! You know my favorite price is “free”.

They were pretty good gifts as well, multiple travel sized toiletries which will be perfect for upcoming trips, a full sized bottle of ibuprofen, a tshirt which will probably see many yoga workouts, a nice divided lunch box, and several nice pens. All in all a very good day, I felt quite appreciated.

Dinner – Stir Friday! I found 2 pork chops in the freezer, which I took out and thawed. I also got a marked down bag of chopped cauliflower rice for myself, and made regular brown rice in the rice cooker for hubs. With a cup of frozen mixed veggies, some garlic and soy sauce, it was a perfect simple meal.

The Weekend

This weekend I am super excited to have found a Triangle FIRE Meetup group! So I’ll be making some pasta salad to take to that, and hopefully learn a lot and make some new friends. We are also contemplating going to the NC State Fair, since Sunday is the last day to do so.

I need to make another batch of peanut butter granola bars since I’m running low, and maybe a few more mason jar salads for next week. If we find the energy, we might find a pumpkin patch or go apple picking. I also acquired a Singer sewing machine, which I need to look up the manual for and try to get it working.

Food Total: $55.13

I was very pleased with this week’s food shopping. I had an offer from Kroger where you get 200 bonus fuel points if you spend at least $50, but I didn’t want to go very far over that. Especially since last week I inventoried the freezers and have the rest of October already planned out. So hitting just over $50 was perfect, I got the bonus fuel points which will help keep gas costs down, but didn’t over-spend on my food budget.

Lessons Learned

It is SO GOOD to have a flexible meal plan, backup meals in the pantry, and knwo how to cook several simple meals. On days where work is stressful or you’re upset or whatever and you just cannot think about cooking something, having a pantry with options you can just make happen in 20 minutes or less is so critical. It saves us from the expense of ordering delivery or going out to get food, food that is probably not very healthy (because it would be either pizza or Firehouse brisket and cheddar subs, I guarantee).

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Weekly Eating – 10/2

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!

 

Monday:

Breakfast – raisin oatmeal

Lunch – Faux pho! We had tons of leftover shrimp fettuccini with broccoli and carrots from last week, so I decided to remix the leftovers. I put about a cup of pasta in a mason jar with some of the veg and shrimp, and added a little bit of purple cabbage, a tbsp of white miso paste and tsp of chicken bouillon powder.

Don’t you just adore this little lunch box?! Get yours: http://amzn.to/2y7wXms

When it was lunch time, I just added hot water from our keurig machine at work, and shook it up. Side note, make very sure your lid is tightened prior to shaking! 😉 This was SO GOOD, and was a great way to make leftovers fresh. I could easily add other toppings too like fresh basil, chopped green onion, crushed peanuts, etc.

Dinner – leftovers! Shrimp fettuccini, just as is with some garlic powder. Fortunately I love this stuff, so I’m not tired of it yet. I also went grocery shopping and processed a huge volume of fresh veg into bags for the freezer, a GIANT pot of cabbage soup, and a jar of purple cabbage to become sauerkraut.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – coconut almond yogurt

Lunch – The other half of the hamandegger burger from Cowfish last week, plus a salad in a jar. This is my version of balance.

Dinner – Since it was National Taco Day, obvs we had tacos! I mixed some chicken breasts with cranberry juice and homemade Pepper Jelly in a crock pot, plus some rice, pinto beans, lettuce, hot sauce and plain Greek yogurt

Wednesday:

Breakfast – KIND bar

Lunch – free pizza at a work meeting!

Dinner – Ham & Scalloped Potatoes (but with a surprise layer of green cabbage! Because I have a lot, it is good for you, and I like it. Hubs was less than thrilled but ate it, bless his heart.)

Snack – fresh veg & blender hummus

Thursday:

Breakfast – made a new batch of the Chocolate Peanut Butter granola bars! These will be appearing a lot the next few weeks.

Lunch – Cabbage & Veggie Soup: chock full of all kinds of veggies, tomato juice, and nutrition

Dinner – I harvested the last of my basil plant to make a big batch of blender pesto. I served it over the last of the massive vat of Shrimp Fettuccini with Carrots & Broccoli to make it feel totally new. With a side of warm garlic bread, it really hit the spot!

Plus I had an extra cup of pesto leftover, which I popped in the freezer for later. At some point during the winter, I can pull it out for a nice warm taste of summer.

Friday:

Breakfast – homemade chocolate PB pretzel bar

Lunch – Mason jar salad

Dinner – I splurged a bit and met a friend for wine and apps after work. We went to a place called Town Hall Grill, and it was so cute! We just had a nice glass of wine to unwind from the week and catch up a bit, before she headed to dinner with her in-laws and I headed home to make a beef stir fry.

I used a bag of veggies I froze from Monday, a chunk of steak from an on-sale roast, and the remainder of the cooked pasta from last week’s Shrimp Fettuccini. Combined with some soy sauce, jalapeno hot sauce, and YumYum Sauce, it was by far the most delicious, frugal Stir Friday yet!

Snack – someone at work brought in M&Ms and peanut butter crackers. I gave in and had some, and it was actually a pretty great combo of sweet and salty

The Weekend

This weekend is the first weekend in like a month 1/2 that we aren’t going somewhere! We are excited to relax, but also have a lot of adulting to do, and some fun house projects we plan to start on. We want to build a nice trellis walkway in the backyard, and line the trail from fence to door to garden with gravel.

Also, we will be building a raised bed garden, for perhaps some fall planting and definitely prep for next spring. Cleaning out the gutters, if the ladder + hubs is tall enough. And if I get very motivated, I want to make several corn tacos with my Maseca, and make black bean breakfast tacos to freeze for the coming weeks.

 

Total: $58.78

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

This week I was quite proud of myself! I found several bags of clearance produce, where they sell for 0.99 regardless of what is in the bag. I got 3 bell peppers, 6 zucchini, and 4 yellow squash for $3. Between that and the dirt-cheap cabbage heads, we had TONS of fresh produce for barely $5.

I also finally got the motivation to make another batch of granola bars, which I desperately love the taste of. They are the perfect grab-and-go breakfasts, for when I don’t have time to make smoothies in a jar ahead, or a hot egg something. Plus a surplus of leftovers, all combined to make this a very frugal food week.

Lessons Learned

As much as I love going place and having people over, sometimes you need a no-plans weekend. Adulting is hard, and if you don’t stay on top of all the random chores and to-dos, then you will end up having to pay others to do your work and maintenance.

And as much as I’d love to have someone just show up and suddenly the laundry is done, the grass is cut, the landscaping is immaculate, and there are no dust bunnies to be found, I would much rather watch my savings account balance creep up, and dividends pile up in my investment accounts.

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How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Weekly Eating – 9/11 & 9/18

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, this post is a surprise double feature, because last weekend we had a wonderful family wedding in Boston, but then nature conspired to strand us there Sunday night. It’s not a good excuse for not posting, but it’s the one I’m using.  🙂

The past 2 weeks have been an interesting see-saw of super frugal food choices and then accidental or on purpose food splurges. I did some creative re-purposing of leftovers too. The meal plan was sort of made up on the fly, but overall I think it was a total win. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Monday 9/11:

Breakfast – Brown sugar cinnamon raisin oatmeal.

I put together a little mason jar which I brought into work. I just add 1/2 cup or so of the mixture, and use the Keurig for hot water to make it in my coffee mug. Now I have oatmeal waiting for me in my desk drawer whenever I want!

Lunch – Leftover hibachi from the weekend before. My dad had been in town, and we explored a little near Cary and found a cute Chinese restaurant in a plaza that had delish hibachi. Of course I only ate half, and the other half was lunch.

Dinner – Chicken stir fry (even though it’s not Friday!) to use up the rest of the shredded cooked chicken and some rice we had. I also found packs of pre-sliced veggies on sale for $1 so this was perfect.

Tuesday 9/12:

Breakfast – raisin oatmeal (see above)

Lunch – Veggie soup & edamame. This was the last of a bag of edamame from last week, plus all the leftover bits of veggies simmered with some lentils. It’s more filling than you may think, and nice on a cold and dreary day.

Dinner – Salmon salad! I finally had to just post the recipe so I can refer to it (when I use it every other week in the future).

Wednesday 9/13:

Breakfast – raisin oatmeal

Lunch – salmon salad

Dinner – pasta with pesto, using basil from the front yard. It is going to seed and about done, so I harvested the most I could and made a big batch of pesto.

Combined with some tortellini, and meatballs with 1/2 pound ground turkey I had in the fridge, it was super tasty. Never would have thought pesto + meatballs, but it works.

Snack – half a can of pineapple

Thursday 9/14:

Breakfast – raisin oatmeal

Lunch – salmon salad!

Dinner – had dinner at a friend’s house, where we had wings and an assortment of cheeses and bread. It was so good, and we found a few new cheeses we like! Also I made a blueberry pie to contribute.

Friday 9/15:

Breakfast – I had some leftover milk that was about to go bad, and we were leaving town, so I made some yogurt! It makes the milk last longer that way.

For breakfast, of course I had fresh yogurt and some tropical granola.

Lunch – you’ll never guess…. salmon salad! Yes, I actually did eat this 4 days in a row. And loved it every single time.

Dinner – we were en route to the wedding, so we had Five Guys in the airport. Not the healthiest, but it was the first time I’d had fast food in… several months. Their burgers are pretty darn good.

The Weekend

This weekend was yet another wedding, this time in Maine! It was right on the water, and the fog cleared for about 5 glorious hours. It was an absolutely beautiful ceremony, and a joy to watch this family I have lucked into and chosen to join expand to encompass the bride and her wonderful family too.

I met new people, re-connected with a few we hadn’t seen since our own wedding last year, and danced my face off! Doing the electric slide with several fabulous people more than triple my age was one of the many highlights of the weekend. Another highlight: eating lobster twice in one day!

We went to what claimed to have the “best lobster roll on the East Coast”, and not gonna lie it was pretty great. Their clam chowder was also amazing. And then at the wedding, we each got our own personal lobster! I know, it’s decadent. The perks of coastal living ya know? But then, they also have to deal with winter… so… #notworth

On Sunday they had a lovely brunch, with mimosas and 4 kinds of quiche. Everyone said their goodbyes and we headed into Boston. We carpooled with several people who all had staggered flight times. But we did get a few hours of wandering with my in-laws, since we had the latest scheduled flights. We got some tasty pizza at a place in Charlestown, and then wandered around Faneuil Hall.

Monday 9/18:

Breakfast – well, since we were stuck in Boston, and the hotel had a free breakfast, we obviously took advantage of that. English muffins with jelly, coffee and juice, and tiny yogurts, plus a bagel for the road.

Lunch – Now in Boston Logan International Airport for several hours, I splurged on a big hot meal. I ate about half of it, then stuck it in my carry on. I ate the rest when I got hungry again on the plane.

Dinner – I finally got home exhausted around 7pm, so I basically just unpacked a bit, got the pups, and went straight to bed…

It was so nice to see these faces again  🙂

Tuesday 9/19:

Breakfast – brown sugar raisin oatmeal!

Lunch – peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was too tired from traveling to bother making, like, real food. I didn’t even get a picture

Dinner – I went out to a new sushi place with a friend called RockinRolls. It is a conveyor belt style, where you just grab the things you want as they go by! It was very cool, even if the nigiri were a little small. They made up for it in choices. And the miso soup dispenser was absolutely fascinating.

As a HUGE fan of sushi and also not paying a lot, a $12 all-you-can-eat option that’s only 10 minutes from my house is the best/worst thing ever. I will definitely be back.

Wednesday 9/20:

Breakfast – oatmeal! Yup, this is a boring breakfast week. Sorry not sorry, this stuff costs like 10 cents per serving.

Lunch – black beans & rice with salsa. I made a package of minute rice in the microwave and added a half can of black beans, topped with some salsa from a food swap. The other half I saved for tomorrow. This is becoming a staple work lunch.

Dinner – I used the rest of the pesto from last week and a can of tomatoes to make a tomato-basil soup, and some grilled cheese. I love simple meals, and even moreso when I’m just cooking for myself. Hubs was on a work trip in CT this week.

Snack – a handful of pretzels and some gummy bears… yeah I don’t know, it’s just what I had at my desk 🙂

Thursday 9/21:

Breakfast – more oatmeal

Lunch – Black beans & rice with salsa. This is just so oddly fulfilling to me. Pretty sure this will be a frequent occurrence in my life.

Dinner – I took the pups over to a friend’s house, and we had a vegetarian and a vegan present. I introduced them all to lentils, and we had veggie tacos. I’m not sure what kind of “meat” they had but it was really good!

Snack – There was a retirement party at work today, and I snagged a cup full of raw veggies to snack on all afternoon. Love free food that is also healthy!

Friday 9/22:

Breakfast – oatmeal

Lunch – ravioli from my last food swap (I put it in the freezer for an occasion like now), with some frozen veggies, the last of the pesto-soup and some leftover feta. It was actually really good! Hooray for frugal wins.

Dinner – We kicked off the weekend with dinner at The Pit, a very well-known BBQ joint in downtown Durham. We got the Big Boy to split, it’s all of their meats in one tray! The biscuits were AMAZING, and the ribs were probably my favorite. Or maybe the brisket.

Personally, I’d skip the grilled chicken, and the sauces are all Carolina style (very vinegary and not thick) so we weren’t blown away impressed, but if that’s your thing then this is the place for you!

The Weekend

This weekend, my aunt and grandmother are in town, visiting from Ohio! I’m so excited, it will be the first time either of them have been down to see our new house (the first one I OWN) and all the things I’m falling in love with in Durham and Chapel Hill.

We have plans to stuff ourselves at the all you can eat Rockin Rolls sushi, check out the 5th Annual Bull City Burgers & Brewery Oktoberfest, and the 10th Annual Abundance NC Pepper Festival.  It should be a good time! And I may need to buy new pants in a size up afterwards…

Total: $55 (or $515, depending what you count)

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Well… we were really good about eating from the freezer/pantry the past 2 weeks while at home. But the $55 is from various airport foods while traveling. If you add in the extra things (hotel, uber rides, tickets to festivals, etc). then the true cost of travel wrinkles is much higher. I’m going to stick with the actual food costs though.

Lessons Learned

Always be prepared! I am already obsessive about taking snacks with me everywhere, but evidently I should double my efforts. Because you just never know.

I also learned that eating super frugal meals doesn’t really bother me much at all. I’m perfectly happy with my rice and beans, PB&J, and grilled cheese, especially when hubs is away for work. I just don’t have the motivation to cook fancy things for myself alone.

This is a great thing, financially! The lower I can get the cost per meal, the lower our overall grocery bill each week / month / year. And then we have more wiggle room for the occasional travel issues or to treat visitor from out of town. That’s a win in my book!

 

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Salmon & Couscous Salad

The first time I had this salad was on a family vacation, and my sister-in-law and her friend were cooking a vegetarian dinner for everyone. She has been a vegetarian for going on 20 years now, which is an awe-inspiring lifestyle, for me. I’m not sure where the original recipe came from, but it involved corn and tomatoes, pine nuts and salmon, shaved parmesan and arugula. It sounded pretty good.

Then we sat down to eat. And it was presented beautifully, layered in a rainbow across a large serving tray.

And then I took a bite.

And I was in love.

That’s the story of my obsession with my favorite salad of all time. Since then I have made several permutations of this salad, for a dinner party, for hubs and myself, and just for me to enjoy at work. It is super simple to put together, and can be an easy thing to take to work to eat for several days. You can eat it cold or room temp, so there is no microwave fishy smell (which I’m sure my co-workers appreciate).

And it is virtually endlessly customizable. I’ve had it with pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, macademia nuts, or none. I’ve tried craisins, raisins, dates, and prunes. I’ve used couscous, quinoa, or no grains. And nearly every salad dressing on the planet will go with this well, as well as having it naked! (As in, no dressing, though do whatever makes you happy. At your house, not at work.)

If you’ve been keeping up with my Weekly Eating series, you know this is frequently a dish I make in large amounts so that I can have leftovers for several days. I’ve begun taking enough for 3-4 days’ worth to work, and just keeping it in the refrigerator and taking out one serving at a time. It is super healthy, quite filling, and pretty affordable if you choose ingredients seasonally and/or on sale.

If you’ve been looking for a recipe to impress at a dinner party, a meal that is inclusive for vegetarians (just offer extra protein options like quinoa and other toppings like beans/nuts), something light and fresh and healthy, or a make-ahead nearly-no-prep work lunch option, look no further!

Ingredients (per salad):

  • 2-3 ounces cooked salmon
  • 2-3 cups salad (spinach, romaine, mixed greens, arugula)
  • 1/2 cup cooked couscous (or barley, rice, quinoa)
  • Sprinkle of craisins or raisins or other dried fruit
  • Sprinkle of nuts (walnuts work best but any will work)
  • Sprinkle of cheese (parmesan, feta, goat…)
  • Optional other toppings: tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, peppers, carrots, beans, anything you can think of!
  • Dressing of choice

Step 1: Cook your salmon however you like, I usually pan-fry them with a spritz of coconut oil or bake them in the oven. Your choice to leave them as a fillet or shred them. You could also use canned, drained salmon here, or sub in cooked chicken, steak, or other fish.

Step 2: Cook your couscous or other grain. I like pearled couscous because it has a pleasant, sort-of-chewy texture that goes well with the overall texture of the salad. Quinoa is also good here.

Step 3: For visual effect, lay down a bed of greens and then layer each separate ingredient in a line across it. To just dig in, toss it all in a bowl, topping as you see fit. Enjoy!

 

 

Caprese Salad

 

Isn’t it amazing how the simplest of things can tend to be the most delicious?  Sometimes we get wrapped up in crazy new flavors, seasonings, toppings, ingredients list as long as your arm. But it truly is quality that makes all the difference.  When produce is seasonal, fresh, local, and picked in its prime, there is nothing better. And nothing says “summer” quite like a fresh Caprese salad. Soft, creamy mozzarella cheese, tangy fresh basil, and plump juicy heirloom tomatoes fresh from the vine. OPA!

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High-quality cheese is a delight, while 99 cent slices of pasteurized processed cheese like product is hardly worth wasting the calories and preserving your insides. And you can taste the difference between a true fresh pressed, high quality olive oil and a knock off lower quality oil or mixture. It should taste grassy and strong on its own, maybe tickle the back of your throat a little. That is the anti oxidants working. It is worth investing in some! A little bit goes a long way.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large fresh tomato
  • 1 large ball fresh mozarella cheese
  • Big handful fresh basil leaves
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Optional: Sea salt to taste

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Step 1: Slice the tomato and mozzarella into slices, about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Layer them alternating on a plate with fresh basil leaves. Drizzle olive oil over it all, and sprinkle on some sea salt. That’s it.

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You can also make this salad on skewers to serve as an appetizer or snack, or use the tiny mozzarella balls and grape tomatoes for an adorable itty bitty version! These flavors also lend themselves very well to bruschetta or pasta dishes.

 

What is your favorite summer dish? Do you have other recipes with the Caprese flavors you’d like to share? Comment below!

Cranberry Cashew Chicken Salad

 

Ever get really tired of a certain kind of lunch?  Like say you always take a roast beef sandwich with cheddar and mustard.  Or a tuna salad pita pocket.  Or a certain type or brand of soup.  When you eat the same thing several days in a row, you can get bored easily.  But then you also want more ‘grown-up’ options sometimes than just peanut butter and jelly, or maybe you don’t have any leftovers to choose from at the moment.

This is a super simple recipe for a great tasting and healthy chicken salad sandwich mix.  It is designed to make just enough for one large sandwich or wrap, but you can easily increase the quantities to feed a family of four or a luncheon buffet for fifty.  It has a tiny bit of sweetness, which helps kids love it too, and a nice bit of crunch to make it interesting.  No one needs to know that you snuck in an extra serving of fruits & veggies.

For maximum healthy, use plain Greek yogurt to bind it, and serve as a lettuce wrap or on whole grain bread or tortilla with extra veggie toppings.  This is a great way to use up extra chicken meat from a whole bird, and is very frugal and versatile.  Try this the next time you need lunchtime inspiration, a quick after-school snack, or a buzz-worthy picnic dish.

Ingredients for Cranberry Cashew chicken salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1/2 tbsp dried cranberry
  • 1/2 tbsp cashews or peanuts
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise or Miracle Whip or plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp mustard

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Step 1: Use meat from a cooked chicken (such as rotisserie) to save time, or poach 1 boneless skinless chicken breast in water or broth until no longer pink.  Shred with two forks, and use about 1/2 cup per serving you intend to make.

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Step 2: In a bowl, mix all ingredients together well.  This tastes even better if you let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, and will keep up to a week.  Feel free to add in your own flavorings like lemon or lime juice, use raisins instead of cranberries, or add spinach rather than celery.  If you have nut allergies, omit the cashews/peanuts, and if you still want crunch add a tbsp large breadcrumbs, fried onions, or Chinese noodles.

 

 

Cranberry Cashew Chicken Salad

Cranberry Cashew Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1/2 tbsp dried cranberry
  • 1/2 tbsp cashews or peanuts
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise or Miracle Whip or plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp mustard

Instructions

  1. Use meat from a cooked chicken (such as rotisserie) to save time, or poach 1 boneless skinless chicken breast in water or broth until no longer pink. Shred with two forks, and use about 1/2 cup per serving you intend to make.
  2. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together well. This tastes even better if you let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, and will keep up to a week.
  3. Feel free to add in your own flavorings like lemon or lime juice, use raisins instead of cranberries, or add spinach rather than celery. If you have nut allergies, omit the cashews/peanuts, and if you still want crunch add a tbsp large breadcrumbs, fried onions, or Chinese noodles.
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Mandarin-Cherry Tuna Salad

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For a quick, healthy lunch, tuna salad is always a go-to.  Pretty much all you need is a can or pouch of tuna and some lemon juice, but there are infinite ways you can spruce it up.
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For example:
  • Add a chopped hard boiled egg
  • Toss in diced celery
  • Shred up some carrots
  • Add chunks of apple
  • Spoon in a few tbsp of relish
  • Hot sauce!

And many more options, as creative as your mind can dream up.  This particular recipe came about because the baby oranges were on sale, and we needed to use some up before they dried out and became inedible.  Oranges go great with tuna, but I wanted just a little bit more to round out the flavor.  Dried cherries were just the thing.  Feel free to use raisins or cranberries if that is what you have.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can or pouch of tuna, drained
  • 1 small orange (or 1/2 can mandarin orange slices)
  • 1 tbsp dried cherries (or cranberries or raisins)
  • 1 tbsp mayo or miracle whip
  • 1 tsp lemon juice or cider vinegar
  • 1-2 cups chopped greens, or a wrap, or 2 slices of bread
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Step 1: Open and drain a can of tuna, mix in a bowl with the mayo and lemon juice.  Add in the cherries.

Step 2: Either wrap it up, make it into a sandwich, or serve it over a salad, topped with the orange slices.  Season to taste and enjoy!