Category Archives: Side dishes

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?

 

 

Best Ever Sweet Potato Biscuits (And They’re Vegan!)

 

Sweet potatoes are a beloved vegetable here in the South, where they star in everything from sweet potato pie to sweet potato fries. They are in the same family as morning glories, and grow best in warm climates. They are only distantly related to the white baking potato. They are also distinct from the species Dioscorea which is a genuine yam (source).

Sweet potatoes have been named the most efficient staple food to produce, yielding the most nutrition per acre of land (source). They provide simple starches (carbohydrates) as all root crops do, but they also are rich in dietary fiber, of which nearly 95% of Americans do not eat enough! (source 1 and source 2)

Dietary fiber is so important for gut health, lowering your risk of colon cancers, and maintaining a healthy weight. Fiber helps you feel full, decreases risk of diverticulitis and IBS, helps stabilize blood sugar, and lowers cholesterol levels. The American Dietetic Association recommends 20-35 grams per day, but the majority of people don’t even come close to that. And a truly healthy diet would actually be more like 70-90 grams per day!

The good news is, adding more plant foods into foods you already eat is a super simple way to increase your fiber intake painlessly. Adding sweet potatoes into delicious, flaky biscuits sneaks all kinds of fiber, vitamins, and beta carotene into your breakfast or dinner side dish, and brings a fun vibrant orange color to the table.

Baking your own biscuits may seem scary, but the process is very simple. It does take some time, about 3 hours total start to finish, which makes it a good weekend or day off project. But you can scale up to make a huge batch, and freeze the extras! It would be a great way to introduce kids to the kitchen as well.

Based loosely on this recipe (doubled) from Genius Kitchen. Makes approximately 22 biscuits.

This recipe is designed to be vegan, but you can easily use dairy milk, and/or butter instead of coconut oil, if that’s what you have.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups baked mashed sweet potato (about 2 medium sized sweet potatoes)
  • 2/3 cup soymilk or almond milk
  • 2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 8 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2ish tsp salt

peeled microwaved sweet potato

Step 1: Either roast your sweet potatoes at 350 for 45 minutes wrapped in foil, or microwave for 10-12 minutes wrapped in a wet paper towel. The skin should peel right off, leaving you with soft, cooked sweet potato flesh.

mashed sweet potato and soymilk

Step 2: In a bowl, combine the mashed sweet potato, the milk, and the apple cider vinegar. Mix together to combine.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 3: In a different bowl, mix your dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar, baking powder.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 4: Add the coconut oil, a little colder than room temperature. Use a fork, mixer, or potato masher to mix the coconut oil into the dry ingredients.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

You should end up with a crumb-like texture.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 5: Add the wet potato mash into the dry ingredients, and mix just well enough to combine. You don’t want to over-mix. Refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 6: Spread flour over a solid surface, this is where you will roll and cut your dough. Take it out of the refrigerator, and cut it into four equally sized pieces.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 7: Press the dough flat with your hands, then use a rolling pin to roll it out to about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. They puff up a little while baking, but not much. Then use a glass or cookie cutter to cut the dough into rounds.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

You can re-roll the dough and cut it again up to about 3 times. Then it becomes harder to work with.

Step 8: Bake on a foil-lined pan or glass pan at 425 for 8-10 minutes, until they begin to brown on the top. I rotated the pans between the top and bottom rack at 5 minutes.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Let cool on a wire rack, or just tear into them with your bare hands!

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Delicious with jelly, butter, or honey, or just plain right out of the oven. They are just a tiny bit sweet on their own, and can easily compliment savory meals like chili as well.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Eating – 3/5/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Well, we picked a great weekend for a dinner party! Harris Teeter was having a 10% off all wine sale, and I also got a coupon for $20 off an order of $100 or more. Without the booze for the party, I would not have hit that $100. Yes, I know, it is justifying spending I didn’t necessarily have to make. But between the sale and the coupon, the alcohol was basically half price!

the Budget Epicurean weekly eating

The party was on March 3rd, so I had a “3” theme. I made three dips: buffalo chicken, beet hummus, and vegan spinach artichoke dip, along with a nice antipasto platter. I had homemade pickles, bacon jam, olives, nuts, figs, dates, and prunes.

antipasto platter

Then I had three different types of pasta (one of which was tri-color) and three sauces: marinara, pesto, and alfredo. That way people could mix and match with whatever they wanted; alfredo plus pesto was a popular combo.

three types of pasta

And for dessert, triple chocolate brownies with chunks of dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and chocolate sauce drizzle, and a Tres Leches cake! It was totally awesome and delicious. We had a great time chatting, and playing games late into the night.

tres leches cake

I paid for it on Sunday though! Good thing it’s supposed to be a day of rest, because I didn’t leave bed all day.

Monday:

Breakfast – Oatmeal with golden raisins & craisins. I don’t know if this is a different type of oatmeal, but the individual oats keep their shape and don’t stick together well. Even after multiple rounds of microwaving. I like my oatmeal to be more mashed-together like, so I was pretty unhappy with it. But I ate it anyways. I’ll have to try it as overnight oats and see if that goes better.

raisin oatmeal

Lunch – Leftover pasta, made new by adding some veggies and shrimp from the freezer, with a lemon garlic sauce.

veggie pasta with lemon butter

Dinner – Spinach Artichoke Melts + Tomato Soup. I had a ton of spinach artichoke dip left from the weekend, and read that one way to use it is to put it into a grilled cheese… well, hell yeah!

spinach artichoke grilled cheese

It turns out whoever wrote that is a flipping genius, and these sammies were hands down AHmazing. Not sure I can have a “plain” grilled cheese ever again…

spinach artichoke grilled cheese

Snack – a chocolate peanut butter granola bar in the car on the way home. Good thing I put one in the pocket of every coat…

choc peanut butter granola bar

*Soaked beans overnight in the crock pot for tomorrow’s chili

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Uh, so, I’m usually pretty behind the times with food trends. I’ve heard of “sweet potato toast” for years, where you thinly slice a sweet potato and just toast it like in a toaster. So I decided to try that. One of the slices ended up kind of charred on the end, and the other was evidently so thick that even putting it through the toaster four times, it was still crunchy… so I microwaved it for 2 minutes and that did the trick.

sweet potato "toast"

Once softened, it was pretty dang tasty. I spread a smashed avocado with lemon on one for the bougie-est toast ever, and then I had some more cooked white beans, so I figured, what the hell why not. DUDE. Why did no one ever tell me that white beans and sweet potato is a DELICIOUS combo?? With a squirt of lemon, sprinkle of salt, I was in heaven. New favorite.

sweet potato "toast"

Lunch – I had bits of random veggies all over the fridge, and a batch of cooked rice, so naturally I whipped up a super quick stir fry. The boy was funny, he goes “awww I got all excited because it smelled really good, but then I look and it’s just vegetables”  😛

veggie stir fry

Dinner – Slow Cooker 5 Bean Chili. We stirred in a few spoonfuls of spinach artichoke dip too, just for funzies, and it was pretty ok. Not a thing I’d be sad about not having, but it used up more dip, so, win.

5 bean chili with spin artichoke dip

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Pineapple Kiwi Green Smoothie! with a pear tossed in because it was bordering on spoiled.

kiwi pineapple smoothie

Lunch – Leftover white bean soup and a big salad. I also used the lemon tahini yogurt dip from last week’s Turkish koftes as dressing

white bean soup and salad

Snack – Beet hummus with cut veggies

beet hummus n veg

Dinner – Bowtie pasta with meatballs, of course. We had a LOT of pasta in the fridge…

bowties and turkey meatballs

Evening snack – herbal tea and a Stroopwaffel!

Thursday:

Breakfast – Peaches & Cream Smoothie

peaches and cream smoothie

Lunch – Pasta with meatballs, a salad, with roasted sweet and hot Brussels sprouts

pasta and brussels sprouts

Dinner – Roasted beet & sweet potato veggie burgers. I used cooked brown rice and breadcrumbs as the binders, and tossed in the little bit of cooked white beans left along with the roasted beets and sweet potato. These were softer than the last batch but I liked the flavor better. Still working on the exact right blend.

beet veggie burgers

Friday:

Breakfast – Banana walnut bread

banana bread

Lunch – Vurgers on rice cakes w hot sauce and lettuce

beet veggie burgers on rice cakes

Snack – Beet hummus & veggies

beet hummus n veg

Dinner – Pizzas! Pork and pineapple for the boy and a veggie for me using the last of the artichoke dip and some peppers and olives

spinach artichoke pizza and hawaiian pizza

The Weekend

Saturday is a lazy day for me, but the poor boy has to work the weekend. A big project launched this week, and he is ”on call” for fixing all the things. So I’ll be cleaning the house, lots of grocery shopping, and prepping for Sunday.

Sunday I’m having a tea party!! If you know me on Twitter you’re probably already aware, I am simply bursting with excitement! I adore parties, and tea, and tiny sweet and savory snacks. I’m super pumped to have a half dozen lovely ladies over in our Sunday best to sip oodles of tea, use terrible fake British accents, and talk about life. Hopefully it will be an absolute blast and become a regular thing.

mountain of tea
Uh, yea, that is all actually tea or tea related items. Bags, loose leaf, herbal, matcha… a French press, honey of different flavors, cups with built in spoons, and more…

And guys, I realized, I have a serious tea problem… I’ve always loved tea and everyone knows it, so between being unable to stop myself around new flavors and gifts from family and friends, I have amassed a formidable collection. The newest addition, of which I am most proud, is this gorgeous porcelain cup and saucer:

yellow gold rose tea cup

I was at the thrift store, and sifting through the housewares section (honestly, in search of a tiered serving tray for this party, which I sadly did not find). The cup jumped out at me with its’ royal pattern and those big yellow roses just immediately made me think of Beauty and the Beast. I had to have it.

I carried the cup around the store another 2 aisles, hoping to find a saucer that looked at least okay with it, but it was coming home with me regardless.

And then, when I was about ready to give up and leave with my few gems, I saw on a lower shelf THE MATCHING SAUCER! It was clearly meant to be. The universe wanted me to have this set. And for only $1.48 total, how could I say no?!?

yellow gold rose tea cup

Food Total: $75.52

Man I’m excited about this week, pretty much nailed it! Even with the impulse purchases and tons of produce we came in at our $75 goal. I’ve also decided that alcohol gets its own category now, so the booze we got for our dinner party was not included here.

Dairy $21.72 Staples $28.38 Fruit/Veg $22.63
Greek yogurts 10 8 Pretzel crisps 2 bags 5 Fresh beets 3 2.99
2lb sharp cheddar cheese 7.99 Canned tomatoes 12 5.64 Bag spinach 2.49
Dozen lg eggs 0.77 Canned garbanzo beans 2 1.54 Fresh stir fry veggies 1.5
Cream cheese 2 2.38 Brownie mix 1.69 Stir fry veggies frozen 1.98
Evaporated milk 0.59 Yellow cake mix 1.49 3lb clementines 2.99
Sweet condensed milk 1.99 Crackers 2 kinds 5 Bananas 8 2.12
Northern beans 2 cans 1.54 Frozen spinach big bag 2.99
Stroopwaffel 8 3.49 Bag spring mix 1.99
Pasta sauce 2 2.5 Cucumber 0.59
3color bowtie pasta 0.49 Basil plant 2.99

Lessons Learned

I did totally give in to temptation at the store when I saw a whole shelf full of Stroopwaffles! I held a box in my hand, then put it back, almost walked away… picked it back up… and then put it in the cart. At least I checked the “per unit” prices, and though the bag full of tiny waffles was close, the not-individually-packaged box of 8 was the best deal, so that is the one I chose.

shelf full of stroopwaffels

Part of me wants to add breakfasts into the meal plan. But then the other part of me knows it is currently the least predictable part of my day. Some mornings a smoothie sounds amazing, other mornings toast is the only acceptable answer. And more and more frequently lately nothing at all sounds good, so I just open the fridge and force something in my face because I can’t in good conscience not eat breakfast at all… c’est la vie, we all go through seasons of eating.

 

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

Crispy Oven Baked Tofu

If you’ve ever had the perfect crispy tofu, where it is still soft and creamy on the inside but the outside has a shattery crisp crunch, then you know what I’m after. If you have not, then boy are you missing out, and you need to try this recipe!

Tofu is a beautiful blank canvas, able to suck up and take on the flavor of whatever sauce or dish you pair it with. It is great in all types of Asian dishes because salt in particular brings out its best qualities, but it is also a great stand-in for scrambled eggs, and it blends right into a smoothie without a trace.

But we all know that tofu’s true calling in life is to be the star of a good stir-fry.

Ingredients:

  • 1 block firm or extra firm tofu
  • 2-4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Step 1: Drain the tofu, and place on a paper towel or dish towel on a plate. Put something heavy on top, to help press out the water, and let it drain for 20-30 minutes. This dries out the block a bit and lets it soak up your marinade instead.

Step 2: Cut the block into 5-6 strips, and then cut each strip into cubes, about 1 inch square. Mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl, and toss the cubes to coat well. Lay the squares out on a baking pan (I lined mine with foil to make it easier to clean up afterwards).

Step 3: Bake at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes. If you can, flip each piece once or twice halfway through, to crisp up all the edges.

You can douse them in buffalo sauce once baked for a can’t-resist party appetizer, dunk them into dips (or even some Green Goddess dressing), or toss onto a salad like bread crumbs. Or of course, toss into a good stir fry, and let the tofu feel that it’s life mission is complete.

 

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 – 10/10

 

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!

 

Ha, do y’all remember those commercials for 10-10-220? This week’s date made me think of it. Sheesh, I’m old…

Wow, there is so much going on in this with the grungy guy, the flirty lady, the cops and donuts routine… we won’t go there. Has anyone actually used this? Does it still work? No I kind of want to make a call to, say, Ecuador or Kazhakistan just to see.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – granola bar

Lunch – mason jar salad

Dinner – Buffalo chicken grilled cheese & soup

I saw this recipe online somewhere last week, and knew I had to have it! We had plenty of shredded cooked chicken from a whole one I roasted in the crock pot. I added in some Ranch and Yum Yum Sauce too, because why not?

I had mine with some homemade chicken noodle soup, and the boy had some tomato soup with his. They were quite tasty!

Tuesday:

Breakfast – 2 scrambled eggs on toast

Lunch – Cabbage vegetable soup, actually very flavorful and like, 20 calories per bowl! I may have had a few…

Dinner – Burritoes. Because there is never a bad time for a burrito.

Snack – M&Ms, peach yogurt

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Chocolate peanut butter bar & yogurt

Lunch – Black beans & rice. I had made about a half pound of black beans from dried over the weekend, so combined with some leftover brown rice this is a super simple lunch I pack quite often.

Dinner – Lemon Honey Chicken Breasts in the slow cooker with steamed veggies & potatoes. I didn’t get a picture of this one, mostly because we were hungry and ate it too fast, but also it just wasn’t pretty. But it tasted good! Just 2 chicken breasts on low in the crock pot all day with a dash of lemon and a drizzle of honey.

Snack – raw veggies & blender hummus

Thursday:

Breakfast – 2 scrambled eggs on toast. For whatever reason, I’ve been in a scrambled eggs mood this week.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Lunch – Homemade chicken noodle soup <3

Dinner – Stir Fry! Stir Thursday… Stursday? I sorta cheated and used a pre-packaged mix for this. But ya know, sometimes you just don’t want to chop a bunch of veggies, and it would also be more expensive for me to buy a tiny quantity of snow peas, carrot, broccoli slaw, etc. So when I saw this on sale, of course I snagged it.

I had some shredded chicken still left from my whole chicken, and between  the veg and chicken it was the perfect amount of food for the two of us. I made a big batch of brown rice in the rice cooker, and kept the rest in the fridge for later meals.

Snack – Granola bar

Friday:

Breakfast – scrambled egg wrap with salsa

Lunch – Rice & beans, mason jar salad

Dinner – Friday the 13th party! This is the only Friday the 13th all year, and it just so happens to be in October. So we decided to have a fall/Halloween dinner party for the occasion. It was a small affair, with good food, corn hole, good conversation and a lot of laughs.

I roasted 2 big pork loins, along with some potatoes with rosemary and acorn squash with nutmeg. Some homemade stuffing, homemade sauerkraut, and whole wheat dinner rolls rounded out the meal. It was quite tasty, if I do say so myself!

I also had made some rosemary lemonade (since I have a gigantic rosemary bush by the mailbox that needs harvesting), and a special spooky rum punch.

The Weekend

I decided to finally stop procrastinating and bake something to welcome a few new neighbors. In the past 2 months, 3 houses on our block had been sold, and I desperately wanted to welcome them to the ‘hood. So I took some applesauce I had made last weekend, and turned it into cinnamon apple muffins! Everyone knows the quickest way to befriend someone is to feed them. 🙂

Sunday was quite productive too, I did some recording (potentially some exciting announcements coming soon…) and along with the muffins made a huge batch of my #1 recipe: Buffalo chicken potato bake.

Also prepped several mason jar salads, and a pitcher of smoothie for quick breakfasts. Cleaned out the refrigerator of some very old stowaways (green tomato salsa… from Connecticut? Ew!) and took everything out of the freezer, reorganized it, and made the rest of the month’s meal plan based off of what we have. Phew!

Food Total: $166.04 (less booze = $67.35!)

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

Ouch… But we were having a fall/Halloween/Friday the 13th party, so I stocked up on several seasonal and variety packs of beer and some wine. I also picked up some dry ice, to make the punch extra bubbly and spooky. There was also a good price on honey, and since we want to dabble in making mead I grabbed some, so about $20 of that is honey. Without the party costs, food this week was actually way below budget!

There were some great sales on chicken breasts, so even though they weren’t on the meal plan I snagged a few. We can adapt the weekend or next week’s meals or freeze as needed. I also found a great discount on 70/30 ground beef, which we ALWAYS need, so I grabbed that too and froze it.

Lessons Learned

Honestly, in terms of what was on my grocery list this week, the cost was under $40! Not bad. But stocking up ahead of time when there are great sales is one of my favorite grocery tricks to keep overall spending and cost per meal low.

Another lesson here is that alcohol is not a frugal beverage! Of course, the best beverage choice is free: water. But we both enjoy a glass of red or a cold beer now and then, and especially in social situations. Sure, we could tell everyone to BYOB and maybe even get a few free leftover 6 packs, but I prefer to be generous when hosting. And hubs loves variety!

It did bring up the conversation of homebrewing again though. We might have to follow Mr. Picky Pincher’s lead on this one!

 

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

Weekly Eating: 8/28

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!

 

This week, the whole nation has Texas on our minds and hearts. With the crazy amount of flooding and destruction from Hurricane Harvey, I hope our readers and family/friends are safe, dry, and warm. We will rally together as we always do after tragic events, and will rebuild to rise stronger, y’all! If you feel the desire to donate to help those affected, please see one of the charities HERE.

On Sunday, I made my typical whole chicken in a crock pot, and then broth overnight. I had some fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme so I added that, as well as some bay leaves hanging out in the spice cabinet. This is one of my favorite smells ever to wake up to. Plus it makes several quarts of high quality stock to use to cook things like beans and quinoa the rest of the week, along with the pieces of the chicken for use in various dinners.

Monday:

Breakfast – Mixed berry smoothies (that I remembered to take a picture of!). 8oz frozen berries + banana + yogurt + protein powder + pomegranate juice = YUM

Lunch – turkey wrap & grapes. This is an easy peasy lunch option to throw together, plus it’s portable in case I’m away from my desk at lunch time (i.e. in clinic).

Dinner – Shredded chicken quesadillas with quinoa & black beans. I made a big batch of both quinoa (with the stock of course) and black beans to eat throughout the week. Some of the chicken meat from Sunday was shredded and turned into these delish quesadillas.

Snack – white bean rosemary hummus & 1/2 cucumber

Tuesday:

Breakfast – tropical mango smoothie. I used frozen mango and peaches, canned pineapple and bananas. Plus some pomegranate juice and plain Greek yogurt. SO GOOD! And it made enough for like 4 smoothies, which makes hubby happy.

Lunch – quinoa & black beans – I brought a big container full of both to work, to keep for easy lunches. I added some avocado and salsa to round it out and for flavor.

Dinner – Chicken Paprikush! This recipe tastes like a warm hug from the inside out. It’s salty, creamy, and absolutely perfect. I used plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to lighten it up a bit, and to justify eating at least 2 bowls at a time.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – egg & cheese Bagel Thin sammich. This is so dang easy, just scramble an egg in a cup and microwave it, put it on the bagel with cheese and zap the whole thing for 15 seconds. Done.

Lunch – quinoa & beans. I love bringing in a big container of something on Monday, and having lunch ready for several days in a row. This is a super easy option. I got extra fancy and also added a quarter of an avocado and some salsa.

Dinner – Whole wheat penne pasta with the bratwurst from last week’s Food Swap, peas & broccoli. I love one-pot meals! And the bratwurst was SO DELICIOUS!

Snack – 5 Susannah Smiles cookies & peppermint tea. This is a new lemon cookie from Girl Scouts, and someone at work brought in a box. Since I was making tea, I decided this would be the perfect accompaniment. They were tart, and quite hard, but when dipped in the tea it was perfect.

Plus my other snack option was an apple… today, I chose sugar 🙂

Thursday 

Breakfast – Tropical granola & milk

Lunch – chicken paprikush, with more left for tomorrow! I just love this stuff. Tastes like my childhood.

Dinner – Chicken Broccoli Cheddar Rice. This was a change-up from our planned Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake because I had a really long day at work, and got home exhausted and starving. I didn’t have the patience to wait for the oven to bake the things for over an hour, but we already had a baked chicken breast from Sunday and some leftover rice (I always make an extra big batch), plus I always have frozen broccoli. So pulling this together just required a little microwaving and we had dinner ready in 10 minutes.

 

Friday

Breakfast – Oatmeal with Apples, Raisins & Maple Syrup. Now that fall is setting in, and you can feel the chill in the air, I fall back on my favorite cold weather breakfast, hot oatmeal! Oats are very cheap, and filling, so they are an awesome frugal breakfast choice. And there are so many ways to dress them up, from Chai Apple & Brown Sugar to Peach Kefir to Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana.

Lunch – more leftover chicken paprikush! Hubby is not a big fan of soups, which normally frustrates me because I make a lot and can’t eat it all… but this one, I’m not mad about keeping all to myself!

Dinner – Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts. I saw some variation of this somewhere, and when I mentioned it to hubby his eyes got huge and I could practically see the drool…

So since I had some breasts in the freezer, I just quick-thawed them in hot water and we pulled this together in about 10 minutes (plus 40 bake time). With some fettuccini on the side, it really was super delicious! I would make it again for sure. But with fresh chicken, so it’s easier to pound flat.

The Weekend

Labor Day Weekend is a long one, but we don’t have any big plans as both the things we were going to do fell through. It’s all for the best though, as hubby has a project to work on and a trip back to CT for work things soon, and I can now attend a friends’ wedding on Sunday! Then take Monday as a bonus relaxation day. Ahhhh.

Total: $26.06

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

As you can see, we had a little rearrangement of the meal plan. I am really digging this whiteboard on the wall from our kitchen update, my hubby is the best! But I kept to the plan pretty well, with the exception of the late work night. Which brings up the point of convenience… a lot of people don’t want to or can’t cook every night due to their job and or life schedules.

I get it, when you are wiped out tired and hungry NOW, sometimes the last thing you want to do it spend an hour in the kitchen. That’s why it’s so important to have 3-5 meals you know you can pull together quickly and easily, with things you always have around!

Lessons Learned

We did really well this week! I tried to plan more based around what I already have stocked in the pantry and freezer. This is why I love stocking up on great sales, like $0.98/lb chicken breasts, or whole chickens on clearance. You pay more up front, but less per unit so that when you do use the food, the price per meal is lower than if I’d had to run to the store the week I need it.

 

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

How to: Cook Dried Beans in a Slow Cooker

 

One of my all-time-favorite money-saving appliances is the handy dandy slow cooker. It is amazing at taking tough (cheap) cuts of meats and slow cooking them to tasty perfection. It is great for making wicked frugal soups and stews. It makes dinner a breeze on crazy weeknights, keeping me from just ordering a pizza or take out. And it allows me to make staple items, like beans, for literally pennies per serving.

Beans aren’t usually listed on “top 10s” of superfoods, but I think they should be. There are so many kinds, black, pinto, navy, chickpea, green… And they are a fantastic source of protein for a very pocketbook-friendly price, I can usually find them about $1 per pound. And since beans plump when you cook them, you get much more than one pound out of that bag. If you find a good sale or buy in bulk, that price drops even lower. You can’t beat that in a can!

However, you also can’t beat the convenience of canned beans. Just sitting on a shelf, ready and waiting for a taco Tuesday or a last-minute decision to make minestrone. All you need is a can opener and you’re in business.

But you’re paying a premium for that convenience.

Someone else took the time to soak and cook dried beans ahead of time, and stick them in that can. They also may have chemicals or preservatives or flavorings or way too much sodium in the can. When you cook your own, you are in control of all these things.

So here’s the big secret: You can cook your own dried beans at home, with just a few minutes of effort, and have delicious beans ready to toss into whatever any time! For, like, a dollar!

Enter the slow cooker.

crock pot black beans with nori

Almost every Saturday, I toss a half pound or a pound of either black, navy, chickpeas, or pintos into a slow cooker with water to cover them, and let them soak overnight. Then on Sunday, I change the water and add some spices and let it simmer all day. The finished product gets canned, separated by cup into individual bags and frozen, or put in the refrigerator for use that week.

That way I have a stock of frozen beans ready at a moment’s notice, and fresh beans for recipes whenever I want! Hello, black bean and egg burritos, white chicken chili, tortilla soup, or red beans and rice anytime.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Step 1: Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight. Drain, and cover again. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.

Slow cooker pinto beans canned

Step 2: You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.

The beautiful thing is that now you have this super-cheap base to use to make your own refried beans, hummus, (did you know you can make hummus with black beans too!), vegetarian burger patties, or you can can them for later. (By the way, do use a pressure canner, or keep them in the refrigerator. We don’t want botulism now do we?)

 

Slow cooker dried beans

Slow cooker dried beans

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Instructions

  1. Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain, and cover again.
  3. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.
  4. You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.
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Last Minute Apps & Snacks

 

So, rumor has it tonight is some big sportsball thing…

Just kidding, of course as an American I’m aware of what is basically a national holiday, the Super Bowl! This year we even get back Roman Numerals (remember those things from history class? dare you to remember what more than 3 letters stand for…)

SuperBowlLILogoThis is a little ironic for me this year, as I just moved from CT (New England) to NC (the South, like Atlanta). While I could root for either, I think I like the Falcons’ colors better TBH.

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Whether you’re hosting or attending a party, you may not have had time to fully prepare, or you may have realized you have way more guests than you have chicken wings. In that case, you could panic and spend this week’s paycheck at the deli or getting a pizza…

OR you could try any of these super-simple app and snack ideas, each guaranteed to cost <$10 and take minutes to put together! I know which one I’d go with.

*Twice baked potato skins: Rinse and poke holes in a dozen medium potatoes. Bake at 350 for 45 min – 1 hour, until soft. Cut in half, scoop out the insides into a bowl and mash with some cheese or milk. Load back into skins, top however you want, and bake open-faced for another 15- 20 minutes. You could even build a “pick-your-own-toppings” bar, or let them keep warm in the oven until needed.

*White bean dip: Open a can of white beans, drain. Puree in a blender, and add garlic salt and lemon juice to taste, slowly pour in olive oil until you get your desired consistency. Serve with pita chips and fresh veggies.

*Bruschetta: Slice Italian bread thinly, top with diced tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar. Bake at 350 for 15ish minutes, sprinkle with basil, parsley, and/or garlic salt.

*Mac-n-cheese bites: Make a box of mac n cheese, then scoop into a greased muffin tin. Sprinkle with bread crumbs or crushed crackers, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. Portion control!

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*Bacon-wrapped asparagus: Take slices of bacon and wrap around 2-3 bunched asparagus spears. Lay on a pan and bake in the oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until bacon is crispy but asparagus is soft.

*Football deviled eggs: Make deviled eggs as normal (hard-boil a dozen, cut in half, take out the yellows. Mash with some mayo and mustard, fill back into the white halves) but then make them cute with football “laces” made from chives, black olives, etc.

*Caprese salad: Super simple, just layer sliced fresh mozzarella and tomato with some basil leaves, drizzle with olive oil. Bonus points if you get baby mozarella and grape tomatoes and put them on a skewer!

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*Quesadillas! Who doesn’t love quesadillas, they are a perfect hand-held food. Just take 2 tortillas, fill as you like with beans, avocado, guac, hummus, any kind of cheese, and fry on both sides until golden. Slice into quarters and serve with dips and toppers.

*Crock Pot Meatballs! There are so many options, but the best ones are just toss-it-in-and-wait. Swedish Meatballs are a classic, of course you could do regular tomato sauce and serve with thick hoagie buns, or try sweet and sour for an Asian twist.

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*Loaded nacho bar: Open a bag of chips and dump into a big bowl. Line a table with smaller bowls of beans, salsa, guac, sour cream, sliced olives, shredded lettuce, cheese, etc and let your guests customize to their heart’s content.

*Black bean hummus: open and drain a can of black beans. In a blender, combine with a clove or 2 of garlic, 2 tbsp peanut butter (yup you read that right), and olive oil. Whir until smooth!

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*Spinach Artichoke Dip: there are so many variations, but I’d go for any crock pot version. This way you can toss all the ingredients in, turn it on high when you arrive, then by halftime that dip is ready to keep the party rockin when all the wings are gone

*Football pepperoni roll pinwheels: roll out a tortilla, cover with a thin layer of pizza sauce, mini pepperoni, and cheese. Roll tightly, press down to make an oval shape. Cut into slices, lay on the side, and draw football laces with mustard, sour cream or sliced pepperoni

*Football shaped fritter: these are the cutest darn things, and actually quite healthy! Don’t let the beer-chugging manic shushing everyone know there’s a serving of veggies in there

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*Classic cheese or veggie tray: if you have some carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, or radishes, just serve with some ranch dressing or any dip. And if you’ve a brick or chunks of random cheeses, now is a perfect excuse to lay them all out artfully and clean your fridge at the same time

Whatever you make or eat, make sure you enjoy the company. That’s what any party is really all about!