Category Archives: Vegan

Simple Chickpea Salad

 

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

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

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

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

Have I got the solution for you!

Meet the magical, miracle, chickpea salad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chickpea salad sandwich ingredients

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

Ingredients:

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

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

chickpea salad mixing

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

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

 

If you want it extra salty:

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

If you want it extra crunchy:

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

If you want it to be creamier:

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

If you want it a little bit spicy:

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

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?

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

So we all know that Green Smoothies are all the rage in nutrition circles, and it is even expanding to the general population. And for good reason! Greens are easily one of the top healthiest, most nutritious food groups on the planet. They are great for your bones, brain, heart, gut, blood, hair, skin… etc.

But it seems like kind of a lot to eat four to six cups of leafy greens every single day. Like, a girl can only have so many salads.

But, it is super easy to drink a cup of greens every day!

Enter the green drink. Just tossing a handful of spinach into a smoothie instantly elevates it from ‘laziest breakfast ever’ to ‘I’m a nutritional goddess’.

rainbow of smoothies

In keeping with my Rainbow of Smoothie series, I had to come up with a green smoothie that really knocked it out of the park. With a little experimentation, I finally hit upon what is now my absolute new favorite green drink!

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 peeled kiwi fruits
  • 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned pineapple
  • 1 cup coconut water or milk
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/2 banana

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

Put all ingredients into blender, and blend until smooth!

The kiwi and pineapple make this drink super tropical and tangy, I totally love it. If you don’t have coconut milk or water, you can use any type of plant milk, or plain old water to make it the right texture.

You can also add a handful of ice cubes for a slushier smoothie.

 

Want to enjoy the whole Rainbow? Check out all the colors:

Coco Mango Turmeric Smoothie

 

In my post series this month, a Rainbow of Smoothies, I’ve already covered Red and Orange. So of course you know what’s next!

rainbow of smoothies

YELLOW!

I just love yellow, it’s such a sunny, bright, happy color.

Coco Mango Turmeric Smoothie

And many of my favorite fruits are yellow: bananas, mango, pineapples. Wait a minute, wouldn’t those taste great together??

Why, yes. Yes they do.

Coco Mango Turmeric Smoothie

With some creaminess from yogurt, and a nice big antioxidant kick from turmeric, you’d never know this smoothie isn’t a dessert. Well. Why not, it sure could be.

Coco Mango Turmeric Smoothie
Please forgive my icky chipped nails…

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen mango and pineapple (use ice if not frozen)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder or 1/2 inch fresh grated turmeric root

Coco Mango Turmeric Smoothie

Blend all together, until smooth. Dust with extra powder and top with frozen mango chunks. Enjoy your tropical bliss!

 

 

Want to enjoy the whole Rainbow? Check out all the colors:

Weekly Eating – 2/12/18

 

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!

 

Over the weekend I cooked up a big batch of black beans in the slow cooker, which became some meal prep black beans and rice lunches, my best black bean soup, and a little left over for burritos or whatever is needed later.

black beans and rice lunch meal prep

I also finally got up the ambition to make a butt-load of pierogi! If you have had pierogi, you know how damn delicious these carb-on-carb dumplings are. If you have not, you are missing out on some serious buttery deliciousness.

mashed potato pierogi

Not going to lie, there is almost zero redeeming nutritional qualities to pierogi, but they are amazing, even more so when homemade, and I intend to take them to the next Bull City Food Swap. These will be a very high-ticket trade item, so I’m hoping to get some good swag in return!

mashed potato pierogi ready to freeze

Monday:

Breakfast – Cherry Waffles! The boy’s favorite fruit is cherry, cherry everything and anything. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day this week, I picked up a can of cherry pie filling with the intent to make some sort of delicious things with it. And I did.

cherry pie filling waffles

They came out very soft vs. crunchy, but I actually preferred them that way. And I turned more of the cherries into a berry sauce by boiling it down with some cherry juice added.

cherry pie filling waffles

Snack – So there were some muffins left over at work from last week, and we all know I can’t say no. So I had a second breakfast of a banana nut muffin. No regrets.

banana nut muffin

Lunch – there was a grilled cheese & soup potluck today! It was amaaaazing, and so perfect on a chilly, rainy day. I stuffed myself silly on jalapeno popper grilled cheese and southern Pimento grilled cheese, chili, tomato soup, and I brought my best black bean soup.

grilled cheese

Snack 2 – I was feeling a little guilty about the carb-licious day, so I snagged a cupful of fresh raw veggies from the veggie tray someone brought to snack on at my desk all afternoon.

veggie tray

Dinner – I’ve been jonesing to try a spicy Thai carrot and sweet potato soup ever since I traded for some at December’s Food Swap. I roasted some carrots and sweet potatoes, and whizzed it up in a blender with ingredients including cayenne, garlic, ginger and tahini.

spicy carrot and sweet potato soup

Topped with some cashews and golden raisins, it was absolutely perfect! I’m in love. Just in time for V Day. (Even if the boy said it looked and tasted like baby food…)

spicy carrot and sweet potato soup

Tuesday:

Breakfast – I found this recipe at my friend Stephanie’s blog, and for once was excited for a smoothie with turmeric! It has a pretty strong flavor, even for a die-hard exotic spice lover like myself. This turned out great though, the yogurt makes it smooth and the mango was the major flavor that stood out.

mango and turmeric smoothie

Lunch – Black beans & rice with salsa, steamed broccoli, and leftover lentil veggie burgers

beans and rice with veggie burgers

Dinner – Tuna noodle casserole, a childhood classic 🙂

tuna noodle casserole

Tonight was also spa night! The puppers needed a trim badly, I cut off almost a whole dog’s worth of fur. Yes, I did it myself, and yes I used scissors. He is an amazing animal and calmly stood still the whole time. That face though, right?!?

puppies after a fur trim

And mama also got a haircut finally! I’ve been complaining about it for months, but my frugal heart won’t allow me to spend money on going to get it cut at a salon. So usually I ignore it, and go 2-3 years between cuts. But I figured, hey, the dog doesn’t look completely insane, may as well try myself next! (Yes, I used different scissors).

giving myself a hair cut

And you know what? It came out ok! I took off almost 6 inches, and there was still so much left that not a single person commented on it all week. LOL.

Wednesday <3:

Breakfast – For breakfast on Valentine’s Day, not only did hubs get his usual coffee in bed, but I also used the remainder of the cherry pie filling to make cherry heart shaped pancakes! With some cherry sauce and a little melted chocolate, oh my, it was heaven.

cherry pancakes with chocolate sauce

And then proceeded to make Twitter jealous, ha, not my intent…

Lunch – Black beans & rice with salsa, and leftover turmeric mango smoothie

black beans and rice with turmeric smoothie

Snack – our admin gave us cute valentines with a KitKat, and a coworker brought in special white chocolate dipped cookies!

Valentines

Dinner – I cook 364 days per year, but this day is the boy’s day to cook 🙂 He did a fantastic job, with bouquets of flowers inside the door and on the table.

Valentines day bouquet

We opened a bottle of the “good wine” (yeah an actual bottle, not a box!), and he impressed me with a salad to start, followed by fresh baked bread, and mozzarella stuffed shells. He even got a bunch of parsley and diced it to put on top you guys! It was soooo tasty, omg.

Valentines day table set with wine and flowers

Didn’t even get a picture, because a) we scarfed it down too fast and b) no tech allowed tonight. He got a cute handmade card from me, and a chocolate bar that said “you’re one in a billion”  🙂

Thursday:

Breakfast – Mixed berry smoothie

mixed berry smoothie

Lunch – the rest of the carrot-sweet potato soup & blueberries

spicy carrot sweet potato soup and blueberries

Snack – handful of peanut M&Ms on my way back from a meeting

handful of peanut mms

Dinner –I made the split pea soup recipe from Plant Powered For Life, and it was damn delicious. I can’t believe I’d never had split pea soup before now! And I had some green beans that were going to go bad soon, plus a half bag of cranberries, so I simmered them together with a little lemon zest for a tasty tart side dish.

split pea soup and cranberry green beans

Friday:

Breakfast –Loaded baked sweet potato with black beans, sauerkraut, salsa, and avocado. It’s a pretty weird flavor combination, but I’m finding out more and more that that’s what I’m all about! I love the sweet potato sweetness, plus the creamy avocado, and the red cabbage sauerkraut is just the right salty tang.

loaded baked sweet potato

Lunch –black beans & rice & salsa! I may be boring but it is always guaranteed to be delicious. And super cheap.

black beans and rice and salsa

Snack – blender hummus and bell peppers/cauliflower

blender hummus with raw veggies

Dinner –Stir Friday! It has been a while since a stir Friday has happened, so I was excited about this one. Basmati rice in the rice cooker, and I found a stir fry mix on sale $1.69. It was so green and totally vegan, and the boy said “for what it is, it didn’t suck, good job”

green veggie stir fry

The Weekend

This weekend we are taking the leap and finally doing TSA precheck! We have some serious travel coming up between a back-to-CT trip for work, a long overdue vacation, and at least two family weddings this year, so it made sense to finally get it. Hopefully it will make traveling slightly faster and less stressful.

We are also ripping off the band-aid and doing our taxes! Who knows if we will owe or if Uncle Sam will owe us, but I will feel 1000 times better having this particular chore off the to-do list.

Food Total: $80.12

Well, I overshot my $75 stretch goal but I’m under my $100 goal, so I’ll call this week a win! It also included a trip to both Harris Teeter and Kroger, to take advantage of sales and coupons unique to each place. I am lucky that I live about a mile from both stores.

$25.77 coupon $8.56
Dairy $10.99 Staples $0.00 Fruit/Veg $11.15 Extras $3.63
Chobani 4pk x2 7 Stir fry veggies 14oz 1.69 Vday choc bars 2.97
HT brand yogurts 5 2 Stir fry broccoli 12oz 1.69
Sliced provolone 8oz 1.99 Bananas 11 3.14
Asparagus 1lb 1.84 Tax 0.66
5lb Potatoes 2.79
$54.35 coupon $19.10
Dairy $0.00 Staples $17.61 Fruit/Veg $14.11 Extras $22.63
Sargento sliced cheddar 0 Garlic bread loaf x2 3.58 Frozen pep/onion mix 1.5 Foil 200 sqft 6.99
Sesame bread loaf 1.49 Sweet potatoes 99/lb 2.65 Cracklin’ Oat Bran 4.99
Bagels- plain 6 0.89 Avocado 0.99 ZZZquil 5.99
Canned tuna x3 1.5 2lb green beans 2.99 Toothpast 3 4.66
Pasta x5 2.5 Bell peppers 2 1.98
extra wide noodles 1.99 Pint blueberries 2 4
pasta sauce can 0.89
Pancake/waffle mix 1.79
Grits 1.29
Pancake syrup 1.69

I do find it slightly amusing that aluminum foil is more expensive than any grocery item I buy… but 200 sq ft should last quite a while. And it makes me feel pretty great to have no spending at all in the “Meats” column this week.

Lessons Learned

We have been going pretty hard on the carbs lately, and I’m not sure why. Other than they are constantly on sale. I’ve gotten super cheap pasta, rice, bagels, and bread lately. It’s unfortunate that our food system encourages the consumption of pretty nutritionally void foods while making things like “salad mix” cost $6 or more… but also, during the winter and rainy season I really am not feeling salads. Winter is for comfort food. So long as I keep fitting in my jeans, I won’t panic yet. I know spring is right around the corner, and with it the abundance of produce I’m beginning to crave.

 

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

Pineapple Jalapeno Green Drink

This is a green drink recipe brought to you by my mother in law. She found it somewhere, tried it at home, and totally fell in love. She makes and drinks it literally every morning on the way to work now, and swears it gives you just as much energy as coffee, if not more!

It is certainly very healthy, containing several servings of vegetables and fruit as well. Pineapple has been called the “king of fruits“, as it is packed with 131% of your daily required Vitamin C along with a host of other minerals and nutrients. Greens are basically the healthiest food on the planet, and you should aim to eat at least a cup a day. A green drink is a great way to sneak them in first thing in the morning.

pineapple jalapeno green drink

Adding celery just pumps up the health benefits with more fiber, vitamins, and blood pressure lowering power. If you cannot tolerate spice, then please feel free to skip the jalapeno. But it really does add just the right note of complexity to make the drink interesting and keep you coming back for more.

And to put the icing on the cake, adding a tablespoon of flaxseeds can pump up the fiber, supply omega-3 fatty acids, as well as potentially control cholesterol, help bring down your LDL and boost your HDL. It can help balance out your blood lipids and your blood pressure as well. It also is beneficial for your digestive tract health.

This recipe makes enough for one green drink, feel free to double!

topical flax and pineapple spicy green drink

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1/2 cup cut pineapple (can use canned)
  • 1 cup packed greens (spinach, kale, collards…)
  • 1/2 fresh large jalapeno pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 1 cup coconut water or soymilk

Step 1: Put everything in a powerful blender in order, and blend until smooth and thoroughly combined. You need to let it go for a long time to make sure to break down the fibrous celery & pineapple.

pineapple jalapeno green drink

Who do you think pulled off the better photo? In-laws (above) or me (below)?

pineapple jalapeno green drink

 

Do you ever drink green drinks? What are your favorite combos?

Weekly Eating – 1/29/18

 

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!

 

February 2nd was #WearRedDay for heart health. Cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer, ahead of car wrecks, diabetes, cancer, and many other seemingly more deadly diseases. More than 600,000  people every year are being killed by their own heart.

And the honest truth that the food and drug industry doesn’t want you to know?

#WearRedDay for heart health

Want in on what many call “the best kept secret in medicine”?

Given the right conditions and fuel, the body can heal itself of almost anything. Seriously.

Don’t believe me? The Cleveland Clinic has an actual “Heart Disease Reversal Program“, which has been proven to take some heart patients from death’s door to healthy and fit in mere months. You can literally reverse heart disease and prevent it from worsening based on what you put in your mouth three times per day.

 

On a less serious note, here was the popcorn situation last weekend:

popcorn kernels in a glass jar

Now, if that seems like plenty to you, YOU DON’T KNOW ME. This is a shortage. This is near-panic-level popcorn status.

fifty pound bag of popcorn kernels

And then this showed up on our doorstep on Monday. And all was well in the world again.

Monday:

Breakfast – tropical smoothie. I’d gotten a frozen bag of mixed tropical fruit, and it has chunks of coconut in it. I’m weirded out by coconut, and do not like the chewy-ness. But I will soldier through until it’s gone in the name of not wasting food…

tropical fruit with coconut

Lunch – I meal-prepped a 3-day batch of my famous salmon and couscous salad to have for lunch at work this week. I also repurposed the old “Green Goddess” container to hold my healthier and more delicious recipe 😉

salmon and couscous salad prep

Dinner – Bitter melon & potato curry. Have you heard of bitter melon? Unless you’re Asian or a foodie, probably not. It is a tropical vine fruit, grown throughout Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. And it totally lives up to the name; raw it tastes horrid.

cut up bitter melon

However, despite it’s off-putting taste, it has many redeeming health qualities. “The fruit contains at least three active substances with anti-diabetic properties, including charantin, which has been confirmed to have a blood glucose-lowering effect, vicine and an insulin-like compound known as polypeptide-p.” (source) It also has been shown to have beneficial or reversal effects on obesity and metabolic syndrome. (source)

bitter melon and potato curry

By generously salting it prior to cooking with it, and then rinsing the salt off, you can remove much of the bitter taste. And it blends right into strongly-flavored dishes like curries. The boy said that in this dish, the bitter melon was actually great and the green beans were the worst part!

Snack – Grapes & 2 cuties

grapes and cuties

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Over the weekend we went to the thrift store, where I snagged a sweet a$s deal: $0.99 for a waffle maker!! It was pretty dirty, but still worked. It didn’t have a tag, so I took it to the counter and asked the lady what it would cost.

dirty waffle maker

When she quoted me that price, I couldn’t hand over a dollar fast enough! So with it all nice and cleaned up, I made some yummy fresh waffles with a quick (from frozen) blueberry sauce.

waffles with blueberry sauce

Lunch – Salmon & Couscous Salad with Green Goddess

salmon and couscous salad monday

Snack – I’m glad I packed an “extra” lunch today, because I was starving yesterday afternoon. I brought the tiny bit of leftover red lentil dal and rice from last week and nommed it around 2pm.

dal and rice

Dinner – I tried a new recipe for vegan tempeh ‘meatballs’, and they were dang tasty! I absolutely love them.

tempeh meatballs

The boy even said it was good, and I’m allowed to add it to the list of “vegan meals that don’t suck” so that’s a huge win.

spaghetti and vegan tempeh "meat"balls

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Wheat Sandwich Thin with pears and peanut butter

sandwich thins with peanut butter and pear

Lunch – Salmon & Couscous salad, and a bowl of leftover pork & rice soup with collard greens

salmon and couscous salad and pork and rice soup

Dinner – I went out and met a new friend from the Bull City Food Swap at a local Indian restaurant called Sitar. She’s vegetarian, so I was super excited to split the “vegetarian for 2” dinner. It came with 2 appetizers, 3 main courses, and 2 desserts!

leftover indian food from Sitar

It was so much food, and it was all SO GOOD! We both ate our fill, and had enough left over for us both to take home 2 more meals’ worth. I’d say that’s a pretty great value.

Snack – rice cakes & an orange

rice cakes and an orange

Thursday:

Breakfast – tropical smoothie

tropical smoothie

Lunch – leftover Sitar part 1 – naan, basmati rice, vegetable vindaloo and chickpea saag

leftover Sitar 1

Snack 1 – trail mix still leftover from our Texas trip (I paid the ridiculous airport prices of 2/$20 because I was dying of starvation and the mix actually was pretty nutritionally sound)

goji berry trail mix

Dinner – After a brutal HIIT workout, I was ravenous and grabbed the first thing I saw in the fridge: leftover bitter melon curry

bitter melon curry

Snack 2 – later that night after dinner, I was still hungry and desperately needed a post-workout snack, and nommed a few handfuls of Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Puppy Chow

protein puppy chow and popcorn

Annnndddd then I made stovetop popcorn, which I sprinkled with nutritional yeast 🙂

Friday:

Breakfast – another smoothie! I’m bad at remembering to take pictures of smoothies… maybe breakfast is too early, or smoothies just don’t feel like ‘real’ food?

Lunch – the last of the leftover Sitar. Not gonna lie, I was sad that it was all gone now…

leftover Sitar 2

Snack – my coworker had been at a conference all week, and brought back some strange chocolates. They were good though.

weird candy

Dinner – The boy had to fend for himself in the wilderness of the fridge, because Erin from ReachingForFI was in town! And when she’s here, we go ALL IN on AYCE sushi.

all you can eat sushi: before

This was the appetizer round. In case you haven’t read it yet, here is my review of Rock’n’Rolls sushi in Durham for your enjoyment.

Unfortunately, it seems too many people HAVE read it, because there was a line out the door! Good thing there was only 2 of us and we were more than happy to sit at the bar. After a little less than an hour, this was the aftermath.

all you can eat sushi: after

They now have a bunch of fried options, including spring rolls, crab rangoon (mostly cream cheese, let’s be real), and gyoza dumplings, as well as a few more specialty rolls.

 

The Weekend

This weekend is the “Big Game”, I guess, but we couldn’t care less. If you want ideas, though, I’ve written plenty about it:

Our plans include reading, writing, and video games. With a chance of brunch on Sunday 🙂

Food Total: $140.54

Ugh, I broke two of my own cardinal rules: never shop while hungry, and never shop without a list!

I did great at the Spice Bazaar, picking up only some fresh produce staples and a few things I wanted to try (looking at you, bitter melon) and the only impulse was a 10lb bag of basmati rice that was on sale.

Staples $10.48 Fruit/Veg $10.36
10lb basmati rice 7.99 Frozen bitter melon 2.99
tamarind paste 2.49 cauliflower head 2.99
ginger root 0.5
turmeric root 0.6
fresh bitter melon 1 0.79
3lb red onions 2.49

But, I went to ALDI right after, and it was past lunch time for me by then. I’m a sucker for ALDI on my best day, and I hadn’t been since the store had evidently been remodeled! It was huge, and bright, and packed with great deals. Y’all, I lost my mind a little bit. I admit it.

Dairy $5.57 Staples $38.00 Fruit/Veg $40.52 Extras $35.19
organic soymilk 2.19 olive oil mayonnaise 3.45 tomato juice 1.39 seltzer 1L x2 1.18
cage free eggs 12 2.29 coconut water 2.89 frozen berries/mango 4.18 frozen pizzas 2 3.98
1/2 gal whole milk 1.09 plum cherry juice 2.69 frozen edamame 2 3.38
org blue corn tortilla chips 1.89 1lb green beans 0.99 Winking owl syrah 2.89
org wheat spaghetti 2.18 bix box org spring mix 3.79 Winking owl red 3L 10.89
olive oil cooking spray 2.98 celery 0.95 German lager 5.99
green enchilada sauce 1.89 cara cara oranges 6 3.95 Amber ale 6pk 6.49
Coffee 4.79 Avocado 4 1.96
spinach wraps 8 1.99 Org Pears 8 3.49 tax 3.77
shelled pistachios 7oz 4.49 Pineapple 1.29
fresh pico de gallo 4.79 Sweet potatoes 1.29
Pasta sauce 1.98 Bananas 11 1.95
2lb dry northern beans 1.99 Broccoli crowns 3 1.49
green grapes 2lb 2.61
greens trio 1.99
cranberries 0.99
Artichoke hearts 2.49
Cucumber 0.45
mission figs 1.89

I also let myself restock on wine & beer, which I had been trying to go all of January without buying more alcohol. But COME ON, their 3L box of “house red” for under eleven bucks?!? And the specials this month were a German lager and an amber ale, my two favorite beer types. Sigh…

Lessons Learned

My only defense is that at least I bought a sh&t-ton of produce, and we should be able to make it through at least 2 weeks in a row of not buying groceries now. The majority of the spending was on super healthy stuff, which we should be eating anyhow (please ignore the frozen pizzas. The boy needs ’emergency foods’ for when he has no leftovers left).

 

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

Weekly Eating – 1/22/18

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

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

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

 

This weekend I was on my A-game with meal prepping.

Sunday meal prepping

Bell peppers were on sale for 0.99/each, which usually only happens in the height of summer. So naturally I planned on making a batch of stuffed peppers. I’d also been hankering for hummus, so I whipped up a half batch in the blender, and at the last minute decided “why not throw in some turmeric too?” It came out a lovely vibrant yellow! I even used real tahini rather than my usual cheap-o peanut butter.

stocked refrigerator after meal prepping

With the other half can of chickpeas I made a Greek tabbouli type salad with cucumber, tomato, couscous, and red onion. (CRAP! I should’ve added kalamata olives too… ah, next time.) Bags of pre-cut cauliflower were cheaper per pound than buying a whole head, so I roasted a bag of that and added buffalo sauce for funzies. And a big ol pan of enchiladas, mostly pork for the boy with two black bean and mushroom vegetarian ones for myself.

black bean mushroom enchilada

Blueberries were also on sale this week, so I portioned out a few small containers. Whew! Now, on to the week!

Monday:

Breakfast – a piece of fruitcake from the holiday Food Swap! I had never had fruitcake, since it has such a sterling reputation, but y’all. This lady’s recipe was amaaaaaazing! It was dense and moist cake, and was just bursting with huge chunks of mango, apricot, papaya, and whole nuts. It was seriously addictive. I’m so bummed it is a super secret family recipe, she legit won’t share it!

holiday fruitcake and tea

Lunch – Lentil & couscous stuffed pepper. This is so simple, just cook 1 cup couscous, rice, or quinoa. Mix with 1 cup cooked lentils, black beans, or pinto beans. Add 1 can diced tomatoes, and stuff into 3-4 bell peppers. Bake for 350 about 25-30 minutes until soft.

lentil and couscous stuffed bell pepper

Dinner – Stir Fry! I used some veggies from the fridge and some from the freezer, plus the tofu from the sale a few weeks ago, to whip up tonight’s batch of stir fry.

stir fry veggies in pan

Note to self: when oven-baking tofu, don’t use the pre-chunked kind! The pieces are just too small and stick to the pan something awful. It was still super tasty though.

tofu stir fry

Snack – blueberries

blueberries

Tuesday:

Breakfast – I made some oatmeal with dates, but forgot to take a photo, oops! It was tasty and warm, and very filling.

Lunch – Tabbouli. I like this type of meal because it’s totally fine at room temperature and very portable. I didn’t even need a lunch bag I just threw it in my work bag and went.

tabbouli with chickpeas, cucumber, and red onion

Snack – I had got some protein bars on super sale (like 90 cents) and tried one today. It was horrid. It was hard but chewy, and tasted like basically a caramel with protein powder. And also had chunks of raw coconut. Gag. I swallowed the one small bite and tossed the rest. I hate wasting money 🙁

Dinner – White Bean & Barley Soup – this was a crossover between my Ham & Barley Soup and my White Bean Soup. I didn’t have a lot of ham, just a tiny bag of a few frozen cubes left over from who knows when that we found in the freezer. So I figured, add a can of white beans to bulk it up, and dang, it was a great combo! This might be my new go-to.

ham, white bean, and barley soup

Wednesday:

Breakfast – loaded baked sweet potato. I zapped it in the microwave covered in a wet paper towel for 10 minutes, then piled on some black beans, salsa, purple sauerkraut & avocado. Mind blowingly good, and I nommed the whole thing!

loaded baked sweet potato

Lunch – Black bean & mushroom enchilada, buffalo cauliflower, and blueberries

black bean enchilada with buffalo cauliflower

Dinner – Black bean veggie burger with Green Goddess, sauerkaurt, freezer mac n cheese, and veggies on the side. Yes, I know I had black beans at every meal today, and yes I’m quite proud of that fact.

veggie burger with green goddess and mac n cheese

Making our way further into the freezer, I pulled out a box of Aldi black bean patties and an old pre-made mac n cheese, plus some frozen edamame and corn on the side for a colorful, healthy, and super filling dinner.

ALDI black bean veggie burgers

Snack – tea and a Stroopwafel. GUYS. Have you had a Stroopwafel?? It is as much fun to eat as it is to say! It’s a thin, crispy waffel, well, two of them, with a layer of sweet salty caramel in between. It is absolute heaven with a cup of hot green tea.

tea and stroopwafel

Thursday:

Breakfast – Homemade yogurt with blueberries and tropical granola

homemade yogurt parfait with blueberries and granola

Lunch – Stuffed Pepper & a banana

stuffed bell pepper and a banana

Dinner – The famous One-pan Buffalo Potato Bake, with previously cooked & frozen pulled pork. Have I mentioned my love of freezer meals enough yet?

buffalo pork potato bake

Snack – blueberries and a Sesame bite from Puerto Rico!

berries and sesame bite

Friday:

Breakfast – PBJ sandwich thin

peanut butter and jelly sandwich thin

Lunch – lentil & couscous stuffed pepper & blueberries

lentil and couscous stuffed pepper with blueberries

Dinner – Masoor Dal, or red lentils, over black ‘forbidden rice’

ingredients for masoor dal

I want to cook more ethnic dishes this year, so I’m easing into it with a super simple dish. Lentils are insanely good for you, and insanely cheap too. Plus all the spices in typical curry are also highly rated on the health-o-meter.

red lentils and black rice

Snack – Turmeric hummus and veggies. How could you not love the neon yellow color?!? I know I did.

bright yellow turmeric hummus

The Weekend

This is another chill weekend, as the boy is still not feeling 100%. I’m planning to head over to Spice Bazaar and pick up some more delish Indian foods and spices, and while I’m on that side of town I’ll hit the ALDI as well. We are running a little low on produce.

Food Total: $41.23
Meats $2.89 Dairy $4.40 Staples $7.49 Fruit/Veg $26.45
1lb turkey 2.89 Yogurts 11 4.4 Flatout Wraps 2 6pk 5 Bananas 12 3.07
seltzer 12 pack 2.49 Avocado 2 2.5
chopped cauliflower 4.99
bell peppers 4 3.96
1 cucumber 0.99
pint mushrooms 1.99
blueberry pints 2 3.76
Dry prunes 18oz 5.19

Eating healthfully does not have to be expensive!

I mean, look at the enchiladas. $1.99 for 10 tortillas, $1.25 for a can of sauce, $1.99 for pint of mushrooms (I used half), $0.25 for a can of black beans = $5.48 total and you can make 8 enchiladas, so 0.68 per serving! With 2 tortillas left over for a PB, banana, & honey snack or turkey pinwheels.

What about the stuffed peppers? $3.96 for 4 peppers, maybe 0.50 worth of lentils and another 0.50 of couscous (or rice), 1 can of diced tomatoes at 0.25 = $5.21 total so $1.30 per serving. And if you don’t have a big appetite one huge pepper can be 2 different meals. They also freeze pretty well for later.

Lessons Learned

Meal prepping is such a great time saver! I enjoy cooking too much to make enough for lunches and dinners, I would get bored quickly. But for lunches, it is really nice to already have meal options cooked and packed and ready to go, you just grab the container you want that day. Same thing for healthy snacks.

 

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

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.