Weekly Grocery Budget & Meal Plan for February 19-25

I scored majorly this week!  We had a very good produce box this week, even creating one of those serendipitous moments of including a cauliflower and potatoes for the week when I was toying with the idea of Aloo Gobi (Indian Cauliflower & Potato Curry)!  I am still really digging Asian–type flavors this week.  Plus, after finding out that Aldi stock’s gluten-free imitation crab, I knew I would also be making California rolls.  Super exciting!

Once the box was confirmed and I was making my list for the store, I knew I was going to have a fair amount of extra money left over…it turned out to be around $11, so I able to spend NINE DOLLARS to stock up on a 5+ pound pork butt!  That is the toughest thing about this $50 budget–that there is rarely ever enough remaining money to cover those bigger cuts of meat (that are actually quite cheap in terms of dollars-per-pound, but still require a slightly steep investment up front).  Believe me, I am trying to get creative with how I save up for them–maybe I’ll tuck the changes away each week until it builds to $10-$15.  Either way, by using our pantry a lot this week, I did manage to squeeze in the pork butt (and a treat: potato chips!)  I’ve already portioned the pork into 3 different 1.75 lb bags in the freezer.  You can bet that Citrus Pork Chilaquiles from Ashley‘s Date Night In Cookbook will be on the menu next week.**   The other ingredients with be a little bit of an investment–things like orange juice, avocado, tortilla chips, and queso fresco with run me between $1-$2 a piece at Aldi.  But I will get creative with the rest of the week’s meals in order to make it work because these chilaquiles are HEA. VEN. LY!

If you are careful with your pantry items and invest in spices, there is absolutely no reason to boring, flavor-lacking food when you are eating on a budget.  As you may noticed, M and I favor super bold cuisines: Thai, Mexican, Indian and eat dishes from those cuisines fairly often!  Spices are the absolutely key to keeping things interesting!  I’ve found that cheap spices can be found in the “Mexican/Asian” aisle of regular Giants.  They have very cheap bottles of garlic powder, oregano, cilantro, etc and even had little baggies with a couple whole star anise or a few whole nutmegs for like $2!  Check it out, and try to put together a few dollars towards spices every other week–you will soon be on your way to a flexible and useful spice cabinet!

**This is not a paid endorsement at all.  M got me the book for Christmas two years ago and I just love it!  The chilaquiles is our absolute favorite recipe…with Basil Mint Bourbon Jubilees coming in close behind!

img_6837

This week’s tally:

  • Hungry Harvest Produce Box:  $16.50 (added on the grapefruits)
  • Aldi: $27.75
  • Lotte Asian Market: $5.28
  • Total: $49.53  (If I hadn’t had those stock up/splurge items, we would have barely cracked $35 this week!)

This week’s groceries:

img_6834

Hungry Harvest Box: 2 grapefruits (add on), 1 red onion, 0.5 lb brussels sprouts, 3 apples, 1  head of organic cauliflower, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, butter lettuce, 1 mango, 1.5 lb fingerling potatoes.

Lotte Asian Market: whole lemongrass, fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, 2 lbs sushi rice

Aldi: dried cranberries (stock up), 1.5 lb pork tenderloin, 5.12 lbs pork butt (stock up), chips (splurge), cucumber, 5 lbs potatoes (stock up-forgot about the fingerlings in HH box), avocado, diced tomatoes, milk, sriracha (stock up), cooking spray, imitation crabmeat

Here is how we are eating this week:

Sunday: Paneer Masala, Aloo Gobi, Coconut-Creamed Spinach, & Rice   I’ll be making the paneer with that gallon of milk and some lemon juice!  It is so simple and I should get between 12-18 oz of cheese for about $1.50.  I’ll cook down a masala sauce with the tomatoes, some spices, and some of the half-n-half from two weeks ago.  The spinach is from two weeks ago and the coconut milk is from last week’s grocery trip.  The veggies from the box will pair with spices for the Aloo Gobi and we purchased a huge 15 lb bag of rice ages ago, that we have been slowly working our way through.

Monday: I’m out late with meetings for my internship.  I will probably grab something on the run.

Tuesday: Leftovers  M is out and I work late.  I’ll eat leftovers or some scrambled eggs when I get home.

Wednesday: Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, & Fingerling Potatoes with Mojo Verde sauce  M will be cooking while I’m in class.  Mojo Verde will someday make it up here on the blog–it’s similar to chimichurri.  An herby sauce with cilantro, parsley, garlic, vinegar, and all sorts of tasty stuff!

Thursday: Sushi! A big old batch of rice will get rolled into California Rolls, veggie rolls, maybe I’ll even break out the shrimp if I’m feeling fancy!  Check out my last post for a step-by-step guide to rolling sushi!

Friday: Larb Gai  I’ll mince up some chicken thighs with the freezer and sauté them with my pantry items (fish sauce, lime juice, etc) and cilantro and serve with the red onion and butter lettuce for a light dinner.

Saturday: Odds and Ends Whatever I’m feeling like.  I know I need to use up the eggplant and do something with tomatoes!  We will still have chicken thighs and a few sausages in the freezer, if I want some meat.

Breakfasts will be eggs or oatmeal or fruit and toast.  Lunches will be leftovers or sandwiches using the roast beef from last week!


How to Roll Sushi

Not exactly a recipe today, but more of a technique post.  But I do have a few sushi recipes, that can be shared here, now that I’m covering the basics!

Since I know you have all been waiting with baited breath to hear what M picked for Valentine’s dinner…(haha)…surf and turf!  Perhaps a little traditional, but oh so delicious!  He grabbed some personal-sized sirloin steaks and a cluster of snow crab legs for each of us!  It was so, so good!  I think it’s actually been over a year since I had crab legs and I definitely will have to do some scrimping and scrounging of pennies and some careful sales watching so that we can have them again before this year is over!  I’ve admitted to my own recent conversion to seafood-appreciator on this blog before, but I had forgotten how much I like crab!  Especially the legs, because the insides and organs and gunk of blue crabs still grosses me out.  Plus I’m bad at picking those little legs.  Please give me those (somewhat) tidy clusters of snow crab legs!

Yummmmmm.  I thought about those crab legs and butter all day.  I also spent the day enjoying my Valentine’s gift of a brand new office chair!  It’s red, it’s sleek, it has any amount of support…perfection!  I’ve had a sad history of used and often-broken office chairs, though my latest model was doing just fine enough for me to stop complaining about my back pain (mostly).  But, M remembered and got me one and totally surprised me at work–enough to have me on the floor teary-laughing!  So I am very excited to adjust this exactly how I need it and improve my daily office life!

Anyways, I thought I would take advantage of the simple cucumber rolls in this week’s meal plans to take a few step-by-step photos to show how to roll sushi.  I’ll be honest: the thought of making sushi was on my list of Very Intimidating Cooking Things. (Side note: if you’ve been reading along for a while, you should be celebrating with me because you also realize that I have now tackled everything on that scary list!!!)  But then I finally did it and it really can be very not frightening and even almost easy, if you are kind to yourself!  The biggest impetus was honestly that sushi is so expensive!  It it so much cheaper to make at home, and if you are very, very nervous, then just start practicing with some veggies rolls that will cost you pennies!  But they look super fancy and taste delicious and still have that sushi magic of filling you up without much food actually being used…I still prefer the ease of keeping the seaweed on the outside of the rolls–still got all the right flavors in there!  Someday, perhaps, I’ll be brave enough to flip the rice to the outside!

Let’s get started!

First make your rice.  Be sure to use rice marked as “Sushi” or “Nishiki” rice!  Prepare according to the bag’s directions.  I usually bargain for about 3 sushi rolls-worth from 1 cup of uncooked sushi rice.  Remember, 1 cup uncooked is going to result in several cups of cooked rice!

After the rice has cooked and steamed according to the package directions, for every 1 cup of uncooked rice that you made, mix together 3 Tbsp rice vinegar + 1 Tbsp sugar + 2 tsp salt in a small bowl until the sugar and salt has dissolved (if I’m in a hurry, I’ll microwave this, since the warm liquid will dissolve the salt and sugar more quickly!)  Fluff the cooked rice with a fork, then pour over the vinegar mixture and mix gently, but well to distribute the flavor!   Continue to stir gently for 1-2 minutes more, to help the rice release steam and cool.  Cool the rice to room temperature.

Prep your sushi filling–thinly slice whatever you are putting in there: fish, veggies, etc.

Fill a bowl with water, grab your nori (seaweed sheets), put the filings and the rice beside you, and you are ready to go!

img_6742

Okay, so you do need to invest in a sushi mat.  I found them for a very reasonable price at my local grocery store–it came in a kit with a wooden spoon that can be used instead of the fork to stir the vinegar into the rice!  While it is possibly to roll sushi without a mat, it make it so much easier that it is definitely worth the investment!  Place the mat in front of you with the sticks running perpendicular to you.

img_6744

Put a sheet of nori on the mat.

img_6745

Dip your fingers in the water.  With WET hands, scoop two small handfuls of rice onto the nori.  Wet your fingers again and press the rice into a thin layer.  Leave about 1 inch of space at the far end of the nori, but make sure that the rice goes close to the other edges.  If your fingers are not wet enough, the rice will stick.  Keep dipping them in the water as needed.

img_6748

Lay your fillings on the near end of the nori sheet.  Try to make them even, across the whole sushi roll.

img_6750

Grasp the edge of the mat with your thumb and forefinger (with both hands, I just needed one hand to take the photo).  Use the rest of your fingers to press against the fillings.  Lift the sushi mat and begin to roll the edge of the nori sheet over the fillings as your middle, ring, and pinky fingers tuck the filling under the edge of the roll, like you would with a burrito. (Check out the technique next time you are at chipotle–they flip the tortilla over the filling and pull/tuck it back into the roll of the tortilla.  You are doing the same pull/tuck technique with your fingers!)

img_6752

Keep rolling with the mat guiding the nori sheet until the edge of the nori goes entirely around the filling to meet the rice (I’m just lifting the mat to show you).

img_6754

You can release the mat once the filling is encased in the first part of the roll.  Keep  rolling until the rice is covered and only the edge of the nori remains.

img_6755

Use a little of the water to liberally wet down the edge of the nori wrap, all the way across.

img_6757

Roll all the way over.  The wet nori will stick to the roll.  Gently flip the roll over and press down the seam.  Place seam side down on the plate and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.

img_6762

When you are ready to slice, use a serrated meat or bread knife.  Wet the blade before every cut.  I usually chop my sushi into eight pieces, as that’s simplest.  I’ll cut the roll in half, then line up the two pieces side by side to cut those pieces in half again, and then those four pieces in half one more time.

And there you have it!  Homemade sushi!


Weekly Grocery Budget & Meal Plan for Feb 12-18

I am feeling back on track and excited for my budget planning this week!  It has been so eye-opening to truly keep track of my meal planning and shopping for the past few weeks.  I was going through the motions before, but not giving myself a chance to sit down and assess my shopping and planning each week.  I can already tell that posting my weekly updates here are helping me!  In order to stick to the budget, I have started writing the cost of each item on my shopping list as I go, so I can keep a running total to stay under budget.  Well, this week, I realized that doing this means I am also starting to gather information to make a general cost list by store–so I know the general price of items and I can snag a deal (or avoid a more costly purchase).  For example: I now know that limes are $0.25 a piece at Aldi, so, unless I find them cheaper, I know to wait to purchase the limes there.

This was so helpful for this week, because I went to our local Asian grocery store before Aldi.  We needed a few ingredients that I suspected that I could get cheaper there, even cheaper than Aldi.  I was able to go back through my shopping lists and have general costs for the items that I knew I wanted from Aldi (I’ve found that dairy, especially, is more expensive at our Asian grocery store) and have the costs for items that I wanted to get at the Asian grocery store.  So as I walked into the store, I knew that I should aim to have around $20 left to spend at Aldi and I had prices for almost every individual item, so I could compare the prices to Aldi’s on the fly.

It was a great system!  By doing a little math ahead of time and some more while I was in the store, I knew when I had an extra $2 so that I could, say, choose a larger jar of curry paste.  This investment will last us through probably 8-10 dishes, so the investment now will definitely pay off later!

M and I decided that we are not going to go out for Valentine’s Day this year.  I still have to work a little late, and both of us just don’t feel like dealing with the crowds and reservations.  So, I made a little compromise on our budget this week.  M insisted that he would be in charge of dinner while I handled dessert, so, while I worked my dessert ingredients into our budget, we will be spending more money for Tuesday’s dinner ingredients (even though we’ve hit our weekly budget).  But, as long as we stay well under what we would have spent going out to dinner (not so hard, when you add in a drink each and tip!), we can comfortably cover this splurge.

grocery-receipts-2-12

So, here is the breakdown for this week:

  • Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15
  • Lotte Asian Grocery Store: $14.11
  • Aldi: $19.38
  • Total: $48.49

Hmm…looking at that total, I now realize that I would have been able to get fresh raspberries for my dessert.  I made do with black berries, as they were about $0.50 cheaper.  I suppose that totaling is one more step to add into my math when I shop at multiple stores!  Ah well, you live and you learn, huh?

This week’s groceries:

groceries-2-12

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: green onions, kale, 2 bell peppers, 2 plums, 2 seckel pears (my favorite!), eggplant, acorn squash, cucumber, (1 lonely little) parsnip, 1 lb red grapes

Lotte Asian Grocery Store: corn tortillas, 1 lemon, red curry paste, nori, cilantro, 2 limes, mushrooms, 2 cans coconut milk

Aldi: blackberries, butter, 1 lb. pork sausage, cheddar cheese, chocolate chips, eggs, deli-style roast beef, milk, gluten-free bread

The corn tortillas and nori will last far past this week, as will some of the cheese, coconut milk, milk, butter, curry paste, and acorn squash.  I found a super intriguing recipe for acorn squash roasted with onions and served with yogurt.  I’m thinking that I will pair that with last week’s frozen spinach for an Indian-inspired dinner next week!  I’ll be roasting those red peppers, to keep them longer as well, since I’m only just getting to last week’s pair of green peppers.

Here is what we are eating this week:

Sunday: Swedish Meatballs, Pasta, & Kale Salad I’ll use up some of last week’s sour cream and half-n-half.  I’ll also split one of my quarts of bone broth between this gravy and Friday’s soup.

MondayTeriyaki Salmon, Cucumber Sushi Rolls, & Sesame Broccoli The salmon is from a few weeks back, and the broccoli is from the freezer.  The sushi will be a tasty use of the cucumber without loading up on starch and will be easy leftovers for lunch the next day (where as the salmon wouldn’t be…)

Tuesday: Valentine’s Day Dinner (M’s choice) with Flourless Chocolate Cake with Blackberries  Yup.  Throwing it waaaaay back for dessert.  But this cake is so simple, yet so decadent!

Wednesday: Leftovers/Omelet  M will be out and I have class until late evening.  I’ll make whatever is quick and simple for myself when I get home.

Thursday: Chicken Fajitas With last week’s chicken, peppers, and sour cream, plus we have some salsa stashed in the fridge and the fresh cilantro.  Salsa are a great option for adding flavor to a dish, and is an ingredient that will keep for quite some time in the fridge!

Friday: Tom Kha Gai Soup with Rice Here’s where the mushrooms, curry paste, coconut milk, and more cilantro will go!  Flexible enough that I can either throw the broth in the crockpot in the morning or heat it up fairly quickly when I get home from work.  Creamy, coconut-y, spicy goodness!

Saturday: Spaghetti Squash with Red Sauce and Sausage Because yes, we still haven’t actually gotten to it.  Good thing the sauce and sausage are frozen and squashes keep forever. 🙂

Breakfasts will be yogurt and fruit, eggs and toast, or oatmeal.  Lunches will be leftovers or sandwiches paired with fruit!  If I can get my act together, I’ll make the eggplant into roasted eggplant dip/spread for lunches.  If not, then I’ll incorporate it somewhere next week!


Turmeric Lattes (Golden Milk Lattes): 3 Ways

title

Alright, confession time.  I pronounce (some) words strangely.  These days, its only really noticeable in my emphasis on “tt” when it shows up in the middle of words.  Kitten.  Mitten.  Button…  But I also said “pint” with a short ‘i’ sound for a little while and went through a phase with too much emphasis on the ‘w’s in words like sword and dwarf.  My family will still tease me about it, occasionally.  I was a kid who read A LOT (like, a chapter book a day… rereading Harry Potter books 1-3 over 30 times during the year before Goblet of Fire was published…yeah…)  So I had a fairly large collection of words that I was most familiar with seeing.  So, I tended to pronounce things as the y looked.  I mean, obviously there are two T’s for a reason, am I right?

3-latte-top

Anyways, I’ve noticed now that I am an adult, I’ve picked up a bad habit of dropping or even changing letters.  I think it, again, comes from reading the words so often (on blogs, etc), except that I am a little too lazy and just presume a word instead of actually paying attention.  So here’s the actual confession:  Even though I have heard it said and I know that the “R” is there…I say too-meric.  I also say xanthUM gum, and in my earlier recipes, have often written in with an M instead of an N.  That one was more surprising when I realized my mistake.  I’ve been aware of my turmeric error forever, but I just can’t seem to shake my bad pronunciation.

Have you tried turmeric lattes (also known as “golden milk” lattes) yet?

chai-tur-concentrate

They sounded super comforting when I first heard about them and (no surprise to my spice-loving self) I love them!  This is perhaps why I now have a little under a pound of fresh turmeric root in my freezer.  That’s another story.  But the short version is that it came in my produce box.  And my sister also got some and asked me what I did with it.  So, I came up with a few different versions of a turmeric latte to share with you today!  Plus, it gave me an excuse to make designs with spices on my marble cutting board.  Hello, beautiful!

chai-tea-spices

The Quick Way (Turmeric Latte)-Or when you just have dried, powdered turmeric

  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • hefty pinch ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp./a splash of vanilla extract(optional)
  • 1 c. milk*

*dairy or non-dairy–I love almond milk in these lattes

Heat the milk in the microwave.  In ours, it takes about 2 minutes to get piping hot, but not scalded.  While the milk is heating, add all spices, honey, and vanilla extract, if using, to your coffee mug.  Mix well to form a paste.  Add a splash of hot milk and stir until the paste is incorporated into the liquid.  Add remaining milk, give it all a stir, and enjoy!

The Slow Way (Turmeric Tea Concentrate)Or when you have fresh/frozen turmeric root

  • 4 Tbsp. turmeric root, grated
  • 1/2 inch slice of ginger root, split into a few pieces
  • 3 c. water
  • hefty pinch ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp./a splash of vanilla extract (optional)
  • milk of choice

Add grated turmeric root and ginger slices to a small pot with the water.  Bring to a boil, turn off heat and allow to steep until water cools (at least 1 hour).  If possible, I usually transfer it all to a jar, cover, and let it steep overnight.  Strain the water from the roots and keep the concentrate in the fridge for up to two weeks.  When ready to serve, heat equal parts turmeric tea and milk of choice.  In coffee mug, mix honey, vanilla extract, if using, and ground pepper.  Add the milk mixture, stir thoroughly, and enjoy!

The Twist (Turmeric Chai Tea Concentrate)–Or when you don’t want a ton of turmeric

  • 2-3 Tbsp turmeric root, grated*
  • 3/4 inch of ginger root, sliced
  • 5 whole cardamom pods
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 3 whole allspice
  • hefty pinch of freshly ground nutmeg (or 1/4 tsp. ground)
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper (or a few whole peppercorns)
  • 4 black tea bags (regular or decaf, depending on when you favor your lattes)
  • 3 c. water
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp./a splash of vanilla extract (optional)
  • milk of choice

*or 1-2 tsp ground, dried turmeric

Add grated turmeric root, ginger slices, and all spices (whole or ground) to a small pot with the water.  Bring to a boil, turn off heat and allow to steep until water cools (at least 1 hour).  If possible, I usually transfer it all to a jar, cover, and let it steep overnight.  Strain the water from the spices and keep the concentrate in the fridge for up to two weeks.  When ready to serve, heat equal parts turmeric tea and milk of choice (usually 1/2 cup of each).  In coffee mug, mix honey and vanilla extract, if using.  Add the milk mixture, stir thoroughly, and enjoy!


Weekly Grocery Budget Update Feb 4-11

Here we are again, checking out my weekly grocery budget.  I did pretty well for week 3.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t feeling very enthused about meal-planning this week.  Our produce box had a lot of items, but not very interesting ones.  When everything was plotted out in my meal plan, there wasn’t too much to buy, so I could use some of this week’s budget on stock-up items.  We also need to eat down our freezer a little, so I am trying to pull bits and pieces from that stock for the next few weeks.

In addition to eating more fish, I also want us to incorporate more bone broth into our diets.  I’m trying to have soup every week–an easy use of the bone broth and (usually) quite a cheap option for dinner!  I am recent(ish) soup convert.  It was never something I enjoyed growing up, until around high school when I made myself learn to like tomato basil soup.  Some of my favorite kinds have already graced this blog: tomato basil, French onion, Italian Peasant soup, Pot Pie soup… I am excited to try a couple of new ideas in the coming weeks, as well!groceries-feb-4-feb-11

I did very well shopping this week (and remembered my receipts!)  Nothing beyond our usual produce box, so that clocked in at $15.  I had to go to our local Asian grocery store to grab the gochujang, but that, along with my Aldi purchases, came out to $34.44!  So here is this week’s breakdown of our $49.44 grocery haul:

groceries-pic-feb-4-feb-11

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: 1 leek, 1 orange, 1 grapefruit, 1 “yellow” tomato, 2 (large) potatoes, red onion, 1 yellow squash, 1 zucchini, 1/2 lb grapes, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 1 cabbage, 2 bell peppers

Aldi: 1.5 lb chicken wings, 4.25 lb bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (bones & skin will be saved up for the next batch of bone broth!), 2 packages of frozen spinach, eggs (my mother is out of town this week–none from her coworker), garlic, 2 lb carrots, white wine (for cooking & occasional drinking), half & half, butter, plain yogurt, sour cream, and gluten-free bread

Other:  gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) from the Asian grocery store

I think it’s so interesting to see how my $35 goes each week.  This is pitiful compared to the first week, when most was fruit and veg.  It does go to show just how expensive animal products, be it meat or dairy or eggs, are and how quickly they add up!  Thankfully, these will all stretch for a few weeks!

The only items that will be entirely used up this week are the leek, potatoes, cabbage, fruit, chicken wings, and maybe bread–depending on how many sandwiches we go through.  I am not touching the tomatoes, squash/zucchini, peppers, chicken thighs, spinach, or half & half, but I will use them next week!  I see creamed spinach, swedish meatballs, and my (hidden veggie) surprise muffins on the horizon.

Here is this week’s meal plan:

Sunday: Honey-Sriracha Wings & Jalapeño Popper Dip (And Rocky Road Brownies)  We stayed home, but I still wanted the Super Bowl snack food!  I’m currently obsessed with these wings–I shared the recipe on instagram.  I also realized that I could cobble together a jalapeño popper dip from the bits of cream cheese & cheddar cheese in our fridge, plus a few of our home-grown jalapeños from the freezer!  I wanted a little dessert too, and brownies are one of the most pantry-friendly desserts out there.

Monday: Loaded Potato, Leek, & Cauliflower Soup   Here is the rest of last week’s cauliflower!  Simmer in broth with the potatoes and leeks from this week’s produce box, then blended up with a little milk and the last of our cream.  I topped mine with a little sour cream, cheese, crumbled bacon, and chopped scallions.  Plus, there’s enough leftovers to last for several lunches!

Tuesday: Leftovers  I work late.  M is out.  I’m sure there will be soup waiting for me.

Wednesday: Stuffed Acorn Squash   M is cooking while I go to class.  We have acorn squash left from boxes from weeks ago, that he’s stuffing with rice, vegetables, maybe some sausage, and other odds and ends from the fridge.

Thursday: Out  I’m out with friends.  M can do leftovers or something quick for himself.

FridayCheeseburgers with cole slaw and sweet potato fries  Those hamburger buns are taking up valuable freezer space!  This dish will use up the cabbage and some carrots in the slaw, with sweet potatoes from last week, and ground beef from the freezer.

Saturday: Pasta or Spaghetti Squash   Keeping things simple after my long day at work!

Breakfasts: eggs, yogurt & fruit, toast, or oatmeal

Lunches: Leftovers or sandwiches with more fruit


Updated Shepherd’s Pie

sp-title

We got our first snow of the year this week!  Just a dusting, but enough to make for a white morning.  It’s cold, but dry enough, so it doesn’t feel like that bitter, seeping chill.  Our winter has, otherwise, been fairly warm, so I’ll take it!  All through the fall, winter, and early spring, Shepherd’s Pie is in my rotation at least a few times each month.  It is one of a few select dishes that M and I will eat the leftovers with as much gusto as the fresh serving.  (Given that my lunches are alway leftovers, I relish when a dish is just as good the day after.)  Also, this recipe usually gives us between 6-8 servings, so it packs a real punch in my weekly meal plans.  Better yet, it’s not too hard to double the recipe and it freezes well. (Just thaw for 24 hours/overnight before reheating!)  Plus, I have successfully replaced half of the ground meat with finely chopped mushrooms and/or cooked lentils to great success.  Tasty? Check.  Reliable? Check! Cheap? Check!

sp-side

I’ve been making Shepherd’s Pie from memory for several years now, though I shared my recipe, here, a long time ago.  When M and I were planning for our trip to the beach house this year, we decided to make Shepherd’s Pie on our dinner shift.  I was totally surprised to find that I had organically adjusted from my original recipe without even noticing.  So here is how I make Shepherd’s pie now, in 2017.  As my friend pointed out, the big difference that makes this dish so good is that equal effort is put into seasoning and flavoring the potato topping as well as the meat, keeping the whole thing in balance and making every bite delicious!  (And in case you were wondering, it is pretty simple to multiply this recipe by 6, in order to feed 25 hungry people at once–just make sure you have big pans!)

sp-spoon-top

Shepherd’s Pie

Serves: 6-8 | Prep time: 20 min. | Cook time: 30-40 min

For the Topping:

  •  1-1.5 lb potatoes (russets are ideal)
  • 4 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1+ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated
  • fresh chives, optional
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese + more for sprinkling

For the Filling:

  • -1 lb ground beef or ground lamb
  • -Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp/enough to coat the pan)
  • -1 large/2 medium carrot(s), finely chopped
  • -1 large yellow or white onion, finely diced
  • -1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced (or 2 tsp dried)
  • -1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced (or 2 tsp dried)
  • -2 garlic cloves, minced (I love garlic, you can use less, to your taste)
  • -3 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • -3-4 Tbsp Ketchup
  • -1/4 c red wine (I used a cabernet we had lying around)
  • -1/4 c chicken or beef broth/stock
  • -3/4 c. frozen green peas
  • salt & pepper

Start the potatoes:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the potatoes and cut into cubes.  Place in a pot and cover with water an inch above the potatoes.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are easily pierced by a fork.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the filling:

While the potatoes are cooking, add the oil to a hot pan, then add the chopped carrots and onions.  Sauté over medium-high for about five minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften, then add in the ground meat*.  Cook, stirring often to break up the minced meat.  Drain the fat if necessary.  Add the minced garlic, rosemary, and thyme and cook for 1-2 minutes more until the garlic is fragrant.  Add the Worcestershire sauce and ketchup, stirring well to coat the entire mixture.  Then add the wine, broth, and peas.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer while mashing the potatoes.

Make the potato topping:

Drain the potatoes and add in the remaining ingredients.  Mash together into one smooth mixture.  Taste and add more salt or pepper, if needed.

Finish Up:

By now, the liquid in your meat mixture should have reduced some.  In a well-oiled dish, layer first the meat mixture, then the potato topping.  Sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is golden.

*If replacing half the meat: With mushrooms–add to the carrots and onions for the beginning, allowing the mushrooms to cook down before adding the meat.  With cooked lentils: add after all the meat has browned.

sp-scoop


Weekly Grocery Budget Update

Another check-in for my adherence to our weekly grocery budget!  As I mentioned last week, I am trying to recommit to a $50 budget for our food each week.  Strict adherence would leave us with a little more money each month, that could definitely be better utilized than being spent on food we don’t need.  (Our landfill, I’m sure, would appreciate that too!)  I’m doing most of my shopping at Aldi, in order to make this budget achievable, though I’ll also use Giant, Trader Joe’s, and even our local Asian grocery store to pick up those extra items that Aldi doesn’t carry.

This week we have a few repeat meals.  In spite of my meal planning, we had two (awesome) evenings with friends that changed our meals and then, while making last week’s meal plan, I had totally forgotten that M and I signed up for a home-buying class that provided dinner.  (Everybody chill, we are just in the most initial stages of trying to learn anything about looking for and purchasing a home…)  So Wednesday-Friday’s meals mostly rolled over to this week.

It felt a little harder to stick to the budget this week.  For one, I got the week’s “special recovery item” added to our produce box, which took a few bucks from my shopping money.  But, it was fresh turmeric root!  It freezes well, so we are in stock for turmeric lattes and indian dishes for a long time.  I also had to stock up on a couple condiments, which eats up money quickly.  Those losses definitely made me feel more constricted.

Here is the breakdown:

groceries-1-29-2-4

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: 1 romaine heart, 1 (large) head cauliflower, 1 grapefruit, 1 tomato, 2 oranges, 1 red onion, 1/2 lb. green beans, 1 (giant) spaghetti squash, 3 sweet potatoes, and 1 lb. of turmeric ($5 additional) for a total of $20.00

From Aldi: parmesan cheese, tomato paste, cheddar cheese, 1 lb. sausages, cucumber, green onions, 1 lb. salmon, tomato sauce, hot sauce, Caesar dressing, dijon mustard, turkey deli meat, ham deli meat, bread,  and sugar (for my kombucha!)

Other sources: fresh ginger and coconut milk (Giant), eggs (my mother’s coworker)

I totally forgot to grab my receipt at Aldi, but it was about $31.  $4 of that was restocking on Ziplock bags, so the $2 and change spent at Giant should put me right on the $30 line to stay on target this week.

In terms of usage, we will definitely have the whole spaghetti squash plus some of the sweet potatoes and cauliflower remaining at the end of the week.  The cheddar and deli meats and bread will stretch into next week, as will the green onions, 8 oz of the salmon, most of the sausage, and the condiments (obviously).  My bone broth is finished, and I got the 3 quarts that I was hoping for!  And my kombucha should be ready for it’s bottling and second fermentation this week, as  well.

Meal Plan for January 29-February 4

Sunday: Beef Koftas with Tabouleh, Carrot Salad, Smoky Eggplant Dip, Baked Feta, Pickled Onions, & Gluten-free Naan bread This is basically last Thursday’s meal, except that this week’s addition of tomato and cucumber allowed me to make a quinoa tabouleh.  I also unearthed half a block of Feta from our freezer, and had time on the weekend to mix up a batch of homemade naan using pantry ingredients.  That turned it into a regular feast!

Monday: Honey-Sriracha Cauliflower “Wings” and Caesar Salad  I love baking cauliflower florets and treating them like chicken wings!  My latest obsession is Honey-Sriracha sauce, which uses similar ratios as buffalo sauce, but has way more depth of flavor   Our contribution to the Super Bowl parties will like be Homemade Honey-Sriracha Chicken Wings.  Half of that giant head of cauliflower will give us enough for dinner and lunch the next day.  I will rice up the remainder of the cauliflower and stick it in the freezer for later.

Tuesday: Ham & Cheese Crepes  M will be out and I’ll be working late, so a half batch of my gluten-free crepes wrapped around some lunch meat and cheese will be tasty and quick to throw together when I get home.

Wednesday: Taco Soup in the Crockpot From last Wednesday’s plan.  I have class and M works late.  All he’ll have to do is shred the chicken in the crockpot and this soup will be good to go!

Thursday: Sesame-Ginger Salmon with Green Beans and Sweet Potato One of my resolutions is to eat more fish this year–I’m starting off aiming for every other week.  Since M isn’t a huge fan of shrimp and I’m less experienced working with fish, it always takes more of a commitment.  But, I found a lot of inspiration from Pinterest, so I’ll give it a go!

Friday: Thai Chicken Enchiladas One of my favorites!  I realized that I didn’t pick up cabbage at the store, which I usually use to bulk up the meat…I’ll have to get creative!  We somehow ended up with three different bottles of Sweet Chili Sauce in our pantry, so this recipe will help to cut down on that.

Saturday: Leftovers/Pasta I try to remember to incorporate a flexible night into our meal plans, so we have a chance to use up any leftovers that aren’t finished through our lunches each week.

Breakfast & LunchBreakfast will be oatmeal, fruit smoothies, or eggs.  Lunches will be dinner leftovers or sandwiches.