Butternut Squash Soup (GF, DF, AIP, Whole30, Paleo)

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This soup kicked off our first AIP dinner almost two weeks ago, because I knew exactly what I was doing–thus it was a sure success.  I’ve made it plenty of times before, and knew that I just needed to omit the curry powder and cayenne, and swap coconut milk for the cream.  The squash adds a nice lusciousness to this thick soup, making it extra filling!  I usually make it with bone broth, since that is what we tend to have around.  I recommend it for anyone on AIP, because bone broth is an important factor in the protocol.  But veggie broth is an easy swap to make, which would result in a vegan dish.

Blended vegetable soups, like this Butternut Squash soup, or the Carrot-Ginger Soup that is on the plan for this week, are great options for my AIP.   Carrots and squash both add a natural sweetness and the dense vegetables easily make for a thick and smooth soup.  I love autumn/winter squashes and I love root vegetables, so tranforming them into soups was pretty obvious.

Pre-AIP, this soup was inspired by Panera’s Squash Soup.  The honey, listed as optional here, is a necessary addition to get close to a Panera-copycat taste.  Their’s is definitely a sweeter soup.  It’s kind of like vaguely-savory pudding…but in a good way!  Some honey/sweetener is allowed on AIP–it’s better if it is natural, of course.  And there is a limit to sugar that should be followed.  I can’t remember the exact grams, but it equals about 2 pieces of fruit per day.  Two weeks in, I can feel myself leaning a little on sugar–I’ve always been a fruit-loving person.  I’m trying to limit myself to just a piece of fruit with lunch, thus saving a little sugar for where I feel it is best spent: dinner.  Especially in all of these Thai- and Asian-inspired dishes, a bit of sweetness can round out all of the tangy-sour-umami-salty flavors that are favored in these dishes.  That being said, while on AIP, I’ve left out the honey in this soup, leaving it a little more savory.  It is still a very tasty soup–especially with a little crispy bacon crumbled over top.

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Butternut Squash Soup

Serves: 4-6 | Prep Time: 20+ min  | Cook Time: 10-15 min

  • 1 butternut squash (about 1.5-2 lbs)
  • 1 medium onion, yellow/vidalia/sweet preferred
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 large apple, or 1/2 c. applesauce (unsweetened for AIP)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin puree (pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • pinch of ground mace (or nutmeg, if not following AIP)
  • 3 c. bone broth (chicken/poultry broth is the most “neutral” flavor vs beef, pork, etc)
  • 1 can (15 oz) coconut milk
  • optional: 1 Tbsp honey
  • non-AIP optional: 1 tsp. curry powder*
  • For serving: cooked bacon, sliced green onions

*contains nightshades, do not add when following AIP

Prep the squash: If you have time, roast the squash for a slightly richer flavor (caramelization is your friend!)  Carefully slice off each end and then split the squash lengthwise with a large, sharp knife (the skin will be pretty tough to get through).  Scoop out the seeds and place the squash halves face up on a baking sheet.  Roast at 400 degrees F for 30-45 minutes, until fork easily pierces the squash.  OR Microwave the squash for a faster prep time:  slice off the very ends of the squash and split in half lengthwise with a large, sharp knife.  Scoop on the seeds and place the squash halves face up on a microwave-safe plate.  Microwave for 6-8 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the squash without resistance.  Remove from microwave or oven when cooked and set aside to cool.

Prep the vegetables: peel and chop the carrots, peel and dice the onion, mince the garlic cloves.  Dice the apple.

In a large pot, add the coconut oil.  Heat until shimmering, then add the chopped onions and carrots.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and apple and stir for one minute, until garlic is fragrant.  Scoop the cooked and cooled squash out of the skin and add to the pot with the vegetables.  Add the pumpkin puree and all of the spices, stir to combine.

Add the broth, stirring until the mixture is mostly uniform.  Bring to a boil, stirring often.  Once boiling, remove from heat.  Add honey, if using.  Blend until smooth with an immersion blender straight in the pot; or ladle soup into an upright blender–but be sure to only fill it halfway.  The hot soup will expand and could overflow/cause burns if the upright blender is filled up.  Blend in batches or in the pot until the soup is uniformly smooth.  Add the coconut milk and whisk or immersion-blend until fully incorporated.

Serve immediately, garnished with crumbled bacon and green onions for AIP, or with pumpkin seeds if not following AIP.

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AIP Week 3: Budget Update & Meal Plan

After a very successful last week, I was a little stumped when it came to planning this week.  I’ll be honest, I found my veggies this week slightly un-inspiring.  Yellow squash isn’t a favorite, and after last week’s cauliflower, I was out of my go-to recipes.  But some Pinterest trolling reminded me of a few different dishes that I wanted to try, and adapt to be AIP.  Now that I’ve picked them, I think this will actually be a very delicious week of dinners!

I successfully navigated eating AIP at a restaurant this weekend!  I’ve also managed to avoid feeling too tempted during thee grazing hour at my office.  I never really noticed how frequently we have snacks coming in and out until I couldn’t eat them.  Obviously, this challenge has been strengthening my self-control, which is actually nice.  It the past, if something was “off-limits”, I’d just find another food to fill the sugar-craving or the dessert-craving or the crunchy-craving or whatever.  While I’m still dealing with sugar-cravings (mostly with too much dried fruit), there aren’t really AIP-alternatives that are easy to find or make.  Most desserts require somewhat complicated recipes and, after making all my other meals, I don’t feel like cooking anymore.  So instead of just impulsively answering the craving, I’m learning to just sit with it.  And guess what?  I survive the craving and usually, its not so important as to be remembered in an hour or two.

I think I’ll learn the most about myself this month, and it won’t necessarily be what foods “work” or “don’t work” for me.  This AIP round has kicked off a little bit of self-reflection that I am trying to hold on to throughout it all.  We’ll see how it goes.

Another saving grace during these AIP weeks has been “gummies” or “fruit snacks” that I’ve made with gelatin powder, a bit of honey, and fruit juice.  I’ve made sure to use fruit juice without added sugar and only one batch per week.  This allows for about a handful a day, which I slip into my lunch box or have as dessert.  It’s more the texture than the sweetness that I’m craving.  This week, I’ll use some of my Hungry Harvest add-on item: Watermelon-Tart-Cherry Juice.

I forgot to snap a photo of our receipts this week, but I do think it was much closer to the $75-$80 range, which is exactly where I want to be, budget-wise!  $20 to the vegetable box, $20 for odds and ends at Giant, and another $35-ish at Trader Joe’s for the bulk of this week’s groceries.

Here’s what we got:

Groceries

Trader Joe’s: Unsweet shredded coconut, mint, carrots, parsnips, limes, “tiny” avocados, frozen coconut, coconut milk, dried beet chips, 2 lbs ground chicken, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, plantain chips, freeze-dried strawberries, broccoli, bananas

Giant: fresh basil, fresh cilantro, 1 lb shaved pork, 2 lbs beef short ribshh box

Hungry Harvest Box: watermelon-cherry juice, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, zucchini, yellow squash, apples, kiwis, oranges

 

Here’s what we are eating:

Sunday: Braised Beef Shortribs, Cauliflower-Parsnip Puree, Roasted Brussel Sprouts  Shortribs have been on my list for ages, but were never in the $50 budget last year.  I still want to try Deb’s recipe, but for now, I’ve made my own AIP-compliant broth with balsamic vinegar.  I’ll slip a little horseradish in the cauls-parsnip puree, and the sprouts will put some green on the plate.

Monday: Fiona’s Green Chicken, Sweet Potatoes, Sautéed Yellow Squash  Another recipe that I’ve had my eye on–all those herbs have got to be good!  Otherwise, keeping the veggie sides simple.

Tuesday: Leftovers  I work the late shift, so we’ll clear out the fridge after the weekend.

Wednesday: Larb Gai with Sautéed Broccoli, & Avocado  This ground chicken, pungent with lime and fish sauce, is one of my go-to dishes at Thai restaurants.  I usually add a side of rice to make this traditional appetizer into a full meal, but I’ll  round it out with veg and healthy fats for AIP.

Thursday: Carrot Ginger Soup  Just something simple after my class.  I get snack-y during my three-hour class, so I’m never too hungry once I get home.  This quick and easy soup does the trick, with a punch of ginger to keep things interesting.

Friday: Pho with Zoodles  So good that we are repeating it!  Shaved pork was on sale, so we’ll switch it up a little from last week’s shaved steak.  Pho really makes the best leftovers for lunch the next day and this has been one of our favorite AIP dishes yet.  The trick is to keep the noodles fairly raw (just warm) so that they don’t disintegrate in the broth.

Saturday: Leftovers  Clearing out the fridge again!

Breakfasts will be my usual combo of protein (bacon or sausage), greens, sauerkraut and/or kombucha for probiotics, and sweet potato or avocado.  Lunches are leftovers and a piece of fruit.  Snacks are plantain chips, beet chips, dried strawberries, and gummies.


AIP Week 2: Budget Update & Meal Plan

We are one week into my AIP journey.  Things are going well, I suppose.  I’ve found I can very quickly start to focus on everything that I miss…but as that won’t help anything for the next 23 days, I’m doing my best to just not think about it.  In that mindset, I have realized that I need to spend far less time on Instagram and Pinterest, because food is PROMINENT on both of my feeds.  You’d think I enjoy cooking, or something!  I’ve had friends who do a round of Whole30 and I watched them spend the whole time Pinning all these decadent, non-Whole30-compliant recipes…I don’t know how they can stand it.  I’d be out of compliance in a minute.  Needless to say, I am now taking suggestions of books, TV Shows (not-food-related), and hobbies to take up my new found time!  Hahaha.

It is nice to notice all of the changes that are happening after just a few days on AIP.  My sugar cravings haven’t been insurmountable–though they are starting to pick back up in this second week.  Thankfully, I’m already noticing just the barest amount of sugar in ingredients.  Fruit is awesome.  Coconut milk is too–even the unsweetened version already tastes nice and sweet.  I seem to be sleeping better–I feel like I am waking up less.  Of course, this may be the sudden absence of my daily caffeine, which is making me a little grumpy around 3pm and 8pm each day.  (And I use to really only have coffee in the morning…I’m surprised at how long the effects lasted!). But my general, non-stimulated fatigue might be the cause of my better sleeping.  Maybe I’m just more tired!

Last week I made really lovely beef koftas and green, tomato-less tabbouleh; a super filling broccoli salad; the love-child of meatballs and chicken nuggets (aka Sweet Potato & Chicken Poppers); and wonderful bacon-wrapped shrimp.  Last week was Sauces week.  I made Coconut Milk Tzatziki which was STELLAR!  My first foray into AIP sauces, and, given how important dipping sauces are in my life, I should have guessed that it would make all the difference.  I’ll have to make the tzatziki again, as I didn’t take any photos and I want to share the recipe here, but it was so good!  AIP cuts all spices that are…well, spicy, because they are made from peppers or seeds.  But a couple cloves of grated raw garlic in the tzatziki added a zing that seemed very spicy!  I might….maybe…just like Coconut Milk Tzatziki better than the regular stuff.  Or I’ve been so deprived the last week that my brain cannot remember the real stuff.  :). I don’t think its quite that serious…

On the first week, I craved cottage cheese, deviled eggs, yogurt, and mayo.  Obviously missing that unctuous-ness that comes from eggs and/or full-fat dairy.  At this beginning of week two, I’m craving nut butters.  It is interesting to me that I’m still craving high-fat foods, as I am still consuming a lot of fat on AIP: avocado, coconut products, and pork sausage or bacon make it onto my plate on a daily basis.  I think a sizable portion of my cravings are actually for textures…if I could just eat something that has the same texture as cheesecake, it would be total heaven.  In the meantime, I’m making batches of gummies from gelatin and fruit juice, which seems to tide me over.

This week, we had our harvest box delivered once again.  It has been so easy with Hungry Harvest–I just updated my “Never List” to include nightshades (tomatoes, all peppers, white potatoes, and eggplant) for the duration of my AIP.  Any nightshades that are slated to be in the weekly box will be swapped out for something I can eat, without my lifting a finger!  Without tomatoes and eggplant, my veggie haul this week was very green and gold, my alma mater’s colors.  Woot.

I did a little better on my budget this week, since I had less to stock up on.  It was just under $90, but I feel like I purchase A LOT of meat products.  TJ’s has jacked up the price on their shaved steak, but, since I am preparing all of my meals at home from scratch for the next 30 days, I am allowing myself to cut corners when I can.  That means store-bought shaved steak and tubes of pureed fresh ginger and garlic from last week.  Right now, it’s definitely worth the extra money.

I’m hoping I might be able to the budget closer to $75 next week…we’ll see how it goes.

Here is what we spent this week:

receipt AIP w2

Trader Joe’s: $36.86

Aldi: $32.08

Hungry Harvest Box: $20.00

Total: $88.94

Here is what we got:

IMG_8593

Groceries AIP w2

From Stores: cabbage, 3 lb onions, 1 lb ground chicken, 4 lb BI,SO chicken thighs, 2 packets tuna, apple cider vinegar, black olives, prosciutto, bacon, dried figs, plantain chips, mushrooms, blueberries, cucumber, 1 lb shaved steak, coconut aminos, arugula, baby kale, coconut milk x3, applesauce, limes, roast beef, giant green olives, matcha powder

From HH produce box: zucchini x2, leek, fennel, honeymoon melon, lettuce, cauliflower, onions, avocados, grapefruit, apples

And here is how we are eating:

Sunday: Cracklin’ Chicken, Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower, & Coconut-Creamed Spinach:  NomNomPaleo’s chicken thighs were super tasty, and fresh cauliflower florets were a nice change from sweet potato in filling the “starchy” part of the plate.  The only change made to my beloved CC Spinach is leaving out the garam masala and chili flakes.  I missed that flavor, but this whole dinner touched on some Indian food notes, which was refreshing!

Monday: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Cauliflower Rice  I’m please with this end result, riffing off of my copycat recipe for PF Chang’s wraps.  A smidge of honey and some extra vinegar helped to take over for the usual hoisin sauce.  I was also happy to use water chestnuts and wasabi–two ingredients that I would never have guessed to be AIP compatible!  Looking forward to a little more spice with wasabi in the mix.  I did misjudge the lettuce that we got from Hungry Harvest–this was more like Lettuce Bites, because the leaves were small!

Tuesday: Leftovers  Working the late shift, but we have plenty left over from Sunday and Monday.

Wenesday: AIP Sushi with “Hot and Sour” Soup   My first attempt at cauli-rice sushi.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for success.  Soup will be just bone broth with a few doctoring additions (vinegar, coconut aminos, wasabi, etc) to get all those traditional hot & sour flavor profiles.

Thursday: Crockpot Pho with Steak & Zoodles  I was very excited to get fennel in our box–I think a portion blackened up for the broth alongside the ginger and onion will lend the licorice flavor that I usually get through anise-seed–which is off-limits on AIP.  I also love in raw, so I will slice up the rest for a cold salad alongside my lunches later in the week.   I haven’t had much luck with zoodles in the past…we shall see!

Friday: AIP BBQ Pork-stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Cole slaw  I found a recipe with apple butter as the base, but couldn’t find any apple butter at the store.  So I’ll use the applesauce to make a quick cheat’s apple butter in the microwave and then use that as the base for my BBQ sauce, to go over the pork from the freezer.

Saturday: Leftovers  Time to clear out the fridge for next week’s shopping!


Budget Update & Meal Plan for Nov 5-11

Things are getting busy here!  We are closing in on finals, performances, and the holidays!  I sent out a google form to our Thanksgiving guest this morning, just to keep track.  We potentially have many people in attendance, so I need some hub to keep all the info on attendance and potluck dishes.

In the short-term, I’m getting ready for M’s birthday this weekend and for his sister and brother-in-law’s arrival from the UK a few days after that.  Both will be wonderful times, I’m just trying to stay flexible in my meal-planning, as I don’t know when we might be seeing them/going out/etc.

This week, from the grocery store was mostly a stock up, including a full pound of beef for next week (Shepherd’s Pie is on the menu!).  Next week’s shopping may be more stocking-up as well, especially with Thanksgiving nearly upon us.  I need to eat down the freezer, so that I can use our excess dollars to grab a few extra packages of butter (I got through so much butter at Thanksgiving) and have room to store them.

We also got some fun produce from Hungry Harvest.  Most notably, a couple of rutabagas.   Did you know they are also called swedes?  Also neeps (although, that can also be turnips)?  I’d heard of neeps, but didn’t know what they were.  I’d never heard of a vegetable called a swede.  M, on the other hand, knew he liked swedes, but though he had never had rutabaga.  And it’s all the same thing!  Another weird twist of an American-British relationship.

More rutabaga fun facts: it’s a cross between a cabbage and a turnip.  It’s super tasty roasted, mashed, or pureed into soup; as you would with potatoes or turnips.  I went the soup route this week.  After being spoiled by last week’s luscious carrot soup, I found myself wanting a bit more body to the soup, but it was tasty nonetheless!  If I’d had cream on had, instead of 2% milk, to finish it off, I would have been very pleased.

Here’s how we spent:

receipts 11.4

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00

Aldi: $24.49

Trader Joe’s: $9.77 (less $1 for the inedible mini Cinnamon broom)

Total: $49.26

Here’s what we got:

hh 11.4

HH Produce Box: 2 oranges, 2 apples, baby spinach, cantalope, 2 rutabagas, 2 bell peppers, 1 onion, 2 zucchinis, & 2 sweet potatoes

groceries 11.4

Aldi: olive oil, chicken broth, veggie broth, celery, bacon, garlic, chopped walnuts, corn chips, yogurt, cranberries, diced tomatoes x2, cannelini beans x2, 3 lbs onions

Trader Joe’s: 1 lb ground beef, 2 lb frozen tater tots (I went in for polenta, which they did not have in stock, so I took the opportunity to stock up for next week)

Here’s what we’re eating:

Sunday: Mini reunion with High School Friends–I’m contributing Roast Garlic White Bean Dip and some cut veggies.  Everyone is bringing a dish, so we’ll have plenty to eat!

Monday: Jumbalaya  I’m making M cook it while I’m in class.  We have all the meat in the freezer already and rice in the pantry, so he’ll use some peppers, onions, celery, broth, garlic, and canned tomatoes.

Tuesday: Rutabaga & Leek Soup, Spinach Salad, & Pan de Bono  I’ll use some of the leeks left over from last week in a pureed soup with the rutabaga and broth.  Pan de Bono is a bread roll made primarily with Queso Fresco, which I have stashed in the freezer and some flour from the pantry.  I lightly dress the spinach and top with walnuts and dried cranberries to go along with the soup.

Wednesday: Zucchini Fried Rice + PF Chang’s GF Egg Drop Soup  I was feeling pretty sick at work, so I picked up a quart of soup on my way home.  We love that PF Chang’s has safely prepared, gluten-free options; and I love that their soup truly gels when cold–a sign of super-good-for-you gelatin and collagen in the broth.  (Or it maybe cornstarch, but let me dream….) Needless to say, I wanted soup, so $10 later,  here we are.  I rounded it out with the Fried Rice that was already on my plan, to use up some veggies.

Thursday: I have a late meeting at work, that comes with plenty of snacks that will serve as my dinner.  There a leftovers at home for M.

Friday: Chile Relleno Casserole. Tortillas from the pantry, Soy-rizo from the freezer, bits of cheese from last week, poblanos from our garden: this meal is almost entirely from the pantry.  I’ll use the other can of tomatoes and some of the bell pepper and onions.

Saturday: Leftovers or something else from the pantry.  It’s still a little up in the air.

Breakfasts will be: egg sandwiches, yogurt & fruit, or sweet potatoes.  Lunches are leftovers.  I’ll also make up a batch of banana muffins, this week, too.

 


Budget Update & Meal Plan for Oct 22-28

This semester has been non-stop!  But, in between work and classes, M and I have managed to see many of our friends, which makes all the hustle worth it.  I’m not very good at keeping up with a regular social life.  Usually, I decide I’ll just wait until next week when I’m less busy, and then I turn around and three months have passed.  So, while its been a little hectic and tiring, I’m so glad that we have been out at a variety of activities almost every weekend!  We’ve already hit two weddings this autumn, I’ve gone to a town festival and a winery birthday party, caught up with friends from high school, visited my family, gone down to North Carolina, and attended a DIY Wine and Paint night.  It has been a great fall season thusfar.

I also hit a hugely important and exciting milestone: I paid off my student loans!!  I had a little help from my uncle, which allowed me to pay them off for good last month, rather than sometime next year.  I celebrated–as I have planned to for years–by buying myself a Le Creuset Dutch Oven.  I discovered Le Creuset early on in my forays into the food blogging/cookery world and adored them, naturally. 🙂  However, I’ve always tended towards frugality, so the price tag wasn’t something that I could accept at any old time.  When I realized the recommended starter size (between 4-5.5 quart models, according to the internet-at-large) was about the size of my monthly loan payments, I made a promise that I would use my first “payment” after I paid back my loans on an LC.  And I have!

Of course, I agonized for weeks over what would by my Le Creuset color, because I know that it will influence future decor and color choices.  That’s just the type of person I am!  But, I have to admit that I’m not any closer to making that color decision.  But, I saw this Petite Fruits special print and fell in love!  I’d spied the print online, but worried that it was too small, being only a 4 quart size.  But it seems plenty large and that print is my perfect temptation of delicate/nostalgic/grandmotherly.  So I took it home last week!  I broke it in with–what else?–a batch of Coq Au Vin that you’ll see in this week’s meal plan.

Another great milestone: M and I had our sixth anniversary earlier this month as well.  We stayed home, but allowed ourselves whatever dinner we wanted.  Steaks, shrimp, asparagus, and potato gratin was our choice.  I got him whiskey, he got me Le Creuset Mini Cocottes and coffee mugs (I’d already dragged him along on a color-scoping mission the week before) and some new frying pans, which I desperately needed.  It was a nice little evening for the two of us.  And now M is experimenting with all sorts of en-cocotte recipes, much to my tastebuds’ delight.  Bonus!

This week started out a little rough, as some of my schoolwork got entirely out of control on Sunday afternoon and I gave up all thought of making dinner and we had pizza instead.  One less thing to think about, and sometimes, that’s all you need.  We’ve also just been invited to carve pumpkins with  friend, so I’m not sure if I will make the lasagna anyway (whether we eat it or bring it with us), or if it will get bumped to this weekend or even next week.

This is what I spent:

receipt 10.22

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00

Aldi: $27.76

Wegman’s: (not pictured) about $6.00?*

Total: $48.76

*I’m swinging by Wegman’s tonight, as it’s the only reliable store to stock GF lasagna noodles, which should be about $4 for the box.  I’ll also grab a pack or two of frozen spinach, since Aldi had none in stock.  I fully expect to stay at budget!

This is what I got:

Groceries 10.22'

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: Kale, 2 onions, 2 honeycrisp apples(!!), San Marzano tomatoes, 2 asian pears, 2 carrots (each as long as that wine bottle–totally giant!), butternut squash, 2 avocados (not pictured)

Aldi: 5 lbs potatoes, baby bella mushrooms, parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, ricotta cheese x2, red wine, GF bread (it’s finally back in stock!), mozzarella cheese, milk, 3 lb chicken thighs, tomato paste

Wegman’s: (not pictured) Gluten-free lasagna noodles, Frozen spinach

+ (not pictured) 1.5 dozen eggs from my mom’s chicken lady

This is what we are eating:

Sunday: (Intended Squash Toast + Salad) instead: Pizza

Monday: At class–M had some leftover pizza and I scrambled a few eggs when I got home.

Tuesday: Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese–the soup has been in the cupboard for weeks, and I’ve never gotten around to it.  Since M is out with friends and I work late, this will be the perfect, quick bite when I get home.  Plus, it will be easy to make an extra sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch.

Wednesday: Coq Au Vin (in my Le Creuset *muffled screaming*) and Mashed Potatoes–one of our winter favorites 🙂  We have a sweet potato leftover from a previous box, and that will join the chicken, mushrooms, onions, carrots, and wine.

Thursday: Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna — one of my absolute favorite vegetarian dishes!  Although a little time-consuming, since I have to start from scratch to ensure that it is gluten-free, it is so worth it.  It makes many servings and is just sooooo good.  Last time I made it, we stuck a few individually-wrapped servings in the freezer and it was a total godsend when we reached hectic days before the holidays.

Friday: Squash & Onion Toast and Kale Caesar Salad — from Smitten Kitchen.  This was intend to be Sunday’s dinner, but it will do just fine on Friday, too.  I’ll supplement the remaining Butternut squash with some acorn squash we have leftover from last week’s HH box and use up the rest of the ricotta cheese.

Saturday: Breakfast for dinner, out — I left this evening pretty flexible.  This may end up being the lasagna, or some take-out, but I know I also have bacon, sausage, tomatoes, potatoes, eggs, and toast to serve up a hearty BFD, too.

Breakfasts will be oatmeal, eggs, or avocado toast.  Lunches will be leftovers or a picnic-type mix of hard-boiled eggs, nuts, veggies, etc from the pantry with a piece of fruit.  I expect to have a giant carrot, an avocado, potatoes, and tomatoes leftover for next week, as well as bits of most of the cheese, several chicken thighs, and the milk and wine, obviously.

I’m still loving my Hungry Harvest boxes each week, and I’m happy to announce that I am now a Hungry Harvest ambassador.  Mostly, that means I’m encouraged to share my love of HH (which I feel like I do pretty often already) and it also means that I can share this link with you: http://hgryhv.st/2hoYVUj  If you are interested in trying HH, you can use this link and enter code “HERO5” to get a couple dollars off your first box (and I would get a discount on my next box, as well).  Want to be a #hungryharvesthero with me?

On a final note, with my loans now paid off, most of my “payments” will be going to my savings account, to beef things up there.  However, I’m playing with the idea of adding $10 to my weekly grocery budget.  This would specifically go towards improving the quality of our animal products.  M and I absolutely support pastured, cage-free animal raising, but have been limited by our budget before now.  I’d love to be better at supporting those practices with my dollars, so you may see an increase in our budget for that exact reason.  What stores would you recommend for finding pastured meats, cheeses, and dairy-products? (Our eggs are good–they come from spoiled backyard chickens that are more pets than anything else)  Aldi’s meats are already pretty limited, so I think I can only count on finding some CF/Pastured chicken and perhaps some ground beef.  As you can tell, I’m not opposed to going to multiple stores for my grocery shopping.  Trader Joe’s and Giant are very accessible to us, and I can make Wegman’s happen.  I have very little experience with Whole Foods (and I’m worried that I still couldn’t fit that into my budget) and we’ve had a Lidl open up near us as well.  Which store do you prefer?


Budget Update & Meal Plan for September 3-9

Happy Labor Day!  M and I have made the best of the weekend.  On Saturday, we drove up to Baltimore with a friend.  I was the only one of the trio who had been to the National Aquarium, so we braved the cold drizzly day to enlighten the guys.  I have fond memories of visiting the aquarium when I was a kid (before many of the renovations).  Seriously: museums, aquariums, zoos…all my favs.   I will always go.  Thankfully, I live close enough to D.C. that I can scratch my museum itch with all of the free Smithsonian institutions.  Anyways, we got our fill of sharks and fish and three-finned seat-turtles.  (That turtle has been there since I can remember–and was super active all day, which was awesome).

Then we did a little googling to find the locals choice for seafood, rather than any of there over-priced chains surrounding the National Harbor.   We ended up at LP Steamers and feasted on blue crabs, shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels, scallops, and oysters.  Add a basket of fries and a cider, and I was a happy girl.

On Sunday, we drove down to see A at her new townhouse and to reunite Punc with her sister.  That dog has been so forlorn whenever we visit my mother, because Panda isn’t there to play with her anymore.

We stopped by Potters’ Craft Cidery, just because it was 10 minutes down the road.  All of the ciders were nicely light, and I appreciated that all of them–even the fruited styles, were not very sweet.  Its a good brand to look out for, as their distribution grows!  We took Skyline Drive for the way back.  Driving through mountains with an audiobook playing was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

We were back to reality today, tidying the house and grocery shopping, etc.  This week’s groceries was a lot of indulgence and some stocking up.  We are gone again this weekend, down to North Carolina, so I only had to worry about four dinners this week.  I brought my friend to Aldi for the first time and was a little distracted by explaining everything in the store.  Also, the store was pretty sparse.  They obviously hadn’t stocked up since before the weekend, hence my going over budget.  The bacon I grabbed was in the wrong box–I was expecting a $3.19 price point.  Not so much…premium instead.

In addition to all in the meal plan, I made a plum cake with the plums from last week.  The cake base is from Flavor Flours, which I would highly recommend!  I love that the focus is on the individual flours and how the taste and texture can complement various types of confectionary and pastry.  We are just about back to our regular Fall schedules, so I’m hoping that this week will be the start of my working out the routine for this season.  Anyways, lets look at these groceries…

Here’s what I spent:

groceries 9.4

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00

Aldi: $35.64

Total: $50.64

 

Here’s what I got:

grocery 9.4

HH Produce Box: Zucchini, tomato, 2 onions, 2 crowns of broccoli, 2 asian pears, 1 avocado, 2 mangos, 2 clementines, 3 romaine hearts.

Aldi: 1.5 lbs top round steak, butter, bacon, shredded cheese, olive oil, cream cheese, sausage links, Swiss cheese, goat cheese, peanut butter, half & half, white wine

+ 18 eggs from my mother’s coworker

 

Here’s what we’re having:

Sunday: Out on the road.

Monday: Turkey-Broccoli Quiche with a side salad  I found some turkey stashed in our freezer, so the broccoli in this week’s box was rather serendipitous.  This is my all-time favorite quiche, and I’m usually constrained to making it around the holidays when there are turkey leftovers.  It is a nice surprise to make it in September!  1 crown of broccoli will go in to this.

Tuesday: Leftovers while M is out and I work the late shift.  More quiche!  I’m not complaining!

Wednesday: Steak with Balsamic Tomatoes, Roasted Broccoli, Smashed Potatoes A nice indulgence, since steak usually isn’t in the budget.  Unfortunately, prices weren’t as great as I was expecting for beef, but this will still be super tasty.  We’ll likely supplement the HH tomato with one of our own from our garden.  This will use up the rest of the broccoli, and a few red potatoes that have lingered in the pantry for a couple of weeks.

Thursday: Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese, Zucchini & Roasted Tomatoes  I stumbled across this recipe last week and it looks tasty.  Last week’s cauliflower never made it into rice, so it will be used up here; along with this week’s zucchini and plenty of cherry tomatoes from our garden.

Friday: Cobb Salad with the rest of the romaine, some bacon, hard-boiled eggs, shredded cheddar, tomatoes, and bleu cheese dressing from the fridge.

Saturday: Road-trip to North Carolina for M’s nephew’s birthday! We’ll be making our traditional stop into the Saxapahaw General Store.  They always have great local goodies.  I’ll be grabbing a couple more bottles of their elderberry syrup, for sure.  I mix it into my kombucha for flavor + an extra immunity boost!

Breakfasts will be eggs or oatmeal.  Lunches will be leftovers+fruit.


Budget Update & Meal Plan for August 26-September 2

This week is one of those weeks that I am reminded why we follow our budget.  Keeping such a low budget week-to-week means that when we reach these weeks where we want to splurge a little, or we have social obligations calling us to go out several times that week, we can usually manage to do so.  Being frugal day-to-day has allowed us to have the extra money to fund busy weeks like this one.  We’ll be out 4 nights this week–one at a barbecue where we will bring dishes to share, and up to three others out at restaurants for various events.

As we get nearer to Fall, my time at our Farmer’s Market grows more and more limited.  Once our Saturday rehearsals begin, I have to be at work early enough that I am not able to get to the Farmer’s Market.  M and I went this week, knowing there was a chance that it could be our last market of the season.  Although my Saturday class don’t begin for another two weeks, it is likely that we will travel for Labor Day weekend and we will be away in NC for the following weekend.  With this in mind, I bargained to spend an extra $20 this week, bringing our budget up to $70, so we could get some favorite items from the market.  Thanks to our produce box, we rarely need any vegetables.  The market’s pickle stall is wonderful, so we grabbed a pint each of Sweet Onion Sriracha Pickles and Pickled Beets, for a total of $9.  I spent another $4.50 on stone fruits, because I’ve been dreaming of cakes+stone fruits.  The small, sweet prune plums will be perfect in a tarte-tatin style cake or clafoutis.  The green plums were new to me, and I still haven’t filled my peach galette craving.

Last week, I tried to make one and my pizza stone cracked into 4 pieces in the oven, effectively destroying the galette along with it.  I’m still not sure what caused it to crack, but it was a very sad day, indeed.  Now I have the peaches to make (and hopefully actually taste) another galette.  My sweet tooth is out of control, so I’ll keep an eye on the fruit throughout the week…if I can spread my baking into next week, I will.

M and I went grocery shopping on our way home from the Farmer’s Market.  The unspent $5 from my Market splurge was spent on chocolate.  Aldi carries European-style chocolate that is a little hard to find in the States, so it is always a temptation when M comes shopping with me.  Knowing that I’d really only be cooking 3-4 meals this week, I planned on Bulgogi’s slightly more expensive beef.  I knew I had room in the budget for it.  The rest of the groceries went to a few ingredients to round out our meals, but mostly to a sorely-needed baking stock up.  We were entirely out of sugar and salt–which falls into a hazy category.  We do use iodized salt in our shakers and in baking, but most of it will actually go into scrubbing our cast iron…which isn’t exactly food, I suppose.  Oh well, the few cents spent on it is fairly negligible.

I won’t get to the cauliflower in this week’s produce box, so I will be making it into cauliflower rice to stash in the freezer.  I’ll also finally be bottling a fresh batch of kombucha (long-neglected over my busy summer), as well as a batch of bone broth from our stash of freezer bones.  I’m still slightly off in terms of my digestion and overall well-being, but I think both of these items will help me feel better!

My classes for grad school start this week.  While I am taking the same number of credits as past semesters, it is spread over three classes.  So I am facing 6 hours of class on Monday afternoons and a Friday class on some weeks as well.  I’ve finally passed the halfway point and will be graduating at the end of next year or in the Spring of 2019.  It seems both very far away, but also fairly close.  Hopefully I can keep everything in balance this semester.

Here’s what I spent:

groceries 8.26

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00

Farmer’s Market: $13.50

Aldi: $28.64 (on food–we also got a harness for Punc)

H-Mart: $12.70

Total: $69.84

Here’s what I got:

groc 8.26

HH Box: 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 2 apples, 2 lemons, 2 asian pears, 1 onion, 1 head red leaf lettuce, cauliflower, 1 lb green beans

Farmer’s Market: 2 peaches, 2 green plums, 1 pint prune plums, 1 pint pickles, 1 pint pickled beets

H-Mart: 2 lbs bulgogi-cut beef, 1 dozen eggs

Aldi: 2 chocolate bars, olive oil spray, 3 lbs lemons, cashews, 1 qt yogurt, ricotta cheese, salt, green onions, sour cream, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar

Here’s what we’re eating:

Saturday: Out to a Barbecue I made deviled eggs and a double batch of lemon bars to contribute.

Sunday: Bulgogi Beef with Rice and Lettuce and green onions, carrots, and onion topping.  We had all the ingredients for ssamjang in the fridge already, plus soy sauce for the marinade.  We wrapped up the beef and rice in the lettuce from our produce box

Monday: At Class. There are leftovers for M and I made a batch of rhubarb-streusel muffins on Sunday with pantry ingredients.  I’ve frozen the muffins and took a muffin + 2 oz of cashews along with me to class.  I also brought coffee and water from work (free).

Tuesday: Out for M’s mum’s birthday  At least I think we are going out.  If need be, I can move up Friday’s pasta dish to tonight.

Wednesday: Friend’s Going Away Party at a Thai restaurant, so at least there will be plenty of leftovers for Thursday lunch!

Thursday: Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage in Browned Butter  I’ve had the squash for months, but luckily these keep well.  It will make plenty of extra gnocchi to freeze for later.  Plus fresh sage from the garden and a little browned butter.

Friday: Ricotta Pasta with Green Beans and Tomatoes All fresh ingredients this week, except for pasta from the pantry.  If we end up eating this earlier this week, I can make risotto with roasted tomatoes instead.

Saturday: Out on a Day Trip

Breakfasts are avocado toast (with avocados from last week), eggs, yogurt+fruit.  Lunches are leftovers, overnight oats, or hard-boiled eggs.