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.

 

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Ginger Carrot Soup

IMG_8206

I had to pop in and share this recipe!  I tossed it all together without much thought yesterday morning, but it turned out so good that I’m sure it will soon become one of our staple soups in my house!  The carrot base is cheap and the crockpot cooking makes it easy (although, I’ve included stove top directions that are very simple, as well).  I used chicken broth, as that is what I had on hand, but since this recipe is already dairy-free, it can be made vegan just by choosing vegetable broth!

This soup is super silky and feels rich.  The lemon juice at the very end adds brightness, while the curry powder and turmeric provide depth below that punch of ginger flavor.  The carrots add their own natural sweetness, making this the perfect soup for those gray, rainy autumn days!  Coming home to this soup after 12 hours of work and class was pure heaven!

I have had carrot soup on the brain since receiving two giant carrots in my Hungry Harvest Produce Delivery Box.  Seriously, they were each as tall as a wine bottle!  Hungry Harvest is a service that delivers recovered produce (fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go uneaten/be sent to the trash) to my door on a weekly basis.  The variety in the boxes forces me to get creative in my cooking and meal-planning, and I feel great knowing that I am helping to reduce food waste!  Those incredible carrots were rejected at the grocery store for being too big, and, without Hungry Harvest, would have ended up in a compost pile–or worse–a landfill.  The vegetables that I receive aren’t rotten–they could be too big, small, or “ugly”, or even have just been packaged or transported differently than the grocery stores requested.  I am absolutely a “happy customer” of Hungry Harvest, and I’m also a Hungry Harvest Ambassador.  If you would like to join me as a #hungryharvesthero and try your first HH box, you can follow this link: http://hgryhv.st/2hoYVUj and use the code “HERO5” for $5 off the box (that’s over 30% off!).  Full disclosure: If you choose to try a box through my link, I will get a discount on my next HH box as well!

carrot soup

Ginger Carrot Soup

Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 40+ min | Serves: 4

  • 6-8 carrots
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 inch fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch turmeric root*
  • 3 c. broth (chicken or veggie)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger, heaped
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, leveled
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder, leveled
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 lemon

*You can use 1 tsp. ground turmeric if you don’t have actual turmeric root (mine is stashed in my freezer from months ago when Hungry Harvest sent fresh turmeric in one of my produce boxes)

Place the top oven rack at the middle of the oven and set the oven to high broil.  Spread parchment paper over a pan.  Peel the carrots, onion, ginger, garlic, and turmeric (be careful, the turmeric will stain!  With this little root, I usually use a paring knife to peel it over the sink, so I’m not staining a cutting board.  If you need a surface, a small ceramic plate will usually hold it’s seal and won’t stain.) 

Spread all the peeled vegetables and aromatics in the pan and place in the oven.  Broil for about 10 minutes, or until the onions, garlic, and ginger are beginning to brown.  The carrots will soften, but won’t brown.

Tip all of the broiled vegetables into a crockpot.  Add the dry spices and the broth.  Set to cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.  Alternately, tip the vegetables into a sauce pot and add the spices and broth to the pot.  Bring to a boil, then cover and bring down to the barest simmer for 30 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the carrots.

Once finished, whether by crockpot or stovetop, add in about 1 cup of the coconut milk.  Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth right inside the cooking vessel, or carefully ladle into a blender.  If using a blender, only fill halfway to avoid the scalding liquid from escaping!  Puree in batches until smooth.  Strain the soup through a sieve, to pull out the thread-like ginger that will never get smooth.  Squeeze the juice from one whole lemon into the soup and stir to combine.  Serve hot, a little fresh cilantro is nice, 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.

 


Ambrosia Salad

ambrosia title

As much as I am interested in new food trends, there are a few classics–especially those that I grew up with–that will always have a special place on my table.  As a child of the ’90s, some of these dishes waver on that edge of decidedly old-school, especially as we look at cold salads.  Ambrosia is one of those.  I am seeing this creamy fruit salad less and less these days, but, in my mind, ambrosia is one of those quintessential summer dishes.  Due to the lack of vegetables and the inclusion of fruit, it was a universal favorite in my house while I was growing up.  It also made an impression on our extended family (here is the recipe, finally, Lizzie!)  Ambrosia was always a true sign of summer (even though, using the canned options, it can be made almost any time of year that grapes are in stores).

ambrosia fruit

I’ve sampled a few ambrosia salads at various barbecues, either a store-bought salad or by someone else’s recipe.  And I was always disappointed, if not disgusted.  They were always horribly sweet.  There are rules about Ambrosia Salad (in my adamant opinion! 😉 ).  Rule #1: no maraschino cherries.  Listen.  I love maraschino cherries.  Especially the un-natural, bright-red ones.  A visit to any fro-yo place usually ends with most of my money paying for at least one extra ounce of weight made up entirely of half a dozen maraschino cherries.  However, they do not belong in ambrosia salad.  The juice makes it all vaguely pink and the flavor just doesn’t fit.  No maraschinos.  Rule #2: no vanilla.  This is often linked to the third and most important rule: Rule #3: don’t cover the fruit with a sweet topping.  I’ve tried this dish made with whipped cream, cool whip, vanilla yogurt….all of those options will leave your teeth aching and your mouth crying out for water from the sugar.  The marshmallows and the coconut and, you know, all the fruit, provide plenty of sweetness.  Even vanilla extract adds a heaviness to the salad.  You just don’t need it.

In adhering to rule #3, I will finally admit the ingredient that may give you pause.  Yes, the topping that mixes everything together into creamy goodness is…. sour cream.  Gasp!  I know!  Just reminiscent enough of those terrible 1950s recipes calling for mayo and shrimp and jello and other horrors to make you stop and reconsider.  But hear me out:  Sour cream is great here.  The tang balances the sweetness of every other ingredient and after a couple of hours, the marshmallows break down into soft little pockets and the sugar on the outside of the marshmallows has blended with the cream to make the whole thing perfectly sweet.  Yes, I suppose I would allow swapping plain yogurt for the sour cream, if it really rattles you.  But let’s be honest with each other.  Sour cream achieves a texture of delightfully-creamy-without-being-heavy that no other dairy product can.  Greek yogurt would be too thick and heavy, regular yogurt would be too watery, especially combined with the juicy fruit.  Sour cream is the best option.  Just don’t think about it too much and do me a favor: try it with sour cream first.  Trust me.

ambrosia close

I was delighted, in fourth grade, when I started learning about Greek mythology, to learn that ambrosia was the food of the Gods.   Having had this dish for many summers, I couldn’t imagine anything more appropriate to feed Athena, Artemis, Zeus, and Apollo. So try it out…it is the food of the gods, after all!  Not to mention a really great addition to any barbecue or potluck and the perfect option for a summer evening!

ambrosia mixed

Ambrosia Salad

Serves 6-8 | Prep time: 10 min. + resting | Cook time: N/A

  • 1 c. mini marshmallows
  • 1 c. crushed pineapple, drained (or 1 c. fresh, finely chopped)*
  • 1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 c. shredded coconut (sweetened is traditional, but unsweetened would be fine)
  • 1 c. grapes (red or green), slice in half
  • 3/4 to 1 c. sour cream**

*My pineapple is fresh, but chopped too large in these photos.  As soon as I took a bite, I knew I should have chopped it much finer, when using it fresh.

**Depending on how juicy the fruit is, you may need less or more.  Gently fold in the smaller amount first, and then decide if you need the rest.

Combine the fruit, marshmallows, and coconut in a large bowl.  Gently fold in sour cream, being careful not to break up the mandarin orange pieces too much.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, to allow flavors to meld.


Budget Update and Meal Plan for August 13-19

This week will be spent readjusting to life without camp.  There is always a transition period–I’ve just spent the last seven weeks entirely immersed in a whole different schedule, workload, and focus.  This week is for cleaning the house, organizing my emails, and generally getting my life in order.

I am excited, because the end of the week is our annual canning day.  A few friends and I set aside a day to spend hours preserving and canning.  It is such a long process, so it is much more entertaining with company.  Our SO’s are in charge of lunch/dinner while we wash, chop, soak, boil, and reduce a variety of produce and then rev up a water bath to process it all.  This canning day was started because we wanted to make Squash Relish, which still remains as the primary act.  This year, I will also do a batch of tomato jam and my friends are tag-teaming the process of making apple butter.  We might try tomato sauce, or something else entirely.  I found a recipe for a carrot cake conserve that I’m still considering….but it may have to wait.  Even in a whole day, only so much can be made when limited to a 4-burner stovetop.  Whatever we do end up with, we’ll swap a few jars so that we all have a taste of the product.  The produce for canning will be separate from my weekly grocery budgets, since this is a true stock up.  However, I really don’t expect to pay more that $25-$30.  This will result in 10 jars of squash relish and 4-6 jars of tomato jam + 2-4 jars of apple butter, at least.

This week, M is working late nearly every day.  Dinners are, again, relying on protein from our freezer/pantry, and are simpler dishes or platters, in order to keep everything easy.  As such, a lot of our groceries from the store are aimed at stocking up.  A condiment or too, flour, some probiotic-rich foods as well as some simple items because my stomach has been pretty unhappy for the past few weeks, after all the stress and poor eating.  I even managed a bottle of store-bought kombucha to split over the course of this week, as I neglected my own homemade booch.  Check out that mother behind the groceries–it’s grew four baby SCOBY’s.  I restarted a batch last night, finally, but it will still take about a week before it is ready to drink.

Here’s what I spent this week:

(I was lazy and only went to Trader Joe’s this week, because I needed to grab paper goods.  The TP, paper towels, and dog treats came out to $10, so my total for food was $35.18.  I’m $0.18 over, as my math regarding tax was a little off.)

groceries list 8.14

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00

 

Trader Joe’s: $35.18

Total: $50.18

I was able to take home half a dozen individual yogurt cups as we cleaned out the fridge at work (the students’ parents bring us food sometimes), which really helped my budget, since those were free and can serve as my breakfast all week long.  My mom’s egg lady is back, so I also got 18 eggs from her.  Those should last us well into next week.

Here’s what we got:

groceries 8.14

HH Produce Box: 2 lbs red potatoes, 3 peaches, 3 pears, 7 tiny cucumbers, 2 broccoli crowns, 1/2 lb kale, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 2 ears corn

Trader Joe’s: gluten-free English muffins, unsweetened Applesauce, White Beans, Butter, Red Onion, Sauerkraut, GF Flour, Kombucha, Coconut Aminos, Lemons, Ginger, Feta cheese, slice Deli Ham

plus another overflowing pint of cherry tomatoes from our own garden

We are really eating from our pantry this week!

Here’s what we’re eating:

Sunday: Out I was still at work (my boss got us all Chipotle) and then we went to our friend’s house where they fed us dinner and we watched Game of Thrones

Monday: Tomato Tarte Tatin, Cheese, Fruit, Salad using all of the tomatoes from our garden, some herbs, and a quick pie crust.  I served it withe last of the lettuce from last week’s box, plus some cheese that had been languishing in the drawer for a week or two (bleu and mozzarella) and with some of the pears

Tuesday: Burgers, Potato Salad, Roast Corn using beef and buns from the freezer.  I’m using about half of the potatoes from our box.

Wednesday: White Bean Dip, Tomato-Cucumber Salad, Baked Feta  I made this dip for a camp potluck while M was out of town.  It is sooooo delicious and super simple, so I’m making it again.  I’ll use all the cucumbers and most of the tomatoes for the salad.  I will mostly save half of that block of feta and freeze it for later.  We’ll serve everything with some crostini made from the English muffins, thinly sliced.

Thursday: Sausage & Kale Pasta with sausage from the freezer.  Whatever tomatoes don’t go into the salad on Wednesday will end up here.

Friday: Canning Day! I’ll make some broccoli salad to contribute to dinner at our friend’s–most likely hot dogs, as they are the ideal carrier for our prized Squash Relish.  We have some buns in the freezer that I will bring along, too.

Saturday: Sweet Potato Roast and Breakfast Sandwiches using last week’s SP’s.  Eggs and ham will round things out.

Breakfasts will be smoothies, applesauce & yogurt, or eggs.  Lunches are leftovers, caprese salad, or ham sandwiches, with fruit and/or sauerkraut, and kombucha for me.  I did indulge in homemade Eggs Benedict on Monday, when I was off of work, which explains the ham, lemons, butter, and English muffins in my basket.  🙂