Friday, December 31, 2010

Budget Review, Last Two Weeks of December

I'm not gonna lie. I didn't keep track.

Bad Kandice!

We spent five days at the in-laws, so I didn't cook. But, while I was there, I visited the farm where I get my fresh dairy and stocked up on cheese. Tomorrow is an Urban Acres pick-up day and I earlier in the month I bought a Groupon for organic meat.


Here's what I remember:
  • Groupon, $35 (for $75 worth of meat)
  • Texas Daily Harvest, $58 (for a zillion things of cheese, yogurt and milk)
  • Texas Daily Harvest, $39 (delivery of milk, cream, organic pasture fed ground beef and NY strip steak)
  • Whole Foods, $71 (produce, buffalo, fish, soy milk, pork loin, apples, apple sauce, flour and yeast for making bread, etc.)
  • Urban Acres, $50 (produce share to be picked up on January 1st)
I was pretty close to the budget, but went a little over. Part of it was used in holiday baking, too, so that was extra that isn't typical.

The pantry and freezer are now almost completely devoid of anything non-organic or overly processed. I've got a few boxes of regular dry pasta and hamburger helper, a couple of frozen dinners and a few remaining bags of those frozen microwaveable rice and veggie combos. All in all, the house is nearly clean from a processed food standpoint.

I still have to do a sweep for the leftover Christmas candy, but I'll do that once school starts back up.

I feel pretty good about the food in the house. I know we can stick to the $110 a week budget and eat healthy, clean meals. Snacks, however, are a challenge so I'm on a mission to find something my kids, especially the picky eater, will enjoy.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Whole New World

You know the bread maker I told you I got for Christmas? Here it is, in all of its bread making glory (cue the Hallelujah chorus):

I went to Whole Foods to pick up some bread flour, because I knew I would need it. I also picked up some items that are on my Mellman diet, because I'm back on the wagon starting Friday. Which means I need some fresh-baked bread. Stat!

So I broke it in last night with the help of my daughter. I chose the recipe for the Challah loaf. 'Cause I had all of the ingredients and I love challah bread.

Once we pressed the Start button I read the directions and found out I did it wrong. Well, not so much wrong, as not exactly right. Directions, Schmirections.**

**If I were a guy, I'd put a piece of furniture together and congratulate myself on finishing the job with parts left over.

Everyone else was asleep when the buzzer went off, signaling that it was done. Of course, the smell filling the house was another big clue. It wasn't perfect. It ended up with a huge air bubble, which translated into all crust and no bread on the top. Details.

The directions said to let the bread cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Puh-Shaw. I dug into the ginormous loaf while it was still steaming and slathered it with organic strawberry jam.

Ho. Lee. Cow.
It hasn't even been 24 hours and there are only three slices left, one of which is the air-pocket-all-crust piece.
There's a loaf of zucchini bread baking right now. I can make pizza dough and fresh bread for my family and know that there won't be any preservatives or chemicals in them. It was an amazing gift and my family will definitely benefit from it.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Equal Parts Educational, Terrifying, and a Good Swift Kick in the Pants

[Image from Amazon]

I got the book The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. I'm almost half way through it and it is, beyond a doubt, a very thought-provoking book.

It's also disturbing. It makes me want to turn my back yard into a fully functioning sustainable farm. And I've still got hundreds of pages to go.

I'm still wrapping my brain around what I've been reading and trying to digest it all.

Yeah, it's gonna take a while.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas

Stephen and I have the most generous parents ev-ah! I am so excited about all of the neat-o kitchen gadgets I received for Christmas. I can't wait to experiment with my new bread maker, dehydrator, hand blender and various kitchen tools!

Those fresh herbs in my Urban Acres share will be able to be dehydrated and saved for later use. I can also make homemade (non-corn syruped) fruit leather and dried fruits for snacks. I can make homemade bread now with a list of ingredients I can pronounce. And smoothies and fresh soups are in our future.

We are so, so fortunate.

But most importantly of all, in our family we celebrated. We celebrated being together. I relished the time I spent with my grandmother and having four generations of my family in one house. I am grateful for the time with my husband's family and the fact that my kids have cousins they are super excited to see. And we celebrated a very important birthday. Happy Birthday Jesus.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Perfect Snack

Doesn't this look amazing?

It's purely a product of our Urban Acres shares mixed with some Organic Raw Texas Cheddar from Texas Daily Harvest.

And what could be even better? The little girl digging in while watching some Scooby Doo.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Month 2, Week 3 Budget Review

I started this week with $110 less the $6 I was over last week, so $104.

Urban Acres, $50

Texas Daily Harvest, $21

That left $33 for groceries. I spent $45 at Whole Foods. Not bad, $12 over.

Whole Foods, $45. I can't find my receipt, so from memory (which is scary given that it's four days to Christmas and I haven't finished shopping), I got the following:
  • Brown rice from the bulk bin
  • Organic oranges for juicing (4)
  • Organic tangerines (4)
  • Miniature mozzarella balls packed in olive oil and other seasonings
  • Fresh basil
  • 1/3 pound of shrimp
  • One box of organic cereal
  • 365 soy milk
  • Organic sour cream
  • a package of Whole Foods sandwich buns
  • 1/3 pound of Applegate Salami
  • 1/3 pound of Whole Foods roasted turkey

I know I'm missing something, but can't think of it at the moment. All in all, though, the budget for this week is pretty close to being on track.

I Love Groupon: Organic Food Delivery

[Picture from Groupon website.]

Today's Groupon for Dallas is $75 worth of organic foods, delivered to your door by Nature's Prime Organic Food, for only $35. I will be buying this Groupon, fo-sho.

If you want to cash in on the deal, go here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy in a Box

Saturday we picked up our Urban Acres share. It was GLORIOUS!

We got so much deliciousness in the box, it was crazy! Cherry tomatoes, pears, apples, grapefruit, carrots, zucchini, and tons of other stuff.

Insert big grin. Right here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Not Pretty, But Pretty Tasty

I made "stoup" in the crockpot the other night and had some for dinner tonight. All I did was put the following in a crockpot, turned it on low, and cooked it for 8 hours:
  • Buffalo stew meat from Whole Foods
  • Chopped broccoli stems
  • Frozen corn (purchased from the store)
  • Frozen greens (collard and kale) from my freezer
  • Frozen squash from my freezer
  • Pearled barley from the Sprouts bulk bin
  • A can of Muir Glen diced chipotle tomatoes
  • A can of tomato sauce
  • A box of Imagine vegetable stock
  • A dash of chipotle seasoning powder

I added some spicy chili sauce and a slice of the Texas Daily Harvest Texas Cheddar Cheese. With the exception of the corn, all of the vegetables in the stew came from previous Urban Acres shares. Everything was organic.

I made too much, so I'll have to freeze some of it for later lunches.

First Texas Daily Harvest Delivery

I found out that the group coordinator for Texas Daily Harvest in the pick up point most convenient for me isn't going to be the coordinator after today. I was able to pick up, but I'm not sure where the other locations are. Hopefully, not too far away.

'Cause I'm gonna love this.

The Texas Cheddar Cheese is phenomenal. It's moderately sharp and creamy. I would have taken a big bite out of it in the car, but I couldn't open it while driving.

We've had the milk before, so I know it's fantastic. The verdict on the mozzarella will be forthcoming, as will the verdict on the drinkable yogurt. I got strawberry and blackberry to try.

The total for everything was $21. I'll account for it in this upcoming week's budget review. I do my shopping for the week on the weekend. Tomorrow is also my scheduled Urban Acres pick up.

I can't wait to see what we get!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Picky Eater's Thoughts on Organic

I bought this cereal at the store this past weekend:

This conversation ensued following my son's tasting of it:

"Mom, I don't like organic cereal."

"Maybe you don't like that particular kind of organic cereal, but it doesn't mean you don't like organic."

"No, it's organic. I don't like it."

"Do you know what organic means?"

I proceeded to explain what organic meant. I'm sure it's because he now equates the word organic on the box with cereal that isn't crammed full of sugar and corn syrup.

Baby steps, I tell myself.

Baby steps.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My First Texas Daily Harvest Order

I just placed my first Texas Daily Harvest order. I can't wait! I'm really looking forward to getting it on Friday.

"Below is a summary of the contents of your order.
1 Delivery (1.0 each)
1 Whole Milk Gallon (1.0 gallon)
1 Drinkable Yogurt Strawberry (1.0 pint)
1 Mozarrella 8 oz. (1.0 each)
1 Texas Cheddar 8 oz. (1.0 each)
1 Drinkable Yogurt Blackberry (1.0 pint)

Amount paid: 21.00
Date of delivery: Dec 17, 2010"

There is a $1 delivery fee to cover the paypal transaction fees. I'm still waiting for directions on specifically where my pick-up location is (I know cross streets), but I'm excited to pick it all up on Friday.

I'll post pictures when I get everything.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Month 2, Week Three Budget Review

To stay on track for the month, my budget for this weekend's shopping was $56.40 minus the $9.94 I spent at Natural Grocer mid-week, for a total of $46.46. I came close.

I got out of Sprouts for $53.58, which means I am over by about $6. Not bad.

Sprouts was out of the frozen pizza dough, so I had to improvise. I got some small pizza crusts from the bakery. They were more expensive than the other, but I was stuck.
  • Pizza Crust, $2.99
  • Pearl barley from the bulk bin, $0.33
  • Quick cooking oats from the bulk bin, $0.92
  • Cage free eggs, $1.99 (rain check)
  • Organic Valley milk, $5.99
  • Soy Milk, $3.79
  • Chicken breast deli meat, $3.19
  • Salami, $3.99
  • Grated parmesan, $2.70
  • Monterey Jack, $2.34
  • Shredded mozzarella, $2.31
  • Raw Milk White Cheddar, $2.85
  • Vanilla biscuits, $1.99
  • Natural Cinnamon Square cereal, $2.50
  • Organic peanut butter cereal, $2.99
  • Puffed Cereal, $1.59
  • Pork steak, $2.13
  • Chicken breast tenders, $4.04
  • Grape tomatoes, $0.99
  • Navel oranges, $1.74
  • Organic Jonagold apples, $2.22

Total: $53.58

My thoughts for meals this week:

  • Tonight we had the personal pizzas (tomato sauce, parmesan and mozzarella cheese) and fresh juice (apple, pear, orange). I love our juicer!
  • Eggplant parmesan with pasta.
  • Crockpot stew made with the pearled barley, buffalo stew meat from last week, and whatever vegetables I have left fresh or pull out of the freezer.
  • Baked pork steak, steamed vegetables and another side of some kind.

I need to find a recipe for something I can use the chicken in. We could also have breakfast for dinner one night. We've got tons of eggs. I'm pretty happy with how I did at the grocery store.

Have a great week!

Saturday Night

Joy from Joy the Baker blogged about making Delicious Hot Chocolate. Of course I read her blog entry late at night when I was hungry but trying to convince myself I wasn't. Not a good combination, because it led to this:

Followed by this:

And it ended with this:

I love Saturday nights.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

$2 Lunch Challenge: Day Four

This is not the call you want from your brother: "I've been diagnosed with pertussis (whooping cough), and since we spent Thanksgiving together, your family has been exposed and needs to get put on antibiotics."

Whoo-eee. Fun times. So, off to CVS I went to collect four rounds of antibiotics. Right next to CVS is a new Natural Market. And then, it was amazing, I found myself INSIDE the store. How did that happen?

But it was okay, because you know what? I found the makings of the Day Four lunch for the kiddos.

  • Organic Valley cheese, $0.56
  • Organic Golden Delicious Apple, $0.66
  • Grape Tomatoes, $0.11
  • 2 Slices of Whole Wheat Bread, $0.40
  • Peanut Butter, $0.06
  • Organic Fruit Spread, $0.22

Total, $2.01 for my daughter's and $1.90 for my son's (no grape tomatoes).

This is what called out my name from the shelves (okay, okay, so I had some mommy guilt from the junk jelly from yesterday):

The bread is made locally, and guess what? Look at the ingredients:
The cashier told me it was amazing bread. I ate a slice in the car on the way home. He was right. It rocks.

Now, for what's on tap at the school, for $4.25:

Baked Chicken Nuggets, 200 calories
Macoroni & Cheese, 161 calories
Steamed Broccoli, 32 calories
Pineapple, 66 calories
Dessert, 124 calories
Totals, 582 calories

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mid-Week Budget Update

I stopped in the Natural Market that just opened and I walked out with bread, fruit spread and Organic Valley cheddar cheese. It cost $9.94 which will be deducted from this weekend's shopping budget.

Organic Butternut Squash, Sweet Potatoes and Baked Buffalo

Tonight's dinner tasted a whole lot better than it looked. Promise.

I peeled the butternut squash and sweet potatoes from my Urban Acres share and boiled them in water. Once they were soft, I went to town with a hand mixer, some butter, milk, cinnamon, vanilla and a little dash of Florida Crystals cane sugar. Let me just say, it was sweet, creamy goodness.

Stephen baked the buffalo london broil steak that I had marinated overnight in some lemon zest, lemon juice, soy sauce and garlic. The flavor was great, but it got cooked too long. It should have been broiled, not baked, but you live and you learn.
I also got our juicer and made apple, pear, tangerine juice. It was fantastic and the kids drank it all up. We used two apples, 3 pears and one large tangerine from our share. I was tempted to make another batch. It's a great way to get fresh fruit in your kids!
Tonight's dinner was super easy to make. I did the butternut squash sweet potato mash last night, so all we had to do was heat it up. Tonight took about 20 minutes and that was mostly baking time.

$2 Lunch Challenge: Day Three

Today I went with the standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The bread and peanut butter are from Whole Foods. The jelly: not so much. It's leftover from before the big organic makeover. So, admittedly, it's not great. It's total junk, actually, but I only used a small amount. I'm going to rationalize this so I feel better. Avert your eyes.

Here's the breakdown of my daughter's lunch that cost $2.07:
  • Bread, $0.25
  • Peanut Butter, $0.06
  • Jelly, $0.02
  • Fruit Salad (organic apples, tangerines and kiwi), $0.80
  • I drizzled local raw honey on the fruit, $0.04
  • Raw organic veggies (celery, carrots, radish, grape tomatoes), $0.33
  • Ranch for dipping, $0.05
  • Wheat thins, $0.30
  • 2 strawberry yogurt chocolate pretzels, $0.22

My son's lunch was the same, except I didn't include the raw veggies and ranch. I included more wheat thins and pretzels. His lunch totaled $2.03.

Had my kiddos eaten at school, I could have parted with $4.25 each and they could have eaten:

Crunchy Tacos, 387 calories
Savory Spanish Rice, 67 calories
Refried Beans, 126 calories
Fresh Melon Slices, 86 calories
Dessert, 124 calories
Total, 791 calories

Is it just me, or does anyone else think it's odd that dessert is exactly 124 calories every single day? Is it the same dessert each time?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

$2 Lunch Challenge: Day Two

The lunches I packed for my kids for Day Two of the $2 Lunch Challenge were pretty similiar. I only made a few adjustments for my son. Here is my daughter's lunch which cost a total of $1.98:

Here is how it broke down:

  • I made the pork chop "nuggets" at home. It took all of ten minutes. I used thick pork loin chops from Whole Foods, cut them up into small pieces, dipped them in a beaten cage free egg, covered them in a breading made up of panko bread crumbs, grated romano cheese from Sprouts, sea salt and pepper, then cooked them in a little bit of olive oil until they were done. All of the ingredients cost about $4.20 and they made 15 good sized nuggets. It looks like there are four nuggets in my daughter's salad, but it was three (one was long so I cut it in half). Total for the nuggets: $0.84.

  • The ingredients for the salad (lettuce, grape tomatoes and radishes) and ranch cost $0.28.

  • One cup of organic popcorn was $0.12.

  • The fruit salad was all organic produce (banana, kiwi and tangerine) and cost $0.74.

My son is not a salad eater (I'm still trying), so I substituted the salad for two chocolate strawberry yogurt covered pretzels from the bulk bin at Whole Foods. I know the salad is much healthier than the pretzels, but we're working on it. His total came to $1.92.

Had they eaten at school, it would have set me back $4.25 for this:

  • Breakfast Burrito w/ Ham, 360 calories
  • Homestyle Potatoes, 207 calories
  • Fresh Orange Slices, 31 calories
  • Dessert, 124 calories
    TOTAL: 734 calories

How Our Family Operates

I cut and pasted this from an email I sent my sweet husband earlier today. He is usually in charge of getting dinner started since I get home last. He requires very specific instructions.


Here is what is for dinner:

· Pork loin steak, in whole foods wrapper, top shelf of refrigerator. Just add some seasoning and either bake it on 350 until it’s done or cook it in a little olive oil in a frying pan.

· Use the steamer to steam broccoli (it’s already chopped and ready to throw in the steamer, in a baggie, bottom left drawer in refrigerator). Put a little lemon juice (bottle in door of refrigerator) and grated romano cheese (plastic sprouts container, top shelf of frig) on top.

· Slice up some pears (on the counter, they should be ripe).

The dogs are out of dog food, so I’ll pick some up on my way home."

He did an awesome job. The pork loin was the most tender thing I've eaten in forever. Stephen chose to bake it and it was delicious. I'm hoping to make it back to Whole Foods before the sale ends. I got it for $2.99 a pound, and the one I bought was slightly less than a pound.

Fabulous, it was, I tell you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Best Laid Dinner Plans

Doesn't this look good?

Tonight I was excited about dinner. I got something in my Urban Acres share and had to ask my friends on facebook what it was. I posted a picture and learned that I had received bok choy. Stir fry was in my immediate future.

I chopped up some veggies from my share and sauteed them in some garlic and olive oil. (I actually sauteed the buffalo stew meat first. I had marinated it in lemon juice and soy sauce.)Then I threw the veggies, bok choy and shitake mushrooms in the same pan so it would soak up all the juices left over from the meat.

I took a picture of the finished product before I cooked the rice. It's a good thing, too, because I totally scorched the rice. I know better than to leave rice cooking on a gas stove, but I got distracted with making something else and before I knew it, I had this:

That's not wild rice, folks. No, that's charred, burned, crispy brown rice. I ate it, but no one else did. Whoops. Everything else was purty tasty, though.

No complaining here.

$2 Lunch Challenge: Day One

Ms. Q from Fed Up With School Lunch and Liz Snyder started a challenge: to make a healthy, nutritious lunch for less than $2. The challenge was for this entire week, so I told my kids they weren't having hot lunch at school.

My son is a very picky eater, so you will see that his lunch is a little less well rounded than my daughter's, but it is food that is healthy and that he will eat.

I purchased all of the food you see at Whole Foods or got it from my Urban Acres share. It is all organic. The Urban Acres produce costs $50 for 30 pounds. I got a digital scale, weighed each item of food and multiplied it by the per ounce cost of the share to come up with the total.

The crackers (Wheat Thins) were purchased at CVS Sunday night (I was there getting the digital scale) when I realized that I didn't have bread and my son won't eat a tortilla. I could have gotten a better cracker at a better price at Whole Foods, but I was in a hurry.

My son's lunch, total $1.97:

  • Crackers $0.51
  • Peanut Butter (from the bulk food aisle at Whole Foods) $0.12
  • Half of an organic granny smith apple $.30
  • Half of an organic banana $0.27
  • Sliced organic baby carrots $0.09
  • Organic Popcorn (2 cups) $0.25
  • The dark chocolate and strawberry yogurt covered pretzels from the bulk bin at Whole Foods $0.43

My daughter's lunch, total $1.91:

  • Raw veggies (carrots, radishes, broccoli and grape tomatoes) $0.30
  • Turkey and cheese rollups (tomato tortilla) $0.68
  • Organic golden delicious apple $0.63
  • Organic popcorn $0.25
  • Ranch dressing $0.05

If I was able to send them to school with something hot, that would stay hot, that would expand the possibilities immensely. At this point, I don't think this will be that difficult.

Had they eaten lunch at school, they would have been eating this, which actually isn't that bad, but it would have cost $4.25:

Grilled Chicken Sandwich, 300 calories
Baked Beans, 176 calories
Carrot & Celery Sticks w/ Ranch, 189 calories
Fresh Sliced Apples, 36 calories
Dessert, 124 calories
TOTAL, 824 calories

Our school's food provider just recently started posting nutrition information with the menu items. In addition to posting what I pack for them, I'll post what they would have eaten at school. As far as their school goes, they are trying to make foods healthier, which is a very, very good thing.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Texas Daily Harvest

When I first visited the Urban Acres store, I picked up a gallon of fresh milk from Texas Daily Harvest. It was so fresh and unprocessed, the cream actually rose to the top of the container. My family loved it.

Well, Texas Daily Harvest will start making deliveries and we're signing up for one of their delivery groups. Here is the information for Home Delivery if you want to sign up:

Time to Find Your Delivery Group

Click here to go the the map of the Group Coordinators that have been set up as of today.

On the map, choose the drop location(s) most convenient for you. The green markers are confirmed, the blue are tentative. It would be best to have at least one green site on your list. Reply to this email with your name, phone number, and group choices in order of preference. Just use the group numbers for simplicity, please. I am working over-time getting the online ordering system ready to go. It will allow everyone to order and pay online. Group coordinators will NOT have to handle payments.

If you have friends who might be interested, please forward this information to them. Post to Facebook, Twitter, your neighborhood message board, anything you can think of to help us get the word out, please.

We are delivering in some outlying East Texas areas, too, as you can see from the map, so if you know anyone in the Tyler, Longview, Marshall area, please send this to them, also. We have milk, yogurt, and cheese available now.

We will have beef in the next couple of weeks, then pork around February, then produce, chicken and eggs next Spring/Summer.

We need more group coordinators, so if you think you might have any interest in being one, please call Kent at 903.335.1758 or reply to this email with your questions. We are really excited about getting home delivery up and going. Thank you for your interest and support of our farm.

Ramy Jisha
Texas Daily Harvest

Month 2, Week 2 Budget and Menu Planning

I learned three very important lessons this weekend:

1. Do not take your kids to Whole Foods with you to shop.

2. Do not shop without a specific list or plan.

3. Do not shop when you are starving and haven't eaten all day.

That being said, I spent $50 on my Urban Acres share. It included tons of yummy produce. I'm not yet sure how I'm going to prepare the napa cabbage or the bok choy, but everything is cleaned, prepped and put away.

Here are the totals (I'm already in bed and not in front of the scanner, so no picture of the receipt):

Whole Foods, $118.71

  • Organic salted popcorn, $1.99
  • 365 Corn Flakes (Whole Foods Brand is 365), $2.69
  • 365 organic chicken broth, $1.99
  • Organic vanilla soy milk, 1 gallon, $5.69
  • Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes, $1.50
  • Canned tomatoes, $1.49
  • Chocolate strawberry yogurt pretzels from bulk bin, $2.66
  • 365 organic pinto beans, $1.49
  • 365 organic crushed tomatoes, $1.99
  • 365 organic red kidney beans, $1.49
  • 365 organic cage free eggs, 2 dozen, $7.98
  • 365 raisin bran, $2.69
  • Cinnamon crunch cereal, $3.79
  • Bulk peanut butter, $2.11
  • Bulk long grain brown rice, $.67
  • Organic valley milk, 1 gallon, $5.99
  • Beef stew meat, $6.69
  • Buffalo stew meat, $4.47 and $4.63
  • Pork shoulder steak, $2.66
  • Buffalo London Broil, $7.10 and $6.92
  • Pork Chops, $3.79
  • Organic string cheese, $5.99 (See Learning Point Number One)
  • White American cheese, $1.10
  • Honey maple turkey, $4.44
  • Salami, $4.95
  • Slider buns, 8 pack, $1.99
  • Tortillas, $1.99
  • Tomato tortillas, $2.49
  • 6 mini cupcakes, $3.96 (See Learning Point Number 1 Again)
  • 5 granny smith organic apples, $2.99
  • avacado, $2.49 (Learning Point Number Three, I was jonesing for Mexican food)
  • Lemons, $1.91
  • Tomato, $1.72
  • I also picked up a box of Wheat Thins at CVS for $4.89. (Outrageous, I tell you.)

    The total for this week was $163.60. This means that next week my budget will be $56.40. That shouldn't be a problem, though, because I got tons of meat this week and still have a lot of fish and chicken in the freezer, too.

    Saturday night we had mini-buffalo burgers with fresh fruit. I used the ground buffalo from last week, the slider buns and cheese from this week, and sliced up some fruit from the share. It was delicious!

    I made beef chili today, using the beef stew meat, crushed tomatoes, and canned beans I got this weekend. I added a can of tomato sauce, cannelini beans, garlic and chipotle chili seasoning we already had. We ate it for lunch, Stephen will take some to work this week and I put some in the freezer for later.

    Dinner tomorrow night is going to be stir fry with brown rice and lean buffalo. I'll stir fry red bell pepper, carrot, celery, shitake mushrooms, broccoli and bok choy with garlic and soy sauce. If there are any leftovers, they will go in someone's lunch.

    Have a great week everyone!

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Organic Banana Bread

    We had a bunch of organic bananas in our Urban Acres share. We ate some, but the rest were starting to get overripe, so banana bread was the solution.

    I again broke out The Joy of Cooking and found this recipe:

    I didn't know what the word "Cockaigne" meant, so I looked it up. 'Cause I'm a dork like that.

    From the World English Dictionary: medieval legend an imaginary land of luxury and idleness. Also, from Old French cocaigne, from Middle Low German kōkenje: small cake (of which the houses in the imaginary land are built); related to Spanish cucaña, Italian cuccagna.
    Alrighty then.
    I substituted 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup of oat flour for the all-purpose flour. I also used 1 and 3/4 cups of mashed bananas (because that's what we had). Instead of using white sugar, I used Florida Crystals organic cane sugar.
    The bread is great for snacking or for breakfast.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Homemade Pizza: A Fan Favorite

    The kids love pizza and with this homemade version, I like the price and the ingredients. Sprouts sells frozen balls of pizza dough that are seasoned with herbs like oregano. It's only $1.79, which is a bargain.

    You have to thaw the dough and let it rise for a few hours, but it's definitely worth it. We add a can of organic tomato sauce and some fresh shredded mozzarella, bake it for 10 to 12 minutes, and Voila:

    Yummy pizza, reasonable price, healthy ingredients and happy kids!

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    On the "Going to Cook" List

    I saw this recipe for Chicken Pot Pie With Rice on the Whole Foods website:

    I'm totally going to make this. When, I don't know. But it looks amazing.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    The $2 Lunch Challenge by Liz Snyder

    I just read one of the best blog entries ever about providing nutritional, healthy, organic food for our children at reasonable prices. Liz Snyder blogs about preparing a week of healthy, wholesome lunches for less than $2 each, by shopping at Whole Foods and buying from local farmers.

    Check it out and enter Liz's challenge. Make your own $2 lunch and post pictures. I'll be working on that this week.

    Go Liz!

    This Week's Menu

    If I don't figure out what we're going to eat for the week before Sunday night, it's a week full of cereal and oatmeal for dinner. Especially if I'm working late.

    So, here's the plan for this week:

    1. Modified turkey tetrazzini. (I didn't have enough left over turkey, so I added some scallops and peas.) It's cooked, in the refrigerator and just needs to be heated up.

    2. Baked chicken thighs with sauteed vegetables and brown rice. Everything but the rice is cooked and in the refrigerator.

    3. Buffalo burgers with roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash. I'll roast the vegetables (are they vegetables?) Tuesday night so they're ready for Wednesday night. The buffalo burgers will take about 10 minutes in the skillet. (We ran out of gas for the grill, so we'll have to cook in the kitchen until next weekend.)

    4. Some sort of crockpot stew. This will cook while we sleep Wednesday night and will just need to be heated up Thursday night. It's cool in Dallas, so this will be nice. Depending on our moods and the contents of my pantry, this may end up being chili.

    On the nights we're having food that I can't eat (numbers 1, 2, half of 3 and 4), I'll be eating fish, edamame and apples. Quick and easy prep on these, so no big deal.

    I think it sounds pretty good! We should use the rest of our produce by the end of the week, just in time for our next Urban Acres share pick-up on Saturday.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Organic Chocolate Chip Pancakes

    The little boy requested pancakes this morning. With chocolate chips. Just so happened I had all of the ingredients.

    I've quit putting The Joy of Cooking back on the shelf. It is now a permanent addition to my kitchen counter. Usually propped open. It's a mighty fine cookbook.

    I modified the pancake recipe slightly. Instead of using all-purpose flour, I substituted 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup of oat flour. I'm finding that this combination works. Whole wheat flour tends to be more dense, but the oat flour lightens it up a bit.
    I added 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. (I got these from the bulk bin at Sprouts.) Then I sprinkled a few on top and drizzled some of the maple syrup I got from the bulk bin aisle at Whole Foods.

    I put some in the freezer that I can heat in the microwave on a weekday morning for a quick breakfast.

    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    The State of the Kitchen

    My kitchen is totally trashed.

    It looks like fifty teenagers were left alone in the house for three weeks without parental supervision. They didn't go to school, either, the hoodlums. They just piled up dirty dishes until there were no clean ones left.

    The irresponsible little...

    Oh, wait.

    I cooked a lot today. I also did two loads of dishes, but that didn't seem to make a dent in the destruction.

    I made the broiled buffalo steaks and the sauteed greens. The apple oat cake came next.

    Then for good measure I sauteed some veggies I had in my refrigerator (onions, red and green bell peppers with some chopped garlic), threw them in a casserole dish with a can of stewed tomatoes, and topped it off with some chicken thighs I'd browned in the skillet first. I baked until the chicken was done, then breathed in the aroma. I'm thinking about serving it either with noodles or rice. Jury is still out on that one.

    After that I baked the take-and-bake pizza from Whole Foods.

    Then I put scallops, mushrooms and some broccoli on the counter, realized I was really quite tired, so I put them all away. Maybe tomorrow.

    Weekends are my time to cook. The work week is too crazy for much more than heating something up or plating something that's waiting for us in the crockpot. Cooking is relaxing for me. Dirty dishes are not.

    Oh, well. If the kids weren't sick I'd make them do the dishes. If my husband hadn't been working on a fire drill project for work fourteen hours every day, including on Thanksgiving, I'd have asked him to do it.

    Do you think the dogs could do it?

    Month 2, Week 1 Budget Review

    I did all of my shopping this week at Whole Foods and I went without taking any coupons which makes it all the more incredible that I got out of there, including with a chai tea latte from the coffee shop (which was $4.49), for a total of $110.17.

    Sha-wing batter!

    I stocked up on meat big time this week:
    • tilapia ($11.87)
    • scallops ($5.04)
    • tuna ($6.99)
    • chicken thighs ($3.92)
    • ground buffalo ($8.15)
    • 2 buffalo london broil steaks ($5.75 and $6.02)
    • sliced salami ($4.30)
    • roast beef ($2.34)

    In the produce section, I got some red apples, 2 lemons, a pint of cranberries, and a huge container of grape tomatoes (all organic). We still have tons of produce from our Urban Acres share.

    I got 2 half gallon containers of soy milk and a gallon of Organic Valley milk.

    From the bulk bins I got organic brown basmati rice, cinnamon and black pepper. I also picked up some organic bread for sandwiches, chicken broth and a candy cane for some holiday baking.

    The take-and-bake pizzas were on sale for $7.99 (normally $13.99), so I got one with chicken, red bell peppers and broccoli. I think it was a 16 inch pizza. In other words, ginormous.

    My freezer is filling up with chopped veggies from our share and I still have the tuna and chicken left from the week before last.

    Month 2 is off to a stellar, on budget, start.

    Buffalo Steak with Sauteed Greens

    Our share from Urban Acres included collard greens and kale: two things I have no clue how to prepare. So, I broke open The Joy of Cooking and found a recipe for Sauteed Greens With Garlic.

    Then I marinated a buffalo london broil steak from Whole Foods in soy sauce after prepping it with salt, pepper and about a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest. I placed it in a glass cooking dish, poured the soy sauce on top, and broiled it on high for about 20 minutes. This makes it rare, the way my husband likes it. I cook it a little longer for mine and the kids, so it's not quite so pink in the center.

    Here it is, ready to eat:


    Week 4 Budget Review and Month 1 in Review

    Sorry for the break in posting. It got crazy at work. Last week we picked up our produce share from Urban Acres ($50) and spent $25 at Whole Foods for milk, apples, lunch meat and bread. I honestly don't know what everyone ate for dinner because I had several late nights at the office.

    That brought our week 4 total to $75. We finished out the month with an extra $44. Holy cow! I'm not quite sure how that happened, but I'll take it!

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Week 3 Budget Review

    I was over last week by quite a bit and started this week off with $73.78 to spend. So, I looked over my local Sprouts flyer, printed off my coupons, piled into the car with my daughter, and headed out to make some deals.

    The receipt is outrageously long, so I'll summarize for you:

    • Frozen pizza crust dough, Sprouts, 1.79

    • 2 dozen eggs and a gallon of organic milk

    • Grated romano cheese, 2.79

    • grated mozzarella cheese, 2.47

    • Sashimi Grade Tuna, 2,70 and 2.92

    • Bread crumbs

    • Cereal

    • Soy Milk

    • oat flour

    • pirate booty

    • snackimals

    • Kashi crackers

    • 2 small bottled water

    • Beef stew

    • chicken tenders

    • chicken sausage

    • pork sirloin roast

    • grape tomatoes

    • red apples

    • red grapes

    The total rang up to be $64.82. Not bad at all!

    The menu for the week I'm working on is:

    1. Cheese Pizza served with fruit.

    2. Chipotle Roasted Pork Sirloin with roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes.

    3. Beef Stew made in the crockpot.

    4. Eggplant Parmesan and baked potatoes.

    5. Something with the chicken tenders and the produce we have left at the end of the week.

    I was really able to stock up on some meat. I got nearly 2.5 pounds of chicken, which will last for quite a while. I have a feeling there will be some that will be available for next week.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Week 2: Shopping on the Budget

    This week I spent more than $110, but it was Urban Acres pick-up week and I took advantage of some great sales at Sprouts. Sprouts was having a sale on certain Thanksgiving items (20% off). I stocked up on olive oil, a big ticket item. It's normally $10 a bottle, but I was able to get it for $5.60.

    Two of the items on sale were Organic Pumpkin Puree and organic whole wheat frozen pie crusts (two in the package). The puree had a recipe for pumpkin pie on the label, which I will make this week or next. I'll use the other pie crust to make a quiche with our Urban Acres produce.

    Urban Acres, $50

    Sprouts, $79.08

    The recipe is like a hundred foot long scroll, so I'll just summarize what I got without individual prices. I did save $12.37 by using coupons and taking advantage of 20% off sale.
    • Sprouts organic bread
    • Sprouts frozen pizza crust dough
    • Bulk black beans
    • Bulk semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • Bulk granola
    • Bulk ground cloves
    • Bulk brown rice
    • Stoneyfield Yogurt
    • Organic butter
    • Organic eggs (2 cartons)
    • Organic sour cream (1 carton)
    • Organic Valley mild cheddar
    • Goat cheese
    • Frozen organic pie shells
    • Organic cane sugar (Florida Crystals)
    • Pacific organic cream of mushroom soup
    • Pacific organic chicken broth
    • Pacific organic vegetable broth
    • Active dry yeast
    • Chipotle seasoning
    • 2 bottle Sprouts olive oil
    • 1 can organic pumpkin pie puree
    • Rye flour
    • Beef flank steak
    • Chicken breast tenders
    • Grape tomatoes
    • Organic apples
    We made a Walmart run for tortillas to go with the crockpot fajitas I'm going to make this week, raisins to make Cranberry Raisin Bread (my daughter brought the recipe home from school), and the pumpkin pie. When I was standing in the middle of the store I couldn't remember whether the recipe called for evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk, so I got both. I didn't want to have to run out to the store again.

    Walmart, $9 (I can't find the receipt, so I'm estimating here)
    • Freshly made tortillas, $2.50
    • Raisins, $1.38
    • Evaporated milk, $.98
    • Sweetened condensed milk, $1.98
    Whole Foods, $14.33

    • Buffalo Steak (1 pound)
    • Organic Valley Milk (1 gallon)

    Total for Week 2: $79.08 + $9 + $14.33 +$50 = $152.49 - $6.19 overage from last week = $146.22.

    This leaves me with an overage of $36.22 for next week, which won't be a problem. Next week isn't a produce week, so $73.78 should be plenty.

    Homemade French Toast Sticks

    I found a recipe for Homemade French Toast Sticks from Once A Month Mom. These can be frozen and pulled out from the freezer as needed. I modified the quantities in the recipe a bit because I didn't want to make that much. I also didn't have the butternut squash puree, so I left that out, although I like the idea.

    My kids loved them and they are portable for those mornings when you're running around like a maniac trying to get ou the door and it's necessary for the kids to eat breakfast in the car.

    I mixed all of the ingredients in a shallow bowl and sliced this Whole Wheat Batard Bread from Wholle Foods into strips. (This bread was great since I could pronounce all of the ingredients: organic untreated whole wheat flour, water, sea salted and malted barley flour.)

    • 2 tablespoons of melted butter
    • 1 egg
    • 1/8 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla

    I dipped all of the strips in the liquid and laid them out on a VERY coated cookie sheet. These babies stick, so be generous with the spray or oil.

    I then baked them in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, flipped them, then baked them for another 15 minutes.

    In the mornings, I heat them in the microwave for about 30 seconds and serve them with a small dipping bowl of maple syrup. The first morning my son, the picky eater, ate 7 strips. I would call that a resounding success!

    Chicken, Rice and Broccoli Bake

    This was basically a free for all. In other words, I sort of followed a recipe for Easy Rice Pilaf, but adjusted to make use of more produce and added chicken to make it a one-dish meal. I used the following ingredients:
    • Chicken Broth (2 cups)
    • 1/2 onion, diced
    • 1 stalk of broccoli, including stem, diced
    • 1 cup of long grain brown rice
    • 2 tablespoons organic butter
    • 3/4 pound chicken breast tenders
    • Seasoning of your choice (rub mix, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, whatever)

    Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and broccoli and cook them until the onions are translucent.

    Add the brown rice to the pan and cook until it's light brown:

    Add the chicken broth and cook until it comes to a low boil:

    Add it all to a small baking dish, place the chicken tenders on top. I put some pepper, sea salt and garlic salt, and Memphis Rib Rub on top of the chicken.

    After it is assembled, cover it with foil and bake it in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

    We added some shredded cheddar cheese after I took this picture. You can add it or not. But, this was really tasty and there were leftovers for Stephen's lunch.

    Monday Lunch for the Kids, Organic Style

    Instead of hot lunch tomorrow, my sweet kids are having homemade lunch with an organic flair.

    The little girl is having tons of stuff from our Urban Acres share. She's having salad made with organic lettuce, carrots, and red and green bell peppers. She lu-uvs cherry tomatoes, so I threw in about 8 of those. (She ate the rest of the pint while sitting on the sofa watching cartoons. No, I'm not kidding. No seriously.)

    I topped it with some chicken and shredded organic cheese. I packed a little ranch on the side and an apple.

    My son, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with salad. So, in his lunch box is peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat organic bread (absolutely no crusts), homemade apple sauce, and some honey wheat pretzel sticks. Admittedly, his lunch isn't as rock awesome as hers, but it's baby steps with him.

    It's got to be better than a barbeque sandwich on a bun, though.