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.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Week 2 Menu Planning

A Quick Sunday Lunch

I put together this quick and easy lunch for my family, using newly acquired produce from our share and chicken tenders I purchased in my weekly shopping. I sprinkled some herbs de provence, garlic salt and sea salt on the chicken.

I cooked them in a little bit of olive oil:

I put together a quick salad and sliced an apple. And, here is lunch:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Urban Acres Share Pick Up November 6

I was again super excited to go pick up our share from Urban Acres. This time my son went with me. He was very helpful, holding doors open for me when I was carrying what felt like a ton of produce.

We've got some great fruit for the coming two weeks: bananas, two different kinds of red apples, pears and oranges.

The vegetables are diverse: butternut squash, eggplant, red onions, potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, collard greens, broccoli, green and red bell peppers and lettuce. We've also got squash and fresh dill.

I'm still trying to figure out what some of it is (green leafy things that came in its own plastic bag), determine what should be eaten first and researching recipes for things I've never eaten before (um, collard greens).

My head is swirling with ideas for things to make. The apples are already in the crockpot for another batch of Homemade Apple Sauce and I've already baked a batch of Apple Oat Squares (recipe and pictures to follow).

I'm so happy we discovered Urban Acres!

Dinner Review for Week 1

Last week we had some great meals for dinner. I did most of the cooking on Sunday and Monday night, so the rest of the week wasn't bad from a "how long did it take to prepare" perspective.

Sunday night we had the Baked Stuffed Squash.

Monday night we had Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Homemade Apple Sauce and roasted butternut squash.

Tuesday night was Squash and Broccoli casserole (recipe and pictures to come), baked salmon and baked sweet potato slices.

Wednesday night we had crockpot stew* and Homemade Sunflower Wheat Bread (recipe and pictures to follow).

Thursday night was leftovers.

*I didn't take any pictures of the stew, but it was super easy to make. I threw into a crockpot all of the leftover vegetables from the week, a diced potato, some frozen vegetables from my last Urban Acres share (onions, celery, carrots, and broccoli), frozen spinach, yellow split-peas from the bulk bin at Sprouts (about a cup?), 32 ounces of chicken stock, and a small can of tomato sauce. I also added some salt, pepper, and paprika. I didn't measure anything. I let it sit in the crockpot on low for about 8 hours and there you have it, instant dinner.

I ate a modified menu, including the Modified Fettucine Alfredo with homemade pasta.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Homemade Organic Egg Noodles and My Version of Fettucine Alfredo, Mellman Style

As I've mentioned before, I'm on a pretty strict diet, so the things I can eat are limited. I really wanted some pasta and wondered if I could make it myself using ingredients I knew I could eat. Turns out, if you're willing to experiment in the kitchen, you can pretty much make anything you want.

Off I went to Cooks.com on a noodle reconnaissance mission and found this recipe for Easy Homemade Egg Noodles. It called for 1 cup of flour, 1 egg and 1/2 egg shell of milk. I can have oat flour and soy flour, eggs and soy milk. Woo-hoo! I chose oat flour, because it's not as dense as the soy flour.

I doubled the recipe and my daughter and I went to work. First, we put all three of the ingredients in the bowl.

This is the part she really likes, mixing it all up:

It was still a little dry, so we added three caps of soy milk (we used the cap on the soy milk container). She was off to the shower, so I made it into a ball and put in on the floured cutting board. This is after I'd flattened it out a bit.

Listening to the background music of a six year old and almost eight year old making an unholy mess in the bathroom, I rolled the bad boy out. It wasn't very sticky, which was sort of surprising. I was able to use the rolling pin no problem.

Pay attention, you'll want to write this down: (a) I had a rolling pin; and (b) I was able to find it. It's a miracle. November 2010.

As I was rolling strips with the pizza cutter, two very wet kids were suddenly at my side. Ooh, kitchen tools. They wanted in.

Mostly, my son wanted to know why he had to hold the pizza cutter so I could take a picture.

Umm, helloooo. Look at that picture. What day job? Just kidding.

Once the dough was all cut up into strips, I put them in a pot of salted boiling water along with some olive oil so they wouldn't stick to each other. I added them one at a time and made sure to stir frequently. They cooked for about 30 minutes on a low boil.

The recipe calls for chicken or vegetable broth to cook them in, which would be great, except I can't eat those. So, for now it's water.

When they were done, I strained them and put them in a big bowl.

I wasn't done, though. Oh, no. I didn't want to eat plain noodles. So I added a little bit of olive oil, goat cheese, salt, pepper and some fresh chopped parsley. My own version of fettucine alfredo. My kids didn't care for the noodles, which are a far cry from the processed bleached semolina noodles they're used to. That's okay. I liked them and I'll keep introducing them to the kids until their tastes evolve.

Right now I'm just excited to have a pasta that works for me. And one that's easy to make and tasty. Can't go wrong with that combo.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

I found 100 Days of Real food and have been following her blog. I borrowed her recipe for homemade chicken nuggets and modified it by substituting panko bread crumbs for her whole wheat bread crumbs. I used 1/2 pound of chicken thighs and 3/4 of a pound of chicken cutlets from Whole Foods.

I put the egg in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another. Once the chicken was breaded, I threw them in a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil.

Here's what we ended up with after just a few minutes:

I served these with roasted butternut squash and homemade apple sauce. The kids were very happy with this dinner. It made about 40 nuggets (give or take, this is just an off-the-cuff guess because, honestly, I didn't count them.)

This is a definite do-over.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Homemade Organic Apple Sauce

I had these organic Honeycrisp apples from my Urban Acres share. I needed some more apples to make this batch of apple sauce, so I got some organic Jonagold apples at Whole Foods. I looked for the best price and these were running $1.69 a pound. 5 apples weighed 2.41 pounds for a total of $4.07. I had one left over after making the sauce, so I took that to work for a snack.

I'd like to introduce you to my new best friend:

I just got this apple corer. If you don't have one, run out to the store. Now. Don't walk. This thing rocks. It also spews juice. Close your eyes.

I cut all 8 apples into pretty good sized chunks, left the skins on (I don't have time peel them) and threw them in my crockpot. I added 1/2 cup of water, the juice of 1 lemon, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of vanilla.

I turned the crockpot on low and let it go for about 5 hours.

I thought I would need the hand mixer to make the sauce, but it got very messy when I tried to mix it. I ended up just using the beaters to mash the apples.

Is your mouth watering yet?

This makes a TON of apple sauce. I ate it right out of the bowl. It was tart, sweet and perfect-o.

We've been taking it in our lunches and I've been eating it at night for dessert. I prefer it warm, but it's also good cold. I have no idea how many measured cups this made, but it filled up the huge crock pot dish. It didn't last three days before it was gone.

If I could figure out how to can it, I totally would. But that would require having some left over.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stuffed Organic Squash

As part of our Urban Acres share, we got these babies:

Yeah, I didn't know what they were either. According to Urban Acres, they are called Eight Ball and One Ball Squash. Who knew?

I followed the recipe for baked stuff squash they provided with my share and that's what we had for dinner Sunday night. The kids liked the stuffing, but weren't fans of the squash itself. Baby steps, right?

How'd I make it? I cut the squash in half, put them in the baking dish and added some water to the bottom. I baked it covered at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes until they were tender.

While the squash was baking, I rounded up my other ingredients and started chopping. I prepped 2 green bell peppers, 1/4 of an onion, and 1 small One Ball Squash (or whichever one is yellow).

Then, just for fun I looked at what else was in the refrigerator. I pulled out some carrots and this little green pepper I got from one of my colleagues (she is a master gardener). I have no idea what kind it is, but it's awfully cute, don't you think?

I added a little olive oil to a saute pan and let the veggies do their thing. I added a dash of salt and pepper and said to myself, "Self, it needs something else." So, I added some herbs de provence. I don't have a clue what is actually in herbs de provence, but I like to say it out loud. I sound tres magnifique. (My friend who is fluent in french is probably cringing right now.) A few minutes later, I added a dash of soy sauce.
Once the vegetables were done, I cooked some turkey sausage, added back the vegetables and the brown rice remaining in the bag (about 2 cups). I stuffed the squash with the stuffing mixture and voila:

This was a really great way to start the week. Stephen took the leftovers for lunch the next day. This is definitely something I'll make again.