Monday, March 23, 2009

Grapefruit Madeleines

So I learned a lot over the last week - mostly that I really want to continue going on one well planned shopping trip a week.  I really think we could spend about $60 a week and eat well especially when we can use the things in our well stocked pantry and freezer.  I didn't think about how little trash we'd make while eating this way - we had SO little waste, I guess that was an added bonus.  Like I said earlier in the week I think we bought too many vegetables and not enough grains - we could have used some quinoa, lentils and/or cornmeal.  We'd shop a little different if we did this again, but overall I'd call the experiment a success.

Other news, I just got an email saying I got into the Greensgrow Farm Summer CSA.  I'm so excited about the box of goodies I'll be getting every other week.  What a fun way to experiment with new foods.  It starts in May so I'll be keeping you posted on that when summer comes around.  I also learned over the past week that posting a couple of times a week really doesn't take that much time!  I'm hoping to blog more steadily from now on, although I make no promises!

Here are those grapefruit glazed madeleines I told you about yesterday.  
Again, I just followed this Dave Lebovitz recipe for lemon madeleines and replaced the lemon with grapefruit.  Listen to his directions about chilling everything and you'll have nice poofy madeleines!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Days 5, 6, 7 & a Few Confessions....

As this week went on we ate a lot more of the same. Oatmeal, leftover soups and braised vegetables. We had a minor set back on Friday when I pulled the much anticipated sardines out of the freezer and after they had some time to defrost realized that they had gone bad, I think they had been previously frozen. So there went our protein for one night, I threw together something by shredding up the last of the chicken and it was ok, but far from great.

Here's the rest of our week, you'll probably yawn at this because it looks a lot like the beginning of our week!

Sara - oatmeal, banana, coffee
Ron - mushroom frittata

Sara - more braised veggies with white beans
Ron - I think he skipped lunch, dinner was early

Roasted cauliflower puree with brussel sprouts and shredded chipotle chicken. The puree was the best part of this meal.

Friday I had a cocktail party to attend and I can't NOT bring something, it's just not in me. I made some grapefruit glazed madeleines using the zest and juice of the grapefruit we bought this week and some ingredients from my fridge and pantry. I didn't buy anything extra from the grocery store. I don't know maybe these cost $1.50 in ingredients from my cabinet? I ate food at the party too but only a few things and, as I keep saying, I think free food is fine!

The madeleines were awesome I followed this Dave Lebovitz recipe for lemon glazed madeleines, the only changes I made were (duh) using grapefruit instead of lemon and using just grapefruit juice, no water, in the glaze. Chilling the dough and mold is key, they're so much puffier and prettier then the last ones I made.

I also ate three graham crackers out of the cabinet - two of them topped with peanut butter...oops.

Late night:
The several drinks I had at the party led to Ron and I finishing the bag of oatmeal cookies we've been munching on all week.

Brunch/Lunch (we woke up late, see Friday Confession above):
Sara - Oatmeal and coffee
Ron - Chicken and barley soup

Okay so this was the week's big see we have a loved one in the hospital and we brought sandwiches over to the hospital for everyone who's visiting to snack on. Ron isn't so great at visualizing how much will feed how many. He got way too much and even after people grabbed some to take home there were still leftovers and they were going to go to waste. So...I ate a turkey hoagie for dinner. That's right, hoagies for dinner, oh, and some potato chips. This was the ONLY meal that we really failed on. Well, sort of, see Sunday confessions below.

Sara - Oatmeal, an apple, and coffee

Sara - Split pea soup (it's still really good) and kale chips

These kale chips are all over the blogs and I've been wanting to try them, they're good and crunchy but they still taste like kale!  Fortunately, I like kale :)

Sara - Barley and cauliflower puree with the last of the braised veggies

I know what you're asking, what the heck happened to Ron? Well, he's working in DC for the next couple of days so that means that he's not eating out of our fridge for the last day of our Cheap Eats week. But, he'll be reimbursed for his meals! So free is okay right?

Well that's the gist of the week - I'll be back tomorrow to let you know what we did well and what we did not so well and what we plan to get out of all of this. Thanks to everyone that followed this week!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Four days in and going strong!

Here are our meals for the day again - are you sick of this yet? I hope not!

Sara - you guessed it! Oatmeal, a banana and coffee
Ron - another quarter of that 4 egg mushroom fritatta

Sara - Leftover braised cabbage over white beans, seriously good. Orangette managed to take a beautiful photo of this cabbage but mine never come out looking like something I'd actually want to eat. You'll just have to take my word for it.  This might look burnt but really the crispy parts are the BEST parts.

Ron - Well, um, he spent some time with his family today and raided their corned beef and cabbage leftovers. But it was free! So that's okay right?

Sara & Ron - Chicken & Barley soup.

This is a pretty basic chicken soup. Carrots, celery, parsnip, some of our homemade chicken stock, leftover shredded chicken breast and some barley. We folded in some shredded mustard greens right before serving.  Yes, I know I didn't buy that parsnip with my $50 but it was sitting at the bottom of the crisper and letting it go to waste seemed silly, add a quarter to our tab! It's a dreary and chilly in Philly today so this warm soup was the perfect dinner.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cheap Eats: Day Three

Day three eats...

Sara - Oatmeal with an apple and coffee (sound familiar?)
Ron - A quarter of a 4 egg mushroom frittata

Sara - Leftover kale and white beans from last night's dinner with a fried egg and an oatmeal cookie
Ron - Leftover chicken, split pea soup and brussels sprouts

Sara & Ron - Butternut squash barley risotto & some braised cabbage

I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet. I learned about barley risotto from Mark Bitman's Food Matters and I've made it with asparagus, mushrooms and now butternut squash.

I peeled and cubed the half of my butternut squash that was leftover after making butternut squash chips yesterday. Toss the squash in some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast it in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until soft. Sautee half of diced onion in some olive oil, when its soft add 1/2 cup of pearled barley, season with salt, pepper and sage (it's the only thing that grows on my windowsill). After about a minute start adding warm chicken stock (from the chicken we made on Monday) a cup or so at a time - like you would a regular risotto.  I pureed half of the squash and added that into the mixture while continuing to add stock. The whole process takes a bit longer then regular risotto but it gets so creamy and good and it's much better for you than regular rice! I topped it with the seeds that I scooped out of the squash and toasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper - they added a nice salty crunch.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cheap Eats: Day Two

Well first I'll tell you that I'm frustrated with my memory card reader because I went to download photos for today's blog and they disappeared!  I don't know what happened but I can't find them and we've eaten everything (except for the cookies I'm about to tell you about!) so I can't even take new pictures.  Bummer.  

But on a good note we've been eating really well!

We did realize that we had nothing sweet to eat so I used some ingredients in my cabinets to make oatmeal cookies - here's the break down of the ingredients and their rough costs for the amount we used:
Butter - $.65
Flour - $.25
Raisins - $.65
Brown sugar - $.35
Total = $1.90
We also used an egg and oats but they were bought with our $50 this week.  There's also a small amount of salt, baking soda, and cinnamon so lets say these two dozen cookies cost us $2.50 (I think that's actually an overestimate).  The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen and they are really, really good!

Here's what we ate for the rest of the day...

Sara - Big bowl of oatmeal made with 1/2 an apple and coffee
Ron - grapefruit

Sara - Split pea soup again, it's even better on day two, and some baked butternut squash chips. I cut mine too thin but they were still good - crunchy, salty, just a little bit sweet.
Ron - White beans with chipotles, roasted brussel sprouts, and some split pea soup

Sara & Ron - Trout with kale with white beans.  Ron made the trout by brushing it with olive oil, seasoning it with salt and pepper and roasting the whole thing in a 400 degree oven for about 18 minutes.  I  made the kale like I always do with onions and garlic and a splash of red wine vinegar then added some of the white beans that Ron cooked last night.

So yesterday's total was $44.69 - add todays cookies and another diet coke and we're up to $47.49.  We better eat those cookies all week long to make that $2.50 worth it!

Oh the pictures of the butternut squash chips and the trout were so great - sorry again.  My blog will hopefully be more visual tomorrow!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Eating Cheap Day One: What We Bought & What We Ate

Today we shopped for our cheap eats. Here's the break down of what we got...

A TON of fruits and vegetables for $16.90. Seriously look at all of this! Brussels, mustard greens, kale, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, grapefruits, butternut squash, a potato, carrot and onions. I ♥ Iovine Brothers Produce:

A chicken for $6.48, a whole trout for $5.24 and 6 sardines for $1.52 (seriously!):

And a few things from the grocery store - milk, eggs, split peas, giant white beans, barley, chipotles (splurge!), oats, and celery that we forgot to get at the terminal for $12.55:

Total for shopping today $42.69:

In additional to this stuff I bought 3 bananas, 3 apples and a cabbage for $1.70 on Saturday and I'll be eating them this week so that bring the total up to $44.39 (that cabbage was $.09/lb - $.22 for a whole cabbage thanks to a St Patty's day sale). We also have a case of diet coke in the fridge, I know, I know, it's a weakness! I bought it on sale last week for $2.50, that's $.30 a can, Ron drank one so now we're at $44.69. That leaves us just over $5 for anything that we forgot and the use of things in our cabinets. This might be harder than I thought...

This is what we ate today:

Breakfast - I had a banana, oatmeal and coffee (Ron's mom brought us a bag of coffee a couple weeks ago so I'm not including it in our costs - nothing wrong with accepting gifts right?).  Ron skipped breakfast.

Lunch - Split pea soup:

A couple of diced onions, carrots, celery stalks, a potato and a bag of split peas were covered in homemade chicken stock (I had a quart in the freezer that I used but I replaced it with a quart that we made tonight).   I added salt, pepper and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes until everything was soft.  I'll be eating this all week! 

Dinner - Roast chicken and turnip greens:

We ate one whole leg and both wings, that leaves two breasts and another leg for meals later in the week.  The turnip greens were sauteed with some onion, salt, pepper and a splash of red wine vinegar.  

In addition to what we ate today we also cooked the dried white beans and made stock from the roasted chicken carcass for use later in the week. Did I mention that I'm working from home for the next couple of weeks? There is no doubt that this will make this project easier - I can work while stock is simmering away on the stove or while I'm braising vegetables in the oven. Eating this way is going to require a fair amount of our time planning, prepping and cooking. Luckily Ron and I really enjoy being in the kitchen so cooking is never a chore for us.

One day down, six to go!

Polish Goodness

I just found out about this Edible World event a few days ago from the folks over at First Person Arts. As a good Polish girl I felt obligated to share. It sounds yummy! I mean really, who doesn't like a good pierogie? There are so many cool food events here in Philly and I really need to start going to more of them!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Eating Cheap

So I'm pretty lucky. The failing economy hasn't really hit me - I still have a job, I still have my house, my boyfriend still has his job. But I do work in television and it's FAR from a stable career. I'm done with my current job in less then a month so I'm probably looking at another stint of unemployment unless, of course, my show gets picked up right away or I'm able to quickly find something new. But I'll still have a mortgage to pay and I'll still have to eat! I'm fairly frugal in general but I've been thinking about ways to cut back on my spending. That got me thinking - how little could Ron and I spend on food for the week? We cook at home a lot and we've been better about bringing our own lunches to work but those silly things like coffee and a mid afternoon snack can add up.

When I first started this blog I read about this $25 a week challenge - an Illinois food bank was challenging people to feed themselves on just $25 a week, that's just $3.50 a day. A quick google search said that Philly get's a little more, about $35 a week, $5 a day. Still incredibly low especially for living in a big city but I'm going to try to stick with $25, $50 for the two of us. We're starting tomorrow and I'm going to assume we have nothing in our cabinets except for salt, pepper and olive oil.

I'm hoping this exercise will make us better meal planners and keep us away from those last minute Whole Foods trips that always end up being so pricey. We'll go to Reading Terminal in the morning and stock up on vegetables from Iovines, we'll probably get eggs, a whole chicken that will turn into multiple meals and an inexpensive piece of fish (have I raved about sardines on this blog yet? Oh the fresh ones are SUPER cheap and SO good!). Then to our regular grocery store for dried beans, lentils, barley, oats probably some canned tomatoes and maybe some yogurt.

I'm determined to do this week as healthy as possible. So many of the inexpensive things in the grocery store are just empty calories - I mean something like 7% of the nations calorie intake is from SODA. Gross. Again, I seem like I'm lecturing but I'm not and I'm far from eating the way I want to and believe me I don't always practice what I preach! I love junk food, I love it and I'll continue to eat it but I just want to eat significantly less of it. I think it's important that people who want to eat healthy know that they can do it without spending a ton of money, you always hear people saying that eating healthy is so expensive but I really don't think it has to be. People tend to have a warped idea of what "healthy" is - if the label say "low fat" but there are 12 ingredients listed that you can't pronounce not only is it probably not healthy, it's probably a stretch to call it food.

I'll keep you posted on how our week is going! As a reward for listening to my rant I'll tell you how to make this tasty soup:

It's spicy cabbage ($.09/lb by the way), chicken sausage (made from scratch by Ron) and tomato soup and it's tasty! I cooked about a half a pound of sausage in a pot, when it was cooked through I drained it and set it aside. Then I sauteed a chopped onion & some garlic, added a quarter of a big cabbage shredded and some white wine. Season with salt and pepper and let the wine cook out. Add the chicken sausage back to the pot and pour in a couple cups of chicken stock, a 14oz can of crushed tomatoes and some spices - I used red pepper flakes, chili powder, cumin and paprika. I had some white beans in the fridge so I added those too. Let it simmer for 20 minutes and enjoy! I might have gone a little heavy on the red pepper flakes because my face is still hot and I've been done with my bowl for at least 30 minutes.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cauliflower and Poblano Soup

When I saw the pictures of Roasted Cauliflower and Charred Poblano Soup that Maya over at My Feasts posted on her blog I knew I had to try it!  I love roasted cauliflower and smoky spicy poblanos but had never thought of combining them until I found this recipe that Maya posted from Bobby Flay's The Mesa Grill Cookbook. 

The recipe called for cream but I didn't add any, it was really creamy without it.  I didn't have any goat cheese to top mine with (although that sounds delicious!) so I went for sour cream and pepitas.  The pepitas added a nice crunch and the sour cream was a great contrast to the spicy poblanos.  

Friday, March 6, 2009

Going Easy on the Meat

I'm going to start this blog by saying that I'm not lecturing - I'm just writing about a new style of eating that interests me.  I'm certainly not a vegetarian, I mean I just posted about a chili cook off!

But, since reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma I've decided to become more conscious of where my food is coming from.  I don't want to buy my meat at my local grocery store anymore but grass fed beef and free range organic chickens can be pricey.  

This is where the brilliant Mark Bittman and his book Food Matters comes in.  His solution?  Duh, eat less meat.  This way you can afford to buy those more expensive but humanely raised cuts of meat and you can feel less guilty when you do buy meat that isn't quite organic because you're eating so much less of it.  Mark Bittman's way of eating just makes so much sense.  I've realized that I certainly don't need to eat meat before dinner and a lot of the time I don't need to eat meat at all.  Meat should be a treat NOT the main component of every meal.  Oh and whole grains and legumes are a must.  Read both of these books - you'll learn SO much.  Or, you know, don't.  I'm not telling you what to do.

Does this all sound awful to you?  Are you wondering what the hell I'm eating?  Well look at these pictures and follow the links to a few good recipes and maybe you'll come around.  These are a few of the meals I've enjoyed recently.  It's quite obvious that I think everything is better topped with a runny fried egg.

This is spaghetti squash topped with kale and a fried egg.  
Super simple!  For the spaghetti squash just split it lengthwise, scoop out the fibers and seeds, pierce the skin with a fork, drizzle the flesh with olive oil and cook, flesh down, in a 350 degree preheated over for about an hour.  Toss the seeds in olive oil, salt and pepper and toast those along side - they're a nice added crunch on top. 

I always prepare kale the same way.  Saute some onions in a bit of evoo until they're really soft and sweet then add the clean, chopped kale - mine always has some water left on it from washing it and it's the perfect amount to steam it a bit when  you put the lid on.  Steam the kale for a few minutes, if it needs more water then add it!  Once it's cooked down a little add some red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flake - don't cook it too much, it should be bright green.  Serve with a runny fried egg and the toasted spaghetti squash seeds.

Next - French lentils with broccoli rabe:

Braised cabbage over red lentils, again, topped with an egg:
I found this recipe on Orangette a few weeks ago and I've made it three (four?) times already and will continue to make it until we get a full week of temperatures over 60.  Braised cabbage is the perfect cold weather food.  I did make two small changes to the recipe - adding leeks, they get carmelized an sweet after the two hours in the oven, and decreasing the amount of oil from 1/4 cup to just a tablespoon or two.  

Leftovers for breakfast:  
Leftover kale with leftover lentils topped with a fried egg and hot sauce.  Oh man.  Yum.

So these are a couple weeks worth of photos.  I really don't top EVERYTHING with an egg.  That braised cabbage, eggless, on top of some quinoa?  So good.  And kale, eggless, on top of some french lentils with a good shake of hot sauce?  Seriously delicious.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chili Cook-Off!

Yesterday Ron and I hosted a Chili Cook-Off.  This was serious stuff - there were official judges and strict rules and regulations!  Check out the score cards we had made up:
Ron got so many printed that we'll probably be using these 2009 score cards through Chili Cook-Off 2012.

We had 10 entries and they were all so different.  There was pork chili, beef chili, chicken chili and turkey chili!  Verde, mole, with beans, without beans, there was even hominy and couscous.  This was TOUGH competition.  

Here are the fixin's: fresh jalapeno, pickled jalapeno, avocado, onion, queso fresco, cheddar and sour cream (not pictured).  We also had tortilla chips, corn bread mini muffins, bread and crackers.   Oh and dessert - I made chocolate chip cookies, Ron's mom made lime bars, and my friend Manon made butterscotch and chocolate chip bars.  

Thanks Ron Sr, T and Mike for judging.  It was a difficult job.

Gary won 3rd place and a box of cottonelle wipes (Ron thought of that one :)).   Andrea and Dan won 2nd place and a Phillies prize pack including some Phillies Mardi Gras beads that we got in New Orleans last week.  And the big winner was Ron's sister Amy - she won first place and a $50 Jose Garces gift card.  

Congrats to all the winners and thanks to everyone that competed!