Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Market Pantry Broccoli & Beef

Today for lunch I made black bean burritos, but I totally ran out of steam for dinner. I feel like we have eaten way too much red and fatty meat the last few days, but we can blame the storm. And the fact that it's the end of the month. My freezer is still stocked with meat but we ate all the fresh and frozen veggies.

The final budget for August came in at $350 for groceries and $110 on dining out. My goal for September is to shave $100 off that-- from either/both categories. I think it's doable. We have lots of meat, juice and soup so this will help reduce the grocery budget. We may splurge for husband's birthday and go out...

Dinner tonight will be meat and processed. Against the grain of this blog. But my freezer has all breakfast food and nothing for a tired mom to whip up. I was thinking homemade pizza or spaghetti and then I remembered we had stuffed shells/ziti last night.

I chose Market Pantry broccoli and beef. It was on sale and I had a weak moment. Nutritionally it meets my nazi mom standards:
- low fat (4 grams total per serving, 1.5 saturated)
- adequate fiber (thank you broccoli, 2 grams per serving or 8% RDA)
- 25% RDA vitamin C
- 12 g of protein
- 10% RDA vitamin A
- 8% iron

But before you ask, sodium is 870 mg or 36%.

Surprisingly, the ingredients look read-able. I'm not seeing MSG, but it does contain wheat.

 It was good. Non-offensive. More flavorful than I expected, but I like my Asian cuisine on the spicy side so I found this bland.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First day of school preparations

Child had her first day off already yesterday, even though we survived the storm unscathed. One of the sending municipalities had issues so... No school.

Today, we have a child-selected breakfast from the freezer: a corn and spinach muffin and Morningstar veggie sausage.

Since I have no idea if we have money in our lunch account or what they're serving, I packed child a lunch:
- peanut butter and Smuckers simply fruit seedless black raspberry on blueberry streusel bread
- pirate booty veggie
- fruit punch 100% juice box

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Chicken (in lemon butter sauce)

To get ready for the storm, we put the following in the crock pot:
- 3 pounds chicken thighs
- 2 pounds drumsticks
- juice of 2.5 large lemons
- drizzle of olive oil
- 1 stick of butter
- 1 bag snow peas
- fresh ground pepper
- water to fill crockpot

My husband liked it as is, but I would have preferred the water greatly reduced for better butter flavor.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Feast

The menu: steak with brandy cream sauce, salad with dried peas, sweet potato fries and iced coffee with almond milk, and for dessert Ghirardelli brownies (one box turtle and one box ultimate fudge). I mixed them together and used a cake pan, and I am pretty sure I used too much water, so they might be more like cake than brownies.

Nope, very rich and very much brownies.

The steak was selected to use it before Irene gets here, if I lose power due to the hurricane I don't want to lose my steak too. The salad was leftover from lunch the day before yesterday. The brandy sauce was in the freezer from the last time I made this dish (July 17) and it reheated just fine.

Hurricane Preparations

Today, once again, I headed to Target on my day off. I have already spent my grocery budget for this month, but with Hurricane Irene headed into the Lehigh Valley this weekend, I feel better getting a few victuals. Of the processed kind that I normally would rebuke.

Now I suppose I should 'fess up and admit that we went out to dinner last night. We were celebrating child's maturity in giving up some old toys, the start of school AND her scholarship that will allow her to continue dance. I had gone to the dance studio and paid for her shoes, having taken the money out of savings to do so, and, not knowing the value of the scholarship, had about $60 leftover.

Being prudent, I said we were going to go someplace cheap and reliable, and that there would be no dessert or appetizers. We went to Delahantys in Phillipsburg, NJ, one of those few towns where you can still get an hour with a quarter in the parking meter. And we've always loved the food.

Bill, with a nice tip, came to $32.05. And we all had a good meal and a relaxing time.

But back to the hurricane. I'm not a worrier when it comes to weather events. But having a small child in the house, I figure I better be prepared for her if nothing else. It has me more worried that my husband and I both have to work Saturday and Sunday, husband during the day and me at night. And my sister-in-law has a surprise party planned for prime hurricane time on Sunday, and being in her own world she refuses to reschedule because she ordered a cake.

So, headed to Target, much later than I had planned because my little diva had to finish her ensemble and her hair combing. Bought her two pairs of school shoes, one of which became two small on the ride home. Have to exchange that tomorrow. I spent $81.27 for everything, but minus the shoes it's about $50. I also used my resusable bags and saved another 15 cents that way.

What did I get?

  • one of those fancy lighters, the plastic kind for lighting grills, because I couldn't find the matches and am really bad with a cigarette lighter. On clearance for $3.48
  • Pirate Booty, veggie flavor, two bags at $2.79 each. Because if we lose power for an extended period of time, I'd rather eat Pirate Booty than cold canned vegetables.
  • Market Pantry Ritz style crackers, $2.74 (we have a full BIG jar of peanut butter)
  • Market Pantry strawberry fruit bars, $2.99 (50% of the days Vitamin C)
  • Market Pantry blueberry peelable fruit bars, $2.99 (ranks much lower on nutritional content but still offers some vitamin C and looks fun, a lot like the Pull N Peel licorice I'm addicted to)
  • Ocean Spray 100% Juice, two bottles at $2.29 each (because ironically all my juice concentrate right now is FROZEN so if the power goes out, I'm going to hesitate to open that freezer door because it's still full of ALL sorts of stuff. And I figure if we are all drinking it, a bottle will only last a day so it won't have a chance to go bad unrefrigerated)
  • Ocean Spray Sparkling Juice, 4 cans, $2.29 (all of these ocean spray products are regularly $2.99 and I thought the juice might be nice to have on hand as something different should the power be off for a long time)
  • Market Pantry 100% juice punch juice boxes, $2.37 (school's coming even if we don't need them for the storm)
  • Bread: one loaf of Market Pantry Multigrain ($2.54) and one loaf of blueberry streusel bread ($3.69). More use for than peanut butter. Or a can of chicken or tuna.
  • one jar blackstrap molasses, $3.29 (because eventually today if my daughter will ever cooperate, I hope to make a HUGE batch of granola with various nuts, oats, and dried fruit.
  • two six-packs of Clif Bars blueberry crisp (it's my favorite flavor). They were on sale for $5 a box plus I had a coupon for $1 off. We still have at least six chocolate chip Clif Bars and a box of Market Pantry nutrition bars. 
  • a four pack of everyday tissues, $4.99
  • bleach, $1.92
  • and other household stuff not due to the storm: dishwasher liquid ($3.44 minus a 50 cent coupon), rinse aid ($3.24) and dishwasher disenfectant ($3.99)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Yogurt parfaits

At Target café, we make a pretty yummy yogurt parfait with mixed berries, Land O Lakes vanilla yogurt and granola. I had a craving, but can't see spending $2.50 a serving. So after work last night, I ran through the store and got the ingredients. (well, that and some chicken for a surprise party Sunday and a bag of Veggie Lovers Salad.)

I think all in all I got 5 pounds of Perdue chicken thighs, about three pounds of drumsticks, Bear Naked granola (on sale for $3.29), Market Pantry frozen berries ($3.19), the big bottle of apple cider vinegar ($1.19) and the salad ($1.99) for $18.25.

For the café, we take frozen berries, put them in the bottom of a cup, add a scoop of yogurt, then top with more berries. The granola goes in the lid and we put the whole thing in the cooler to let the berries thaw before we sell them.

- Market Pantry frozen mixed berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries)
- Chobani vanilla yogurt (the 32 ounce container that I got in a previous trip to Target on clearance for $4.18)
- Bear Naked Fruit & Nut granola (which hurts my teeth. Sadness.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Another Banana bread

According to my last banana bread making adventure, this was the best banana bread I ever made:

But knowing that, and not having the ingredients to replicate it, it doesn't help me.

- 1 cup sugar
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
- 4 ripe bananas mashed
- almost 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 (slightly more)cup unsweetened soy milk
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons cashew butter
- 1/4 cup almond butter

Now this is another adaptation of Betty Crocker's recipe.

I preheated the oven to 375, hoping to shave some time off the 350 degrees/ one hour cook time.

Mash bananas with lemon juice in bowl.

In separate bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add bananas, egg, applesauce, and vanilla. Stir vinegar into milk. Add that to batter. Mix. Add remaining ingredients. Mix until moistened. I used beaters to mix in the nut butters.

Pour batter into loaf pans with bottoms only greased. I'm thinking 40 minutes in the oven.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Zucchini/squash boats

I hope this works. It always makes me nervous when I'm this avant garde.

We had a fridge full of yellow squash and zucchini given to us via the garden of a friend of a friend.

So we decided to stuff them and make 'boats.'

NOTE: do not try this unless you've read this whole entry and I say it comes out decent. Because I'm totally making this up, with no guidance.

- one yellow squash
- one zucchini
- extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed
- salt
- garlic powder
- Italian seasoning
- two Morningstar breakfast patties
- 5.2 ounces Boursin shallot & chive Gourney cheese
- one egg
- about 1 cup corn flake crumbs (or bread crumbs)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Slice squash and zucchini in half long-ways and gut out the seeds with a spoon. (feed to tortoise if you have one, they love squash guts.)

Child can then use pastry brush to coat each half with olive oil. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and garlic to each and a hearty sprinkle of Italian seasoning.

In a bowl, mix cheese, breadcrumbs and egg. Stir into a filling. Mix in broken bits of vegetarian sausage patty.

Fill boats (the squash and zucchini) with filling. Assemble the halves back to whole vegetables. Wrap in aluminum foil. Bake 45 minutes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meeting our pledge/budget

Budgets stink.

They remind me of struggle and how often I don't meet my goals. They rub it in that as soon as things get decent the car breaks or you fall and smash your month or someone gets cancer... You know, life.

It's been ten days since we pledged not to eat out, not to buy fancy coffee (the kind to brew at home) and sacrificed daughter's dance lessons to try and maintain financial stability. I think we've done admirably.

I had a hunger scare at work last night, having eaten my protein bar, and talked myself down from a $4 snack (I had a coupon) to a $1 cookie and a 68 cent clearance organic vanilla milk. The combo was $1.46 after my discounts.

As mentioned in last night's post husband splurged on a bottle of Gosling's blackrum ($14)and a bottle of Vouvray ($12) which will probably be our indulgence for September. We also got a $4 movie.

But it's depressing because our mortgage took 40 percent of our income this month, with groceries and medical combined making almost 30%.

Groceries cost $286.40.
Dining was $69.42 (most incurred before the pledge.)
9-ish days to go.

Of the money spent on groceries:
$78 went to Aldi
$10 to the Easton Farmers Market
$45 to Giant
$3 to Nature's Way for nettle tea
And the rest to Target

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rum and coke

Bear with me. I've worked a crazy shift at Target tonight and I'm drinking.

Husband and I are home alone and we debated what to do without dear daughter. We almost went to a movie, since eating out would break our pledge.

So, while I was at work, husband checked out the movies at Target and he picked 'Becoming Jane Austen' because it was on sale for $4.75 before discounts. We almost got cookies but Target doesn't seem to carry Petit Ecolier anymore... Oh where will I get my little French schoolboys to devour?

He also went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of Vouvray and a bottle of Goslings 80-proof black rum. Now we're watching the movie and drinking rum and cherry coke. The cost of the evening is less than $35.

Very cool.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pasta in (Target) vodka sauce

While we were at Target for our big grocery trip last weekend, we decided to try the Archer Farm vodka sauce. Now normally I don't even use jarred pasta sauce because of the cost and the sugar content. Vodka sauce at my favorite italian restaurant has tasted really good the last few visits and with our pledge not to eat out, I thought it might work.

It doesn't.

But more on that later.

We buzzed through Target today for some pet supplies. While there I went to the grocery section for milk.

Prices do not subtract team member or red card discount.

-Silk Pure Almond vanilla was $2.99
- silk unsweetened soy milk was $2.79
- market pantry half and half, one quart, was $2.14

Purdue boneless, skinless, cage and antibiotic free, vegetarian fed chicken breast for $2.49/lb

Since I had plans to make the vodka sauce, chicken would be nice. I bought 1.4 pounds for $3.42.

I brought everything home.

Part of the reason I chose this meal was because I've been super tired in the afternoon. We have been surviving on a plethora of mexican feast leftovers, foccaccia and lunch dates with friends. (their treat, so I didn't break my pledge)

I sliced the chicken into strips and cooked it. Child made frozen peas and broccoli in the microwave. Had water on to cook whole wheat rotini.

Child fed tortoise some veggies and gave me the rest to add to the skillet, with a touch of fresh ground pepper. Then I poured the vodka sauce in. With the meat, its juice, everything.

I served over the pasta, with a sprinkle of Parmesan.

It was mediocre. My cooking was good, but the sauce fell flat. But, as my husband says, can you expect jarred sauce to be good?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tomato Herb Foccaccia

Most of the world tends to gush and rave about garden fresh tomatoes. I'm not a huge tomato fan, so I don't get that kind of crazy but I will say it's not worth having any tomatoes unless their fresh from the garden.

So when I get tomatoes, I made foccaccia.

This is my foccaccia post from two summers ago and I don't deviate much since it's a family favorite.

Today's ingredients:
- garden tomatoes
- 2 cups garden fresh basil
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 tsp local honey
- 3 cups flour
- 1 cup rye flour
- papa john's seasoning
- zaatar seasoning
- Italian seasoning
- salt
- extra virgin olive oil
- corn meal
- Parmesan reggiano cheese

Combine warm water, honey and yeast. Stir with a non metal spoon and set aside 15 minutes.

Add 2 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt to the developed yeast mixture. Add half the flour, stir. Add another cup. Stir. Add desired dry seasonings. (in my case today: Italian seasonings, papa john's seasoning, and zaatar.) begin to knead (10 minutes total), adding the remaining cup of floured needed.

Form dough into ball. Pat down with olive oil and leave covered to rise until double, about 90 minutes.

Grease a large cookie sheet and dust with cornmeal. Punch dough down and press into pan. Cover again and let rise about 30 minutes on top of the stove while the oven preheats to 425.

Poke finger indentations into crust. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with zaatar and shreds of fresh basil. Add sliced tomatoes. Coat with more oil. Sprinkle with more zaatar and cheese.

Bake about 30 minutes

Monday, August 15, 2011

Black beans in the crockpot

Sometimes I can be so efficient and organized that I make every meal and all our bread from
scratch. I bargain shop and freeze. I stay on top of my school work and slay the laundry pile. That's the genius in me.

But then there are the days I can't speak straight. It takes two hours to make a 30-minutes-or-less meal. I can't find my shoes, my glasses or my umbrella. And I overslept. Yup. That's the idiot in me.

I have made beans in the crockpot before, at least twice, but now I can't find the recipe. Here or online at large. I swore it was Crock Pot 365.

So, I'm moving forward.

I took two pounds of Mi Casa black beans and 16 cups of water and brought it to a boil while stirring. I have this one really bad pot that everything sticks to if you don't stir. This is the rapid method of bean soaking.

Boil 2 minutes.

Now if you're me, you'll spill stuff all over your pants the second the water finally boils. And if you're me, while the beans are boiling for two minutes you'll run upstairs to change your pants and your kid will chase you around explaining why she had to pull dolls in your bed in addition to her bed...

Then you'll rush downstairs to find bean-foamy boiling water about to bubble out of the pot, so you cut the heat, grab the pot, remove from the burner and cover.

The official direction is cover and let stand for an hour.

At this point, I had to run down to the basement and start a load of wash because you remember those dirty jeans? Well, they're the only jeans I have that fit since I lost weight having broken several teeth in that walking accident in May. I have a dentist appt today to talk about more dental work I need but can't afford, and if I go in baggy clothes they comment how thin I've gotten. The office is mostly women, and their compliments annoy me because if their office had fixed my teeth I could eat more easily!

But the beans...

I'm going to rinse and sort them, and I never do a thorough job. I pick out the obvious nasty ones.

Then they all go in the crockpot. With water to cover. On low. Probably 5-8 hours.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Taco 'clearance' feast

We started taco beef in the Le Creuset skillet for our taco 'clearance' feast (so-named for all the goodies we got at Target.)

This is the taco post, though I didn't use beans today since we have refrieds instead of whole.

Yesterday we got the following items on clearance or at a reduced cost:
- refried beans
- multigrain tortillas
- Spanish rice
- salsa
- avocado
- bagged salad

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Overdid it?

I just got home from Target. I did a cashier shift last night and saw some good deals on items in the grocery department. I went back today and spent the rest of my grocery budget.

I've spent $272.40 on groceries so far this month, and $65 on dining out. I think I can keep the total grocery budget this month under $300. Remember I went to Aldi and stocked up too, but today's deals have my freezer is super dooper stuffed.

I bought:
- cool ranch Doritoes, on sale for $2.50, Target's normal price is $3.69
- Graham crackers, $2.01 (I definitely think Aldi is cheaper)
- Archer Farm Strawberry fruit bars, $2.99
- ocean spray blueberry cranberry juice, no high fructose corn syrup, $2.71
- 64 ounces welches mango-white grape-peach juice, $2.50
- fresh express veggie lovers salad, $1.99 (normally $2.99)
- hunts no high fructose corn syrup ketchup, 2 bottles at $1 each, normally $1.42 each
- vinegar (a big bottle for the laundry) $2.39
- refried beans, $1.14
- salsa, on clearance for $1.48, normally $2.59
- old el paso Spanish rice, $1.86
- old el paso taco shells, $1.52
- small can of green chiles, two at 69 cents each
- archer farm multigrain tortillas, $2.28
- teriyaki sauce, $2.24
- another Asian sauce, $2.22
- ready to serve pasta sauce, $1
- archer farm vodka sauce, $3.29
- avocado, 59 cents
- 1 lb strawberries, $1.49
- bananas, 5 at 17 cents each
- 1 pound 80/20 ground chuck, $2.49
- package of two thick boneless pork chops, $1.49 (I bought 4)
- 1 pound ground turkey, $1.49
- frozen pulled pork sandwiches, $2.11
- frozen 100% juice concentrate, 1 @ $1.47, 2 @ 1.24, 1 welches @ 1.49
- Chobani blueberry yogurts, 3 @ 49 cents each
- archer farms buffalo blue cheese dip, $2.69
- market pantry oriental beef with broccoli, $4.50
- archer farms margerita pizza, $2.99, regular $4.99
- market pantry self rising crust frozen pizza $2.50, normally $4.50
(those pizzas were lunch)
- archer farm monster cookie ice cream, $3.99
- wax strips (the kind for hair removal) $3.99, regularly $4.99
- sauve shampoo & conditioner, 22 ounce family size, $1.67 each
- 12 pack of Clif bars, $12.69
- market pantry chocolate nutrition bars, five pack, $3.99
- cat litter, 27 pounds, $8.89
- 50 Playtex tampons, $7.99 minus $1 coupon
- 48 count panty liners, long $2.74
- 64 count panty liners, regular, $2.74
- band aids, $2.19
- boca spicy chicken patties, $1.99
- Morningstar breakfast patties, 3 boxes at $1.99 each
- 36 double rolls of charmin, $18.99
- tide (52 load bottle) $12
( the charmin and the tide yielded a $5 gift card)

Minus 15 cents for bringing my own reusable bags

Subtotal: $162.42
Team member discount: $15.88
Red card savings: 7.08
Tax: $1.34

TOTAL: $140.80

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Mommy, I want a sandwich."

My daughter requested a sandwich. A sandwich is not your run of the mill item in this house. I try to oblige.

The pasta is leftover pesto tortellini.

The fruit is something from the Easton Farmer's market. It has a skin like a peach, is shaped like a small gourd and has white interior. Daughter loves them IF I peel the fuzzy peach-style skin off them. They also have a pit like a peach. Last time, she picked something similar, but it had an orange interior and the texture and flavor of a plum.

The sandwich is my homemade honey oat bread, with a slice of cucumber, two slices of deli counter ham (another oddity in this house) and a squirt of Goddess dressing.

Pizza eggs

My daughter asked for fruit loops for breakfast. I let her pick any box of generic cereal from Aldi's aisle last shopping trip. I don't consider cereala real breakfast. Even with soy milk for extra protein I just don't think it has enough heft to really get you through the morning.

I gave my daughter some choices as to how to make it more acceptable. She chose scrambled eggs, which surprised me because she usually moans and groans when I make scrambled eggs. So to avoid disappointment, I made pizza eggs.


- dollop of extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large eggs scrambled eggs
- a sprinkle of papa john's pizza seasoning
- a sprinkle of parsley
- a couple tablespoons six Italian cheese blend from Target (Market Pantry brand)
- ketchup to taste

Combine eggs, seasoning and parsley. Lightly oil your pan and heat. Add eggs, scrambling to desired doneness. Reduce heat, top with cheese and ketchup. Let cheese melt. Stir and serve.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bratwurst, sweet potato fries & pesto toast

Tonight was another rush home after day camp kind of day.

I got a loaf of my honey oat bread from the freezer. Once that thawed, I sliced and slathered with butter and coated with a generous layer of yesterday's pesto. I toasted these in the oven while the sweet potato waffle fries cooked.

Then I sprinkled them with the six Italian cheese blend from Target. And toasted some more.

I fried up some bratwursts and we ate the meat on the pesto toast as open-faced sandwiches.

The Pledge: No More Eating Out


The whole wide world seems to hurt right now. Economically everything sucks, pardon my language. I'm pretty fortunate because I have lots of practice being on the poorer side and even more practice making do and living within my means.

But last night, my daughter's dancing studio called and my dental bills tumbled in with the daily mail. And it just didn't seem possible that we could pay everything and still maintain our debt free lives. The only debt we have is our house. Which we would make a nice little profit on if we sold, even now. In this horrible market.

My daughter has advanced from the one hour to the ninety minute dance classes. And I can't afford the tuition. It's a significant jump. Plus registration fees and shoes, I have one week to gather $200. Could I-- yes. But that would mean more dipping into savings when what's left in the savings account won't even cover repairs to my teeth. If I don't have the money to get my mouth fixed, I certainly won't spend money on tap and ballet.

We talked to the child about it and she shrugged and didn't seem that disappointed. She's a good kid. Yet something still bothers me about asking her to make a sacrifice when as parents we haven't.

I look at our monthly budget and I cringe. When we applied for our mortgage, I remember hearing that 29% of your income should go toward housing. Now this was also at a time when 3 months salary was considered an adequate safety net in savings. (We have almost 2 months today. Several years ago we had six months.) Anyway, today we spend about 27% of our income on our mortgage, which includes our property and school taxes.

I mention all this to offer hope to everyone else who's struggling... There is always room to tighten the belt. I turn to my budget. Where do we already save money?

  1. We have one car, that's 12 years old and has no car payments
  2. We have no debt (except the house), even student loans are paid off
  3. no cable
  4. no internet
  5. no land line phone in house
  6. We spend about $250-300 month on groceries
  7. We don't go to the movies, rent them, or use Netflix
  8. We borrow materials from the library
  9. We don't eat much meat
  10. We garden and cook from scratch, now I can add canning to the list if I ever get that right
  11. We use vinegar, baking soda, isopropyl alcohol, etc., instead of cleaning chemicals
  12. We walk whenever we can
  13. We have only used the air conditioner four days this summer
So, how do you cut more?

The key is to balance your desire to save money with the potential to deprive yourself. Deprivation will make you unhappy.

I came up with two suggestions:
1. Replace our New England Coffee with generic Aldi store-brand coffee (That could easily save $20 a month)
2. And this is the HARD one: NO eating out. At all.

In the past I've tried lowering the eating out budget, but I never stick to that. So I'm going drastic. Instead of eating out, we are going to stop at the grocery store and find what we want there. Even if it's frozen pizza or TV dinners.

It is a drastic move, but it's our main expenditure, pleasure and splurge as a family. We spend, on average, 10% of our income on eating out. Lately, it's been closer to 20%. That's why we're going to try this. For reference, we spent the same percentage on groceries that we do on eating out.

Salad Wrap

I was in a hurry and needed to eat so I used the leftover greens from my garden/last night's salad to make a wrap. I added cucumbers and carrot ribbons, black olives and Goddess dressing. I didn't really intend for it to be vegan, but it is. I also sprinkled some Zaatar on top.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tortellini with pesto and garden salad

The pesto I made earlier (see today's previous post) went over cheese tortellini for a quick dinner. Two heaping teaspoons were plenty for the one bag of tortellini, so we'll be making pesto garlic toast for dinner tomorrow and freezing some more sauce.

The salads we served were all greens from our garden, red leaf, green leaf, spinach and sorrel. Green pepper from the garden. Carrots and cucumbers from the store. Dehydrated peas from Forks Mediterranean Deli. I had Newman's Own Sesame Ginger dressing. Child has vegan Goddess Dressing. Husband had Annie's Cowgirl Ranch.

To keep the meal vegan, watch your dressings and I recommend a tofu-spinach ravioli for the tortellini.

Today's Garden Pesto

I'm sure I've made pesto before and posted it, but the great thing about homemade pesto is when you made similar but different batches. It's just as good in vegan style, omit the cheese.

Combine in food processor:
- 2 cups basil from the garden, packed tightly, plus a couple handfuls
- 1/2 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup parsley, from the garden
- 1/2 tomato from the garden
- more than 1/3 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan/Romano
-1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Yield: 1 cup

Mine will be sauce for tortellini tonight

Monday, August 8, 2011

Plum cake "tatin"

Oh, dear.

The plums I canned yesterday didn't seal properly. So, today I made a plum tatin. It's a variation of Ina Garten's recipe from Barefoot in Paris, which I normally use to make an impressive pear tatin.

My original post about this recipe, done the right way, appears here:

Today's version, in the oven now, looks like plums with cake dumplings. The dough turned out too sticky. I should have added a few tablespoons of milk to compensate for the thickness of the yogurt.


- 2 pints canned plum halves, pitted, in medium syrup
- 6 tablespoons butter, room temp
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 serving Chobani lemon yogurt (slighly more than 1/3 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (there's my mistake, I was helping my daughter with another task and used TWO CUPS flour, that's why my dough was so thick and sticky)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (which I never measure)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease deep dish pie pan generously with butter.

Pour one pint of plums into pie dish with syrup, add the plums from the other pint too but not the syrup. I then put the pie dish in the oven to warm them.

Cream butter, sugar, and add eggs one at a time. Add yogurt and vanilla and mix until well-combined.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder and add slowly to other mix. Combine until moist. Spoon over plums.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes. Invert unto platter.

This is the UGLIEST 'tatin' I ever made. The cake tastes fine, despite the double flour mistake. The plums have a very strong flavor, a blend of sour and sweet. I think it's good but has the same mixed qualities of a good rhubarb dessert. It tasted fine.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Plums (from the Ball Blue Book)

Yesterday at the Easton Farmers Market, we bought a little more than three pounds of funky plums. We plan on 'putting them up' today. The right way. So, I got out the Ball Blue Book and began to study.

- 1.5 to 2.5 pounds plums per quart
- Sugar
- water

Hot pack: (I think I have to master hot pack before I can 'get' cold pack. My cold pack efforts have lead to fruit float.)
Wash plums. Drain. Prick whole plums in several places. Make a medium or heavy syrup. Boil. Reduce heat and simmer five minutes.
Cook plums one layer at a time, remove from pot and keep hot. After all plums are cooked, remove plums to syrup and let stand 30 minutes.
Remove plums. Simmer syrup. Pack plums into jars, ladle syrup, 1/2 inch headspace, cap, process 30 minutes in boiling water canner. 20 minutes per pints.

Plums may be cutvin half but are usually canned unpeeled.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Great Pie Tasting

I went to Aldi and did some grocery shopping, bought lots of basics from flour to tortilla chips, baking soda to eggs. I spent $77 and got just about everything. I didn't see baking powder so I picked that up at Target today.

The interesting thing was that Market Pantry baking soda was 49 cents a box, which is the same price I paid for generic baking soda at Aldi. Who thought Target could match Aldi in price?!? With the Red Card Discount (and/or my employee discount that would be LESS than Aldi).

I also found individual packets of Sugar in the Raw Turbinado sugar on clearance for 75 cents a box.

We also picked up Muppets Take Manhattan for $4.75 (minus the two discounts)so I thought I'd but a bag of popcorn from the café. After all, I made it myself. I also bought one of each of the pie slices we sell: one Hershey chocolate, one Oreo cream, and one Mrs. Smith's strawberry cheesecake.

There're $1.75 each before discounts and I was surprised that all of them were yummy. The chocolate one was the most boring, but very creamy. The Oreo reminded me of cookies and cream ice cream. Both my husband and I thought the strawberry was the best and very flavorful.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rag Tag Meals

I made peach muffins yesterday which I thought were mediocre, but my daughter ate six of them so I could be wrong. I didn't post the recipe because I ran out of flour, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder. I ended up mixing half flour and half oats.

For dinner last night, I made cheese tortellini with a butter/olive oil sauce, with fresh parsley, kielbasa, and peas.

For dinner tonight, we had breakfast. Pancakes my husband made over the weekend and froze. Strawberry ones with real maple syrup. Veggie sausage. Smoothie of raspberry Chobani yogurt, coconut milk, unsweetened soy milk and vanilla carnation instant breakfast. And hot generic grape nuts, with raw local honey, dried blueberries, vanilla almond milk and a touch of blackstrap molasses.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Peach peel filling

When my mother-in-law talks, there are several topics where I always listen. Pie is one.

When she talked about canning peaches, she said they thick-peeled theirs and used the peels for pie filling. Well, I tried thick peeling my peaches by using a knife to cut a thin layer of fruit off with the peel (abouta 1/4 inch) and canned that as the base for a peach cobbler.

Because I'm an idiot who tried to process a quart jar in a 12-quart stock pot that really can only handle pints, the jar didn't quite seal properly. That meant we opened them today for peach muffins.

I had mixed the last handful of peaches in with the peels and after two days of soaking in sweet honey-plum syrup, you can't tell the peels from the fruit. After I picked what I needed for the muffins, my daughter ate the rest of the quart.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Frozen White Pizza

After my canning fiasco yesterday, imagine my pot bubbling water everywhere, I had no energy to cook. So we got two frozen white pizzas from Giant. One was the Giant brand with spinach and garlic for about $4. The other was $5, it was a California Kitchen pizza with spinach and artichoke. Both were good.

The California Kitchen one had a complex creaminess to it and the artichokes reminded me of sausage.

Honey Spiced Peaches

My mother-in-law brought some peaches yesterday. I decided to make Ball's honey spiced peaches and as usual I didn't read the directions correctly and made a mess out of the whole situation.

But I do have 2 pints of peaches.

And a quart that will become some sort of peach dessert or muffins today.

My mother-in-law said that instead of heating and peeling peaches, they thick peeled their peaches and used the fleshy peels for pie. I tried that.

Honey Spiced Peaches
Yields about 3 quarts

8 pounds small peaches
Fruit fresh
1 cup sugar
4 cups water
2 cups honey
3 sticks cinnamon (one for each jar)
1 1/2 teaspoons all spice
3/4 teaspoon whole cloves

Wash, drain & peel peaches. Leave peaches whole. Treat with fruit fresh. (I didn't leave mine whole. Didn't notice that until now. I also used lemon juice instead of fruit fresh.)

Combine sugar, water and honey in large saucepan. Cook until sugar dissolves.

Drain peaches. Cook peaches one layer at a time in syrup about 3 minutes each (missed this too).

Pack hot peaches into jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add one stick, 1/2 teaspoon all spice and 1/4 teaspoon cloves to each jar. Ladlehot syrup in, leaving proper headspace.

Cap and process 25 minutes in boiling water canner.