Thursday, March 31, 2011

Project: Food Budget: Week 4

Budget: 70$
Actual Spent: 128$

  • Pork roast
  • Shrimp
  • Steak
  • Fage Yogurt (a splurge for us!)
  • Diced tomatoes and tomato paste
  • Sauerkraut
  • Ranch dressing
  • Frank's Hot Sauce (a necessity)
  • Jam
  • Cornbread mix
  • Muffins mix
  • Tea (2 kinds)
  • Pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggs from the farm!
  • A pizza from Domino's
  • 2 delicious meals from Raising Cane's
We were out of several staples and had a little money from last week, so we didn't worry too much about sticking strictly to the budget this week. We had a few splurges (like farm eggs and Fage yogurt).

CSA: Here's my post about this week's CSA experience. The kale went into the white bean soup. The beets, beet greens, and lettuce made salads. The turnips became amazing turnip fries and not-so-amazing pork loin sides. The chard and other greens became side dishes and snacks.

Meals eaten:
What we learned:
  1. We can eat delicious food (like muffins, pasta, and pizza) and still lose weight. Hello, portion control!
  2. Vegetables are our favorite! But our meal plan doesn't necessarily reflect that. I should work on more meatless meals.
  3. Eating out kills budgets! We've got to be more careful about giving in to dining out, even when we do have a little extra money.
For more details on Project: Food Budget, click here.

Participating blogs:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring soup & salad: Cranberry vinegarette and Spicy white bean soup

This week we've been trying a few new recipes on for size. Specifically, we've been looking for lighter fare to herald in the Springtime.

I've never been great at following recipes and this week's soup and salad were no different.

We took this salad greens and cranberry vinegarette recipe and altered it, using beets from the garden (or carrots or any other shredable veg) in place of the zucchini and substituting a 100% juice (cranberry plus apple and grape, I believe) for the cranberry cocktail. No corn syrup for us, please!

We paired that with Spicy White Bean Soup, adapted from a SparkPeople meal plan.

My version of Spicy White Bean Soup for 2
  • Huge spoonful of minced garlic (and roughly chopped garlic greens too, if you have them)
  • 1/4 of a large yellow onion
  • 1-2 tsps grapeseed oil (or coconut or canola or olive, whatever you prefer)
  • 3 cups of water
  • .6 cup of wild rice
  • 1 cup of navy beans (canned or previously cooked, any white bean will do)
  • 1 cup of roughly chopped kale (or other braising green)
  • Oregano, cumin, ground clove, cayenne, salt, and pepper
  1. Saute the garlic and onion (and garlic greens) in oil.
  2. Once the onions are soft, add the water, rice, and beans. Feel free to add more rice, but be sure to also add more water.
  3. Season with the seasonings. I used a large dash of oregano and cayenne, and a pinch of everything else.
  4. Simmer for about an hour. In the last few minutes, throw in the kale.
This soup is not very soupy. If you want more liquid, add more. It's also a good idea to keep an eye on the rice to make sure it doesn't need more liquid to cook properly.

We really enjoyed this soup & salad combo that used several of our CSA items (lettuce mix, beets, kale, and garlic greens).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

CSA haul #9

We finally made our way back out to the farm again!

The weather could not have been more beautiful for our triumphant return. Farmer Marie was hosting a Dallas Morning News photographer, as well as us work share folks. We had a lot of fun talking to them as we harvested lettuce, kale, garlic greens, and more.

Guy and I spent a good portion of the four hours we spent out there (we missed it so much we didn't want to leave!) getting the lettuce mix ready for pick-up. We also spent plenty of time petting the kittens and talking to the chickens.

Here's our haul this week:

Left to right, anticlockwise: kale, beets (one red, one yellow), and turnips

From bottom left, anticlockwise: salad mix with arugula, lamb's quarters, endive, rose d'hiver, bibb, and red lettuce; garlic greens, arugula flowers, and mustard green flowers; beet greens, couple mustard green leaves, and chard

The turnips and salad mix were pretty much the same for everyone, although I may have made sure ours was a little heavier on the lamb's quarter and arugula. For the rest of the haul, however, we were allowed to pick and choose what we wanted and we opted for a small amount of everything, rather than loading up on all mustard greens or all chard or all beets.

I was so ready to eat this delicious haul that I almost didn't even get a picture of the kale. As you can see, it's already on the cutting board and ready to be added to the white bean soup I was making.

We're so glad the CSA is back in swing. Soon we'll all be gathering for the annual potluck, I've heard so much about. Guy and I will of course bring something delicious to share, but we'll also bring our juggling, hula hoops, unicycle, and other toys to play with and share. Fun for everyone!

In that vein, here's a picture of my beau, the hobo, with an eatable bouquet straight from the farm: our garlic greens, arugula flowers and mustard green flowers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Lesson in Microgreens

What are microgreens?
Microgreens is the stage of development in plants between sprouts and baby greens. They're just tiny plants. Some popular plants to eat at microgreen stage include: Amaranth, Arugula, Basil, Broccoli, Celery, Cilantro, Endive, Mustard, Pea, and Radish. There are many, many more plants that can be used though.

Why microgreens?
From Microgreens: A guide to growing nutrient-packed greens by Eric Franks and Jasmine Richardson: "Growing your own microgreens gives you access to fresh, living greens all year long with minimal investment of money, time, or previous knowledge. [...] Aside from their extraordinary taste and aesthetic appeal, microgreens are also extremely nutritious. The ability to harvest and eat them within minutes gives you access to their most nutritionally rich state. They give us a strong dose of digestible vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. While your taste buds enjoy their intense flavor, your body will reap the benefits of their concentrated nutrients."

Getting Started:
First, you need seeds:

You can use seeds from your local garden store (or Whole Foods or anywhere else that sells seeds) or you can order seeds online that are specifically for microgreens from a place like Johnny's Select Seeds.

We've tried seeds from Johnny's, seeds from our local garden store (Botanical Interests is the brand of seeds) that are specifically for microgreens (mild mix and spicy mix), and regular seeds (same brand as above) from same garden store.

If you buy them online, be sure to let your pets play in the immense amount of paper that they use to wrap them up safe and sound!

Other than seeds, you will need:
a tray
We bought some trays, we got some free from our local garden center (just ask), and we found a bunch in the people's trash as we were walking through our neighborhood. The one pictured (which are the kind we've gotten free and found) are what gardening places use to carry seedlings around in and if you buy a lot of seedlings they usually let you take them home.

paper towels (unbleached)

Saran wrap and tape

and dirt/potting soil. (not pictured)

If you are using a tray that has a bunch of holes in the bottom (see the picture of me above with empty tray), cover the bottom in paper towels to keep the dirt in.

Put in your soil. This is not enough soil. (We didn't find that out until later.) Put in a couple of inches worth. You don't need A LOT of soil in there because they are just baby plants, but you do need enough that they can dig their roots in some.

Distribute your seeds.

(This is not enough. Seriously. You pretty much want to put a whole top layer of seeds covering the dirt.)

Water your seeds. Make sure the soil is wet all the way through. Water should leak out the bottom but not be pooling on top of the dirt.

Cover your tray with paper towels and water again, as my beautiful assistant has done here.

Be sure the towels are thoroughly wet (but again, no pooling of water on top).

Wrap your trays in plastic wrap, creating a cheap greenhouse. This keeps heat and water in. Just they way they like it!

About 2 days later:

At this point, there are a few little sprouts but not much else going on. Keep the paper towel and plastic on and leave them alone, unless you notice that the towel is dry. In that case, water them again, and then leave them alone.

About 4 days later:

See all those fuzzies? Those are the plant sending out scouts to find a way to root! Cool!!!!

(The fuzz is not mold. Don't mess with them.) But at this stage, you can take the paper towel off. Make sure that the dirt isn't dry (if the paper towel isn't dry when you take it off, you're probably fine). Water, if it is dry.

Also, you may lose a few sprouts when you remove the paper towel. Don't worry about it.

Otherwise, replace the plastic wrap and leave it alone again. Make sure it gets some sun.

A couple more days (around a week from starting them):

Take off the plastic wrap.

Let these babies get some sun (but not too much; early morning and late afternoon sun is best without the blaze of the day). Make sure to keep them watered.

We haven't been able to overwater ours. We water them every time we water our container garden which is about once a day, except on hot sunny days we do it twice.

It's really easy to grow a lot of microgreens (a little more difficult to do others).

We've had success with radish, arugula, and lettuce. But cilantro... not so much. (It's definitely a harder crop to do because it doesn't come up all at the same time etc.)

Doing one tray of each type of green you want seems to work best. But I've done trays of different types. The only problem I had was with the cilantro. I tried leaving it under a towel, since it wasn't ready to be uncovered but the lettuce and radish were. But it just never sprouted.

As for what kind of seeds work best:
The seeds from Johnny's have been incredible. They sprouted very consistently, taste great, and worked very well across the board.
The regular seeds (cilantro, radish, and lettuce) that we used (Botanical Interests) worked alright for the most part.
The microgreen seed mixes (also BI) kinda sucked and I'm not sure exactly why they didn't work out well.

<--They just didn't come up much. Of course, it's all still an experiment for us but in the end here's some of our wonderful success:

Once you get a tray like those above, you just need to harvest.

Use some sharp scissors (the sharper, the better), grab a handful at an edge of your tray, cut about 1/2 an inch or so off the dirt, and what's in your hand is yours to eat! You can just grab and pull but then you'll spend a lot of time washing your greens.

Then EAT! And doesn't success tastes delicious?!

(Republished from my last blog)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Project: Food Budget: Week 3

Budget: 70$
Actual Spent: 2.50$

Yes, that's right. 2.50!

  • Dinner rolls.
All we bought this week was dinner rolls. We spent 7 days away from home this week, 5 with my mom footing the bill and 2 with Guy's mom feeding us.

CSA: We were in Missouri this weekend, so we missed another work share day. We feel pretty terrible about missing three weeks in a row, but then again we didn't have pickups those weeks either. This week we'll be back in business on all fronts.

Meals eaten:
  • Fancy steak dinner
  • Amazing, hot Indian food
  • Chili dogs
  • Pot roast and veg
  • Beans and cornbread
What we learned:
  • 1. Visiting our parents is profitable.
  • 2. It is also fun!
For more details on Project: Food Budget, click here.

Participating blogs:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Project: Food Budget: Week 2

Budget: 70$
Actual Spent: 65.85$

  • Chicken bites
  • 2 frozen meals
  • Butter
  • Dried pinto beans
  • 2 coconut waters
  • Salsa
  • Enchilada sauce
  • tuna
  • Linguini
  • Mac & cheese
  • Red bell pepper
  • Cornbread mix
  • Fresh jalapeno
  • Yellow onion
  • Sweet potato
  • Broccoli slaw mix
  • 1 head of Romaine
  • Peanut butter cookies (from the bakery)
  • Eggs (1 1/2 dozen)
  • Bread
  • Chips (tortilla and Sun Chips)
We did it! We stayed under budget! Of course, we only bought food for 6 days this week, but we didn't eat either of the frozen meals we bought so we'll have those around for some other time.

CSA: We missed our work share again this week because we were sick. :( Our Farmer Marie says we might start getting shares again as soon as two weeks from now. Yay!

Meals made:
  • Chicken bites and guacamole on salad
  • Beans & cornbread
  • Enchilada meatloaf: from Healthy Meals for Less
  • Leftovers from last week: Risi e bisi, sandwich stuff, and rice & bean salad
What we learned:
  • 1. It can be done. We can come in under this new budget.
  • 2. It helps if your mom buys some of your food, so go visit! :)
For more details on Project: Food Budget, click here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Project: Food Budget: Week 1

Budget: 50$
Actual Spent: 122.50$

Holy moly! We spend over twice our budget!

Here's our week this week:

  • bananas
  • kiwis
  • mango
  • an apple (for the sole purpose of ripening avocados)
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 avocados
  • 2 heads of Romaine
  • red bell pepper
  • beets and beet greens (~1 lb)
  • celery
  • 5 tomatoes
  • 2 yellow onions
  • a red onion
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • a bag of frozen peas
  • a gallon of milk
  • 2 bags of Parmesan cheese
  • tomato pastes
  • tomato sauces
  • red wine vinegar
  • dijon mustard
  • 2 small bags of Arborio rice
  • Frank's hot sauce
  • coffee
  • 2 Jellos
  • a box of cereal
  • 2 bags of turkey deli meat (the extremely cheap kind)
  • hamburger buns
  • HealthNut bread
  • 2 2-liters of Diet Pepsi
  • 12-pack of diet ginger ale
  • Frozen pineapple juice
  • 2 Ben & Jerry's ice cream pints
  • Frozen meal (Chicken Florentine)
  • 2 frozen pizzas
  • 2 packets of lettuce seed
No wonder we spent twice as much as we intended. This list doesn't even include the 31$ worth of paper goods and cleaning supplies that we bought. It also doesn't include the ground beef, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and such that we already had.

It does include the lettuce seed that we planted with potting mix we already had. I'm hoping to keep a cherry tomato plant or two, a couple sweet pepper plants, and lots of lettuce on our porch to help supplement our groceries. We spend way too much on lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers, and have had great success with growing our own.

CSA: We didn't have any CSA pick up this week. Technically we still spend our money on the CSA though. 200$ divided by 18 weeks works out to 11.11$ per week. We have a separate budget for our CSA money, so it doesn't come out of our food budget.

Meals made:
  • Migas: leftover bell peppers and onions, scrambled eggs, and corn tortillas.
  • Hamburgers
  • Spaghetti & salad
  • Rice and bean salad: from How It All Vegan
  • Raw beet salad: from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian
  • Simple meat and potatoes: ground beef, steamed potatoes, Italian or Tex-Mex spices, cheese, and sometimes sour cream and/or ketchup.
  • Risi e bisi: from Emily Levenson
  • Parmesan-crusted veg sammies: from How It All Vegan (except we added turkey)
  • 3 frozen meals (pizza and chicken Florentine)
What we learned:
  1. Right now, 50$ a week is too tight of a weekly budget for food. It's a goal for the future but it's going to take some work to get down to it. Next week we'll try for 75$ instead of 50$.
  2. Especially with only 50$ budgeted, it's (at this juncture) unlikely that we can afford our grocery store miscellany (toiletries, et al.) in that same budget category. For now, we won't count those items in our food budget.
  3. It's even more important than we realized that we successfully budget our food spending (and stick to that budget!) because, while 100$ a week may be fine for some families, it is not sustainable for ours.
For more details on Project: Food Budget, click here.

Participating blogs:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Raw Beet Salad

from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian

The only drawback to this recipe is that my hands, kitchen, and cats were all temporarily dyed red. (Long story about the cats! Everything cleaned up easily with minimal fuss.)

This salad is quick to make, extremely nutritious, and exceptionally delicious.

I made this dish early on in the week, so we could eat it as a side dish or snack whenever we wanted it. I still can't believe how easy it was to make! Just shred the beets on the cheese grater, dice the onion, and mix with the dressing. Ta da!

Don't forget the beet greens either. You can serve this salad on a bed of raw beet greens or save them later for braising (a great side dish for beef).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Project: Food Budget


A fantastic group of bloggers working toward staying on budget with their groceries. Right up our alley! (Get the details here.)

Guy and I aren't fantastic at staying on budget, but we try to plan meals ahead of time and cook at home. It's just too easy to pick up a frozen pizza and some mac 'n' cheese too or to blow our budget on beer.

Here's our plan: We split our week up into two grocery trips. One on Thursdays and one on Sundays, each with a 25$ budget. We include all our other household miscellany (e.g. toiletries, cleaning supplies, toilet paper) in this budget with the exception of pet supplies.

Each Thursday, I'll post about whether we stayed on budget, what we've been eating, and maybe some recipes. Of course, I'll also be including our CSA food into our meal plans and budgeting.

If you'd like to start reading posts from people already started on Project: Food Budget, please see the links below.

Participating blogs: