A Little of This, A Little of That

file-jan-14-9-33-30-pm

I made a few snowflakes yesterday and a couple of things I’m calling “icicles;” I’ll string them together for a wintery garland on my mantle and call seasonal decorating done. This was my creative project for the week and it was relaxing. It took me a minute to remember how to fold the paper correctly but then I was set. I found templates online and free-handed the designs onto my scrap paper. It seemed kind of wasteful to print out a template when my goal is to use up scraps for these crafty projects. I was pleased with how they turned out.

Otherwise this week has been kind of stressful; school started and the reality of this semester is really sinking in. It’s pretty intense, with lots of reading and assignments from the get-go. I struggled with depression this week, too, and that made everything seem worse. I’m really paying attention to how closely these depressive episodes are linked to my hormonal cycle and while on the one hand it is nice to know some of what is behind the slump, it’s aggravating to think about this being a regular part of every month. Ugh. I also had a bit of a stomach bug so that probably didn’t improve my outlook. I feel much better today and am pretty sure I’ve turned the corner on this particular event.

I had to take the new car back to the dealership so they could figure out why the check engine light was on. At first I had thought it was nothing and that they had maybe forgot to reset the light after I had my recent oil change. But then I started hearing a weird sound occasionally when I was driving, usually when accelerating. Turns out that some sensor was messed up and needed to be replaced. I’m glad that my car is still under warranty so we didn’t have to pay for the repair. I’m also happy to have that taken care of and feel much better about driving now.

I’ve been reflecting on the pantry challenge and what we’ve been eating and what I would LIKE to eat. Ha. We don’t really have that much chicken in the freezer; in fact, I think just one package of boneless skinless chicken breasts. But otherwise it hardly looks like I’ve made a dent in our stores! And of course adding three loaves of quick bread sure filled in any holes that did appear. However, aside from that, I am mostly pleased with what I have in my pantry/freezer and how those stores do actually reflect the foods we like to eat. I would like to have a few more “cop-out” type things on hand, though. I love to cook, but I don’t love to cook all the time. Michael is willing to cook but needs a recipe and is unwilling to deviate from it too much. Which means that sometimes his cooking requires almost more prep than if I just cooked (especially when I am not buying anything special for recipes this month). We also just sometimes want takeout or whatever. And I don’t think it’s bad to grab takeout every so often, but somehow our process goes pretty rapidly from buying takeout every so often to a couple of times a week. And that is not how I would like to spend our money. So when I go back to buying pantry supplies and meat, I’m going to grab some frozen pizzas and maybe some boxes of mac and cheese (except…it really is so easy to make homemade mac and cheese…) or something similar. I think that will satisfy the craving for slightly crappy food without us feeling like we need to go out and grab fast food or whatever.

Regarding the freezer, I sometimes feel like we will never get through all the food in there! It’s been a bit of an eye-opener in regards to how much food two people really need to have on hand. Although I will say that I feel very nice about being able to stick to a very low budget this month and I know that in large part is due to having such a large stock of meats and so on. I’ve been avoiding the fish, though, which is dumb. Over the last year or two I’ve developed an aversion to fish, or at least to the thought of cooking fish. Consequently we haven’t been eating it nearly as much as we could. The aversion is kind of weird and I’m not sure what it’s about or where it came from. If I can get over myself and cook the fish, I generally enjoy the meal. I don’t know. Maybe it’s lingering guilt over the state of our waterways. Which is weird and somewhat hypocritical since I have no problem stocking up on tuna. I have probably more roasts in the freezer than I need, since I don’t make them all that often. Really the thing I need to do is get into the habit of using the food we have, not just storing the food that is a good price. I’m hoping that by sticking to a really minimal budget for as long as possible, I’ll get a better handle of what that balance actually looks like. I think when my budget was higher, I pretty much just bought what we wanted to eat right then that week plus bought food to store in the pantry and freezer. So we never really had to use much of the stuff I had stored.

We’re watching the football playoffs this weekend and feeling a bit bummed about the lack of football in our lives coming soon. I’d transition to watching hockey or soccer but unfortunately those don’t seem to be aired as often as other sports. It’s probably good to have one less distraction during the semester, but actually I like having a game on in the background as I read or clean or whatever. Are you a sports fan? What do you do when your sport’s season is over?

What We Spent, What We Ate, What Went to Waste

SPENT

Like others, it’s a little hard to believe that we are not yet halfway into January! I think this is partly because that week after Christmas is kind of a dead zone and I am at that point looking ahead to the new year. Anyway. I spent $52.56 on groceries this week. I am now more than half way through my intended budget for this pantry challenge month. I’m not feeling too bad about this total, although I visited grocery stores four times (well, two stores each on two different days), which is really a bit more than I’d hoped when I started this challenge.Highlights from this week’s shopping were a large clam shell of organic baby spinach for $1.99, honeycrisp apples for $.98/lb, organic navel oranges for $.98/lb and strawberries for $.98/lb. The strawberries are really good, too! I also tried Aldi’s organic vanilla yogurt and OMG — it’s really, really, really yummy. I would prefer it had less sugar, but overall it’s wonderful.

I’m keeping a grocery journal so what exactly I bought where will be all in one place at the end of the month. I’m not taking pictures of everything just but a few of the groceries I bought this week are in the photo above. You can also see that our fruit bowl got really empty this week, with only two grapefruit and a lemon left in the house. The horror!

ATE

  • NY Strip Steaks w/Oven Fries and Roasted Broccoli
  • Hearty Lentil Soup w/Sweet Potato Biscuits
  • Hearty Lentil Soup w/Grilled Cheese
  • Two Bean and Turkey Tacos, Fruit
  • Taco Salad
  • Korean Style Beef & Mushrooms — either bowl style or in lettuce wraps

WASTE

  • 2 cups of turkey broth
  • iced tea that I had to throw away after using a lemon slice in it that I had saved from when I made the lentil soup — apparently I had cut the lemon after cutting an onion and…onion-y tea isn’t such a good thing
  • a plantain that I had frozen and then mistook for a banana when making the above quick bread–it thawed out and got pretty gross really fast
  • 1/4 stick of butter that I forgot was on the stove when I preheated the oven for the bread — huge buttery puddle on my stovetop 😦 (my bread baking saved some ingredients but also caused me to throw away others!)

SAVED 

  • 1/2 qt (or so) of kefir, by using it in a marathon quick bread bakeathon
  • 2 carrots that had gone black on one end — after cutting the tops off they were perfectly fine for using in soup
  • the rest of the meat sauce I made last week — not enough to really make more pasta for or serve as a whole meal; instead I had kind of an odd lunch w/an egg baked in the remaining pasta sauce served with garlic toast
  • blackberries and pineapple on their last legs — threw them into a smoothie

Hearty Brown Lentil Soup

lentil-soup__jan-2017

This week I made use of some of the many lentils that I have in my pantry. I also used a cookbook that I really like, but rarely remember to use: Love Soup, by Anna Thomas. Anna Thomas is also the author of The Vegetarian Epicure, which is a classic vegetarian cookbook and how I originally became familiar with her recipes. Love Soup is arranged seasonally and includes a section for accompaniments as well as menu suggestions. It’s an all around good book that I really recommend.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, lentil soup recipes can be really hit or miss and I think that bad or bland recipes are  probably one of the biggest reason that many people claim not to enjoy lentils. This recipe, while containing many of the components pretty much every other lentil soup recipes I have ever read, manages to be both delicious and have a taste that is somewhat unique. I think this largely comes from the generous amount of cumin in the recipe, as well as the lemon juice which brightens flavor and the fresh cilantro added at the end. We had a little feta on top and I think chopped black or green olives would be very good, too. Thomas recommends a drizzle of fruity olive oil or some fresh salsa as a topping.

Hearty Brown Lentil Soup

Slightly adapted from Love Soup, by Anna Thomas

Serves 10

  • 1 lb brown lentils
  • 2.5 t. sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 4 large carrots
  • 4 medium stalks of celery
  • 3-4 yellow potatoes (I used 3 small russet potatoes)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 t. dried thyme
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. chopped garlic
  • 1.5 T. cumin
  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 c. vegetable broth (I used turkey broth I had in the freezer)
  • 2/3 c. chopped cilantro
  • 1 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • feta cheese to top individual bowls of soup
  1. Rinse the lentils and put them in a large soup pot with 10 cups water and salt. Finely dice the carrots, celery, and potatoes and add them to the pot, along with the bay leaf and thyme. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer the soup, loosely covered for about 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the onion medium fine and saute it in 2 tablespoons olive oil, stirring it over a medium flame until it soften. Add the chopped garlic and keep cooking and stirring until the onions begins to color, about 10 minutes. Stir in cumin and cook one addition minute, until flavor blooms and is very fragrant. Add to the soup as it simmers.
  3. Add the 1 T. lemon juice and black pepper. Continue to simmer until lentils and carrots are soft.
  4. Add the broth and the fresh herbs, bring the soup back to a simmer and taste. Correct the seasoning with additional salt and a touch more lemon juice if desired. Stir in remaining 2 T. olive oil.
  5. Serve with a thin drizzle of olive oil and feta cheese

This is my second new recipe of the year; I am following along with The Frugal Girl as she tries out new recipes, too.

Daybook: January 11, 2017

simple-snowflake-clipart-ltkeplqta

Wednesday, January 11

Outside my window…….it’s bright, sunny, and cool. But not freezing cold! So that is nice. Actually this temperature is just about perfect. Those really chilly days where it didn’t get warm all day are no longer my kind of thing.

I am thinking…….about what I need to do this week for school and some errands I need to run this afternoon.

I am thankful for……coffee, kitties, and comfy slippers.

From the kitchen…..I made four and half loaves of quick bread yesterday and the house still smells like baking bread. Otherwise I need to put away all the dishes that were drying overnight and do a quick clean out of the fridge before I go for groceries this afternoon. I don’t plan on picking up much, but not clearing out before shopping is how stuff gets lost in there forever, I think.

I am wearing…..old pjs and a very old sweatshirt.

I am creating…..nothing right exactly now, but later today I want to spend some time with fabric or make a paper snowflake garland for my mantle.

I am going…….to work for a couple of hours this afternoon and then to a couple of grocery stores.

I am reading……..The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman (still…I need to just sit down and do it).

I am hoping……for a peaceful and productive day.

I am hearing…..Michael on the phone.

Around the house…….the cats are quiet! It’s a bit chilly for them, so they are all huddle on our bed, I think.

One of my favorite things……access to thorough, accurate reporting. The first amendment and it’s delineated rights.

A few plans for the rest of the week…..work today and tomorrow, classes tomorrow afternoon and evening and then a blissful day to myself on Friday. Which will still be filled with tasks, but of my own choosing.

Here is a picture I am sharing…….the bounty from my bread baking spree. I needed to use up some kefir, so found some new to me recipes for quick breads on the Stonyfield Farms website.

file-jan-11-8-57-35-am