What I Spent, What We Ate

What I Spent

I went to the grocery store twice this week, once was more of a random trip to check out the grocery outlet/salvage type of store in town and the other was my regular trip to Aldi. I spent a total of $51.75 — WAY more than what I spent the previous two weeks. This brings my total to $82.85 and leaves me just $17 for the rest of the month. While I hadn’t planned, exactly, on this scenario, I AM glad that I went to the grocery outlet. I did purchase a few things that were unnecessary and fall outside of the dairy and produce categories. But…I don’t plan on hitting this store up more than once a month at most and wanted to take advantage of what I found. And the Aldi trip just reflected our need for produce. We’ll see how I do!

File Mar 11, 9 39 27 PM

At the grocery outlet I picked up a case of organic plain yogurt, two containers of organic cottage cheese, a jar of organic peanut butter, a bottle of chocolate sauce, two boxes of chocolate Moravian cookies (to use for a pie crust although Michael found them…) and a bag of cinnamon imperials which I can NEVER find here during Valentine’s day and they are one of my favorite candies. Obviously not everything was required, but for $10 I am okay with the splurges.

File Mar 15, 6 45 17 PM

At Aldi, I bought a bit more than I expected because of some sale prices and I picked up corned beef and coffee beans. Eggs were $.69/dozen, so I grabbed the limit of six dozen. I also picked up two bags of carrots ($.69/2lb bag), onions, a cabbage, bananas, strawberries, 2 pounds of asparagus, romaine lettuce, a large container of organic mixed salad greens, frozen raspberries, half & half, 2% milk, fake club crackers and tortilla chips. I also grabbed a pack of hamburger buns, which aren’t pictured. I  spent $41.75. Usually I get coffee beans at BJs, but the bag is expensive because it’s huge and I knew I would probably be tempted to purchase more than I needed. So we’re trying Aldi whole coffee beans, which are also organic and fair trade. We’ll see. You know I’m picky about coffee. 🙂 The raspberries were not strictly necessary, but I wanted to make smoothies using that yogurt and I don’t like blueberry only smoothies (cry me a river, right?). The corned beef was also not a necessary purchase, but Michael really likes it and it’s not easy to find at other times of the year, so…I indulged. And then the prices on carrots, eggs, onions, and asparagus had me stocking up. I noticed that quite a few items have reduced prices through 4/11, so I’ll be back next month to take advantage of those (cream cheese is $.85/pack). Anyway, without the coffee, raspberries and corned beef I would have been closer to just $20 for the week.

What We Ate

This week was not one for culinary wonders. We ate out quite a bit — a combination of birthday treats for Michael and then me just being totally off-kilter with my school schedule. It was mid-term and projects and exams took up most of my time. Our eating and my cooking was definitely kind of sad. As an FYI, our eating out budget is NOT the same as the grocery budget, although I do look at those numbers together.

Saturday: Vietnamese (out)

Sunday: Pizza (take out)

Monday: Tacos (take out)

File Mar 15, 6 45 35 PM

Tuesday: Cabbage Fried Rice

File Mar 17, 10 19 29 PM

Wednesday: Spaghetti with Sausage & Peppers Sauce, Green Salad, Garlic Bread

Thursday: Leftovers (Laura at class)

Friday: Bookclub (Laura), Soup & Salad (Michael)

One thing I realized this week was that prepping just a bit on the weekend really saves me during the week. This coming week is spring break and while it won’t be as busy as a normal school week, I’m really looking forward to getting some projects around here taken care of. That means that prepping over the weekend is going to be just as important as it would be during a regular school week. Also, you’ll also notice that my posted meal plan and the actual meals cooked bear little to no resemblance to each other. Ah, well. It was mostly an exercise to spark my interest and motivation. There’s a reason I usually post what we’ve eaten after the fact, not what we’re going to eat.

 

 

 

Meal Plan: March 14 – 17

retro-cooking-mom-graphicsfairy

We ate out a ton this weekend, partly for Michael’s birthday, partly because we had some things come up and weren’t at home. So that’s all well and good but now I’m off-track and have not so many things on hand for us to eat PLUS we’ve hit that point in the pantry challenge where very few ready-made food is on hand. It’s a bit late for a formal meal plan, but this is what I plan to cook for us over the next couple of days.

  • Ham & Cheese Pie (for Pi Day!)
    • ham from freezer
    • cheese in fridge
    • make pie crust (all ingredients on hand)
  • Beef Stew
    • thaw beef
    • potatoes in pantry
    • carrots, celery, etc. in fridge
    • all other ingredients on hand
  • Eggplant Lasagna (from freezer), garlic bread
    • get out Wednesday to thaw
  • Lentil Sloppy Joes, coleslaw
    • pick up hamburger buns OR sweet potatoes
    • slice cabbage ahead of time

 

Stir-Fried Noodles with Asparagus, Mushrooms, Tofu and Cashews

file-mar-05-7-19-23-pm

This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen. I have really enjoyed every recipe that I’ve made from that book so far. It’s vegetarian (Katzen was the author of the original Moosewood Cookbook) and not rooted in any particular flavor profile–the recipes really are a collection of global flavors. This does mean that sometimes the ingredients are less common, but for the most part they can be found at a regular grocery store. This particular dish is a mash up of traditional sesame-based stir-fry sauces and the magic that is lemon and asparagus. It seems like it might not work, but it really, really does. If you are hesitant about using the lemon zest and juice in the marinade, I would say to just try it. For the most part you didn’t notice, but every so often you’d get a bit with some zest in it and all of the sudden the asparagus bloomed as well.

As usual, I changed a few things around with the recipe — I used soba noodles instead of linguine, as I had just made the Lemony Greek Pasta Salad and wasn’t eager for more white pasta. I also think that soba or udon noodles work so much better in noodle stir-fries, to be honest. They carry and add flavor. I don’t even know where you would buy 8 oz of tofu — all my stores sell it in 12 oz containers. Let me tell you about what would happen to 4 oz of tofu just hanging out in the fridge…science. That’s what. Anyway, I didn’t want to waste any tofu so just used the whole box. I also buy mushrooms by the box, not by each, so just went ahead and used a full pound. I adjusted the marinade to some extent, although I didn’t up the sugar quantity because I’m really trying to NOT eat as much sugar or the toasted sesame oil because I actually ran out! My pantry challenge is starting to have consequences…

Stir-Fried Noodles with Asparagus, Mushrooms, Tofu and Cashews

Serves 4 or 5 (generously), Vegan

  • 1 c. cashews, lightly toasted and salted
  • 8 scallions, minced, white and green parts separated
  • 1.5 T. minced or crushed garlic
  • 2 T, grated fresh ginger (heaping)
  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 1 t. grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice (from one lemon)
  • 2 T. toasted sesame oil
  • 4.5 T. water
  • 3 T. brown sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 12 oz container of tofu, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 6 – 8 oz soba noodles OR 8 oz linguine
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • Crushed red pepper
  1. Place the cashews in a food processor and pulse until they are coarsely chopped. Set aside.
  2. Place the tofu and mushrooms in a 9X13 pan. In a small bowl, stir together the scallions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, water, sesame oil and brown sugar. Pour over tofu and mushrooms, stir gently to ensure all sides are coated. Marinate for at least 15 minutes (and up to 2 hours). Stir occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook noodles according to package directions. When finished, rinse under water and then allow to drain thoroughly. Set aside.
  4. Place a large skillet over medium heat for about a minute, then add the canola oil and swirl to coat the pan. Turn up the heat to medium-high, toss in the asparagus and 1/4 t. of salt. Stir-fry until the asparagus is just tender, 5 – 7 minutes. Add the drained noodles and another 1/4 t. salt, mixing as best you can with tongs. Stir-fry over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, or until noodles and asparagus entwine.
  5. Pour in the entire panful of marinade, tofu, and mushrooms. Turn to heat to high and stir-fry another 3 minutes, tossing in the ground cashews and a light touch of red pepper as you go. When the sauce and the cashews are well distributed and everything is heated through, taste and add salt as necessary.
  6. Serve immediately, topped with a scattering of the scallion greens.

NOTES:  

This can get a little smoky, so be aware if you have a sensitive smoke detector. I didn’t add any additional salt at the end, but I also didn’t measure the salt when I added it with the asparagus and the linguine, so YMMV.

I buy soba noodles at an Asian grocery near my home. They are sold in a 3lb package, and inside there are a lot of little bundles that weigh between 3 and 3.5 oz each. I used two bundles. The original recipe calls for a half pound of linguine or similar noodles.

The tofu doesn’t get crispy using this method. I don’t mind that at all, but if you are unsure of tofu because of the texture, this may not be the recipe for you. The flavor because of the marinade and then the stir-fry is incredible, though.

I hope you try it out if this sounds interesting. If you do, let me know — we really, really loved it and will make it again for sure.

******

This year I am joining The Frugal Girl in trying one new recipe each week. You can check them all out here.

Lemony Greek Pasta Salad

share

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos lately, mostly cooking and grocery related. I’ve really been enjoying Indigo Nili’s channel and recently she posted a video where she made a Greek-style pasta salad. I’ve been craving something similar ever since, and since I always save the tops of peppers to use for another dish, I decided now was the time. I also had an open box of farfalle pasta in the pantry. I had hoped to add artichoke hearts as well as olives to the salad, but sadly my jar of hearts had disintegrated in the fridge, so who knows how long they’d been in there! I made a lemony dressing to toss everything in and that may actually be the star of the show.

Although this salad contains a lot of fresh ingredients, it also is making use of a number of pantry items, too. The pasta, chickpeas, salt, pepper, olives, olive oil, mint and oregano are all items that I store regularly.

Lemony Greek Pasta Salad

Serves 6

  • 8 oz farfalle pasta
  • 1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained
  • 3 mini cucumbers, diced (about 1 regular cucumber)
  • 1 c. diced red, yellow or orange bell peppers
  • 12 pitted Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c. feta cheese, crumbled
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Lemony Greek Dressing
  1. Cook pasta according to directions on package, drain and run under cold water.
  2. While pasta is cooking, prepare vegetables and combine with beans in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add pasta to the bowl along with feta cheese & lemon zest. Stir gently to combine.
  4. Pour half of the dressing over salad, mix to combine and add additional to taste. I choose to just drizzle fresh dressing on each serving.

NOTE: If you have fresh parsley, it would be really wonderful mixed in at the end. You could also stir in baked or roasted chicken breast.

Lemony Greek Dressing
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 t. dried oregano
  • 1/4 t. crushed, dried mint leaves
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • 1/4 t. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  1. Combine garlic, oregano, mint, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a small jar. Swirl to combine.
  2. Add olive oil, close lid tightly and shake until well combined. Use for salads, to marinate chicken or as a dressing for steamed vegetables.

NOTE: You can leave out the mint, but I think it makes the dressing. I strain the lemon juice before adding it to the jar so that there isn’t any pulp to contend with.