Weekly Wrap-Up

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I had a great week! Spring is coming into its own and this time of year is when I feel most productive. I’m always inspired to start a lot of projects, although this year I am working especially hard at FINISHING projects I start, rather than ending up with a ton of half-finished messes around the house and yard. I also managed to do a number of projects/tasks that weren’t on my original list, which is always nice. ūüôā

On that note, I finished the wreath. It looks really nice and I was able to just paint the ribbon rather than try to figure out how to change it out (it’s really firmly set into the wreath form and I suspect that if I tried to take it out or do the same thing with a different ribbon I’d just end up destroying the structural integrity of the wreath). I’ll take a picture at some point — the sun is not out and my photos are no improvement over the partially finished photo I posted earlier in the week.

Our sweet neighbor saw me working in the yard and brought over grapefruit; he can no longer eat them due to a daily medication he has to take. They are quite juicy and yummy and are a wonderful snack. I took some banana pecan muffins over the next day as a thank you gift; he and his wife have been married for 61 years!

I painted the white board frame, but unfortunately something happened to the consistency of my spray paint and it came out in a stream rather than a spray. It…is not attractive. So now I have to figure out how to correct that.¬†Originally I thought I’d have to buy more spray paint, but I think I can solve the problem with some leftover paint samples I already have on hand. So that’s a done project that is going back on the list!

I also changed the decoration I have on my front door from a heart to a little bird. And I took down the remaining winter-esque decorations I had around the house and replaced them with a few things that seem a bit more “spring-y.” This mostly means that I put away the snowman tea light holder and put out the little glass hen candy dish. It’s pretty exciting over here. I also found a tutorial for coffee filter flowers; I may try to make some of those to add to the overall effect.

On Friday I had a half day at work and took the afternoon to visit a few thrift stores. Well, one¬†thrift store and a grocery outlet/salvage-type store. The problem I have with salvage stores is that I get very excited about random things I would probably never buy, but the novelty and price catch my fancy. This time I gave myself a strict $10 limit since I’m on a pantry challenge anyway and really the whole point was just to see what type of inventory they generally have on hand.

I also got outside several times, both to work on the projects on my lists and to walk around the neighborhood with my husband. I’m excited about the clock jumping ahead for more light, although I do NOT enjoy¬†losing that hour of sleep! I’ve felt off all day.

What didn’t get done:

  • Michael didn’t get a change to edge the driveway. But I did my part.
  • I didn’t really get any work done on the fence bed or resealing the porch bench, mostly because I had to shuffle my schedule to accommodate some unexpected things. I hope to get to them this week.
  • I’ve written some, but not all of the Thank You cards I wanted to have written.
  • I didn’t get to lowes to pick up paint samples; it’s not urgent at all, so that may not happen for a while.
  • Also I thought we were going to go out of town so decided not to post anything on facebook, but just today we decided to only do a day trip, so I can work on that task this week.

Weekly Goals: How I Did

  • Clean up the driveway
    • Sweep off the leaves
    • Edge grass on either side
    • Tidy garbage can area
  • Restore and plant bed along fence (my really big goal is turn my yard from weedy pit to welcoming eden)
    • Turn over ground & remove weeds
    • Amend soil
    • Plant seeds and seedlings
  • Reseal¬†bench on front porch
  • Finish gold wreath
  • Pick up some gray paint samples at Lowes
  • Photograph and post three items to sell on CL/FB
  • Change over to spring decor (this will take three seconds, as I have virtually NO spring decor items)
  • Paint frame of new white board & hang over printer
  • Visit two or three new to me thrift stores to get an idea of what they carry (take list)
  • Write Thank Yous (Lenten reflection/gratitude goal)

Five Frugal Things

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  1. I went to a salvage grocery store while exploring thrift shops and kept to my $10 budget. I did pick up a few pantry items, but it was hard to resist the low prices! The picture is blurry, but I was able to pick up a whole case of organic plain yogurt for $2 (still in date…I’m willing to look beyond expiration dates for some things but dairy is not one of them).
  2. I didn’t actually buy anything at the thrift stores, although I did enjoy poking around their inventory.
  3. I repaired a pair of ankle boots using the shoe glue I picked up at the beginning of the year. They look great, so I feel more confident about using it to repair a few other pairs of black shoes, too.
  4. The spray paint that I used to paint a frame (on my to-do list for the week) had gone bad or something had happened to the spray component because it came out of in a wet, drippy stream. I was bummed and thought I’d have to buy more paint to fix my mess, but remembered that I have some paint samples on hand that will work and are actually in the color family that I wanted to use! So no need to purchase anything.
  5. Rather than buy bubble bath or similar items, I picked up some big bags of epsom salts and two vials of essential oils to make my own bath salts. I have enough materials to make several batches and will have much less waste as I am recycling whiskey bottles to use to hold the finished salts.

What I Spent, What We Ate

What I Spent

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I spent $10.15 at Aldi this week for groceries. As you can see, we needed fruit and half and half plus I really wanted to get some asparagus. A neighbor gave us a lot of grapefruit so we have plenty of fruit in the house. I will probably head there this weekend for berries and dairy, but overall we are good on most things during this pantry challenge. Of the $100 produce/dairy budget I have for the month, I’ve spent $31.10.

What We Ate

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Saturday: Lemony Greek Pasta Salad (lunch), Margherita Pizza

  • I was so pleased with this pizza! Also I successfully froze this dough a couple of weeks ago and two wonderful things happened: I remembered to use it AND I froze it in a plastic container instead of in a bag. I think the different container made it so much easier to use and also much less likely to get lost in the freezer. I will do that again for sure! The basil is from loeftover pho; they always give so much basil and cilantro along with the broth and meat and this time I brought home the extra (in addition to the extra soup — even the small is a huge portion). I was able to use the basil in several meals, although this was the last.

Sunday: Stir-Fry Noodles w/Asparagus, Mushrooms & Tofu

Monday: Cajun Red Beans and Rice

  • I used this recipe for the red beans and rice, but omitted the andouille sausage because I wanted to keep it vegetarian. This turned out really, really well!

Tuesday: Egg Roll in a Bowl

  • This may be a new favorite for us — it was really good and really yummy! I kind of did a mash-up of different recipes, but they are all pretty much the same, I think. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend. Also it’s a great way to take advantage of the cheap cabbage that’s available now.

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: leftovers

Friday:¬†Tilapia (not sure if we’re having Parmesan or Horseradish Crusted), Roasted Asparagus, Baked Potatoes

  • Or maybe I will do a Cajun spiced and pan fried thing with the fish. I’m not sure yet, but we’re definitely having fish as it’s thawed in the fridge. Don’t want it to go to waste!

 

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

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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.

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