Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oatmeal Packets

A former sugar junkie goes naturaler little by little...

Years ago, I would have absolutely rejected the idea that something homemade could taste as good as something manufactured, but now I've seasoned my palate to enjoy "real" flavors more and more.

Always in need of quick, easy and healthy breakfast and snack options for the workweek, I was thrilled when I came across a recipe for pre-made oatmeal packets on the Simple Dollar.

I assembled 10 packets, the first of which I added more cinnamon and 1 tsp of brown sugar.  I am already looking forward to eating it tomorrow at work!

I will also experiment with different spices (cardamom!) and seasonal toppings and dried fruit mixes, and keep you updated on the results.

I made 10 packets, which works well with my two week budget of twenty nine dollars

With minimal time, and ingredients I usually have on hand, I took care of the bulk of 10 meals - either breakfast or my afternoon snack.

I also found a recipe for Apple Pie Oatmeal topping that I will make later this week with all the apples I've been neglecting.

Or, I could dice up some apple and pear and mix it in the oatmeal when it's done.

Efficiency eating!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Twenty Nine Dollars

Twenty nine dollars is not only one of my favorite Tom Wait's songs, it is also all of the money I have left until payday - two weeks from now.

That's $29 for two weeks of food for two people (he's broke too for now), if I spend the money on nothing but food.

I can totally do this.

What helps (tremendously) is that when I do have money, I go apeshit crazy and stockpile shelf-stable food staples.

The last time I did this was January 21st.  All I have bought since then are perishables - half and half, cheese, milk, coffee, and fresh vegetables.

Now I've got to work my kitchen mojo in order to make frugal yet nourishing meals until my income catches up with me. First, I wrote down everything I have on hand to use.  Then, I compiled an overly ambitious comprehensive menu for my specified duration.  In seeing what's missing, I'll scrupulously decide to purchase the fewest, most cost effective ingredients to turn an impromptu famine into a modest feast.

Everything That Remains:

Leftovers (aka Challenges)
Broken lasagna noodles
A little pizza sauce/red pepper sauce from last week's dinner party
Hummus I made two-weeks ago for a potluck at work

Perishables (most of which are in the fridge)
A few becoming-overripe pears and apples
2 handfuls of brussel sprouts from the farmers market two weeks ago
some broccoli
a head of cauliflower
a few onions
1/2 bag of potatoes
More than enough garlic
A lot of carrots
1/2 a bunch of celery

1/2 pound low quality "fresh" mozzarella
1/2 pound cheddar
A cube of blue cheese
Half a triangle of Parmesan, half a triangle of Romano
A tiny cube of pepperjack
3/4 cup feta 1 pint yogurt
1 1/2 containers of sour cream
2 1/2 packages cream cheese

2 pounds of coffee (we go through pretty much 1 pound each week)
1/2 bottle of hazelnut chocolate milk
3 boxes of Peach flavored Stash tea (my favorite!)
1 small bag of jasmine green tea from Mountain Rose Herbs

1/2 gallon bag of frozen pineapple juice cubes ("I made 'em myself!")
3 or 4 baggies with mixed frozen fruit (from when I pre-assemble smoothie stuff)
1 bag frozen peas
1 bag frozen stir fry veggies (for Anthony's late night ramen fixes)
Tater tots and hash browns

2 cans diced tomatoes
4 cans tomato sauce
3 cans tomato paste
3 cans kidney beans
5 cans garbanzo beans
4 cans black beans
3 cans pinto beans

1 can of pumpkin
1 can coconut milk
2 small half-used bottles of curry paste
2 bottles vegetable broth

3 boxes mac and cheese
7 packets of ramen
A lot of pasta (spaghetti, fettuccini, macaroni and lasagna)
A lot of peanut butter
2 small jars of Sweet Creek Strawberry Jam

Olive oil
A little safflower oil
White vinegar
Balsamic pomagranate vinegar
Red wine vinegar
Bragg's liquid aminos
lemon juice
lime juice
one jar of yeast

Lots of pickles, pepperocini's and jalepenos
2 jars of spicy brown mustard
2 bottles each of Srirach and Tapitio hot sauce
Ketchup, ranch, thousand island, blue cheese dressing, italian dressing, worcestershire sauce, 

nutritional yeast
panko bread crumbs
lots of unbleached white flour
lots of whole wheat flour
white sugar
brown sugar
corn starch, baking soda, baking powder
2 bags semi sweet chocolate chips (I'll probably just eat these in handfuls)
plenty of herbs and seasonsings - including our new favorite, hungarian paprika, my favorite red pepper flakes, and peppercorns

What This Means:
1. Roasted cauliflower with my homemade "Dirty Vegan" salad dressing (1 dinner)
2. Red curry sauce with steamed carrots, cauliflower and celery
3. I will beg Anthony to make a big pot of chili (I will save the remaining celery, onion, beans and tomatoes for this purpose) (6 meals)
4. Cacio e pepe (spaghetti noodles with fresh black pepper, Romano and Parmesan cheese) (1 meal)
5. "Apple pie" oatmeal (probably 3 meals)
6.  Dressed up mac and cheese (2 meals)
7. Pita bread and hummus (3 days lunch at work)
8. Some kind of basic white/french bread probably
9. Bagels! (to use up all the damn cream cheese! breakfast for one week)
10. Ants on a Log (without the ants because I don't have any raisins) (afternoon snack at work for one week)
11. Baked potatoes with butter, sour cream and pepper (2 dinners)
12. Peanut Butter cookies (dessert after lunch for 2 weeks)
13. Pumpkin curry soup (to get that damn can of pumpkin out of my cupboard)
14. Quesedillas with beans (pinto or black), sour cream, diced canned tomatoes and cheddar cheese (2 dinners)
15. I could even experiment with adding dried chile spices to tomato sauce for a makeshift enchilada sauce.

What I Will Buy
1. One dozen (cage-free brown) eggs 
2. A few cups of brown jasmine rice
3. Two bunches spinach
4. Spaghetti sauce (maybe - with the menu above I might not even need to rely on spaghetti!)
5. Bagels (since I'll probably be too lazy to make them. I can get them day old from the cafe next to the bus station)
6. Milk - for my new favorite dinner rolls, for roux, and for oatmeal
7. Maybe a box of cereal if I can't use all the milk for cooking

Based on my internal intuition grocery calculator, I can probably get these four items for a total of $13, which will leave at least $15 to "save" for the few days before payday in case we run out of coffee)

Then I can Make:
1. A giant green salad with carrots, celery and broccoli and feta (lunch at work for four days)
2. Greek spinach stew (6 meals)
3. "Hippy Mash" - (Anthony's homemade special breakfast: diced potatoes cooked with onions and seasonings (bell peppers too if we have them), then scrambled with eggs and cheese) (2 weekend meals)
4. Fried egg hash brown sandwich (My homemade breakfast: a fried egg between layers of hash browns (2 weekend meals)
5. My new favorite dinner rolls (Anthony brought me home a surprise bread machine recently!), which I can toast and eat with salad)

Here it goes!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tater Tot Casserole

The first time I made this, Anthony and I ate half of it right away.  Which was really something because my casserole dish is very large (a 13x9 I think, instead of the usual 11x7).

It quickly became one of my Foundational recipes - I make this at least once a month.  It's filling, it's fun, it's satisfying, and it is very versatile - like lasagna, I use Tater Tot Casserole to use up whatever veggies are abundant.

 I have no idea how I came upon the recipe at Snarky Vegan (I'll let you head over there to view the original recipe).  The moment I saw it, I knew I had to make it.

That was May 2011, and since then my roux-making abilities have increased greatly.  Here are the guidelines I use and some pictures!

Grease a casserole dish
Cook a lot of tater tots
Shred a lot of cheese
Make a roux (step 3 of this simply recipes mac and cheese recipe)
Steam veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, greens, whatever
Finely chop veggies like onions
Shred veggies like carrots

Mix some of the roux with the veggies in the bottom of the pan
Layer cooked tots on top, and pour the rest of the roux over everything
Top with shredded cheese

Cover with foil, and throw into a pre-heated oven at 350/375.
Cook for a while (15 minutes?) until the cheese is melty
Remove foil and cook longer if needed to evaporate excess moisture