Thursday, January 27, 2011

Well it certainly is easy to have a spend-free day when you're snowed in! Philly was hit with something like 15 inches of snow overnight. Our street didn't get plowed until around 2 pm, city buses were not running, and the long walk to the El would require me to traverse walkways that would be mostly unshoveled. So...I declared a snow day and worked from home.

Bagels for breakfast. Leftover pork chop and pasta (withOUT pea shoot pesto, thank goodness) for lunch. Dinner was a quickly made meal of more leftover pasta, broiled chicken cutlets (from the storage freezer), defrosted BASIL pesto that was made over the summer from our veggie garden basil, and green beans (also from the deep freeze).

Dinner literally took 15 minutes to make, which was awesome. I grew up in a house with very little culinary variety, so I make a real effort to make different things as often as possible. The "30-minute" type recipes that I've found in the past are usually unhealthy or unappealing. You know the recipes I'm talking about...the ones you find on the side of a Campbell's can or at the Kraft website. I just can't do those. I learned more uses for a can of cream of mushroom soup from my mother than I care to ever remember. Sometimes, however, making a new recipe means that dinner takes for. ev. er. to get on the table.

Anyone have any good, quick recipes that are both diverse and healthy?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pea shoots, you have forsaken me

So I rewarded myself for slogging my way through the slush to get to work by purchasing a (decaf) pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks. And when I realized that we didn't actually have walnuts for tonight's dinner recipe, I had to battle the bread and milk buyers at the grocery store to get some. But otherwise I had another $0-spent day.

Breakfast was, again, a freezer bagel with cream cheese and V-8. Lunch was leftover Otsu. Snack was yogurt with some canned blackberry sauce that did NOT age well. Back to the drawing board on that one, this summer.

My original plan for dinner was to take our CSA pea shoots and stir fry them with sliced up pork chops from the freezer. But we had Asian flavors last night, so I switched the plan last minute and went with a combo of this recipe and this one. We didn't have enough pea shoots for both pesto and salad, so I used CSA lettuce and carrots for our veg. I also added some thin spaghetti pasta to use up some more of the pesto.

I'm a big fan of pesto. I like it alot. I make tons of it every summer from our garden basil. But the pea shoots version just doesn't do it for me. The basil adds a certain flavor that was missing. Maybe I should have toasted those walnuts, put in a bit more garlic, or added some extra cheese or salt, but it just didn't taste good. It added a nice tang to the pork chops, but with just the pasta it tasted too...I don't know..."greeny?" I've actually already thrown a batch of frozen basil pesto into the fridge to defrost so that we can eat it for tomorrow's dinner and make up for tonight. Next time we get pea shoots from the CSA, it's stir fry time!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Another successful day:

Breakfast - bagel from the freezer, cream cheese, V-8

Lunch - leftover cabbage slaw, steak, and potatoes from yesterday.

Snack - more yogurt and pickled peaches, orange

Dinner - Otsu!

The aforementioned S. made Otsu for dinner one night when I was visiting and it was divine. She used this recipe from Amateur Gourmet, but replaced the out-of-season cukes with in-season cabbage. We tried it in our own kitchen a few weeks later and went with still-in-season-cabbage and it was still delicious. That was nearly two years ago and we continue to make it a few times a year. We've tried it during the summer with CSA cucumbers and I have to say it's just not as good as the cabbage-y version.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I've got a thing for cabbage...

I am proud to say that on Day 1 of my "Eat from Home" week, I spent exactly $0 additional dollars on food! Here's how it broke down:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with craisins and brown sugar, all from our pantry, and CSA milk.

Lunch: Bagel (purchased over the weekend and frozen), cream cheese, can of soup from pantry, V-8 (Costco purchase). I am still obsessed with all things tomato, so I bought a case of V-8s to curtail my habit of buying one every single day.

Snack: Farmers market yogurt with pickled peaches that I canned over the summer and an orange (Wegman's).

Dinner: Grilled steak (from storage freezer), mashed potatoes with chevre and scallions (all ingredients except the scallion - a Wegman's purchase - were CSA), apple and cabbage slaw (apples from CSA, cabbage from Wegman's).

A note about the slaw - I seem to forget how much I love cabbage until winter comes and it's one of the most readily available veggies at farmers markets. I love buying a head of it and seeing how many different dishes I can make with it. My friend S. turned me on to the simple slaw that I made tonight: shredded cabbage and diced apple (she also adds diced onion) dressed with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. It was salty, sweet, crunchy, and after a little time in the fridge to mix the flavors, it was tasty! I plan to use more of the cabbage for tomorrow's dinner recipe...another suggestion from S. that we've been enjoying for the past couple winters.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A rambling attempt to get back on track...

I've cooked a few dark days meals since the last post. Local but fairly simple meals. But admittedly, over the last week or so, I've fallen off the wagon. We've eaten out almost every night and what we did make at home was usually something out of a box. I've been a bit overwhelmed by the nesting instinct that has kicked in over the last month or so. I've painted the little tyke-to-be's room...twice. We've been organizing, tossing un-needed items, and figuring out finances. It has felt great to purge and to concentrate more on the things that are important to us even though our eating habits have suffered.

We had another CSA pick-up yesterday - apples, pea shoots, lettuce, carrots, milk (it's not raw, by the way, so I drink it by the glassful), amish butter, goat cheese, focaccia rolls, and smoked turkey. Then we made our monthly trip to Costco. I know that it seems counter-intuitive to shop at a place like that when we buy other things locally, but there are still budgets to consider. One would be surprised at how many of their products (especially meat) are organic, hormone-free, free range, etc. They aren't local, but at least they are somewhat responsible in other ways. We love Costco because they treat their employees very well, work hard to maintain a low price point for their products without sacrificing quality, try to use as little extraneous packaging material as possible, and have started installing solar panels on the roofs of many of their stores! I stop myself from making impulse buys there, as the total can add up quickly when you are buying in "bulk." It can be a very helpful place if one is disciplined.

After a quick stop at Wegman's - which included the purchase of a head of locally-grown cabbage - we headed home. As I unloaded our bounty into our storage freezer, I was amazed at all of the frozen goodies that were still sitting in there and had gone unused. And so a new organizational project was born: I inventoried our storage freezer, refrigerator, and pantry shelves with the determination to plan five weekday dinners that could be made entirely from what we had in the house. And it worked! We have made a pledge to eat entirely from our own kitchen, for all three meals each day, for this entire week. And I hope to write a quick blog recap each day to track our success.

Today, in celebration of the first football game that we will watch all season (now that evil dog killer Michael Vick and his Eagles are out of the running), we will have nachos made from tortilla chips and salsa that have sat unopened on our snack shelf since Christmas, avocado, refried beans, and some leftover cheddar from our last CSA pickup. While the game is on, I'll cook the potatoes (also from the last pickup) that will be mashed for tomorrow night's meal. I'm trying to recreate the potatoes I ate last week at Kraftwork which had goat cheese mixed in. We have that chevre from this week's share to make it happen.

All of this is part of a larger plan to lighten our impact and form healthy habits, especially since we are adding another person to the world. I hope we can get back into the practice of eating at home so that it's old hat by the time the little guy is here. I'd like to set an example that good food comes from home and that even a working mama can put a healthy homemade meal on the table. The husband has taken it upon himself to replace all of our food storage containers with BPA-free versions. We're hoping that I will breastfeed for as long as possible and that we'll use cloth diapers that we'll wash at home. It's alot of work, but for a good raise our son with an awareness of his footprint.