Mushroom Orzo with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens

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Today marks my official merging of this blog with the Food Budget Challenge, a project that I stumbled upon through Katy’s blog months ago, and knew I wouldn’t even have time to contemplate signing up for until after December yarn craziness was over.  So, here we go.


As the name might imply, the budget I’m setting for myself is six dollars a day.  The way I generally apportion this out is monthly rather than weekly, keeping a “remaining for the month” balance as I go.


Contrary to what the name might imply, I am actually aiming for a grocery budget of $150 a month (~$5/day), which assumes that about $30 (the extra $1/day) each month will be spent on quick eats out, like burritos after work on the way to a show, or Hot Wok from New Seasons if I wasn’t able to make lunch for work that day.  


I do keep a separate “dining out” budget, which is excluded from my grocery budget — about $80 a month, or one medium-nice meal per week.


Oh, and for the record, it’s just me in the home, operating on this budget.  I do have friends over for dinner pretty often (one to two times per week), but almost equally am invited over to their houses or for “family dinner” potlucks among our group of friends, so I think it all evens out in the end!


Alrighty, so last week of the month, here we go:

Fred Meyer
2 cans sliced olives: $2.18
bell peppers: $2.50
1 pineapple: $2.99 — to cut up and bring with me to work for afternoon snacking
butternut squash: $2.08 — I’m thinking about a sesame squash/quinoa/spinach salad for work lunches this week
cucumber: $1.99 — to slice on hard boiled egg sandwiches on homemade bread for lunch
organic lettuce: $1.99
TOTAL: $13.73
Remaining for the month: $17.66


Here’s one of my favorite one-dish meals to make for the week — it’s quick, delicious, and yields tons of leftovers to bring for work lunches, which I like to alternate with yummy sandwiches on homemade bread (or, eat the sandwich for lunch and save the leftovers for dinner if I have to work late).  I make it with whatever veggies and protein I have on hand, and it always works out.


This time, I started by dicing up half a fresh jalapeno.



Then, thick slices of some crimini mushrooms, and a chicken-feta-spinach sausage from New Seasons (I keep these frozen and on hand for quick meals like this one), which I sliced up, still frozen, and sauteed up in some olive oil in a big pan, with the mushrooms and jalapeno.  While this is sauteeing, I add my go-to seasoning base of salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast, plus a few shakes of some herbs de provence (or whatever green dried herbs you have on hand).



Once all these ingredients had browned, I tossed in 1 cup of orzo, and let it absorb the oils a bit, before adding water — I’m not exact here, since I just let the dish cook until the water is evaporated, but enough to cover the ingredients by an inch or two.


I put the lid on the pan and let this all simmer on medium-low, and in the meantime, chopped up a bunch of collard greens.



The easiest way to do this is to take a chef’s knife and make a slice down either side of the ribs of each leaf, removing the thick stalk.  If I’ve got a soup or stew coming up I’ll save these to throw in, but otherwise I’m not a huge fan of these so I compost them.


I wait until most of the liquid has been absorbed into the orzo…



And then chop up the greens into 1″ squares, and throw them in.



Cover with the lid for another 5 minutes, just enough to let the greens wilt and get bright green, then finish seasoning with salt and pepper and a little bit of lemon juice.



Typical of many of my Tuesdays, I was busy making not only this but prepping food for the rest of my week (my work week starts on Wednesdays, so this is when I really go at it and try to make enough food to last me through Sunday night, having to cook maybe only one additional night each week).  


So tonight I cooked up not only this orzo dish, but also some curried-carrot-parsnip-rutabega soup, a loaf of fresh whole wheat herb bread, some syrupy black beans with cumin and paprika (to accompany brown rice and veggies which I’ll prep some morning this week before work), and a fresh batch of earl grey kombucha.


Other fellow Project: Food Budget bloggers!

Flageolet Bean Salad

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Okay, here we go.  New year, new shot at staying up to date with the blog!  It’s been forever since I have been consistent about talking about groceries, and how I strategize with my weekly shopping time to stick to my $6-a-day budget, so let’s start there.


3 grocery trips so far this month:


QFC
1-pound loaf of Tilamook cheddar: $6.99
1 box rigatoni pasta: $1.25 – I made a super awesome mac’n'cheese on a cold, rainy night, making use of some leftover heavy cream I had in the fridge
bell pepper: $2.00
mixed greens: $3.09
brick cream cheese $1.34
big box of basil $4.99
1 head green cabbage $1.76 — This turned into a refreshing mayo-free cole slaw to accompany the mac’n'cheese
1 jalapeno pepper: $0.48 — I’ve gotten into the strange habit of roasting these in the oven and eating them while my dinner cooks…?
TOTAL: $21.90
Remaining for the month: $128.10


New Seasons
can diced tomatoes: $2.50 — I’ve been into making gargantuan pots of vegetable-lentil soup at the beginning of the week and bringing it to work for lunches.  That’s where these tomatoes, and most of the veggies on this list, went this week.
bulk chickpeas: $2.89 — also stocking up on a lot of my bulk legumes apparently!
nutritional yeast: $2.52 — a necessary staple for me; I put it on EVERYTHING
dried tortellini: $2.64 — I made the mistake of shopping hungry, and made a quick lunch of this + Classico pesto + a chopped up chicken sausage before even unpacking anything else when I got home
bulk corona beans: $5.29
wild rice: $9.49 — wild rice is so damn expensive!!
bulk flageolet beans: $2.25
bulk green lentils: $1.97
dozen eggs: $3.19
half & half $2.59
cottage cheese: $3.69
collard greens: $2.49 — I’ve been craving this recently; wrapping up anything I can find in flash-boiled collard leaves and eating it like a burrito
fresh spinach: $2.52
yellow onions: $2.26
sunburst squash: $1.47
zucchini: $1.27
red onion: $1.13
ginger root: $0.21
1 Haas avocado: $0.79
caracara oranges: $1.87
ground turkey: $3.21 — sauteed up with some curry-spiced rice and stuffed into the aforementioned collard leaves
1 spinach-feta chicken sausage: $1.92
TOTAL: $58.16
Remaining for the month: $69.94


Fred Meyer
Freschetta frozen pizza: $4.99 — on Sunday night I hosted our rotating Ladies’ Wine Night at my house, and for some snacks I made smoked salmon toastettes, a flatbread pizza, and put out some pretzels.  Already had some wine on hand from a party a few months ago.  Score!
cream cheese: $2.99
fresh lox: $4.00
fresh dill: $1.99
1 lb. bag of pretzels: $2.99

baguette: $2.49

bell peppers: $1.50 — can’t seem to get enough of these lately
orange juice: $3.00
sprouts: $1.79
cucumbers $2.99
poblano pepper: $0.39
imitation crab meat: $2.99 — I’m a little embarrassed about this.  Again, shopping hungry, I got a weird craving for a fake crab louie salad with sprouts, sunflower seeds, and homemade buttermilk dressing
bartlett pear: $0.65
salmon burgers: $3.00 — Threw one of these on the George Foreman while I was getting ready for work in the morning and brought it for lunch to accompany the bean salad you’re about to read about
vanilla yogurt: $2.79 — for emergency breakfasts at work when oatmeal just won’t cut it
TOTAL: $38.55
Remaining for the month: $31.39


Okay, let’s talk about beans.  Even though I’m a totally avid meat eater these days, I’ve been an off-and-on vegetarian for about 15 years, so am totally comfortable using beans as a primary source of protein.  I love them in everything — soups, salads, boiled down with yummy spices…I could even do away with tofu and all the soy substitutes and still be a happy veg.  


But the other day, roaming the bulk aisles at New Seasons, I realized I’m totally selling myself short.  There is so much more to explore.  I bought a small baggie of a few new-to-me beans and decided to do some experimenting.  So on Monday, I threw the huge handful of flageolet beans (a.k.a. the most huge-ass beans you’ve ever seen) into a pot to soak — I had no idea for how long, but given their size, I banked on them taking at least overnight.



These beans are so gigantic, I figured there’s no option but to make them the main character in this salad.  And they’re so creamy white, they needed some color accompaniment.


For this super-simple salad, I chopped up some red and yellow bell pepper (1 each), and about half a cucumber.  Once the beans had soaked for about a day, I boiled them for a good 45 minutes, until they tasted good biting into them on their own.  



I drained the water, and tossed them in a bowl with the fresh veggies, a small bit of leftover crumbled feta that I had in the fridge, and a dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast.  Like I said, super simple.  



Oh, and I couldn’t resist a cute little can of these to toss in. Already sliced and the perfect serving size for a multi-day salad, they’re worth the $0.79.  



So far, this salad — paired with some open-faced tuna or egg sandwiches on my homemade bread — has lasted me over three lunches!


Roasted Red Pepper & White Bean Dip

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Last week was my friend Andrea’s birthday, and in an effort to jumpstart our monthly First Thursday family dinners for the year, she sent out an email to our whole gang, announcing the theme would be tapas.


I knew I’d have to keep it pretty simple, since I’d be coming straight from a seven hour workday followed by a two hour Granny Square class, and something that would still be tasty at fridge temperature.


Also, after Christmas in Wisconsin, I’ve been taking the last few weeks off of meat, so I also wanted it to be totally veg. Thus, a vegetable-y, bean-y dip seemed like just the ticket.


First, I roasted two big red bell peppers with olive oil and salt, until they were nice and charred.



A half cup of dried white beans, which had been soaking while I was at work, boiled for about 30 minutes and started the party in the Cuisinart, along with two cloves of garlic.



Then in went the peppers…



And a third of a brick of this.



I pureed it with a few squirts of lemon juice, until it was still just barely granular.



I wanted to give this one a nice, earthy flavor, so instead of regular paprika, I added berbere, which is a yummy Ethiopian take on the spice.  



Then I finished it off with some dried harissa, and gave it a final blend!