Potato Leek White Bean Soup with Collard Greens and Flatbread

Posted on

Big news: we now have a dining room table!  I got to break it in for its very first meal last Sunday night, when I had some friends over for dinner.

And then again this week, when I whipped up this delicious meal, while Jesse geeked out on his new bike, trying to find the perfect orientation for his homemade pannier stereo, in preparation for Elizabeth’s Dirty 30 Fancy Cocktail Hopping Bike Extravaganza that we embarked on Wednesday night, with a crew of about 30 of our friends.

Note: I do know the correct pronunciation of “pannier,” but have Americanized it for the sake of convenience.  I get a lot of crap whenever I pronounce it like I’m Canadian.

Really, this soup was so simple, I don’t think I even remembered to take a picture. I had started some white beans soaking earlier in the afternoon after coming home from some errands (and discovering The Portland Fruit Company, OMG!! And way to go on the domain name score, btw), which I boiled while getting the base going.

This entailed chopping some leeks, and sauteeing those in some olive oil, along with a few cloves of pressed garlic, some salt, a diced Hatch chile, and coriander.

Then I added some russet potatoes, diced into 2″ chunks, some chicken stock and water, and some fennel seeds, and let this all cook together (adding the beans once they were nearly cooked) until all the ingredients were nice and soft. I was totally not up for getting the blender dirty (and I’m pretty sure the rubber ring has somehow gotten stuck in the garbage disposal) so I just used a potato masher to half-puree the soup right there in the pot, giving it a nice milky consistency but leaving enough chunks of veggies so it wasn’t too smooth. I was going to add some milk or cream but really, it was rich enough without it.

I had just bought a gargantuan bunch of collard greens and was stoked to get to use them.  First, some oil and butter in the skillet,  and a tablsepoon or so of mustard seeds, cooking them until they started to pop.

And entire chopped onion got sauteed in this…

And then the entire head of greens, chopped, while I melted an inch’s worth of chicken stock off of the cube I keep in the freezer.

Once the greens were bright and just wilted enough, I threw in a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and salt to finish it off, rolled out some flatbread dough that I’ve been keeping in the fridge, and fried that up in a little bit of olive oil.

Oh  yes, and I also made chocolate chip banana bread out of some bananas that were taking up too much room in the freezer!

This Week’s Groceries

Portland Fruit Company 9/11

  • Collard Greens: $1.29
  • Kale: $1.29
  • Yellow onions: $2.14
  • Hatch chile: $0.79
  • Garlic: $0.60

TOTAL: $6.11


Pasta Shells with Zucchini and Gouda Cream Sauce

Posted on

This was a clean-out-the-fridge kind of week.  I had a super-power-work-day on Tuesday, totally reveling in the fact that I can stay at home during my day off to catch up on computer work for UCU and Yarnia, rather than going to a cafe where I have to pay for coffee, bring my laptop into the bathroom with me, and fight over outlets.  This used to be a Tuesday necessity for me, because I hated staying at home in my basement on a beautiful day, staring at a wall, even if it felt as great as it did to be productive and feel on top of my work for the coming week.

But this week?  I got to go to my step aerobics class (yes, that’s right, I said it.  And it’s awesome), come home and shower, and walk up and down my staircase more than necessary just because I’m so excited it’s there, while I organize my kitchen, do my laundry, and then have a marathon work sesh out in my backyard, at a makeshift card table we’ve set up under the porch, in my bare feet, drinking homemade iced coffee (mine is so much better than Crema’s, anyway!), and crank out 6 serious hours of computer time.

Not exactly what most people would call a day off, but in my world, I’ll take what I can get.  Plus, I took last Saturday/Sunday off to go up to Seattle for a friend’s wedding, and had a fantastic 3-phase evening that included me and Jesse attending a swanky reception at an art center downtown, crashing a college electronica basement party near my old high school, and ended with us wandering around my childhood backyard park at 7:00 in the morning…so I don’t feel too sorry for myself.

view from the makeshift office

I had bought some summer veggies the day before, in anticipation of an impromptu Labor Day barbecue we had sent out a mass text about, but that ended up being pretty low-key, so I had plenty of zucchini left over.  And tons of milk products in my fridge that were on the verge of going bad, including a half-gallon of whole milk that Jesse had brought over that would sadly go to waste if used in any form other than a delicious cream sauce.  So that decided that.

First, zucchini and onions.  You guys get sauteed together.

Then, a roux.  That’s just a fancy way of saying butter and flour melted together.

This turns into a paste, so you can incorporate it into the milk to thicken it nicely without any clumps!

See?  Look how nice and thick that is.

Once I start (slowly) adding the milk, stirring as it thickens, I also add 3 cloves of garlic (just got a new garlic press!  Yesssss!), and some bouquet garni-type herbs.  And salt and pepper.  And ground coriander.

Oh, and back to all the dairy that was about to go bad…I had a stockpile of cheese from various soirees we’ve had over the past month or so — some soft, some hard, namely gouda — that were also salvaged and melted into this delicious creaminess.  God it feels good to clean out the fridge.  Subtle psychological burden, lifted!

Those veggies I sauteed earlier now get mixed in…

And this box of shells (with a few rogue pennes, apparently), freshly cooked, gets stirred in to it all at the end.

I even had some leftover spinach-strawberry-hazelnut-blue-cheese salad left over from Monday night’s BBQ that made a perfect complement to this super rich-and-heavy gut bomb of a dinner.  Oh, and at the last minute I tore up some collard leaves that our friend (newly employed at New Seasons and with bounties of reject produce to spare!) had brought over on Monday night, and stirred those in for a nice healthy crunch.  And as you can see, I felt compelled to add some Bacos as garnish.  Is living next to Grocery Outlet turning me trashy?

This Week’s Groceries

New Seasons 8/30 (but counting it as part of September)

  • Half gallon milk: $2.50
  • Broccoli: $2.51
  • Garlic: $1.08
  • Red cabbage: $3.52
  • Fuji apples: $1.41
  • Bok choy: $0.46

TOTAL: $11.48



Fred Meyer 9/3

  • Watermelon: $5.98
  • Turkey breakfast sausages: $1.67
  • Frozen seafood mix: $3.99 — I see some hot and sour soup in my future…
  • Salmon burgers: $3.00
  • Honey: $5.47
  • Bulk granola: $1.23 — Someday I’ll actually make my own…
  • Coriander seeds: $0.72
  • Sliced almonds: $1.91 — So stoked that the Johnson Creek Fred Meyer has a bulk section!
  • Navy beans: $2.38
  • Eggplant: $1.49
  • Baby spinach: $3.98
  • Strawberries: $2.00
  • Adam’s peanut butter (x2): $6.00 — on sale for $3/jar!!  In case you hadn’t noticed, I make a lot of peanut sauce.
  • Cottage cheese: $2.29
  • Dozen eggs: $2.99
  • Zucchini: $0.82
  • Fresh mint: $1.99 — Someday I’ll grow this in my backyard, but for now, I have to buy it in itty bitty packages 🙁
  • Case of Diet Coke: $4.60 — For those rough days at work.  You know the ones.

TOTAL: $52.41



Poached Salmon with Ginger Honey Cinnamon Glaze, Coconut Collard Greens, and Red Rice

Posted on

I love when I can make a delicious dinner entirely out of what’s already in my kitchen, and all that is required is stopping on my bike ride home to pick up some fish and a head of collard greens.

I can’t even believe how busy this week is, and relish in the fact that with all that’s going on, I still take the time to cook myself a delicious meal on a Wednesday night.  Really, at a time like this, I should be eating take-out or leftover pizza from UCU last weekend.  I mean, seriously.  After driving back down to Portland on Sunday night, I spent all day Monday unpacking from the show and reorganizing the shop, prepping for the coming work week, especially because my wonderful employee is on vacation and I’m flying solo for the next 2 weeks.  Awesome timing.

Then on Tuesday morning, I signed about 1,000 pieces of paper, and agreed to a bill whose final payment is due in 2042.  Yep, I bought a house.  NBD.

Then, I’m working all week, getting the keys to the house, spending the evening with my best friend who just got back from 3 weeks in Hawaii, hosting old high school friends from out of town Saturday night, and then quickly washing the sheets so I can host my business partner for a 24 hour debrief of last weekend’s show.  And we’ll treat ourselves to a fancy dinner in there somewhere.

Oh, and then Monday I had to buy a fridge.  And a bed.

And then Tuesday I move.  Into my new house.

And then Wednesday I will go to work and spend the whole rest of the evening prepping 4 days worth of food to bring with us to String Cheese at Horning’s, the festival we’ll be at the whole following weekend.

And yet, last night I came home and still felt compelled to cook this.

As soon as I walked in the door and poured myself some iced tea, I got a pot of red and brown rice started on the stove.

A lot of times when I make a teriyaki-esque type of sauce, it involves stir frying veggies or noodles or meat first, then incorporating an Asian sauce concoction into it.  But for some reason this time, I just wanted a nice thick, bubbly sauce, so I started with that.  Pus, I have about 9 half-used bottles of red wine that I’d really love to not transport with me to my next residence, so this seemed like a good way to tap into that.

First, some minced ginger.

This went into the big skillet on medium-high heat with some honey, soy sauce, chopped garlic, and a hefty amount of red wine.  It smelled disgusting at first, but once the sauce bubbled together and reduced and the alcohol cooked off, it became deliciously sweet and dark and syrupy.

I put the salmon directly into the skillet, still frozen, and let it thaw and start to cook from the steam as the sauce continued to reduce and the water evaporated off the fish.

When it was about half cooked, I was able to remove the fish and peel off the skin with my fingers, removed the sauce from the heat and let it all sit there while I worked on the greens.

Have you ever had to deal with collard greens before?  There are few veggies out there that I won’t use in their entirety, but collard and chard stems are one of them.  I mean, if I’m making a soup the next day then sure, I’ll toss them in, but really other than that, I don’t force it.  I compost now so it’s all good.

What I like to do here is take each leaf, and quickly slice out the stem, making diagonal cuts right along each side of the rib and plucking the stem from the middle.

After doing this to each leaf, I stack them all on top of each other, roll them up like I’m chiffonading basil, make a slice lengthwise down the middle, and then again perpendicularly into strips — this makes perfect little rectangles for sauteeing.

Sliced up half an onion…

Then, in a separate pan, I heated up some coconut oil, and let the onion caramelize with some salt for a few minutes.

In went all the greens, and as they cooked down to the size of the pan, I added some jerk seasoning, a splash of cider vinegar, and some black pepper.

I wanted to add just a bit of chicken broth, but I’ll let you in on a secret.  You know those recipes that tell you to add like half a cup of chicken broth?  It’s like, who has that?  Any commercial liquid broth that’s open in the fridge will go back long before I get a chance to use half a cup of it, and any bullion requires a separate pot to make the broth in…for half a cup?  Here’s what I do: I make my own chicken stock each time I roast a chicken — about once a month — and keep the stock in serving-size containers in the freezer, usually cottage cheese-sized.

Then I use these the same way you’d use a stick of butter to grease a cooking pan: take out the fist-sized ice cube, and place it in the pan of whatever needs a little extra richness.

Not for too long — maybe 3 minutes, until just a few layers (or about half a cup!) melt off.  Then, put the broth cube back in the cottage cheese container and replace in the freezer.  No harm done, no broth wasted, no extra pot to clean.

Did I mention that I don’t have a sink in my kitchen?

Yep, 4 years and approximately 3,800 meals cooked…without a kitchen sink.  Just one of the many things I’m really, really excited about in my new house.

So anyway, I took the greens off the heat and let them absorb the rest of that broth while they cooled, and returned the salmon-and-sauce pan back to medium-high heat for another five minutes or so until the salmon had finished cooking and was wonderfully warm and caramelized.


This Week’s Groceries

Trader Joe’s 7/9

  • Sockeye salmon fillets: $6.69
  • Cod fillets: $4.39
  • Roasted plantain chips: $1.69 — for the bike ride home.  
  • 2 cans tuna: $3.38

TOTAL: $16.15



QFC 7/11

  • Roma tomatoes: $1.00
  • Green pepper: $0.94
  • Half & half: $2.29
  • Cottage cheese: $2.99
  • Red onion: $0.55
  • Cucumber: $1.79

TOTAL: $9.56



New Seasons 7/11

  • Collard Greens: $2.49

TOTAL: $2.49


Mushroom Orzo with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens

Posted on

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!