Sausage Sweet Potato Hash, Asian Style Green Beans, & Brown Rice

Posted on

sausage sweet potato hash

Well hello there!  Yes, it’s been awhile, I know.  I sort of slipped into a funk there about what this blog is about, and I’ll tell you why: Living by myself, keeping up with what I was buying, cooking, and eating was super simple.  I did all my own grocery shopping, cooked nearly every meal for myself, and always knew what was in my cupboards, freezer, and fridge.  And, sticking to my $6 a day budget really was a challenge.  There were some months there where I had $6 left in the last week of the month and had to invest it in greens, making brown-rice-black-bean-collard bowls for the rest of the month.  (Which, honestly, is not a bad way to go.  It’s actually one of my favorite weeknight meals!  Especially if you have some good hot sauce on hand.)

But, moving in with Jesse has been a whole different ballgame.  I still do almost all of the grocery shopping, kitchen organizing, and cooking, which I certainly can’t complain about.  If that’s the way our division of labor shakes out and I get to sit back and knit while he fixes an emergency leak in the upstairs shower, or cleans the gutters on Saturday morning, I’m a lucky girl.  But, it does complicate things for the purpose of this blog.  For instance:

  • Jesse is a fantabulous cook, but he goes about it waaaaay differently than I do.  He simply wakes up in the morning, decides he wants to eat beef stroganoff for dinner, and then goes to Fred Meyer on his way home and buys every single ingredient, including most of the spices and pantry items we already have.  I’m grateful to have a delicious meal waiting for me when I come home from work, so this is not the battle I pick, but while that’s still part of our shared grocery expenses, it’s certainly not the way I roll!
  • I can scrupulously save receipts from every purchase and catalog them at the end of the week, but asking that of Jesse is a losing battle, so my weekly tally of grocery spending never felt totally accurate, and that bugged me so much!
  • Jesse eats at home way less than I do.  Whether it’s picking up a sandwich from Subway for his work lunch, or Mexican takeout after a late night of bowling, or just the fact that he doesn’t eat breakfast OR leftovers, the fact of the matter is, our household consumption is pretty skewed.  I eat 3 different meals at home (or bring them with me wherever I’m going) most days out of the week, and while they’re inexpensive and made using simple ingredients, the fact of the matter is I’m consuming about 70 percent of our groceries these days, which makes it really hard to really figure out the math of whether we’re truly supporting two grown adults (one of whom can put down three burritos in one sitting…and it’s not me!) on six dollars a day.

So, while I certainly haven’t stopped cooking, shopping frugally, or getting creative with my leftovers, I did stop blogging about it for about eight months!  But, recent requests from certain friends and customers have convinced me to get back into it, realizing that maybe this blog will just have to revamp its purpose.

So, I probably won’t be taking snapshots of all my receipts, keeping a running total, or showing you the breakdown of what each ingredient costs.  But, I will keep taking pictures of meals that I’m proud of, and telling you how I made them!  And you’ll just have to trust that I’m still scouting out the best deals at the grocery store, buying for the future, and getting creative with what’s already taking up space in our freezer/pantry/fridge/cupboards.

This one was a wonderfully collaborative meal, totally by surprise, and was actually precipitated by an argument about Point #3 above.  Every once in awhile, when it comes time to reconcile the monthly bills (which includes all the groceries we put on our shared credit card), Jesse gets all grumpy-pants about it, huffing that he pays for half the groceries, even though he barely eats any of them.  Which, I believe, is really not my problem.  Whether or not you choose to partake, you have a healthy, home-cooked meal waiting for you every night, plenty of leftovers for us both to take to work, and I even make most of our dinners with you in mind (i.e. usually featuring meat and/or cheese, Wisco-style!)

Being able to to share fridge space, grocery costs, cooking, and mealtimes is supremely important to me — and a requirement for me even with a regular old roommate, let alone a life partner.  Even in college, I entered every roommate situation making it clear that I did not want to have the kind of fridge where we each have our own shelf, shop independently, and label our own milk with our names in Sharpie.  Being able to share in each other’s nourishment is one of the most loving things we can do together, and I have been adamant since day one that if we are going to split the mortgage, water bills, and 50-lb. bags of food for our pup, then we should be splitting groceries too, because they are (and should be) part of our life together.

For me, part of sharing groceries also welcomes open conversations about what we’re eating, what we’re spending, what we want to cook together — whether it’s a savory midweek crockpot meal or a gigantic smoked brisket for a party.  It means that if our grocery bill is too high one month, let’s talk about it and figure out why and decide ways together to pare it down.  It means that even though you may not ever eat any of the cottage cheese that I make my morning Israeli salads with, you also get that entire package of Oreos to yourself, or if you want to eat a frozen pizza for dinner one night, go for it!  I’ll split that with you too even if I’m not having any.

I came home from work that day armed with all these arguments in mind, ready to make my case, only to find Jesse had already worked all this out in his own head over the course of the day, and was agreeing with all my points before they even finished coming out of my mouth — the best kind of frustrating.

And, on that note, I dug some random veggies out of the drawer that I thought would complement each other — zucchini, onion, and sweet potato — and a package of chicken sausage out of the freezer where I like to keep random protein on hand just for occasions like this, pointed to the pile and said, “Okay, why don’t you make a hash out of that.”

This is one thing I love about cooking with Jesse: he is refreshingly compliant and capable.  Sometimes I’ll have a vision for dinner, and instead of trying to handle all the components I’ll pull up a recipe for one of my ideas, set up his tablet on the kitchen counter, and tell him to “make that.”  He’s really good at following directions.  The other side of this is that I can trust him to chop up whatever I put before him, add it to a skillet, and season it well by improvisation.  I honestly can’t even tell you what he put in this hash, but I do know he cooked the diced sweet potatoes first since he knew they’d take the longest, then added the onion and sausage, and cooked the sliced zucchini separately so it wouldn’t get too mushy.  Swoon.

In the meantime, I trimmed the ends off of a big bag of green beans I bought last week, heated up some peanut oil in the smaller skillet over medium heat, and tossed them in.  After they’d sauteed for about two minutes, I added some store-bought stir fry sauce — nothing fancy, just some Vietnamese-style bottle of something-or-other that’s been in our fridge for awhile.  While I probably could have whipped up a homemade version of this blend, I get antsy when there isn’t regular condiment turnover, and I’m sure I bought this at Grocery Outlet some time back because it was on crazy-super-sale, so I went for it.  This added some liquid to the skillet as well, which sped along the cooking process by adding the element of steam.  I ground up some peanuts (yes!  I have  nut grinder!  It’s one of my favorite appliances, probably because I love cooking Asian food and about 60% of my meals involve chopped peanuts), and added them to the pan, causing them to get nice and toasty and also caramelize in the sauce.

I almost always have a batch of cooked brown rice already on hand in the fridge, so we just nuked some of that, spooned Jesse’s hash over top, and ate the green beans on the side.

Easy Summertime Grillin’

Posted on

I’m happy to report that the only meal I had the opportunity to take pictures of this week was entirely grilled.  And that’s because I got to spend my “weekend” (Monday/Tuesday) staying at a souped-up cabin near Mt. Hood, taking an Internet-free vacation while Jesse worked on refinishing the basement of said cabin.  And well, when you’re staying at a cabin and buying meal-to-meal groceries, and have this at your disposal, it just sort of makes sense.

It’s a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.  Jesse’s been up there for three weeks himself, working 10 to 16 hour days, but then getting to enjoy the fact that he’s temporarily living here, all the while.

But truly, it’s an even sweeter deal for me.  Because I just get to hop in my car, cruise an hour and a half along the Columbia River, and arrive at his doorstep to visit and keep him company, armed with tote bags full of books, knitting, lounging clothes, and a bottle of wine.

He spent most of his waking hours down here…

And I spent mine here.

Or at my makeshift office.

Or catching up on phone calls while knitting on the deck (that Jesse built last fall when I got to come visit and do the exact same thing!).

Or zipping on the zip line.  For real, there is a zip line.

The color of that shed is, incidentally, the same color (and future trim) as my new house!

Or enjoying the view from the end of the driveway.

And in the evenings, Jesse washes all the drywall out of his hair, and we make dinner together.

On my way out of town, I stopped by New Seasons and picked up some of their pre-marinated kebabs, a big handful of green beans, some sliced almonds, a red onion, a bag of fingerling potatoes, and some young garlic spears, which I was soooo stoked to see!

Jesse took care of the grillin’.

Meanwhile, I slathered the potatoes in some oil, salt, pepper, and spices, and roasted them at 400 for about 45 minutes.

And then during the final ten minutes of roasting, I quickly sauteed up the green beans in a big pad of butter, with some nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper, blackening the sides.  I could have waited a little longer to throw in these thinly sliced almonds, but just between you and me, I kind of love the taste of burnt.

Everything about this meal makes me excited for his eventual living under the same roof of this house that I am buying.

This Week’s Groceries

QFC 6/1

  • Half gallon milk: $1.99
  • Whole bean coffee: $7.73

TOTAL: $9.72



Fred Meyer 6/2

  • Frozen has browns: $1.99 — My DIY ethos usually forbids me from buying these, but as you’ll see below, I was making 2 gigantic breakfast casseroles for “the morning after” Kate’s cocktail party and this was a necessity
  • Mushrooms: $1.89
  • Potato bread: $2.00
  • Shredded cheese: $4.00
  • Bell peppers: $4.08
  • Limes: $1.00
  • Breakfast sausage: $2.89
  • Yellow onion: $0.55
  • Cucumber: $1.38

TOTAL: $19.73



New Seasons 6/4

  • Sliced almonds: $0.70
  • Young garlic spears: $2.50
  • Fingerling potatoes: $3.99
  • Roma tomatoes: $1.00
  • Green beans: $2.30
  • Red onion: $1.32
  • Rosemary garlic beef kabob: $4.50
  • Spicy Thai pork kabob: $2.87
  • Teriyaki beef kabob: $2.45
  • Olives: $4.50

TOTAL: $26.13



Asian Green Bean Salad & Arugula Brown Rice Pasta Salad w/Adzuki Beans

Posted on
Okay, whew that was a busy month.  Back on the wagon (thanks, Amy!).  Well, the summer of crazy is not nearly over, but I did finally get my Monday/Tuesday off this week, so I decided to get a jump on lunches.  

I only have two days at work since I’m heading up to the Gorge on Thursday night for a weekend of Phish, but woefully all that is in my work fridge is an obscene amount of cheese and salami, left over from the less-than-expected turnout at the Sock Summit After Hours party last Thursday night.  I’m talkin’ like two full cases of beer here.  Although, I’m sure none of the 12 people I’m caravaning out there with this weekend will complain.

So, a quick little stop at New Seasons on my bike ride home yesterday yielded this:

coffee: $11.29 — My current fave is Portland Roasting Company’s Organic Tanager’s Song.  New Seasons sample table, you done good!
: $2.99 — I have been craving this all week.
: $1.29 — Serious restraint here.  I could eat 2+ cucumbers a day in the summer if I let myself.  Actually, I don’t know why I don’t let myself.  More cucumbers to come in the future.
: $4.47
yellow onion
: $1.71
green beans
: $3.65 — Just wait.
: $0.99 — Yum.
yellow bell pepper
: $1.32
butter lettuce
: $1.99 
stew meat: $5.29 — Stew in the summer? Hey, when you live in a basement, anything goes

TOTAL: $34.99

Unfortunately I have zero pictures to account for this, but am proud to discover that July came in fantastically under-budget, even accounting for all our groceries at String Summit last weekend, wherein Jesse and I prepped a whole bunch of superdelicious food so we wouldn’t even have to think about it when it came time to eat a hearty meal in between the music — including bell pepper & chicken masala, and some intense smoked gouda-ham-broccoli-mushroom mac & cheese.  I’m pretty confident that after another month or two my grocery costs will have averaged back out to my goal!

In any case, looking ahead to this week, I know it’s going to be a busy one, and I was clearly craving green, green, green, so here’s what I came up with:

For starters, an Asian green bean salad.  Simple, simple, simple.  I saw that the green beans were finally from California so I scooped up a whole bunch, and trimmed the ends off with scissors.  

That there is a handful of Trader Joe’s Thai Lime & Chili Cashews.

I heated up some olive oil over medium-high heat, and threw in the green beans, whole.  I like them charred, like they just came off the grill, so I let them cook for about ten minutes or so until they’re just barely still crunchy, seasoning them with salt and nutritional yeast as they cook.  

These beans are so delicious they could totally just be eaten as-is, but for some extra oomph, I tossed them in a bowl with the chopped up cashews, and a dressing made from the Asian triumvirate of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce.  

These are delicious both hot or chilled, so I munched on some while I cooked, and then saved the rest to refrigerate and bring to work — leaving a hefty enough portion to last me at least two lunches this week!

Especially in the summer, my favorite super quick and easy go-to dish for multiple lunches is pasta salad.

As noted, I’ve been craving arugula like crazy lately, so I started with a bunch of that.  There are few veggies in this world that I have the patience to de-stem and wash (hence all the bulk spinach you see in my grocery lists; the fact that New Seasons has pre-washed-and-trimmed spinach that you can buy by the handful makes it my favorite grocery store, hands down), but in this moment, arugula was one of them.

I chopped this up first and started with it in the big bowl before the pasta, because I wanted the heat from the cooked pasta to wilt it just perfectly.

Mission accomplished.

Super simple dressing here — some Classico pesto right out of the jar, and a few spoonfuls of TJ’s olive tapenade.

And then just a dash of apple cider vinegar and some salt!

I also noticed these adzuki beans in the bulk aisle the other day.  I have no idea what they are, but now that I’ve eaten about a third of this salad already, I think I’ll soak and boil them up, add them in, and see what happens.

Green Bean Salad, Savory Bulghur, and Swordfish

Posted on
If a month-long blogging hiatus is not enough to evidence a busy summer, let me just state for the record…it’s been busy.  Between running the new UCU indie craft market at the Northwest Folklife Festival over Memorial Day, impromptu barbecues, a trek up Dog Mountain, a bachelorette party, and a visit from my oldest friend, I have not been left with a lot of time for taking pictures of my food.

Admittedly, it’s a lot easier to stick to an $150-a-month food budget when the summer crazy sets in and fall evenings that used to be spent making elaborate soups and casseroles are replaced with burritos from Los Gorditos.  
I should point out two things here — one is that, since six dollars a day works out to about $180 a month, I do have a little cushion built in for the occasional grab-and-go dinner, as well as a whole separate part of my budget dedicated to eating out, which averages out to approximately $90 a month.
So I recognize that the eating-out-to-cooking-at-home ratio rises in the summer and falls in the winter, and that between the supplementary eating-out budget, going over to friends’ houses for dinner, and a creative use of leftovers, it all works out.

So, that being said, I had some time last night to whip up a quick little dinner before meeting my friend at Beulahland.  I’ve had my eye on the green beans at New Seasons for months now, waiting for them to turn local, and they finally have!  

Now I have an excuse to try out this recipe, which, featuring pickled onions, makes me very excited.  That’s the first step, in fact, to make a little marinade of:

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1.5 teaspoons sugar

and to that added half a red onion and a couple stalks of celery, both chopped, letting them marinade while I worked on the rest.  

I trimmed the stems off of the green beans and boiled them for just three quick minutes.

Then I heated a handful of almonds in a saucepan with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bit of nutritional yeast on medium high heat until they were warm, then added the green beans for the last minute, just to get them a little toasty, salty, and brown.  

This mixture went into a big mixing bowl and got the pickled veggies and dressing spooned over top!

Meanwhile, I had cooked up some bulghur (boiled a cup of water with some salt and butter, and added half a cup of bulghur once it was boiling, then turning the stove down to simmer until all the water had been absorbed.

And finally, for some protein, I pan-fried some Trader Joe’s swordfish that I had in the freezer, along with some basic commercial pesto.

I can never go through pesto quickly enough before it starts to get moldy, so I started keeping this in my freezer and just using a spoonful here and there whenever I need, letting whatever food I’m mixing it into heat it up back to its regular oily state, and it works perfectly.

I added just enough white wine to deglaze the pan once everything had started to brown, and with some salt and pepper on top, it was perfect.