Chicken Thighs, Brown Rice, Mushroom Gravy & Broccolini

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When Jesse tells me a dinner I cook on my cleanse is as good as any regular dinner, I know I’m doing something right.  Here’s proof that you can cut these 10 inflammatory food groups out of your diet and still eat like a queen:


1) Brown rice: I always have a pot of this in the fridge or out on the stovetop even when I’m not cleansing, so this was a no-brainer.  I use brown rice as everything from salad filler to a substitute for the bread in a breakfast bird’s nest, so there’s at least 1-2 servings of this already cooked and on hand at all times.

2) Chicken: I shop at Costco once a month and splurge on 1 type of meat to keep in the freezer.  They usually come in packs of 3, so after the first few months we’ve always had a rotation of yummy, organic, easy proteins on hand.  This month we have big 3-lb. packs of boneless skinless chicken thighs, which I defrosted the day before and marinated in a tupperware overnight with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, some dried spices, and basil from the garden.  Heated our cast iron skillet on high to sear them, and then once the chicken had released some of its juices, turned it down and threw in half a bunch of…

3) Broccolini: I splurged this week and went to New Seasons, which seems to be the only place in town that carries broccolini.  With all the juices and seasonings from the chicken, I didn’t need to do a single thing to the broccolini.  Just set it in the skillet for the last 5 minutes of chicken cooking, put a lid on top so it would steam and cook everything fully, and stirred it around a bit halfway through so all the sides would get nice and caramelized.

4) Gravy: This was actually totally Jesse’s idea.  We had a handful of mushrooms in the fridge on the verge of going bad, and I asked what he thought we should do with them.  Gravy!  So I sliced them up, sauteed them in olive oil and salt, and then sprinkled them with a few spoonfuls of white bean flour.  Once it thickened and started to get gummy, I added a small amount of coconut milk, to give it creaminess, but I didn’t want it to taste too coconutty, so I thinned it out with water and let it re-thicken to the right consistency.  Even with some fresh basil it was still missing something, and I didn’t want to keep adding salt (which is a hard crutch to shake when my usual vices of soy sauce, hot sauce, or chili flakes are all off-limits) so instead I added a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and it was perfect.  I’ve been eating this gravy on everything all week!

mushroom gravy

Crispy Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Domino Potatoes

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This was a meal that was born out of my perusing my Pinterest to-cook list and choosing two seemingly unrelated dishes, but once I cooked them on the same night, realized they form a perfect symbiosis, and that these two dishes must always be made at the same time, from hereon out.  Here’s why:

I started by dredging the chicken breasts in a simple mixture of flour, salt, and herbs on a big plate.  (I went with bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts instead of thighs because we’ve been doing a lot of the drums-and-thighs lately and Jesse’s not so into picking meat off of bones), and browning them in coconut oil in the skillet.  Once both sides had been nicely browned, I transferred the breasts to a separate skillet, leaving the drippings in the original skillet, off the heat.

In the meantime, I prepped the domino potatoes, which — beautifully complicated as they look — really only require about two steps.  First, I made some clarified butter by melting a stick of butter in a small saucepan, and cooking it down until it had turned a nice rich brown and the milk solids had separated, at which point I strained it into a little dish for brushing on the potatoes later.  Then, our mandoline finally got to make its debut appearance!

Crusty Chicken Breasts and Domino Potatoes

I have always been wary of the mandoline; it inevitably feels like so much more effort to set up, take apart, and clean than it is ever worth, and when faced with this task, I always find myself willing to settle for uneven matchstick carrots.  But, for the record, this mandoline is super easy to both set up and clean, and really made this dish what it was.  In no other universe could I have done this by hand in only five minutes:

Crusty Chicken Breasts and Domino Potatoes

All you have to do is slice off the round ends of 4 Russet potatoes so that they’re rectangular, then slice them into these perfectly thin little “dominoes” which you then fan out on a baking sheet, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and then baste with the clarified butter and sprinkle with salt — in this case, Magic Unicorn salt — before popping them in to bake for 40 minutes.

Crusty Chicken Breasts and Domino Potatoes

Here’s what Tucker thinks about Magic Unicorn salt:

Crusty Chicken Breasts and Domino Potatoes

Okay, so those guys are baking in the oven, and if you’re more efficient than I was on this evening you’ll pop that waiting skillet of browned chicken in there at the same time so it will finish cooking (if you used thighs you may not need to do this?  It definitely took the large chicken breasts at least another 30 minutes to cook all the way through, which I hadn’t considered until the potatoes were just about done).

While the oven is taking care of both of those, I reheated the skillet that had the leftover chicken fat from earlier, and sauteed half an onion, a few cloves of minced garlic, and a few giant handfuls of chopped mushrooms with some salt.  On a whim, I also threw in the leftover flour/salt/spice mixture that I had used for the chicken, coating the veggies so that once I added the liquid, this gravy would be nice and thick.

Once everything started to sizzle I poured in some white wine to deglaze the pan, let that simmer for a bit, and then added a few splashes of this, which had played a starring role in some scalloped potatoes I made last week.

Crusty Chicken Breasts and Domino Potatoes

According to my slapdash label — milk, dijon, spice, and salt — this seemed like a perfectly complementary savory liquid to add to the mushroom gravy while the chicken continued to cook.  And trust me, it was.  (This is why our fridge is half-full with random jars and tubs of marinades and sauces; if it’s already been used to infuse one fantastic meal, chances are it can only be better the second time around.  I can only guess that the starch from the scalloped potatoes had something to do with the wonderful finished texture of this sauce…)

Be patient, use a meat thermometer, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have just enough time left to throw together a quick salad, so that everything comes out of the oven and off of the stove looking like this.

Crusty Chicken Breasts and Domino Potatoes

Gnocchi with Mushroom Ragu and Stuffed Chickpea Crepes

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I set out this week to make this recipe for gnocchi with mushroom ragu — the meal was actually inspired by a package of gnocchi I got a killer deal on last week, so I used store-bought instead of the homemade version in that recipe.  Homemade gnocchi always seems like an unnecessary pain.  If I’m going to waste some calories on empty potato starch, it had better be becasue it makes for an easy weeknight meal and only takes 5 minutes to cook!  I’ll save labor-intensive for if I ever decide to make my own fettucine.chickpea crepes and gnocchi with mushroom ragu

The recipe for the mushroom ragu is so dang simple I don’t really know what I can say about it.  I bought a pound of delicious mushrooms at the Portland Fruit Company, sauteed them with butter and garlic and a teaspoon of homemade rub that was a Christmas gift from one of our friends this year, then added wine and stock (didn’t have any thyme), and a few teaspoons of corn starch to thicken it up.  Then topped it off with some fresh lemon juice and cream!

A pound of mushrooms really doesn’t make a whole lot of sauce once it cooks down — just enough to liberally cover two small servings of gnocchi, which was only about half the package — the rest will get turned into something else later in the week!  Oh, but after cooking the gnocchi in boiling water and straining them, I did fry them up in some coconut oil on the stovetop so they were nice and toothy.

This would never have been enough food for Jesse “I’m a growing boy” Hanson’s dinner, so fortunately I had pulled this recipe for chickpea crepes from my Pinterest to try out for this week.  I would never think of crepes as being particularly filling, but since these are made entirely with chickpea flour, they actually packed a pretty filling punch and made for great little handheld shells in which to make mini DIY salad tacos.

The crepes are super easy.  You just mix up all the following ingredients in a bowl, and let it sit while you prep the rest of the meal:

  • 1 1/3c chickpea flour
  • 1c water (I added more so that the pancakes would be thinner)
  • 1/2 jalapeno
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 1c chopped cilantro
  • 2t salt
  • 1t cayenne

After whisking those together and letting it sit, I added more water until it was the consistency I wanted — like pancake batter.  I heated up some coconut oil in our skillet and made these pancakes one ladle-ful at a time, letting them cook most of the way through on one side, then flipping them momentarily to finish them off.  Our skillet has a pretty nice patina at this point so I didn’t have to re-oil the pan more than once or twice.

By the end, I had a big plate full of these protein-y, filling, spicy, savory crepes, which were served DIY-style, each of us adding our own ratio of salad greens, leftover black beans, green onions, and dressing (choices were lemon-tahini-yogurt, or garlic-dijon-vinaigrette) as the filling and eating them taco-style with our hands.  Delish!

chickpea crepes and gnocchi with mushroom ragu

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

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We have a new addition to our household.

It’s a smoker.

This was a fantastic, much-drooled-over housewarming gift from our friend Tyler, whose promise of Jesse’s dream grill, months ago, finally came to fruition last week, and just in the nick of time.  We had a chili cook-off slated for just two days later, and you’d better believe what we did to our meat.

Yup, mesquite-smoked tri tip steak, and a delicately scientific combination of many other secret ingredients that kept us up until 1:00 a.m. last Friday night, perfecting our entry.

So pretty much, everything this week has been smoked.

From left: trout, lamb leg, pork, chicken, tri-tip steak, rib-eye steak, lamb something-or-other, wheat berry salad, harvest slaw, kale salad, edamame carrot salad, whole baby red potatoes, and blue cheese stuffed smoked pears.

It’s soup season, folks, and we’re kicking it off with some rich homemade mushroom soup, the kind that puts Campbell’s to shame.

I bought a mix of criminis and shitakes for this purpose, and started off by sauteeing about two pounds of them, chopped, in some homemade chicken stock, along with a chopped yellow onion.

To this, I added some fresh chopped dill, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, another cup or so of sauce, and a tablespoon of paprika.

I covered this and let it simmer for a few minutes, waiting for the mushrooms to release their liquid, while I made some side dishes: green beans with masala and coconut milk, and some brown and wild rice with frozen peas, carrots, and some Indian seasonings.

After that, I made a little roux, to thicken up the soup — not as much as I’d make for my cheese sauce, but enough to fill a little saucepan and pour into the soup as it finished cooking — this is just a simple mixture of butter, flour, and milk, cooked down into a smooth paste.

You can see how this thickens and lightens the soup just a bit.  I also chopped up a few stalks of celery and added those in at this point, so that they’d still have a hearty texture when the soup was finished.

I let this all simmer together a little longer, and just before serving, added some salt, lemon juice, more fresh dill, and cracked black pepper, to taste.

This Week’s Groceries

Fred Meyer 10/12
  • Chili powder: $1.96 — Guess what we were making!
  • Tomato paste: $1.29
  • Cumin: $0.99
  • Tomato sauce: $1.59
  • Green chiles: $1.59 

TOTAL: $7.42

Portland Fruit Company 10/16
  • Bell peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Yellow onions
  • Fresh dill
  • Crimini and shitake mushrooms
  • Cucumber
  • Green beans
TOTAL: $15.19
Grocery Outlet 10/17
  • Ground espresso: $3.99
  • Hummus: $2.99
  • Pumpkin seeds: $2.99
  • Frozen peas and carrots: $1.29
  • Shredded asiago cheese: $1.99
  • Orange juice: $1.99
  • 1% milk: $1.99
  • Sourdough bread: $2.49
TOTAL: $19.72

Bell Peppers Stuffed with Oyster Mushrooms, Sweet Potato, and Cheesy Red Rice

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Can I tell you how much I love the Portland Fruit Company?  Sooooo much.  It has become a permanent part of my Tuesday afternoons, swinging by after whatever other errands or appointments I’ve lined up on my “day off.”  It’s not even that it’s got sucha  gigantic selection, or that all the produce is super organic (but I think it’s mostly all local?), but they have just the right amount of everything, enough new stuff each week to give me a suggestive nod at a new dish, and are crazy, crazy cheap.  Like I walk away with a bag full of fruits and veggies that would cost me probably $28 at New Seasons, for only $16.93.  And there’s always something yummy near the register like fresh peaches or plums that I can grab one or two of, for the bike ride home, for like $0.38.

This week, I was wooed by the mushrooms.  I usually go for crimini, because they’re the cheapest, but this time I was like, you know, it’s the beginning of the month, I have a little wiggle room now that Jesse’s grocery budget is combined with mine, and seriously, the oysters are not that expensive.

So that’s how this meal started.  Wednesday night, I had the house to myself while Jesse went out on a bike ride with his friend.  It was also a chicken-roasting night, prepping some meat and stock to have on hand for the rest of the night, so I decided to whip up some stuffing for roasted peppers while that sat in the oven.

First: a few stalks of celery, some jalapeno, and half a yellow onion.

Then, I added in the cubed yam, and let that sautee and soften up, adding a bit of chicken stock when the pan got too dry, and added about half a pound of chopped oyster and shitake mushrooms.

Meanwhile, I had started 1 cup of red rice cooking, with just a bit of salt and nothing else.  Red rice takes a little longer than white rice — but not quite as long as brown rice — to cook, so it was done right as this skillet was done cooking.

In it goes…

And finally, some shredded cheddar cheese to get it all sticking together.  And tasting delicious.  I bought an amazing cheese grater from Ikea that lets you grate the cheese directly into a seal-able Tupperware, so I’ve started doing this to a 1-lb brick of Tillamook every few weeks and just keeping it in our cheese drawer.  This is genius.  Way to go, Ikea.

I had bought two beautiful orange bell peppers, just for this occasion.

These got stuffed, and placed directly into the roasting pan with my chicken for its last 20 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees.

Oh, and of course, there are TONS of leftovers of the stuffing, so I’ve been eating that for lunches this week with a few slices of the chicken breast and red cabbage slaw.  Also, I just have to say, I still have not gotten over the novelty of having a kitchen sink.  Guys, it is SO MUCH EASIER to clean up while you cook and always have an uncluttered, everything-in-its-place kitchen with sparkling countertops when you can do dishes as you go and wipe everything down with a sponge!!  Seriously, I hope this never gets old.

This Week’s (and last week’s) Groceries

Grocery Outlet 9/22

  • Spring mix: $4.99
  • Coffee beans: $6.49
  • Granola: $0.99
  • Cucumber: $0.79
  • Cherry tomatoes: $0.99

TOTAL: $14.25



Portland Fruit Company 10/2

  • Shitake mushrooms: $3.01
  • Cucumbers: $0.80
  • Kale: $1.29
  • Carrots: $1.11
  • Sweet onion: $0.61
  • Red onion: $0.47
  • Ginger: $0.28
  • Sweet potatoes: $0.68
  • Cantaloupe: $1.95
  • Celery: $0.99
  • Asian pear: $0.72
  • Bartlett pear: $0.23
  • Roma tomatoes: $0.83
  • Random produce (not specified on receipt): $3.96

TOTAL: $16.93



New Seasons 10/2

  • Sea salt: $2.34
  • Himalayan salt: $2.99
  • Dozen eggs: $2.99
  • Dave’s Killer Seed Bread: $4.99 — I think this is the first time I’ve bought a loaf of bread in 5 years!  I’ve been off the breadbaking wagon lately, but do crave some dank toast in the morning sometimes with a fried egg or some cottage cheese and roma tomatoes.  This loaf stays in the freezer for those occasions.
  • Cottage cheese: $4.49
  • Milk: $3.39
  • Whole roasting chicken: $10.71
  • Olives: $3.80

TOTAL: $35.28

REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: $247.79 — So far this seems like $300 a month for the two of us will be a piece of cake.  Granted, Jesse hasn’t been around as much for dinners this week and definitely doesn’t make all his breakfasts and lunches like I do, so we’ll see if his contributing an equal share is really realistic for the time being…


Tilapia Yakisoba

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I came home on Monday from 5 days out in the woods, living out of a cooler (though a very methodically-stocked gourmet cooler, if I do say so myself), and the only errand I could come up with that seemed appealing on my 89-degree day off was a trip to Fubonn.  Oh man, do I love Fubonn.

Even though at this point I like to think I have a handle on it — which items I’m looking for, their approximate location in the store, I prove myself wrong every time, and even if I think I’m just going to pick up a gigantic $3 bottle of sesame oil, I end up wandering the aisles in a daze for at least 2 hours, comparing brands of coconut milk ounce-for-ounce, wondering whether it’s worth it to get the bamboo shoots in the glass jar rather than the can, and marveling over how the Indian curry paste is clear across the warehouse-size store from the Thai curry paste!  And then, just when you think you’ve wrapped your head around it all…here comes a whole new aisle of soy sauce.  It looks just like the first aisle from 75 minutes ago, but here it is again!  Why?!

I always begin with a Vietnamese iced coffee from the deli counter-esque area right at the entrance which is served over the most finely crushed ice you can imagine, and with a vacuum-sealed plastic cover.  How do they do that?  I ponder this while I snake up and down the aisles with a gigantic shopping cart and just let it take me where it will.  This usually lands me in the checkout line with the most random assortment of foods you can imagine, and an absurdly low total bill.  I regret not having taken a picture of my loot, because truly, it carpeted the entire register area and somehow came to only $50-something.

And it is also how Tilapia Yakisoba became a thing.  I didn’t think I wanted to actually end up cooking anything Tuesday night, on what had been a swelteringly hot day.  But you never know…after the sun goes down in Portland, the temperature really plummets — enough where I was even able to go for an evening run, shower, change into pajamas and decide I was done sweating for the night.  And then cook a meal on the stovetop.

This was definitely a “get rid of all the veggies that are about to go bad” kind of meal, especially the ones we’d chopped up for the weekend and brought in the cooler but had never used in the chicken masala Sunday night.  And, I was curious what dirt-cheap tilapia from an undisclosed location tasted like.  It was already frozen, and not going to be the main star of the show, so I fried it up in the skillet, letting it defrost as it cooked.

These mushrooms and green onions had already been sliced and stored — ready to go, there was no clearer option than to toss them in with a little salt and chili flakes and let them sautee up with the fish.  I also sliced up a red bell pepper and added this into the mix.

Then, of course, my favorite green to throw in the mix when I don’t have anything fresh is some wakame seaweed, perfectly salty and chewy once it gets a little dose of whatever juices it’s cooking in.

Maybe this is a misnomer, because I didn’t actually use soba noodles for this, but rather those wonderfully light Asian noodles that come curled up in these little balls and loosen up into wavy kinks like ramen once you cook them for just a minute or two.

I didn’t even use a colander to strain these, since I wanted a little extra water to loosen it all up, so I just drained them using the lid and then added them to the skillet with everything else.

I already had some sauce on hand that I’d made a few nights ago when I had made a delicious garlicky Asian green bean salad, comprised of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, honey, and garlic, which I added to this skillet-of-everything, and then augmented by adding a little more of the soy, vinegar, and oil.

By this point, the fish had broken up and distributed throughout the dish, so a few quick little stirs was all I needed to mix the sauce in, let it rest for five minutes, and then dish it up with a handful of bean sprouts on top to give it a refreshing crunch.  It was, after all, still 80 degrees outside by the time I took this out to my (new!) back porch to enjoy in my camping chair.  Someday soon I’ll have to get an actual table to eat at.

This Week’s Groceries

Grocery Outlet 8/4

  • Chopped walnuts: $3.99
  • Bagged cole slaw: $1.19
  • Tortillas: $2.09
  • Eggplant: $1.29
  • Bacos: $0.99
  • Ground turkey: $1.99
  • Almond milk: $1.49
  • Onion: $1.00
  • Tomatoes: $2.99

TOTAL: $17.02



Trader Joe’s 4/7

  • Fruit leather bits & pieces: $2.49
  • Bombay simmer curry sauce: $2.49
  • Turkey bacon: $2.99
  • Red pepper spread: $2.49 — my favorite condiment in the world!!
  • Cottage cheese: $1.99
  • Sliced black olives (x3): $3.57
  • Crumbled feta: $2.79
  • Orange peach mango juice: $2.99
  • Firm tofu (x2): $2.58
  • Tricolor radiatore pasta: $3.98
  • Salt & pepper potato chips: $2.99
  • Light champagne salad dressing: $1.99
  • Basil in a pot: $2.99 — I don’t live in a basement anymore so now I can plant this in my kitchen!!

TOTAL: $36.33 (split with Jesse, as these were ingredients to prep for camping, so really $18.17)



Fred Meyer 8/7

  • Red onion: $0.95
  • Green lettuce: $1.50
  • Cucumbers: $1.00
  • Crimini mushrooms: $4.19
  • Spinach: $0.99
  • Cheez-Its: $2.50
  • Garlic: $0.34
  • Collard greens: $1.39
  • Coffee beans: $6.63
  • Bell peppers: $4.18
  • Deli ham: $6.09
  • Deli turkey: $5.82
  • Deli salami: $2.75
  • Shredded cheese: $2.29
  • Pork sausage: $3.99
  • Limeade: $1.25
  • Grapefruit juice: $3.29
  • 1% milk: $2.99
  • Half & half: $2.49
  • Sliced provolone cheese: $3.00
  • Sliced gouda cheese: $3.00
  • Dozen eggs: $2.99

TOTAL: $63.57 (split with Jesse for camping supplies, so really $32.29)



Grocery Outlet 8/7

  • Spring greens mix: $4.99
  • Strawberries: $1.50
  • Eggplant: $1.29
  • Avocado: $0.99
  • Blue cheese crumbles: $2.49

TOTAL: $11.26



Fubonn 8/13 (detailed list coming soon)

TOTAL: $57.31

REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: -$8.59 — Okay, a little bit over for this month, but just you wait.  I’m going to be making yakisoba till the end of time.

Tex-Mex Calzones, and The Best Pizza Dough Ever

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Okay, so I didn’t exactly stick to my $5 grocery rule for this week.  This was due to an insane craving for some homemade calzones, fresh salad to offset a Hawaiian barbecue binge I had last Friday night with Jesse and Nate at Noho’s, and an impromptu decision to make some peanut ginger soba noodles with fried tofu, red bell peppers, and bok choy for dinner last night.  BUT, it’s all good, because next week/end is the Urban Craft Uprising summer show, and I guarantee you I will not be cooking next week.  It will instead be a week of calling in the saved-up Groupons, eating take-out, and most likely, the frozen-and-reheated remains of this here meal.  So basically what I’m saying is, by the time the UCU Summer Show is over, it will already be almost mid-July, I’ll have a freezer full of new leftover pizza and bagels from the staff room, and I’ll be back on track.

I haven’t been doing my weekly bread-baking thing lately.  In fact, ever since my cleanse this spring, I’ve been a little disenchanted with bread.  I definitely can’t say I’m “not doing gluten” or anything like that, but it’s been less of a major player in my life.  But, I do still crave foods that fill that bready role — something that I can use to wrap, support, or otherwise encase my food with.  Plus, sometimes I really just want pizza every day for a week, and this somehow feels like a healthier version of that.

And waaaaay easier.  I’ve never really been into homemade pizza — it seems like so much work for something that I ultimately consider to be a junk food that it always feels like a waste to me.  But calzones…calzones are as easy as–nay, easeir than–pie.

So, first let’s talk about the dough.  This meal was one of about six different things I had on my agenda for the evening, so I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time making a labor-intensive dough.  I turned to my online cooking bible, and lo and behold, she’s got a fantastic recipe for the best pizza dough ever.

I doubled her recipe, and then made a few little tweaks so that I ended up with the following ingredients sharing a mixing bowl:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
(After forming the dough, I then rolled it around in a handful of cornmeal, and the last of the rosemary I had lying around)

My favorite thing about this recipe is that it uses exactly the right amount of everything.  It’s not one of those dough recipes where you have to keep adding flour to dough it up…and the more water because it’s too dry…and them more flour because it’s too wet.  Nope, these ingredients are in this magical proportions so that, seriously, you just mix them all together with a fork, and then your hands, and you end up with a perfectly clean bowl, perfectly clean hands, and a perfect little ball of delicious dough, that you can wrap pretty much anything in and be stoked about it.  In fact, keep this on the DL, but I already have fantasies of pre-assembling dozens of breakfast calzones for festivals this summer, with eggs and sausage and veggies and cheese, to heat up on Jesse’s camp stove and eat with Kate’s infamous bloody marys in the morning.

So to make the calzone, I ripped off a little chunk of dough after letting it rise for about an hour, and rolled it out into a nice little round.

So then…the filling.

My original plan was actually to just do something super simple — a basic store-bought tomato sauce, some sauteed mushrooms and zucchini, fresh spinach, and mozarella.  Which I totally did.

But then I came home from the grocery to realize that I had already set a pot of pinto beans out soaking earlier, thinking I’d make some bean salad for lunches this week.

Knowing these couldn’t go to waste, I thought, there’s got to be some way to turn this into another awesome filling.  Enter the Tex-Mex Calzone.  I went ahead and cooked those beans, and then sauteed them in a hefty amount of olive oil and fresh chopped garlic.

Added some green bell peppers and diced up the last of a jalapeno I had in the fridge…

Added some V8 juice and taco seasoning and let this all reduce…

Stirred in some raw red onion, and decide with satisfaction that I had just created this delicious pinto-bean-veggie-enchilada stew.  Which is exactly what I spooned onto my little round of dough after letting it rise for an hour, tearing off a little chunk, and rolling it out as thin as I could with a rolling pin.

Full disclosure: those are not my hands.

(I like to stretch my calzone dough super thin.  I hate those calzones you get at restaurants that have like an inch-wide layer of dough, totally upstaging whatever it’s been filled with.  This gives it more of a thin, flaky crust, which perhaps would technically throw these more in the realm of the empanada, but I’m not going to get too technical here.)

But that’s not all.  Who knows why or how this occurred to me, but I remembered that I had a bag of Trader Joe’s tater tots in the freezer, and threw a couple of those on there as well.

Some shredded pepper jack cheese on top…

and then pinched all the edges of the dough together, sealing this puppy up, and put it in the oven on a baking sheet for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Oh.  My.  God.


This Week’s Groceries

Fred Meyer 6/27

  • Crimini mushrooms: $3.32
  • Head of lettuce: $1.00
  • Bok choy: $0.94
  • Zucchini: $0.78
  • Brick of tofu: $2.19
  • Pepper jack cheese: $3.00
  • Half and half: $1.59
  • Mozzarella cheese: $2.48
  • Fresh spinach: $0.99
  • Radishes: $.50
  • Pasta sauce: $1.37
  • Green bell pepper: $0.69
  • Red bell pepper: $1.50
  • Walla Walla onion: $0.58
  • Red onion: $1.02
  • Cucumber: $0.59
  • Cilantro: $0.49
  • Ginger root: $0.84
  • Garlic: $0.60

TOTAL: $24.37

REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: -$36.63 — to be remedied next month!!

Next week might be too crazy for cooking or blogging, so wish me luck at the show and I’ll see ya the following week!

Simple Lentil Stew with Couscous and Sauteed Asparagus

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I think the coming months will involve a lot of beans.  Why, you ask? Well, here’s the thing. I want to buy a house. Like a real, actual house. And it’s not going to be a total fixer-upper, and I’m going to do it all by myself. So even though my grocery budget it obviously one of the facets of my life that’s already super frugal and monitored by a watchful eye, I feel like I’m on a mission now, with this semi-arbitrary timeline I’ve concocted, of having a new house to move into by the end of the summer. (Yay for arbitrary timlines! Remember Yarnia’s grand opening?! Totally arbitrary.)

So even though I don’t actually plan on paring my food budget down below six dollars a day, I do feel like I’m entering into this more extreme version of frugality in the rest of my life — curbing the blase Amazon Prime purchases (free shipping can turn a rational person insane), really buttoning down going out (i.e. burritos instead of brewery sandwiches, cashing in on all my Groupons, and making better use of my flask when we go out to shows) — which just sort of makes me feel like I should also be eating beans and rice for most of my meals, so that I can eke out enough money within the next five months for a serious down payment.

Lucky for me, beans are awesome and I know how to cook them. I didn’t even really have to buy that many groceries this week — most of my haul was replacing staples that I’d run out of and needed to wait for my monthly budget to replenish, like an expensive jar of tahini, grains and spices from the bulk aisle, and coconut oil, as air popped popcorn with this magical ingredient has become somehwat of a nightly ritual for me.

In fact, this entire meal was concocted out of what I already had in my fridge, starting with a chopped onion, a few sliced carrots, and some minced garlic.

That got sauteed up over medium-high heat (in my new cast iron skillet!  LOVE!).  After about ten minutes, when everything was nice and shiny and translucent, I added a cup of dried grey lentils, a cup of homemade chicken broth, a few teaspoons of curry powder, two teaspoons of salt, and a few big glugs of V8 juice.

This is my new favorite way to make tomato broth.  I used to try to keep tomato paste on hand, but could never make use of it (or remember it was there, since tomato paste is packaged in ludicrously small quantities that allow it to get nestled in the back of my fridge), before it got moldy.  Canned diced tomatoes can be awesome when you want some texture in your dish, but sometimes the aluminum taste of canned food makes me nauseous.

But a few weeks ago when I was making some crock pot collard green rolls, I found a recipe that called for the rolls to be submerged in V8, which led me to purchase my very first bottle of the stuff — a huge, 2-liter bottle that seems to keep in the fridge for (so far) at least a month, and is comprised of nothing but yummy tomato-and-other-veggie juices.  I think I’ve found my perfect solution to the tomato base problem.

The lentil stew now gets covered, and simmers for about 45 minutes, while you make the couscous.  And then do whatever you want for 43 minutes, because couscous is the easiest grain you could choose to accompany a stew.

I wanted to have some leftovers, so I poured two cups of water into the pot, along with two teaspoons of my Penzeys Tandoori seasoning, a teaspoon of salt, a handful of raisins, and some pine nuts, and brought this all to a boil.  As soon as it had reached a boil, I added two cups of whole wheat couscous, gave it a stir, removed it from the heat, and let it sit with the lid on for five minutes before fluffing with a fork.

While I was doing all this, Jesse was busy making some stuffed mushrooms that we were prepping ahead of time for a dinner party at our friend’s house this Thursday night (and of course, a bunch of extra ones that we got to eat ourselves tonight, so we wouldn’t be anxiously hoarding them at the party).

These stuffed mushrooms — which I’m warning you, will disappear instantly — feature a perfect harmony of spinach, feta, and onion.

Leave it to a carpenter to be able to dice an onion smaller than I'd ever have patience for. What can I say? The man has precision.


Oh…and bacon.

And what’s great about these stuffed mushrooms is that you actually don’t chop up the stems and add them to the stuffing, they’re just discarded…which in our case meant halved, and sauteed up with some fresh, local, on-sale asparagus in garlic butter and fresh ground salt and pepper.

Quite a meal, if I do say so myself.  I’ve been doing yummy, crunchy vegetable salads at work all week, with hard boiled eggs and alfalfa sprouts, all wrapped up in some multigrain tortillas.  So that means I get to save my leftovers for at least 2 dinners this week.  So between that, our dinner party on Thursday, and a memorial for our friend on Friday (in which there will be copious amounts of food as usual, if I know anything about this crew of friends, as well as rumors of 100 delicious wings donated by what was our friend’s favorite restaurant, Fire On The Mountain), I think I’m pretty well set for this week.  T minus five months.  Let the games begin!

This Week’s Groceries

New Seasons 5/1

  • Coconut oil: $6.99
  • Tahini: $8.99
  • Yellow popcorn: $2.51
  • Whole allspice: $2.10
  • Cardamom cinnamon tea: $4.84
  • Mango Ceylon tea: $2.50
  • Nutritional yeast (small flake): $2.97
  • Almond flour: $4.15 — I’m still not done trying to make gluten-free crackers!
  • Soy Bacos: $0.88 — I love putting these in my salad dressings
  • Neufchatel cheese: $2.39 — For the stuffed mushrooms
  • Half gallon milk: $3.39
  • Half & Half: $2.29
  • Plain yogurt: $2.99
  • Mixed greens: $3.50
  • Cucumber: $0.99
  • Asparagus: $3.10
  • Bunch radishes: $1.49
  • Yellow onion: $0.94
  • Shallots: $1.20
  • Garlic: $0.96
  • Ginger: $0.63

TOTAL: $59.80


How did the rest of my Project: Food Budget-ers do?

Mushroom Garlic Lasagne

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My day began with a morning trip to the southeast before I could start my work, because I had left an incredibly necessary component at the store this weekend.  I’m not a big fan of going in to work on my days off, but at least it meant I got to swing my new favorite grocery store while I was down there!

1 package lasagna noodles ($2.49)
half gallon milk ($2.99)
feta cheese ($3.59)
1 honeycrisp apple ($0.82) — in case you haven’t noticed, wintertime is for veggies, summertime is for fruit
bag of red quinoa ($8.99) — planning a red quinoa salad for later this week
pound+ crimini mushrooms ($5.54) — you’ll see why soon!
1 red onion ($0.63)
bag of mixed greens ($2.31)
bunch of kale ($2.29)
1 acorn squash ($1.41) — roasted and chopped up in the sesame quinoa salad!
hunk of Parmesan ($3.85) 

TOTAL: $34.92

Remaining for the month: $115.09 

Sometimes when I’m reading food blogs I’ll bookmark particularly yummy looking posts and tag them with “recipes totry” in Delicious, then on days like today when I actually have time to think about what I want to eat before I go grocery shopping, I’ll pick out ingredients on purpose.

In Smitten Kitchen’s rendition of this recipe, she claims to have used FOUR pots and pans (a big deterrent for me, from the get-go) but in my version I only counted two, including the Pyrex I baked it in, and in which it will remain until it has been totally eaten (hopefully not until the end of my workweek!).

This meant cooking the pasta first — the key to consolidating dishes is to move your way to least to most dirty cooking processes.  Boiling pasta is basically just like cleaning the pot, right?  

So I cooked an entire box of lasagna noodles in salted boiling water with a splash of olive oil.  An entire box is definitely more than is necessary, but when are you ever going to use half a box of lasagna?  I’ll use the leftovers to make some sort of roll-ups to take to work later in the week.  Maybe chicken-pesto-mixed-greens?

Once I drained the pasta and set it aside to cool, I was back to an empty pot.  So I took these guys and sauteed them up in a few tablespoons of butter, olive oil, and a little salt (the liquid doesn’t evaporate as well in this deep a pot so I had to drain them before using them in the lasagna).

With those out of the picture, now I could make the bechamel sauce and dirty up the pot for real.  Bechamel is a super simple cream sauce, that always starts with equal-ish parts flour and butter — in this case I started with about half a stick of butter and half a cup of flour.

Melt the butter, then add the flour and stir it around until it forms a paste.  Now you can add the milk in slowly, and as you stir, the flour will thicken the sauce without it clumping.  This is how I start my cheese sauce, and usually here I’ll toss in some fresh rosemary or sage, but this sauce has a really great garlic flavor and I didn’t want to obscure that, so instead I threw in three huge cloves of chopped garlic, about a teaspoon of grated fresh nutmeg, 1.5 teaspoons of salt, and a bunch of ground black pepper.

After this sauce thickened I started layering in the Pyrex — noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and grated parmesan cheese, ad infinitum until I ran out of the first ingredient (mushrooms).

Make sure Parmesan is the final layer, and then pop it in the oven at 375 for 45 minutes.