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!