A Night Off

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Sorry guys, no big post this week.  After 2+ weeks of working nonstop, waking up at 6am every morning, I finally get a break: today is not only Jesse’s birthday, but it’s also the first of our 3-night Furthur extravaganza weekend at the Edgefield, with lots of late night bluegrass all over town to follow the shows up.

Even though last night was technically our birthday celebration at home before being out with friends all weekend, Jesse ended up cooking for us, since I’ve been totally slammed all week trying to tie up loose ends so I can take a long weekend off.

This was pretty much the best thing I could have asked to come home to:

Herb and lemon trout, Brussels sprouts with bacon and mushrooms, and carrot ginger edamame salad

More to say next week — for now, I’m on vacation!


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That’s right, I have a new roommate!  Well, as it turns out, he’s much more than just a roommate, but that is what Jesse and I have been affectionately calling each other these past five days since he moved into my house (our house!).  I’ve been kind of blown away, actually, by how calm I feel despite the fact that all but three rooms of the house are completely filled with half-empty boxes,  and that the amount of stuff in the house feels like it just tripled in the course of a weekend.  In fact, living with Jesse feels as seamless and easy as everything has always felt with us, a comforting realization.

There is one question I’ve left lingering though, as the day of his impending move drew closer: how is this going to affect the blog??  I started Six Dollars A Day as a single lady, living alone, and while the number of shared dinners has grown over the past two years, that fact has remained the same, and my $6 a day budget has largely just pertained to myself.

So how am I going to maintain the integrity of the blog, while shopping for two…one of whom eats four times as much as I do, and who cooks at home less often than I stop for gas?  (And I am a bike commuter, if that clarifies anything…)

Of course, the logical solution is to just double the budget, right?  12 dollars a day for two people equals 6 dollars a day for one.  Even the differential in appetites I think will be offset by the economy of scale that can be achieved by splitting a $7 jar of peanut butter two ways.  I’m guessing the biggest hurdle will be Jesse adjusting to becoming a pantry cook, and me adjusting to his buy-10-different-ingredients-for-a-specific-craving-meal style of grocery shopping.

The cool news though is that he’s into it, he’s up for the challenge.  He’s excited about cooking bigger dinners, eating leftovers for lunch, working with what we have.  Given that we are both, in my opinion, awesome cooks in totally polar opposite ways (he cooks meat to perfection / I can make a side dish out of any 3 ingredients; he’ll follow an heirloom recipe to a Jesse tee of precision / I will take that idea I came up with last month and add the last half-cup of mango juice left in the jar to see what happens), I think we have some fantastic meals ahead of us.  And who knows?  $300 a month to play with, even for two hungry people, seems like an astronomical number to me…but maybe it’ll turn out to be more of a challenge than I anticipate!

We’ll kick it off with this entertaining and totally apt example: last night, after going to watch the swifts across the river with a bunch of our friends, we hung out at Matt and Erika’s until after 11, catching up with them before biking home for the night.  The hummus and cheese board we had brought as a quaint picnic didn’t qualify as dinner for either of us, and even though it was almost midnight, we stormed the kitchen in a fend-for-yourself rampage.

Jesse heated up a can of chili and some ramen (but get this…he cracks and egg into it for protein??), and boldly tossed a large round slice of gouda on top of the former.

I ate a sauteed salmon burger I’d been storing in the freezer, with fresh wilted spinach and some homemade aioli, on Ak-Mak crackers.

And a chocolate pudding cup.

Both meals landed on the table at nearly the same time (mine was a little earlier, in fact!), and we both went to bed with full tummies.

Here’s to Phase II of this blog!

This Week’s Groceries

Portland Fruit Company 9/18

  • Red pepper: $0.99
  • Sweet onion: $0.52
  • Italian plums: $0.08 — this was two cute little plums, just for the bike ride home
  • Snap peas: $0.93
  • Brussels sprouts: $1.93
  • Broccoli: $0.56
  • Radishes: $0.65
  • Bok choy: $1.52
  • Nectarine: $0.32
  • Fuji apple: $0.67

TOTAL: $8.17

REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: $14.62 — I could probably technically add in half a month’s worth of funds to this on Jesse’s behalf, but so far it isn’t seeming necessary, and the end of the month’s only about a week off, so I’m going to try to keep to my own budget until October and then double the budget from thereon out.

No Fridge? No Problem!

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This week has been an interesting life experience.  Between camping in the woods for 4 full days at a festival, and moving into my new house, I have been 100% without refrigeration for nearly a full week now.  Which means, I spent $0 on groceries this week.  And seriously, all things considered, not even that much on going out.

If you’ll recall, I had a pretty serious food agenda planned for this festival, and we managed to pull it off with flying colors.  Aside from a $6 boat of fresh pesto garlic fries on Sunday afternoon, we didn’t buy any food from vending and subsisted entirely on the food we had prepared, and that we were sharing with friends.

Monday morning, I got up and ate a hearty breakfast of eggs, cheese, and toast, left over from our weekend’s camping groceries — so satisfying that I didn’t eat again until later that night when I got to try out the new Bollywood Theater up on Alberta with two of my best friends from out of town (one of whom has now been officially promoted to in-town, as of last night) — a delicious and creative array of Indian food in a super cute atmosphere, for just under $20, including a Pimm’s Cup!

Tuesday morning I was cooked a generous breakfast of eggs, veggies, and avocado before these friends and I headed out for a full day of errands:

Fridge shopping for my new house!

Bike shopping for Hollis!

Aardvark shopping for Jamie, where I also scored 6 gigantic banana boxes to finish packing up my kitchen.

Secret Aardvark

Food total for the day?  $18.50, including an afternoon snack at A La Carts of a Vietnamese papaya salad with steak, iced coffee, and the Veggies Gone Wild bowl at Laughing Planet with a local IPA as a final meal together before Jamie headed back off to Brooklyn early this morning.

And today?  I’m hoping this is my final meal of non-cookery.  I stopped at the food carts again on the way to work this morning to purchase the largest breakfast burrito I’ve ever seen (for $5!).

breakfast burrito

And an iced coffee from Stumptown that was nearly the same price and offset my excitement.  Lame.  As soon as I close up shop today I’m heading straight to the Standard TV & Appliance Outlet to pull the trigger and buy a brand new fridge.  I cannot wait.  Do you know what it feels like to have a brand new kitchen and not be able to cook in it?!

This Week’s Groceries

TOTAL: $0!!



It’s been a big week.

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Truth be told, this past week was not a big cooking week for me.  In the last seven days, I:

Closed on my house.

Was visited by one of my oldest friends.

Had a 24-hour debrief summit with my colleague from UCU to go over feedback and ideas from last weekend’s show.

Had the most ridiculously indulgent weekend of eating out that I could ever imagine.

Saturday night dinner at Screen Door, Sunday morning brunch at Arleta Library Cafe, Sunday dinner at Pok Pok, and Monday brunch at Tasty & Sons.  I wasn’t hungry again for almost 12 hours after that, when I ended up eating Jesse’s homemade Zuppa Toscana in bed while we watched Dexter.  I feel okay about this, because, a) now that UCU is over, I finally have some money again to spend on going out, and b) half of these meals were business expenses!

Oh, and now, I’m prepping the shop for our first summer vacation that we’ve ever had, and prepping four days’ worth of meals to bring with us this weekend to the String Cheese festival at Horning’s.

Overly ambitious?  Ask me again tomorrow when my phone is off and I am on vacation for the first time all summer, wearing my hippie skirts and sipping cocktails with friends in the woods while I listen to fantastic music, and knowing that all my delicious, healthy, hearty food for the weekend is totally pre-made and organized in our cooler, come what may.

This Week’s Groceries

Fred Meyer 7/17

  • ingredients for festival pre-cooking — sadly lost the detailed list but it’s pretty much everything shown on the list above.

TOTAL: $54.00 ($108 split with Jesse)

REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: $6.65 — this sounds drastic, but keep in mind that this is my last week with a fridge for a good long while.  I’m moving next Monday and probably won’t be for-reals cooking again until the end of the month.

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

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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


Kenny & Zuke’s

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Like I said, this week’s a busy one.  Instead of cooking I’ve been busy packing up half my shop to bring to Seattle for my booth setup, organizing all the last-minute stuff that goes into putting on a gargantuan production like the Urban Craft Uprising, and packing my house to move.

It’s not quite time to pack the kitchen yet — that comes absolutely last — but needless to say, this has been a week of grilled chicken on green salad, leftover calzones, and having other people cook for me.

Like Kenny and Zuke!

Sunday night, Jesse and I hopped on our bikes and took a gorgeous summer evening bike ride downtown (a rarity for me, crossing the river) to have dinner at Kenny & Zuke’s, and then up the hill to take me on a tour of the incredible house of his favorite client, that he’s been working on all week.  It’s such an old house that it’s actually an official historical landmark, and one of the most awesome houses I’ve ever seen.

Fortunately, in addition to breathtakingly large smoked meat sandwiches, we had also shared a plate of pastrami cheese fries, which pretty much made our bike right straight up the northwest hills a wash.

I’m okay with that.

Come say hi if you’ll be at the Urban Craft Uprising this weekend!  I’ll be holding down the fort at the Yarnia booth.

This Week’s Groceries

Fred Meyer 7/2

  • Yogurt: $3.39
  • Cottage cheese: $2.49
  • Milk: $2.99
  • Coffee: $7.13
  • Orange juice: $3.00
  • Strawberries: $1.67
  • Roma tomatoes: $0.98
  • Bunch radishes: $0.50
  • Avocado: $0.88
  • Cucumber: $1.49

TOTAL: $24.52

REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: $88.85 — Back on track!

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!

Breakfast Spinach Egg Cups

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I have two different breakfast moods.  Sometimes my body just craves something really light and healthy feeling, like yogurt with granola and a sliced banana, or Raisin Bran with walnuts and almond milk.  This is about half the time.  The other half, I finish Workday #1 (enjoying my coffee while I transcribe for a couple of hours before Workday #2) really craving some serious protein, like eggs or cottage cheese or something like that.

And I do let myself indulge in that when I need to, because usually my body tells me these things for a reason.  But making and eating an egg in the morning adds like at least 10 minutes to my routine (plus a dirty pan that I’ll have to clean later…for a single egg?).  Whenever I hear myself say that out loud I always have to stop and be like, really?  You can’t spare an extra 10 minutes from anywhere else to make this happen?  But the answer is, seriously, no.  I run 3 businesses, write two blogs, send out 4 newsletters a week to a cumulative 5,000+ customers, bike for transportation, work out three times a week, have social engagements almost every night, and am in a relationship with someone I don’t live with.  So no, there really is not an extra 10 minutes to spare.

So, here’s one of my newfound favorite quickie breakfasts, which has entered my life by way of the ramekin, a recent addition to my kitchen.

Frying an egg to put on toast is time consuming and needs more of a watchful eye than I can afford while I’m getting ready (though, admittedly, I am fortunate that my bedroom is nearly in the kitchen and I really can multi-task these two parts of my morning); add some sort of vegetable into this and it’s turned into a full-fledged cooking endeavor.  But baking an egg?  Whoa…things just got efficient.

I start with a handful of spinach, and toss it with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Put this into the bottom of a ramekin (no worries if it seems like it’s filled to the brim; this will cook down easily), and crack an egg over top.  Grate a little bit of sharp cheddar on top…

And put it in the oven at 350 along with two slices of homemade bread (this week: rosemary jalapeno!).

How long does it take to bake?  Exactly as long as it takes me to shower and put on clothes (14 minutes).  That way, I pull it out of the oven, and it feels like someone else just made breakfast for me.  Plus, because I can get fresh local eggs for less than $3/dozen, and make my bread from scratch each week, the total cost of this meal probably amounts to somewhere around 75 cents!

This Week’s Groceries

Trader Joe’s 5/14

  • 1/2 gallon milk: $3.29
  • Mayonnaise: $3.99
  • Whole wheat fusilli pasta: $1.39
  • Red pepper spread: $2.29
  • Sharp cheddar cheese: $3.13
  • Cottage cheese: $1.99
  • Olive oil: $5.99
  • Crumbled feta: $2.99
  • Pear champagne salad dressing: $2.99 — I usually am a die-hard homemade dressing advocate, but this is going to be so great to keep in my fridge at work so in the mornings all I have to do is put all the salad ingredients together in a Tupperware with some sort of protein for a easy healthy work lunch

TOTAL: $28.05



New Seasons 5/15

  • Whole wheat couscous: $4.31
  • Pinto beans: $2.33
  • Chickpeas: $2.30
  • Granola: $2.63
  • Cucumber: $0.99
  • Celery: $3.22
  • Garnet yams: $1.31
  • Corn: $0.99
  • Sweet onion: $0.97
  • Shallot: $0.72
  • Radish bunch: $1.49
  • Salad greens: $3.15
  • Roma tomatoes: $0.86

TOTAL: $25.17



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I don’t have a traditional spice rack, and come to think of it, I don’t even have a particularly organized way of managing my spices.  Most of them sit on top of the microwave in various caper and bullion jars that have been emptied over time.  The major players like cumin, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, dill, and Italian herbs sit on top of a little ledge above my oven; the ones who come out only every so often, like allspice and Chinese five spice, are in a different cupboard, with my backstock teas and big empty jars.

Which is why the Hanukkah present I got from my dad and his girlfriend a few months ago was one of the most useful gifts I’ve ever received.  They pretty much had a heyday at Penzeys, and my meals are now all the more flavorful for it.

I’ve always been about using fresh bulk spices, never the ones that sit in plastic containers on the grocery store shelves for years.  I usually fill little baggies at the New Seasons bulk area and bring them home and put them in cute little mismatched jars, or even order online at The Spice House for the harder-to-find stuff like nigella and saffron.

So, here’s my loot, and what I’ve been using it for these past few months:

A whole box devoted to curry!  I actually rarely use powders to make actual curries — for that, I’ll usually go with some good paste and coconut milk.  But, I do love to sprinkle any of these on roasting veggies, on a lentil salad, or in dressings.  I also love using a teaspoon of the Tandoori seasoning in my rice while it’s cooking.  It has just enough saffron to make the entire pot taste like it, but without having to use up my valuable saffron threads!

The green herbs.  These are great in just about anything, and they’re right when they say the Pasta Sprinkle is really all you need with some yummy pasta, a good olive oil, and some salt or Parmesan.  In fact, one of my favorite quickie lunches on my day off is to cook a cup of macaroni elbows, and toss it in a bowl with some homemade cultured creme fraiche (I make this every few months and it keeps in the fridge seemingly indefinitely, always ready to be used as a creamy, tangy butter substitute), salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, some TJ’s red pepper spread, and the Pasta Sprinkle.  It takes about seven minutes and is the best faux mac’n’cheese you’ll ever eat.

I’m totally in love with having high quality powdered ginger on hand.  I do try to keep fresh ginger in the fridge all the time too, but sometimes it’s just so much work.  To be able to add a pinch or two of this to an Asian salad dressing or stir-fry is luxurious.  I haven’t gotten to try the nutmeg yet, because these boxes all came nestled in beds of bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and whole nutmeg, so I’ve been using the latter ground fresh whenever I need it.  But, this box is just screaming out for me to make some sort of delicious coffee cake, I know it.

The title on this box was “Pepper Lover’s Assortment,” and that couldn’t be more right on.  I put pepper on everything, and now for the first time ever, I own a super snazzy pepper mill (that I’ve already had to refill twice, if that gives you any indication) instead of the grocery store one I’ve been using and refilling for five years.  Damn, it makes a big difference.  This pepper lover just got seriously upgraded.

And finally, I think it’s time to take up baking.

What do I use lemon extract for?  Lemon poppyseed bread?  I’m hosting a clothing swap at my house on Sunday and I think I just decided what I’m going to have to make for a sweet treat to go with my coconut vanilla iced coffee cocktails…

So, needless to say, I haven’t had to spend any money on spices yet this year!  There’s certainly enough here to last me for awhile, so this was a nice little bonus to kick off my grocery budget.

What are you favorite spices to experiment with?  What are your go-tos?  Do you have a good spice store in your neighborhood that you love?

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




Fresh Salad Rolls with Peanut Sauce & Tom Kah Cocktails

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You know how there are certain dishes you always order, every time you go out for Thai food?  They are the control variables by which you can judge a new restaurant, leaving only ambiance, service, and price up for judgment.  Typically when Jesse and I go out for Thai food, we never even open the menus.  Pad kee mao for me, beef massaman curry for him, and tom kah soup and salad rolls to share.


So when I got an email last month about our monthly rotating “family dinner” that we do with our group of friends, announcing that the theme for February would be “Asian,” our contribution seemed like a no-brainer.

Salad rolls, when equipped with the proper fresh ingredients, really don’t require too much talent or planning.  The accompanying peanut sauce, on the other hand, would be the focus of our evening prep. 

When I’m looking for a good recipe, I often will let the Internet do the dirty work for me, and Google something like “best alfredo sauce I’ve ever had,” or “the most incredible mushroom soup of my life.”  Via this strategy, I discovered a recipe for “The best fucking peanut sauce you’ll ever eat.”  And decided to give it a go.

I won’t rehash the recipe for you here, because in very un-Lindsey style I followed it precisely, so I’ll let you follow that link and help cut down on Internet clutter.


Unfortunately, this was not the best fucking peanut sauce I’d ever eaten, and required a bit of doctoring up to get to dinner party presentable form.  


I added some toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic powder, and ginger powder until it tasted more like the tangy dipping sauce I was going for; this made enough to almost fill an entire large Adam’s peanut butter jar.


Rumor has it that Jesse used the leftovers a few days later to make Pad Thai with his bowling league buddies and it was just as fantastic in that form.

Okay, part two of this post is where the serendipity comes in.  So I mentioned above that Tom Kah Soup is one of my go-tos.  What I did not mention is that it is also among my top five favorite foods, along with olives, popcorn, and cereal.  It is in fact the only one of my favorite foods that has more than 2 ingredients.

One day back in January, soon after I’d received this email announcing the Asian theme, I had biked to work with a full carton of leftover Tom Kah Soup in my bag; I had woken up that morning thinking of nothing but how excited I was for lunch.  Lo and behold, that had to be the day that my Tupperware exploded and I arrived at work with soup all over the inside of my bag.

I was so devastated about this, I was still talking about it that night at dinner, while we were waiting for a table on a busy Friday night at The Observatory.  After being seated, I opened up the cocktail menu to find this:

Do you see what I see?  

I knew immediately that not only was this a token cosmic reimbursement for my earlier lunch debacle, but clearly the cocktail we’d be making rounds of at the dinner party.  I even bought a shaker for the occasion.


All right.  Chili infused vodka?  Check.

Lemongrass cilantro simple syrup?  Check.  We brought along a can of coconut cream and a few fresh limes, set up shop on Josh and Sarah’s kitchen counter, teamed up with one of our genius friends who had brought starfruit, and these were the hit of the party.

Okay, how are we doing over in budget-land?  

New Seasons 3/13
shredded wheat: $3.49
jug of V8: $3.99
lemon juice: $3.99
2 boxes Pacific almond milk: $5.38
huge jar Adams peanut butter: $7.99
Braggs apple cider vinegar: $3.99
can tomato sauce: $0.69
red quinoa: $4.07
white quinoa: $2.15
Israeli couscous: $2.60
red lentils: $2.99
half & half: $2.59
yams: $2.94
collard greens: $2.49
yellow onion: $1.15
grapefruit: $1.75
garlic: $0.84
braising greens: $3.00
aged cheddar: $4.23
ground turkey: $5.50 — if you guessed slow cooker cabbage (collard) rolls with ground turkey, Asiago, and Israeli couscous cooked in tomato broth, you’re right!!
TOTAL: $65.82

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