Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Shopping and Cooking for a Week at My House, Part 1

I thought it would be fun to give you a look into a week of shopping and cooking for my family for one week. I have thought about doing this in the past but because of the way I shop and buy food, it made it hard to get a sense of “this is what I spent in one week and this is what we ate”. The reason has to do with the way I shop and the way I cook.

I buy most of my basic food ingredients in bulk, I buy in advance if there is a good deal on something and I make a lot of my own products that others might buy or use some other alternative. An example of that is when I make my own soup stocks. I will make a chicken or beef stock and put it in the freezer and use this to make soups. So it is not something I purchase. I also will often have
meal starters in the freezer made with meats or grains that were purchased in previous months.

Regardless of this, I decided I would give you a look into what goes on with my grocery budget for a week as well as what I produce in my kitchen for a week. I will make a note of the items that I have stocked in my freezer or in my pantry from previous shopping trips.

For starters, we need a menu. I like to make up menus in advance. Sometimes I make the menu for a week, two weeks or maybe a month. Just depends on my mood :)! So here is the weeks menu:

Monday: Tacos made w/homemade wrappers
Tuesday: Cabbage, sausage, onions and pasta
Wednesday: BBQ
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Lasagna, salad, French bread
Saturday: baked chicken, potatoes, salad
Sunday: Chicken relleno casserole, refried beans, Spanish rice

With that menu I came up with a grocery list. I also added to my list staple items that we were running low on and basics like fruit and a few other things.

Here is what my grocery list looked like:

2 gallons milk
4 lbs apples
4 lbs plums
3 lbs bananas
1 watermelon
5 lbs grated cheddar cheese
48oz container of cottage cheese,
3 lbs chicken sausages made without MSG
10 lbs Onions
1 lb sliced Swiss cheese
2 ½ lbs mixed nuts
One gallon of olive oil
12 cans organic tomato paste
One gallon sliced dill pickles

I went to one store this week to do my shopping and that was Costco. I have really enjoyed the fact that Costco has such a great variety of foods, for very reasonable prices. Not everything they sell is a deal, so knowing your prices on commonly bought items is one way to be able to determine if what you plan on buying is a good deal or not. Sometimes I pay more for something for health reasons. I often buy some of their organic products for the health benefits. Sometimes I don’t.. just depends on my overall grocery budget. Here is a picture I took of the groceries when I got home:

The cost was: $109.32

The food I bought on my list has only a small relevance to what I am cooking this week, as I have explained above, some was just a restocking of my supplies.

Monday Night

I took a pound of hamburger from my freezer (we buy a whole cow each year so I don’t need to buy beef from the grocery store), I also cooked up two cups of dried pinto beans. I buy those by the 25 lb. bag from either Costco or Azure Standard. I cooked up the hamburger and added the cooked beans. I also added
homemade taco seasoning that I had in the cupboard.

Then I made these great little wraps for the tacos. They are quicker to make than tortillas and my family loves them. They are similar to a crepe. I had all the ingredients in the house already to make these so there was nothing extra to purchase. Here is the recipe:

Taco Wraps

2/3 cup cornmeal (I buy whole corn and grind it myself)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I grind the grain)
(both the whole corn and the wheat grain I purchase in bulk from Azure Standard)
½ t baking powder
½ t salt
2 t cane juice crystals
2 cups buttermilk (I had homemade buttermilk in the fridge)
4 eggs (I buy my eggs from Azure Standard, 10 dozen, monthly)
¼ cup butter, melted

In a bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and cane juice
crystals. In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well. You could also put this all in the blender to mix up. Set this aside for 20 minutes to rest.

To cook them, heat a 10 inch frying pan over medium high heat. You can brush the pan with a bit of olive oil if you are worried about sticking, at least for the first few wrappers). When the frying pan is hot pour in about ¼ cup of batter and swirl it around the pan so it is thin and round. Let this cook for a couple of minutes on the first side or until it browns up a bit. Then flip and cook for a bit on the other side. Stack them on a plate, cover with a dish towel and keep warm as you make up the rest of them.


We filled these tacos with the meat/bean mixture, lettuce (from my garden), salsa (homemade fermented salsa I made last week), and a little cheese. I fed 7 people for dinner with this meal. That included some healthy teenage appetites and one hungry hubby appetite!

Everyone ate them up before I remembered to try and get a pic! Sorry about that one! But they are yummy and there were even a few leftovers!

Tuesday Night

Cabbage, Sausage, Noodle Skillet

I like doing this meal on occasion. It is pretty simple and I needed a simple meal because I was running kids all over the place that day to various testing sites and did not get home until late in the afternoon. I bought the healthy sausage from Costco. I sliced it up. I had about half of a huge cabbage in my fridge from last week that I sliced up. And I cut up one large onion. I fried up the sausage, cabbage and onion until it was soft and browned. While I was doing that I cooked up a pot full of spinach fettuccini noodles. The amounts on this recipe will vary depending on how many you are feeding. When the noodles were done I drained them and added them to the sausage mixture in the frying pan. Stirred them up and made sure they were hot and ready to eat. I served this with a salad. I again fed 7 people with this meal and had some leftovers.

Here is a pic of this main dish…

Part Two will follow soon..


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trim the Budget: Vegetable Broth

I make broth often. I love having it on hand for easy and delicious tasting soups and other recipes. I typically make chicken broth or

beefbroth. My daughter Leanne was in charge of the cooking one night and asked if I had any vegetable broth. I told her no I did not and that got me thinking how easy veggie broth would be to make. What I did not think about right at that moment was how economical it is to make as well.

You can have several cups of vegetable broth sitting in your freezer waiting for the moment you have a recipe that calls for a can of broth for virtually free. I say virtually because, well, you do have to buy the veggies to begin with, but let me show you how it is practically free.

What do you do with your vegetable scraps? You know, the carrot peelings, the ends off the celery, the onion skins, the tomato cores, the outer layer off the cabbage and so forth. Well in my house they either get fed to the goats or they go in the compost pile. Now I have another use for them… save them for veggie broth!

I started by keeping a large, gallon size zip lock bag in my freezer. Each time I had vegetable scraps I would add them to the bag. When the bag was stuffed with scraps it was time to make broth.

You can also add more vegetables to this than just the scraps. Veggie broth is a great use for limp and tired looking veggies that are hiding out in your fridge. Also you can buy veggies just for this purpose. You could buy a few mushrooms, some extra carrots, celery, and garlic, etc. Mushrooms are a nice addition because they tend to make the broth a little darker in color and garlic adds nice flavor. You can also add fresh herbs if you have some, be careful not add to many herbs as they can over power the taste.

When it is time to make broth take a large stock pot (mine is 14 quart) and add your frozen veggie scraps. Add any other vegetables you want. Now add water. With a full size gallon bag of frozen veggie scraps and a few added veggies (I added a whole onion, a few more carrots, some celery, mushrooms, and garlic to my last pot) I added about a gallon and a half (24 cups) of water and a tablespoon of salt.

Bring this mixture to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Let it simmer for 4 to 6 hours. If you let it cook too long the broth can be come bitter.

When the broth is done let it cool, strain out the veggies (can’t be used for the compost pile at this point but the goats might still enjoy them! :), and put the broth in freezer containers, label, date and freeze. I freeze mine in 4 cup amounts because that works best for my family. If you freeze 2 cups in each container that would be equal to a can of broth in a recipe.

As I mentioned above you can sub this veggie broth in any recipe for calling for a can of broth. You can also use this broth in place of the chicken or beef broth that I call for in my
Freezer Cooking with Meal Starters eBook. The flavor of veggie broth is more mild than the chicken or beef broth but will still work as a substitution.

Can’t beat the frugalness of getting the every bit of value out of your produce!!!! It is good for the budget and good for your health!

~Picture courtesy of my creative daughter, Sierra Beth!~

Friday, June 25, 2010

Garden Finally In!

With the nasty wet spring we have had it was making it almost impossible to get my garden in. But thankfully there have been a few dry days in between all the rain and I took full advantage of them! My garden is all planted now. Yesterday the sun was shining and I did some weeding and my hubby was able to rototill the garden. It is looking good and I am encouraged! I took some pics to share with you.

I got my 34 tomato plants in the ground about 3 weeks ago. It was getting to the point that I either was going to have to transplant them all again or plant them. Luckily an open window of dry days came and I got them in the ground. They seem to be doing good (other than needing a bit more heat which I hope is now happening)..

When it was clear that I could not get my corn in the ground at the time I typically do I decided to plant the seeds in my little greenhouse box hubby made me. I planted about 200 seeds and most of them came up. After two weeks the soil was warm enough to transplant…

Everything else I have started from seed in the garden. My green beans are looking good..

My red leaf and green leaf lettuce…

And my summer squash…

I have also planted some flowers, cabbage, beets, dill, spinach, and pumpkins. For right now, my pumpkins are the only seeds that have not come up yet, but I just planted them less than a week ago.

And a pic of the pond.. it always looks so pretty on a sunny day….

Maybe summer is here after all.. :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Whole Wheat Pie Crust

Whole Wheat Pie Crust

I love making pies! I never use to as much, mostly because of making the pie crust. I was not happy with the whole wheat pie crusts I was coming up with. I did not want to use shortening so at first I subbed butter for the shortening. That was not too bad, but could be hard to work with sometimes. Then I tried olive oil. That was ok too.. but finally I tweaked a recipe and played around with it until I came up with something that I absolutely love now! I use both butter and coconut oil. I also make the pie crust in my Bosch. If you have a Kitchen Aid that will work too. One lady told me she has also done it by hand with success. In my directions below I am using my Bosch.

The recipe makes 4 crusts. If this is more than you want at one time, the
remaining crusts can be refrigerated for up to two weeks or frozen. Wrap the unused pie crust dough pieces in plastic wrap and store in your fridge or freezer. If you refrigerate or freeze them make sure you let them come to room temp before trying to roll them out.

You can find the recipe here:

My daughter Sierra made the crust while I too the pics...

Begin by gathering your ingredients together:

If your flour is freshly ground you will need to pack the cups with flour
because freshly ground flour is light and fluffy and you need the full amount of flour for this to work.Add the flour to your mixer bowl:

Add the salt:

Mix this together:

Now add the coconut oil and butter. Make sure your butter is room temp:

Begin by using the wire whips to mix the flour and coconut oil and butter. Mix them until you have a crumbly looking mixture:

Measure out the cold water in a measuring cup. Add the vinegar and egg and mix well:

Change from the wire whips to the dough hook in your mixer. Add the
water/vinegar/egg mixture:

Mix this in your mixer on low speed until the dough has been cleaned off the side of your bowl. This process can take 3 or 4 minutes. If you find your dough is too dry or stiff you can add more water, a teaspoon at a time until the dough is nice and soft. If it is too moist add flour a teaspoon at a time until the dough is nice and soft:

Take the dough out of the bowl and divide it into 4 balls:

Now it is time to roll out the dough. I use plastic wrap for this….

Lay a sheet on the counter:

Flatten one of the dough balls and set it in the center of the plastic:

Lay a second sheet of plastic wrap over the dough:

Now begin to roll the dough out. Start at the center and roll outward in all directions, keeping the dough as round as possible:

To see if your circle of dough is big enough set the pie plate over the dough:

When the circle is the right size it is time to put it in the pie plate. Peel off the top layer of plastic wrap:

Lift the bottom layer off the counter and slide your hand under it and lift it up:

Now lay the pie plate upside down on your hand, centering it in the middle of the dough:

Flip the pie plate and dough over. Realign the dough if it is off center:

Now remove the plastic wrap:

Now pick up the pie plate and using a butter knife go around the edges of the pie plate to clean off the dough that is hanging over the edge:

If you have an area on the crust that does not cover the pie plate:

Take a piece of the dough that you cut off and cover the spot. Then scrape off the excess that is hanging over the edge:

Now you can leave the pie dough as is or you can make the rim a little fancy. Holding two fingers on the inside edge, squeeze the dough together as you push the dough in with another finger on the outside of the edge to give you fluted look:

There you have it.. your dough is ready to be filled with whatever type of pie filling you desire!!

On the night that we made this pie crust we made an apple pie. The recipe for the apple pie can be found here:

Begin by peeling and slicing the apples:

Stir in the remaining ingredients:

Fill your pie shell with the filling:

Make the topping mixture:

Cover the top of the pie with it:

Bake your pie and enjoy!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Saturday in the Kitchen

Well I know it is Sunday now, but here is what I did in the kitchen yesterday…

Lately our weather has been more like early spring, meaning wet and cool.. so I have been continuing to make soup for these types of days. I like soup (even during the summer) because it is easy, quick and I can make a pot big enough to last my family for a couple of days.

Yesterday I made (recipes can be found on my site):

Yummy Pinto Beans

Salad w/homemade Ranch Dressing

Here is how the afternoon went:

I cooked up a pot of pinto beans and then drained out a good deal of the bean broth. I save the bean broth that I drain out to add back later.

I cooked up a pound of hamburger with an onion:

When the beans were done cooking I added the cooked hamburger/onion mix, tomatoes, molasses, sweetener (you can use sucanat or brown sugar), mustard powder, red pepper flakes and pepper:

Then I added some of the reserved bean broth to give me a soupy consistency:

I also taste it at this point and add anything I think it is missing. I actually like to add a little more molasses than the recipe calls for because we like that kind of baked bean taste to the dish.

Then I mixed up a batch of cornbread:

And a salad:

I already had dressing in the fridge that I had made earlier in the week. The meal was delish! And I have enough left for today’s dinner as well!!

For dessert Sierra, Leanne and I made apple pie…

I have a whole separate blog post that I am going to write up on making pie crust.. complete with pictures!! So stay tuned…. :)