Friday, July 31, 2009

Soupe Au Pistou

So, so, so excited to be participating! What fun to make a recipe you've never tried before once a week and write about how delicious and beautiful your results were! Not to mention to celebrate the movie and the books and the work of Julia Child. What a genius she was!

Here's my contribution for Week 1: Soupe Au Pistou (Provencal Vegetable Soup with Garlic, Basil and Herbs, p. 45)

So, you noticed the crock pot.

Okay, I sorta cheated a little bit on the recipe. For the first 5 ingrediets, water, carrots, potatoes, leeks and salt, the recipe said to boil them slowly for about 40 minutes. I knew I didn't have the time yesterday evening to do that, so I put them in the crock pot on low while I was at work. When I got home, I added the rest of the ingredients and followed the recipe, and Volia! -- it turned out wonderful!

I have to admit, I doubted it would turn out so wonderful as I was putting the soup together. I couldn't quite get my tomatoe puree, basil and garlic to blend to a "paste" per se, but that didn't seem to affect the soup's consistency. And, I used velvet-leaf basil instead of sweet basil, because that's what I had on hand. The leaves are a bit more coarse, hence the name, "velvet-leaf basil", and you can kinda tell when you eat it. But it is still yummy, and virtually fat free, which is a plus...

I happend to have all the ingredients on hand (except leeks, which I had to run out a buy), which pretty much dictated what I decided to make this week, as I am still in the Penny Pinching Pantry Raid challenge. This soup was so hearty and filling, it would be great for a winter supper, and since I know now that you can do the most time-consuming part of the recipe in the crockpot, this will likely become part of my usual rotation.

Next week, I'm off to Myrtle Beach for a week with my mom and brother. We always pick a few nights to stay in a cook something at the condo, so I already picked out a recipe from MtAoFC, that only takes a few ingredients and isn't too difficult to make, since I'll be at the mercy of a kitchen and implements I'm not familiar with.

When I first heard a movie was in the works based on the book, Julie & Julia, I was so excited because last fall, I'd read the book. After I read that book, I read My Life in France, which is the other book the movie incorporates. I hate to admit that I didn't finish that one. I stopped reading shortly after Julia and Paul Child moved to Germany. It got sorta slow at that point, but I'm sure Julia herself would admit as much. She was so disappointed to be leaving France after living there for a few years. I enjoyed reading the books so much, I asked for MtAoFC for Christmas and got it. I've only made a handful of recipes out of the book, but the one's I've made have been F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!

So maybe next Friday I'll go see the movie. Seems like we always go to the movies when we are at the beach. A werid thing my family does, evidently. At any rate, I'm already looking forward to leftover soup for lunch today, and next week's recipe. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Penny Pinching Pantry Raid Wrap-Up

It's July 31st. The last day of July. The last day of the Penny Pinching Pantry Raid.
Even though I didn't keep within the $100 budget, I still think I came out ahead. Here's where I stand:
Groceries: $272.70
Eating Out: $225.53
Compared to the previous months, this is marked improvement. Especially considering how much we traveled in July. I'm going to shoot for it again next month, too.
  • 6 oz. queso fresco
  • 1 bag + 1 partial bag chopped broccoli
  • partial bag biscuits
  • 1 Steamfresh Meals for Two
  • 1/2 bag chicken tenders
  • 2 pie crusts
  • 1 partial bag potatoes obrien
  • 2 Lean Cuisines
  • 1 gallon bag vegetable broth
  • 1 gallon bag chicken broth
  • waffles
  • 1 unidentified piece of meat (It's probably deer loin...)
  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 6 cups blackberries
  • 3 sliced yellow squash
  • 2 sliced zucchini
  • 1 8x8 pan stuffed shells
  • 1 8x8 pan lasagna
  • 1 quart-bag deer meatballs
  • coffee
  • 2 balls of pasta dough
  • 1 Kroger bag of new potatoes (thanks to my father-in-law's garden!)
  • saltines
  • partial bag egg noodles
  • 1 partial box spaghetti
  • 1 bag pecans
  • Karo syrup
  • 1 partial jar peanut butter
  • 2 bread mixes
  • 1 cheeseball mix
  • 1 box beginet mix
  • bisquick
  • 1 partial canister oats
  • wheat gluten
  • dried onions
  • 1 pkg onion soup mix
  • cocoa
  • corn starch
  • masa harina
  • sugar, splenda, flour, corn meal, brown sugar and powdered sugar
  • assorted tea and hot chocolate mix
  • 1 box sure-jell
  • partial box of couscous
  • 1 canister bread crumbs and panko bread crumbs
  • baking powder and baking soda
  • 2 boxes jello pudding mix
  • lemonade mix
  • 1/2 bag soy beans
  • assorted spices, vinegar and oils
  • 1 canister whey protein
  • chow mein noodles
  • 3 cans hotdog chili
  • 1 can kraut
  • 1 partial box Kashi Go Lean
  • 1 partial bag Baked Lays

  • partial quart of skim milk
  • 2 Tb stick butter
  • 1 tub of margarine
  • eggs
  • coffee creamer
  • margarita mix
  • 2 partial bottles of pancake syrup
  • 1 partial quart of cottage cheese
  • 1 fruit cup
  • 2 jello puddings
  • pickle spears
  • 1 quart homemade bread and butter pickles
  • 1 jar pickled beets
  • 3 sodas
  • 6 cukes
  • corn tortillas
  • celery
  • partial bag of spinach
  • 5 tomatoes
  • handful of green beans from my garden
  • half a package of American cheese slices
  • goat cheese
  • feta cheese
  • blue cheese crumbles
  • provolone cheese slices
  • 5 pieces string cheese
  • a tiny bit of the jar of minced garlic (I stretched it all month long!!!)
  • partial head of garlic
  • 1/3 wedge of pecorrino cheese
  • 18 pack of Miller Lite (payment to my dad for feeding my cats when I'm at the beach next week...)
  • assorted condiments
  • 8 lbs. deer burger
  • 1 deer loin
  • 1 wild turkey breast
  • 1 box Kashi Go Lean
  • 6 Italian sausages
  • 2 pt. pepper butter
  • 1 jar garlic powder
  • 2 bottles Spicy V8
  • 2 bottles mustard
  • 3 bottles hot sauce
  • 1 canister oats
  • 8 qt. green beans
  • 6 qt. homemade pickles
  • 1 qt. tomato juice
  • 8 qt. weiners and peppers
  • 3 pt. weiners and peppers
  • 1 pt. homemade hot sauce
  • 4 pkg of hotdogs
  • 1 pt. pickles
Last month, I spent $300.03 on groceries; and $482.62 eating out. For two people. That. is. ridiculous. Even if I didn't keep it under $100 for the month, one thing I did learn is to use what I have, stock up when I can, and plan meals a little better. I also didn't make too many trips to the grocery store, which was nice. I froze several yellow squash and zucchinis, berries and made a mess of pickles, which will help out with the grocery bill throughout the year.
All in all, I made progress, and I think I'll try it again next month.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I blew the Penny Pinching Pantry Raid budget!

It was such a laudable goal.

One hundred dollars for food for a month. At first, I said "there's no way." Then I decided it wouldn't be too hard, considering all that I had in my freezer and pantry. Problem was, (and maybe if I'd been more open-minded on what is considered a meal...) I didn't have stuff that I could combine and make a meal with.

All in all, I think it was still a success. I cleaned out my pantry and freezer. I made one trip to the grocery store, and I think that'll do me for the month. And most of all, from now on out, I'm going to employ a keen sense of frugality when it comes to planning meals. I'm going to use what I have, stock up when I have the opportunity, and not eat out so much.

I went to the grocery store last night because I desperately needed dishwashing liquid and cat litter. I was trying to avoid going, it had reached critical level. Well, $66.84 later and I'm over my budget in food for the month. But really, is spending $200 a month on food terrible? In May, I spent $387.82 on groceries and $341.67 eating out. For 2 people!!! Despite my failure at the challenge, I'm counting it as a success in every sense.

Last night, I bought mostly stuff I would have been hard-pressed to do without in the next few weeks. Stuff I use everyday. String cheese, yougart, cottage cheese, breakfast and lunch food for Jeremy. Stuff like that. Okay, I also did buy an extra half-gallon of Turkey Hill ice cream, but with my coupon, I got it for $1.29. Not too shabby.

I also bought two filets to grill for me and Jeremy on our actual anniversary on Wednesday. $4.49 ea. And I needed a yellow cake mix to make the Weight Watcher's blackberry cobbler recipie for dessert after the steak. BTW, Jeremy got me a gallon of blackberries this week. In the woods. For free.

I bought some tomato sauce to make sauce to finish off the jumbo shells and lasagna that I have in the pantry. For the life of me, I had in my pantry everything I needed to make either stuffed shells or lasagna but something for the sauce. Now that I think about it, I suppose I should have made a white sauce. Butter, flour, milk. I had all those already... Anyway, there's two more meals done after I spent $1.32 on five cans of tomato sauce.

So here's where I stand: Over budget $34.88.

Occassionally, this guy I work with makes the MOST FABULOUS WAFFLES EVER for the entire staff. That's what I had for breakfast. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. And free. Jeremy didn't eat.
Lunch was cold cucumber soup and a turkey sandwich. Jeremy had a turkey sandwich.
I had yougart and a hard-boiled egg for a snack.
For dinner, I'm making swiss chard and linguine with grated peccorino cheese. Okay, so the cheese was one of my splurges at the store. Bad, me!

Yesterday, I had Kashi and cottage cheese (again) for breakfast. Jeremy had waffles.
I had yougart, egg, string cheese and a granola bar for a snack.
It was our monthly employee potluck at lunch time. I contributed zucchini bread. I think Jeremy had lunch at the new Sheetz in Milton. He was excited, a new Sheetz just doesn't open everyday. I don't know what the damage was yet, but I doubt it was more than $7.
For dinner, I made grilled salmon with cucumber yougart topping for dinner and we had a salad.
I bought the salmon (1 lb.) at the Fish Market on Wednesday for $10.87.

On Wednesday, nothing fancy for any meals, but we had Subway for dinner. I had a coupon for a BOGO footlong sub. $7.42 for dinner for both of us isn't too bad, and it was one of those evenings that just wasn't exactly conducive to making dinner at home. I had a hair appointment right after work, then we had a co-ed softball game. This qualified as a time when eating out is okay, in my book.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Only 6 days in and I've realized I'm not gonna make it.

That's right.

Today is July 7th. I have $49.48 left to spend this month. I'm not gonna make it. I need to pick up about 6 items at the grocery store before next week, too. I have my meals all planned for the next couple weeks, and maybe if I was willing to be a little more "creative," I really could do it ... Like having cucumbers, couscous and a can of baked beans count as a dinner.

But, even participating in the challenge has forced me to clean out the cabinets and freezer, which is something I REALLY needed to do. I noticed the "use by" date on the half a bag of dried soybeans I have was January 2008. I didn't throw those out, though. Surely, dried beans won't go bad, right? I did throw out some food that need to be, though. The fruit snacks? I wouldn't think those would go bad either; and they tasted fine. They were just a little too chewy. Three jars of canned goods gone. Green and moldy on top. The only sad thing is that I wasted them. I hate wasting food, especially when someone I know put in the work to grow the food in their garden, on top of that, go to the trouble to can it, and be generous enough to share.

We booked a night in Columbus next week to celebrate our anniversary and Jeremy's birthday. We'll probably blow the rest of the food budget on dinner that night, but it is a special occasion. And then the week after, I have to go to Philly for a conference, and while I've planned meals for Jeremy while I'm gone that consist of frozen pizza and a pan of lasagna in the freezer, I'm sure he'll venture out to Main Kwong or Burger King for lunch at least a couple days while I'm gone.

No biggie, though. I've been on board 6 days and I've already benefitted. I haven't been to the grocery store yet, so I've saved at least an hour and a half of my time and about $80 bucks already. I cleaned out cabinets and the freezer, which needed done, and in planning the meals around what we have stored, it definitely makes me appreciate it a little more.

Here's where we stand:

Breakfast: Me - Kashi and cottage cheese; Jeremy didn't eat breakfast
Lunch: Me - leftover chili and cornbread; Jeremy wanted to eat out, so I'll have to update the total tomorrow
Dinner: Beef kabobs with mushrooms and onions and salad
Snacks: Me - yougart, egg, granola bar, string cheese

Also, I ordered some more food from the Monroe County Farmers Market today: 1 (2 lb.) pkg. free-range chicken thighs $6.50; 8 oz. organic Swiss Chard $4.00; 1 doz. free-range eggs $3.00; and 6 oz. organic baby lettuce $3.50. The stuff I got last week was awesome. And even with the $5 weekly delivery fee, I think it is still cheaper than Krogers.

23 days to go and $49.48 left to spend. YIKES!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Penny Pinching Pantry Raid continues...

I am so glad I'm doing this. I didn't go to the store yesterday, like I do most Sunday afternoons. And I didn't miss it one bit! And I came across another jar of canned goods gone bad. Who knows how long that stuff would've set on the shelf in my garage? I had a fabulous weekend with lots of good food (mostly because we were visiting family), and I didn't spend a dime.

Thursday evening, I picked up my first order from Monroe Farmers Market. 1 lb. sausage, 1 doz. eggs, 6 oz. of salad greens (which was a gallon-size ziplock bag) and 1 oz. each of fresh oregano and basil (which were pint containers! I must not have a good sense of weights, cause I thought it'd be much less than that. At $1.50 an ounce, that's way cheaper than Krogers!!!!)--all for $19.00. I was so impressed with the quality of the food, I can't wait to order more this week.
Thursday for dinner, I made salad with a 6 oz. grilled salmon filet that I marinated in balsalmic vinegar on top. I threw in some sliced Baby Bellas and some feta cheese. Delicious!

Friday, we were off work, and I was feeling inspired by having fresh sausage, so I made sausage, eggs, HOMEMADE biscuits (the frozen ones are always better than my homemade biscuits, but I was on a roll!) and sausage gravy. I did not fail as a Clay County wife... It was yummy. The sausage was surprisingly lean, too. Friday evening, we went to my mom's to celebrate her birthday (July 2nd) and cooked out. Had some awesome BBQ ribs (thanks, J.R.!). I made cannellini bean, tomato, and basil salad (so easy and perfect for cookouts cause it doesn't need to be refrigerated) and mom made potato salad. We drank our two growlers of beer we bought at Smokey Mountain Brewery when we were in Gatlinburg a couple weeks ago.

Saturday, I "yard sale'd" at my mom's house all day and didn't do too bad. I got rid of a bunch of stuff, which is always good. For lunch, I made homemade pizza with the rest of the sausage, baby bellas, oregano, goat cheese and carmelized onions. I also made an apple pie cause it was the 4th of July, with all ingredients from my mom's pantry. Saturday night, we ate hamburgers and hotdogs at Jeremy's parents house.

Yesterday, I didn't eat breakfast but Jeremy had two waffles. For lunch, we each had a leftover hamburger and pasta salad. And for dinner, I grilled some chicken tenders basted with pepper butter (kinda like hot mustard). Made mexican cornbread and had a fresh cucumber from my brother-in-law's garden. He gave us another Kroger bag full on Saturday, too, so we'll be having cukes every evening for a while.

Today, breakfast: oats (me) waffles (Jeremy)
Lunch: Lean Cuisine and a pudding cup (me) and leftover hotdogs and a pudding cup (Jeremy)
Dinner: Chili w/ leftover cornbread
Snacks: yougart, egg, string cheese and granola bar (me) fruit cup and Milky Way (Jeremy)

So far, $71.48 left to spend and 24 days to go.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Okay... I'm in for the Penny Pinching Pantry Raid

Well, I thought "there's no way," when I first read about Susan's (She's becoming doughmesstic) Penny Pinching Pantry Raid Challenge. But after I came home from a week-long trip to Boston, and didn't feel like grocery shopping, and I thought I had "no food in the house!!!", I looked in the freezer, and realized I could put that trip to the grocery store off until tomorrow evening. I have a lot more stocked up than I thought, and I need to get rid of some of this stuff, anyway. And I realized, vegetable gardens will be coming in the next month, so it's time to clean out the freezer and pantry to make room for the new stuff I'll put up.

The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. I would have an extra hour or hour and half per week. I would hopefully have an extra $250+ dollars at the end of the month. What could I do with the time and money I'd save?!? So I did an inventory, and I'm glad I did. I found two jars of canned goods that had gone bad, and I threw away some stuff in the freezer that had been there a while ... Gross. After looking at the inventory, I already see about 10 meals without even going to the store. And I can rely on the generosity of family who's gardens are already producing. We got a bag of squash and cukes just the other day from my brother-in-law. That, plus, I conveniently went to the store on June 30th and bought enough for a couple weeks worth of meals. The only drawback is that I am going to Philly for a conference for a week (but I get a per diem, so I'm only going to count any money I spend above that.) And, Jeremy are thinking about going away for a night for our anniversary on the 15th. So, eating out will have to count toward the $100. Jeremy said he was "in" as long as beer didn't count toward the $100.
Here's where I stand:

1 pkg turkey lunchmeat
2 c. shredded zucchini
6 oz. queso fresco
1/2 a gallon bag of veg scraps (for making broth)
1/2 bag biscuits chopped broccoli
1 Steamfresh Meals for Two
1 frozen pizza
2 c. squash
1 ea. partial bag of broccoli and peas
1/2 bag of chicken tenders
2 pie crusts
1 bag potatoes obrien
2 Lean Cuisines
3 lbs. deer burger
1 bag frozen corn
2 c. shredded mozzarella
1/2 gallon bag of cubes of chicken broth
1 unidentified piece of meat

1 lb. new potatoes
partial boxes of pasta (lasagna, linguine, shells and egg noodles)
bags of cornmeal, flour, sugar, brown sugar, splenda, powdered sugar and coconut
1 bag pecans
karo syrup
2 partial jars of PB
4 bags assorted bread mixes
beignet mix
1 partial canister oats
wheat gluten (no clue why I bought this. It's unopened.)
dried onions
1 pkg ea. onion soup mix and taco seasoning
corn starch
masa harina
13 bags of fruit snacks
assorted tea
1 box of sure-jell
2 partial boxes of rice and a partial box of couscous
1 canister bread crumbs and panko bread crumbs
baking powder
1 box granola bars
2 boxes jello pudding
hot chocolate mix
lemonade mix
1 jar honey
1 jar apricot preserves
2 cans diced tomatoes
1/2 bag soy beans
assorted spices, vinegars and oils
2 canisters whey protein
1 pkg fish fry batter
1 can tuna
chow mein noodles
4 cans assorted beans
3 cans hotdog chili
1 can kraut
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 can almonds
1 partial box Kashi Go Lean

1 loaf of bread
1 stick of butter
tub of margarine
3 hot peppers
1 bell pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes
6 oz. filet of salmon
1 qt. + 1 c. fresh blueberries
2 pkg hotdogs
1 pkg hotdog buns
1 pkg hamb. buns
1/2 carton of egg beaters
1 egg
1/2 gallon of milk
2 growlers of beer
coffee creamer
margarita mix
1 qt. cottage cheese
1 qt. plain FF yougart
3 fruit cups
14 jello puddings
pickle spears
2 5lb bags flour
2 jars of pickled beets
8 oz. FF cream cheese
5 sodas
5 small squash
3 cukes
corn tortillas
flour tortillas
1/2 pkg lunch meat
1 whole pkg + 3 cheese slices
goat cheese
feta cheese
blue cheese
3 slices pepper jack cheese
2 containers of mushrooms
1 lemon
1 pkg basil
1 garlic clove
6 stalks celery
8 carrots
2 partial jars weiners & peppers
1/8 jar minced garlic (YIKES!)
16 oz. deer kilbasa
4 1/2 onions
2 candy bars
1 small partial can crisco
15 yougarts
1.3 lb. pkg of turkey burger
about 1/3 a head of iceberg lettuce
6 sticks of string cheese

2 2-c. pkg shredded cheddar cheese
1 homemade 8x8 pan lasagna
1 container cool whip
11 lbs. deer burger
1 deer loin
1 wild turkey breast
2 boxes of Kashi Go Lean
6 italian sausages
3 pt. pepper butter
1 jar mayo
1 jar garlic powder
3 bottles of V8
2 bottles mustard
3 bottles hot sauce
1 canister oats
8 qt. green beans
1 qt. pickles
2 qt. tomato juice
9 qt. weiners and peppers
4 pt. weiners & peppers
1 pt. homemade hot sauce
4 pkg hot dogs

Unfortunately, yesterday I ate lunch out with co-workers for $9.52. (But it was sooo good.) Today, actually, fortunately, I will be receiving my order from the Monroe County Farmers' Market. I've never ordered before, but some friends of mine swear by it. They deliver to Charleston every week, and the selection is awesome. I ordered 1 lb. free-range pork sausge for $4, 1 dozen free-range eggs for $3, a 6 oz. pkg organic salad greens for $4, and a bunch of fresh oregano and basil for $1.50 each, plus a $5 delivery fee for $19 total. Check it out at

Last night, I made "Buffalo" turkey burgers: 1.3 lbs. ground turkey @ $3.00; 5 buns @ $0.87; 3 slices of pepper jack cheese; a couple tsp. of hot sauce mixed in the meat; 2/3 container of blue cheese crumbles @ $1.32; 4 oz. cream cheese @ $0.35; lettuce; and a cucumber (FREE!) Dinner for two for around $5.54!!! I ate lunch out and had 1 c. Kashi for breakfast; 1/4 c. milk and 1/2 c. of cottage cheese.
French toast for breakfast for me. Jeremy didn't eat breakfast
For lunch, I had a lean cuisine and a jello pudding cup. Jeremy ate a leftover turkey burger and a soda.
For snacks, I had a hard boiled egg, yougart, 1 stick of string cheese, a granola bar and 1 bag of fruit snacks.
For dinner, we'll have salad w/ grilled salmon, mushrooms and feta cheese.