So for the month of February, I challenged myself to buy 200 dollars worth of groceries. I did not. I bought $211.92, $216.15 with tax. The extra money came from a really good deal on rib eye steaks which are Yohboh's favorite.
Many people are strong proponents of weekly meal planning for optimizing your grocery budget. I do not feel this works for my family. I am more the night before, while cleaning up the kitchen, meal planning. This works better for me because I can see if there is something that needs to be cooked soon, or if the weather reflects a change in menu or if I am going to cook something with a little prep (like dried beans).
I also have a really well stocked pantry. So instead of shopping at the grocery store, I shop my pantry. I only buy items to restock my pantry, not to make meals. I do not buy items specifically for a meal. For example, I made chili but did not have any beans. I did not do a grocery store run for beans. I just made chili without beans. The next time I see a great sale on canned beans (50 cents a can or less), I may stock up but lately I have been thinking that if I made my own dried beans into canned beans it would be much more economical.
So to give you an idea what $216.15 looks like in the Beef and Chocolate world here is what I bought this month: 2.5 pounds Rib Eye Steaks 8 Yoplait Yo Plus Yogurts 4 packs 2 loaves Pepperidge Farm Bread 2 Immaculate Sugar Cookie Dough readybake 4 jars Pace Salsa 2 32 ounce packages Velveeta 8 bottles Frank's Hot Sauce 8 cans Rotel 3 bunches scallions 4 bags Eight O'clock Coffee 1 Pound of Brussel Sprouts 2 bags Goldfish 2 pounds chicken wings 2 pounds chicken drumsticks 2.5 pounds ground beef 16 ounces mushrooms 1 head romaine lettuce 2 pounds carrots 2 heads of celery 11 pounds Smithfield Bacon Thick Cut 2 32 ounce cartons College Inn Chicken Broth 8 limes 1 bunch of beets 1 red bell pepper 2.03 pounds green cabbage 1 package assorted gummi candies from Japan 36 Wonton Wrappers 1 package Ramen 2 bunches cilantro fresh ginger 1 pound fruit slices candy 1 pound spice drops candy 1 pint Haagen Daaz Strawberry Sorbet 1 pint Haagen Daaz Strawberry Ice Cream 4 pounds Italian Sausage 2 pounds grape tomatoes 3 pounds of bananas 2 pounds of mozzarella 1 pound of sliced mushrooms 1.5 pounds of sweet red peppers 1 Pound ground turkey 11 Breakstone Cottage Cheese Doubles 4 tubs Betty Crocker frosting 1 pound ricotta 20 Egg Roll wrappers 4.5 pounds ground beef 10 bags Bird's Eye Steamfresh frozen vegetables 2 boxes Betty Crocker cake mix 1 loaf Arnold's high fiber bread 5 pound bag whole wheat flour 1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix 2 pounds Kroger pinto beans 4 bags Wise Cheese Doodles 2 28 ounce jars Peter Pan Peanut butter 3 500ml bottles of Crisco Olive Oil 2 cans Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt 2 jars Polander All Fruit Spread 8.02 pounds of chicken thighs 2 pounds ground chicken 3 8 ounce packages Hillshire Farm lunchmeat 4 Quarts Progresso Chicken broth 2 pounds Stonyfield yogurt 18 eggs 1 pound salmon 1 Acorn Squash 2 green Bell Pepper 4 Rib Eye steaks 2.41 pounds
Bear in mind that this is a list of me replenishing my pantry. My pantry is very well stocked. I fed my family of three on meals from this list and what was in the pantry. This is all breakfasts, lunch and dinners. I had people over to eat dinner with us about once a week. We also ate dinner out a few times this month. I also made three cakes from this list. Two were princess cakes and one was a pound cake.
Observations: 1) The bulk of my grocery budget went to meat. I spent $87.27. 2) The amount spent on restocking the pantry was $36.46. 3) The remainder went to dairy, fresh veggies and fruit.
I have recently rediscovered the library. As in not only can you get books, but DVD's and CDs. But I am a book girl. And I borrowed the Agnes and Muriel Cookbook.
When I opened the book, it naturally opened to this recipe for Brown Sugar Pound Cake. I figured it is a sign from the universe to bake it. But also, I had earmarked another recipe for pound cake. The Gourmet Magazine Brown Butter Pound Cake.
Being the baking daredevil that I am, I decided to combine the two and see how it would taste.
Double Brown Pound Cake
1 stick of butter
3 cups of all purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter flavored shortening 1 pound brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar 6 eggs 1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup milk
METHOD: Take the butter and put it in a small skillet over medium low heat. Stir gently to melt evenly. The butter will begin to smell nutty and color to a light brown. Take it off the heat and put in a container and let solidify.
Preheat oven to 325 and grease a bundt pan.
Combine the flour, salt and baking powder together in a small bowl.
Cream the brown butter, butter flavored shortening, and sugars together. Cream them until you cannot feel sugar crystals between your fingers (this is a grandma trick). Add the eggs one at a time over low speed on your mixer. Do not add the next egg until the first one is completely combined. Add the vanilla.
Alternate adding 1/3 of the flour mixture with 1/2 the milk to the butter mixture. This means you should start with and end with flour. Do not overmix this.
Pour into the bundt pan and bake for about 80 minutes in my oven.
I am a sucker for a recipe handed down by a grandmother. I love a Mom's recipe too but one from a grandmother makes me happy. There is something about the idea that a set of hands has been making this for two generations -- it HAS to be good. Which leads me to albondigas, which means meatball in Spanish. I read a couple of recipes for it.
Then I decided to make it with what I had on hand. That is another great thing about a grandma recipe, versatility.
For the meatballs: One onion, finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped One tablespoon olive oil 2 pounds ground chicken 1 cup cold cooked white rice 3 eggs 1 teaspoon cumin 2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon crushed oregano 1/2 teaspoon pepper
For the soup One tablespoon olive oil One onion, finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 1 teaspoon cumin 1 teaspoon crushed oregano 1 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes 2 32 ounce cartons of broth 1 16 ounce bag of frozen veggies (your choice)
For the meatballs Saute the onion and garlic in the oil in a medium pan for about 3-5 minutes. Let come to room temperature. Combine with the rest of the other ingredients and form into meatballs.
For the soup In your large pot, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until they break down, about 10 minutes. Add everything but the frozen veggies. Bring to boil. Drop the meatballs into the boiling soup. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cover for about 30 minutes.
About five minutes before serving, throw in the frozen veggies. Cover and bring up to a simmer.
Makes a vatful. For normal people, I recommend you halve the recipe. I cannot halve a recipe, I must double!
Get your big Dutch oven. Fry the bacon until it is crispy and there is a nice puddle of bacon fat that has rendered down. Fish the bacon out, try not to eat it and reserve it for later.
Take the flour and salt and pepper and combine it to make SEASONED flour. Coat your chicken with the flour. Put it in the puddle of bacon fat in the Dutch oven over medium high heat and brown on both sides. Fish the chicken out, reserve that for later. DO NOT eat the chicken at this stage, it is still raw!
Add the peppers, onion and celery to the bacon fat. Let it cook down. Season with salt and pepper. I do a pinch for every ingredient in the pot. So that would be three pinches. This will cook for about ten minutes.
I take the half raw chicken off the bone and cut it into chunks.
Add the garlic and the curry. Let that fry until it is fragrant. It took about three minutes for me. Add the three canned goods now.
Put the chunks of chicken back in the pot, add the bag of frozen veggies and the raisins. Cover until the chicken is cooked through.
Before you are ready to serve, stir the peas in. Yes, frozen. The peas will cook in the heat of the stewy goodness.
Serve with rice.
Remember that bacon you tried not to eat? Crumble it up and sprinkle it on top. I will admit, I ate some so there were only three strips to sprinkle.
I never had a calzone until I went to college. There was a restaurant called Pero's that was near the school that delivered. That branch closed and now I make my own. Actually, I made the dough and assembled the ingredients and yohboh made them.
It basically is my pizza dough with a ricotta filling. Bake at 550 until they are golden, brown and delicious. Then I brushed them with garlic infused oil and kosher salt right out of the oven.
Since it is Mardi Gras, I made gumbo. This is my thought process: Mardi Gras makes the think of New Orleans. New Orleans makes me think of gumbo. New Orleans also makes me think of Emeril Lagasse, hurricanes, and La Maison Dupuy hotel.
I normally buy my dumplings frozen. But I was reading the LA times article on dumplings and it got me thinking that maybe it was time for me to make some. Now, I did not have a real recipe to follow but I was thinking that dumplings are the perfect little meat strecher. You take a little bit of meat, throw some flavorful stuff in and BOOM tasty goodness.
Dumplings by Minjenah
INGREDIENTS: One pound ground turkey (I used the fatty kind) 4 ounces kimchee, finely chopped One tablespoon minced ginger 4 scallions chopped 3 T minced cilantro 2 T dark soy sauce 1 T sesame oil
36 wonton skins (I bought a package at the local Asian mart. Next time, I will try to make them myself.)
METHOD: Combine the first seven ingredients until well combined. To do this, I used a pair of chopsticks. To make sure the seasoning is correct, I fried one minimeatball up in a skillet.
Put a scant teaspoon in a wonton skin. I like to do this in an assembly line fashion. It appeals to my engineering side.
Wet your finger with water and wet two edges. Seal the wonton skin up, taking care to press most of the air out.
Makes 36, plus extra filling for another day.
I ended up freezing about 24 of them. But yohboh and I ate some, pan fried:
So I told yohboh if it really did snow that I would make cinnamon buns. Well it really did snow. And I am a woman of my word.
3 T yeast 1/2 cup warm water 1 teaspoon of honey
3/4 cup unsalted butter 1 cup milk 3/4 cup sugar 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
6 eggs About 9 cups of flour
Bloom the yeast in the water and honey.
In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the butter, milk, sugar and salt until the butter is melted. Stir to combine. Add the eggs and whip to combine. The butter mixture should feel comfortably warm to the touch.
Put the yeast in a large bowl. Add the butter mixture and combine well. Add 8 cups of flour and mix. When the dough starts pulling away from the sides, dump it out onto a floured board and knead in an additional cup of flour. When the dough is all satiny, put into a buttered bowl and let rise for an hour.
In that hour you make the cinnamon bun filling.
Filling: 2 pounds of brown sugar 1 pound of butter 1/2 cup of cinnamon
Whip the butter until very fluffy. Add the sugar and cinnnamon. It will resemble creamy peanut butter.
Now you pour out the dough onto the same floured board and roll it out with a floured rolling pin until it is 24 x 36 inches. Spread the filling onto the rolled out dough. Now roll up the dough tightly. Roll it from the long side. It will take a while, be patient. If I can do this, you can too. It will remeble those play doh snakes you made in kindergarden. The ones that were thinner at the ends and fatter in the middle. Now cut them up into one inch slices and put into a greased pan. (I freeze a lot of them at this step) Let the dough rise for another hour.
During this hour, make the frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting 8 ounces of cream cheese softened 1 stick of butter 1 tablespoon vanilla 1/4 cup milk 16 ounces of powdered sugar
Whip the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla and milk. Whip some more. Sift the sugar in until light and fluffy.
Now bake the rolls at 350 for about 30 minutes.
Take them out and schmear the frosting on them. And eat them standing up and moaning because they are that good.
If you freeze them at where I suggested, what I do is let them defrost overnight in the fridge and put them in the oven the following morning at 350 for about 30 minutes. I would recommend putting a pan of hot water underneath the rolls in the oven. It makes them much more poofier. I actually freeze a good portion of the frosting as well. I hack off a lump of the frosting and put the cold frosting on the fresh from the oven rolls and let the frosting melt.
This makes 36 buns. I freeze them in packs of three so for the next 10 weeks, guess what we are having for Sunday breakfast?
So I took the toddler to a cake store. She really liked it. She found a display cake that was a princess cake. She said, "Look at that cake, Mommy. That cake is beautiful." So being the overachieveing mommy that I am, I present to you:
When the toddler gets up, we will decorate it together. With lots and lots of candies.
To make this cake, I did a double batch of cake (next time I will do a triple batch) and a triple batch of icing. And I used Duncan Hines cake mix. Because it is 1 AM on a week night. And I baked a princess cake for my little girl.
Yohboh suggested I name the soup in French. It was a tasty and filling dinner. It is very cold in this part of the world and it seemed like a soup night.
Cabbage and White Bean soup
One pound of bacon, chopped
2 onions, chopped 3 carrots, chopped 2 ribs of celery chopped 4 cloves of garlic minced 3 potatoes, chopped 1/2 head of cabbage chopped
1 pound of white beans, soaked overnight and drained
32 ounces of chicken broth
Take your biggest pot and cook the bacon until it is crispy. Add all the vegetables to the pot and let them cook down. This will take a while. There are a lot of veggies. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
Add the beans and the broth. If you need more liquid, add some water. The liquid level should cover the beans. Cover the pot and let simmer for two hours or until the beans are cooked through. Taste it and make sure it has enough salt and pepper.
I added some cheese when we had it for dinner because, well I think everything is good with cheese.
Makes an enormous vatful. I think seven quarts would be a good guestimate. So halve it unless you are a person who likes to have vats of home made soup sitting around, like me.
So Yohboh went to a friend's house to watch the football game. I made:
RoTel Dip, but being minjenah, I could not help but fiddle with it.
Minjenah's Rotel Dip
16 ounces Velveeta 1 can Hot (with Habanero) Rotel 1/2 cup sour cream 2 scallions finely minced
Microwave the first two ingredients for about four minutes in my microwave. You know your microwave so do a best guestimate. Stir until all well combined. Add the sour cream and stir well. I add the sour cream because it helps this dip stay liquid-y as it cools. Sprinkle scallions on top. Eat with a lot of chips.
Since I am only spending 200 dollars this month on groceries, I have found that buying a large portion of proteins and dividing them over many meals is beneficial. This is the leftover steak from last night's dinner. The steak also served as Yohboh's lunch.
I have noticed that since I am mostly in charge of meal prep and clean up, I am very conscious of how many dishes I will be washing later. So I will make either a stove meal or an oven meal. As in, I am not turning both on because that is a lot of pots and pans to wash. I also am a big fan of parchment paper, because that really makes clean up easier. As in, to clean up you throw away the paper.
For example, this evening I chose to make baked potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts because they could both go in the oven. On a sheet of parchment paper. So there would be no clean up.
I am a tiny Asian woman trying to navigate the Deep South. I have a profound love of all things deep fried.
I married a man seven years my junior (WHO IS THE ROCK STAR! JAYUUH!)
I have a well developed sense of humor and a poorly developed sense of spacial relations.
I share too much, which is why I need to blog to edit before I over share with people how often I poop and how I saw my first gray hair at 24 AND IT WAS NOT ON MY HEAD.
I had a child on February 2007 I had another child in October of 2011. My life has not been the same. It has gotten a lot better.
If you wish to contact me email me at minjenah at gmail dot com. I will respond, eventually.