Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Putting Pinterest to use: dinner this week and other ideas

There was a great story on NPR about Pinterest. Did you know Pinterest could rival Google as the next most useful search engine? While Google can show you web pages that include words about what you are looking for; all us crazy pinners are creating a crowd-sourced mega database of searchable le images. Fascinating how in our spare time, we have taken what started out as a digital bulletin board and turned it into a power house! Surely now you don't feel like Pinterest has been. Waste of time! 

I've been spending some time cleaning out my boards and reorganizing. I decided to start a new board that will only include recipes that I could make with stuff I have on hand. Me? Rationalize time on Pinterest? Nooooo. 

Tonight I was able to use up the last of the broccoli and made cheesy quinoa and broccoli patties. They weren't bad, but they need a little something. Could be something simple like salt, but I suspect a little more creativity with herbs and spices would take these babies up a notch. Any who...combined with a huge tomato from a colleague's garden and bam! Summer supper! 

I also saw an idea recently either somewhere on Pinterest or on thekitchn.com to make a "triage tray" in your fridge. Basically, the idea is to designate space in your fridge for stuff you want to use up before it goes bad. 
Such a simple idea might have saved the retried beans I threw in the trash tonight. I used a plastic placemat for my triage tray.  I'm thinking this zucchini noodle with tomatoes and balsamic glaze might be nice for dinner tonight! 
What's going to be on your table tonight? Any fun new recipes in the mix? What's your go-to summer supper?

Monday, August 04, 2014

Grocery shopping 101: August is off to a good start!

Despite not having a car for a whole month, I think we can call July a success in the grocery department. I ended up spending $174.27 for the month, and that included 6 bottles of wine. I shopped at the regular grocery store more than I would have if I could have driven to Aldi, so that also contributed to higher spending. Meh...still not bad. 

August is off to a good start. Loaded up for the next week and splurged a little on dinners for me and my main squeeze to have this weekend. Total bill was $79.39. Here's the breakdown.
I I went a bit over board, but I wanted to have a few extra nice meals. I spent $14 on steaks alone. Not something I would usually do for myself, that's for sure! I also got frozen salmon fillets which will last for quite some time. Looks like I spent a lot for one week if my goal is only $160 a month. Having my main squeeze here for the weekend, and it being the first shopping trip of the month both make for the higher total. It will all even out.

 Here's a little insight into my general strategy for grocery shopping.
  • You are what you eat! I am by no means a perfect eater. I keep in mind what is necessary for health when I shop for food. With the occasional exception, try to steer clear of foods that don't contribute nourishment for health. The cuts down on about 80% of the grocery store.
  • What can I do with what I already have?  I really try to assess my fridge, freezer and pantry before I head to the store. That way I can use up what I have instead of buying more than I need. Waste not, want not! I make a note of what meals would be possible if I just had 1 or 2 other things. Planing around what I already have helps keep the list to a minimum. I don't worry so much about planning the gaps. I tend to keep a mental tally of some favorite recipes so that I can fill in the menu gaps depending on what’s available when I get to the store.
  • The mental listMy shopping list is pretty stable from week to week. The way my store is arranged, I skip right through the first isle of chips and cookies and snacks to the back for eggs, milk, butter (when I need it), yogurt, and shredded cheese. Then I hit up the produce section. I go a bit crazy in this section! Whatever looks good goes in the cart until I have what I think is enough to get at least 5 generous servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  Then I go look at the meat. If something is on a crazy sale, I might buy it to put in the freezer. Then I grab anything else I might need to complete my mental meal plan. Example: If Italian sausage is on sale, I might go back for an onion and a bell pepper to make this pasta dish I like. Then I grab any staples I might be out of like rice, might grab a couple bags of frozen veggies if I’m out. That’s it. Easy when you skip most of the middle.
  • Meal planning: I know a lot of people are big on menu planning, and I am too. If you can check out the flier before going to the store, then plan a few meals around what’s going to be on sale. At Aldi, I feel like not everything ends up in the flier. Sometimes I check my Pinterest boards to get ideas of meals I might like to cook during the week. I also only really plan on cooking 2-3 meals a week. The left-overs are great for nights when I'm too busy or tired to cook and they make for great lunches too. 
  • Lunch planning: I generally try to use up leftovers for lunches and then take salads or bento-style lunches made up of little bits of this and that. I don't really buy anything particularly special for lunches. I don't make sandwiches or buy Lean Cuisine type of stuff. Using up whatever is around keeps the waste and cost down!
·     I don’t ALWAYS or NEVER anything, but I do try to keep a good routine for the grocery store. My grocery tips and tricks are what I try to stick by. Of course there is the occasional splurge! Eh hem...steaks.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Feeding the 5000 when you are running on empty

Pretty sure I'm not the one person in the world who is quick to say ,"Sure I can make that happen!" It's easy to read blogs like Pioneer Woman and think that you should be able to run a working ranch, feed a big family, write books, and look cute doing it. She has help. Most of us do not have help. Saying yes too often leave me feeling frazzled. I have got to learn the art of saying no. Until then, I have to cope with the chaos of saying yes.

Yesterday was classic. I volunteered to provide dinner for about 15 people at a board meeting. Not just any meeting. This meeting fell on the birthday of a former state representative, and I was asked to make a special dessert! Typically not a problem. I love to make fun desserts! I love to feed people! Yesterday was a doozy of a day. Woke up at 2:45am. Drove 1.5 hours to the airport to catch the 6am flight back to Maryland. Took the bus from Baltimore to Rockville. Took the shuttle from the metro station to work and made it on time for my 9:30am meeting. Thankfully my 9:30 was bumped to 9:45 which have me time to grab more coffee. Worked the rest of the day...not sure how. Hertz picked me up at 4 in a shiny, red Mustang! I got a rental car, because a month after the wreck I still didn't have my own car. Went to the grocery store and grabbed everything needed for a huge dinner salad. I baked shortcakes while I was still in Indiana, and traveled with them. Grabbed strawberries and whipped topping. I had 15 minutes at home to prepare the salad and cut up the strawberries. Then I drove to the board meeting in a neighboring suburb about 25 min away. Baxter was in the car with me because he hadn't had his evening walk yet. Thankfully everything panned out beautifully! 


Strawberry and blueberry shortcake!

15 minutes in the grocery, 15 min of prep (not including baking the shortcakes) and $45 makes dinner for 15! Boom! Made it happen. Not without personal cost. I was so razzed that I couldn't fall asleep. Today I was completely tanked all day. I have got to figure out when to raise the white flag. What's the phrase? Just because you can doesn't mean you should? 

This guy is glad to have me back and get on a more normal schedule! 

I'm glad to be back and getting on a more normal schedule. Today I practiced saying no. When asked if I would be interested to sing in the church choir, I said no! It's a start. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Care packages galore!

I've been on the sending and receiving ends of care packages in the last couple weeks. Not sure why I can't be better about getting to the post office. It's so much fun sending little packages!

Here's a "box of sunshine" for my friend's brother. I hope you are keeping him I'm your prayers. Cancer is just the worst. I. Wrapped the shirt in orange paper, so when he opened the box it was all sunshine and happiness. The tape all over the box adds a nice touch, don't you think? 

The next package is going to another friend who is dealing with cancer. I hate cancer. I hope you will keep her in your prayers too. Her theme is pink elephants, and I just needed to bake some cookies. Smitten kitchen chocolate cookies are my favorite roll-out cookies, and besides...chocolate makes everything a little better.

I've gotten two care packages recently. One from my mom's friend, Karen. She surprised me with a skein of Loom Risoni silk yarn and a pattern to make a little scarf! 

The other is from my friend Alley! Look what she made me?!? This Christmas ornament will make me smile every year. 

What are your favorite things to drop in the mail to friends? Do share!