This recipe truly doesn’t take much more time than it would to make the highly processed macaroni out of a blue box. Don’t expect the same flavor as the factory made stuff though because it actually tastes SOOO much better. And of course this recipe is also much better for you with only a few simple ingredients including whole-grain noodles. So go ahead and do the right thing by making the switch for your family…it’s better late than never!
Archives for 2010
It’s been a little bit of a challenge to track our real food budget over the Christmas holiday…especially since we hosted this year. I tell you what, I already felt like our real food diet caused me to cook and clean and run our dishwasher all of the time, but hosting family for the holidays took things to a whole new level. I of course had some extra helpers, but I also probably took on more cooking than I should have over the last week. I am feeling a little burnt out to say the least! Regardless of how many dirty dishes we went through, the food highlight this holiday season was definitely the local lamb loin that we had on Christmas Day (I wish I had a picture!). We’d never cooked lamb before so we were a little concerned about how it would turn out, but my husband (who can cook by the way) made a rare appearance at our stove and managed to exceed all of our expectations. His simple preparation consisted of cooking the meat in a cast iron skillet with some olive oil, garlic, red wine, & rosemary…and it was delicious. Even our 3-year-old, who hardly even eats meat, was digging in. I was beyond shocked by her response (but of course pleased!). The lamb, among other things, of course came out of a separate entertaining budget, but prior to the arrival of our guests last week I attempted to stick to our regular $125 a week budget.
I don’t know about you, but before we switched over to “real food” we used to make quite a few recipes that called for canned cream of mushroom soup. With over a dozen ingredients (including MSG in some brands) this item definitely doesn’t pass the “real food” test. Even when Michael Pollan discusses the importance of cooking food yourself (to ensure you know where your food comes from) he specifically says “all bets are off…[if] you’re the kind of cook who starts with a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.” I just assumed I would have to give up all of those old casserole, stuffing, dip, and potpie recipes…but not anymore! Thanks to a casserole recipe (pictured) that I found in Eating Well Magazine I was able to extract an easy-to-make “cream of mushroom” binding agent to use in other dishes as well. A blog reader even suggested making extra and freezing the leftovers. Now instead of reaching for a factory made ingredient out of a can how about something similar (but better of course) right out of your freezer? You certainly can’t beat knowing exactly what’s in your food!
I already find it challenging to keep my children’s intake of sweets to a minimum on a regular basis, but during the month of December? It is almost downright impossible to keep things under control. A month or two ago we decided that the best balance for us would be to (of course) stick to eating real food as much as possible, but to also allow ourselves one “treat” of our choice over the weekend. The last thing I want is for my daughters to start raiding the pantries at their friends’ houses after not getting any junk food at home! Plus, most things in moderation are okay. Now, it is no secret that I have a sweet tooth myself and (not that anybody’s asked) all I’ve wanted for my “special weekend treat” is one darn donut! And have I gotten to take my girls out to Krispy Kreme to watch the donuts being made and enjoy eating them together hot off the conveyer belt? No, because it unfortunately has not yet been up to me what the weekend treat will be. The school or birthday party or other social gathering always seems to be making that decision for us. You see if my girls are invited to a birthday party, the cake (or parfait or whatever it is) automatically becomes their special treat for the weekend. And since some sort of social event seems to be going on almost every week I eventually stopped holding out for that donut, but unfortunately already put my eye on a new prize…Christmas cookies.
It is very important to me that I am efficient…always. I like to put things away in the most optimal order so I don’t backtrack. I often multitask to get things done faster. I like to be quick if I am shopping on a mission with a list. And last, but not least, when driving somewhere I like to get from A to B as efficiently as possible (while still staying safe of course). So when I decided to try Lowes Foods for the first time this week and it ended being a complete waste of my time (30 minutes to be exact)…I couldn’t help but be irritated! I know a lot of people think Earth Fare is expensive, and as much as I agree that I should be trying other stores there is something to be said for a grocery store that provides you with the following (even if it is sometimes at a slightly higher price)… The ability to know where almost everything is in the store (thanks to numerous previous visits) The confidence to know that they will have everything on your list (including a fresh-looking organic version) Employees that can provide you with complimentary services (like cutting down a block of cheese to make it cheaper) and answer your questions quickly and accurately When I walked into Lowes Foods I already knew that I didn’t have all the time in the world (if I was going to be on time for the afternoon school bus). And I couldn’t easily find their organic produce – if they did in fact have any – so I decided to ask an employee. This individual didn’t even know if they had organic produce (?)
I don’t know about you, but we are FREEZING here in Charlotte. Literally, freezing. At the bus stop in the mornings we’ve been experiencing unseasonably cold temps down in the teens, which is hard to deal with when you have Southern blood! And during these cold spells the last thing I’d want my girls to miss out on is hot chocolate because nothing cures cold fingers and toes better than some good ol’ hot chocolate. I am happy to report that it can easily be done even when you only eat real food and even when you are doing it on a tight budget. Just forget Swiss Miss and look at that picture…yum! So anyway, I am sure there are many ways to make it, but my way is to mix
Okay, so I am totally still in vacation mode and was feeling way too lazy to come up with an exciting dinner plan for the week. I actually barely came up with a plan at all. My hope is since I am admitting this right up front that I will hereby be “excused” from my lack of creativity this week! My non-plan simply consists of some dinner ideas that we could make at some point over the next few days (like burritos and chili), but we are by no means committed to anything. So far we had fish for dinner with sweet potato pancakes and greens (pictured) on Tuesday night and bean/pork burritos with homemade whole-wheat tortillas tonight. Everything’s gone off without a hitch so I am pleased to admit that flying by the seat of our pants seems to be working so far.
We made it back home safe and sound! And while it was of course nice to return to the comforts of home and reunite with our children, we very much enjoyed our time away. Argentina was such a fun place to explore especially since, as some say, the country has “its head in the tropics and its feet in the artics.” It is currently late spring there, and in the northern region we were greeted with some very warm weather and plenty of palm trees. When traveling to the south we experienced much cooler weather (along with lots of wind) and even a little bit of unseasonably late snow. The southern tip of the country is just across the water from Antarctica after all! And to complement the beautiful landscape we discovered that the people of Argentina are an absolute joy. Granted their driving skills are another story, but their personalities are among the friendliest and most helpful that we’ve ever encountered while traveling! And traveling we did. Between visiting a colony of over a half a million penguins (in the desert), experiencing a tango show, exploring the gorgeous vineyards of the Mendoza wine region, taking part in a very unique and fun cooking class, horseback riding along a glacial lake, ice trekking on the Perito Moreno glacier, and doing lots of good ol’ people watching…it was quite the adventure! I had been craving some adventure in a far away place, and I have to say that I am feeling more than satisfied after our trip. I also felt very satisfied after having the chance to experience some tasty authentic Argentinean cuisine. The food highlight of the trip was easily the Patagonian lamb
As we approach the halfway mark of our little project I want to announce that we are going to take a short 2-week hiatus from eating real food on a budget. The break will only be from the budget part of course, not eating real food :). Like a lot of you, we will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with family, but once that is over we are also lucky enough to be going on a fun little trip. In honor of our 10-year-wedding anniversary my husband and I are going to escape to Argentina for a bit…sans kids! Exploring the cuisine of a new culture is one of the many things I look forward to on a trip like this so my plan is to simply enjoy our meals rather than blog about every little detail. I’ll definitely be taking lots of pictures though, and will share some of the highlights when we return. Let’s just hope the language barrier doesn’t make it too hard to seek out the most delicious real food we can find once we are there! Upon our return, I will be picking things right back up where we left off with “Budget Day 50” on Monday, December 6. And if all goes well with preparing for our trip I may set up one or two automated little articles to be posted in my absence…although I won’t be around to answer emails or comments from those posts during our vacation. Every girl deserves a break, right?
I might as well get used to never following my weekly dinner plan because that is slowly becoming the norm rather than the exception. That’s okay though…it makes me feel “flexible” (even though I know my Type A Personality is really nothing of the sort!). Anyway, we were supposed to have our chicken and rice casserole last night, but we didn’t. My husband was out of town and I didn’t feel like working that hard in the kitchen in his absence. So, on a whim, (see, I am flexible!) I surprised my girls with whole-wheat banana pancakes for dinner. We’ve had “breakfast for dinner” a thousand times in this house, but for some strange reason it is always an egg dish. I have no idea why it never occurred to me to serve a different breakfast meal for dinner? Well, let’s just say the pancake surprise was a pretty big hit. I think my 5-year-old ate as much as me and my other daughter combined. Tonight we were supposed to go to Earth Fare (free kids night) with some friends, but those plans changed as well. So I decided we should have last night’s chicken casserole tonight. The only problem was that the girls and I were unexpectedly out running errands until almost 6:30 P.M. The whole way home I was worried about how in the world I would manage to make dinner, feed them, bathe them, and still get them to bed by 7:30 (my kindergartner has to get up at 6 A.M.!) all while my husband was still out-of-town. I admit that I was tempted as I drove past Chick-fil-A.
I am so excited I can hardly stand it. It only took me 43 days to do it, but finally for once I came in under budget! Woohoo! And not only did I come in under budget (with my purchases from Earth Fare today), but check out how much food I got. I could barely fit it into the picture there is so much. After scrounging for food all weekend (since the budget week ends on Sundays) having this much food in our house at one time feels like a bountiful feast! I planned to spend $82 today, but my first round of groceries surprisingly left me with 10 bucks to spare. I certainly could have saved this unexpected $10, but I am a spender by nature so instead I decided to get a few “extras” that weren’t on my original list. So to my cart I added my beloved mozzarella cheese (the kind that floats in the water, which is the bomb), another bag of organic whole-wheat flour since I seem to be running low on that lately, and some more mushrooms. Even after purchasing those items the bill only came to $81.50. I was more than thrilled that I got to splurge on my favorite cheese and still end up with 50 cents to spare. It seems like every other time I go to the store I plan to spend $25 and I end up spending $30…so this is major progress for me!