Introducing…the grocery challenge!
I would like to get better at long-term meal planning, so I decided to track my purchases at Whole Foods and see what I ended up making and throwing out. I used to live within walking distance of a Whole Foods, but that was very dangerous for my budget–it was too easy to pop in after work and buy prepared food or impulse purchases. We’ve all been there at some point–went to the store with the best of intentions but came home only to find a bag full of organic soap, a hand-woven basket, starfruit and sushi. Now I drive to a nearby Whole Foods, which enables me to make larger purchases and dissuades me from impulse buying.
Here’s my first haul and what it created:
Meals & Parts of Meals
What Was Left at the End of the Week
- 4 apples
- 6 eggs
- Basil (had to toss)
- Mint (had to toss)
- Cilantro (had to toss)
- Chickpeas (didn’t end up making chickpea soup)
I am still trying to find a balance between fresh ingredients and week-long sustainability. I went out for dinner a couple times (Tuesday and Thursday) and ended up buying lunch a couple times (Thursday and Friday). The dinners were planned, but peanut butter & bacon bagels were definitely *not*.
Adobo: Burnt Lumpia
(Adobo adapted from March 2007 Sunset Magazine Easy Chicken Adobo recipe + the Burnt Lumpia commenters)
1 Tbsp olive oil [did not have achuete oil]
1 tsp smoked paprika
8 bone-in chicken thighs, with skin
6 cloves garlic, minced [added one more…I love garlic]
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns [added too many by mistake]
2 bay leaves
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, place the chicken in the pan, skin-side down, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and brown the other side, another 5 minutes.
Remove the browned chicken from the saute pan and place in a large bowl. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp of the drippings from the saute pan and return to low heat. Add the garlic and saute until lightly brown and fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the soy and vinegar, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Return the chicken to the pan, along with any accumulated juices from the bowl, and bring to a gentle simmer. After the liquid reaches a simmer, cover the saute pan and cook for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, uncover the pan and increase the heat to medium, cooking for 15 minutes more or until sauce thickens to your liking. While the chicken cooks, occasionally stir and spoon sauce over the chicken. Remove the bay leaves and serve [with coconut cauliflower rice]. Drizzle chicken and rice with sauce.
1 head cauliflower, leaves and large stem removed, cut into chunks
1/3 cup (heaping) unsweetened coconut flakes [omitted]
1/2 Tbs fresh grated ginger or 1/2 tsp good-quality ground ginger [used the fresh]
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it) [used 1 tsp]
1 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup roughly chopped scallions [used parsley instead, the scallions at the store were wilted]
2 tsp coconut oil (probably optional) [used this instead of coconut flakes]
Salt to taste
Pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles rice. Set aside and wipe out food processor bowl.Put all remaining ingredients in the food processor. Blend until very finely chopped. [Boyfriend cut the cilantro and parsley himself]. Combine the mixture with the cauliflower. [Instead of cooking in the microwave, we pan-fried it with some of the chicken drippings. We accidentally burned it a little, hence the much browner color on the final plate.]
Deliciousness: 5 stars. This hit the spot and reminded me that I need to cook other Filipino foods with my mom and aunt (pancit palabok, pancit canton, pancit bihon, chicken sotanghon, lumpia, empanadas, embutido, leche flan etc.) so I can learn their cooking secrets.
Ease of Preparation: 3 stars. There is a lot of chopping and processing involved, so I am very grateful to my boyfriend for helping out with that. Even with the combined powers of two people, this took us over an hour to make. I used my Rachael Ray pan and my Le Creuset dutch oven, and I would have preferred to use a much wider pan for one batch.
Leftover Staying Power: 3.5 stars. I took some to school two days later, and the cauliflower rice didn’t hold up as well as I thought it would.
Ingredients & Modifications
- For the dressing:
- 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice [used lemon juice instead]
- 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar [omitted]
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more if desired [used more]
- For the salad:
- 1/2 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (or pre-washed) [used spinach instead]
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into thin bite-sized strips [used yellow pepper instead]
- 1 carrot, peeled and shredded [omitted]
- 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced [used zucchini instead]
- 2 scallions, finely chopped [used onion instead]
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Prepare sauce. Mix into other ingredients. Eat.
Deliciousness: Five stars. Whole Foods had cooked shrimp on sale last week, and it was enormous and chompable. I liked the zing from the fish sauce and red pepper.
Ease of Preparation: Doable within one episode of Big Bang Theory. The chopping is the most time-consuming part; there was no waiting time because I put the shrimp & cilantro into the sauce while I chopped the veggies.
Leftover Staying Power: I took some to school for lunch the next day, and it held up quite nicely!
I made recipe #1 for a math party that I attended today. The party was a potluck, and the host asked guests to bring salad, dessert, or drinks. I decided to combine the dessert and salad by bringing this fruit salad from Epicurious.
2 cups diced peeled fresh pineapple
1 cup diced seeded peeled honeydew melon
1 cup diced peeled pitted mango
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh cilantro or mint
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon minced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Mix all ingredients except sesame seeds in large bowl. Let stand 10 minutes for flavors to blend. Divide fruit mixture among wineglasses and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
I bought precut honeydew and pineapple to save time. I used mint instead of cilantro and cut the fruit very small, as reviewers recommended. I didn’t include sesame seeds. I forgot to buy limes, so I ended up using two tablespoons of pisco sour.
I also had thought I could use an orange bell pepper that I had in the fridge, but it was wrinkly, so I used a cara cara orange.
Deliciousness: 4 stars. The mangoes weren’t ripe, and I would have preferred the lime juice and a little texture from the bell pepper. I’m glad I didn’t use cilantro though–that would have been overpowering.
Ease of Preparation: Very quick–I finished it within two weddings of an episode of Four Weddings (~20 minutes).
The Final Product
My friend Jess
recently told me about Boston Brunchers (a blogging/brunching community that also includes writers, tweeters, bakers, and PR professionals). I love discovering new places to eat and am excited about getting involved. This month’s brunch is at Ceia
, a Newburyport restaurant with an average of 4 stars on Yelp
. Sounds like an awesome day trip and opportunity to meet other foodies over oysters, linguica and potato hash, and much more!
Yesterday we rang in the new year with a visit to our favorite sushi restaurant, Sei Bar! The sushi and the customer service are equally awesome. We love going there for date nights or birthday celebrations–you can always count on a cheerful, easygoing experience! No crowds, long waits for tables, or snooty attitude can ever be found. The staff will also get to know you after you come in a few times, and they’ve been known to throw in free creme brulees, drinks, or Viking boats.
Some highlights of dinner (coincidentally some of my favorite things to order) are below:
Reason #1 to Love Sei Bar: Fresh, Simple Ingredients. Spicy tuna hand rolls (2 regular, 4 white tuna). I’m now a huge fan of white tuna after being converted by my friends Brad and John.
Reason #2 to Love Sei Bar: Innovative Recipes. We first saw the sushi sandwiches (tuna, spicy mayo, and tempura) in April at Brad’s going away party. It made an official appearance on the holiday menu in December.
Reason #3 to Love Sei Bar: Viking Boats.Our viking sushi, from left to right: Tufts maki (cooked tuna over a roll of cucumber and tempura), caterpillar roll, Tesla roll (tuna, roe and seaweed salad over a roll of cooked tuna and mango), spicy white tuna hand rolls, and salmon sashimi.
Not Pictured Today, but Likely Will be on Future Visits
- Lettuce wraps with minced chicken
- Spicy avocado salad
- Tuna naruto
- Spicy lime veggie soup
- Flower tea
- Creme Brulee
…a Canon Rebel T3…(i).
This baby is way more technologically capable than my old Canon PowerShot, so my dream of cooking up a storm and then presenting my cooking via a frequently-updated food blog will now come to fruition! However, I haven’t touched an SLR since my days at Corks & Curls and Cav Daily, so I feel rusty with concepts like aperture, shutter speed, composition. Furthermore, there are so many features, modes and options on the camera…will have to make a study date with the instruction manual!
My dream of a food blog has been around for a while, with my first forays into food blogging taking place in the dark ages of the interwebs. My friend Kat and I were inspired to chronicle our kitchen experiments for our friends and family to see. Though Kat was diligent about her posting, I was…not. At the time, I was a newly minted teacher trying to juggle three different preps and learning how to lesson plan while chomping on the results of my kitchen experiments, often ending at one of these stages of the meal’s circle of life:
1) Infancy: I devoured the meal before remembering to take a picture. “Ooh that chili was the bomb dot com. Was there something I was supposed to do? Ehh, I’ll blog next time.”
2) Toddlerhood: I fully intended to take a picture but didn’t charge the batteries or forgot the camera. “I am so ready to write about this gruyere, mushroom and bacon egg frittata. No battery? Ehh, I’ll blog next time.”
3) Childhood: I took a picture but my kitchen light gave the food the unflattering treatment that only a DMV camera can impart, so I deleted it. “This gourmet cream of mushroom soup tastes so good…but looks really vile. Ehh, I’ll blog next time.”
4) Adolescence: I took a picture but let it languish on the camera’s SD card. “I’m in a food coma after eating buffalo chicken. The pictures look a little better than usual, but I’ll just take a nap before I upload. [Three hours later] Ehh, I’ll blog next time.”
Looking back on the rare meals that made it to the Adulthood stage (camera + USB cable = upload success), I realize that some lesson planning wisdom I’ve gained over the years can turn my food blogging from a C/D to an A/B. In a math lesson, clear objectives, routines and materials are key to making sure all the activities run smoothly. In 2012, out with the “I’ll blog next time” and in with the “I’ll blog this now!”
1) Clear Objectives: I didn’t have a clearly defined purpose. I’d blog random snacks or elaborate french toast with banana cardamom sauce. I didn’t set any time deadlines for myself. In 2012, I will blog the following: one new recipe a week and one dinner party a month.The recipes will come from my cookbooks or favorite food blogs. I won’t blog every single meal I make, otherwise I will burn out and fall back into the “next time” trap. Sometimes I’ll include things like restaurant meals or budget challenges, but I’m going to aim for reasonable rather than try to write about everything under the sun.
2) Routines and Materials
: The lovely Canon Rebel T3i and Eye-Fi card
will make uploading so much quicker. I’ll also post on the new recipes on Wednesdays to get into a regular habit, and post the dinner party recaps within two days of the parties.
Looking forward to twelve dinner parties and fifty-two new recipes in 2012!