Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Pretty Personal Post

Good morning!
I didn't plan on getting this blog up and making many person posts. But in light of the recent SNAP benefits challenge some other bloggists are following, I wanted to post a few things.

I'm on unpaid medical leave from my bank job. I use SNAP benefits to help pay for groceries. My boyfriend buys the rest, and we pool our money for groceries. These are some thoughts from seeing some posts.

First, I'll share what I planned for and what I bought this week:

Currently, this is my meal plan:

Sweet and Sour Stir Fry


Samosas w/ white rice

Mini shepherd's pie

Tuna cakes w/ white rice

This is a list of what I purchased at the grocery store, Big Y. I got a big discount on milk since we had a "coin" that gives us extra discounts on certain items (like a loyalty program)

Fat Free Milk ($1.88), Large eggs ($2.15), Cream cheese ($1.50)

Frozen Food:
Fillo dough ($4.39), Mixed frozen veggies ($2.50), Raspberry sherbet ($1.67), green peas ($1.50), ice cream sandwiches ($2.88)

General Grocery:
Yellow cake box ($1.25), chocolate frosting ($1.59), tuna (2 cans for $2.50), chicken ramen (2 for $0.50). pepsi cola ($1.34), pineapple chunks in syrup from the discounted grocery area (2 for $0.64), oatmeal ($2.99), whole wheat bread ($2.50), bagels (buy one get one free: $2.49)

Chicken sausages ($3.99)

Bananas ($1.65), granny smith apples ($2.57), scallions ($0.99), ginger root ($0.76), jalepenos (2 for $0.84), 2lb bag red potatoes ($4.99), strawberries ($1.99), mint ($1.99)

Total: $56.78

Looking through there's many things we could have not splurged on (such as the chocolate cake, the pepsi and ice cream sandwiches), but everyone's entitled to have something nice once in a while.

A few things:
1) Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. I can't say it enough! Okay, I can, and that's it, but seriously do this. Go through your cupboards and see what's going on in there. I clean out my fridge and freezer every week to make sure everything is usable and start with proteins.
2) Rice! Oh my God rice. Yeah, I could have gotten healthier rice but I already had a bag of jasmine rice so I used that. I always have a bag at the house. Leftover proteins are easier to have as a meal over rice or with a rice side. It helps with not having to figure out two new sides each meal.
3) EAT before you go. I know you've heard this before, but man those grocery store owners are bastards. The bakery smells right next to where I'm going to buy my produce? You play a dangerous game, grocery store.
4) Take a list. I keep a text file open all week to jot them down when I think of them (vs. losing a piece of paper) and then e-mail it to myself. I also think of the snacks and other things I'll need and put them on there. Make sure you don't forget cat litter, paper goods, etc. Grocery stores usually put toilet paper on sale one week, and then paper towels the next so if you don't see a deal, just wait!
5) Cut down on the drinking. Not just alcohol (Andrew and I don't drink), but soda! I budget myself one bottle each week. I'm a hardcore caffeine addict, and it's been difficult but try to cut back and see how it goes. I'm drinking much more tea and enjoying it immensely. It's also a good drink for meals since I have to wait to drink it and sip it slowly.

So to conclude my rant, seriously think about your groceries. Go through them and think about what you DO need, what you're BUYING and what you can do without. I keep my receipts each week to look over them and make sure I don't overspend. Review it, and really see where your money is going!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Weekend of Firsts!

Happy end of the weekend! Mine was eventful!

On Saturday Andrew and I took a hike on the Vernon Rails-to-Trails that's nearby where we live. It's a nice four mile hike with lots of beautiful sights to see. It's a part of a 19 mile bigger hike that we're working up to during the summer.

This was our first time at this trail and we really loved it.

There are plenty of smaller trails off the main trail that lead you to some very beautiful views.

This dam was next to a biiiig pipe that we saw in the ground near a well:

Then on the way back we spotted a buck in the woods!

My phone's camera isn't the best for wildlife photos.

But we thought it was pretty cool! A lot of people bike the trail and road right past him.

After our hike we were starving, so we decided to go to Chipotle. I've been there when I lived in New York City, but Andrew hasn't so it was a first for him.

He had some tacos.

While I had a bowl of pretty much everything.

So our Saturday was great and today we went swimming in the rain which was so fun! The pool only had a few people there and we got in a great workout!

I hope everyone's weekend is going great!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Recipe Review: Whole Foods' Chocolate Chip Soda Bread with Raspberry Butter

I read a lot of food blogs

A lot. It's disturbing how many.

But recently I've been in an incredible rut of what to cook. I feel like the kid opening up the fridge 10 times thinking they'll find something new in there each time. And it's not helpful.

But the other day I came across Whole Foods' recipe for Chocolate Chip Soda Bread w/ Raspberry Butter and I just had to try it out!

I did it according to all directions on there. Cutting in the butter with my fingers made me a little nervous as they never really went to "pebbles" as it described on the website. However the rest was simple to follow and very straightforward.

Andrew isn't a big fan of soda bread, so next time I might break it down in half since the loaf is pretty big for one person. It's definitely filling and more of a desert bread.

The only thing I did not enjoy was the raspberry butter. The amount of fat in it made me a bit sick to my stomach, so I recommend skipping that and macerating some raspberries or strawberries and putting those on top. It makes it a big lighter and not so butter heavy (you can see the recipe calls for a stick and a half which is a LOT).

All in all I enjoyed the bread and have something to snack on during the week.

What's one of your go to recipes that you've changed up because of feedback?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer Leftovers

During hot months, I truthfully don't mind being in the kitchen.


Stop looking at me like that.

But for real, I don't mind the heat. It takes until it's over 80-ish in the apartment for me to turn the air on, and once I'm around the 75-ish degree temperature I turn it off and keep the windows/doors closed. If things are really bad, I'll take a dip in the condo pool but otherwise I'm okay with keeping hydrated and making sure I'm not doing a lot of moving around (<- no probs there!)

Today I woke up at 9am, took a run/walk around the complex and cooked pancakes for breakfast. I wasn't a fan of them so next time I'll try a recipe I saw on Good Life Eats for 5 Grain Pancakes w/ Flax.

I was going to go for a walk in the afternoon with Andrew but we had to postpone. I offered for us to walk twice as much tomorrow so we'll see! I'll need to be up early again for a doctors appointment.

Anyway, I was feeling a bit lazy and I had some leftovers for dinner. I had some leftovers veggies from when I had a chicken sausage attack earlier this week and some chicken leftover that Andrew made for fajitas last night.

I threw all that in a pan with some chopped sweet pepper and fresh kale, drizzled with a bit of lemon infused olive oil and ta da!

Of course that wasn't all of it, so I tossed the rest in a container and tossed it in the fridge.

What you miss off camera: me shooing away the cat. See, even Kumari knows this is the good stuff.

So I ask of you, what do you make with your leftovers? Do you keep sides from a finished entree to ensure you always have some quick veggies on hand?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Peach Cake with Cherry Vanilla Frosting

This squirrel thinks it's hot.
The cats think it's hot.
I think it's hot.

So what should we do when it's hot?

I KNOW! I come up with the greatest of ideas.

Even though it's hot, you know what it means, right? It's peach season! And aside from eating them normally, baking them into stuff is a great way to get them into you if you're not keen on eating fruit that drips down your arms (What's wrong with you?)

We used some fresh peaches we had sitting around, because if I can avoid using something from a can I do. Plus, I love fresh stuff.

Boyfriend and I frequent the "reduced item" racks at the grocery store each time we go, and we find the best deals. We picked up a yellow cake mix box for $1.50 because it had a dent in it. Nothing bugs me about a dented box. Aside from that, we had a coupon for this!:
My coupon gave me the frosting "mix in" for free, saving $1. All in all frosting my delicious fresh peach cake cost me $2.

Andrew thinks the "A" is for Andrew. It's totally for Amanda.
CAKE TIP: When icing your cake, put waxed paper under it so that you can just slide the waxed paper out and your plate won't look like a very inexperienced baker frosted your cake.

So for reals guys, this came out delicious. I had a slice before dinner. I'm having a slice after dinner. I'll have one at 3am that no one will tell Andrew about. So I bring you:

Fresh Peach Cake with Cherry Vanilla Frosting

1 box yellow cake mix
2 peaches
3 eggs
3/4 cup of milk (whole)
1/2 cup veggie oil
1 small packet of orange gelatin

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the box of yellow cake mix, milk, veggie oil, and gelatin. Mix it together and add each egg separately. Puree the peaches in your food processor or in my case, use the chopper attachment to your immersion blender (my FAVE kitchen tool, second to the mandoline). Fold the peaches into the mix and whisk with your whisk attachment or use an electric mixer for a few minutes until it looks like this:
We used two cake pans (make sure if they're non-stick you put cooking spray at the bottom!) and put them into your oven for 28-32 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out without any friends attached to it).

Once baked, let them cool then frost with the above mentioned pre-made frosting.

This cake was incredibly simple to make and it was amazing!

What fruits do you like in cake? Do you have a preferred fruit that you only eat fresh?

Thanks for stopping in!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chicken sausage owns my soul

I have an addiction.

And it's chicken sausage.

It's invaded everything forever always in my soul. I love it. I love adding it to great dishes and biting into it and not being terrified of gristle (shut up, it's a thing).

Earlier today I dehydrated some tomatoes in my oven so that I could make my dinner that I found on Bev's blog, Bucatini with Chicken Sausages and Garden Veggies.

I know. You're like "It's like 5000 degrees outside, why on earth are you willing to let your oven go for SIX HOURS?" But it's worth it. I had to throw them in a jar (no oil) before I started eating all of them. I don't like fresh tomatoes and I'm thrilled I like these.

So honestly, I cheated with a few things.
I used apple chicken sausages instead of hot Italian ones (I will try those next time), my green beans were canned and my spaghetti was from a box. But even with all these changes it was delicious!

I urge you to give it a try and mess around with it to suit your palette. Boyfriend isn't a fan of lemon so I barely squeezed any lemon on his, while on mine I used the lemon olive oil I purchased from O'Live a Little. Give them a try if you have one - the olive oils and vinegar are unmatched. 
(Note: If you are giving a foodie a gift, give them a gift card to this place!)
(Et hem.)
(Just sayin'.)

So thanks to Bev for posting that delicious recipe, and if you have some time please go around her site and look at all her delish food! I'm addicted.

Hope everyone has a happy fourth!