Featured Recipe: Pantry Indian Dinner
Pair with: Beer
I’ll share a secret with you: putting dinner on the table at the end of the day is my superpower. Continue reading
Ok, it’s resolutions time! Yes, I’m a few days late, but a girl’s got to finish her holiday, right? Now that it’s back to work, back to reality, I’m ready to commit. So, my resolutions are……………(drumroll, please)
1. Eat healthier
2. Workout more
3. Spend less money
Wow, original, right?
So here I was on Monday night, armed with my resolutions, trying to figure out what to make for dinner. It’s cold. I want something comforting. And filling. And delicious. Unfortunately lobster mac and cheese isn’t going to help me with those pesky resolutions.
Minestrone! It’s warm and comforting. The whole family loves it. If you’ve never seen a 3-year old chowing down on big chunks of kale, it’s worth it alone to make this. It’s healthy–only 4 Weight Watchers points per bowl. It’s cheap–about 10 bucks for the whole batch, or less than $1 per bowl. And it works out for you. Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad (watch for my next post on Meatloaf).
I have two kids, a full-time job, and I blog. And sometimes I actually like to have fun with Dan and the kids. So I’m not opposed to paying for convenience. When the markup is reasonable. One of the things that really gets my goat though is when spending 5 minutes making something yourself could save you 500%.
So, I’m going to make some use out of my MBA. I’m starting an occasional series called Home Economics that’s about selectively doing some things yourself that you might typically pay for. Pay A LOT for.
First up, hummus. Ok, it’s only $5 at the grocery. But it’s such a great snack, I found myself getting a container or two every week (each container is 5 ounces). So that’s nearly $500/year just on hummus. Think about what you could buy for $500, and that’s what I could spend on hummus. Insane, right?
Economics of making your own hummus
See hummus recipe
15 oz tahini = $6; recipe calls for 3 oz: tahini is $1.16
1 can garbonzo beans: $1
I assume you use so little of the other stuff that it’s just a few extra pennies.
My recipe makes 15 ounces of hummus for less than $3. I was paying $5 for 5 ounces of hummus. That’s a 500% markup for something that takes 2 minutes in a food processor.
If you don’t already have a food processor, here’s a good reason to get one. 3 months of making your own hummus and it pays for itself. Let’s pause for a moment and digest that. If you make your own hummus you could buy yourself a Kitchen Aid food processor in 3 months. It’s like the best layaway plan ever.
So, now I make my own hummus and take my annual $400 in hummus savings and buy something nice for myself. Like diapers.
Even though it’s April, we can’t seem to shake this cold, wet weather. So, I’ve decided to embrace it and make a rainy day comfort food: Broccoli Cheddar Soup. What I love about this recipe is that it’s not only delicious for Mom, Dad and the older kids, it’s a versatile base for younger kid recipes as well. For babies on a single food diet, simply steam extra broccoli and puree for a easy Pureed Broccoli. For older babies, take your leftover soup and combine with precooked brown rice and puree. And for your older kids and adults, you can take leftover soup, any leftover chicken or tuna you have, precooked rice, and make an easy Broccoli Cheddar Rice Casserole to send for daycare lunches.
I’ll tell you a secret: I hate leftovers. Even dishes that were amazing the night of, and that keep well, are of no interest to me and often die a slow, painful death in our fridge. I guess I just always need something new and exciting when it comes to food.
So, in an effort to be more responsible with food and still give myself something new and exciting (and easy) to make for dinner, I’m trying to be more creative my pre-cooked ingredients–formerly known as leftovers.
Take the ribs I made the other night: 4 pounds of ribs for 3 adults. Well, 2 adults and a 2-year-old that eats like Michael Phelps. I wound up with a substantial amount of pre-cooked spicy pork. I immediately took it off the bone so I wouldn’t be staring at a container of last night’s dinner. Then later in the week grabbed some pre-cooked rice from a meal earlier this week, pineapple that was on sale, and inspiration from a recent F&W recipe for pineapple and sausage fried rice to make my Pork & Pineapple Fried Rice. A quick, easy way to use all of that pre-cooked food hanging out in the fridge.
Now, what to do with the leftovers of this meal?
Wow, what a week it was. It was so busy that I’m only now blogging about a recipe I made on Wednesday night! In the midst of a busy schedule and a 2-year-old that’s decided sleeping is an optional activity, I needed to come home to a nourishing and home-cooked meal–that I didn’t have to cook.
Scouring my pantry Tuesday night I found a bag of dried black beans so I decided to make Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup. In the slow cooker there’s no need to pre-soak dried beans or really even saute any vegetables, so 10 minutes of prep on Wednesday morning while Nicholas was eating breakfast and dinner was ready when I finally made it home that night.
Since there’s nothing spicy in the soup, it’s also a very kid-friendly recipe. Nicholas loved it for dinner on Thursday evening.
Slow cookers are a gourmet mommy’s best friend. Do a little prep after Nicholas goes to bed, set it to cook all day, and when you walk through the door after a long day there is a delicious meal hot and ready for everyone. Particularly in the fall and winter, when you’re really craving that stick-to-your-ribs kind of food.
One of my favorite slow cooker meals is a hearty Slow Cooker Turkey Chili. Perfect for a weeknight, or Sunday football-watching day. I typically make my chili with ground turkey–with all of the other flavors I add in there, I feel like I’m not sacrificing taste by using turkey. Plus I can save a few calories!
I also like to use dried chiles for my chili, instead of the preground powder. I used to be intimidated by them, but it turns out it’s virtually as easy to use as chili powder and you can get much more interesting flavor. They’re perfect to keep in the pantry and are very versatile–I also use them for my Chile-Braised Beef Tacos.
I didn’t intend to make turkey chili a Nicholas-friendly meal, but once he saw us eating it, of course he wanted some…and it turns out he loved it!
So far Nicholas has taken to eating with a zeal that even I find surprising. The other day he even had manchego and olives for a snack because that’s what Dan and I were enjoying for our afternoon snack. But I am preparing for the day that he decides that the only thing he’s going to eat is cheese. Or something equally unhealthy. I’ve been warned that day will come soon.
So, to prepare for that day, as well as providing him today with a healthy lunch I feel good about sending to daycare, Very Veggie Tuna Mac does the trick. I make a huge batch and store it in a bunch of 2 cup containers–one for the fridge the rest go in the freezer. Then I always have a great meal that Nicholas loves ready for him. And for mom and dad too!
It’s Thursday morning and I’m currently on the train to NY for a long day of meetings, followed by another long day in the office tomorrow. When I arrive home Friday evening my brother-in-law will joining us for dinner. His request: tacos. I love good old-fashioned tacos, but with all of the components they can be a bit of work and make a big mess; neither of which I’m interested in at the end of a loooong week. So, yesterday I swung by the store and noticed round roasts on sale for half off. Perfect! Shredded beef tacos that I can prep Wednesday night and crock pot all day Friday. I thought tangy queso fresco would be a good accompaniment to the rich beef, but couldn’t find any in my local store so opted for feta instead.
A perfect gourmet meal of Chile-Braised Beef Tacos with Pickled Onions and Feta ready when I walk through the door Friday evening. Add an appetizer of my California-born Mom’s Famous Guacamole that’s already prepped in the fridge and we’re ready to go!
While I love spicy food, I’ve specifically made this recipe with more mild chiles so that Nicholas can enjoy as well. So as an added benefit, I’ll make Nicholas Shredded Beef Tamale Pie on Saturday morning with the remaining beef that he can enjoy throughout the week.