Friday, January 23, 2015

can't win 'em all

Gratuitous Reed photo.  Maybe he was waiting to eat the chicken.  Could be...
The chicken was mediocre at best.  I probably left it in the slow cooker for too long.  JR's eloquent review was "this chicken is yucky!"  Slow cookers elude me.  I can never seem to get anything quite right in them.

Oh well.  It fed us and I didn't waste, or spend any extra money so mission accomplished.

Day 23 in the challenge and I am stretching my will power on a more regular basis now. The excitement of the goal has worn off a bit, and with friends in town this past weekend it was very tempting to just "make an exception."  I didn't though!

It is very nice to settle into the thought of how much money I'm NOT spending every time I want to go get a Starbucks and don't.  It makes me feel very righteous and that makes me feel lovely.

By the time this year is over my head is going to have grown quite a bit if I can manage to go the entire year!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

If you've got it, use it.

 I grew up in a boneless, skinless chicken breast kind of household.  My husband grew up in Kentucky - home of the Colonel, the extra crispy, the biscuit, you get where I'm going here.

A compromise which I have only grown to actually enjoy over the past few years - the chicken thigh!  They're actually real good - and a happy medium between deep fried and bone dry.

We had a package of defrosted bone-in, skin ON chicken thighs in the fridge this am that I have been pondering what to do with.  The boneless, skinless thighs are much easier for me to handle.  Saute, bake, even pan fry.  No biggie.  But WITH the bone - that's a different beast entirely.  It's a home day.  Everyone has a cold, there aren't any must do errands, so I threw that chicken (peeled the skin off first) into the crock pot with:

a large shallot
the juice of two small limes

a few generous shakes of:
chili powder
onion powder
garlic powder

covered those suckers with beef broth (because that's what I have) and turned the heat on low.

It already smells sooooo good.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Mall snack restraint! Go me!

A dear friend is in town visiting from LA.  We went to the mall this afternoon and the boys played at the adorable indoor play space.  What you can't see in this picture is the "Auntie Annie's" very strategically placed right up against the play area.  Smells of delicious, chemically flavored, "butter" like pretzels taunting our nostrils.  JR and my friend both enjoyed a pretzel after we were done playing, and I, thinking all the while "this isn't reallllly take out...I could probably let this be okay" quickly said no thank you and kept my hands and mouth away from the treats.  Self discipline, you are an ever growing muscle!

Rice cooker. Thanks for being you.

We got a new rice cooker!  It's a beauty and cooks rice like a dream, and if you don't have one, and eat rice even infrequently, you need to immediately buy one.  They come in all shapes and sizes, suitable for all price ranges.  Rice is delicious.  Rice is CHEAP.  Rice cookers effortlessly cook it perfectly.  Zojirushi, you make my dinners so much easier!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Waste. And the world as we know it.

Dirt Heart
(Total coincidence that photo goes perfectly with my post)
I just returned from my first Mommy and Me class at a local Waldorf school with Reedy.  It was so hippie de schmippie and lovely.  We made lunch together.  We ate brown rice with nutritional yeast and avocado and had "adults' tea" and "children's tea."  Then afterwards, we scraped all the leftovers into a compost tan, washed the dishes by hand, and felt good about the world.

Back home now, I've pulled out leftover lasagna to reheat for lunch (made at home on Monday of course, woo hoo, go me) and realized it was time to throw out old leftovers (also homemade) that had been sitting in the fridge for at least a week.  Not so woo hoo me.  So much waste.  Easily 3 cups of cooked pasta, lightly sauced with Raos - which is $$$$$.  And a serving and a half of Chicken Basque that I made to freeze, but also ate one night for dinner and had leftovers that never got finished.  sigh.  So much waste.  I HATE wasting.  I hate wasting of all varieties.  But food - which could *relatively* easily be composted, put back into the earth, and make the soil and our lives, BETTER, it kills me to waste that.  To dump it into the trash, literally throwing money away.

One of my long term goals is to compost.  One of my hopes is that this challenge results in far lest waste overall.  I am already eliminating all the additional packaging that comes with any ordered food.  No paper, no plastic, just fresh ingredients, cooked and served - with the exception of freezer bags of course, but that's still much less "wasted" material than individually packaged to-go everything.

Do you think about waste?  And how terrible it is secretly, silently, but not slowly, making our planet?  I actually try not to think about.  It makes me horribly depressed because I know I contribute to the problem just by being alive, I know I could do better, and there are only so many hours in the day, which is how we got to this place anyway.

Here are some depressing links if you feel like going down a rabbit hole of how terrible human beings are to our beautiful, exquisite planet.  I warned you.

It's the End of the World as We Know It...and He Feels Fine

A movie about all the birds dying from eating plastic on this beautiful remote island

The Story of Stuff

Composting - you should do it.  I should too...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A love song about buffalo chicken

Have you ever had one of these:

PDQ Buffalo Blue Cheese Sandwich

I have.  Many.  More than is appropriate to admit.  Because, they delicious.  I don't know when I even started liking  buffalo" chicken.  I'm not a wings person.  Just have no use for them.  But a "boneless" buffalo wing can be pretty darn tasty.  And this sandwich is the perfect ration of chicken, to bun, to crispy, crunchy lettuce, with a sprinkling of blue cheese both on the chicken and mixed in the sauce.  Perfection.  I could eat one a day.

But yeah, can't (and SHOULDN'T anyway) do that this year!  So I found these buffalo blue cheese chicken sausages that are a shockingly decent replacement.  I have spent a lot years reading about "swaps" as diets are oft to recommend and usually they are pathetic and would never in any way leave the person who is "swapping" not still hankering for what they really wanted in the first place.  

Imagine my surprise when these sausages actually did the trick!  Evan grills them, I throw one on a bun, with or without crispy lettuce (better with, but what the fridge holds, the fridge holds) and voila!  A delicious, non-fast food buffalo blue treat!!!  

Bilinski's Buffalo - Style Chicken Sausage
These are the only kind I recommend.  I've tried several brands of the same "flavor" and for whatever reason these are dynamite and the rest are "meh" at best.

Day 13.  Still going strong!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The first (of many) day of weakness. sigh.

This morning I could not get my coffee to taste right.  To the extent that this train of thought took place in my head:

"you know, drinking cold, reheated coffee just isn't the way to go.  I should probably start using the french press every morning.  Maybe even get one of the chemex things Lisa has.  I just don't think I can put up with this old, reheated coffee anymore.  That's the real problem here."

Because spending MORE time on myself in the morning is certainly a viable option.  Um, no.  We're late to school everyday as it is.

Anyway, I was hungry, there wasn't time to make a real breakfast, the pre-made pancakes from the freezer were completely gone by yesterday morning, and I was TIRED.

Tired + driving = no good.  And my go to, in situations like this, is something yummy to hold my alertness.

I refrained though.  Suffered through my weird tasting homemade coffee, dropped off JR, got home, and made 4 ham, egg, and cheese english muffins.  Ate one, it was insanely delicious because breakfast always is, and stuck the other 3 in the freezer.  So not only did I use up the English muffins in the fridge that "expired" (as if I stick closely to those dates) today, but I made four meals without spending an extra penny AND powered through my first temptation to pick up food on the go.

Yup.  Made it one full week on full steam.  Only 51 more to go...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

This guy.

And getting to be home with him.  Wowsers it is awesome.  Sticking to a budget seems SO worth it when it gives me the freedom to be home and not stress about not working.  He is only going to be this small for a very small period of time.  Bestill my heart baby Reed.  I just adore you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Motherhood...and meal planning

I have ALWAYS loved food.  Which naturally lead me to mostly enjoy cooking.  When I met my husband, we spent countless meals grocery shopping, prepping, and creating recipes together.  Usually rather expensive, decadent recipes.

About a week after my first baby was born, my mother was staying with us for two weeks to help, and I remember so vividly this feeling of overwhelming panic when this very sentence appeared in my mind.  "I have to make dinner for this child.  Every day.  For at least the next EIGHTEEN YEARS."

Even now, it still sends a bubble of anxiety into my stomach, remembering how daunting and impossible that task seemed.  Cooking, for pleasure, is so enjoyable.  Cooking out of necessity - it's down right exhausting.

This is clearly one of the reasons why places like KFC and Pizza Hut and the countless other "bring home dinner in a pinch" establishments have flourished like wild fire over the past decade.  Who on earth truly wants to plan, shop for, prepare, AND clean up after a home cooked meal every. single.  day. ????

No one is the answer.  Not even the most "devoted" of care givers wouldn't love a day off, or seven, every now and then.

But - all that being said.  Living in Tampa, the availability of "to go" foods is pretty pathetic.  It's all terribly unhealthy, not very tasty, and really not all that inexpensive either.

When we first moved here I imagined I would actually lose weight just from not wanting to eat out nearly as much as we did in LA where every cuisine imaginable was at our fingertips and DELICIOUS.  Yet, habits are habits and I quickly found myself eating the readily available food just out of convenience because cooking is tiring and hard.

Today is day 6 of this challenge and I am so thrilled to report that so far it has literally been a delight.  I almost feel as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders - that the "option" to pick up dinner or order delivery is just gone.  So I have no choice but to meal plan and cook and that's that.  I think back to my own childhood, where growing up in a town with no streetlights, and no sidewalks, there were CERTAINLY no delivery options nearby.  My mother was also an incredible budgeter - and take out was budgeted as needed, and never more.  She HAD to cook.  So she planned, and she prepped, and there was a healthy, family dinner on our table literally every night.  It was just that simple.  She had to do it, or we wouldn't eat.

Taking away the "option" of fast food has, in these six short days, actually felt very freeing.  I HAVE to make myself a cup of coffee before I drive JR to school in the morning because stopping at Starbucks isn't available to me.  I HAVE to know what I'm having for lunch because grabbing something quick while I'm running errands can't be done.  It's like when you tell a child their choice is one cookie, or no cookies.  Suddenly, not having 5 cookies doesn't seem so bad because at least you can have one.

I guess it's what some might refer to as "simplifying" your life.  So far, I'm a big fan.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Some of the food so far...

From the left: ground beef with taco spices and diced onions, Chicken Chili, recipe from Lemonade Cookbook

Turkey Sloppy Joe's, recipe from Dinner: A Love Story Playbook

I don't remembered if I learned this trick from Pioneer Woman, but it is the BEST way to freeze food for easy and quick thaw/reheating.  Plus takes up so much less space!

Ham and Cheese "hotpockets" dough made from scratch, in the food processor!  Way easier than I thought it would be.

Trader Joe's pumpkin pancakes.  I made the entire box, saran wrapped them in stacks of four and froze them.  These things are seriously delicious.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A few thoughts on Starbucks

When I posted this challenge on my facebook page, an old friend made the remark "you lost me at Starbucks."  My husband was surprised when I mentioned it was included.

Honestly, I feel like Starbucks is one of the THE biggest weaknesses I have!  It's SO expensive (wait until you see my breakdown) and so caloric.  Yes, not if you only get a black coffee every once in awhile.  That is not what I do, ever.  I go in for a latte, and leave with at least two edibles.  Usually spending at least $10.  For not even a "meal!"

So let's do some number crunching.

The relatively fancy, organic, DELICIOUS coffee that I buy at Whole Foods or Fresh Market or the like is 9.99/lb.  This is not folgers crystals here folks, this is the good stuff.  Probably higher quality than what Starbucks serves.  At least comparable.

So one pound of coffee easily makes at LEAST 10 pots.  That's 99 cents per pot.  One pot is easily 10 cups of coffee.  That's 9.9 cents per cup.

I am a coffee with cream drinker.

A pint of organic cream is on average, $3.50.  I probably use 3-4 tbsps of cream per cup of coffee.  There are 32 tbsps in a pint.  That is approximately 11 cents per tablespoon.

So, a very generous pour of coffee with cream, for me, at home, costs about 54 cents.  FIFTY FOUR CENTS!!!!

Now, sometimes I use willpower and order a venti coffee with cream.  That's probably $3.00

Most of the time, I get a venti iced caramel macchiato, add whipped cream.  Which is around $6.00, and GOD knows how many calories.  I won't even bother looking it up.  It's way too many.

Not too mention the sausage or bacon breakfast sandwich, and maybe a chocolate croissant for good measure.

So let's say I go to Starbucks once a week (at least!.)  That's conservatively $40/month.  Plus an ungodly amount of calories.

Versus my equally as delicious, instantly available 54 cent coffee that I can have guilt free every morning.

So, I can go to Starbucks once a week for a month for a "breakfast" and coffee, and spend $40.  While coffee, at home, every single day, costs me about $16 for the entire month.

Obviously, I will be saving a LOT of money this year not having Starbucks available to me as a back up.  (and the calories, let's not forget about those.)

Day 3, done.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The New York Times is on my side...

My awesome soon to be sister-in-law just sent me this article.

It's simple common sense, yet so hard to actually follow through with these days.  When I think about the amount of money and number of calories that I waste grabbing a "quick bite" outside of my house, the tally is embarrassing, let's just leave it at that.

What 2,000 calories looks like

Thursday, January 1, 2015 I go!

Day one.  bam.  fin.  el dunno.

So the goal of this whole venture is multi-fold.  Waste less money.  Eat less junk.  Be more thoughtful about my/our food choices.  And in order to not give into the temptation to order a pizza when the day has been lonnnng and the boys have been craaaazy and Evan is home laaaate, I know I will need to be supremely prepared.  Which is going to mean LOTS of pre-made meals that we all love, and are quick and effortless.

So in my freezer thus far:

5 portions ( 1 portion = enough for a meal for all 4 of us) of chicken chili
4 portions of turkey sloppy joe's
2 portions of taco beef
6 adult size ham & cheese "hot pockets" (home made, obviously)
4 kid size ham & cheese "hot pockets"
2 meatloaves

Ridiculous.  I could give myself an award for all that cooking.  From ONE shopping trip.  And I still have a giant stash of chicken and one more recipe to make and freeze tomorrow.

Pretty psyched about this challenge.  Only 364 days to go!