Sunday, November 21, 2010

Soup Season

Fall is here, sorta (it's been a weird year for weather here in the great white north). Conveniently this is also squash season. We picked up a bit on a recent shopping expedition for about $.25 per pound. For this week I planned a butternut squash soup and a cream of carrot. I think a pumpkin soup will be in the works for later. I love squash of all forms, it has such a rich texture and flavor and is perfect in a variety of dishes, and when it's in season it's really cheap.

I used a basic squash recipe from allrecipes.com and modified it a bit:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 1 medium butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
I didn't have celery, but I don't think it really affected the taste, and of course I used Better than Bouillon Vegetable stock. Melt the butter in a large pot and add all veggies to brown for about 5 minutes. Cover veggies with stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for about 40 minutes.

Once veggies are very tender puree with a stick blender or pour in batches into a stand blender. Soo good.

Since I was already making Squash soup I decided to make two at once and freeze half of each. So I made carrot which I had been wanting to try for forever. I'm not sure where the recipe came from, and I modified it on top of that when I realized we had condensed milk NOT evaporated. Grr!

  • 4 cups carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 4 cups veggies stock
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
Chop all veggies, saute onions in oil for about 5 minutes. Then add stock, ginger carrots, and potato. Simmer, covered, on medium heat for 30 minutes or until veggies are tender. Puree mixture and add milk and sour cream. I think this actually might have been my favorite of the two because the ginger gave it such a rich flavor, but both are great fall tastes.

Next week I'm going to make a batch of Tomato Gorgonzola. So many soups, so little time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's Chili Out

Since the weather is finally getting cold around these parts we were on the lookout for some warm and easy meals (and cheap, must not forget that). Something ala slow cookers unite. We decided that we would finally try chili in the crock pot. I have no idea why I resisted this idea for so long. All you do is open cans and dump them in and turn it on, serious, that is all. We did also saute a little onion for more flavor, but that took all of five minutes.

Price breakdown for chili to serve five: $2.50! That is $.50 per serving. And this was good eating, lots of protein, little fat. I will admit that this was a vegetarian chili, but no one (Topher included) seemed to mind.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Turkey Time

2010 is going to be our first year hosting Thanksgiving. Luckily it is only for five people, but there is still a lot to plan. The meal can also get expensive. Here is a breakdown of how we have planned and saved for the big day:
  • Set the menu ahead of time. This probably seems like a no brainer for those who are old-hats to Thanksgiving dinner, but this really helped us make sure we could get great deals on our items.
  • Buy ahead, a little each week. Every week as we plan our shopping list we look at sales, coupons and our menus to see what we should pick up this week. At this point 2 weeks out we have pretty much everything we need in deep freeze and in the pantry.
  • Coupons and loss-leaders. This saved us big-time. As the holidays approach major grocers start to put holiday fare on sale to get you in the store. If you have been saving coupons from the last few months there should be quite a few match-ups available on these items.
  • Check out Aldi. We have said it before, and we'll say it again, Aldi is a great deal. We got a 10 pound bag of potatoes for $1.39 the other day, and they stock some seasonal items that are less than at the major stores, like frozen pie crusts.
  • Don't buy too much turkey. Assess your family's turkey needs. In ours only four people will be eating it so we got a bone-in breast. This was cheaper than a bone-less breast. A whole turkey can be anywhere from 11 to 20 pounds so even at $.99 a pound it doesn't make sense for a family of four, unless you plan to quickly portion and freeze the remainder. Remember about one pound uncooked per person should suffice.
  • Have guests bring something. Hill's mom offered to bring a few things and we took her up on it. If you aren't hosting bringing a side dish should not be a large feat and most guests will offer or you can ask.
The idea for us was to not go way over our normal grocery budget for Thanksgiving and due to a little planning we really haven't gone over at all. This might even entice us to host holidays more often in the future. We'll let you know how the cooking portion of the whole thing goes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Grocery Breakdown: September & October

It seems that we have been neglecting the blog, hopefully more than just us will read it and we will feel the urge to write more. Anyway, here is the breakdown for September:

Week of September 6th: $36.72
Week of September 13th: $41.13
Week of September 20th: $24.80
Week of September 27th: $37.58

Grand total for September: $140.22

This month was the first that we attempted coupon shopping, and with mixed results. The first week we tried it, we went together and got $45 worth of groceries for $28; we had enough budget left over to go buy more groceries! The next week Hillary went alone and, while there was still savings, the total was $41 and she had a bit of a show down with the annoying people at Meijer (more on that later.) We definitely recommend that, if possible, you go shopping with a buddy to stay on track and to help with coupons and totaling what's been spent. And the proof is in the pudding, with the breakdown for October:

Week of October 3rd: $27.29
Week of October 10th: $35.23
Week of October 17th: $32.22
Week of October 24th: $35.00
Week of October 31st: $40.16 (bought two pumpkins for carving which we later made into soup!)

Grand total for October: $169.90

Yes, this is for 5 weeks, but if you adjust for this by multiplying by 4, divide by 5, carry the two, you get $135.92! This coupon thing is starting to pay off... especially factoring in the fact that we have started getting name brand items and buying a lot more to stock up our pantry!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bagels

Psst! I updated some of the older posts with pictures! See if you can find them!

Bagels! The opposite of Seagulls! Bagels are best when baked fresh, and what better way to get the freshest baked bagels than to be waiting at the oven door when they come out?

Bagels can take quite a bit of time to make, but if you are going to be buzzing around the house, then theres no trouble at all. The bagels that I make are wheat with various toppings and take a long time to rise, which can make for many chores in between steps. If you use another type of flour with a little more gluten in it, (and keep your house above 70 degrees,) they may come up faster and last in the breadbox longer.

This recipe makes 8 bagels.

  • 4c. flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 ¼ - 1 ½ c. warm water (120°F or so)


You will also need some items for toppings, which could be garlic salt, onion flakes, rock salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, what have you.

Start by proofing the yeast. (You know, letting the yeast sit in the warm water with 1 tbsp sugar and a little bit of the flour until it gets frothy and alive. About 10 minutes.) Combine everything (except the toppings of course) by hand or in a stand mixer (♥ KitchenAid) until well combined. Knead a further 10 minutes until smooth. Yes, this really will take 10 minutes to get everything worked together. No, this picture isn't of kneaded dough, I took it before my hands got messy.


Once kneaded, divide the dough into 8 sections (with your handy dandy dough divider) and roll them up into balls. These will rest for about 15-20 minutes depending on temperature and the type of flour you're using. Now go and vacuum the living room.


Now comes the bagel-ey part. Roll each ball out into a long snake and wrap it around your hand. Press the ends together with your palm, using a little water to hold them together if you need. These will rest another 20 minutes or so. Do more chores.



Get a wide pan of water boiling and preheat your oven to 425°F. Also grease a baking sheet. Boil the bagels in the water for 1 minute on each side. This will give them their glossy exterior while keeping the inside chewy and nice. Place these on the baking sheet and add your toppings while they are still wet. The bagels should not touch each other unless you like your bagels to be in the midst of mitosis.

Bake for 10 minutes, flip, then bake another 10 minutes. Don't worry about the toppings, they will be fine. Let them cool before you eat them, but not too much!


Delishus warm baggles. I feel that this is a very forgiving first bread-making experience, because you don't have to worry if its under risen or hard on the bottom yet or all that jazz, because the items being baked are so small comparatively. The rise times can vary, though. Again, this depends on your flour, house temp, price of tea in China, and the position of Venus compared to Orion.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Homemade Yogurt

This is the next installment of our quest for cheaper snack foods. Read about making pudding here and granola bars here.

I have been wanting to make my own yogurt for a while now, and then found this super easy recipe in ReadyMade. All you need is milk and a few tablespoons of plain yogurt. Not much easier than that! And once you make one batch you can use the last of it to make another and the cycle perpetuates into infinite. Okay, getting a little ahead of myself. So, on to the yogurt making process:

1 qt 2% milk
2 T plain yogurt

We drink 1% milk due to our great compromise over milk fat content, and since I am impatient and wanted to make it NOW I figured, why not? Plus, if you can buy fat free yogurt in the store you must be able to make yogurt with all different levels of milk fat. Place milk in a medium sauce pot and heat to approximately 180 degrees; the milk should get frothy but not boil. Then turn off the heat and wait for the milk to reach 120 degrees.

At this point briskly whisk in the yogurt. Immediately pour the mixture into a jar, cover, and wrap in towel to keep it warm. Let it stand overnight and then place in the refrigerator.


I was a little concerned because when I poured the mixture into the jar it was not very thick, but I figured that it was probably supposed to be like that. When I came down in the morning the jar was still slightly warm and although there was a little liquid left on the sides, it did look like yogurt! Stirred it up and tasted it and it was yogurt! The highest seal of approval is that AJ likes it and he is not usually into the plain yogurt. Score!