Sunday Grocery Shopping

Normally, I shop on Tuesday nights and it is always in a mad rush. With nothing planned this weekend, my family has been able to really enjoy our time, including attending Saturday night service at church. Saturday nights at church are small (less kids in childcare too!) and can be a fun change in routine. Church on Saturday night also means I can go shopping on Sunday morning, when the store is nice and empty. I’ve spent many years shopping on Sunday nights which really is the worst.

My latest shopping tip has really helped my past few trips to the grocery store. Note: don’t attempt this when shopping with kids, you’ll get some pretty dirty looks.What’s the tip? Shop wearing earphones! Bring your iPod or install Pandora on your phone and shop without the psychological trickery of the grocery store witches! Sometimes you just don’t do your best decision making listening to Al Green or Wilson Phillips. I love the singer-songwriter station on Pandora, it makes for a really relaxing shopping trip. I promise it will also help you stick to your list, you are busy listening to lyrics and not letting your brain spin.

Don’t shop with a list? I don’t usually either. However, after a couple years away, I am back to using a meal planning service. I’ve tried a few different types and my favorite is e-mealz.com. What brought me back, was the offering of an Organic/Natural dinner plan. You can choose a specific store or an “any store” option and e-mealz will provide you with a grocery list (including prices) to match up with a dinner plan for the week.

This week, e-mealz estimated my dinner shopping at Whole Foods would cost $150. This is for 7 dinners that feed between 3-7 people. I did my shopping at Fresh & Easy instead (with two mailer coupons), bought all my dinner food, some breakfast, lunch and snack items and walked out the door having spent about $145. Here’s what I got:

I should note that Fresh & Easy does something large grocery stores do not. They date their produce. See all those strawberries and grapes? They are dated for today. However, they look exactly  like the strawberries and grapes in front of the store that sell for $2.99/lb and $2.49/lb respectively. If I went into Safeway and bought the same strawberries I brought home, I would never, ever guess that they would need to have a sell-by date for today. The F&E employee was sharing my excitement as I grabbed each pound of berries for .62 cents. The grapes, .62 cents each, too. Same with the pineapple, which I stole for $1.52

I also grabbed quick go-to items that I know Jy and the kids prefer, like pre-made plastic containers of soup, whole wheat chocolate cookies, popcorn and waffle mix. I have no idea how that little iced mocha in the middle of the photo snuck in there. Who could that be for? (It was also dated for today and sold for .55 cents).

E-mealz has specialty menus too. Vegetarian, low calorie, gluten free, low carb and small meals (for two). Interested? Check it out, it’s totally worth it. If you do sign up, use the code ORGANIC and you’ll save 20%. There are usually other codes floating around out there on the internet. Take a second to search.

I’m looking forward to showing you some of the meals this week and letting you know if I have bought enough food for a week. I’m guessing I will need more milk and eggs. In the battle to slash our food costs, I feel one step ahead. Happy Sunday friends!
Emealz - Easy Meals for Busy People!

What I Have Cooked Today

Nothing. Woohoo! I made my breakfast yesterday and the boys had cereal for breakfast. My mom even brought Dallas’ lunch to school for me. I thought instead of a recipe today, I would share some mind-blowing food information. Now, please realize that I was being a little sarcastic. If this post does happen to blow your mind, you may want to consult a neurologist about your brain, as it may have some issues.

First, I will say thank you to the lovely Noreen for inspiring this post. She mentioned her fruit bowl this morning and it was like I just witnessed the invention of sliced bread. How in the world had I forgotten about a fruit bowl? Why do I keep my fruit in places that are impossible for my kids to reach? Why are the items most accessible to my children raw eggs, condiments and crumbs on the kitchen floor?

I decided to follow in Noreen’s footsteps and put out a bow. Before I could bring myself to place anything nice on my table, I knew what would have to come first. I needed to clean our wooden beast. I’m not talking about clearing clutter or doing a hefty wipe down with a sponge. No, my table had serious problems. This table is a bit of a food hoarder. He grabs anything my kids may drop or spill and hangs on to it for dear life. No amount of toothbrushing can pry all the crusty food from my monsterish table.

In comes David. Not my dad David, I’m talking about the biblical David. Specifically David as he takes on Goliath. With God on my side, I knew I could bring this table DOWN! (Plus, I had visited Home Depot last night and bought specific weaponry.)

With a wet steel wool #000, a bin of HOT soapy water and a spray bottle of Orange Glo, I scrubbed, wiped and polished while my kids blew up the kitchen with playdough.

And do you see that? It’s my fruit bowl! The only fruit I have at home that does not NEED to be refrigerated right now are a bunch of apples. They taste better cold, but I need something in my fruit bowl. Which is also why I have magically morphed the basket into a snack bowl! Why not put out food we can all grab? You guys, I feel like I just got an engineering degree from a school that you tell other people about, using three letters. The only one I can think of is MIT, soooo….anyway.

I’ve got the pretzels I really want to get rid of, pumpkin seeds and apples on display. The pretzels may have to be snuck into a trail mix or something. Funny, I remember the kids losing their brains over the BOX of pretzels, why won’t they eat them?! ACK!

In an effort to continue making kitchen life easier, I plan on using the weekends to buy and prep foods I want to always have at home and ready.

  • roasted turkey, ham or chicken
  • cut up fruit
  • roasted, grilled or cut veggies
  • granola
  • oatmeal cooked for weekday breakfasts
  • turkey meatballs

What do YOU do to make eating easy and healthy during the week? I’d love to hear!

Oh, the other new thing I am doing is putting straws in my water cups. For some reason, the magic of a straw helps me drink twice as much water. Which, as we know is still not enough, but 36 ounces a day is better than 12. I’m working on it! Happy Tuesday friends!

Meatless Protein in the Morning

Good morning (well, to those in the same time zone as I am in)! While all the party food was fun, it had to end at some point. Especially because I couldn’t really eat most of it! I’m on day 12 of my new program and have to wait 3 more days to even take my measurements or weigh myself. A little bit torturous.

One of the biggest challenges I have faced in the past couple weeks is finding a way to have protein at breakfast. I’m not a big meat in the morning kinda gal and it’s rare that I have enough time to cook an egg properly. I’m hoping to do some large batch cooking this weekend to have myself better prepared, but until then, I still have to eat!

My family goes through yogurt like water. Well, maybe not water, that was a bad example. Now that I am keeping track of all the food and water I am taking in, I have learned that I rarely, ok…never, drink more than about 16 oz. of water a day. Isn’t that bananas? That’s going to have to change. Back to yogurt. We all eat yogurt daily. I love vanilla or Greek, Jy loves Activia or DanActive, the boys love any kind of  yogurt I give them. This week I bought a giganto tub.

See the big, fat one? It’s half the price of the smaller containers of yogurt and about a fourth of the individual cups. The only downside is the fact that it is plain and no one around here gets too giddy over plain yogurt.

I bought a large bag of frozen strawberries to blend into a couple batches of yogurt. One batch will be blended on the thin side, so the little guys can suck their yogurt out of a straw a la Danimals or other sugar loaded yogurt. The upside is that this brand’s plain flavor isn’t too tart as many Greek yogurts are, requiring no sugar to be added in. Although, I may add a little honey to up the ante.

Back to my morning protein.

I’ve been having 1/2 cup oatmeal with fruit, flaxseed, a splash of milk and a bit of sweetener. I always thought oatmeal was plenty of protein for the morning, but I have been wrong. For the mornings I don’t feel like having an egg on the side (almost every morning), I either have yogurt or cottage cheese. But wait, I’ve pimped out my yogurt!

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 T. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. honey

Mix and enjoy! You’ll feel like you are eating pudding for breakfast and will enjoy the sustaining benefits of the protein found in yogurt and the added bonus protein in the powder, not to mention the antioxidants of the cocoa powder and honey. That is a good morning!

Opera Cake for Oscar Night

After many Academy Award themed posts, we are finally at the last entry for 2012. Dallas wanted to know when the guy for the party is coming over so we could all eat cake. We had to explain that Oscar isn’t really a man, just an award! I promised special recipes for today and I have all the dirty dishes in the kitchen to prove I am about to deliver.

I have a stack of cookbooks I need to pass on, I have never used them in the past six years, so out they go. As I was sorting, I came across a beautiful book I had forgotten all about. Gourmet magazine now has an online magazine, but the print version has gone the way of the typewriter. Luckily, I bought the 20th anniversary “best of” edition, A Year of Celebrations.

There are gorgeous photos and loads of complicated recipes in this book. I come from the (Disney) Ratatouille school of thought, I think anyone can cook. So, I decided to take a stab at a cake straight out of the chapter called, “Reinventing Gigi, A Cinematic Dinner.” That just screams Oscar night, doesn’t it? There is no way I could have made this cake without the help of my husband. He cleared the boys out for a couple hours, which was totally necessary.

This cake took complete focus, lots of dishes and no shortcuts. It took well over two hours, but was totally worth it. This is a special day! I joked with Mr. Movie Fuel that today should be our anniversary, as it was movies that really brought the two of us together.

Most of Gourmet’s recipes can be found at epicurious.com, including today’s dessert. Opera cake is often called a French Tiramasu. It’s a spongy almond cake, which soaks up espresso in between layers of coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. This was a lot like making a génoise cakewhich is an Italian sponge cake I learned to make at a class with my fun, cake-baking cousin, Shayna.

The keys to making this type of cake, concentration and patience. That’s it!

 

 

 

The recipe is serious when it says to take sugar off the stove at 234 degrees!
Layer One.
My imperfect, yet delicious first attempt at this cake!

**If you want to know what this cake is really supposed to look like, just Google it. It’s really meant to be made by culinary students, professional bakers and French chicks.**

Black Cherry Vanilla Champagne

I posted a homemade soda recipe in the ongoing (and coming back this Tuesday), Roadtrip Series. Making a champagne cocktail without buying three different kinds of spirits is the same concept.

I boiled and then reduced black cherry juice with a teaspoon of vanilla extract. If I would have had a vanilla bean on hand, I would have used one instead. As you may notice in the photo, I don’t even have champagne glasses at home, so I tend to just make do! I remember getting  champagne flutes for our wedding, they must be up in my parent’s attic. (That was a reminder for me, sorry).

Before pouring the reduced juice, I loaded my glass with a small handful of frozen cranberries. I used a basic extra dry champagne, which is my preference, but you could use any kind you like.

I hope you enjoyed our fun Academy Award buildup and enjoy the show!

Clafouti: Whole Wheat Berry

The last nominated film I am cooking for is Hugo. However, this dish is also a nod to Midnight in Paris and perhaps one more film as well. I can’t really say which film this dessert is also a tribute to, without spoiling the movie for those who haven’t seen it!

We still haven’t seen Hugo. I could have made a trip to the theater (I was wrong about Hugo showing on OnDemand), but I opted to catch up on Desperate Housewives instead. I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from watching Hugo, I just haven’t been jumping at the chance to watch a movie that looks like it is made for children, (but isn’t?). I am however, jumping at the chance to try my hand at all things French. For the actual ceremony tomorrow, I will be making a French dessert and cocktail. C’est magnifique!

Hugo is a 2011 3Dfamilymystery film based on Brian Selznick‘s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret about a boy who lives alone in a Paris railway station and the enigmatic owner of a toy shop there. – Wikipedia

There is a French dessert which is easy enough for children to make, but better yet for them to eat! It’s called clafouti and is most often made with cherries. Because I don’t have an extra thousand hours or latex gloves to pit cherries, I chose to make a blackberry clafouti.

Clafouti is pronounced cla-FOO-tee, rhyming with ya-booty. The kids were fa-reaking out when this came out of the oven. Max was yelling, “Cookie!” Dallas chanted, “Pie! Pie! Pie!” Our dessert/breakfast could barely cool while I whipped some cream to serve up to my sugar-zealous children.

They were both wrong, by the way. Clafoutis are a meeting between custard and cake. They are light and a bit creamy with the denseness forming around the outside crust. I don’t feel too bad dishing this out for breakfast either, as this is a whole-wheat and naturally sweetened dish. It was probably better for them than any Eggo I might throw in the toaster!


This recipe has been adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World. 

 

Blackberry Clafouti
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbs. butter (for greasing pan)
  • 13 packets of stevia or 1 T. plus ½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup half-and-half
  • ¾ cup milk
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 pints berries
  • confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a deep 9- or 10-inch pie plate or a gratin dish of similar size. Add your berries and sprinkle it with a tablespoon sugar, then swirl dish to coat evenly.
  2. Beat eggs well, then add remaining sugar. Beat until somewhat thick. Add vanilla then flour, and beat again until smooth. Add the half-and-half, milk and salt, and whisk until smooth.
  3. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until clafouti is nicely browned on top and a knife inserted into it comes out clean. Sift some confectioners’ sugar over it, and serve warm or at room temperature.
We are off to the farmers market shortly and hope to find something interesting, even though it is still the middle of winter. Blah! At least the sun is shining for another day until the rain returns. Happy Saturday everyone, get your tuxedo steamed and your gowns ready, then let’s meet up tomorrow afternoon for our pre-awards cocktail!