Saturday, January 26, 2013

Strawberry Banana Muffins, With a Twist

It's time to stop pussy-footing around with a GF lifestyle and just do it, as Nike likes to say. DH had a violent reaction to some GF bread I made last week--xanthan gum. I was really hesitant to buy it and try it in the first place. I mean, a substance derived from corn-fed bacteria? That's a huge gross-out factor for me. Processed food in general gives me the heeby-jeebies, but start playing God with it and I'm usually out. But, in the interest of making a palatable bread with a decent texture that wasn't too dense, etc., etc., I tried it. Huge, huge fail. Sorry, honey.

This morning I was going to make some banana muffins, but I quickly realized one banana would not do. I decided to make strawberry banana muffins. I am out of baking powder and cream of tartar and I glance over at the bag of Meyer lemons just sitting there ready to burst out into unusable balls of filthy mold just when I figured out what to do with them, when I get the bright idea to juice one and hope that it would be enough acid to act with the baking soda. So that's how they became strawberry banana muffins, with a twist. They are in the oven as I write this, hopefully the littles will like them. DH pretty much only really likes Betty Crocker. Yeah, her muffins. 

  • 1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
  • 1/2 1/4 cups tapioca starch of your choice
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 Tbs ground golden flax
  • 3/4 cups milk (I used sweetened almond, because that's what we have)
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 mashed banana, plus about 6 chopped strawberries to make 3/4 cup (pack in the strawberries), or just the berries
  • 1 Meyer lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp finely chopped or shredded peel from said lemon
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Grease your muffin tin or line it with papers.
  3. Mix your dry
  4. Mix your wet
  5. Mix them together
  6. Spoon batter into prepared cups
  7. Place in oven and immediately turn the oven down to 400
  8. Bake for about 18 minutes

The down and dirty:
These are headed for the bin, I think. They tasted nice, but the littles picked the strawberries out and turned their noses up at the banana flavor. To top it off, I'm feeling queasy, so in addition to no bean flours or xanthan gum, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to toss all the tapioca starch. I'm thinking the tapioca starch contributed to DHs stomach distress last week. Oy vey.

The texture of these as I ate one was a little cloying.  If I made them again, I would reduce the starch to 1/4 cup (and use potato starch, which I don't have at the moment). But, the lemon juice acted nicely with the soda and they puffed up quite well. It's definitely a workable recipe. Honestly, my next family will not be sensitive to gluten. ;)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

SNAP Challenge: A Week of Food

A summary of my first week under the SNAP Challenge issued by Crazy Dumbsaint of the Mind.
Day One:
  1. Eggs and sausage $1.90
  2. Tuna salad, tossed salad, apples $4
  3. GF spaghetti with meat sauce and sweet corn: $6.43. (LO corn)
Day Two:
  1. Paleo pancakes/eggs/black forest ham*
  2. Leftover something, fruit and veggies ~$2
  3. Le sigh. Dinner can bite me. Chinese takeout $33
Day Three:
  1. Cereal/eggs/bacon*
  2. Chinese leftovers with baby carrots ~$1
  3. Roast chicken (I made two for leftovers), mashed veggies (not a big hit, note to self: don't include cauliflower next time) $16
Day Four:
  1. Cereal/eggs/bacon*
  2. Chicken and GF potato gnocchi soup from leftover chicken and frozen gnocchi $0
  3. Chicken Paprikash from leftover chicken, with green beans seasoned with cooked bacon and onions. Do not drain it! Use. It. All. ~$2
Day Five:
  1. Cereal/eggs/sausage*
  2. Chicken salad from leftover chicken, veggies, and apples ~$2
  3. Tacos: 2 lbs ground turkey, can olives, two Roma toms, quarter iceberg lettuce, 1 lb cooked and seasoned black beans, 14 corn tortillas $8
Day Six:
  1. Cereal/eggs/sausage*
  2. Taco soup from leftovers $0
  3. Le sigh, I was running around at dinner time. McD's $15
Day Seven:*
  1. Big breakfast: GF pancakes and syrup, bacon, and eggs ~$1
  2. Turkey meatballs: 2 lbs, marinara for dipping, salad, and pears ~$5.50
  3. Chicken breasts (the whole package for leftovers), cooked carrots, and brown rices ~$11
*Total eggs prepared this week: 44. 18 hardboiled for snacks, and the rest went into breakfast, dumplings for the paprikash, and meatballs. My eggspenditure (hahaha) was $8.42
Total sausage prepared: 1.5 lbs $3
Total bacon: 1.5 lbs $3
Total black forest ham: 8 oz (two oz for DH breakfast and the rest to snacks. Am I the only person whose children request "a slice of meat" for a snack? $1
Cereal and milk ~$6
miscellaneous snacks: ~$10
Approximate value of food consumed $140.25 If I had cooked the carnitas instead (roast, tortillas, lettuce, and tomatoes ~$11.42), I would not have spent $48 eating out, so my week would have cost ~$103.67. There's plenty I did not include, like spices and cooking fats, nor did I factor in any of the baking goods. So, including a fudge factor of 10%, I figure I spent about $155 feeding my family this week. This is less than the budgetted $172.50 per week, but considerably more than $2/person/day.
My grocery shopping was more, however, because I spent some of next week's money on Thursday. I needed a eggs (!) and milk and since my grocery store is running their annual spend x each weeks for 6 weeks and get a $20 gift card, I bought a few extra things for next week.
Here's that list:
  • Chocolate chips $2.60
  • Juice $2.50
  • Oregano $2.40
  • Green tea $2
  • Chuck steak (discounted) $8.60
  • Almond milk (2 half gallons) $6
  • 18 eggs $2.9
  • Pork rinds $2 (don't judge me)
I have already spent $77 of next week's grocery money (drat!). I have $95.50 to add to the food I already have until next Sunday. I think I got this. ;)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

SNAP challenge: Shopping Day!

I hope you will forgive me. Pay day was Friday, but we were busy with car repairs, and yesterday was an away game for Soccer Star so I have to shop today. As usual, my plans and menus have gone out the window due to my crippling inability to accurately plan ahead, so I will have to revamp.

Right now, I'm wondering how committed I am to this project and if I can stick to it. Crazy Dumbsaint of the Mind said we don't have to count food we have in our pantries, so I won't because all that running around meant eating out. Several times. Le sigh. Cooking and shopping the way that I do means that it is very difficult to pack a meal for the road. I need to work on that.

So far we have blown $50 eating out. That's really not too bad for a family of six, I guess, but that leaves me about $120 to shop with for the week. I'm going to say a quick prayer in gratitude that all of this is optional and I don't have to survive on a limited grocery budget.

I did it for years early in my marriage. I had exactly $80 a week for DH and I. Then we added our Soccer Star and later Artiste to the family. Food consumption for the littles isn't really reflected on the budget until about age two and again at age four. So, for a family of four I ended up budgeting about $120. Actually $125 because I had to figure in the cost of gas to get to the store. That was six years ago and food and gas prices have gone WAY up since then. What's up with that? 

Modified week of menus (Sunday through Thursday):

  1. Tacos served with corn tortillas, black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, salsa and maybe yogurt
  2. Carnitas, served with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, corn tortillas
  3. Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and side vegetable
  4. Meatloaf, green beans, salad, and mashed veggies
  5. Chicken paprikash with GF dumplings and salad
  1. Chicken salad (from leftover roast chicken) with tossed salad and fruit
  2. Meatballs and spaghetti (GF noodles)
  3. Tuna salad with tossed salad and fruit
  4. Chicken and dumplings (from the roast chicken leftovers)
  5. Chili served with pumpkin cornbread
Shopping list (my estimated cost), updated to reflect actual shopping trip:
  • 7 4 lbs ground turkey/beef (14) 8
  • Whole chicken (I need two, but I have one in the freezer) (6) 5.60
  • Pork shoulder (10) 8.90
  • Butter or cream (I'm thinking about making my own butter to eliminate residudal whey) (3) 2.7
  • 3 5 dozen eggs (5.5) 6.9
  • 2 lbs bacon (6) 3.78 (I only got charged for one package.)
  • 2 lbs sausage (4)
  • 1 lb black forest ham (2.5)
  • Large can of pumpkin (2)
  • 4 2 cans tuna (3) 1.5
  • pasta sauce (1)
  • 2 cans whole olives (3) 2.6
  • corn chips (2)
  • lentils (1.5)
  • celery (1) 1.28
  • mushrooms (1.5) 1.8
  • jalepeno (.25)
  • spaghetti squash* (4)
  • fresh cilantro* (.5) .88
  • avocados or guacamole* (1-3) 1.92
  • sugar snap peas (4)
  • zucchini (1.5) 1.80
  • tomatoes (4) 2.12
  • cauliflower (2) 2.78
  • rutabaga (1) 1.04
  • turnip (1) 1.64
  • apples (4.5) 5.61
  • pears (4.5) 5.2
  • salt (1) .4
  • paprika (2)
  • oregano (2)
  • GF spaghetti noodles (2) 2.2
  • coffee (4) 4.3
  • tea (2)
  • apple cider vinegar (2) 1.2
Added while shopping:
  • frozen broccoli 1.3
  • frozen green beans 1.1
  • chicken breast 9.6
  • corn tortillas 1.9
  • Truvia 3.5
  • Black beans, dry 1.4
  • salsa 2
My estimated shopping list was $110-112. After some omissions and additions my total at the store was just under $110! Yay! I still have $10 for anything that pops up, or to pick up the things I was unable to get on this trip. The estimation is critical in making your meal plan and shopping list. You need to have a rough idea of what you are going to spend before you start shopping for it. Making radical adjustments to stay within budget while shopping is very frustrating and disheartening.

There's usually some give and take, some things you decide to go with out to accommodate other things you want. Like the Truvia. I don't need it, but I wanted to get it for tea. Also, the chicken breast. I decided that if the really cheap ground turkey is the same price per pound as the chicken breast, I was gonna get some chicken breast and adjust my menu accordingly. There were other things I could have lived without. The olives, fresh cilantro, and avocados were kind of extravagent and in a pinch, items like these can be eliminated to stay within your budget.

So, what's your grocery budget like? What are your favorite meals? How far can you stretch your dollar?

Go here to visit the SNAP Challenge and join the frugal fun!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Taking on the SNAP challenge

Not too long ago, Crazy Dumbsaint of the Mind posted a food stamp (SNAP) challenge, and I took her up on it. Basically, can you survive on your state's food allowance? I took her up on her challenge, because, well, I like a good challenge. Especially challenges that help me simplify my life and keep money in my pocket.

Figuring on the maximum, even though I only qualify for $0, I have a monthly food budget of $747.48. Now, we could totally survive on a great deal less than this, but I would like to do more than survive. I like to feed my family with wholesome food and, to boot, we've been challenged by a Higher Authority to give up gluten and dairy. Believe me when I say that no one in my family is the least bit happy about this. I'll wax on about the evils of dairy another time, but it really is not a necessary human staple.

Since the hubs and I are a bit on the fluffy side of skinny, I've decided that we are going to go primal and go all hunter-gatherer in the grocery store as a way of life and he's agreed to put up with it. It's meat and vegetables vegetables and meat. That means I'm not shopping for breads, cereals, pastas, etc. The kids still get gluten-free baked goods (and I get to sample them) and sometimes I serve corn chips or corn tortillas. It's all about moderation, 80/20, yada, yada. I'm not radical about it. Anyway, back on topic, my shopping is centered around meats, vegetables, and a modest supply of gluten-free baking goods for the kids.

I've focused on whole-foods for quite a while now, so I have mostly phased out prepackaged foods and make most things from scratch. That used to include bread. Switching to paleo-ish meal planning has not been that difficult. Instead of coming up with a starchy side, I just skip it. Easy-peasy. It is a bit more expensive, though.

Since the hubs gets paid 26 times a year, and I shop weekly, I figure my weekly food budget is $172.50 for a family of six. I think this is doable. If we can eat for $2 a day, we can do this.

Seven breakfasts: $20

I usually serve eggs and breakfast meat, and I can easily use a dozen eggs for this meal. I budget 8 oz of meat for the family, whether it be sausage or bacon. I used to buy the $1 package of breakfast links, because they're tasty, but have you looked at those ingredients? Yikes! Eggs are about a dime a piece and breakfast meats average 19 cents an ounce. Rounding everything up, breakfasts for the week will cost about $20 for all of us.

Seven morning and afternoon snacks: $20

I usually serve fruit in the morning and popcorn, kale chips, or roasted chickpeas in the afternoon.

Seven Lunches and Dinners: meat $65, everything else $67.5

Lunches will mostly be planned leftovers, crudites, and fruit. The 14 meals I plan to make (in no particular order) are:
  1. Tacos served with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, salsa
  2. Tacos again. We LOVE taco night.
  3. Chili served with pumpkin cornbread
  4. Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and side vegetable
  5. Chicken and dumplings (from the roast chicken leftovers)
  6. Chicken paprikash with GF dumplings and salad
  7. Chicken salad with tossed salad and fruit
  8. Salmon chowder with salad
  9. Meatballs and spaghetti (GF noodles)
  10. Meatloaf, green beans, salad, and mashed veggies
  11. Sausage and potatoes, served with salad
  12. Carnitas, served with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, corn tortillas
  13. Leftover carnitas
  14. More leftovers. There's always leftovers.
I suspect this is too much food, but better too much than not enough. After breakfast foods, snacks, and meat, my budget has $67.50 left for all of my produce, coffee, tea, and beverages.

I usually shop several times during a pay period. I would love to only shop once, but I inevitably forget a few things and I just can't fit all the produce I like to buy into my fridge. I buy all my meat for the pay period during my first shopping trip and promptly put it into the chest freezer. I also buy as much produce as I think I can fit into my fridge. I try to hold out for a week before I go to the store for more produce or eggs. We eat a LOT of eggs.

Eating frugally is largely a matter of organization and discipline. You have to keep meal-making foods on hand at all times. You must have an emergency plan for when you forget to thaw your meat or life gets in the way. Cooking or prepping foods ahead of time also save a lot of time and money, because when you are prepared and have a plan, you are much less likely to say, "forget this. Let's go hit up the dollar menu."

That's it for now. I'll post my grocery lists, money spent, and recipes when I get rolling.
So, what do you think? Tell me about your budget and what's on your shopping list.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Giving up the glutens and moo juice

Between my husband's family history of celiac disease, and my family history of trouble with dairy, I have found myself in the proverbial space existing between a rock and a hard place. I need to do what is best for my family, but nobody wants to go gluten-free or dairy-free. We love our breads and cheeses. What's an incompetent hausfrau to do?

DH was making fun of me last night because of my "fear" of foods. I'm not afraid of them. I dislike what they do to my family. His mother died from colon cancer, and his aunt has full-blown celiac disease. She was symptom-free and they didn't discover it until she had an endoscopy after her sister's death. DH has tested positive for both an elevated antibody and a gene marker for celiac. I dislike the tummy aches my kids and I get and the fact that if they get dairy products on their skin, they get a bright red patch for quite a while. It doesn't hurt them, but it's a big red flag that our dairy problems stem from more than lactose intolerance.

This whole situation is vexing. I'm currently looking at steering our family towards a paleo/primal diet, but more aligned with how humans ate just before the agricultural revolution. It would solve the gluten and dairy issues, and it's still aligned with my preference for whole foods. I think I'll shoot for a "most of the time" approach. That way we can still enjoy the occasional baked goods and popcorn. MMMmmm. Popcorn.

It's all very confusing. Where and when did we cross the line between good for us and bad for us? Surely, we've been gathering grains and legumes for about as long as we've been gathering and foraging. That's what, only several hundred thousands of years? Furthermore, hunter-gatherers have different diets depending upon geographical location. This is where I'm having trouble with the whole "paleo diet." They eliminate all grains and legumes and potatoes. Really? But mad quantities of coconut oil is natural?

The paleo diet, as it is practiced by modern people (that concept makes me giggle) claims that because agriculture made certain foods prevalent, they are unnatural and not good for us. I think this is false. People wouldn't have gone to the trouble of trying for thousands of years to propagate a food item if it wasn't one that they already loved and gathered from the wild. Maybe we don't need eight servings of grains a day, but to claim they are an unnatural part of our diet seems fallacious to me.

Manoomin, also known as wild rice, native to North America.
Mostly, we are healthy eating from the modern palette, with just minor reactions to wheat and dairy that we need to deal with. I guess I just have to work from there. I'm fully aware that what is minor today can become acute down the road. Incidentally, my husband's doctor is of the all-or-nothing sort that can only see the bell curve and seemed to lean toward making no dietary changes until he has celiac disease. Really? Isn't that akin to saying, go ahead and smoke until you get emphesima or lung cancer? But I digress, my mission is to find recipes that are whole foods, gluten-free, dairy-free, economical, practical to prepare, balanced, and most of all tasty.

Great. I'm inventing my own diet. No. That's not true. I am going to try to replicate an ancient one based on solid anthropological and scientific evidence. We'll feed and fuel our bodies appropriately, but will have wiggle room for treats. I'll search for harmonious agreement between what modern nutritionist hale as perfect, what historical evidence reveals was good enough to keep our species fit enough to survive, and what we actually want to eat to not feel deprived. I'll get started just as soon as I stop laughing at how sanctimonious I sound.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gluten-free Apple Cinnamon Muffins

These muffins, which I have adapted from this recipe, turned out hearty and delicious, with a really nice crust.

  • 1 cup brown rice flour*
  • 1/3 cup bean flour*
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch*
  • 1 1/4 cups oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg or mace
  • 2 Tbs buttermilk powder**
  • 1/2 cup sugar***
  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter (or fat of your choice)
  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 Tbs molasses***
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbs ground flax, or flax meal****
  • 1/4 cup water**
  • 1/2 cup dried raisins, chopped apple, or shredded and drained zucchini (optional)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees or 375 for a dark or non-stick pan. Grease or oil your tins, or line with wrappers.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices, buttermilk powder, and sugar.
  3. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender or fork. Alternatively, you can melt the butter and mix it into the wet ingredients.
  4. Stir in the oats.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, mix together applesauce, molasses, water, and vanilla.
  6. Add wet ingredients to the dry and stir until moistened
  7. If you are adding fruit, fold in gently.
  8. Spoon into prepared cups.
  9. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out dry.
*The original recipe called for 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
**You can just add 1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk to the wet ingredients instead
***You can use firmly packed, dark brown sugar instead
****If you don't have ground flax, you can simply add an egg, with water added to yield 1/4 total cups.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Make your own tamales

Normally, I make tamales around the holidays. The tradition has something to do with everyone having something special to unwrap on Christmas. I like that. Last November, when my mom was visiting, we cooked the meat. I never got around to making the tamales. Luckily I have a chest freezer and there sat my meat and frozen broth.

I said "normally" but I've only been making tamales for a few years. I came upon this fantastic webpage and recipe. It's really all you need, but me being me, I altered the recipe a bit. I'm also going to provide a scaled down version of the recipe.

The first time I made these, I didn't know what I was in for, but I am egotistical, optimistic, and hardheaded. All the subsequent times was me being a total idiot thinking I could do this thing. Make all these nommy tamales. I'd be a tamale rock star.

See, the original recipe always makes enough meat for 2-3 batches of tamales. Each batch makes about 48-60 of the darlings. Now, this is a fantastic way to make a bunch of frugal food, and I'm sure with the right helpers it could be a whole lotta fun. Last year I had every intention of having a tamale making party, but just seemed to have neither the gumption nor the get-up-and-go.

Whatever. I'm not a tamale rock star and I always want to shoot myself in the eye once I commit to making them. As long as the dough goes unmade, it's all still theoretical and fun. The reality is that if by the time they are all made you still want to eat some a miracle might just have occured. I'm not trying to scare you off, but it takes several hours to prepare and steam a batch. Once the masa gets wet things gets real.

How to make tamales:

Please see above link.

Tamale recipe (my version): I substitute ground cumin for the seeds in the dough. Seriously, you don't mess with a good recipe.

A scaled down version:

For the meat (filling, could be optional to make a vegetarian version, or maybe you could use a meat substitute):
  • 4 lbs bone-in pork and/or chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 2 Tbs plus 2 tsp corn oil
  • 2 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs ground cumin
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
For the dough:
  • 2 cups masa (I use Maseca, but will be switching to something made from organic corn in the future)
  • 2/3 cups corn oil
  • 1 Tbs paprika
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin (I prefer the flavor of the ground cumin over that of the seeds)
The tamales would otherwise be prepared the same way. Here's another link to that webite. I did not make this recipe and I claim no ownership of any part, not even the (untested) scaled-down version.