Touch of Nectar

{January 10, 2012}   Back to the Bentos. And Budget.

Okay, the new fridge has arrived!  I spent a good portion of yesterday afternoon restocking and reorganizing. The new fridge has a slightly different set up than the old one, so I need to come up with some new ideas. My shelf racks won’t work in the freezer any more.  Suggestions welcome!  I am, however, still using my deli trays for jams and jellys.  A little sad because this fridge doesn’t have the extra small drawer that I used to stash cheese in.  Tupperware, maybe? 

I also went grocery shopping!  I’m at $95.57 for this week, with a couple more things (quails eggs, won ton wrappers…) left to buy. I may JUST squeek in under the $100 mark. Yikes.  On the other hand, I’d like to make some room in the freezer, so I think next week’s menu will be based heavily on that.

Anyway… back to the bentos!   I made a delicious salad last night. Barley and Lentil from my “Beyond the Moon” cookbook. I had lentils cooked and ready to go in the freezer (and not everything fit when putting stuff in the new one!) so this came together in no time.

For my bento today, I paired it with some grape tomatoes and a green salad.  And a tiny slice of cake, which I also made last night. Nom!  I’ll post that recipe later.


{January 9, 2012}   New Fridge! New Menu

If you follow the blog on Face Book, you’ll know that our fridge went out last week.  After multiple calls to the landlord (oops! Their out of town?! Arg!) and hubby going to buy a fridge himself, we have the new one coming today.  I’ll have to rush home and get all the freezer stuff loaded into coolers, but I’m happy to have a new fridge.

Thankfully the freezer didn’t go out too, but it sickens me to have to throw out as much food as I did.  As a result, last week’s menu got more or less thrown out the window and I was working with what we had.  Add another $26 to the budget last week for dinners.

This week’s menu isn’t 100% complete, but it’s getting there. I want to see what’s on sale at the market this week.  Unlike 2011’s challenge, this year’s lets me have a lot of wiggle room.

So here’s this week’s menu. I haven’t done the grocery shopping yet, so I don’t have the price breakdown. It will be a little higher this week since I have to replace a lot of basics like milk, eggs and mayo.  

As usual, in no particular order…

Mon 9: winging it. Whatever I can find in the freezer/pantry

Tue 10: Cheeseburger Casserole (from 101 ways to use pancake mix), Salad

Wed 11: CORN/Leftovers

Thur 12: Sundried Tomato, Sausage and Fontina Pizza, salad, orange slices

Fri 13: Beef Burgundy or Beef Stew (in the crock pot), salad and noodles

Sat 14: Feta and Sundried Tomato Ravioli (from 1001 Vegetarian) with a prosciutto and browned butter sauce

Sun 15: No plan yet.

Lunches: Barley Lentil Salad (from Beyond the Moon)

Other: Chocolate Stripe Cake (Hershey’s)

I had a lot of fun with Project 365 in 2011, so I decided that I would like to do another food related challenge in 2012.  365 recipes was really just too many, so this year I am focusing on our budget.

The goal for 2012 is to spend $100 or less on groceries each week.  This is breakfast-lunch-dinner for me and the kidling and dinner-snacks for the hubby.

This first week, the budget is slightly skewed because the refrigerator and freezer are bulging from Project 365 leftovers. This week is leftovers and clean out the refrigerator/freezer week, but I still put together a delicious sounding menu.  I can’t seem to get out of the (new?) habit of looking through my cookbooks for recipes, so most of the planned dinners are from my 1001 More Low Fat Recipes book. This is a fantastic book, btw. I have four from this series and intend to add at least two more. What? I don’t have a problem… I just need more bookshelves.

I spent $60.81 for this week’s groceries.   This will not likely be the norm
I found juice boxes on clearance, so I stocked up. I only need two slices of bacon for this week’s menu, but the deli didn’t have bacon. I had to buy a full pound, but when I went to go get it, I discovered that one brand was on sale for buy one get one free! The second will go in the freezer and the extras will be served for breakfasts.

The grocery store didn’t have large pasta shells, so I substituted manicotti shells. I’m hoping this works okay with the recipe I have saved.

The small packages of chicken were wicked expensive and there wasn’t much to choose from. I found a HUGE package of chicken in the clearance bin for less than half the price of the small packages. The extras will be frozen in marinade.

My big splurge this week was prepared meatballs at $5.99 for one bag. Hubby and the kidling requested spaghetti and meatballs on the menu this week.  Normally this is something I make myself (when meat is on sale! And I sneak extra veggies into them too) and keep in the freezer.

Okay, enough babbling… Here’s the menu!  As usual, in no particular order.

Mon 2: Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Pesto

Tues 3: Chicken Fajitas

Wed 4: New England Clam Chowder, salad, crescent rolls

Thur 5: Chicken (leftover turkey in freezer) and Fettuccini Alfredo, salad

Fri 6: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Sat 7: Ham and Potato Casserole Au Gratin

Sun 8: CORN/Leftovers night

Lunches: cheese and crackers, salami, leftovers, boiled eggs, celery black pepper kinpira

{January 1, 2012}   And So It Ends…

Last night I made the final dish of Project 365.  It has been quite an adventure and I almost didn’t make it.  I had a bit of a crunch at the end… Now my refrigerator and freezer are overflowing!

My friend, Jennifer, asked me to do a blog on my thoughts about doing a project such as this, so here we are.

First of all, I could never have done this without the encouragement from my friends. Face Book and other social media (the blog, flickr) let me share the recipes and photos will all of you.  And since so many people knew about the project and asked me throughout the year how it was going (and what I was making!), it kept me on track. I couldn’t let my friends down, right?

It is weird now that the project is over. I should feel no anticipation or pressure to pick recipes out of  my cookbooks when making up our menus, but that feeling is still there. Only time will tell how long that will last. My huge collection of cookbooks are finally getting the love the deserve.

We discovered a lot of new favorites. I’ve already made the Zydeco Green Beans  twice and I only have a few jars left!  The kidling asks for the “lemon fish”; Lemon Herb Swordfish Steaks, which is wicked easy to make and can be made in advance. The Country Lentil Soup both freezes and dehydrates beautifully. I’ve made that one twice too. So good!

I learned how to make risotto this year, and did a lot of canning.  The bento cookbooks were heavily used and will continue to be used. I love the celery kinpira recipe! That was a pleasant surprise. I did NOT like the miso eggs, which was a not so pleasant surprise.

I’ve missed making homemade pizzas. (Pizza dough from Trader Joes)  There’s only so many real recipes for pizza in my books and I’ve made all of the ones I know the hubby will eat. I’m looking forward to putting our homemade pizzas back on the regular rotation.  Hubby likes ham, pineapple, red onion and olives on our pizza.

Most of the recipes were a success, but I also had a few disasters.  The Daikon Kimchee Cubes (and I like kimchee!) were inedible. The Cinnamon Rolls, from my Freezer Cooking book, was a huge mess!

One other negative thing about the project was that I feel like I spent too much money on food and wasted a lot of food last year.  Recipes “had” to be made to get 365 recipes for the year, so I made more food than we really needed. In 2012 we will be eating a lot more leftovers. In the next blog post I’ll talk about the new challenge.

I acquired MORE cookbooks this year, and I have a few new favorites.  What’s worse is that there are at least four or five more books that I will be adding to the collection. They will be ones I know I will use though.

All in all, it was fun. And I will continue to track what recipes I’ve tried.  Having a weekly menu with the recipe names and books listed was a huge help in both grocery shopping and deciding what is for dinner. I will continue to do this.

Thanks again, everyone, for the encouragement and being willing food testers! I look forward to feeding you all again in 2012.

{December 26, 2011}   Down to the Wire! Last Menu of 2011

Whew!! Project 365 really has been a project! I’ve learned a lot. And we’ve eaten a ton of great food this year. I’m a little tired of my cookbooks though… And there’s a few that are not going to be staying on the shelves.  And I’ve discovered a handful of new books that I’ll be adding to the collection in 2012. Yes, I have a problem. lol. 

I am looking forward to being able to cook whatever I want, without the pressure of having it “count” toward the project.  We’ve found a lot of new favorites. I think about half or more of the recipes that we tried I will be making again.

I did a RIDICULOUS amount of cooking for Christmas… I was at 21 recipes and 9 days to go. Panic!!  Now I’m at 354/365, so 11 to go and 6 days to to it. I can DO IT.  Problem is… I have a refrigerator full of yummy leftovers!

So this week’s menu is things that can be stored for awhile (salad dressings) and some things that can be frozen. AND recipes that use up leftovers in creative ways.  As usual, these are in no particular order.  There’s more than 11 recipes here to finish, but I predict that I will not get to all of them.

There’s a Lichi Martini recipe I want to try and I bought vodka for xmas. I need to find which book it is in. Yum!

Rounding the dinners out are leftover vegetables and crackers with a big variety of dips and cheeses. It will be fun to have “appetizers” before dinner every night.

Mon 26: Shrimp with Green Beans, Tomato and Feta – 365 One Dish

Tue 27: Polish Noodles and Cabbage – Frugal Gourmet Ancient Ancestors
Leftover Prime Rib, SunDried Tomato and Goat Cheese Dressing – 1001 Low Fat

Wed 28: CORN/Leftovers night

Thurs 29: Beef (leftover) with Red Wine Tarragon Sauce – Cooking Light 2003
leftover twice baked potatoes, salad

Fri 30: Parmesan Vinaigrette (salad) – 1001 More Low Fat

Sat 31: Happy New Year!  Cioppino – 1001 More Low Fat
Maple Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins – Xmas Kitchen

Sun 1: I ain’t cooking nothin! 

Lunches: Orange Cabbage Salad – Bento Boxes
Crunchy Cabbage and Carrots – Bento Boxes
Orzo with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Mushrooms – 1001 More Low Fat

Other: Beef and Barley Soup (leftover beef) – 365 One Dish (eat one for lunch, freeze rest)
Carrot Raisin Nut Bread – Xmas Kitchen (freeze in small portions for lunches)
Korean Style Honey Marinade – Xmas Kitchen (freeze)

{November 16, 2011}   Project 365 Update!!

I’ve been working like mad to get caught up with my numbers for project 365.

As of this morning my count sits at 304/365 with plans for two (easy!!) recipes tonight.  I put a Navy Bean Soup with Ham in the crock pot this morning (recipe from 1001 Slow Cooker). 

Thanksgiving is coming, and while I’ll be doing all of the ordinary things, I have a few great looking recipes to try out too.

Here’s a few of the latest creations…

Chuckwagon Beef and Beans from 365 One Dish (the biscuits are cooked in the liquid) Brilliant!

Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce from Asparagus to Zucchini. Wicked easy.

Oven Crisp Chicken from 365 Ways to Cook Chicken – the coating is made with stuffing mix. Soooo good. This will be going on the regular rotation!

{November 16, 2011}   Kawaii!

So I bring home this book from the library called Face Food

Just for fun. Just to look at. Just to admire OTHER people’s talents…

And the kidling gets ahold of it. Ut oh.  Now she wants one.

So here it is… My first (slightly sad) attempt at a charaben bento.   In case you can’t tell it is supposed to be a cat.

The bento ingredients themselves are simple. The cat is a cheese sandwich. Goldfish crackers, mini dill pickles, cherry tomatoes and grapes round out the box.

{November 12, 2011}   Marching On

Okay as of this morning Project 365 sits at 297 recipes done. Gonna have to double up quite a bit to finish on time. At least I have the holidays (I host) and Christmas baking coming up. I’ve been working on creative new ideas for bento lunches.  We’ve had enough leftovers lately, so I’ve worked in two leftovers night. I will likely run the bread machine again this week too. Both hubby and the kidling like having bread with dinner.

There are grapes and satsumas in the fridge, so those will be heavily featured in the bentos this week.

Here’s this week’s menu…

Sat 12: Navy Bean Soup with Ham – 1001 Slow Cooker, Mini Corn Muffins with Prosciutto – 365 Appetizers

Sun 13: Chuckwagon Beef and Beans – 365 One Dish

Mon 14: Ravioli in Butter and Sage Sauce – From Asparagus to Zucchini, Pickletini – Food Fest

Tue 15: Leftovers

Wed 16: Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Spinach – Cooking Light 2004

Thurs 17: Knitting group night. Leftovers

Fri 18: Chicken Vegetable Pesto Stir Fry – 365 One Dish, Hasselback Potatoes – 300 Great Potato Recipes

Lunches: I have a variety of chicken salads picked out (using up leftover chicken),  Curried Lemon Mayo – 365 Appetizers (to be served with carrot and celery sticks), Sage Roasted Squash – From Asparagus to Zucchini

Other: Banana Oat Energy Bars – Trail Food (for the kidling’s 2nd breakfasts), Oatmeal Nut Waffles – Food Fest 365, Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cones – Food Fest 365.

{November 10, 2011}   The Delicata Cycle

I mentioned the other day about roasted delicata squash. Sooo delicious!

Delicious Delicata. Say it with me. It’s fun!

1. Get yourself some lovely delicata squash.

2. Wash the outside of the squash. These things grow in the dirt ya know. You don’t want dirt in your bentos.

3. Slice off the stem and blossom ends and cut in half.

4. Remove the seeds. I suppose you could roast these like pumpkin seeds, but they’re kinda little so I never bother.

5. Slice the squash into 1/2 inch (or so) half moons. Meanwhile, turn the oven on to about 350 and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.

6. As you slice the rings, arrange them on a cookie sheet. When you are done slicing, spray the tops of the rings with cooking spray and sprinkle them with grill seasoning. I like the 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joes.

7. Stick the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for about 1/2 hour or until the squash is done to your liking. I don’t like mine too mushy, but I like the edges just a bit caramelized.

These fit nicely into bentos and they are good hot or cold. You can eat the rind even. It is soft enough. Most of the time, I just scrape the flesh off with my teeth and toss the rind.

{November 8, 2011}   Bad News, Good News, Good News

Okay, first the bad news… Our house got broken into on Friday. They literally kicked in the door. So hard that they broke the pin on the deadbolt. Scary stuff.

The good news is… our neighbors saw them, called the coppers and got a license plate number. They not only caught the bad guys, we got almost all of our stuff back the same day! And we have a new door now. I’m a little sad that our front door is no longer going to be purple.

So that is why I haven’t been blogging the last few days. I’ve been dealing with all that stuff. Weee…

But onto my other good news… I have lots of bentos to share!

I roasted some delicata squash last week. My favorite! I’ll blog about that later today if I get a chance.

This bento uses some fridge and freezer stash… boiled quails eggs, salad, edamame, cheese sticks, turkey meatballs, pickled green beans, mushrooms, carrots and squash. I forgot dressing for the salad! Bah!

And hers. Quails eggs, cheese, deli turkey, Halloween candy, pretzels and mango.

Another for me. Pickled green beans, roast beef, cheese, edamame, squash, stir fried bok choy and carrots, mushrooms.

Hers. Bagel with peanut butter and jelly, mango, grapes, pretzels and edamame.

et cetera