Eating My Way Through My Fridge & Pantry Experiment ~ Day 1

This is Day 1's entry in a 15-day experiment. I found myself with a very low bank balance and 15 days until my next pay check. I have lots of food in my fridge and can't really afford to go out and purchase any new food. I'm going to try to not buy any groceries from here to 9/14 (I might have to beg friends and family for some items though). I'm also going to try to not go out to eat, with the exception of the last Summer Friday Food Journey trip my friend and co-worker Lisa are taking this Friday (Jewish Deli Food yay!). What I'll try to do is make do with all the food I have in my fridge and pantry. I won't be able to make perfect meals, but at least I can make use of that food. Can I do it? I'm not sure, but out of necessity I'm going to try.

How did I get myself here? Several reasons.

#1 Hungry Boyfriend. We go out to eat a lot because at the beginning of any relationship, a lot of bonding is done while eating food. Everyone has to eat and it's a great way to spend alone time together and to get out of the house and do something fun. To counterbalance this I have tried cooking meals for my beau and I. In hindsight, I thought this would be more cost-effective. Home-cooked meals are generally less expensive than restaraunt ones. However, the beau eats SO MUCH FOOD that my regular portion is tripled or quadrupled to feed his raving hunger. It costs money to feed a hungry hungry man.

#2 Summertime Fun. It's warm out, the days are longer and friends are out and about. Summer is the best season for quality hang-out time with the friends and like with the beau, this usually means eating out. Plus there are extras to treat oneself with like iced tea, ice cream and carnival/sports arena fair like hotdogs and fried dough. So not only am I spending money on meals, I'm spending money on extra food items that are by any means necessary.

#3 Travel Fun. Travel is expensive gosh dang it. I have barely done any, but already it's sapped my wallet.

#4 Baking. I have been very experimental with baking lately and have been excited to try a lot of new things. Baked goods, not an essential meal or food group. It's an extra. Plus the cost of all those ingredients adds up. And when I bake, I usually try a little bit and then give the rest out to friends and family. That's a lot of $$$ just to bake and give it all away.

#5 Fickle Fickle mind. I make a meal plan on Saturday for the week then on Sunday morning I buy all the ingredients for the meals. By Wednesday or Thursday, I don't want to cook anymore, I'm sick of the meal plan and I end up getting take out while all that extra food sits in my fridge. What a waste!

#6 DVDs. Not food-related, but there have been so many amazing sales that I just have been shelling out the dinero for some coveted classic movies. Argh!

Day #1

- Mom donated a box of Basic 4 cereal to my cause so I'm trying to finish off my previous box. I had that for cereal. Beau drank most of my grapefruit juice so I won't have much of that to last me for 15 days. I did give him leftover brunch desserts and my vegan coconut cupcakes to satisfy his breakfast needs. I'm not feeding him again for the rest of this experiment.

- Had soup for lunch. Had purchased 3 cans on Sunday ($5 for all three). They will be my lunches today, Tuesday and Wednesday. Also had some leftover fruit from yesterday's birthday brunch. I caved in and bought a scone for $2.25. That'll be my afternoon snack with tea. I have a big stash of tea bags at my work desk so I'm determined only to brew my own tea rather than going out and getting tea.

- I have Butoni's Wild Mushroom Agnolotti and marinara sauce in my fridge and some still-good wax and green beans from my local market. Put that all together for a pretty decent meal. I have some more beans to spare so maybe I'll use those later in the week. Fresh stuffed pasta and fresh vegetables, this will be one of the most luxurious meals out of this experiment!

Kitchen Sink Quiche

In an attempt to get my beau Carlos to eat more vegetables, I wanted to devise a dish that was delicious, in which I could cram as many vegetables as possible and would be great for leftovers. I thought of several ways I could do this and the best solution was to make a quiche. A quiche is a meal in itself and leftover slices make great re-heat lunches or dinners. It's even good for breakfast! So I decided to make what I now call the Kitchen Sink Quiche.

If I were to make this quiche for myself, I would use Ham, Tomato, Broccoli florets, Zucchini, Mushrooms and Cheddar Cheese. For Carlos, I used Ham, Tomato, Spinach, Onion, Cubanelle Pepper, Red Pepper, Spinach, Scallions and Brie. See the laundry list of vegetables? I put as many in there as I possibly could and I exlcuded certain no-nos like the broccoli, zucchini and mushrooms in my preferred quiche. I used fresh produce I got that morning from Wilson Farms, with the exception of the Spinach. Good quality, fresh, local produce just makes everything taste better!

Kitchen Sink Quiche

This makes 2 quiches.

Thaw and strain some frozen spinach. Don't forget to squeeze all that excess water out!



Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Par-bake two pre-made pie-shells for about 5-7 minutes.

Do a rough chop of one cubanelle pepper, one red pepper and half of an onion. If it weren't for the scallions, I would have done the whole onion. Sautee peppers and onion in light olive oil until their form begins to give. Basically you are doing some pre-cooking to ensure consistency of texture in the quiche.



I like to get these Ham slices. They are thinner than ham steaks but thicker than deli meat. Feel free to omit the ham if you are vegetarian.



I cut each stack length-wise into three strips then cut the across. Here I'm just having fun with design!



I set aside the cooked peppers and onions and the ham bits. Around this time you should be taking out the pie shells from the oven and poking holes in them with a fork, to release some of the air and to make sure they don't bubble up again when baking.



I lucked out and got some amazing heirloom tomatoes at Wilson Farms this morning. I sliced them into thick slices, then seeded them. Seeding is really important unless you want a soggy quiche! Then I cut the slices in halves or thirds. I set the aside and drained them a little bit before using. If you have time, try roasting them in the oven with salt before adding to the quiche.



I started with a layer of tomatoes, then a layer of ham.



Then I added the peppers and onions on top.



I whisked 5 eggs with about 3/4 cup of skim milk. Then I added salt, oregano and chopped scallions.



I was trying to figure out how to add the Spinach as a layer to the quiche and at the last minute I decided to add it to the egg mixture. I should have added it as a fine layer on top of the tomatoes because the spinach just floated to the top!



I poured the egg mixture over the pie. I do one egg mixture for each quiche. So for two quiches, that's a total of 8 eggs and 1-1/2 cups of skim milk.



I baked them in the oven for about 30-35 minutes. Then I added slices of brie (without the rind) to Carlos' quiche, then I put both quiches back in the oven for 10-15 more minutes. I decided to go cheese-less with mine. You'll see that mine had a bit of a milk separation issue! That was the first quiche I assembled and when I found out that 4 eggs wasn't going to work. Carlos' quiche below looks a lot better!



The quiches came out great. My apartment was filled with the most amazing aroma as these were baking in the oven. I highly recommend you try your own version of Kitchen Sink quiche.
Quiche on Foodista

Guest Blogger Kate Gabrielle ~ Autumn State of Mind

I've been wanting Kate Gabrielle to do a guest post for me for quite a while. She's a young talented artist with a penchant for good food and I love hearing about the dishes she's making. I'm delighted that she chose to do a soup recipe with Autumn in mind. With the humidity and the blazing sun that comes with summer, some of us just need an escape and Kate Gabrielle's inexpensive and easy recipe is just the portal in which to transport you into a temperate Fall day.
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I was dieting a few years ago and came across a recipe for pumpkin squash bean soup. I can't remember where the recipe originally came from, or how it eventually evolved into the soup I make now... All I know is that it is my all time favorite soup in the universe, perfect for when you're dieting or (like I am now) just pigging out on good food all the time.

I've been in an autumn state of mind recently (the beginning of August usually does that to me) so I whipped out the old soup recipe this afternoon. There are a million reasons why this soup is perfect, but I'll just give you a few:

1. It is very healty: low fat, and high in protein
2. It is the easiest recipe I've ever made
3. It is the cheapest recipe I've ever made
4. You can add ingredients to make it many different ways
5. I could devour the whole pot and still want more. It's that good.

The total cost of all the ingredients is about $5, and it feeds my family of four, with leftovers to spare. It's the perfect new-depression era meal -- both filling and cheap, delicious and easy.

Here's what you need:

30 oz. can of pumpkin
(2) 15 oz. cans of cannellini beans, rinsed
4 c. water
2 c. chicken broth (or water flavored with a bouillon cube, which is cheaper!)
Dried oregano
Onion powder

Here are the optional items you can add:

Sauteed onions
Fresh basil
Some chopped fresh squash or zucchini
Cinnamon
Garlic
Whatever else you can think of!

Here's how you cook it:

Dump the first four ingredients into a large pot. Turn the heat on medium-high, and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then reduce to a really low heat and add the oregano and onion powder. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes more.

In batches, transfer the soup into the blender and puree until smooth. Sometimes I like to keep some of the soup in reserve so that you still have some full beans in the final soup. You can top it off with some fresh basil or parsley, or cinnamon.


When I know I have a busy week ahead of me, sometimes I cook a big batch of this soup on Sunday and keep it in the fridge, in it's original pot. A few minutes re-heating on the stove, and I have a delicious dinner, presto!

We may be in the thick of summer, but just crank up the A/C, put on some slippers and imagine that autumn leaves are falling outside your window as you eat this delectable pumpkin bean soup!

The Making of Peach-Strawberry Pie



My friend, the uber-talented Kate Gabrielle, recently sent me her recipe for Peach pie and I knew I just had to try it. I wanted to add strawberries to capitalize on the summer's bounty of fruit.

My first attempt was a bit of a doozy. I made the Peach-Strawberry pie for my parents who have various health issues. My father is border-line diabetic so I had to make this pie with Splenda Sugar Blend instead of real sugar. Now that is easy enough as it's just an ingredient switch. However, my mom is very sensitive to seeds as they bother her digestive tract and can make her really sick. Each strawberry contains about 200 or so seeds embedded in the skin. Most of a strawberry's color is on the outside too. So I had to carefully peel about 20 strawberries by hand, making sure that I removed all the seeds but also that I didn't dig too far into the flesh so I could keep the strawberry's natural red color. This was no easy task and by the end of it my hands were strawberry-red.

Why didn't I just make a low-sugar peach pie instead? Because I like the challenge. The pie turned out pretty well. It was very tasty, however the peaches and strawberries contain a lot of liquid causing the pie to be rather soggy with juice. The cornstarch couldn't quite do it's work and the fruit was swimming in it's own juice.

The important thing is my parents really appreciated the fact that I made a dessert for them that they could both enjoy. I was happy that I could make the pie with their health concerns in mind.

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Afterwards, I talked to Kate Gabrielle about the sogginess issue and we both came up with the solution of sugaring the fruit, letting it sit and then draining some of the excess juice. Both of us do this with vegetable pies and salt, so why wouldn't it work with fruit?

So for my second attempt at the pie, I made it for my beau who doesn't have any dietary restrictions so I was free to make it the way I wanted to. I let the peaches and strawberries sit with the sugar for a while then drained it. I decided to let them sit a little more and drained them again. When I finally baked the pie and let it cool sufficiently, the liquid was now more of a sauce.



The pie was a success and a perfect summer treat. Next time I will try it with both pie shells and a bit more fruit. But for now, here is the final recipe...

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Ingredients:

Pie Shell
4-5 Peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 pint of Strawberries, hulled and halved
Sugar to taste
Cinammon to taste
3 tablespoons of cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the peaches and strawberries and add to a bowl with sugar to taste. Let sit for 20 minutes then drain some of the excess liquid. Let sit for a little while longer and drain once more. Add cinammon and cornstarch and incorporate well. Add mixture to the pie shell. You can par-bake the pie shell in the oven for 5 minutes if you want. This helps it hold it's texture a bit better to the juicy fruit. Make sure you poke a few holes in the shell with a fork. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden on top. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes otherwise you will not be able to serve it (it will be all gloopy and fall apart).



Peach-Strawberry Pie on Foodista

Kielbasa, Sauerkraut and Perogies


This is just a set up I created for a date night with my beau. I sauteed sliced kielbasa in a little bit of olive oil until nicely brown. Then I added some drained and rined sauerkraut and sauteed that for a little bit until it got some color from the kielbasa juices. I steamed some frozen perogies then sauteed them in some olive oil. I mixed everything together in a big plater and served with slices of sourdough bread and some dijon mustard.

Because it was a hot day and this meal is rather heavy, I prepared some tomato and cucumber sticks for snacking on. It's a great way to clear the palate in between bites of richness. I included a small bowl of salad dressing for dipping too.

Next time I'll have a nice plate of sliced Swiss Cheese, some bigger hunks of bread and perhaps some Thousand Island dressing along with the mustard.

Kielbasa on Foodista
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