Saturday, January 17, 2009

Catch up time

Sunday morning and the livin's easy...foggy here in the Puget Sound and after a Saturday of getting stuff done and some good outside time (sunny & beautiful but colder than a well digger's hind end) with the dog I can catch up here with how it's going.

This past week has been very successful for our program; boeuf bourguignon was tremendous and actually worked out to a 2nd dish as well with the addition of some of my homemade yogurt - POOF! and it was pseudo stroganoff for topping leftover homemade noodles and even some leftover brown rice. The refrigerator brioche dough was a big hit - with me as tarte tatin and with both Henry and I as sandwich rolls so I made another full batch and turned it into cinnamon rolls for a going away party at work where it again drew more enthusiastic nods of approval. Here is a list of the kind of food we've been enjoying on a budget:

  • Boeuf bourguignon

  • Beef stroganoff

  • Chicken parmesan

  • Tarte tatin

  • Pizza w/ salami, roasted red peppers and olives

  • Steamed broccoli

  • Buttered carrots

  • Salads with assorted fresh veggies

  • Cinnamon rolls

As you can see we're not starving and as I wrote in an earlier post I've even dropped a couple lbs and continued to have good blood sugar readings. I'm getting to the gym regularly, sleeping well (almost too well, been hard to get to work this past week) and even after running out of flour and having to purchase more for my contribution to the going away party, I'm still under budget slightly. This next week is a week where Henry will be with me only two evenings so it may be a bit more budget friendly but last night we made homemade ice cream from the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Cookbook so we're using heavy cream, whole milk and Rolos (Henry's choice) so the candy was a special purchase but still within budget so far.

Although I'm trying to stick to a menu plan as I've found that to be a successful strategy in the past, sometimes especially when shopping with a 10 year old it pays to be somewhat flexible. I need to remember if our food isn't making us happy as well as healthy (physically, mentally and financially) then the whole thing goes up in smoke. The plan was for a pork roast tonight that was on sale for $1.39lb but the grocery was sampling flat iron steaks last night and although the cost was well more at $5.99lb it was really great as usual and Henry asked if we could change our plans. He accepted my explanation that in order to stay on budget that would mean another meal or 3 of grilled cheese or vegetarian pasta and what not rather than having the more vast amount of leftovers and he was OK with that so it will be steak tonight for our "big" Sunday dinner.

Although I linked to the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes website, I feel I really need to share their brioche dough that while certainly being a special occasion bread for it's expense both monetary and calorically, it is so easy and soooo good for so many things so here it is with a couple slight modifications to method:

1.5 C lukewarm water
1.5 Tbl yeast
.5 C honey
1.5 C melted unsalted butter (3 sticks)
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
7.5 C unbleached all purpose flour
1.5 Tbl kosher salt

Stir together water, yeast, honey, butter and eggs
Add the flour and salt and mix completely
Cover and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours
Cover and chill completely or overnight in the refrigerator

The dough is ready for use once it is completely chilled. I have found that rolling is difficult unless it is allowed to slightly warm from the fridge temperature as it is just too elastic and doesn't spread easily so a preliminary quick pat out or roll on a heavily floured board and then a rest period of 15 minutes or so makes a world of difference.

I used this dough for the pastry on a tarte tatin, for large sandwich rolls and for cinnamon rolls so far. Although a very rich dough and certainly a special occasion bread, it is so good and so easy it will become a staple for our use. Thank you Zoe and Jeff of Artisan Bread in 5!!!

I made our second batch of yogurt yesterday from 2% this time but still powdered whole milk as that's what I had and about 6oz of last weeks batch and it has turned out nicely. I will work on straining this batch for a couple hours through muslin to see what the texture is like and report back on it. A friend at work after trying my last batch asked if I didn't know that I could occasionally buy yogurt for 10 for $4 or something but I still think this is pretty darn cheap and also far better for us. Organic yogurt containing only milk and culture is usually $1.09 for a 6oz container. So far this is what I've come up with:

.5 Gal organic milk = $2.99
4 Tbl organic powdered milk = maybe $.25
6oz organic yogurt starter = $1.09 the first time then free after that
Ferment time = free while I'm doing other stuff

All equals roughly 12 each 6oz portions for just a little more than $4 for a savings of about $.75 per portion over commercially available organic products. Not bad on $ and the taste is superior to commercial products as well as a huge savings in all that packaging.

Over the past 2 weeks I have spent 60+% of my booze budget on some interesting wines. The first of which was a Masciarrelli Montepulciano; nothing much to write home about so no need to run out and get this one. Light and with a bit of dried cherry fruit it might appeal to some but there are better for the price, this one came in at $9.29 before tax. It has received nice reviews out there in the wine world and even a nice one from our own local paper the Seattle PI but I just didn't see it

The next adventure was more successful and is a local product so it supports a nearby (~20 miles from my home)business here in Washington and saves on shipping costs and environmental impact. For the on sale price of $9.99 the Willis Hall Symposium red blend is tasty, has good fruit and what I assume is a bit to much new oak as it had a bit of vanillin on the palate that I just haven't ever experienced in a red wine before now. As I wrote, it is a nice bottle for ~$10 but the regular price is $18.99 and I would be hard pressed to pay that for this bottle as there are others at that price (and under!) that are superior juice.

The last and most successful is not surprisingly from a well established budget winery in California that is an old favorite, Big House Wines. The Slammer syrah was delicious and on sale at $9.99 was a hell of a bottle of wine for the under $10 pricepoint. Rich and deep red with blackberry and plum notes, it went great with last night's baked ziti in marinara and 3 cheeses. Well worth seeking out -

Not much more for now, still on budget for the month so all's well in frugal land:

$128.11 for groceries and $32.05 on booze

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