Monday, September 29, 2008

Asian Vegetable Burger Wraps

These are totally yummy. Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you away.  It goes together really fast.  The original recipe calls for ground pork, I liked the ingredients so much I made my own vegetarian concoction to replace the meat and it came out awesome.  As a bonus, serve them in the leaves of bibb lettuce instead of on burger buns.  Make extra and store in the fridge.

2 tablespoons of peanut oil
Zest of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves minced
4 oz chopped shiitake mushroom caps
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 cup TVP (texturized vegetable protein)
3/4 cup hot water
1.5 cups chopped vegetable sausage (the breakfast kind)
1 egg
1 cup panko
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
OR 1 3/4 pound ground pork

2 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
3/4 teaspoon cracked pepper
1/2 hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger (grated works fine)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon hot chili sauce (like sriracha)

1 head bibb lettuce
1 cup matchstick sized carrots
1 cup matchstick sized red bell pepper
1/3 cup fresh cilantro chopped

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add lemon zest and garlic saute for 2 minutes, add mushrooms and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.  Saute for about 4-6 minutes or until shrooms are tender.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

** for veggie option: In large bowl mix TVP and hot water to re-hydrate for 2 minutes. mix in 1 tablespoon sesame oil cracked pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir.  Add in chopped vegetable sausage, 1 cup panko, 1 tablespoon black sesame seed and 1 egg.  Mix to incorporate everything.  Fold in cooled mushroom mixture.  Mixture should be moist and moldable.  Add a bit more panko if it is too moist.

** for pork option: mix ground pork with 1 tablespoon sesame oil, cracked pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Fold in mushroom mixture.

Using a large spoon shape into about patties about 2.5 inches in diameter.  Place on a cooking sheet.

Whisk together hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, chili sauce, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in a small bowl for sauce.

Either grill or pan fry patties until cooked through (2-3 minutes per side).  Use ample cooking spray on grill and pan to avoid sticking.  Place lettuce, carrots, peppers, cilantro, and sauce on the table and wrap the burgers in the lettuce.  Dress with carrots, peppers, cilantro and sauce to taste.  

Week one tally Week two menu!

$51.76 Waldbaums
$24.17 Northshore Farms
$31.30 Bernard's Market (halibut disaster)
$14.00 Pizza from Sal's (yum)
$27.25 Waldbaum's

Grand Total Week One: $148.48 (-23.48)

Oh sooooooo close!  If we didn't have the fish problem, we would have made it!  Still I am damn impressed we even got close.  One disclaimer:  On a last minute whim, Carolynn and I went to the city for the night, so we didn't eat home on Saturday or Sunday.  While I'm not counting the cost of the meals out, I did have everything in the house to cook if we were home, so being that it is the first week - it counts close enough for me.

On to week 2....

This week my goal is to cook/eat a few more total veg options.  There is not a lot on sale this week worth buying.  I need to be a bit more creative.  The one splurge item that is on sale is lobster tails, so I'll plan that for Thursday.  Here is the projected menu for the week:

Monday: Stuffed Shells with a green salad (CHEAT: these were leftover from Katherine's Dad's Bday party. FREE FOOD!)
Tuesday: Asian Vegetable Burger Wrap
Wednesday: Roast Chicken with baked potatoes and honey sliced carrots (I'm working late)
Thursday: Lime and Chile basted Lobster tails with sweet potato mash and spinach
Friday: Baked Polenta with Broccoli Puree
Saturday: Turkish White Bean Stew
Sunday: Roasted Cod on large garlic croutons

We might have guests on Sunday, so I need to put a showstopper on the table if we do.  I'd move the lobster tails to Sunday, but they are only on sale until Thursday and I don't want to refreeze them.  Without a lot of fish or meat on the menu, I should do well financially.  Here is the shopping list:

2 lemons
2 limes
fresh ginger (about 1 inch)
1.5 pound carrots
1 red bell pepper
1 head bibb lettuce
1 bunch green onions
3 pounds sweet potatoes
1 pound fresh spinach
1 head broccoli
4 oz. shiitake mushrooms
1 habenaro Chile
1 clamshell mixed greens
1 pound strawberries
1 pound bananas
1 pound apples

1 roasting chicken
4 lobster tails (3oz each)
1 box veggie sausage

Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Tomato paste
2 cans vegetable broth
1 can northern beans
2 cups TVP (texturized vegetable protein found in health food stores)
1 box instant polenta
1/2 pint heavy cream

1 dozen eggs
1 lb butter

I'll figure Sunday out later in the week, but I should have enough money to buy whatever I need.
On to the recipes....
By the way, I have a huge library of recipes, good ones.  Leave ideas in the comments and I see what i can find.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pizza and Tacos!

So far this has been a pretty successful week.  Still haven't gone over the weekly budget AND everyone has loved the meals.  Wednesday I had planned for stuffed eggplant and pizza for Katherine.  As it turned out I got held up at work so it was pizza all around.  It was GOOD! Yeah, baby.  Carolyn got inspired and made the stuffed eggplant for her for lunch so nothing went to waste.  Thursday was taco night and i had forgotten how good homemade tacos are.  Lettuce, refried beans, cheese, sour cream, rice, and guacomole.  We were totally stuffed.

So I got the new circulars in the mail today!  Time to start planning for week two!  I'm not going to be able to blog until Monday, so check back then for my week 2 menu under 125.00.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fish in a Sweet Corn Chowder Gravy

UGH!  First money disaster!  I asked Carolynn to stop at King Kullen for the Mahi Mahi.  When she got there, it looked pitiful, so she opted for cod.  When I got home I could smell the fish from the front door.  It was not good.  We agreed not to ditch the menu, so I ran out and bought a piece of Halibut.  I really like Halibut and this was a fresh as anything, but it was $19.99 a pound!!!!  Kaboom!  It's Tuesday an I've spent an extra 21 bucks.  Anyway, here's the recipe

Fish in a Sweet Corn Chowder Gravy

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices of bacon chopped (can be omitted or veggie bacon can be substituted)
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery (with some tops)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon each)
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup fat free half and half
1 box frozen sweet corn
dash of cayenne
2 pounds of meaty white fish like Mahi Mahi, halibut, or Cod cut into individual pieces of 5-6oz each

Saute onions and celery in oil until just soft but not brown, add bacon and thyme, saute another 3 minutes or until bacon is crisp.  Add butter and flour stir to incorporate fully.  Add stock and 1/2 and 1/2, bring to a boil.  If too thick add another 1/2 cup of water.  Add corn (no need to thaw) and simmer.  Season with a dash of Cayenne to taste.
Meanwhile heat skillet and a tablespoon of oil.  Salt and pepper fish and cook 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on thickness.

Serve fish with chunky mashed red potatoes and generous ladles of the sweet corn gravy over the top.  Serious yum.

Grilled Beer Marinated Hanger Steak

My daughter LOVES this recipe!  I cut it out of a Bon Appetite magazine a while ago.  I put the ingredients and began the marinading the night before.

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
1/2 bottle dark lager beer (like a bock, or Sam Adams Black Lager)
2 lbs skirt steak (also called hanger steak)

Whisk all of the ingredients together then place into a ziploc bag with steak overnight.  Try to use fresh rosemary, it makes a difference in flavor.  Grill steak (or pan grill) to desired doneness. 

I served it with Alexis Sweet Potato Fries and broccoli, but last night Carolynn's Mom stopped by with fresh corn on the cob, so we ditched the broc!  Since I wound up home after all, I opened a package of BBQ veggie strips and had that for my veggie self.  The steak got rave reviews.

So far this whole $125 thing.  Katherine is taking turkey to school for lunch and breakfast is eggs or a pancake for K.  I'm beginning to realize that using up things like the coffee, eggs, pancake mix, and milk this week is going to add up next week.  I'll worry about that next week!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Asian Salmon with Bok Choy and Mushrooms

Asian Salmon with Bok Choy and Mushrooms


2 cloves garlic

¼ cup chopped green onions

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 ¼ inch cube of fresh ginger

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

¾ teaspoon roasted red chilli paste (Thai Village brand or similar)

1 ½ pound salmon filet

1 large head Bok Choy (or a few baby bok choy) sliced into ½ inch strips

4-8oz Shiitake mushrooms (or baby bella’s if you prefer the taste)

1 tablespoon peanut oil (or other high heat oil)

Mix 1 garlic clove and the next 7 items in a mini chopper or blender.  Place salmon in a ziploc bag with the marinade. Seal and set aside for at least 10 minutes.  Heat oven to 500 degrees.  Remove fish from bag and place in a glass baking dish.  Place marinade into a small sauce pan with ¼ cup of water and bring to a boil.  Roast fish in oven for 8-10 minutes depending on thickness.  Don’t over cook it.  It should be just opaque in the center.  While the fish is cooking, heat the oil in a wok or other large pan.  Squeeze the garlic into the oil using a press.  Add mushrooms and bok choy.  Sauté until bok choy is wilted.  Place the vegetables on a plate, top with salmon, and drizzle a spoonful of sauce over the fish.  Serve with a scoop of rice if you want. 

This was a great meal and there was plenty of left over for lunch the next day.  I heated the plates in the oven for a minute or two so everything stayed piping hot.  It went together very quick; just about 30 minutes.  I might try this with tofu next time for a change.  It would probably work really well.

After I cleaned up dinner, I quickly put the marinade together for Monday night’s hanger steak.  I thought it would be a good night for a beef meal, since I was planning to work late.  Recipe to follow. . . .

Shopping Week One!

Hey, I got comments! Thanks for reading!  Christine, you are right about the farmers markets.  We have 2 local farms that i do buy stuff at.  That does help.  The meat issue Tex brought up is an interesting one.  I became a vegetarian back in March.  It was a multifaceted decision, but really an evolution of thought on my behalf.  Carolynn decided to join me shortly thereafter.  Katherine is 11 and has been brought up on a very meat oriented diet and she likes it.  At her age, I'm willing to set a really good example, expand her dietary horizons, and find alternatives for her, but she will need to come to the veg thing on her own.  So, I compromise.  I'll cook an occasional beef or chicken meal for her and she promises to try different things on other nights.  When she is ready, she'll get it.  

So thanks for the comments and keep them coming!

Here is the shopping list week one


1 ½ lb salmon

1 ½ lb skirt steak

1 ¼ lb Mahi Mahi


2 tomatoes

1 lg Bok Choy

8 oz shiitake mushrooms

2 bunches green onions

1 lemon

1 red bell pepper

1 lg eggplant

1 ½ lbs red potatoes

1 bunch broccoli

1 bag onions

1 lb green grapes

1 qt strawberries

1 avocado

2in piece fresh ginger

1 lg clamshell mixed greens


1 box frozen corn

1 bag alexia sweet potato fries


1 box orzo

1 box taco shells

1 pack taco seasoning

1 jar salsa

1 bottle soy sauce

1 lg container light sour cream

1 loaf whole wheat bread

5oz log goat cheese

1 lb turkey breast


Total cost: $69.87

The woman behind the register of the first store looked at my hand with a $100.00 bill and said instinctively, "Debit or credit?" then said, "Oh, sorry, no one pays with cash anymore."  It was kinda funny.  I have to say I felt really good about shopping consciously.  It took some time, but it was really satisfying. 

Quick Disclaimer: Some ingredients in the recipes I had in house, so they didn’t count against the 125.00.  Over time staples like flour and butter will add to the weekly total, but I want to use up what I have.  All in all I was pretty happy with my first outing.  I went to 2 different stores.  I knew I would need to buy milk, eggs and a few other essentials during the week, so the remainder of the cash went into a envelop on the fridge.  I’ll post the recipes separately so you can search for them later.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Taking the Challenge

Taking the Challenge. 

My daughter thinks I’m weird and my partner is convinced it can’t be done, but my challenge is to feed my family of 3 for a week with healthful, gourmet meals, on 125.00 per week.  That is less than half of what we spend now.  It’s a cool challenge.  I’m excited to use my financial brains alongside my creativity.  It is September 22 and my challenge started 2 days ago. 

Friday I got the special food store circulars in the mail.  All nice and neatly packed in plastic, I open the package containing the sales flyer for every food store in a 5 mile radius.  First I look at King Kullen and notice a $10.00 coupon right on the cover.  I begin to cut it out when I realize that I have to spend $100.00 to get the $10 back.  That won’t work for me, as $100.00 is all I have.  I start to write down on a piece of paper all of main course items I might be interested in and what store had them.  Salmon for 4.98/pound, mahi mahi for 3.99/ pound, Shell steak (for my daughter) 4.99/pound.  These are items I could build a menu around.  I also noted things like fruits and vegetables that were on sale and where.  Part of my challenge was to open as few cans as possible, so fresh vegetables were a must. I sketched an outline of the week next to my list:

Sunday – Salmon

Monday – Beef (I would be working late)

Tuesday – white fish

Wednesday – Veggie meal

Thursday – Tacos

Friday – Beans/pasta

Saturday – shellfish 

Ok so I knew salmon was on sale and Mahi Mahi.  I found Eggplant on sale at another store and taco shells.  Shell steaks were ok, but I know my daughter loves marinated skirt steak, so I would look for that cut at a reasonable price.  

I collect recipes as a hobby and keep them in an accordion file.  I pulled out the file and began to look for recipes that contained the items on sale and were relatively easy to cook.  I selected a few and then narrowed it down by taste and list of ingredients. 

Once I selected all of the week’s recipes, I added the ingredients to the shopping list and did a quick calculation in my head.  Here is the menu: 

Sunday – Korean style Salmon with bok choy and mushrooms, steamed rice

Monday – Grilled beer marinated hanger steak, with broccoli, and sweet potato fries

Tuesday – Mahi Mahi with sweet corn chowder gravy, smashed potatoes, and green salad

Wednesday – Over Stuffed eggplant with a garden salad (pizza night for my daughter)

Thursday – DIY tacos, meat or veggie

Friday – Orzo w/chickpeas and goat cheese, cucumber and tomato salad

Saturday - Grilled shrimp and citrus balsamic vegetables

I put a $100.00 bill in my pocket.  I don’t usually shop with cash.  I like the safety of a credit card.  What if I get to the register and have $112.32 worth of groceries?  With a credit card, it wouldn’t matter.  I can be careless, overrun my budget, and not even notice until the bill is due.  That stops today.  I have a mission, a list, and a $100.00 bill in my pocket.  That’s it.  Stay tuned.  I'll post the shopping list and the recipies for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Good Food is Hard to Find

Maybe I’m just crazy. 

I love to cook really elaborate fancy meals like the kind you see in Gourmet Magazine.

I work full time, sometimes more, and have a daughter in middle school.

I love to eat good food.  To clarify, I like expensive food.

I’m an athlete with a propensity to eat the wrong things at the wrong times.

I need to drop 15 pounds, my partner a little more than that, and our daughter as little more than that.

I’m a vegetarian, my partner eats meat as a condiment, and my daughter is a decided carnivore loving only the finest cuts of prime beef.

I passed out when I realized that my little family of three spends over $300.00 per week in food.


Are you for real!!!!! $300.00 per week for food!  That’s $15,600 per year or, for comparison, the amount equal to minimum wage in New York State for 40 hour per week before taxes!  That’s NUTS! 


I’m not a chef.  I’m not a nutritionist.  I am a smart businesswoman.  I run a multimillion dollar assisted living community.  I have a full kitchen in my place of business and maintain operating costs right around 6.00 per person per day for three meals. For my family of three that would be equal to 126.00 per week.  Why can’t I run my home kitchen like that?  What is wrong with me?  This is my quest. Can I put together a menu that is:

  1.  enjoyable for all members of the family
  2. healthful and conscious of our propensity to gain weight
  3. comparable to an excellent restaurant
  4. prepared within the confines on my work schedule
  5. costing less than 500.00 per month.

Here we go.  The “Good Family Food” project.  Follow along if you want, I’ll post my thoughts, menus, recipes, successes and failures.  There is no reason I can’t do this.