Fall Cooking

So, it’s November – which means it’s finally cold enough for me to feel good about heating up the house with cooking.  I will be going to Morocco in March with 2 of my best friends, so I am really trying to get on the frugal train between now and then.  We got a great Groupon deal for the hotel, but it doesn’t cover airfare, transportation to the hotel, or food – so not the greatest deal of the century.  One goal I set for myself after this “broke summer” was eliminate credit card use for anything but emergencies – so this trip all has to be paid for with “real money”. Yikes.  All this to say, I am looking for ways to live well within my budget over the next four months.

I love eating, but I tend to fall into really bad habits during the week when I am tired and stressed after work, still need to walk the dog, and have a few more hours of email and planning ahead of me. So, I made a meal plan – and actually stuck to it!  Part of the meal plan was to cook at least a weeks worth of meals in advance – using good quality, organic ingredients, so I can feel good about just heating stuff up all week.

So here’s my photo journal of the first experiment in frugal living (PS – my grocery budget (100 per check) translates into about 5.88 per day – I did spend most of it up front – but I had enough left over to restock consumables like eggs, milk, and coffee later on. Here are all of my groceries (representing Willy Street Co-op, Whole Foods, and Piggly Wiggly!

The raw ingredients - I am a little daunted at this point!

Project 1 – Dinner (Pork Chili Verde)

So – this was almost my first fail – as the key ingredient here is 3 pounds of tomatillos – which I totally forgot until my mom asked where I finally found some – thanks mom!  (Piggly Wiggly, .50 per pound!)

First, I husked and washed all three pounds of tomatillos –

Husked, washed and ready to be roasted! I only had to cut off two little bits - no unpleasant surprises!

The starting point - these are not organic, but the price was great, and I love exploring the produce section in my neighborhood!











I could not figure our how to put these bulbous fruits into my kind scary, dirty, and small broiler.  I have only seen my dad use a gas broiler before – once – to make steaks.  And that was scary too. (Not because of anything he did, but because open flames seem wildly unsafe to me.)  I could use a tutorial, if anyone in the blogosphere has tips!

So, I improvised –

Improvised broiler - cookie sheet on two gas burners - what? I also have some hot peppers, garlic, and shallots roasting. This was a fun part!

I put all the roasted things into the food processor, though the recipe said blender.  They probably aren’t roasted enough – but the tomatillos started swelling up and making these crazy sounds, and I thought they were going to explode everywhere. The garlic, shallots, and peppers did a good job though.  PS – the recipe said blender because this makes a LOT of liquid.  But I like my FP more!

Ish got even crazier when I added the chicken stock. The recipe wanted me to put corn tortillas in there too - I don't like buying tortillas, so I added corn meal instead. Probably not enough, though.

Roasted up and ready to go! I had to do this in batches.












I added 2 pound of cut up pork tenderloin to this mix and threw it all in the crock pot.  I love my crock pot – I have a very limited attention span when it comes to cooking, so having a gadget that does the boring part for me is an epic win. Here it is, ready to go! (I think it cooked for eight hours – too lazy to go look it up again).

Done! For now anyway...now I wait for the house to fill with yummy smells.

Project 2 – (Lunch) Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup


Now that it is cold, I can;t really get into my warm weather lunch of cheese, fruit, and yogurt.  In order to avoid spending 7 dollars a day at Culvers for french fries and custard, I decided to start eating soup.  Wild rice and mushroom soup is my favorite thing, but the canned variety a) costs like 3.00 a can for organic, and b) usually contains wheat flour as a thickener. So, I found a gluten free recipe.  This was much more like “real cooking” – and fun, too!

Porcini Mushrooms - no sulfates!

Phase one - converting dry ingredients into not dry. (wet seemed gross)










Porcinis reconstituting in boiling water. Yum.

Locally sourced, organic wild rice. Menominee means "wild rice".











There were a lot of steps to this, but they were all pretty easy.  I did learn that I have to read the directions carefully, or I miss key things that complicate the eating process a lot.

I did remember to cut up the creminis at least. See the porcinis hanging out back there? It's almost time!

For example, I was supposed to finely chop the pancetta - not leave it in big loopy slices that would make eating neatly quite a challenge.










Rice is ready!

Sautee with white wine - finally found a use for that bottle!












Mixed all the stuff together, plus some whole milk (recipe calls for heavy cream, but part of the point of this is using what I have on hand) and you have a thing of beauty, and a joy for at least a week 😉

So much win. So much yum.

Oh yeah, I also made gluten free, organic, apple cinnamon muffins.  Which were so, so good, and were breakfast for almost a week. I didn’t take pictures, but there took about 45 seconds to mix up, plus the time spent grating the apple.  Which was surprisingly hard, and makes me think that next time I’ll test out the grating attachment on the good ol’ FP.  Here is the finished product.

Local, organic apples. Penzey's cinnamon. Rice Flour. Happiness in a Halloween wrapper.

In total, including clean up – this took about four hours on a Sunday. I had food for over a week (there were two work-provided meals in there) and everything was wonderful each day. I ended up freezing the last two portions of chili – it had been in the fridge for a week, and I was a tiny bit sick of it. Once the chili was gone, I made french provincial beef stew in the crock pot, but didn’t document because it was 11 at night, and I was using cooking as a cure for insomnia.  It is great to wake up in the morning and know that dinner for the week is sorted!

I am enjoying this project, and I’ll enjoy the saved up spending money for the Marrakech Souk even more!



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