I wish I kept better track on what I spent at the grocery store last year when it came to cash purchases. I know when I worked at Whole Foods Market I would buy lunch every time I worked a shift, which averaged out to about $10 a day. Now that I am working again, that kind of spending probably won’t disappear, especially as I now work in a mall with countless food options.
In any case, just tracking grocery purchases for my home, last year during January and February, according to my credit card, I spent $240 at the grocery store. This year, being more diligent about my purchases, using what I had on hand as opposed to going for convenience, I spent $125 during the same period – almost half my money! To top it off, since I was not going to work for five weeks, I ate many more meals at home – so those savings not only saved me money, they stretched to twice the meals.
I know not everyone has the pantry I had (I should say have – it is still valued at $759, currently (that is down from the $1140 that I started with)), but it is still important to know when you are sitting on money and meals at home. For five weeks, that is $381 I kept in my pocket, and not only did I eat like a queen, I fed others as well.
Awhile back I bought this Stonewall Kitchen Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce thinking it would change my life. I expected it to taste similar to hot fudge, but instead it was more like a bark of very dark chocolate with some corn syrup to soften it. It’s not a bad flavor, I just like my chocolate sauce to be able to stand on its own (think eating straight from jar on a depressed night). This product is a true topping/condiment – it is meant to enhance.
By now you probably realize my love of chocolate. I discovered this sauce makes a super rich, indulgent hot chocolate in less time than it would take you to boil water to dissolve a commercial grade packet in. The ingredients are premium and high quality – and heated up tastes like a luxurious ganache, hence the perfect hot chocolate base.
Feel free to play around with the amount of sauce for your desired consistency. I like 2 tablespoons of sauce per 1 cup of milk. I used nonfat milk, but you can also play around with other fat milks or milk alternatives like almond mind.
“INSTANT” HOT CHOCOLATE
3 tablespoons Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce
1 1/2 cups Nonfat Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Sea Salt
In a small sauce pan, heat chocolate sauce over low heat until melted and smooth. Whisk in milk, vanilla, and salt. Heat mixture until hot but not boiling. Top with your favorites – whipped cream, marshmallows, sprinkles, candy canes, etc. Enjoy!
Melting sauce in sauce pan
COST PER SERVING: $1.49
Chocolate Sauce – $.75
Milk – $.69
Vanilla and Salt – $.05
Compound Butter. You’ve probably eaten it on top of a fancy steak or slathered on a fresh ear of corn. And in reality – it is one of those fancy things that isn’t really fancy at all – at least to make. All you need is some softened butter and your imagination.
I always make a compound butter when I make garlic bread or crostini. It’s a great way to insure all the ingredients are well incorporated, and it is a much higher quality product than spreading some butter and topping with garlic powder.
Last week some good friends came over and we made FOS (French Onion Soup) together. I like making the crostini I put in the soup aromatic, so a compound butter was in order.
For this particular butter, I cubed one stick of butter, a teaspoon of fresh time, a teaspoon of herbs de provence, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, and six cloves of garlic.
The finished product ready for spreading!
Bread ready for the oven!
Crostini ready for soup!
This became part of The Accidental Pantry Project as compound butters are one of those wonderful things that you can whip up with whatever is on hand. The method above yields one cup of butter and cost less than $4 to make.
As I am reading up on what else to make with my abundance of Vega One Nutritional Shake, I noticed a lot of the recipes I am finding include cashew butter. A few months back I bought a Vitamix and have made walnut and almond butters before. Similar to hummus, making these nut butters from scratch allow you to play around with the ingredients, texture, etc., while allowing you to know exactly what you are putting in your body.
Nuts and nut butters can be expensive, so making your own can be quite money saving.
This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups Creamy Cashew Butter.
CREAMY CASHEW BUTTER
2 cups Cashews
2 tablespoons Coconut Oil, melted
Pinch of Sea Salt
1/3 cup Water, optional
Pulse nuts to gently break down
Scrape sides and continue to pulse, slowly the natural oils will be extracted and mixture will start to bind together.
Once the butter consistency is there, turn the Vitamix to the lowest setting
While blending, drizzle in coconut oil. If mixture is not at desired consistency, you may add a little water for creamier texture.
Using a rubber spatula, remove from blender and put in desired jar or container. For optimal freshness, store in refrigerator. BONUS – some of the butter will be stuck under the blade. Follow the recipe for Fudgy Chocolate Breakfast Smoothie to utilize the last of the butter. Smoothie will be creamier and more indulgent!
COST FACTOR (per my inventory): $3.65 per 1.5 cups, or $.31 per ounce
Cashews – $3.50
Oil and Salt – $.15
Leading brands such as Jif or Artisana sell for $.58 – $.94 per ounce, more than twice the cost!
This week I am doing a cleanse and am trying to eat a little cleaner while I pop a ridiculous amount of pills and supplements that are supposed to help me detox. One of the things I had in excess in my inventory is Vega One Nutritional Shake in French vanilla. It’s a pretty sweet supplement with lots of protein, greens, vitamins, and fiber. While you can mix it with just water, it’s a little blah and gritty on its own. I have tried the French vanilla with fruits like berries and grapefruit, but the vanilla flavor overpowers and the flavors don’t really complement each other. Instead, I now take more of a dessert-like approach with bananas and cacao. The results are a dark chocolate fudge-like treat that is actually pretty good for you and under 300 calories – perfect for meal replacement. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
BONUS – this smoothie is vegan!
To make the smoothie – 1 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder, 1 scoop French vanilla Vega One, 1 banana. Blend with a handful of ice until smooth.
COST PER SMOOTHIE (per inventory, the Vega One and Cacao Powder have a high retail value when purchased full price) $3.46
Vega One – $1.82
Banana – $.19
Almond Milk – $.82
Cacao Powder – $.63
My fascination with canned pumpkin and baking continues. And my love affair with butterscotch chips and their versatility is unwavering. The shitty winter weather we have been experiencing in the Northeast is making me churn out recipes like a workhorse. There’s not much else to do with my spare time that won’t cost me much money. Luckily I have plenty of friends ready to come over and be taste testers!
Today I wanted to up the ante from the simple Pinterest-esque pumpkin and cake mix recipes. The goal was tasty and elegant, but still simple and streamlined. Thus a nice pound cake-like loaf cake with a butterscotch icing fit the bill.
What you’ll need:
Standard sized Chocolate Cake Mix (I used Arrowhead Mills)
Can of Pure Pumpkin (14-16 ounces)
Butterscotch Chips (1 cup for cake, 1/4 cup for icing)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a standard loaf pan with a bit of cooking spray. Using a wooden spoon, mix together cake mix and pumpkin until well incorporated. If mixture is too thick for your liking, mix in up to 1/3 cup water.
Stir in butterscotch chips. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, or until the cake passes the toothpick test and pick comes out clean. Set allow to cool completely before icing. To make icing, use a small saucepan to melt the remaining chips with about 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Set the burner on low – chips melt super fast – faster than chocolate – and the icing only takes a minute. Drizzle or frost the top of the cake. Allow time for icing to set, and slice and serve.
Growing up in Northern New Jersey, especially a town like Waldwick, I was exposed to a ton of Italian and Italian American food. It wasn’t until about the time I was in grad school that I discovered Arancini at a casual Italian deli. It is not something I choose to eat all the time, but it did not make me less hooked on its awesomeness.
After poring over some recipes, I decided to give it a shot, especially as I had all the ingredients I needed. I chose to make two types of filling – mozzarella and sausage. For a dipping sauce, I spiced up some Rao’s marinara with sausage, spices, and cheese. I enjoy making my own sauce from scratch, but Rao’s is really a great base in a time crunch.
For the rice, I did not have any arborio or Italian rice. Instead I went for the Thai Jasmine rice that I wasn’t loving in my Pineapple Fried Rice. The texture is very sticky, which I felt would fare well in rice balls. The end result was actually pretty awesome – the texture of the rice ball was less dense and more fragrant than traditional arancini, and they did not feel like a brick in my stomach.
This was a really great Pantry Project recipe – the only refrigerated items were the mozzarella and eggs, which are stuff I usually have on hand. Everything else was in my pantry or freezer. Great recipe to remember for a cold, snowy winter day. This recipe yields 16 rice balls – 8 sausage and 8 cheese.
After my debacle with the weevils, I was able to make the Bon Appetit recipe I wanted to replicate. I actually have made many variations of the Roquefort Crackers I read about, as I used to like to make cheese straws and cheese crackers for gifts around the holidays. What I love about the recipe is that it is a 1-1-1 ratio of ingredients: 1 cup flour, 1 stick butter, 1 cup cheese. You can then play around with everything else to essentially create a savory, cheese blasted shortbread.
For the blue cheese crackers, I did just that – 1 cup flour, 1 stick butter, and 1 cup blue cheese crumbles. I let the butter and blue cheese come to room temperature, and I mixed it all together with my hands, similar to kneading dough. I added some cracked pepper and Worcestershire sauce to enhance the flavors, instead of cayenne. I prefer cayenne with cheddar or Parmesan when making these. I then rolled the dough out into a log shape, similar to store-bought cookie dough, and wrapped it in plastic. The Bon Appetit recipe says to leave it in the fridge for 12 hours, but I only did for about 4. I do not see how 12 is necessary unless you want to make the dough ahead of time and let it sit overnight. When I was ready, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees, sliced the log into 1/4″ thick discs, and pressed them into a ramekin of sesame seeds to garnish and add a extra element of flavor and crunch.
This is a very similar recipe to the Salmon Cakes I posted about last year. This was a quick recipe, including cooking time. Since I had a lot of almond meal, I decided to up the ante with my fish cakes and make them paleo and gluten free.
Minus the lemon, and egg which falls into the perishable rules of my project, everything was in my pantry and freezer, even the scallions (I had chopped scallions frozen and ready to go).
The cod I poached straight from the freezer in vegetable broth (vegetable bouillon and water) until slightly firm. You can do the same with fresh. I just don’t recommend creating raw cakes.
Makes 4-5 cakes/2 servings
10 ounces Cod, fresh or frozen
1 Vegetable Bouillon cube
2 tablespoons chopped Scallions
1/2 cup Almond Meal (Flour)
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Vegetable Oil, for frying
Using a skillet, dissolve the bouillon cube in 2-3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
Add cod to the broth, poach until fish flesh is firm and starts to flake, but is still slightly translucent. In other words, do not overcook, and you will finish off the cooking process later on.
Using a fish spatula or tongs, gently remove fish from broth and place on cutting board to cool to room temperature. Should only take a few minutes.
Transfer fish to a bowl, it should be delicate and crumbly. Add scallions, almond meal, egg – mix until well incorporated. Add the remainder of the seasonings.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick skillet. Use a pastry brush to coat the bottom.
Using a 1/3 cup measuring scoop, scoop out fish cake mixture and form into a ball, then press down into a patty and add to frying pan. Work quickly and repeat the process with all cakes. Heat 3-4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned.
Remove from heat and serve immediately. Can be served with salad and an extra squeeze of lemon.