Monday, July 27, 2009

Trying To Be Economical

It's been very difficult lately to reduce our grocery spending, even though we've been buying more bulk foods and dry beans, seeds, and grains. We just like food too much! Plus, organic foods are more expensive, as well as some necessary processed items like soy milk, juice, and cereal.

This is our typical grocery list:

Farmer's market produce - 1-2 green vegetables, green beans or broccoli, 2 cucumbers, a few tomatoes, a few squashes or potatoes, 1 bell pepper, chives or onion, pint of blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, and a few peaches (whatever fruit is in-season and cheaper).

grocery store produce - lots of bananas, 2 large avocados, tomatoes (if none available at the farmer's market), lots of carrots, 1-2 oranges or grapefruit

bulk foods - 3/4-1 lb raisins or dried cranberries, 1/2-1 lb wheat flour, 1/2-1 lb spelt flour, 1 lb dried beans (pinto, garbanzo, or lentils), 1/2-1 lb rolled oats, 1/2 lb quinoa or millet

2 Pearl soymilks and 1 large store brand vanilla soymilk
1 package firm tofu

1 can diced tomatoes or 1 can tomato sauce

1 box cereal, maybe 1 bag chips or crackers

once in a while- tahini/seed butter, flaxmeal, pumpkin seeds, non-dairy yogurt, salsa, dark chocolates

We make our own breads, muffins, and desserts generally (healthier and cheaper), and our protein sources are cheap beans, tofu, tahini, and homemade veggie burgers (instead of buying expensive frozen foods and store-bought veggie burgers).

So, we really try to be economical, but our grocery bill is still pretty high - like $100-130 - (but that also includes some personal non-food items. And, we admit, we do splurg on new products that we are eager to try :)

Any suggestions to be even more economical? We seem to cook and bake so much, because homemade foods are cheaper, but any ideas to be economical and quick in the kitchen?

So, here are some dinners we've enjoyed these past 2 weeks, for which we've tried to be economical:

Homemade Tomato Sauce with lots of garlic and olive oil. We had a pizza with homemade tomato garlic sauce one night, then used the pizza crust to dip into the sauce and had the sauce over broccoli.

Homemade Salsa - easy and tasty! Just blended 1 can diced tomatoes, lots of chives and garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro. Here we used the salsa over black beans, served with fresh green beans and homemade corn muffins.

Homemade Healthy Refried Beans - delicious and nutritious, packed with protein! We love creamy foods, and pintos are so creamy.

(Adapted from World's Healthiest Foods Cajun Bean Chili)

1 clove minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 Tb Mexican seasoning or chili powder
1/4 tsp thyme
3/4 - 1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
3 - 3 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans
2-4 Tb water to make desired thickness/creaminess
pepper and olive oil to taste

Saute onion for 4 min, or until just translucent, then add garlic and cook 1 min. Combine remaining ingredients, reserving 2-3 Tb of pinto beans. Place everything in a blender and blend until creamy. Then add the remaining 2-3 Tb pinto beans and mix until just combined (don't blend). Serve in a burrito, with chips, or in rice bowls.

Have a great week and stay cool (it's 100 degrees for the next 3 days here in Oregon)!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Seasons New Foods

Have you ever been to New Seasons Market?

It's such a great store here in Oregon. A store that focuses on local produce, the community, sustainability, recycling, fresh foods, organic, catering, cooking, nutrition - just look at the list of links on the left side of the website! A long list about their community goals!

We think it's better than Whole Foods and Central Market.

When we went last month, we found delicious new foods to try out!

Vicola Cornmeal Pizza Crust - the best store bought pizza crust we've tried! Delicious - slightly sweet and nutty from the cornmeal. They also sell Spelt Cornmeal Pizza Crust, which actually has more fiber and is made with whole grain spelt flour. The only disappointment (besides the fiber) is the fat is somewhat high at 10 g and a tad high in sodium. But great crust when you want to make some pizza quick! We had a delicious pizza with homemade tomato garlic sauce (lots of garlic!), local onion and tomatoes and fresh basil. Other pizza ideas would be to make a black bean corn mexican pizza or a hummus zucchini spinach pizza!

Food Merchants Organic Mushroom and Onion Polenta
We would like to try the other flavors of this polenta, or even make our own, but this flavor just tasted too much like a meat flavor. You know, sometimes mushroom flavors taste meaty, hearty? And it was a tad salty, but the texture was good, and we sliced the polenta and cooked it on a skillet until browned. Good with a tomato sauce.

Raw Makery Rye Sticks - delicious! We loved these dipped in hummus, tahini, mustard sauce, tomato sauce... The textures is just like a regular baked cracker stick. What we liked about these raw crackers was the ingredients -
organic sprouted buckwheat groats, fresh organic golden and/or brown flax seeds, organic oranges, organic yams, organic sunflower seeds, organic onions, organic garlic, organic cold pressed olive oil, organic basil, organic rosemary, organic caraway seeds & celtic sea salt.
Buckwheat, flax, orange, sunflower seeds, and yam! Very good flavor, texture, and nutrition.Raw Makery has a great line of raw products!

King Harvest Toasted Sesame Hummus
- The best storebought hummus is King Harvest's! And there local here too.

Apple and Cranberry Suncakes
of course are delicious, a not-too-sweet snack bar that satisfies your dessert cravings and that fills you up. We love the Hearthrives because it has added calcium.

Nana's Gluten-Free Ginger Cookie - we didn't care for this one:( Too sweet with a ricey taste and a delicate crumb. We've also tried her No Gluten Nana Banana Cookie Bar and it was not good, with a fake banana flavor and an odd texture of crumbly rice flour with firm crisps.

De Boles Organic Pastas are our favorite pastas. So many flavors and shapes. Flavors such as Spinach, Tomato Basil, and Red Bell Pepper, made with grains such as Whole Wheat, Ancient Grains, Gluten Free Corn, and Gluten Free Whole Grains. Even the gluten free pasta has a good texture and bite.

French Meadow Bakery Organic Hemp Bagels
Another favorite! So chewy and nutty and full of whole grains and nutritious ingredients. Can't wait to try their Kamut Bread, Sprouted Peasant Rolls, Hemp Rolls, Our Daily Bread, and Hemp Tortillas!

La Rosa Flaxseed and Sesame Tortilla Chips are ok in flavor, but good in nutrition with flax and sesame seeds. La Rosa also carries multigrain tortilla chips (which we thought looked just like the best multigrain tortilla chips you can get at Bob's Red Mill Store).

Sunshine Organic Falafel - very good in flavor and texture, but expensive for just 3 patties. Great in a pita with avocado and tahini or mustard! We liked how they use sunflower seed, rice, and chickpeas. Eager to try their Breakfast Patty!

Cajun's Choice Jambalaya Mix is a easy way to whip up some jambalaya! We just mixed this seasoning in brown rice, with tomatoes, tomato sauce, bell pepper, onion, and kale, but it would be awesome with black-eyed peas and okra.

Well, we have more products from New Seasons that we enjoyed, but we'll post that next time!

We are always so excited to see new creative products on the market, so please comment with some foods that you recently found and enjoyed. Or comment about a new product that you didn't like!

Enjoy your day,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More Sucessful Cooking & A Great Shopping Find

This past month, our Vive le Vegan cookbook has been well-used!

- When you want a dish that's flavorful and well-liked by friends and family, just browse through Vive le Vegan; you'll definetely find something worth talking about.

- When you want to give pizazz to your favorite sandwiches and vegetables, just choose one of the delicious dressings and sauces in Vive le Vegan.

- And, when you want a quick and healthy sandwich or burger, choose Vive le Vegan!

We've had such successful cooking, making Vive le Vegan's Sweet Curry Chickpea Casserole, Lemon Zinger Vinaigrette, Sesame Mustard Tahini Sauce, Cumin Lime Vinaigrette, Ginger Dipping Sauce, Lemon Herb Tofu, and Pumpkin Seed Lentil Patties!

When we visited our mom two weeks ago for our grandparent's anniversary, we made our Mom dinner. She loved the Sweet Curry Chickpea Casserole, which had great flavors and textures. Sweet potatoes, apples, onion, celery, green beans, and chickpeas in a subtle coconut ginger curry sauce. A great filling meal and great leftovers!

Dreena's dressings and sauces are so easy to whip up and add flavor and pizazz to rice bowls, sandwiches, and veggies. The Cumin Lime Vinaigrette had a subtle Mexican flavor; we enjoyed it tossed in a salad with tomatoes, zucchini, and chives. It would also be great over black beans or in wraps. We used the Ginger Dipping sauce in rice bowls, tofu, and stir-fried veggies.

We loved the Sesame Mustard Tahini Sauce - a great creamy rich sauce, yet mellow in flavor. Good warm or chilled. We mixed the sauce with pasta shells, tofu, peas, and broccoli, and for leftovers we had a chilled pasta salad. Other ideas to use the sauce: in a potato salad, as a tofu ricotta sauce, in a casserole, or in grain bowls.

We also loved Dreena's Lemon Zinger Vinaigrette over broccoli, snap peas, and salad. Alongside the broccoli-snap pea salad, we made Lemon Herb tofu, which was absolutely delicious! Great as "steaks" but also good on sandwich bread with lettuce, avocado, and cucumber. Both dressings would be good to use over anything!

Another great meal was the Pumpkin Seed Lentil Patties. We didn't have breadcrumbs, so we used oat bran and cracker crumbs. Delicious subtle curry flavor with a great texture. We ate it with avocado and lettuce in homemade pitas and had potato fries on the side. This would be really good with a balsamic dressing, or to flavor it with a different spice instead of curry, such as a Mexican flavor. An easy and quick dinner when you can take a patty out of the freezer, reheat, and eat!

Today we found a great find! At our downtown, there was a festival, and all the vendors on 3rd St. were having sales. At one of the stores, called Found Objects, we found a cookie/flour jar, and sugar and creamer set for just $8.50 (originally $40!). We are using them as utensil holder and tea jars!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Saturday Summer Breads & Biscuits

Happy Fourth of July!

We hope you all are staying cool as you celebrate! For us, we are enjoying our 3 day weekend at home - we've been traveling almost every weekend, so this weekend was our time to relax, do some cleaning, hanging out with our cats, and of course cooking and baking.

It's nice during the summer to have cool refreshing meals, which are quicker to make. Salads, dips, sandwiches, fruit smoothies, ice cream, etc. Yesterday we had fun making homemade oatmeal pitas and then had a healthy hummus pita! The recipe was so easy, from our favorite Bread Machine Magic cookbook. We will definetely make these pitas again!

Another delicious Bread Machine Magic recipe was the Shredded-Wheat Bread. This recipe called for crumbled shredded wheat (we used our favorite Arrowhead Mills Shredded Wheat Cereal). The bread had a soft yet slightly dense texture and a great wheaty taste; made perfect slices for sandwiches!

We love to start our Saturdays with breads and biscuits for breakfast. Ricki has an awesome Peanut Butter Biscuit recipe that we had to try! But instead of peanut butter (we try to avoid nuts), we used tahini. These Tahini Biscuits were devoured! Soft and fluffy, with a delicate crumb and a good nutty maple flavor. We served these with pear butter, maple syrup, fresh strawberries and cantelope, and a glass of soy milk.

Another Saturday biscuit that we enjoyed was Pumpkin Cornmeal Biscuits. Moist from the pumpkin puree, nutty and textured from the cornmeal coating on the bottoms, and subtle sweetness from the maple lemon glaze. A good biscuit for breakfast or with a meal. We served these with more maple syrup and coconut oil.

With our pumpkin biscuit we had a refreshing Raspberry Banana Fruit Smoothie with Healthforce Nutritionals Fruit of the Earth Mix. We also recently purchased Healthforce Nutritionals Vitamineral Green mix and both are so good! A blend of healthy energizing rejuvinating vitamins and minerals from natural wholesome raw sources. The Vitamin C and the Maca Vanilla Spice mixes were also very good. Everyday we make smoothies, and these blends have given us more energy! Reviews also say that overall their health improves too, such as healthy hair and skin.

Well, have a great weekend! Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

We're Melting, We're Melting!

Texas is sweltering HOT. We had the pleasure of going home to see family and celebrate our grandparents 50th wedding anniversary, and it happened to be when San Antonio/Austin were getting record highs of 100-105! It was really nice when we flew back into Portland and basked in the breezy, sunny, 70-degree weather....

Don't you love photos and making memories with family? Our uncle, who is savvy with computers, made a DVD slideshow of 50 years of pictures of our grandparents and all of the children & grandchildren. It was so touching and memorable!

It's really hard to stay cool in such unbearable weather. Ice cream, fruit smoothies, lots of water, and fresh salads really help to stay hydrated. (Oh and dark chocolate is nice, too, lol..)

Speaking of heat, our mouths were on fire when we ordered take-out from our favorite local Thai restaurant. We enjoyed spicy red curry (with eggplant, tofu, bell pepper, bamboo shoots, onion, basil, and cabbage), spicy Pad Ga Prow stir-fry (with tofu, garlic, chili, bell pepper, onion, carrot, basil leaves, broccoli, and mushrooms), and spicy Tom Ka soup (coconut milk, lemongrass, galanga, kaffir leaves, lime juice, tofu, broccoli, cabbage, onion, tomatoes, and mushrooms). So flavorful! As summer continues, we hope everyone enjoys the outdoors and stays cool! And don't let little things in life (like hot weather) get to your mood - stay positive and cherish memories, no matter how unbearable things can get. :)