What We Spent and What We Ate: We did it!

This week we spent $161.28.  It helped that Pat showed some restraint this week and didn’t go to the store.  One of his favorite past times is to stop at the store on the way home and buy ten more of whatever we have the most of in the refrigerator.  He also likes to buy things which are on sale somewhere else and for which I have coupons in my purse.

A couple of weeks ago, I told him the boys were making trail mix to sell at their lemonade stand the next morning.  There were a dozen little bags of trail mix on top of the fridge.  The next morning, he came to visit us at the lemonade stand and guess what he brought?  A big bag of trail mix he’d bought at Sprout’s.  To add insult to injury, he put it in a coffee bag to make it easier to eat out of.  He forgot to tell the cashier it was trail mix, and she charged him $8.00 for it.  I asked him if this was some weird passive aggressive thing he was doing.  “No,” he said.  “Most of the time when you talk, I just don’t listen to you.”

The week before that, we needed one habanero pepper.  He came back with a box of ghost peppers for which he paid $6.99.  Again, we needed one.  He redeemed himself by smoking the rest of the chiles on the grill.  But for the past week, we’ve been crumbling the dried chiles in everything.  This has caused a great deal of gastric distress in our family.

Anyway, my recalcitrant husband seems to turning over a new leaf.  I’m getting better at planning and we’re all enjoying dinner.

This week’s triumph: our receipts.

This week’s menu:

Saturday:  pan fried rainbow trout, fried okra and braised greens

Sunday: quiche lorraine and a green salad

Monday: Dal with vegetables

Tuesday: chickpeas and kale, yogurt sauce and bacon

Wednesday: rib eye steaks, brocoli, salad with dragon’s egg cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes

Thursday: chipotle quinoa with corn and black beans

Friday:  barbecue chicken, sauted zucchini and braised kale (made two)

Our favorite recipes from this week’s menu:

Easy Fried okra

Adapted from Paula Deen’s Fried Okra


3 cups oil, for frying

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 pounds fresh okra, sliced 1/2-inch thick

1/2 cup buttermilk


1.  Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Dip okra in buttermilk and then dredge in cornmeal-flour mixture to coat. Don’t coat too heavily or the coating will fall off during frying.

3.  Carefully add okra to the hot oil and cook until golden brown. (It may be necessary to fry the okra in batches.) Remove from oil, drain on paper towels, and then serve immediately.


Easy Dal

We needed a quick dinner and  I still had a lot of farmers’ market vegetables from Saturday,  so we made a this ridiculously easy dal.  Start to finish it took 40 minutes (most of it waiting for it to cook unattended).

If your kids aren’t used to cumin and garam masala, go easy.  You might want to include only their favorite vegetables the first time you serve this, too.  Give them small servings in cute bowls the first several times and serve it with their favorite grain.  You can add leftover chicken, beef or pork to this dish as well.

I adapted this recipe from Mark Bittman’s “Quickest Dal with Lots of Vegetables” in his The Food Matters Cook Book.  I got it from the library last week, so I’m in a hurry to try all the recipes I like before I take it back.  It’s a great book to buy if you have the money.


4-5 cups cubed or chopped vegetables (I used bell pepper, summer squash, ancho chile, eggplant, onion and garlic)

1 cup lentils

butter and olive oil

curry powder and garam masala


1.  Sautee the onion and garlic in a couple tablespoons of butter and a little olive oil.

2.  Add about a tablespoon or more of curry powder and garam masala.

3.  Add a cup of lentils (I used cheap red lentils).

4.  Cover the mixture with water by about two inches.

5.  Cook for about half and hour or until the lentils are tender and it looks like stew.

6.  Serve plain or with brown rice, quinoa, jasmine rice or bulgar.

Favorite Garbanzo Beans and Kale

This is a family favorite.  A lot of kids love garbanzo beans so it’s a good way to get them to eat kale.  Plus, bacon makes any vegetarian dish delicious.

If your kids don’t like garbanzo beans, introduce them to hummus first.  Let them get used to it (it may take 10 or so tries) and then move on to garbanzo beans.

Note: kale isn’t in season in Phoenix right now, so if you want to buy it locally or get it from your garden, wait until the end of December to try this recipe.  But you can plant your kale in a few weeks.


1 package humanely raised, nitrate-free bacon

4 cans garbanzo beans drained and rinsed

2 bunches of kale or other greens (I like Lacinato kale)—cut in ribbons

1 small onion and one clove of garlic. Shallots are good too.

1 box of low sodium organic chicken broth (or 5 cups)

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chile powder or cayenne

salt and pepper to taste

lemon wedges

yogurt sauce (recipe follows)


1.  Fry a package of bacon—remember low and slow, moving it all the time.  It needs to be extra crispy.

2.  Take several tablespoons of the bacon grease and put it in your pan.

3.  Sauté your onion and garlic in the bacon grease until onions are translucent.

4.  Add your garbanzo beans and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Add the cumin, chile powder and any other seasonings you like.  Adjust the amount to suit the kids’ taste.

5.  Add your kale and sauté until the kale is bright green and tender.

6.  Add about 5 cups of chicken or vegetable broth and let the whole thing simmer until the greens are tender and most of the broth has reduced.

7.  Serve in bowls topped with sour cream and bacon.  A squeeze of lemon juice is a must.

This dish accommodates other vegetables, too.  You might want to put the kids’ favorites in if they’re not used to kale.  Shredded carrots or diced red bell pepper are best.

Yogurt Sauce

You can also use a container of Trader Joe’s cilantro chive yogurt dip.  I mix one container with a 1/3 cup of plain whole milk yogurt and 1/3 cup sour cream.


1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup grated cucumber

the juice of 1/2 a lime

2 tbs. minced shallots

1-2 tbs. chopped fresh dill

1-2 tbs. chives 

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:  Mix well and adjust amounts to taste.

Chipotle Quinoa with Corn and Black Beans

adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook

You can add diced mango or chopped leftover shrimp to this dish when the quinoa is almost tender.  If you’re kids have never had quinoa before, you can make this with chopped roasted bell peppers instead of chipotle (you can roast the peppers under the broiler or buy them in a jar at Trader Joe’s).  When they get used to the dish, try it with the chipotles.  You can make it gradually hotter, until someone complains.


4 tbs. olive oil

2 tbs. butter

1 finely chopped onion

3 cloves minced garlic

2 tbs fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried

2 canned chipotle chiles minced, with a little bit of their adobo sauce

1 ½ cup rainbow quinoa

salt and pepper

1 cup cooked or 1 can black beans

1 cup corn kernels

2 ½-3 cups vegetable stock

lime wedges


If you buy bulk quinoa, you need to rinse it really well.  I do it in a fine mesh sieve in two batches.  I make quinoa every week or so because it’s high in protein and has a long shelf life.  It’s also good hot and cold, so you can make extra for kids’ lunches the next day.

1.  Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When it’s hot, add the onion and garlic and cook stirring, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

2.  Add the chipotles and adobo and oregano and continue stirring for about a minute.

3.  Add the quinoa , and sprinke with salt and pepper.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes.

4.  Add the beans, corn, stock and some salt and pepper if needed and bring to a boil.

5.  Stir, cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Cook, undisturbed for about 20 minutes.  You may need to add more liquid if the quinoa is still crunchy and the liquid has all boiled off.

6.  Serve with the lime wedges and a dollop of sour cream and sliced avocados on top if you like.  Mine came out ugly, but it tasted good.

you’ll have enough for tomorrow’s lunches

This recipe yields enough for 5 servings and lunches the next day.

We just finished the chicken.  Pat put two of them on the barbecue–they were juicy and delicately smokey and perfect.  We ate one and put the meat from the other one in the fridge. Both carcasses are now in a pot on the stove with a bunch of stringy celery (save the best celery stalks for kids’ lunches or crudite).  I wish I had an onion and some garlic, but I didn’t go to the Wednesday farmers’ market, so I’m out of everything.  I’m just going to cube the chicken, put it in the broth and freeze it until I feel like making chicken soup–which will probably be soon, but not soon enough to leave it in the fridge.  

Stay tuned. . . next week, I’m making four school lunches adapted from meals eaten the night before.  Or as I like to call them, leftovers.


2 Comments on “What We Spent and What We Ate: We did it!”

  1. […] What We Spent and What We Ate: We did it! (phoenixfoodfighters.com) […]

  2. […] Sunday: kale and chickpeas with bacon and yogurt dip […]

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