What We Spent and What We Ate: Channelling Joe Biden on Taco Night

School Lunch in the News

Last week’s front page NYTimes story on the new federal school lunch regulations generated enough letters to the editor to warrant a follow up.  Check out several of the letters here:  When Children Reject a Healthy Lunch.

I met with Patty Hunn, Camelview’s nutrition director, this afternoon to talk more about farm to school.  Currently the school district purchases all food from Shamrock Farms.  We’d like to start purchasing from the IRC New Roots farm cooperatives next year–perhaps starting with a few specialty items.  Chow Locally, a local food hub, is interested in helping out, too.  So far, so good.

In honor of  National Farm to School Month and National School Lunch Week (next week), I put together a list of Phoenix farmers’ markets to hand out to students.  The Wellness Council met after our little meeting and the kids made decorated lists of healthy alternatives to Halloween candy.


Taco Night

Taco night is always a big hit.  This is universally true.  But this week’s taco night was special.  Isaac was raving about the spread and suggested we have tacos every night.  In the middle of our happy dinnertime chatter, Isaac leans over to me and (rather loudly) whispers in my ear, “This is fucking good!”  For some reason, whenever my kids say something off-color, I always immediately (and stupidly) respond with, “What did you say?”  like I have some naughty language hearing impairment . I just couldn’t believe that he’d said it (Isaac still thinks the s-word is stupid).   I looked up and Pat and Lute were shaking their heads vigorously.  I was about to say, “No–don’t repeat it!” but I was too late.  He said it again, but louder.  Pat and Lute were trying not to laugh, but I, as the only adult in the family, was able to hold it together.  I said, “We don’t use that kind of language, Isaac.  Please don’t ever say that again.”  After some snickering from Pat and Lute, dinner continued as normal.  At six, our son has joined the ranks of such illustrious f-bomb droppers as Joe Biden, Tim Lincecum and Jon Stewart–at least he’s in good company.


Quick Bread

I decided to try two of the quick breads in this month’s Cooking Light.  I modified the recipes and was pleased with the results.  I gave the banana bread to my step grandmother, so I didn’t get to taste it.  It looked and smelled wonderful, though.

Walnut Streusel Bread with Extra Streusel


Streusel (this is double the original)

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash of salt

4 tablespoons butter, melted

6 tablespoons chopped walnuts


1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup whole milk

1/3 cup whole milk yogurt



1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare streusel, combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter, stirring until well combined. Stir in nuts. Set aside.

3. To prepare bread, weigh or lightly spoon 9 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 5 tablespoons butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in vanilla. Beating at low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined. Scrape half of batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with baking spray; sprinkle with half of streusel mixture. Spread remaining batter over streusel; swirl. Sprinkle remaining streusel on top of batter, reserving two tablespoons to eat yourself or share with whichever child you like best. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack.

Banana Bread with (extra) Browned Butter Glaze

Hannah Whitaker, Cooking Light


5 tablespoons butter, softened and divided

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

3 medium ripe bananas, sliced

1/2 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons whole milk yogurt

3 tablespoons organic canola oil

2 tablespoons amber rum

2 large eggs

1 1/2 whole wheat flour

1/2 cup almond meal

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

soft butter to grease the loaf pan

2/3 cup powdered sugar

4 teaspoons half-and-half


Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and bananas; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Place banana mixture in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

3. Combine milk, yogurt, oil, rum and eggs.   Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately to banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Scrape batter into a greased metal loaf pan.  Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool for 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan, and cool on wire rack.

4. Melt remaining 2 tablespoon butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook 3 minutes or until butter begins to brown; remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and half-and-half, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle glaze over bread. Let stand until glaze sets.

Note: Since I always double icing, glazes, streusel, etc., you will have more glaze than you need.  This is for you to eat with a spoon and perhaps share with favorite child as in previous recipe.


What We Ate

Saturday: roasted vegetable salad with yogurt sauce

Easy: I tossed pieces of eggplant, zucchini, purple onion and cauliflower in 1/4 cup olive oil (I added a clove of crushed garlic to the oil first) and some salt and pepper.   I put these on a baking sheet.  On a separate sheet, I put 3 tomatoes which I’d cut into pieces and tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  I roasted these (at the same time) at 375 degrees.

The tomatoes took about 25 minutes, and the vegetables about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, I made a quick yogurt sauce with Greek yogurt, minced fresh mint, lemon juice, 1 very small clove crushed garlic, and salt and pepper.

Serve vegetables warm with yogurt dressing on the side.


Sunday: quinoa verde salad

This was ridiculously easy.

Quinoa Verde


2/3 cup salsa verde (Ranch Market makes a great one or you can use a jar)

3-4 cups cooked quinoa

1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I always use the chili infused vinegar Pat makes)

2/3 cup mayonnaise or Vegenaise

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 yellow squash diced

¼ cup red onion, minced

4 cups shredded napa cabbage

1-2 avocados, diced

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts


Combine ingredients and toss (I like to add the salsa to the quinoa while it’s still a little warm, so it soaks it up a little). Add the avocados last so they don’t get mushy


Monday: tacos w/ ground beef, refried beans, avocado, tomato, shredded lettuce and salsa fresca–fucking good!


Tuesday: fajitas at Pat’s sister’s house to celebrate their parents’ 50th anniversary–lovely


Wednesday: nachos with avocados, pinto beans, green chiles and sour cream (what can I say–we were on a Mexican roll)


Thursday: dal, naan and eggplant

I wanted to replicate the packaged lentils, incorrectly named “Madras Lentils,” from Tasty Bite and Trader Joe’s.  I figured out they’re called Dal Makhani.  While my kids love the packaged lentils, they didn’t love this one.  Lute ate it happily, but the other two ate a few bites and then focused on their naan.  Isaac said it was too spicy–but he lies.

I found this recipe on a quirky little blog called The Colors of Indian Cooking.  I used scarlet runner beans instead of the traditional red kidney beans and it turned out great.  I love that it’s a rich and decadent beans and lentils dish–what a delicious contradiction.

Beware: this takes a while to make and uses a few dishes.  Best for a weekend night, when you can make it in the late morning and leave it to cook all day.

I get frozen naan at Le Le Market and just pop it in the oven at 400 degrees for a few minutes.

Dal Makhani


2 cups of dried whole beluga or French green lentils

1-2 cups scarlet runner beans (I quick-soaked them by boiling them in 3x their volume of water for a minute or two and them letting them sit an hour).

4 Tbs of melted ghee

4 fresh green serrano chilies—seeds removed

One 2 inch piece of ginger peeled and chopped

2 large shallots, chopped

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups of water

1/4 cup or so of heavy cream

1 tsp of cumin

1/2 tsp of turmeric

1 tsp of garam masala

4-5 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

fresh cilantro and whole milk yogurt for garnish


1.  In a blender or grinder, grind the peppers, ginger and shallot into a coarse paste.  Set aside.

2.  Pour 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups water in crock pot.

3.  Add in the lentils and beans, 1 Tbs of ghee, and the chili/ginger paste.  Turn the heat to high, cover and cook for about 45 minutes.

4.  Stir the dal well with and turn heat to low.  Cook for another 6 hours.

5. An hour or so before serving, melt the remaining 4 Tbs of ghee in a skillet.  When the butter is foamy, add in the cumin, garam masala, and turmeric.  Stir fry spices together for about a minute.  Then add in the tomatoes.  Simmer for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has boiled off, stirring frequently.  Add 3 or 4 Tbs of heavy cream to this mixture. Make sure the cream is thoroughly warmed, and then pour everything from the skillet into the slow cooker.  Cook for another hour.

Garnish with yogurt and cilantro and serve with naan and roasted eggplant.

I found these little green eggplants at LeLe Market.

And I roasted them. They’re full of seeds, so they get crunchy!


Friday:   quick black bean cakes, fried eggs and baby greens with cherry tomatoes

I also got this recipe from Cooking Light and modified it.  I promise I’ll get more original next week.

Mary Britton Senseney/Wonderful Machine


2/3 cup olive oil plus oil to fry eggs

7 large eggs, divided

2 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup panko, divided

1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced


1. Place 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 eggs, and beans in a food processor. Pulse 20 times or until mixture becomes a coarsely chopped paste. Combine bean mixture, 2/3 cup panko, onions, and next 5 ingredients in a bowl.

2. Place 1/3 cup panko in a dish. Divide bean mixture into 8 equal portions. Shape each into a 3/4-inch-thick patty; dredge in panko. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2/3 cup olive oil. Add patties; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan. Wipe pan clean. Add about a tablespoon  olive oil. Crack 6 eggs into skillet. Cover and cook 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

serve with salad lightly dressed in olive oil.


What We Spent

We spent $164.34 at Safeway and Sprouts this week.  I usually don’t spend so much on food at Safeway, but they had their “spend $75 and get $10 off your next purchase” deal this week.  I went 3 times and spent just over $75 each time.  One of those trips was for food, the other for household items we needed.  So I have $30 for groceries next week.

I spent $40 at the farmers’ market–most of this was on an impulse buy at the Hummus Doctor.  Lute wanted hummus and it was buy 3/get a free container of chips.  It was overpriced and less than mediocre.

The grand total: $204.34.


One Comment on “What We Spent and What We Ate: Channelling Joe Biden on Taco Night”

  1. df says:

    Those little green eggplants look so delightful! But, I must admit, the f-bomb part of your post kind of grabbed most of my attention. If it it’s any consolation, my youngest son also started using that word at age six or seven, though never with the delightful exuberance used by your son! So, you can be grateful really 🙂

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