Day 301–Starting Week 44–Budget and Menu

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! (Photo credit: eschipul)

Happy Halloween! I hope everyone has a terrific holiday. As much as I would love to give out Play-dough or apples to our trick or treaters, I have to say that in the name of time and budget, I caved and bought candy. Give the people what they want is the mantra of the day 🙂

Our budget this week will hopefully make up for some candy transgressions. We have a diet heavy in fall vegetables and hearty fare like pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes. Our budget is great! At $98.43, we are just a bit under our target of $100.00. We are “paying” ourselves back for field peas and kale that we bought, blanched and froze earlier since those stock up items were not included in our weekly budget.

This week’s budget:

The Produce Box (lettuce, broccoli, apple cider, butternut squash, apples, tomatoes, potatoes): $23.00

  • Trader Joes (peas, frozen fruit, soy milk, yogurt, orange juice): $28.43
  • Locals Seafood (shrimp): $10.00
  • Mae Farm (mini boneless ham): $15.00
  • Rainbow Farm (chicken thighs): $12.00
  • Maple View Farm (buttermilk): $4.00
  • The Mitchell’s Freezer (field peas, kale): $6.00

What are we eating this week? Here is our menu!

Menu

Wednesday–baked sweet potatoes, leftover quiche, salad

Thursday–Curry chicken and potatoes

Friday–Shrimp and broccoli over rice, salad

Saturday–Baked ham, field peas, kale, biscuits

Sunday–Ham, pea and broccoli pasta

Monday–Leftovers

Tuesday–Stuffed butternut squash with apples, pecans and ham

Have a wonderful week and enjoy all those great fall veggies!

 

 

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Day 300-Pork Tenderloin with Sticky Fig Jam

I love making a big, Sunday supper, especially if it involves some kind of roast or chicken. Not only do we all slow down and savor a quiet dinner before the next busy week begins, but we usually end up with leftovers that carry us through the beginning of the week. If I’m going to cook up a whole mess of green beans, field peas or collards, it’s going to be on Sunday. With the house clean, laundry done and football on, it’s my prime cooking time.

For these dinners, pork tenderloin is very popular in our house. Actually, any form of pork is popular, but tenderloins are great because they are flavorful and quick to prepare. We buy our pork from Mae Farm in Louisburg, NC, and have never had anything that wasn’t amazing.

Side note: If you aren’t buying your meat directly from a local farmer, I urge you to find a source and give it a try. There is no comparison with how tender and full of flavor local meats are compared to store-bought. It will rock your world. Unless you’re a vegetarian.

I made and canned this Sticky Fig Jam over the summer, and the combination of the figs and balsamic vinegar are pretty incredible on pork! You could substitute fig jam and maybe add a little balsamic vinegar to it for a similar effect.

Pork Tenderloin with Sticky Fig Jam

  • 8 oz. jar of Sticky Fig Jam
  • 2 tbsp. minced, fresh rosemary
  • 4 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 3 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 pork tenderloins
  • 12 or so slices of bacon (preferably not thick-cut for this)
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  1. Remove tenderloins from packaging and let sit on a plate for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat broiler to high.
  3. Mix the minced fresh herbes and dried herbs together in a small bowl. Add 3 tbsp. of olive oil and stir.
  4. Rub tenderloins with the herb mixture to cover. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Wrap tenderloins with bacon strips and tuck ends under the meat. Place tenderloins in a small roasting pan.
  6. Broil tenderloins close to heat source for about 3 minutes or until bacon is crisped.
  7. Set oven to 350 degrees, lower roasting pan to center of oven and top tenderloins with the Sticky Fig Jam.
  8. Roast for 30-35 minutes.
  9. Remove tenderloins from the over and let rest for 5 minutes. Carve and serve!

Day 299–Sweet Potato/Apple Hash

The softer, orange-fleshed variety of sweet po...

Orange sweet potatoes are abundant here in North Carolina and they are packed with nutrients and vitamins!

I have a super abundance of sweet potatoes right now, mostly because I keep getting them in my Produce Box and I was too busy to mess around with them. Thankfully, they keep well for weeks, so I could park them to the side and wait until I had more time. Most of the recipes I have for sweet potatoes involve long cooking times or messing about with pots of water–neither of which was possible until this week. But this weekend, I created a recipe that is super easy, quick, healthy, and used ingredients I already had around the house. We served this with a beef roast from our Farmhand Foods meat box and it was really good–savory and a teensy bit sweet, too!

Sweet Potato/Apple Hash

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 large apples
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/8 c. pure maple syrup
  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and dice by cutting into planks, then matchsticks, then cutting across the matchsticks for a small dice. Set aside.
  2. Core, peel and dice the apple so that the apple and the sweet potato pieces are about the same size. Set aside.
  3. Peel and dice the onion. Set aside.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan to medium high heat. Add the sweet potato and a pinch of salt. Saute for 2-3 minutes until potatoes start to soften.
  5. Add the onion and continue to saute for another 2-3 minutes until onion is translucent.
  6. Add the apple, salt and pepper to taste and additional olive oil if needed. Saute for about 8 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft.
  7. Drizzle with maple syrup, correct for seasoning and serve!

Day 296–A Healthy App–Farmanac!

Produce

The Farmanac app gives you resources at the farmer’s market and at the grocery store!

I’ve posted before about how technology can help us navigate the world of healthy food and help us make good choices. Sometimes these apps work well and sometimes they don’t. Here is another new app that I think is pretty good!

Farmanac is a new iTunes store app that lists produce by name and by PLU code (the code that grocers use) to provide photos of the produce, information on the residual pesticide level (ties into the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen test scores), information about the produce, how to select it, how to store it, and when it is locally in season in your area (see below).

The app is very easy to use and includes some interesting historical and agricultural information! I like the photos, too. In my experience, grocery stores don’t always label their produce correctly, so it’s nice to be able to check what you are buying! Also great to see where the produce falls on the pesticide scale so you can find out quickly if it is preferable to buy organic.

The screen visuals are nice and easy to see. Here is a screen shot about cabbage from my iPhone. Pretty sure it would look fab on my iPad as well, but I don’t take that shopping, so I only used my phone to test.

Where this app falls short is its listing what is “in season” for various regions of the US and Canada. News to app makers: yes, Kentucky and Texas were both Confederate states, but their growing seasons are very different. Please don’t lump them together as “The South.” I’m sure folks in say, western Canada feel the same way. If the app makers can refine that portion of the app (maybe by growing season instead of by state) and include links to recipes, this would be golden.

For now, though, it’s still very good and at $1.99, a good resource to have while shopping or meal planning.

Day 295–Cranberry Pecan Quinoa Granola

English: A chocolate chip granola bar made by ...

What’s in that granola bar? Read the labels! Or better yet, make your own!

We’ve learned a lot this year reading the labels of everything we buy–even cleaners and beauty products. It never ceases to amaze me what is allowed to be in our food and don’t even get me started about what is in makeup. Heather at Sugar Dish Me had an eye-opening experience as well with food that is labeled and recognized to be “healthy”. Instead of just being bummed out that some “health food” is not all that healthy (there are, by the way, no FDA requirements for a food to be labeled “healthy”), she took the initiative to make her own awesome granola packed with goodness. And quinoa (which is its own special kind of goodness)! I’ve never had quinoa in granola, but I’m looking forward to it. Check it out! I am totally making this over the weekend and plan to sprinkle it over my oatmeal.

HERE is Heather’s very funny story and her recipe!

Day 294–Starting Week 43–Budget and Menu

English: Taken by Bart Lacks

Steel cut oats are fueling us during these chilly, fall mornings!

I think I can…I think I can…I think I can…That was my mantra the past few weeks as I worked my way through some stressful and hectic days at work and at home. Most weeks, I manage to create a very healthy work/life balance, but every once in a while one side of that equation dominates the other and I find myself sprinting through each day, feeling frazzled and wishing I could cross some invisible finish line. That was the past two weeks. The good news is I survived and life will be on a more even keel after this week is over. I’m glad because I really miss cooking for my family, exercising the way I should, and feeling present in the moment when I am with my family. The lack of all three of those has made me pretty darn grumpy lately.

This week’s menu is a reflection of my transition back to a more regular routine. I have some easy meals for busy nights and more satisfying dinners for the weekend. I’ve been loving steel-cut oats with a scoop of crock pot applesauce in the morning for breakfast. Yum, yum! If you haven’t tried cooking steel-cut oats in the crock pot, give it a try. It definitely brings a healthy breakfast in reach during a busy week!

Our budget this week is $100.02, right at our goal of $100.00.

  • The Produce Box (lettuce, cucumbers, yellow squash, apples, field tomatoes, sweet potatoes, Spanish radishes, peanuts): $23.00
  • Homestead Farms (eggs): $4.00
  • Farmhand Foods (beef roast): $15.00
  • Trader Joes (soy milk, frozen fruit, oatmeal, cheese, organic tomato soup, half and half, pie crust, butter): $58.02

What are we having for $100.02? Here is the menu for the week.

Menu

  • Wednesday–Green salad with apples and pecans
  • Thursday–Grilled cheese and tomato soup
  • Friday–Working all night–leftovers?
  • Saturday–Pot roast with potatoes and carrots, squash casserole, salad
  • Sunday–Leftover roast and vegetables
  • Monday–Cheese quiche, baked sweet potato fries
  • Tuesday–Leftover quiche, whatever vegetables are left!

Hope you are enjoying some lovely fall weather and visiting your farmer’s markets, which still have a great variety of produce available!!!

Day 293–Sauteed Cabbage and Apples

Various apples

Apples combined with cabbage? Yummy and soul satisfying!

I am simply loco for apples and pumpkins this time of year. I think Trader Joes has about 20,000 new pumpkin flavored foods this fall and I’ll probably try about 5,000 of those before December. Yum.

In spite of our late freeze this year, which took a major toll on our NC apple crops, we’re still finding delicious, local apples at our farmer’s markets. The prices are higher, but they are so delicious that I’m willing to splurge on apples to eat in hand and to use in recipes, but making apple butter or canning apples probably won’t happen this year.

We made this recipe a couple of weeks ago when we received a lovely head of green cabbage in our Produce Box. Not only is this dish a  delicious way to enjoy local cabbage, but it also is very economical and deeply satisfying. Unlike some vegetable dishes, this seems to taste even better warmed up later, so make plenty! We served this with pan seared pork chops from Mae Farm in Louisburg, NC and it made for a simple, but incredibly good meal! You could also serve this as a main course with some crusty bread and have a terrific rustic winter meal! If you want a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and use 3 tbsp. of olive oil and replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Sautéed Cabbage and Apples

  • 8 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 medium head green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 3 large apples (granny smith or gala), peeled, cored and sliced thick
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, cook bacon pieces over medium heat and stir often to keep them from sticking. Cook until browned, but not too crisp (about 6-7 minutes).
  2. Remove bacon from pot and set aside. Reduce drippings to about 3 tbsp.
  3. Add onion and carrots to the pot and cook over medium/high heat about 4 minutes until onion is translucent.
  4. Add apple cider vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits.
  5. Add the cabbage and stir to combine. Cook about 10 minutes until cabbage softens. Add apples, stock and coriander. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Check frequently to make sure the cabbage is not sticking. Add a bit of water or more stock if needed.
  6. Add bacon back into the pot and cook an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve!

Day 292–Bad, Bad Blogger and Apple Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

I am a bad, bad blogger. Up until this point I’ve been pretty good at posting several times a week if not every day. But the last two weeks have been absolute craziness, with parts of my world taking over and wreaking havoc on everything else. I believe I have survived the worst of that and now I’m back and (hopefully) on a more sane schedule. At least, I certainly hope so because that was one wild ride!

I haven’t had much of a chance to cook anything recently, but this dish of apple stuffed sweet potatoes was a winner. It has all the great hallmarks of fall–sweet potato, pumpkin pie spice, apples and maple syrup. This would make a great side dish or a light meal in itself. We have an abundance of sweet potatoes at our farmers markets and apples are available here although not in our usual quantities.

So here is to restarts and a better work/life balance for the rest of the fall! Enjoy!

Apple Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

  • 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 2 medium apples like granny smith or galas
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup

 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork and roast in the oven until soft (about an hour depending on how large your potatoes are). Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350.
  3. While potatoes cool a bit, peel/core and chop the apples into 1/2″ chunks.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add butter and melt. Add apples. Cook apples for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add brown sugar and spice to the apples and stir. Add more butter if you need it. Reduce heat to low and cook until apples are soft. Set aside.
  6. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut skins and scoop potato flesh into a medium-sized bowl. Add apple mixture and mix together until combined.
  7. Spoon mixture back into the potato skin shells. Top with chopped pecans, put on a baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and drizzle with maple syrup.
  9. Serve!

Day 273–Starting Week 40–Budget and Menu

Here we are, the first week in October and my garden already has its first casualty. I checked the raised beds yesterday afternoon and the kale was GONE!! All that remained of an entire bed of kale was a couple of little stubs. Grrrr. Bunnies. Apparently the coyote spray didn’t survive the torrential rains we have had over the past week. I haven’t decided whether to replant or just let it go, but at least the swiss chard, chinese cabbage and collards are still going strong. Until the bunnies sniff them out. If nothing else, we are certainly improving the overall health of our small mammal population.

This week’s menu is looking good and I’m excited about having our substantial fall vegetables in the mix. Like last week, we have quite a few vegetarian nights this week, but I don’t think we’ll miss the meat. At least, we haven’t so far! Our budget is rocking this week at $70.03. WHAAAAAT???? I’m not sure how that happened, but we are carrying over one meal (stir fry steak and peppers) and some yellow squash muffins that we froze last week. Still, I think we’re doing pretty well! And most of our meals are healthy, with the exception of the sweet potato pound cake, which is one of our all-time favorite desserts in the WORLD. Will post the recipe this week!

Budget

  • The Produce Box (spaghetti squash, apples, kale, yellow squash and zucchini, field tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, green cabbage): $23.00
  • Mae Farm (pork tenderloin, bacon pieces, ground beef): $18.00
  • Homestead Farm (eggs): $4.00
  • Mitchell’s pantry (our sticky fig jam): $3.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, beans, pie crust, cheese, onions, yogurt): $22.03

Here is what $70.03 is feeding us this week:

Menu

  • Wednesday–beef and sweet pepper stir fry with rice (carryover)
  • Thursday–Spaghetti squash with sautéed tomato sauce, green salad
  • Friday–Baked and loaded sweet potatoes, salad
  • Saturday–Pork tenderloin with sticky fig jam, sautéed kale, sautéed squash and onions
  • Sunday–Chili, yellow squash muffins (carryover), sweet potato pound cake
  • Monday–leftover chili over pasta
  • Tuesday–Tomato tart, sautéed cabbage and apples

Have a happy and healthy week!