Dinner$: A Crazy Week

Let me begin with an apology. I forgot to take photos this week. I snagged a few, but ultimately mostly forgot.

I know you’re wildly disappointed. The people love my mediocre, iPhone food pictures!!! 😉 I’ll try to be better next week.

This week was a doozy. I started my internship and was running from South Austin to Georgetown multiple times a day and was tired. I listened to NPR and Marketplace like a maniac, though! I may be hustling around, but I am very well informed.

Anyway, we hosted a party last Saturday, so when the time came to meal plan for the week we were not super creative. The weather was also on the chillier side and rainy some days, so we went for comfy foods.

Also I want to mention that last night Patrick commented that he doesn’t even miss eating out. And neither do I! It’s kind of awesome. To be honest, I never really cared much about eating out unless it was for something I really craved. We normally just did it when we were feeling lazy or uninspired.

Cooking things that are:

  1. Cheap
  2. Quick(ish) & easy
  3. Fun to make
  4. All of the above

definitely improves the experience! And makes eating out less enticing. Anyway, let’s begin!

Monday: Spaghetti & Meatballs in Red Wine Tomato Sauce (from The Feed Zone cookbook)

YUM. Writing this now I wish we still had leftovers. Not going to lie, this took a hot minute. It’s like a 90 minute recipe because that sauce needs to simmmmmmmmmer. It was even better as leftovers the next day.

This may be the first time I have made my own pasta sauce. Well, this summer I made some from scratch but didn’t use a recipe, so it was a little more onion-y than I would have preferred. This sauce was excellent.

I even got hard parmesan to put in our new (to us) Parmesan grater than I got from Buy Nothing! And, of course, garlic bread. A must. My only regret is not eating this on plain old white spaghetti. I bought whole wheat (because fiber) and it was good, but classic spaghetti would have been even better! Highly recommend this one.

Tuesday: Ramen

LOL. This was not fancy, homemade ramen, y’all. This was the 19 cent ramen that college students joke about. I love me some salty, MSG noodles time to time.

A couple weeks ago I finally got Patrick to try it, because he swore he never had, and he acted like it was just fine. This week, though, he suggested it. We soft-boiled two eggs each (for protein) and didn’t add anything else.

Patrick might’ve overcooked the noodles just a tad. And evaporated too much water out. But we love him anyway.

Last time we had this we had leftover tofu and pickled vegetables from banh mi and I wish we had had them this time around, too! Either way, still delicious. I inhaled this 10 minutes before having to start an online video meeting for school. Fun!

Wednesday: Chili

Another day, another no photo! Does that make sense? Whateva.

It was rainy and dreary all day this day, which meant it was perfect for chili. I don’t follow a chili recipe and – before you jump down my throat – I am not claiming this to be Texas Chili! Why? Because there’s a whole lot of beans and zero meat.

I am particularly proud of this one, though. I bought dried black beans and kidney beans months ago to save money and not buy cans, but I attempted to make them once and didn’t soak them long enough and had a bad time.

When I was making my grocery list, I saw those dried beans and decided to conquer it. SAVING THAT CA$H MONEY!

I soaked the kidney beans and black beans (separately) for roughly 6 hours and then threw them in the Instant Pot (again, separately) for like 20ish minutes? I don’t know, Google it.

Anyway, in the chili went those cooked beans (nailed it), pinto beans, garbanzo beans, frozen diced bell peppers (that we already had in the fridge), some chicken stock I wanted to use up, a Ranch seasoning packet, and a chili packet. We ate it with tortilla chips and cheese and sour cream for me.

Confession time: I always make my chili too soupy. Yes, I could probably let it keep cooking until the water evaporates, but that requires patience. Do you not know me by now?

Moving on!

Thursday: Veggie Burgers & Curly Fries

Awww yeah. A classic. A grilled veggie burger and curly fries.

That’s it. That’s the tweet.

Eaten on a whole wheat brioche bun from Whole Foods that has been in the freezer. Topped with avocado. HEB curly fries (that we put in breakfast tacos the next morning).

I love our mini grill. I love Patrick for making this for me after teaching Bodypump.

Friday: Tuna Cakes with Rice

The photo is art, honestly. So, here’s the deal about tuna cakes. I used to work at a place that made jalapeno tuna cakes with cilantro lime rice. I didn’t become obsessed until after I left.

It’s just such a great pairing. The tuna, with the protein and the fats. The rice, with the carbs. The cilantro and lime and jalapeno with the flavor.

This was not that. I had forgotten to get cilantro and Patrick isn’t really into cilantro… or lime… or jalapeno. Loser. I found some random recipe for tuna cakes and ran with that. I added lemon juice and some salt to my rice, but I’m pretty sure Pat ate his plain…

Regardless, the most important thing to report on about this meal is that we ate it at 4 PM. Like actual old people. The early bird special. I still can’t believe it. We were both hungry and figured we’d just have snacks later.

Don’t judge us. Or do. Whateva.

Have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be back next week with our final week of January! I have a feeling we will continue to just cook. I’ve got lots going on, especially in the evening, next week so I’ll be interested to see what our meals and distribution of meal preparing labor will look like.

I’ll report back. Eat something delicious this weekend! And transfer $20 to savings right now.

Okay bye!

Dinner$: Week 2

Heellooo! I survived my 50k! That’s a whole story for another time though. Let’s talk about dinner some more!

This is an easy week. Why? Because Erica is cooking for us twice this week and we’re going out to eat for Erica’s birthday on Friday! I know this goes against my whole not-eating-out thing but it’s a legitimate exception.

Let’s get to it!

Monday: Tuna Casserole (from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook)

This was a meal Erica made for us and it was delicious. It was basically cheesy, gooey mac n cheese with tuna in it and topped with jalapeno chips. Probably could have just cut the recipe in half!

Tuesday: Chicken Nuggets & Mac n Cheese

Erica was going to cook us salmon this night, but none of us were really in the mood for it and she ended up babysitting anyway! This meant that Patrick and I had to figure out dinner that we hadn’t planned for.

We went with a Nicolini-Mannon classic. Fake chicken nuggets (Quorn brand). And Annie’s Mac N Cheese. Two items that we almost always have on hand! So good. Feels like I’m 5 years old. Always satisfying!

Wednesday: Scallion Herb Chickpea Salad

Eaten #AlFresco. My favorite way to eat! I really enjoyed this one. I was skeptical at first, for whatever reason, but it was so fresh and creamy. I grabbed cilantro and parsley from one of the school garden’s I work at, so they were fresh and amazing. Also, pair it with chips. And lemonade spiked with cherry juice.

Also, this took maybe 3 minutes to whip up. I didn’t have the yogurt the recipe called for, so I subbed it with ricotta… I brought the leftovers in my lunch the next day and ate it with pita chips – highly recommend!

Thursday: Vegetable Pot Pie Skillet

Whoa buddy. This was awesome.

We followed the recipe to a T, except we added fake chicken to the mix and I used Red Lobster’s boxed biscuit mix instead of making my own. It was so warm and comforting and cooking it in the cast iron skillet was amazing.

Next time, I would cut the amount of biscuit I put on top in half because the biscuit to inside ratio was shockingly high! I would also make this with real chicken or would ground turkey, because I think that would rock.

Friday: Pinthouse Pizza

I didn’t take any pictures of this one! Patrick and I shared a large pizza that was half Honey Fig, half The Armadillo. Both were, unsurprisingly, excellent! Not going to lie, though. I think I get sick of pizza pretty easily. Especially since we made it last week!

I’ve enjoyed making food at home so much that going out to eat wasn’t that big of a deal!

I’m excited for what we’ve got lined up for this upcoming week! Stay tuned!

Dinner$: Week 1

This is some exciting news, y’all. Important things have happened in my life and I need to share. First, I discovered the joys of having a clean house. Imagine that! I don’t like to think I was a total slob, but I definitely only wiped down counters/surfaces when I noticed they were getting grimy. And I swept only when people were coming over… sometimes.

Fortunately for me, I stumbled across Clean Mama and got my act together. My new found cleaning habits, however, are for a different post some day. Today is about what having a clean kitchen taught me.

Cooking is really fun in a clean kitchen.

LOOK, I get it. Seems obvious. But don’t lie to yourself, it’s not as clear cut as it seems! I’ve always enjoyed cooking – I have a very Semi-homemade Sandra style of cooking btw – but found that in my kitchens since coming to college, it could become a frustrating experience and fell out of love with it.

I blamed it on the size of the kitchens. Little sinks, little counter spaces, ugh! Size does matter. 😉 BUT! It’s not a deal breaker if you’ve got a small kitchen.

If you have clear, cleaned off counters, cooking is a breeze and fun.

Tips I’ve learned so far:

  1. Make sure to do any dirty dishes chilling in the sink BEFORE you start cooking. Why? Because adding more dishes to the pile until they cascade out of the sink and avalanche onto your good mood is not worth your laziness. It takes 5 minutes, get on with it. (Listen to this podcast while you work & learn a lil, too. Why not?!)
  2. Clean your counters after you eat. JUST DO IT. Why? Again, because it can be done in a matter of seconds and makes the idea of cooking another meal so much nicer.
  3. Wear an apron. Why? Because you’ll feel like a fancy lil bish, that’s why.

Moving on…

Since having this revelation, I’ve rediscovered my love of cookbooks and cooking things that require slightly more than throwing a sheet pan in the oven. (Roasted sweet potatoes all dayyyyyyy.)

Additionally, y’all are all out here with your Dry January sin alcohol and I am refusing to eat out. Partially because I want to cook more, eating out is expensive, and I can probably make it at home anyway tbh.

So, to recap, I’m saving stacks on stacks on stacks, eating delicious home-cooked meals, and keeping my house clean?! I would say wife me up, but do this $h!t yourself! YOU CAN.

Anyway, to hold myself accountable with this cooking endeavor, and to hopefully inspire the odd reader that comes across this post, I figured I’d share what I’ve been cooking up. Cool? Cool. Wipe your counters.

Let’s get cooking. (Yep.)

Monday: Mushroom & Spinach Pasta with Ricotta

Okay, y’all… Here’s what happened. I doubled the pasta & then forgot to double everything else. I also didn’t have straight up spinach, so I used a spring mix (but I liked that sub). Ahhhhhh… It lacked on the flavor a lil, but we sprinkled on parmesan and the world was well. Here’s the thing though, ricotta is banging. I thought I didn’t like ricotta because it’s terrible in lasagnas, but things turned around after this meal.

Whole milk ricotta is key. It is so tasty and creamy and deserves to be held to the same level of cream cheese. I said it. Also, Pinthouse Pizza puts globs of it on their Greenbelt pizza and… *drools*.

Anyway, not a life-changing pasta but I survived. And it was my fault, but whateva.

Tuesday: Chickpea & Cauliflower Masala

Ooooh, she took pictures this time! We ate this with Trader Joe’s Garlic Naan and some plain white rice. It was pretty good! I’m spoiled with the Clay Pit, so I can be a critic of my own homemade Indian food.

Also, I accidentally made it pretty spicy – whoops! Help me out, tho. There’s a spice in the garam masala blend that I despise. Coriander? I also think cumin and ground ginger are a little eh? I don’t know! But some spice always sort of ruins Indian dishes – but only the ones I make at home – for me.

All in all, happy to eat the leftovers, probably won’t make again. Not because it wasn’t good, just because homemade Indian food never does it for me like I want it to!

Wednesday: Beyond Meat Sausages & Grilled Asparagus

Oh snap. This one is kudos to Patrick. Many moons ago we bought a lil grill that uses the small tanks of propane (like for a camp stove). It has been a game changer.

These were shockingly good for not being meat, too! Obviously, as seen above, we ate them like bougie hot dogs with sauteed bell peppers and onion and plenty of mustard. Patrick also grilled the asparagus with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and breadcrumbs. He said that was his secret ingredient.

The fake sausages are definitely not cheap – maybe $8 or $9 for 4 links, but definitely cheaper than bougie hot dogs out. Or the environmental cost of regular sausage.

All in all, I would buy those again but would split them length wise to grill. Or chop it up for a jambalaya!

Thursday: Tempeh Burrito Bowls

At this point you’re like, ummmm, does she make anything that’s not from Budget Bytes?? And the answer is YES, I just happened to be perusing her website when I was meal planning last week.

I forgot to take a picture because Patrick made this one while I was teaching Bodypump and so I came home and ate it right away. I, umm, also forgot to buy all the necessary ingredients so he had to just wing it a lil.

I liked it! I will say, we make our own burrito bowls with beans or Quorn meatless grounds and I think I prefer those versions over tempeh. They just have more flavor, I think! But we also didn’t do the recipe to a T, so that may be why as well.

Friday: Cast Iron Pizza (loosely inspired by Bon Appetit)

The stovetop is the only part of the kitchen that doesn’t get perfectly clean…

Ah, yes. The classic pizza night. We got this cast iron skillet for Christmas and have been putting it to work! I stumbled across a cast iron pizza recipe on Bon Appetit’s website and was inspired. We’ve made homemade pizza many times, but haven’t nailed it (in my opinion), so I wanted to do something different.

I used the pizza dough recipe from Bonnie Ohara’s Bread Baking for Beginners (a great book if you’re nervous about getting started)! It’s pretty straight forward once the dough is ready – you could also use store bought dough!

I preheated the skillet, added a tiny bit of oil, and then dropped the dough in there and spread it out to fit the skillet. For our toppings, we were trying to recreate Pinthouse Pizza’s Greenbelt, but didn’t actually have all the ingredients… #classic

So, on our pizza went tomato sauce, green & red bell peppers, mozzarella, garlic, and whole fat ricotta. I wish we had had cherry tomatoes, onion, and mushrooms.

All in all, it was pretty good! The dough was a soft, chewy texture that Erica compared to the Cici’s garlic bread “but in a good way!” I would probably make it again but with more exciting toppings and a nice coating of garlic butter on the dough before it’s topped!

And those were our dinners for the week, folks! We are headed the Hill Country today and tomorrow but are packing our meals to hopefully avoid eating out!

Also I’m running 31 miles tomorrow. Wish me luck.

I’ll see y’all next week for more fun meals!