Food

August Challenge: Week 4

The final week of the challenge proved to be the hardest. Not only did we have friends over for dinner, we also celebrated our third wedding anniversary! I wanted to do something special for both evenings, without completely ignoring my budgeting goal. My first shopping trip of the week looked like this:

FoodCost
Strawberries (1lb)$1.66
Gold Bell Peppers (2)$3.34
Grape Tomatoes$1.25
Parsley$0.99
Yellow Squash (3)$1.79
Artichoke Quarters$2.99
Cream Cheese (2)$3.38
Milk (Half-Gallon)$2.29
Chicken Breast$6.76
Chicken Thighs$8.28
Sour Cream$2.69
Flour Tortilla$1.47
Paprika$3.49
Basil Leaves$1.49
Mushrooms$1.19
Baby Lemons$1.99
Mangoes (4)$2.76
Dried Basil$1.99
Avocados (4)$2.76
Fresh Mint$1.49
Eggs$2.99
Cayenne Pepper$3.59
Mozzarella$3.44
Shredded Gruyere$4.49
Garbanzo Beans (2 cans)$1.58


Total$70.14

We hosted our friends Grace and Jon for dinner on Sunday evening. I made Crusty Rosemary & Garlic Bread (again) with Spinach & Artichoke Dip as an appetizer. The bread always makes our apartment smell delicious and it is such an elevated experience for a tiny cost (about $1.85/loaf).

For dinner, we went a little healthier with Skillet Lemon Pepper Chicken. The fresh herbs and cayenne added so much good flavor to the yellow bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, and chicken breast. The entire meal came in at less than $20 and fed four people (plus leftovers!).

To be honest, part of me feels guilty and insecure for tallying up the cost of hosting. Having friends over for dinner is something we love to do and want to do on a regular basis. But this month-long challenge has made me realize that we can’t simply ignore the financial aspect. Historically, I’ve used hosting as an excuse to buy expensive foods and try to produce “impressive” meals. This is totally on me– no one is expecting Jimi to cook his famous steaks every time they walk in our home. I don’t have to serve elaborate charcuterie boards or buy expensive bottles of wine. We can spend less and have just as great a meal– and just as much fun.

We had a few slices of rosemary bread leftover, so I decided to surprise Jimi with some Gordon Ramsey eggs the next morning. These eggs are pretty life-changing (don’t believe me? The YouTube video tutorial has 42 MILLION views). Due to my budgetary constraints, I had to substitute in sour cream for the called-for crème fraîche, making the eggs slightly less rich, but still incredibly tasty. I popped the bread slices under the broiler to give them a quick toast, then loaded each plate with bread, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, and avocado. Nom nom nom.

Anniversary Picnic

Our third wedding anniversary was on August 26th. Instead of going out to dinner, I suggested we have a picnic on the beach where we got married. Jimi agreed and I put together a special picnic meal. While it was a “splurge” in terms of our weekly budget, it was roughly a tenth of the cost of our previous anniversary dinners!

FoodCost
Raisin Rosemary Crisps$3.99
Italian Charcuterie$5.49
Truffle Marcona Almonds$5.99
Italian Truffle Cheese$5.85
Goat Cheese Log$2.99
Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans$0.99
Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds$0.99

Total$26.29

I already had fruit on hand, along with some leftover Spinach & Artichoke dip. I built the picnic around those items, making a homemade walnut cream cheese dip and buying cheese, nuts, and meat to offer some additional sustenance. I put the food into serving dishes for easy transport to the beach.

Jimi surprised me with two dozen gorgeous red roses before we headed out (aww). We drove up the coast to Leo Carrillo in Malibu and set up our picnic precisely where we said our vows. It was both romantic and meaningful. A photographer happened to be taking photos of the sunset close by and we asked him for a quick picture. He took some amazing shots and it really capped a wonderful time (and memorialized Jimi’s wild quarantine hair). Honestly, I wouldn’t have traded it for the most expensive dinner in the world.

We spent the rest of the week eating leftovers in a variety of forms (chicken tacos, salad with goat cheese tomatoes, etc.). But I did find one incredible cocktail recipe. I had picked up four mangoes at the grocery store, because they were on sale for $0.69/each! Jimi loves mangoes, but these were all very ripe and needed to be eaten immediately. I scrolled through Pinterest, looking for a mango dessert or drink that I had all the ingredients for. And I found it: The Mango Margarita. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, so here’s “my” version:

Mango Margaritas

  • 2 Fresh Mangoes
  • 3oz Tequila
  • 1oz Triple Sec
  • 3tbsp Agave Syrup
  • 1 Lime
  • Handful of Ice
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • Lime wedges and Mint for garnishing

Blend together mangoes, tequila, triple sec, agave syrup, lime, and ice. Run a lime wedge around the rim of your glasses, then dip them in sea salt and chili powder. Pour in your blended drink and garnish with lime and mint!

Cheers to a fun challenge! I have learned so much this month… I’m still trying to process and synthesize it into a cohesive narrative. I’ll be posting all those thoughts in the next week or two. But for now, thanks for sharing in my journey and I hope you make something amazing today!

Food

Recipe Roundup

I don’t know about you, but I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen these past few months. Here are some of the best recipes, blogs, and secret ingredients I’ve discovered during this pandemic:

1. Half-Baked Harvest:

AKA The Queen of Quarantine Cooks everywhere. If you haven’t heard of Thiegan’s blog, I am grateful that I get to be the one to introduce you to her because she will change your life. Her photos make you want to dive into a bowl of pad thai and swim around in the deliciousness. Some of my favorite recipes include her super easy Tomato-Herb Pizza and her Lemon Butter Zucchini Orzo (the ultimate comfort food). Feeling exotic? Check out her Thai recipes and get spicy with it!

2. Crusty Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Bread:

Yes, I joined the bread bandwagon. But this bread is truly exceptional. The recipe also introduced me to the concept of roasting heads of fresh garlic. Not only is it delicious, but it makes your house smell divine (and keeps away the vampires). I highly recommend making this to take your cheese board to the next level.

3. Peach and Prosciutto Pizza:

I bought some ripe peaches that needed to be eaten immediately. I scoured Pinterest for some ideas and came across the inspiration for a Peach and Prosciutto Pizza. However, I was a little short on Prosciutto and Naan. So while I’m sure the original recipe is great, here’s the adjustments I made:

Ingredients

  • 2 naan crusts 1/2 lb of fresh pizza dough (enough to make a flatbread)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 4 oz burrata cheese divided An excessive amount of fresh mozzarella, shredded
  • 2 large peaches sliced
  • 4 thin slices of prosciutto torn 8 Slices of Soppressata
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil
  • 2 tbsp honey 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt to season throughout

The mozzarella melted against the pizza dough, creating this chewy, stringy cheese bread. Baking the peaches lowered their sweetness level, balancing them perfectly with the salty soppressata.

I paired the pizza with a peachy drink:

  • 1/2 peach, smashed
  • 1 tbsp rosemary syrup
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Shaken with ice, poured into a glass over ice, and then topped with tonic water

4. Cowboy Breakfast Skillet:

I would like to thank my friend, Erin, for introducing me to the breakfast of my dreams. Sweet potatoes, avocado, and sausage? Who would have thought breakfast could be so satisfying. This recipe is great for a group and only uses one pan!

This recipe is also extremely versatile. While baking the eggs is definitely easiest, you can also try poaching them (my favorite version) or frying them (my husband’s favorite version). Adding some sriracha on top really takes this to the next level, too!

5. Mediterranean Chicken:

I’ve made a lot of Greek chicken in my day, but this recipe calls for sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and capers. The salty, briny flavors are delightful and much more intense than my normal lemon/oregano/olive oil marinades.