Food

August Challenge: Week 3

This week was all about chicken. I found some killer deals on thighs and drumsticks at our local grocery store, but I didn’t want dinner to feel like a constant repeat. With poultry in hand (err… cart), I started flipping through Pinterest and AllRecipes.com on my phone, looking for particularly unique chicken recipes.

I’ll share my poultry preparations down below, but here’s what I ended up purchasing:

FoodCost
Broccoli $2.70
Grape Tomatoes$3.00
Lemons (4)$2.00
Bananas (1 Bunch)$1.46
Red Bell Peppers (2)$1.96
Red Seedless Grapes$1.89
White Peaches (2)$1.15
Yellow Onions (3)$1.98
Yellow Peaches (3)$1.18
Mozzarella Pearls$3.99
Chicken Thighs $6.60
Greek Yogurt $5.89
Butter (4lb)$7.99
Popsicles $3.50
Half & Half$1.79
Pears (2)$1.07
Romaine Hearts$3.99
Dill$1.49
Rosemary$1.49
Chicken Drumsticks$3.87


Total$58.99
Soooo close to my target. Excuses below…

The Costco Dilemma

Y’all… I love me some Costco. Even with COVID preventing me from eating my weight in samples, I still enjoy the experience of walking the aisles and stocking up. The prices are so good! The meat is such great quality! The cheese! The charcuterie!

I’ve always found ways to justify my Costco shopping… until my husband and I started to keep an itemized budget. The polo shirts I bought for Jimi (and the yoga pants I purchased for myself) were no longer conveniently hidden in the grocery bill. The four-pound carton of grapes that cost $10– and half of the which turned into wine before we could consume them. The five dozen eggs to satisfy my rapidly increasing baking needs. The reality checks were coming in hard and fast.

So I decided to come up with new “Costco rules” for myself:

  1. A Costco grocery run is for food only. If you need socks, a plant, batteries, or a new couch, that needs to be decided in advance. No purchasing non-food on a whim.
  2. Only purchase food that you can (and will) eat before it expires. For our home, this eliminates most of the fruit and vegetable options.
  3. Don’t take a cart. (What!!) Yeah, this one is a little dangerous. But I’ve been doing this all month and it’s working. Even with a detailed grocery list in hand, a cart is just begging to be filled. If I know I’ll have to carry everything throughout the whole store, I’ll overcome the urge to buy the handle of tequila on sale or get an extra block of cheese.

Costco items, while typically cheap for the quantity offered, still hit my $50 hard. This week, I needed butter and Greek yogurt– food I typically purchase in bulk because I cook and bake with them often. I knew buying them at Costco would bust my budget, but I made that concession because buying them in smaller portions would end up costing more and appearing on my budget more regularly. I need to plan my “Costco buys” more strategically, but I think it will be doable long-term.

One of the greatest benefits I’ve discovered over the last three weeks is the joy of variety. Instead of buying one giant bag of asparagus at Costco and cooking it all week long, I can buy a couple bell peppers, some broccoli, a few onions, and a pint of tomatoes at Sprouts. I never realized that Costco was actually limiting me until I stopped and took stock of my habits.

I will never get tired of going to Costco. I’m just going to be a more considerate customer in the future.

CHICKEN!

We did some serious feasting this week.

Night #1: Tandoori Chicken and Homemade Naan – My goodness. Indian food is way outside my comfort zone, but this recipe looked simple and absolutely delicious. After coating the chicken with the yogurt and spices, I set it aside to marinate. I knew my husband was a fan of naan, so I wanted to make some to complement the chicken. Unfortunately, traditional naan requires yogurt… and I had just used the last of it on the chicken. Not wanting to make a last-minute grocery run, I opened my fridge to look for alternative dairy options. I had some milk and I knew adding vinegar to it would make buttermilk– could that work? I decided to go ahead and give it a try. I popped the chicken in the oven and got my cast iron skillet sizzling. I mixed garlic and dill into the naan batter, then rolled a piece out on the counter. The bread fluffed up nicely over the heat and the inside was soft and flavorful. The chicken made the house smell amazing and Jimi soon came to hover by the kitchen. He stole a piece of naan and his eyes lit up. When I got the chicken and naan on the table, we tore in with our bare hands.

Jimi said, “This tastes better than it smells!”

I laughed at the odd compliment and added, “I want to try a different naan recipe– this one is a little too thick and doughy.”

Jimi shrugged, “I definitely won’t stop you from experimenting with naan. I could eat this for days.”

Lunch #2: Roasted Chickpea Gyros – While cooking the night before, I casually wondered what was the difference between naan and pita bread. Turns out? They’re fairly similar, but naan is made with yogurt, milk, eggs, or butter to make it the softer and fluffier cousin of traditional pita. I decided to do a little cuisine mashup and make gyros out of the leftover naan from dinner! I poured a can of chickpeas into a tray, spiced them up, and popped them in the oven. I heated up the naan and layered some Romaine, grape tomatoes, red onion, feta, and cilantro. When the chickpeas were ready, I tossed them on top!

Jimi: “There’s no MEAT?”

Me: “Well, the roasted chickpeas have a lot of flavor and add a lot of substance to this dish.”

Jimi: “…. but where’s the MEAT?”

I added some leftover carnitas his second wrap.

Jimi: “This just went from a 7 to a 9. This is phenomenal.”

Dinner #3: Creamy Cajun Chicken Lazone and Buttermilk Naan — This meal was straight. up. dreamy. We were on a naan kick, so I kept it rolling. This time, though, I found a recipe that specifically required buttermilk (avoiding another haphazard substitution situation). I needed to do another chicken dish, but I wanted to switch up the cuisine. Scrolling through Half Baked Harvest’s blog site, I spotted a Cajun dish that looked interesting. I pulled out some canned corn from the pantry and got to work! While the yeast was activating for the naan, I started heating up two skillets and then began dredging the chicken. I continued to dance between the bread batter and the floured chicken, eventually getting both to the skillets at around the same time. While the chicken hissed and popped, I rolled out thin ovals of naan batter. As soon as it hit the cast iron, huge air bubbles started to rise— it made me so happy. I simmered the chicken with the corn and the spices until the smells drew Jimi into the kitchen.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“It’s a Cajun Chicken recipe… and naan.”

“Can I try it?” he asked, ripping off a freshly buttered piece.

“What do you think?” I asked as I started plating.

“It’s pretty perfect.”

Dinner #4: Skillet Lemon Pepper Chicken — I still had a lot of veggies in the fridge, so I looked for a summery recipe to incorporate them with the remaining chicken. This Skillet Lemon Pepper Chicken dish is a little hard to define. It’s hearty, it has some Mediterranean vibes, but there’s a bit of a spicy kick from the Cayenne. For being a “healthy” dish, though, it is absolutely packed with flavor. I loved the addition of feta to balance the earthy notes; Jimi preferred it without. Either way, it is definitely a new household staple.

Baking: I continued to work on my Macarons this week. I made three separate batches, experimenting with color, flavor, and bake time. The chocolate espresso macarons were particularly satisfying… but really ugly! They didn’t make the group photo:

Vanilla and Peppermint Macarons

Another week in the books! Final challenge week ahead. Looking forward to finishing strong. And cooking up a storm….