Recipe and Cookbook Roundup

This week's sourdough loaf
This week’s sourdough loaf

Hello there! Still alive and cooking constantly, as ever. I committed to NaNoWriMo this year, which basically means I’ve committed to writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. NO PRESSURE. Needless to say, that’s going to be taking a lot of my focus and time this month. I still thought I’d stop buy and post some of the recipes and cookbooks we’ve been obsessed with lately, because sharing food joy is the best.

Happy fall, and may we all enjoy cooler weather soon!

  • Salted brown butter crispy treats– We went to a Halloween party last week and had to bring a snack, so I went old school, with a slightly grown up twist. The only thing I did that the recipe doesn’t call for was drizzle a little melted semisweet chocolate over the top of the bars before cutting them. People went crazy.
  • Tartine Bread– I can finally make excellent loaves of sourdough bread at home, and it’s all thanks to this book. I cheated a little and bought a sourdough starter from Cultures for Health, but that was two months ago and it’s still going strong. I’ve only had one loaf completely fail and luckily it was relatively early on in the process. Pretty sure I added WAY too much water by accident, because when I turned the dough out onto the counter, it was a giant oozing blob. Live and learn. The process definitely takes time, but I think it’s totally worth it. I’ve been messing around with the timing on the basic country loaf and I’ve found that a 2 day process, with a long overnight rise in the fridge in the middle, results in a loaf that produces exactly what we want in terms of flavor and texture. Also, the recipes for what to do with stale bread are all excellent.
  • Small Victories– I kept hearing about this cookbook on various food blogs, so I requested a copy from the library. I wound up buying my own copy before I even had to return the book. IT’S THAT GOOD. Possibly my favorite cookbook ever, in terms of accessibility and everyday recipes. We’ve made so many things from it already and each one has been perfect. I also really love all the ways she suggests you can modify the recipes. Seriously though, buy it. Make her brisket. Weep for joy.
  • Marinated Lentil Salad– We’ve been enjoying this for lunches a lot recently. I make a double batch of it and combine it with a half batch of Alton Brown’s hummus on the side, as well as cucumber slices and pita chips. Only gets better the longer it marinates.

Chocolate Cinnamon Overnight Oats

Hugging the Angel Oak in Charleston
Hugging the Angel Oak in Charleston

Spring and summer have been fun and full of travel, as well as cooking from lots of cookbooks and issues of Bon Appetit. One book that we keep rechecking out has been, surprisingly, Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy, which sadly needs to return home to the library for a bit. She has a recipe for overnight oats that have become a staple in our house, so I decided that I need to write down my modified version of the recipe so I don’t forget it, because that would be tragic.

Also, these oats aren’t pretty. Hence the picture of a tree instead. Trees are prettier than (delicious) brown sludge. Gwyneth clearly agrees, because she doesn’t have a picture for them either.

Chocolate Cinnamon Overnight Oats

Serves 1

This recipe makes for rather liquid heavy oats, which is how we like them. Feel free to increase the amount of chia seeds and/or decrease the amount of milk to your preference. A handful of berries thrown on top before serving is fantastic.

  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp raw cacao or cocoa powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup rice or almond milk (we use organic Rice Dream in the original flavor, which is lightly sweetened)
  • 2 dates, pitted and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tsp chia seeds

Combine everything into a bowl or, ideally, a mason jar and mix VERY well. The mason jar is easy to put on the lid and shake.

Cover and leave to soak overnight. Serve cold. Her note says that you can make them up to two days ahead of time, but we’ve never tried.

 

Meal Plan: April 17-April 23

Every week we make a meal plan for the week ahead. The plan accounts for 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches (plus fruit or vegetables), 4 snacks, and 5 dinners each for the two of us. Lunches are typically a double batch of whatever the recipe calls for. We make the lunches and do other prep work on Sunday. Nearly all items are purchased from either our local farmers market or Whole Foods. We live in Cincinnati, OH.

Homemade Spam musubi. Yes, I married a Hawaiian
Homemade Spam musubi. Yes, I married a Hawaiian

April 17-April 23

Our meal plan was a little off last week because we spent four glorious days in Nashville, so I wound up not posting anything. Guys, springtime in Tennessee is just glorious. I am a Tennessee girl through and through.

This week’s plan was a bit of a “what do we have in the pantry/freezer” menu due to the fact that we really needed to restock some pantry staples. It’s always a bit of a bummer to spend so much on such basic things, but it was nice to get so many of them knocked out at once without going over budget. Also, if you’re a Whole Foods shopper, you should download the app and check out the coupons. They scan them right from your phone, and a few have actually been right in line with what we were planning on buying. One week even had $5 off any combination of produce that was over $20. Since at least half our budget is spent on produce, that was no problem for us. Hey Whole Foods: more coupons for fresh things! Cool, thanks.

Breakfast

Lunch

Snack

  • Chopped pineapple and mango 

Dinner

Meal Plan: April 3-April 9

Every week we make a meal plan for the week ahead. The plan accounts for 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches (plus fruit or vegetables), 4 snacks, and 5 dinners each for the two of us. Lunches are typically a double batch of whatever the recipe calls for. We make the lunches and do other prep work on Sunday. Nearly all items are purchased from either our local farmers market or Whole Foods. We live in Cincinnati, OH.

Weekend mornings with Minerva
Weekend mornings with Minerva

April 3-April 9

We had a productive and fun filled weekend with friends, and this week looks like more of the same (hence the lack of dinner options. No point in food going to waste). The weather has become a little chilly again and we’ve had some insane wind. Saturday was so windy that the power went off for a good two hours at our friends’ party, but we lit candles and played games and made sure to drink all the beer before it went bad.

Spring can be tricky like that.

I have a feeling that next week’s meal plan will be a little on the lighter/healthier side,  so we’ll enjoy our gluttony while we can.

Breakfast

Lunch

Snack

  • Chopped apple and pineapple

Dinner

Young, Broke, and Single

Ah, 22. That watermelon was probably the healthiest thing I ate that month
Ah, 22. That watermelon was probably the healthiest thing I ate that month

My 22 year old brother sent me a text the other day that read:

So I’m trying to eat healthier and cut fast food out. Any relatively easy recipes you’d be willing to send me? Preferably ones without a load of dairy, but I’ll take what I can get.

This goes to show that he’s already doing better than me at 22, since many of my meals at that time were either:

A) Special K red berries/chocolatey delight, with whole milk

B) A bowl filled half with warm queso dip (from a jar), half filled with salsa (duh, jar), and a bag of either Fritos or Tostitos scoops.

The rest of the time I was eating leftovers from going out with my boyfriend at the time, and thank goodness he made more money and could feed me. Such is life.

I thought it might help someone though if I posted exactly what I wound up sending him (minus family jokes), since it’s very simple and involves minimal kitchen equipment (no immersion blends in sight). So here it is, basic food for a broke, early twenties person living in a crappy apartment with roommates. We’ve all been there.


So, general tips:
  • If you live close to a Whole Foods, it can actually be really affordable for basics. We get most of our spices in the bulk section, and you can buy just what you need for one recipe for like $0.20, which also means you have fresh spices instead of ones that you’re pretty sure you’ve owned for ten years. Not that it’s ever happened to me. Also, the bulk section has things like beans, oats and even pasta. Again, you can buy just the amount you need for a recipe and not waste things, which is especially helpful when you’re single (Sometimes other grocery stores have bulk bins too, but it varies by location). Whole Foods has a great store brand (365, I think?). We’ve never had a bad experience with it and it’s a lot cheaper than other options. There’s also an organic 365 line that we use. The boxes of organic 365 cooked beans are GREAT. Especially the chickpeas
  • Learn to be flexible with recipes. The curry I’ve linked to below is a great basic formula. Instead of asparagus, we did half a head of cauliflower because we needed the other half for a different recipe. Saved us money, reduced waste, just as delicious. Potatoes would be great too. You can use this same basic recipe with red or yellow curry paste and seriously not have to change anything else (also, unless you plan to use rice vinegar a lot, don’t worry about buying a bottle just for this. The recipe will be great. You should, however, buy soy sauce, because soy sauce makes everything better. I might be married to an Asian.) As a prime example of how flexible recipes can be: I never ever put celery in anything, because I hate it. If a recipe calls for it, I might put in a little extra onion or carrot, but usually I don’t even worry about it.
  • On recipes that list garnishes: if you already have that stuff on hand for something else, great. If not, don’t worry about buying a thing of cilantro just so you can sprinkle a small bit on top of one thing. The waste will annoy you, and it will make your grocery bill more expensive for very little reason
Some good starter recipes (also, look at other recipes on these websites and see if any look good):
  • Thai green curry with spring vegetables– we don’t use brown rice, but you totally can. Whole Foods also has lots of rice options available in bulk
  • Rice and bean casserole with guac I never bother with the jalapeño in this one. Get yourself some bouillon cubes or buy a jar of Better than Bouillon just so you can always have broth on hand. Try to read the label and get one without too many scary ingredients, but don’t stress if you can’t afford the best. It’s still going to be healthier than fast food. If you don’t have any casserole dishes, Goodwill is actually a great spot for them. People get rid of that stuff all the time. Or ask Mom if she has an extra one. 
  • Overnight steel cut oats– Don’t worry about the optional milk. I never add it. You could make a double or triple batch of these at one time and just reheat some every morning in the microwave. Buy a bag of steel cut oats or get some in the bulk section. Add whatever you’d like on top. This week we’re adding coconut milk and diced mango, because mangoes were on sale. Often we add sliced banana and maple syrup. Really easy, cheap, and healthy.
  • Pasta con ceci this is one of our newer favorites. It’s kind of like a healthier, grown up version of Spaghetti-O’s. I almost always make a double batch and it reheats really well. I find this pasta shape in the bulk section, but I think any smaller pasta could work, like macaroni or little shells. Just test the pasta for doneness. This recipe is super easy, but it’s definitely one to have everything prepped and within reach so you don’t accidentally burn the garlic. Also, it says to peel and smash the garlic, but I always wind up slicing the garlic very thin instead. Just a preference thing.
  • Turkey white bean chili– okay, this one has a longer ingredient list, but it’s still super simple and SO GOOD. Sub in any ground meat if something’s on sale. Add whatever toppings you’d like, or none at all. Makes a nice big pot. I don’t bother taking the seeds out of the jalapeño because we like it spicy, but whatever
  • Eggs, greens, and couscous– This is more of a good general idea than telling you to follow this recipe (although it’s delicious and we eat it often). Just remember that: cooked grains+any greens sautéed with salt/red pepper flakes/squeeze of lemon+fried eggs (I never bother with poaching)= great dinner. This can also be a good way to clean out the fridge. Leftover rice from takeout, topped with that half a bag of spinach that’s about to go bad that you cook quickly in a frying pan, topped with an egg or two, and you have dinner. Always keep eggs on hand, assuming you like eggs.  
  • Dragon noodles– Great base recipe. We almost always add extra vegetables in at the end. Just make sure to cook them in a separate pan (or the same pan, and then dump them in a bowl to hang out til you need them). Snow peas are delicious, but seriously. Any vegetable you like is good in here.
  • Slow cooker pulled pork– So this does assume you have a crockpot (and we all know what assuming does…). If you don’t, I’m sure Mom would let you borrow one/steal one for you, or definitely look at Goodwill for one. What I really love about this recipe is all of the suggestions she makes about what to do with the meat through the course of a week. Last time I did it, I turned some into a tortilla soup, and then spring rolls, and some rice bowls with roasted broccoli and who knows what else. Honestly, her whole blog is great. Her recipes are always so delicious, and she has a bunch of meal prep posts that show all the stuff she makes on Sunday and how she uses it to feed her family through the week. That way you can start thinking about how to make the maximum number of meals with minimal effort on your part

Meal Plan: March 27-April 2

Every week we make a meal plan for the week ahead. The plan accounts for 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches (plus fruit or vegetables), 4 snacks, and 5 dinners each for the two of us. Lunches are typically a double batch of whatever the recipe calls for. We make the lunches and do other prep work on Sunday. Nearly all items are purchased from either our local farmers market or Whole Foods. We live in Cincinnati, OH.

Easter strawberry balsamic pie
Easter strawberry balsamic pie

March27-April 2

My thought that I had finally discovered the perfect pie crust was put to the test this weekend, and came through with flying colors. Yes, this crust really is that good, and that easy. I was even able to roll and cut the dough pre-coffee on Sunday morning, which speaks highly to it’s ease of use. Pre-coffee Allyn: not my best. the pie recipe was from Four and Twenty Blackbirds, and I will definitely be buying a copy of the cookbook when I have to return mine to the library. It has so many great recipes to using as a jump off point, plus it’s full of tips on pie making. Go check it out!

Easter

  • Strawberry balsamic pie p.80, plus tip on p. 64, and perfect crust

Breakfast

Lunch

Snack

  • Bananas

Dinner

Meal Plan: March 20-March 26

Every week we make a meal plan for the week ahead. The plan accounts for 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches (plus fruit or vegetables), 4 snacks, and 5 dinners each for the two of us. Lunches are typically a double batch of whatever the recipe calls for. We make the lunches and do other prep work on Sunday. Nearly all items are purchased from either our local farmers market or Whole Foods. We live in Cincinnati, OH.

Walking around a city can certainly lead to… interesting discoveries
Walking around a city can certainly lead to… interesting discoveries

March 20-March 26

Josh and I have been walking around our neighborhood almost every day lately, both to celebrate the fact that it’s no longer freezing and to get some good exercise in now that we can. This, combined with the yoga I do every day, is making me SO HUNGRY. Seriously, we walked 5 miles yesterday and I think I ate 1/4 of a chicken and countless mouthfuls of roasted vegetables that I inhaled as quickly as possible (roasting vegetables in this duck fat for the win, forever and ever, amen). Now I’m trying not to go eat a whole box of Samoas and daydreaming about dinner. Not even sure what I’ll wind up cooking from the list, but still dreaming about it. I might need to plan for heartier snacks if we keep this up.

Breakfast

Lunch

Snack

  • Bananas

Dinner