Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Menu, Please.

Now that ads are out, I am busy planning our menu for next week. I recommed this for those that are watching what they eat and/or watching their budget. Besides, it relaxes me and I think it's fun to piece together sale items into a yummy week of food.

I found a great butternut squash soup recipe that is simple, and I have everything but the squash! I also found an inspiring recipe of spaghetti squash with walnut pesto. I think I might add some fresh tomatoes (just warmed) and grilled chicken and maybe a quick bread.

We had our usual breakfast of cereal with milk, but I had a bit more cereal than usual (1.5 serv grains, 1 serv milk). For lunch, a turkey sandwich w/ tomatoes, red onions and mayo (2 serv grains, 1 serv meat, 1 serv veggies) plus some green bell pepper sticks on the side and a pear (1 serv veggies, 1 serv fruit). At work, we had a healthy potluck for Active for Life. I totally spaced on bringing a dish, but still had to take a peak at the table. I loaded up on some carrots and broccoli (1 serv veg) with about 1 tsp ranch, watermelon and grapes (1 serv fruit), a great quinoa-cranberry salad (.25 serv grains), and about 3 HUGE tortilla chips with some (1 Tbsp) of Heather's famous dip (olives, cheddar cheese and sour cream). Dinner was a repeat of last night's spaghetti with meat sauce and asparagus.

We went for a lovely walk, as usual, and I just booked my tickets to Portland! I'm so excited to eat my weight in salmon and taste some great microbrews.

Let the Games Begin!

It's Wednesday, which means that grocery ads are out. In preparation for our new $40/week goal, I have spent some time scouring the sales. I put all the good deals on food we like on one piece of paper. I even repeated some of the same sales at different stores, in case we can stop by one more conviently than the other. Next up, I need to plan our menu for the week and make the big list.

It turned out to be a good week to start this little project-- there are some great deals in Austin on produce! Asparagus for $1.25/lb, a 10 lb. sack of potatoes for $2.50, brown rice for $.69/lb, and apples at $.39/lb. It's pear and squash season, so we'll have plenty of goodies to eat. Onions are also on sale, so I might buy quite a few to help add some flavor to everything.

Spaghetti and butternut squash are on sale, and I'm wondering if I want to try my hand at butternut squash soup, and if we are too tired of spaghetti from this week. I suppose I could try a different recipe with the spaghetti squash. Maybe use some of my homemade pesto and dash of white wine?

We have a decently stocked kitchen to begin with. In terms of protein, we have frozen chicken, salmon and octopus in the freezer, and a few cans of beans, some lentils and dried beans in the pantry. We also have rice (long- and medium- grain white and jasmine), some plain couscous, and some pasta. We are short on canned tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. I just got a pound of white flour last night and we have some wheat flour yet. We have a bit of olive oil hanging around, and some sesame oil. We have condiments galore, and about every time of vinegar you could think of, and a good smattering of spices. We also have lots of block cheese, mozzerella and cheddar, that I bought on sale two weeks ago. I think we have about 10 eggs left. And we have plenty of cereal, and plain oatmeal. So I think our main focus will be produce this week, plus some milk.

Any ideas are welcome! Post recipes, make suggestions!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tempering Tempura

A few weeks ago, Kendall and I had a mad hankering for some Japanese fare. Kendall spent 9 months in Japan, and craves it from time to time. Obviously, it was time for a trip to our local Japanese grocer, Asahi Imports. The store is small, but stuffed with all sorts of yummy treats! We picked up instant miso soup, vegetable curry sauce, ramen, snack nori, some furikake, and some tempura batter mix! This was going to be good.

It was raining and cool (yay!) so we started the evening off with some miso soup. After a crazy hunt for a decent skimmer for our frying adventure, we settled in and started chopping veggies, rinsing shrimp and octopus, and drying them. Then we mixed the batter, dipped the food, and started frying.

The results were delicious. We ate and ate until we were stuffed. We paired it with a nice chilled Chardonnay from California, which was refreshing, crisp, and a little sweet against the hot tempura. Not the most healthy meal, for sure, but a really great adventures. Behold! Photos:

Squid: dry it before you fry it, people!

Soak it up!

Tempura Success!

DIY Pesto

We recently got some rain in Central Texas, and my basil is beautiful! I wanted to take advantage of its new green foliage, so I made two batches of pesto this weekend. I picked about 2 C of basil leaves, and there is still plenty out there and more rain in the forecast! I'm going to try to make some more this weekend and freeze it.

This batch is a bit dry. If you look closely, you can see that the top layer of basil is a bit browned, but what's under (and in the spoon in this shot) is bright green. I tried to prevent this by sealing it with olive oil, but because I didn't use enough oil to begin with, it just soaked in. We also have lots of sage in our garden, so I might try some sage pesto. You can use any herb you like!

Laura's Pesto
1 C fresh basil (or other herb)
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
About 1/3 C Parmesan
About 1 oz. walnuts (Or any nut! I've used pecans with delicious results, or you can opt for the more traditional pinenut.)
Olive oil (I used enough to wet the leaves and help it blend smoothly, but I needed more. I'd estimate 1/3 C to 1/2 C of oil would work. But I recommend eyeing it until it gets to your preferred consistency.)

Combine in a food processor and pulse until a paste; you can make it as chunky or as smooth as you like.

Serve with just about anything. Enjoy!

Rollin' On

I got my new Nutrition textbook in the mail and I'm seriously geeking out over it.

Anywho, here's what we've got for today:


  • 1 C Blueberry Cereal (1 serving grains) w/ 1 C nonfat milk (1 serv dairy)
  • Glass of 4 0z. cranberry-blueberry 100% fruit juice (1 serv fruit)
  • Sandwich of 1 slice Turkey (1 serv meat), 1 slice Muenster (1 serv dairy) and Red Onion on Whole Wheat (2 serv grains, whole) with 1 Tbsp Pesto Mayo (1 serv oils, fats)
  • Green Bell Peppers and Sugar Snap Peas in Sesame Oil and Soy Sauce dressing (1/2 serv veggies)
  • Pear (1 serv fruit)
  • 1.5 C Leftover spaghetti in 1 C tomato sauce with ground turkey (1.5 serv grains, whole grains, 1 serv meat, 1 serv veggies)
  • 1.5 C Steamed asparagus with 1 Tbsp basil pesto (3 serv veggies, 1 serv oils)

I will post my basil recipe next!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day 1

Here's what we ate today:


  • Blueberry cereal with nonfat milk (this cereal has a few dried blueberries and almond slivers in with the flakes, but I don't count the berries as a fruit serving because I have no idea how much I actually ate)

This Meal Provides Approximately:
Grains: 1.5-2 cups= 1.5-2 servings
Fruit: 0
Vegetables: 0
Milk : 1 C = 1 serving
Meat & Beans: 0
Oils : 0
Discretionary Calories : 0

Lunch: (Kendall got 2 sandwiches, Laura got 1)

  • Turkey sandwich: 2 slices whole wheat bread, mayo, 1 slice all-natural turkey deli meat, 1 slice muenster cheese, field greens
  • Left-over Asian slaw
  • Apple

This Meal Provides Approximately:
Grains: 2 slices for L, 4 slices for K =2-4 servings respectively (whole grains!)
Fruit: 1 medium apple= 1 serving
Vegetables: 1 C slaw, 1 handful greens= 2.5 servings (2 of cabbage, carrots and green onions in slaw, .5 servings for the greens on the sandwich)
Milk: 1 slice cheese= 1 serving
Meat & Beans: 1 oz. slice turkey=1 serving
Oils: 1 Tbsp mayo made with olive oil = 1 serving
Discretionary Calories = 0


  • Spaghetti: whole-wheat spaghetti with ground turkey with tomato sauce, with a bit of Parmesan
  • Salad: Field greens with green bell peppers and red onions with vinaigrette

This Meal Provides Approximately:
Grains: 1 C pasta= 2 servings (whole grains!)
Fruit: 0
Vegetables: 1 C sauce, 1 C salad= 3 servings
Milk: 0
Meat & Beans: About 4 oz turkey= 4 servings
Oils: 1 Tbsp olive oil and dressing = 1 serving
Discretionary Calories = 1 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese

1/2 light beer split with Kendall, 1 scone, half pear, glass of fruit juice
This Meal Provides Approximately:
Grains: 1 scone= .5 servings
Fruit: 1/2 pear + 1/2 C juice= 1 serving
Vegetables: 0
Milk: 0
Meat & Beans: 0
Oils: 0
Discretionary Calories: 27 for beer, sugar and butter in scone, probably about 100 calories

New Direction?

After a little internal debate, I'm going to try a little project with my blog. The goal: To blog more regularly, eat healthily, and save some money. Inspired by two blogs recently, Eat Like Me and 30 Bucks a Week, I've decided to attempt a fusion of sorts. I'll attempt to post my healthy, nutritionally-balanced meals, with nutrition serving information, all by spending $40/week for my husband and myself. We discussed spending $30, but figured $40 would be an easy way to break into it, and would represent a rather significant savings from our current average grocery bill. A few notes about the blogs I referenced above... I love both of them.

I started reading Eat Like Me a few years ago. Cristin Dillon-Jones is a registred dietician in Boston and blogs for Self Magazine. It's great to see what a nutritionist eats on a day-to-day basis. She is also a big coffee fan, so she has won my adoration forever. She recently had a beautiful baby boy, so she appeals to the everywoman-on-the-go-with-a-family-to-feed.

I just found 30 Bucks a Week, thanks to Bitten, Mark Bittman's blog for the NY Times. Tina and Phil live in Brooklyn and blog about what they're able to snag and cook for $30/week. This doesn't include alcohol or meals out, but they have hosted friends on this budget, so it's extra-inspiring for a hostess like me! Their meals are very healthy and vegetarian, which I find very useful as Kendall and I are trying to eat definitely less chicken and a little less fish and more vegetarian meals (we don't eat mammals). Also, these two seem like fans of unprocessed food, so I know we'll be fast friends. Tina referenced anxiously awaiting colder temps so she can get back to baking her own bread. Tina, I hear you! I feel the exact same way!

We've already shopped for this week, so I would feel bad trying to start with the $40 bucks criteria, but I can start posting meals and nutrition information for this week. I'm also considering opening a new blog for this venture...?

Veggie Soup Tip + My Weekend of Eating

My husband has been out of town for work recently, and while I missed him horribly, I usually take advantage of his absense by eating some of the foods I love and he doesn't. Recently, this meant sweet potatoes, sauerkraut, goat cheese, and vegetable soup. When he left on a Sunday afternoon, I quickly cut up some cabbage, potatoes, onions, and carrot. I threw it in a big pot, covered in about 10 cups of water with a few bouillon cubes thrown in, and added a bayleaf. I brought it to boil, lowered to a simmer, and about an hour later, I had a huge stash of veggie soup.

This soup proved helpful throughout the week in making dinner and lunch simple- add some protein (yogurt, cheese, beans, chicken) and a little bread (remembering the potatoes as another starch), a piece of fruit for dessert, and I was in business. The benefits of broth-based vegetable soups are lauded far and wide. They provide water in your diet, those much-needed vegetables, and they fill you up before you tuck into anything you might later regret. I think I dropped a pound or two without much trying. They're easy to make, can help you clean out your vegetable drawer or help you take advantage of good sale, and are tasty. Add a drizzle of olive oil or maybe some Parmesan for even more satisfaction.

After being so virtuous all week, Kendall's homecoming allowed for some splurging. He earned his PMP certification, so we were ready to celebrate! He came home to some guacamole, chips, cheese and crackers, as well as some red wine and champagne. Saturday morning, we stopped for donuts, then had lunch at Eastside Cafe. I don't feel totally guilty for it as the food was excellent quality and really delicious. We both ordered the poblano chicken sandwich (grilled chicken, melted cheese, sauteed poblano peppers on a wheat bun) and we subbed the fries for a cup of their chicken, artichoke and mushroom soup, which was creamy and divine. We went for a stroll around their garden and noted the happy chickens in their yard.

Later we stopped for bubble tea and I ordered this delicious blueberry smoothie. We had Kendall's sister and brother-in-law over for dinner. We started with guacamole and chips, then had chicken satay kebabs with peanut dipping sauce, coconut rice, an Asian-inpsired slaw, and strawberries. They brought more champagne, and we also served low-calorie beer.

Sunday we started off with homemade crepes and I tried out a new recipe for cranberry scones. Both were successful. Kendall always makes great crepes, and this Sunday he ended up with a little less batter somehow. It was no big deal, as we had plenty of food! For lunch, we had a trio of salads: leftover Asian slaw, field greens with avocado, green onions and mango in a balsamic vinagrette, and chipotle ranch pasta salad with chicken and veggies. For dinner, we attempted tempura again. It was a big soggy this time around. We snacked on some pomegranate seeds and later split a Bosc pear and had some other little nibbles.

On a related note, I've started my nutrition course, which I'm very excited about!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Showing Signs of Better Regulation for School Cafeterias

Thanks to the blog School Food Policy, England schools are seeing better regulations on the food they serve their students. For fun, I thought I'd see how my hometown's school district stacks up...

In England...

- Schools must provide at least one portion of vegetables and at least one portion of fruit every day
- Fruits and vegetables must be provided at any school food outlet (cafeteria, student store, etc)
- Oily fish, such as salmon, must be offered at least once every three weeks
- Processed meat products are heavily restricted. The regulations establish four groups of meat products (hamburger meat, sausage/lunch meat, meat pies and shaped or coated meat products) and allows schools to serve no more than one item from each group every month.
- Sweets such as chocolate bars, chocolate-coated biscuits and cereal bars are banned in school lunches and in the rest of schools as well. Cakes and biscuits are allowed only as part of a lunchtime meal (and may not replace any other component of the meal). Chocolate in any form is banned, except for cocoa powder in dessert served following a lunchtime meal.
- In meals, sodium is limited to 500 mg in elementary schools and 714 mg in secondary schools.
- The only drinks allowed during the school day are water (which must be provided at meals), non-fat or low-fat milk, fruit juice, vegetable juice, plain soy, rice, oat or yogurt drinks, tea, coffee and low-calorie hot chocolate. No preservatives, flavorings, colorings or artificial sweeteners are allowed.

In Boerne...

-Veggies and Fruits: Most of the time, Boerne offers a fruit and vegetable serving every day. What is concerning is that some days, fruit is in the form of 100% juice, or things like steak fingers or pizza count as several food groups (meat, veggie, starch). The good news is that about 4 days a week, students are served an actual vegetable and an actual fruit (not juice or ketchup).

-Oily Fish: On the BISD menu for Aug 24- Sep 18, there is not one fish present (oily or otherwise). For shame.

-Processed meats: The first week on the calendar boasts 6 instances of a processed meat. Chickenburgers, steak fingers, turkey lunch meat, spaghetti meat sauce (counting as hamburger), and pepperoni grace the kids' plates. The following week is a bit better with 4 instances, one of them being a turkey corndog. The week after has 5 servings.

- Sweets: Luckily, dessert is not part of BISDs daily menu. Ice cream is served every Thursday, and there was another day that included a cookie. However, they do allow for cookies to be purchased on Mondays for $.50 and ice cream on Fridays for $.75.

All in all, Boerne isn't too awful. But keep in mind that Boerne is also a wealthier school district, and boasts a high parent-involvement with all things school-related. But there's still room for improvement. If all schools and the governing entities that regulate school lunches tried to implement three healthy new ideas, maybe our schools here will start to resemble those across the pond.