daidoji_gisei: (Cooking)
So September is over (more or less) and according to my records I spent $162.59 on food for the month, well under my target of $200. This makes me happy, as mid-month I had bought that pressure cooker under the assumption that I was going to come in under budget, and indeed the unused funds almost exactly cover that expense. (The Halo 3 soundtrack, which I purchased at the same time, was entirely frivolous and I don't regret it.)

One of the things I got from this was how advantageous my job is, foodwise. Working at a grocery store and getting an employee discount is very helpful, especially if you shop the sales intelligently. Another thing was that my decision to count deli take-out as part of my food budget really helped cut down on my take-out habit. I think I only resorted to a deli burrito for lunch two or three times this month, and I didn't indulge in any fried chicken dinners from Russ's at all.

The final thing I noticed was that part of the reason I made budget was that I have a very large well-stocked pantry and that I didn't have to buy some food because I already had it in storage. For instance, I bought no canned tuna this month because last spring my store had a case sale on it and I was still using up the case I got then. My challenge then is to use some of each month's food money to stock some pantry items to make up for the ones I use up. Seen in this light my decisions to buy the large tin of soy sauce and the bell peppers that I froze for later were correct.

I am fascinated to see what I will learn in October.
daidoji_gisei: (Cooking)
My alarm went off at 5 am this morning and somehow I slept in until 6 am. I suspect I shut off my alarm and went back to sleep, something I sometimes do on weekends but practically never on work days.

After a rushed breakfast I got dressed and hurried off to catch a bus. I had a paycheck to deposit and groceries to buy! So far my food budget experiment has been going well. At midmonth I was running $27 dollars under budget, so I decided to 'invest' that in a new pressure cooker pan. I had discovered last winter that pressure cookers were the Best Thing Ever for cooking dried beans, and since I have a lot of bean dishes in my recipe files this seemed like a good idea. The idea of having access to practically-instant mujadarah makes my mouth water.

The grocery store near my credit union had a sale on red and green bell peppers, so I bought LOTS of them--8 of each color. Some I plan on cooking with this week but most will be chopped up and tucked into the freezer for the coming months in which they retail for roughly the same cost as gold. (OK, not quite that much. But they do get really expensive.) I think I will be making some stuffed peppers, either from my mom's recipe or one of the ones in my Middle Eastern cookbook. Given the numbers of peppers I have, I could do both. It seems lavish, but when peppers are in season it seems right to take advantage of them.
daidoji_gisei: (Cooking)
The USDA allots exactly $200 a month of food stamps* for a one person household, and so that is the amount of money I intend to spend on food groceries for the month of September.

Normally when someone starts a blog post that way they are intending on making some grand statement on (circle all that apply): the USDA, food stamps, people who use food stamps, the shopping habits of Americans in general. My motive is more personal and more prosaic: I am trying to figure how much I should spend in a month for food, and the USDA number gives me a place to start. One might think I could figure this out just from looking at my check register, but my check amounts are confounded by things like toilet paper, mouse traps and my unfortunate fondness for the fried chicken at Russ's deli counter. Starting this month I am trying to tease out what the grocery-only expense is.

This budget works out to about $46 a week for groceries,which strikes me as a lot of money. On the other hand I am probably an oddball among American shoppers, as I don't eat meat often and I like to cook from scratch as opposed to buying preprocessed foods. Some of this is due my age: I am of the generation who knows how to cook because I grew up watching my parents cook. Some of it is temperment: I just like making stuff.

I was a little worried about keeping myself supplied with fruit, as one of my personal goals is to eat as many peaches as possible. However this is the time they are in season, so I've been finding them at essentially the same cost as apples, my go-to fruit the rest of the year. (I try to eat bananas a few times a week because of their nutritional value, but they really aren't satisfying to me as a food. Too much squish, not enough chewing.)

The science nerd in me is currently excited about the prospect of coming up with hard numbers for part of my life. I hope it stays excited enough to keep up with the record-keeping.



*It's not called food stamps anymore, but I don't know anyone who uses the new name even among my acquaintances who are receiving the benefits. So I am going to continue to use the phrase in the interests of clarity.
daidoji_gisei: (Cooking)
Yesterday when I came home from work I noticed that my mustard greens had grown enough to allow a second harvest, so I decided to make the greens with cornmeal recipe that [personal profile] yhlee had introduced me to some time ago. I bought some cornmeal at work (mmmmmmm...polenta grind cornmeal), came home, and realized that with as much bread as I had in the house, making a grain-heavy dish for dinner was not the brightest thing in the world. So I put the cornmeal aside and started thinking.

What popped into my mind first was that Bittman's greens cookbook has a recipe for curried greens of some sort that had always sounded good, and I had onions and a new kind of curry powder I'm making friends with, and this was starting to sound like a plan. I could have gotten the relevant cookbook out at this point, but I'm not really that kind of a person. I've made curries, I've cooked greens; having given me the idea the cookbook had done its job and could put its feet up and relax.

I put one of my big Visions pots on the stove (some days you just need a pot you can see through), added 2 tablespoons of oil and started it heating over a low flame. Then I chopped a really big onion into chunks (I think it must have been 2 or 3 cups), added them to the pot, put the lit on, and let them sweat/braise until they were soft and almost starting to brown. Meanwhile I chopped the mustard I had picked (it was already washed; I'd done that as soon as I had brought it in from picking) and when I was done I had about 12 cups. This was slightly depressing, because I knew from experience that this would end up as an absurdly small amount of greens once it was cooked.

Anyway. My new brand of curry powder was one I picked up in a Middle Eastern grocery I had visited for the first time last week. It comes in a green metal tin with a ship on the front and it proudly proclaims itself as being "Arabia's best selling curry powder". Really, how could I resist it? And truthfully I am liking it so far; it seems to be better balanced than the kind we sell at the store. The onions being soft and almost-brown I added a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of the curry powder, stirred it up, and let it cook a bit in onion mess before adding the greens. Then I put the lid on and waited for the steam to start cooking them. After about 10 minutes they had begun to shrink, so I stirred them up a bit, distributing well the leaf-clumps that hadn't started to wilt yet, and then put the lid back on. In another 10 minutes they and all cooked down nicely, so snagged a bit with a clean fork and tasted. It was a little too sweet (hello, onions!) and not quite spicy enough, so I added another quarter-teaspoon of salt and another teaspoon of curry powder. Then I let it all cook a bit longer until it looked "enough".

I dished some out for my dinner and it was wonderful. It was just how I like my veggie curries, with the spice zinging up the flavor without masking the taste of the greens--odd as it sounds, I like the flavor of mustard greens and I want to be able to taste them. I could have eaten the whole pot, but I restrained myself--while cooking I had this great idea of, when reheating the leftovers, poaching a few eggs in the brothy greens and having an almost-instant dinner. I can't deal with poached eggs straight up, but a few years ago I discovered I liked cooking (and eating) them in something saucy.

In conclusion, I will be making this again.
daidoji_gisei: "Because I'm worth it" (L'oreal)
I colored my hair today after work; it is now a deep dark red. I like it, but it has the drawback that every time I look in the mirror I think, "Damn, I wish I had a boyfriend". I'm assuming that this will fade, if only because the color itself will fade--I like to use the hair dyes that slowly wash out over a month or two. The I can either redo the color, choose a different color, or let my hair go back to its more-or-less natural color.

I am having very bad luck with edged things this week. Yesterday I cut myself with a knife while chopping up tomatoes for potato curry; this afternoon I broke a pair of scissors trying to harvest a zucchini, and while making dinner I sliced the other hand with the can of salmon I was trying to open. This is not a good thing when you work in a kitchen!

Now that summer is waning I have begun turning on the oven to cook things. So far in September I have been trying to perfect roasted cauliflower. Current state of my research: Oven at 425F, cut florets small, 2 T of oil per head of cauliflower, use a glass pan 9X13 or larger, roast for at least 20 minutes stirring periodically. Tonight I tried dusting the cauliflower with freshly ground cumin and fennel: good, but did not rock my world. Maybe next time I'll try chinese five-spice in the last 5 or ten minutes of cooking.

Lunch!

Jun. 17th, 2010 06:04 pm
daidoji_gisei: (Cooking)
Today I treated myself to a new lunchbox. Not the kind I had in childhood: a big metal thing that held a sandwich, a small bag of potato chips and a Hostess cup-cake. This one is metal--stainless steel, in fact--and it holds only three cups worth of stuff. It's like a very basic version of a bento lunch container, and this is not an accident because I have been reading up on bento recently.

I'm not interested in the arty kind of bento; there are people who are entranced by the notion of carving a slice of carrot into a flower and I am not one of them. (On the other hand, I now have several kinds of edible flowers in my garden, so I could come up with a lunch plan that included sprinkling flower petals over everything. Hmm.) But bento-style lunches by their nature are exercises in portion control, and I am interested in that. For a long time my breakfasts have been models of dietary rectitude and if I can start lunching in the same fashion I'll have 2/3s of my eating day corralled. At that point, dinner should start falling into line naturally. I'm really bad at dieting, but given a list of things that I should eat each day I do pretty well.

The lunch box is a bit of an extravagance. I've been doing my bento-inspired lunches for a couple of weeks with plastic containers I picked up at a discount store, and it has worked well. Except that I have to tie them up with a ribbon, because I cannot trust them to stay shut in my backpack. The new metal one has a locking system that pretty much ensures it is going to stay closed until I say otherwise. Also, I am not opposed to the occasional extravagance, especially when it is for something I'll get some use out of.

Now I need to wash some dishes, so that I can cook something to pack in it for tomorrow's lunch!
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
I was going to hang out with [livejournal.com profile] cassandra_e and her family last night, and she was nice enough to help me run home and pick up some laundry so I could hang out and do laundry at the same time. (Yay, efficiency!) As we were walking up to my door I pointed out the leafy-green dark-blue-berried fringe growing out of the gutter above my porch and dangling down in an ornamental fashion.

"See my beautiful deadly nightshade crop? It's too bad I don't have a use for it," I said.

She admired it for a moment and then said, "I foresee a livejournal post about this--'I have this lovely nightshade crop and nothing to do with it.'"

So here it is. ;-)

I did not really plant the nightshade; it grows wild in the neighborhood and most likely hitch-hiked to the gutter in a bird's intestinal track. If I had known that the upstairs air conditioners were going to do such a good job keeping the gutter watered, I would have climbed up and planted cherry tomatoes--and then I would have a nightshade crop I could actually eat.






Pakoras!

Nov. 9th, 2007 08:51 pm
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
I'm sitting at an Indian restaurant in the strip mall where Table Top Games is located with Bob Yager. We've just polished off our pakoras appetizers (very good, btw) and are waiting for the entrees. Lamb korma for me, vegetable byriyani for Bob. After we finish we'll go back to the room and build decks and frost cake.

Sometimes life is very, very good.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
On Tuesday Karin and I went to Longwood Gardens for the day. Longwood was once and estate of Pierre du Pont's, and he spared no expense in putting beautiful gardens and and fountains in it. (The story goes, it was originally a farm he bought to save a group of large, beautiful trees from being cut down for lumber.) At a certain point the estate was turned into a public garden.

While we were there we took a tour of the production greenhouses that supply the conservatory and outdoor gardens with plants. It was really amazing; one of the greenhouses is essentially a 'holding area' for trees that the conservatory designers don't need now, but might in the future, and there we saw some poinsettias that had been trained into 8-feet-high standards. Mindboggling.

Later the two of us went back to finish our walk around the conservatory (which has always been one of my favorite areas in Longwood) and we saw there was a plant sticking out of the glass roof. Upon investigating we discovered that their Century plant is blooming. Karin got a few photos of it on her digital camera, but we haven't downloaded them yet to see how they came out. I might have to figure out how to use the photo storage area of LJ so that I can put some copies of her pictures.

Yesterday was pretty lazy. I did manage to write out the bills I had brought with from home, and I wrote out postcards to my parents, workplace and selected friends. In the afternoon Karin and I went shopping and I bought a black skirt. This pleased me greatly, because though I have two black skirts one of them is a casual denim-y number and the other one is garnished with sequins, so the new one plugs the gap in the middle.

On the way home we stopped at a grocery store and picked up supplies for dinner, which was a barbecued pulled chicken recipe Karin wanted to show me. It was very yummy. Afterwards we went swimming and then watched an episode of Princess Tutu--the more I watch this series, the more I want to see. A pity I won't get to see the end (actually, I won't even get through the first season), but I'm still glad I started it.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
I flew to New Jersey on Friday to visit my best friend Karin and her husband Ami. I got no sleep the night before because with one thing and another going on this week I didn't have time to pack or clean beforehand and my flight was so early in the morning I decided I might as well give up and stay awake. Also, I can't read on a plane (I have the same problem with cars) so I could always take a few naps en route.

My flights went pretty smoothly, though there was some turbulence as we came into Newark. Karin was waiting for me as I came off the plane and we collected my suitcases after a brief hunt for one of them, which for some reason was piled next to the luggage carousel and not on it. On our way out to her car something in our conversation reminded me of the time Karin was taking me to the airport after a visit and she had forgotten to grab her purse, so she had no way to pay for the parking fees and I had run low on cash and didn't have enough to cover it myself. We finally had figured out a plan were I could pay it with my credit card at one of the parking kiosks inside of the airport and then she could take the receipt and run out to her car before the grace period expired. I reminded her of this and we then laughed really hard because that was the same trip where I had somehow managed to put her car into neutral when we were going down the parkway at 60 mph--and I wasn't driving. Strange, but true. More words about food and Kamikaze Girls )

Balm

May. 27th, 2007 10:33 pm
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
Since this is a three-day weekend for me I decided that I would take one day to do nothing in particular, and today was that day. I didn't set my alarm clock and ended up sleeping in until nine. Then I got up, made a pot of tea and spent the morning mostly drinking tea and reading crochet websites. Crochet Me magazine has a very nice primer on the effect of hook size on fabric drape that includes [geek alert] multiple swatches tested out on an improvised model of a human shoulder.[/geek alert]

Around noon I decided I should do something involving food. I had picked up a pound of new potatoes (none of them bigger than a marble) and some green beans at the farmer's market yesterday, so lunch was built around them. I boiled a cup or so of the potatoes until tender, drained them, then put them back in the pot with some butter and black pepper and warmed them until the water was all gone and the butter sizzled. While that was cooking I washed and stemmed a double-handful of green beans and chopped up some onion. I sauteed the onion in a mixture of butter and oil, then tossed in the beans and chopped fresh rosemary. Mmmm. In the interests of getting in some protein I scrambled some eggs with some of my lemon basil. I think it could have used some more basil--at the beginning of the growing season I'm always a little timid with fresh herbs. Still, it was a good lunch.

After laying around reading for awhile I got dressed in some old clothes and did some garden stuff. I garden more as a hobby than as a means of getting flowers and vegetables (they are a bonus to the activity), so this didn't count as work. Then I took a shower and got dressed in fresh clothes and went to church. "Church" in this case was the 6 pm mass at Cathedral, which is my usual option when I'm feeling really lazy on Sunday morning. Which tends to be often--sometimes I think that the only thing keeping me attending mass at my parish church is that I really can't abide the Cathedral Folk Choir, who almost always provides the music for the Sunday evening mass.

Dinner was simpler than lunch: broiled sausage from a local grocery that makes their own, broccoli and onion braised with dried thyme, and sourdough bread. Also, lemon balm wine, which was today's experiment in cooking. I took three nice sprigs of lemon balm, put them in the bottle of my half-sized carafe and poured some white wine in to cover. Then I put it aside to chill for awhile. The result was a wine with a very delicate lemon balm flavor to it--I really couldn't detect it while I was eating, but in finishing off a glass afterwards I could taste it clearly. Lemon balm has a pronounced lemon scent, but the flavor is like lemon mixed with fresh-cut grass--it might be an acquired taste, but I like it.

After dinner I read some more, then decided to post here. I'll go to bed soon, after setting my alarm for tomorrow--I have lots to do before I go to work on Tuesday. But today was a good day.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
I'm breakfasting on left-over cornmeal blueberry muffins this morning; I'd made a batch for my lunch yesterday.

I'm not normally a muffin person, but yesterday morning while looking for something else I found a container of yogurt that was out-of-date. Now, there are a lot things that I will pitch immediately and without remorse in that situation, but at home yogurt is not one of them. It already has microorganisms in it and it is rather acidic, both of which helps keep down any of the bad spoilage organisms. (It goes without saying that I'm a lot more draconian on this issue at work.) I do prefer using old yogurt as a cooking ingredient, and the company had helpfully printed a cornbread recipe on the container. Sadly, I've made the recipe before and wasn't that impressed--but it would do as a base recipe. I increased the cornmeal slightly, added 1 T more sugar (it was already too sweet to be a proper cornbread imho, so why not?), 1 t of cinnamon, a few rasps of nutmeg and a heaping cup of frozen blueberries.

They were decent but not sublime. I think if I try again I'll decrease the wheat flour and skip the spices--I miss the corn flavor.

In other news I made it to the farmer's market Saturday morning. As is typical for May, everyone else lined up in front of the asparagus vendors while I circled around, trying to decide who had the best-looking radishes. I got some really large red ones, and some of the white icicle-shaped ones.

I was reading my copy of Larousse Gastronomique (a Christmas gift from Karin and Ami a few years back, and fun to browse) this week and learned that in France they eat radishes with butter, so I tried it Saturday night. I wasn't impressed, but the next time I bake bread I think I'll try radish-and-butter sandwiches, another variation on the theme.

Daylight

Mar. 11th, 2007 06:46 pm
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
Day 75 of Captivity.

(I'm not really counting the days; I just recalculate them periodically.)

I had to work on Saturday, but while I was gone Dad called and talked to Mom. He thinks she may be able to go back in the house sometime this week. I refuse to be happy about this: he's thought that once before and it fell through.

Daylight Savings time went into effect today (earlier than usual), and so it's still daylight outside. The sun is going down, to be sure, but it's still quite light. I think I am going to like this, but for now it's just messing with my body-clock. I have a long list of things I need to get done tonight, but I can't seem to focus on anything. I'm hoping that after dinner I'll be able to harness the spinning wheels of my mind.

Dinner, by the way, is roast chicken with roasted winter veggies. The veggies in this case will be butternut squash and potatoes, but that varies from meal to meal. I like to add onions because I love me some roasted onion, but I had so much butternut squash there didn't seem to be a point. The veggies roast in the pan below the chicken and so get basted with the drippings. So good! I'm also going to boil up some green beans, mostly because I forgot to put the bag in the freezer when I got home from the store this afternoon, and they are no good when they semi-thaw and then re-freeze.

The Winter Court play-by-post game ended last night. I feel sorry for the players, who are probably wondering what to do with their free time now. It was an amazing game, with some stunning role-play. For all the time I spent reading it I don't think I've covered more than a quarter of it--I'm hoping that it's left up for a good long time so that I can read more.

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