Archive for July 30, 2014

Menu Plan and Shopping List 7/30/14-8/6/14

I think if I ever have a week where I follow my menu plan perfectly, I’m going to throw a party to celebrate it. Except then, I’d have to change up my menu plan to allow for feeding all those extra people…

Though, in all seriousness, I’m not sure it would really be a great accomplishment to strictly follow my menu plan no matter what happened. Some people find that their lives and budgets work better with a strict menu plan, but my plans are generally meant to be adaptable to life as it happens, because my life rarely sticks to the first plan for even a whole day, and never for an entire week.

Last week, we ended up going out to Flattop Grill with my husband’s family for his birthday lunch, and I still haven’t made him his birthday dinner because we just ate our leftovers for supper.

We had plenty of leftover BBQ spiced chicken thighs, and since they were so yummy, we didn’t mind eating them for several lunches, and even a few snacks. That back up ‘tuna salad for lunches’ plan did come in pretty handy though when I burned the bacon that we were going to use for BLTs. (I was being so organized and cooking the bacon ahead so that I could be sure we didn’t run late eating supper and getting out of the house that evening, and then I got distracted…)

The chicken fried hamburgers were a success (the spices need a little tweaking, but the overall idea worked well), but apparently it was my week for burning things, because I also burned the garlic green beans. (Not the point were they were inedible, but I did end up throwing out the leftover green beans because they weren’t worth reheating. Sigh.)

Oh, and I’m replacing the Mexican food scheduled for tonight with the results of a ‘cooking for complete beginners’ video series I’m starting to film today. I even have a genuine complete beginner cook to guest star on these episodes, so be sure to keep an eye out for those on my youtube channel in the next few weeks…

This week’s menu turned into a bit of a game of ‘what are are we NOT out of’. While I am going shopping this week, there aren’t spectacular sales on some of the items I like to stay stocked up on, so I went for a ‘clean out the freezer’ type week in my menu plan.

Dinners:

Salmon Patties on 40 minute rolls with tomato, sauteed onions and lemon yogurt sauce

Chicken Thighs, rolls and butter, green salad (This is specifically a ‘cook the chicken in the crockpot and throw everything on the table in 5 minutes when you get home at suppertime’ meal.)

Beef Enchiladas

Ground Beef and Veggies (for church fellowship meal)

Chicken Thighs with broccoli and seasoned rice

Taco Salad

Indian Spiced Lentils with Roasted Carrots

Lunches:

As with the last couple of weeks, I think we’ll have enough leftovers for our lunches, and if not, tuna salad to the rescue.

Breakfasts:

So, basically, the way my schedule looks for the next week or so, I’m just not going to get any special baking done. I think my husband is going to be eating even more eggs (with or without toasted 30 minute rolls) and I’ll be eating even more toast and oatmeal. Maybe I’ll throw a few smoothies into the mix.
Baking And Extras:

I only got half my projects done last week, though half isn’t bad for the list I had going (and it included some pretty good homemade ginger ale). Of what’s left, I need to make sauerkraut and zucchini candy before my ingredients start to go bad. I’d also like to start another batch of homemade soda. We’ll see…

Shopping List:

Not much in the ads this week, though there’s an interesting potential deal at Kroger, if the coupon lines up right. Kraft cheese (select varieties) is included in the ‘buy 5, get $5 off’ sale, making it $2 per package if you buy 5. My list of digital coupons available from Kroger includes this coupon:

Save $1.50 when you buy any ONE (1) KRAFT Natural Shredded (7-8 oz) or Block Cheese (5-8 oz). You may use this coupon up to 5 times in a single transaction.

As far as I can tell, the coupon should stack with the sale, making for some very cheap cheese, but it’s always a little unpredictable whether they’ll have hidden requirements or not. Could be worth trying though!

Kroger also has eggs for $1.25, pork spare ribs for $1.77/lb, grapes for $1/lb and ground chuck for $3/lb.

Aldi has a few produce sales, but nothing that seemed especially spectacular.

Cold Brew ‘Espresso’

cold brew coffee and salted caramel latte 012

 I was first introduced to the concept of cold brewed coffee by Pioneer Woman. Her recipe also sparked my thought on whether the same method would work for cold brewed tea.

As this summer started I kept thinking I should make some more cold brewed coffee, but it never made it to the top of my to do list. Then one evening my husband informed me that he wanted to make cold brewed coffee. Not on his normal list of activities, but hey, it meant we’d have cold brewed coffee.

As he dumped a LOT of ground coffee into a quart jar he explained that he’d just read about this in the Cory Doctorow book he was reading and wanted to try it. In the book it was referred to as liquid gold. Nerds like their caffeine.

Unsurprisingly, my husband’s application of the nerd rules for making coffee turned out to be amazing. The result is more like espresso than standard coffee, containing enough caffeine that 10 oz of it made my not-so-sensitive-to-caffeine husband start twitching, but so smooth that I could probably enjoy drinking it black. (And that was even made using coffee beans that we hadn’t been drinking for normal coffee because I accidentally bought a roast that was too dark for us.) Considering that my ideal cup of coffee ranges from adding LOTS of cream to a full blown froofy drink with whipped cream on top, that is a high compliment to the flavor of this cold brew.

Of course, when you have a coffee that smooth and strong it also makes a fabulous froofy coffee drink. You get all of the benefit of the creaminess and sweetness of the extra ingredients without overwhelming the coffee flavor. Let me repeat, it is fabulous. Fantabulous, even.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

I could go on for a long time explaining my philosophy of the proper use of coffee, but very fast summary is that ingesting to much of anything is bad for you, but in reasonable quantities (and as with anything else, reasonable can vary from person to person depending on tolerance), coffee is a natural substance with some minor health benefits including trace minerals.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Oh, so very yummy!

Cold Brew ‘Espresso’

1 1/3 cups of coarsely ground (french press grind) coffee

about 3 cups of cold water

Put the ground coffee into a quart jar and fill it up the rest of the way with water. You can measure the coffee if you like, or just fill up the jar about 1/3 of the way.

Put the lid on the jar and (if you like) shake briefly to make sure all the coffee is moistened. Refrigerate overnight.

Filter the coffee through a normal coffee filter (you can set the filter in a coffee cone, mesh strainer or funnel for stability) or just filter the coffee through a mesh strainer without the coffee filter.

Drink it black, with any combination of cream/milk and sweetener, or in your favorite iced coffee drink recipe. You can even put a shot of it into a mug of hot water for very smooth normal strength cup of coffee.

In the video I said several times that the coffee/’espresso’ is mild. The word I really wanted was smooth.

This post contains affiliate links.

Menu Plan 7/24/14-7/30/14

Crazy week… We had two planned social events, which both happened as scheduled PLUS we added another one last minutish and on top of that, because we were giving several people a ride to the Ultimate Frisbee pick-up game this week it ended up being a lot simpler to just grab food while were out instead of making supper.

Overall, we ate enough more processed food than I’m used to eating that my gut started complaining by the end of the weekend. The beginning of these week we got back to a more normal diet for us, plus a little extra fruit and vegetables for snacking to counterbalance the previous processed food, and my stomach very quickly got back to normal too.

We entirely skipped having salmon patties, chicken fried hamburger patties and burritos. I ended up needing a quick meal the night I’d planned on doing the BBQ chicken and sides, so I threw together a quick sloppy joe (midwestern style, with BBQ sauce) served on 40 minute rolls (made with white+wheat germ flour). The chicken then got moved to what was originally the burrito night, but I didn’t want to do another BBQ sauce meal, so I found this BBQ spice rub recipe to try on the chicken instead.

Dinners:

Social Event (possibly times 2–if so it one will replace our normal leftovers day)

Beef Enchiladas, with a sauce similar to this (this is for my husband’s birthday dinner to I’m using white flour tortillas instead of continuing my homemade tortilla experiments), with salsa, guacamole and green salad

Leftovers/Fridge Scrounging (if not replaced by social event)

Chicken Thighs (for church fellowship meal)

Chicken Fried Hamburgers, rice, gravy, garlic green beans

BLTs (I have nitrate free bacon in the freezer from when it was on sale a few weeks ago, so this will be a good way to have a quick meal before needing to leave the house while using up tomatoes I got on sale at Kroger last week)

Burritos (or taco salad, depending on the zeitgeist of the day–if I do make burritos, I will probably continue my homemade whole wheat tortilla experiments then)

Lunches:

Leftovers for most of them, tuna salad with crackers or as sandwiches if we run short on leftovers. (That will make a fish meal this week since we don’t have any salmon meals planned for dinner.)

Breakfasts:

I made refrigerator oatmeal with some bruised peaches I got for a $1/lb at the farmer’s market last week, so that will make one kind of quick breakfast. Other than that I think we’re still in our toast, eggs, smoothie type routine.

Baking and Extras:

I made a double batch of wheat germ 40 minute rolls, so if I continue to not get around to making whole wheat bread we’ll still have some kind of bread around, but I am hoping to make my normal bread (finally) early next week. I’m also making brownies for my husband’s birthday tomorrow.
I’d also really like to make a batch of sauerkraut, a new batch of kombucha, bottle my almost finished batch of tepache, make something cool with my ginger bug ferment, make a new batch of ketchup, make homemade ranch dressing and try a recipe I found for zucchini candy, but I’m not sure how much of that will actually get done.

Shopping List:

Other than quickly grabbing white flour tortillas for my husband’s birthday meal, my normal errand day is being replaced by birthday festivities, so I have no shopping list this week, but here are few good sales for the week.

Aldi:

organic grape tomatoes, $2.20/pint

organic baby carrots, $1/lb

mushrooms, .69

vidalia onions, $1/2lb

grass fed organic ground beef, $4.50/lb

Aldi also has an air popcorn popper ($15), a dehydrator ($20) and a set of flexible plastic cutting boards ($2) on sale this week.

Kroger:

cherries, $1.88/lb

sour cream, $1

ground beef, $2/lb

Also, Kroger is beginning their back to school sales, so you  might want to check into specifics if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

How to Freeze Zucchini (Two Methods)

How to Freeze Zucchini (Two Methods)

I’m not always the person who will tell you the right way to do something or how you’re supposed to cook. The world has professional chefs for that. I’m always interested in learning better methods for my cooking, but I’m not a professional chef, nor am I ever likely to start cooking in a five star restaurant.

What I can tell you is how I make cooking work in an apartment sized kitchen on a fairly strict grocery budget and with chronically low energy. I like shortcuts in my cooking. If you ask my how to freeze something, my instinct is to say “Put it in a ziploc bag and put it in the freezer.”

I frequently google “how to freeze ______” about whatever I have excess of at the moment, but what I really want to find out is “can I get away without blanching this food” or “Please tell me this is one I can just throw in the freezer and it will be fine in a year”.

My google search on zucchini turned up split results, so I’m sharing two methods with you today. I found a lot of people who are freezing grated zucchini for zucchini bread don’t blanch their zucchini, and it works perfectly fine. However the right answer seemed to be blanching the zucchini for better quality. This led me to the conclusion that grated zucchini is fine to just freeze, but sliced zucchini is probably better off blanched.

I use grated zucchini for zucchini bread and sliced zucchini for zucchini casseroles, reminiscent of lasagna, but with zucchini instead of pasta.

Method 1:

Grate zucchini. (If you have a food processor and a lot of zucchini, I recommend the food processor method of grating.)

Label quart sized bags with ‘shredded zucchini’, the date, and any other info you’ll want later, such as how much zucchini is in each bag or the average cost of each bag of zucchini based on your price paid per zucchini.

If you have a specific recipe in mind for the zucchini, measure out the amount for your recipe and put that much into each bag, otherwise just fill the bags 1/2 to 3/4 full depending on preference.

Squeeze out as much air as possible from the bad, then seal.

Freeze.

Method 2:

Boil a gallon or more of water in a large pot. I like to use my stock pot that came with a pasta insert for this sort of thing–the pasta insert makes draining the vegetables a simpler process. My pot is very similar to this, except I got it deeply discounted. This one would be a less expensive but still high quality option. (affiliate links)

Slice zucchini. (Again, if applicable, food processor is very handy here.)

Plunge zucchini into boiling water. If you have a pasta insert or steamer basket, but the zucchini into the insert first, then put the insert into the already boiling water. Otherwise, just dump the zucchini straight into the pot.

Let ‘cook’ (technically, blanch) for 3-5 minutes. You don’t actually want the zucchini to be soft or cooked when you’re done, just hot enough to kill off the enzymes that change the texture of the zucchini over time.

As the zucchini blanches, label quart sized bags (or gallon sized if you plan on making very large quantities of your selected zucchini dish) with ‘sliced zucchini’, the date, and any other info you might want when you pull it out of the freezer.

Remove the zucchini from the heat and plunge it into an ice bath. If you’re using a pasta insert here, you’ll want to carry the whole pot to the sink and remove the insert over the sink. The pasta insert or steamer basket with allow you save your boiling water for a second batch of zucchini, if desired. If you don’t have a pasta insert, just pour out the zucchini into a colander, then plunge the colander into ice water.

OR, if you take shortcuts (as I tend to do), skip the ice water and just run cold tap water over the zucchini until it’s lukewarm. (Just like you would do to stop pasta from cooking.)

Let the zucchini drain for a few minutes.

Put the zucchini into the labeled freezer bags.

Freeze.

Menu Plan and Shopping List 7/17/14-7/23/14

It was the sort of week with extra leftovers, and since we replaced our Friday pizza night with taco salad leftovers, on top of having taco salad for multiple lunches, I did several menu switches that involved NOT starting another round of taco salad leftovers, while using up other leftovers. (Since the taco salad was such a hit, I didn’t want to ruin a good thing–especially a relatively inexpensive and healthy good thing–by overuse.)

Saturday involved a spontaneous pizza type social event, so we didn’t really use many leftovers on our normal ‘use up leftovers instead of cooking’ day.

Sunday I made chicken thighs instead of ground beef stuff, because they required no prep, and we ended up being out most of the day Saturday. I was thrilled to find these chicken thighs at Costco on my last trip there. They were 79 cents a pound (cheaper than my normal ‘stock up’ price of 99 cents a pound) and NOT injected with soy broth (unlike many grocery store brands). Yay!

Instead of turkey in the pasta salad I used leftover lemon basil garlic chicken from chicken thighs. It turned out okay, and it happened to be a very convenient day for a cold ‘grab it when you need it’ supper, but in my experimentation with the dressing I accidentally made a tangy, lemony pasta salad, which was not my original intention. My husband was gone for part of that evening, so because I’m a completely mature grown up with good taste… I whipped up some healthy chocolate syrup and drank chocolate milk while watching Muppet Treasure Island. 🙂

I switched out the chicken thighs meal for a ‘chef salad’. (I have no idea what the official definition of a chef salad is, but that’s what my mother always called it when we put meat and cheese on a green salad to make a full meal out of it.) I used the turkey (frozen from last November) that I’d meant to put in the pasta salad, and with shredded cheddar cheese, craisins and ranch dressing it made a really good salad. I’m going to have to remember that combination in the future.

And tonight, instead of the taco salad meal, I’m using up a combination of leftover meats and assorted veggies in a chinese style pasta dish. If I finish this blog post quickly enough, I’ll also be making 40 minute rolls because we’re having a couple of hearty eaters over for dinner, and I have this minor obsession with making sure people have plenty of food whenever they’re at my house.

I’m throwing together this menu in less time than I normally spend on planning, so we’re having mostly our ‘standards’ and simple food that my husband will really like.

Dinners:

Social Events x 2

Salmon patties on white flour+wheat germ rolls with lemon yogurt sauce

Chicken Thighs (for church fellowship meal)

BBQ shredded chicken, hush puppies, onion rings

‘Chicken fried hamburger patties’ (something like this, though of course, not with white flour), brown rice and gravy, garlic green beans

Burritos

Lunches:

Being real here, there are two lunches I probably won’t have leftovers for, and one of them will probably end up being frozen pizza. For the other one, I’ll probably go with tuna salad and crackers with fruit or green salad.

Breakfasts:

Last week, I made waffles over the weekend, and had leftover batter to make quick waffles another time during the week. (I ate mine with strawberry chia jam and just a touch of maple syrup and it was sooo good.) I picked up some yogurt at costco, and am planning to finally get my homemade yogurt going again, so this week will probably have more smoothies, yogurt and refrigerator oatmeal along with more basic toast, fruit and eggs. I may also fry up our withering potatoes for a breakfast soon.

Baking and Extras:

I still need to make bread, though I made a batch of 30 minute rolls. I did all my other projects for the week, plus a batch of stovetop cookies. This coming week will be similar, keeping up with kombucha, starting yogurt, and possibly trying out a homemade soda recipe.

Shopping List:

I haven’t finalized my shopping list yet this week, but here are some sales highlights I noticed for the week:

Kroger:

pineapples, $1

bacon, 12 oz, $2

tomatoes, .88/lb

Plus, if you go to their website, you can get a digital coupon for $1.50 off kraft cheese, making it $1.50 for 8 oz.

Aldi:

fresh cherries, $1.50/lb

other various fruits on sale…

Also, mustards, yellow and brown, are on sale for .69 and .79, so it would be a good time to stock up for next time I run out. And, my Aldi is now carrying black beans! They’re priced at $2.50 for 2 lb.

Strawberry Chia Refrigerator/Freezer Jam

strawberry chia jam 007

 There are two things you need to know about this jam right off the bat. One, it’s not as sweet as a typical jam, so you might want to think of it as a ‘strawberry spread’ rather than a jam. Two, my sweets-loving husband liked this jam anyway.

I was intrigued by this jam from the first time I ran across the concept of chia-gelled jam, but as I began to make it, I became a little skeptical. Was it just going to taste like mushed up fruit since it wasn’t cooked down at all? Were the chia seeds going to create a weird texture, like rasberry jam on overload? Was this just going to be a colossal waste of organic strawberries?

As it turns out, that answer to all of those questions is NO. It tastes like jam, though lightly sweetened, fresh, fruity jam flavor, which I quite liked. (I did use more of this spread than I would use of jam that was higher in sugar, but since it’s mostly fruit, there’s not really a health downside to that.)  The texture is a little odd if eaten plain, but spread on bread, the chia seeds blended right in with the whole grains in the bread, and I wouldn’t have even known they were there. And, not only will we enjoy this batch, but I’m definitely going to be making chia jam in the future, and trying out new flavors.

Because there’s nothing to preserve this jam, it only lasts for about a week in the fridge, but can be frozen just fine, and should last for several months in the freezer. (This jam is not recommended for canning.)

The best part about this jam is that it’s so fast to make. Other than hulling the strawberries (see my video for the various methods of hulling I tried) it took less than ten minutes to make (still less than fifteen even counting the hulling). And it would have been less than that if I’d made it easier on my blender and smooshed down the strawberries when I put them into the blender.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Made with honey, this jam would probably edge into superfood status. As I made it, with turbinado sugar, I still consider it completely healthy, and a good way to get a little bit of chia seed into your diet.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

My husband liked it. What more can I really say about a healthy jam to prove that it tasted great?

Strawberry Chia Jam

1 lb strawberries (preferably organic), which is about 4 cups whole strawberries

1/4 cup turbinado sugar (could use 3 TBSP honey or agave instead)

3 TBSP chia seeds

1 TBSP lemon juice

Hull strawberries, if desired. Put into blender with remaining ingredients.

If your blender isn’t that great, you may want to slice the strawberries, or at least cut them in half before trying to blend them. I have a pretty good blender, (affiliate link) but not Vita Mix level, and it worked fine once I smooshed the strawberries down a bit.

Blend until completely smooth. (Unless, of course, you like your jam a bit chunky, in which case you can blend as long as you like.) I found the ‘auto smoothie’ setting on my blender to work quite well–if your blender doesn’t have this setting you can replicated it by pulsing on and off for about 15 seconds, then turning it on low speed followed by high speed for about 15 seconds each.

Pour into half pint jars, freezer bags or other container of choice. Refrigerate overnight to set the jam. Store in fridge for up to a week or in freezer for up to eight months.

Menu Plan and Shopping List 7/10/14-7/16/14

Well, it’s been another week. My husband has still only mostly gotten over the flu and I’ve continued to be varying degrees of tired. On the bright side, despite having a less energetic and ‘with it’ week than I might have hoped, I got completely caught up on dishes and did all but one of my planned baking projects. There may yet be hope for life returning to a smoother, more productive schedule…

Our meal plan for the week also went pretty well. I simplified the ‘marinated chicken and veggie shishkabobs’ to be basic stirfy with chicken, a frozen veggie blend, leftover rice and soy sauce substitute (because my husband was not feeling well, and we were having a relaxing at home kind of day instead of a cook out kind of day).

Sunday’s ground beef and veggie meal used a GIANT bunch of green onions I found at the farmer’s market (Seriously. Giant. I stuck them on the top shelf of the fridge and informed my husband that some alien onions were blotting out the sun in the fridge. The stalks hanging down past the next shelf did look quite a bit like scary tentacles…)

The taco salad and french onion soup meals were both amazing (though I really  need to add some meat to the french onion soup next time I make it–my husband and I were both hungry again around bed time after that meal.)

The chicken thighs and potato salad meal got replaced by a social event. I need to make potato salad, or something, soon though, before my potatoes wither away into nothingness.

Also, I lost a package of chicken thighs, along with some other random food in an accidental ‘left the chest freezer open’ event this weekend. (Why do I always discover these things on Sunday morning!?!) So I guess that evens out the fact that we’re skipping that planned meal… sort of…

Dinners:

Salmon fillets on white flour+wheat germ rolls with lemon yogurt sauce (Maybe I’ll finally remember to use that withering kohlrabi in the fridge to make kohlrabi fritters to go with it.)

Pizza (probably continuing adventures in new york style pizza)

Leftovers/Fridge Scrounging

Ground Beef with Mushrooms, Onions and Garlic

Turkey pasta salad (I may pick up baby carrots at Aldi as a side for this meal, or just throw in plenty of onions and mushrooms)

Chicken thighs (I need to find out kombucha is as good a marinade/glaze for chicken thighs as it is for ham), green salad and rice pudding (Rice sounded boring, soo….. 🙂 )

Taco Salad

Lunches:

Mostly leftovers, possibly some grilled cheese or tuna sandwiches if we run short on leftovers.

Breakfasts:

Fruit, toast, eggs for my husband. I’m not feeling very creative about breakfasts lately (though over the weekend, my husband made sausage gravy and I made biscuits for one breakfast). We’ll probably have leftover rice pudding for breakfasts later in the week though.

Baking and Extras:

Surprisingly enough, despite a week that was rough in some ways, I did all my baking projects but one. I still need to make bread. I’ll probably need to also make a new batch of kombucha again this week… Oh, and I have some milk that really needs to be turned into cheese if it’s not already too sour. Beyond that, any baking energy I have will be directed into fun projects, because I am way overdue to just bake some fun and interesting foods.

Shopping List:

Hyvee has eggs for 99 cents a dozen. Kroger has bananas for 39 cents a pound, blueberries for 99 cents a pint and boneless pork loin for $1.77 a pound. Most of my shopping will be at Aldi, with a quick stop at the farmer’s market to see what’s interesting this week.

Aldi:

Organic medium salsa, 4/$8

onions, 2(3lb bags)/$3

red onions, (2lb bag), $1

mushrooms 6(8oz pks)/$4.20

butter, about 4/$10

frozen veggies (peas, green beans) about 4/$4

ramen noodles (12 pk)/$2

Parmesan cheese, about $2.50

tuna, 6/$4

 

 

Whipped Peppermint Gelatin

Whipped Peppermint Gelatin

 Today’s recipe combines a couple of different concepts. One is the 1-2-3 Jello they used to sell when I was little. I was never all that fond of Jello, but make it creamy and fluffy, and I’m all in. At some point I’m going to have to try making a real food version of this recipe, which actually works on replicating 1-2-3 Jello, but today I’m just taking the concept and whipped and foamy jello and applying it to something else.

 Tea gelatin.

 Several health food bloggers have used the concept of tea gelatin as a way to trick… uh… coax family members to ingest medicinal teas. This is a great idea, but I wanted to more for the fun, flavorful, elegant side of tea gelatin.

 What I really wanted to make was a whipped chai gelatin, but sadly, I haven’t remembered to order more of the best rooibos chai ever, so I decided to go for a simpler and lighter peppermint tea gelatin.

 The beauty of this whipped peppermint gelatin is that it’s equally good on the medicinal side of things (can you imagine anything better to eat when you’re recovering from the stomach flu?) and the elegant side of things (I’m seeing a garden party with individual servings of whipped peppermint gelatin in tea cups being nibbled on by ladies with unreasonably fluffy and lacy sleeves… err, the gelatin is being nibbled on, that is, not the tea cups).

 If you do want to use this in an elegant setting, make sure you pour the gelatin into individual goblets, or bowls, or tea cups, or something, as it is unreasonably hard to make it look elegant again after scooping it out of a large serving bowl. (Ask me how many pictures I had to take to get one for this post that didn’t look like a mutant cauliflower brain…)

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

 The exact benefits will vary depending on which tea (and sweetener) you choose to use, but most herbal teas are going to have good general health benefits. (Peppermint, for instance, is soothing, calms an upset stomach, eases headaches, and can act as a decongestant.)

 The gelatin itself is much lauded for many health benefits including improving digestion and healing leaky gut, improving skin health, helping the body to regulate insulin and other hormones, detoxing the liver, building bone and muscle mass, supporting joint health, raising metabolism and supporting the adrenal system. (If even half of that is true, I think I need a lot more gelatin in my diet!) Many people suggest using only gelatin from grass fed beef–the gelatin I personally use is bulk gelatin from Azure Standard, which generally responsibly sources their products, but I have no information about the source of the gelatin specifically.

 And as for sweetener, you can adjust the amount to taste (as written, the recipe makes a fairly sweet dessert, half as much would probably be adequate for a lightly sweetened dessert or snack) and choose whatever level of healthiness you’re comfortable with in a sweetener. I generally use turbinado sugar, as I find it to be a good compromise between healthy sweetener and reasonable price (compared to say, honey, which is a superfood, and quite expensive for good quality).

Whipped Peppermint Gelatin

1 TBSP gelatin (or one packet)

1/4 cup cold water

2 cups boiling water

2 peppermint tea bags OR 1 TBSP loose dried peppermint leaves

1/2 cup turbinado sugar OR 1/3 cup honey

Pour 1/4 cup cold water into a medium size mixing bowl (in needs to hold at least 1 quart). Sprinkle gelatin slowly across the top of the water, then stir the gelatin in, making sure to squish any lumps.

In another bowl, dissolve sugar or honey in boiling water. Add tea. Steep the tea for 5 minutes while the gelatin ‘blooms’.

Pour the tea mixture (through a mesh strainer if using loose leaf tea–I use this one and love it)(affiliate link) into the bowl with the gelatin. Whisk until gelatin is completely dissolved.

Refrigerate for two hours, or until the gelatin is soft set. It should still move and threaten to spill when the bowl is tipped, but more as one big blob than as liquid would.

Pour the gelatin into a blender and blend on low or medium speed until the whole mixture is frothy and roughly doubled in volume. (This only took a few seconds with my blender.)

Return the gelatin mixture to the bowl, or pour into individual serving containers. Refrigerate for at least two more hours, or overnight.

Serve without mentioning that your elegant whipped peppermint gelatin dessert took you less than ten minutes of work to make.

Possible Variations:

Chai: Instead of peppermint tea, use chai tea and add 1/2 cup of milk when you froth it in the blender.

Fruit: Instead of tea, boil fruit juice of choice and proceed with the recipe. Cut sweetener in half, or leave it out altogether.

Lemon/Lime: Instead of tea use 1 1/2 cups boiling water and 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice, or a mixture of the two.

(Added 7/4/14)

Chocolate (inspired by this recipe): Instead of boiling water, use hot (not boiling) milk. Whisk in 1/4 cup cocoa powder. Leave out the tea.

Menu Plan and Shopping List 7/3/14-7/9/14

Despite it being an odd week, with a couple of days off for sickness, or at least sort of days off for sickness, I still stuck to part of my menu plan. (Some weeks you just have to take whatever part of a win you can manage.) We skipped our scheduled social events because of contagiousness and not feeling great, and Colton ran out to pick up some easy food in case I got more sick (surprisingly enough, I never did get very sick, but it was still nice to have some quick food around while I was feeling tired and draggy).

Thursday evening I made hamburgers. (I really like keeping Aldi’s hamburger patties in the freezer for a quick and easy non-processed food meal. They’re the same price as buying a roll of ground beef at Aldi, have no indredients other than beef, and don’t need to be defrosted before cooking.) Friday evening we had frozen pizza and finished off the lettuce we had in the fridge. Saturday (since we were short on leftovers) I made a pasta dish using this basic recipe, but tweaking the seasonings and adding cheese. It made a really good, rich cheesy garlic pasta, which I served with a frozen veggie medley for an easy side.

I didn’t get beans soaked to make baked beans for Sunday, so I made a roasted beet salad instead. I had a number ten can of diced beets which I dry roasted in the oven, along with some onion quarters and garlic (the onion and garlic I wrapped in foil, but also roasted without oil). I mixed together all the roasted veggies, added some salt, olive oil and apple cider vinegar, and had an allergy friendly GAPS diet legal side dish for fellowship meal that even my husband thought tasted pretty good.

Monday my menu plan came back into play, and the baked potatoes with ham gravy (made from scraps and drippings from the ham I took to fellowship dinner a couple weeks ago, frozen until I needed them) were a very satisfying meal. I served them with frozen peas, which went so nicely, my husband actually mixed the peas with his ham gravy on top of his potato.

Tuesday I made burritos, including coming the closest I ever have to making good 100% whole wheat tortillas! This recipe is definitely a keeper, as the flavor was good, and the tortillas were flexible enough to wrap, but they were still rather fragile. Next time I’m going to try making the dough in the food processor and see if I can get a better result with more developed gluten. As a bonus, I made a very large pot of beans that turned out quite well, so I have two bags of almost perfectly cooked pinto beans in my freezer. Yay!

And, for this evening, I’m simplifying my original plan and using storebought white pasta with a spaghetti type sauce.  (I’m still planning to throw what’s left of the roasted beet salad into the sauce though, so extra veggies, despite the white flour.)

I’d really like to do some serious freezer cooking this month, but I don’t think I’m going to get a full plan for that done today. Because there are some good sales this week though, I may just buy ahead some basic ingredients for when I get to planning a freezer cooking session.

Dinners:

Burritos (from leftover burritos fillings, but probably with store bought tortillas, because the homemade ones are not quite reliable enough for an ‘in the car’ meal yet)

Marinated chicken thighs (boneless, skinless) and veggie shishkabobs (choice of veggies depends on what I find at the farmer’s market, and/or on sale at the store)

Leftovers/Fridge Scrounging

Ground Beef and Veggies (Preference to broccoli, but might use green beans, kale, or something completely different, again depending on the selection I find when shopping)

Taco Salad (with pinto beans, ground beef, organic Costco tortilla chips, cheese and homemade french dressing)

Chicken thighs, potato salad, and a veggie or fruit (Either another ‘whatever I like at the farmer’s market, or cleaning out some fruit I froze and didn’t use over the winter–probably in the form of fried apples in that case)

French Onion Soup (I just found some pork neckbones in the freezer, so I can make this soup again! I made it while my husband was out of town a few weeks ago, and it was so good, I decided he might actually like it, despite the fact that ‘soup  made from onions’ did not sound amazing to him when I first brought it up.)

Lunches:

The usual leftovers, of which I suspect we will have plenty, supplemented by side salads as needed. If we do run short on leftovers, I suspect the ‘open a can of tuna’ plan will be my best bet this week.

Breakfasts:

We’ve been doing a lot of toast this past week, including peanut butter honey toast and honey cinnamon toast. I plan to do fried potatoes at least once from the leftover baked potatoes, and may make up a quick batch of biscuits to go with leftover ham gravy one morning. Possibly some smoothies, or just supplementing other breakfasts with fruit, as I can’t resist fresh cherries when the season hits, and I’ll likely buy some other fruits this week as well.

Baking and Extras:

Well, we’re out of ketchup, so I really need to make some of that, especially before making fried potatoes. I should at least make a batch of these 40 minute rolls (with white+wheat germ flour), and if I can, a batch of bread also. I’m also considering getting organic strawberries to try out this chia jam recipe, which has intrigued me for a long time. Oh, and make a new batch of kombucha before the current one turns to vinegar. Sound like enough projects for one week to you?

Shopping List:

Surprisingly, I found the Aldi ad had little to offer this week that wasn’t available as cheap (or cheaper!) somewhere else. Hyvee has a tempting sale on butter at $2 a pound, and Schnucks has pork butt roast (whole or sliced) for $1.39 a pound. I may end up hitting one or both of those sales, but the main part of my shopping will be at Kroger this week (plus, of course, the farmer’s market).

Farmer’s Market:

at least two bunches/head of lettuce (If it’s available, that amazing butter lettuce I got last time!)

various veggies for shishkabobs, beef with veggies for church meal and one side

Kroger:

bananas, about 4lb/$2

organic kale (if I can’t find what I need at the farmer’s market), $1.50

organic strawberries, $3 (still deciding if these are officially on the list or not)

cherries, 3lb/$5.60

ground beef 9lb/$18

eggs, about 2/$4

sour cream, 4/$4