Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lentil sloppy joes

Okay, I've been promising this recipe for over a week now. Yikes! I know I've said this before, but I really don't know where the time goes. Anyway, these were extremely successful. My meat-loving husband thought they were a great substitute for ground beef sloppy joes and they were SO much cheaper. I don't have a picture of the final product, but here is the recipe I started with (taken from vegweb):

1 cup lentils
2 cup water
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoon green pepper flakes*
2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon dry minced garlic (the kind in the spice section)
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 - 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 1/4 cups water


1) Rinse and pick through lentils. Add two cups water to pan with lentils and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 55 minutes until tender, but not mushy.

2) For the sauce, combine the minced onion, salt, sugar, dry mustard, chili powder, green pepper flakes, cornstarch, minced garlic, celery seeds. Combine well and set aside.

3) When lentils are done, add the tomato paste and water. Stir in the sauce seasoning. Combine well and heat through.

Serve on whole wheat buns or over brown rice.

My lentils did not take 55 minutes, but more like a half hour. If you check them periodically, just cook them to the desired tenderness. I dumped the extra water from boiling the lentils and the lentils in the pan with my onion and garlic. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to use the dried minced onion, but I ended up dicing half of a fresh onion. I sauteed it with some fresh garlic in a little bit of olive oil (which also means I didn't use the dried garlic called for). I subbed Sucanat in place of the sugar and probably used half the amount. I used about 3/4 tsp chili powder, chopped up half of a green pepper for the green pepper flakes, and maybe a 1/2 tsp of celery salt for the celery seeds. I didn't add any cornstarch. I only used enough water to create the thickness of sauce that I desired.

I found that I needed to play with the flavors a bit because it was too tomato paste-y flavored for me. I added some Italian seasoning, some cayenne pepper, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. I still wasn't 100% happy with the finished product, but once we put the mixture on the buns and sprinkled a little reduced fat cheese on the top they were very tasty. They were also better the next day!

I like to let you know approximately how much these recipes will cost per serving. I have to approximate the cost of spices and such, which gets a little sticky, but I figure that a safe estimate would be that this recipe (the entire thing, including homemade rolls) cost around $6. We got between 6 and 8 servings out of it, so that is $1/serving or less! I love yummy, cheap, and healthy recipes. Try this one out and see what you think! If you find any super tasty additions to the recipe, let me know that too! ;) Happy cooking!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Let me start off by saying I have NO idea where last week went. I promised to put up the lentil sloppy joe recipe and the week got away from me. Sorry about that! I will get it up this week at some point. Hopefully tomorrow. I was fortunate enough to do some batch cooking and get some things in the freezer so I will have to do minimal cooking this week. We did have another CSA pick-up, so I have to stir fry a bunch of greens and get them in the freezer as well. Those will make good additions to a few things I have in there already. Anyway, I is this week's menu plan:

Monday - Leftover veggie curry over rice
Tuesday - Chicken quesadillas (I really should post this recipe too. It's a great freezer meal and cheap!)
Wednesday - Sweet Pepper Pasta Toss with Kale (I had this on my menu last week. I made it, but it was tossed in the freezer for a later date.)
Thursday - Black bean and chard burritos (an adaptation from this recipe)
Friday - Homemade pizza with homemade sauce
Saturday - Chicken and greens stir fry
Sunday - Beef roast in the crockpot with baked potato wedges

Breakfasts will be granola bars, pancakes, waffles, muffins, bagels, eggs, and cereal. Lunches will consist of leftovers, sandwiches, and smoothies.

I plan to make another batch of granola this week, along with some granola bars, bagels, tortillas, and coconut milk yogurt. To get more menu ideas, visit or Mindful Menus. Have a great week!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Kind of a late posting for me today. This week we will have a number of vegetarian meals since we received a lot of greens from our CSA pick-up on Friday. I'm really excited to try some new recipes and I'll have to post them (and my likely variations) if they come out well. Here's the plan:

Monday - Leftover lentil sloppy joes (I am going to post this recipe along with my additions either later today or tomorrow. They were so good, easy and very inexpensive to make. Stay tuned!)
Tuesday - Hamburgers on the grill with homemade rolls
Wednesday - Sweet Pepper Pasta Toss with Kale or Kale Puttanesca
Thursday - Black beans over cornbread
Friday - Some cooking on the grill...not sure what we'll get for meat from the farm. We're going to play this night by ear....
Saturday - Swiss Chard with Pinto Beans and Goat Cheese over brown Basmati rice
Sunday - Chicken chili

Breakfasts will be homemade granola, waffles, bagels, or pumpkin muffins
Lunches will be leftovers, PB&J, wraps with hummus and veggies, or smoothies

To get more menu ideas, check out the hundreds of meal plans over at Orgjunkie.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Why I love getting things second hand

The last couple of weeks have been filled with buying things that we have put off buying for the house, but we bought nothing brand new. We received a fair amount back from our taxes and were trying to figure out which item was more needed -- furniture for the den, which was basically empty except for J's toys OR a kitchen table. The kitchen table is a very nice antique, drop leaf table that my husband got from his grandfather. However, if J pulled hard enough, those leaves would crash in a second...along with whatever was on top of them onto poor little J's head. Problem was that a brand new table with 6 chairs would have easily cost us $1000. Our tax return money would have covered it, but I have a REALLY hard time parting with that kind of money.

I decided to check Craigslist. I had never bought anything on Craigslist before, but I figured we might luck out. And we did! Within two weeks, I found an almost brand new sectional, chair and ottoman as well as a lightly used kitchen table with 6 chairs AND a matching hutch. We didn't need the hutch and I asked the woman selling it if we could separate the table set and hutch. She said no. But, we re-purposed the hutch into a TV stand (which we were looking at getting on Craiglist separately), since the bottom and top of the hutch came as two separate pieces. All of these items were purchased within our tax return budget and actually were less combined than one brand new piece of furniture would have been. Not only did we save money and come in under budget, but we bought used items which supports my goal to reduce, reuse and recycle (or upcycle) as much as possible. I have sort of adopted the Compact, which you can read about here. I have modified it a bit to suit our family, but I am trying to follow the concepts for the most part.

This is what our purchases resulted in (excuse the mess and absence of a real floor):
We also needed to get J a new wardrobe for summer. As J has gotten older, she's fallen in love with dirt. If she gets outside during the day, it is guaranteed that she will need a new outfit and possibly a bath afterward. J received a gift last year of onesies and a summer outfit from an old patient of mine and luckily that patient bought the items too large. They are perfect for this year! We went to our local consignment shop to see if we could find a few more items. We found four summer dresses, a shorts outfit, a tennis skirt outfit, a sweater to serve as J's new jacket, a pair of pants, a skirt, a shirt and a remote control Thomas the Train for around $30! Score! The only things J still needs are some long sleeved onesies (for cold nights and when we go up to the Adirondacks on vaca), a bathing suit and a new pair of sneakers. I'm going back and forth about the bathing suit because I feel like she can still get away with just a diaper, but we'll see.

I am a BIG proponent of buying second hand. Not only do you normally spend less, but you reduce our impact at the same time. Now do you think we can find some hardwood floors used somewhere (refer to the above pics and notice we have only a subfloor in the living space where we placed the sectional)? ;)

Menu Plan Monday

My husband was able to get to the Farmer's Market yesterday, so we are stocked up on some grass fed meats again. What we have currently should last us through at least 3 weeks or so. Here's the menu for the week:

Monday - Homemade pizza with homemade sauce (I only use the sauce recipe...I have a different dough recipe that I like better than the one at this link)
Tuesday - Chicken quesadillas (a carry-over from last week)
Wednesday - Lentil sloppy joes...I am SUPER excited to try these out
Thursday - Black bean soup
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - Hamburgers on the grill with homemade buns
Sunday - We get our first CSA delivery this week, so what's in that will determine what we have for dinner!

For more menu plans, visit orgunkie or Mindful Menus.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Super frugal dinner

As I mentioned, we didn't get to the Farmer's Market last week, which meant our meat supply was almost non-existent. This made for a very light-on-the-meat kind of week for dinners. Surprisingly, I didn't hear one complaint about it from my hubby, who is a huge meat lover and used to feel that dinner was not complete without meat. I decided to attempt falafel for dinner, which I had done once before a couple of years ago and neither one of us liked it. This time, I made the pitas, falafel and tzatziki sauce from scratch. It came out delicious...even my hubby liked it (but told me not to tell him what the ingredients were so he would actually eat it). The links above lead to the recipes that I used.

Now, don't let me fool you into thinking that this dinner took me a half an hour to prepare. It probably was more like 1 1/2 hours, but much of that time was waiting for pita bread to mix, rise or bake or for the falafel to cook in the pan. It cost me very little money (I estimated it to be around $6 for all three components) and while it was slightly time intensive, it gave us enough food for three dinners.

I used all whole wheat flour for the pita bread, along with 1 tsp gluten added for each cup of flour. The pitas came out great! Just made sure you don't roll the dough too thin, otherwise the pockets won't form and you'll end up with a dud like this one.
I had a couple of those, but most looked like these.
I had a happy customer, who liked hers with almond butter.
I actually used the falafel recipe above, but cooked it more like this recipe. I dumped the first seven ingredients, up to the baking powder, in my food processor and blended them until the chickpeas were well chopped. Then I dumped the mixture into a bowl and added the breadcrumbs (whole wheat) along with the rest of the ingredients. I ended up adding an egg white and a little bit of water so the mixture would stick together into patties. Then I placed the patties in a large skillet with a little bit of olive oil (probably 1 tbsp or so) and cooked them until they were brown on each side and warmed through, about 8-10 minutes total.

For the tzatziki sauce, I just dumped all the ingredients in the food processor and blended until smooth. I used Greek yogurt (low fat), so I didn't have to strain the yogurt through cheesecloth. I failed to squeeze the excess liquid out of the cucumber, so I ended up with a little bit thinner sauce than I would have liked. For the next night, I strained the sauce through a strainer lined with coffee filters. This resulted in more of a spread. Probably somewhere in the middle of the two would have been best, but it was still tasty.

So, there you go! Frugal, healthy, and easy (but not necessarily fast). About $1/serving...much cheaper than you can get falafel for if you were to go to The Pita Spot. Hope you'll try it!

Food Waste Friday

This week I wasted about a 1/2 cup of hummus (notice I didn't say "we" hubby hates hummus!). I had made a ton with some leftover chickpeas and I ate most of it, but I forgot about it for a couple of days. When I went to make a sandwich with it on Tuesday, it had an unpleasant stench. I made some more hummus yesterday, but it was a much smaller quantity. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to eat it before IT goes bad. :)

I'll be posting later today about my super frugal (and easy) falafel dinner that I made at the beginning of the week. Stay tuned!

To see more about food waste (and some techniques on how to prevent it), head to Frugal Girl.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

The start of another week. J was really sick over the weekend, so we weren't able to get to the farmer's market. Since we buy most of our meat at the farmer's market after switching to only sustainable meat, we didn't get any meat this week. Therefore this week's menu is light on the meat, but that's really okay. We can make yummy food without it. I have been able to, fairly successfully, make dinners that are hearty enough that my hubby doesn't miss the meat too much. Eating non-meat protein sources has enabled us to cut down our grocery bill and that's been lovely! :) Anyway, here's my meal plan for the week:

Monday - Falafel (this got pushed from last week)
Tuesday - Chicken quesadillas (from the freezer)
Wednesday - Egg sandwiches on homemade bagels
Thursday - A healthy, revamped pasta carbonara
Friday - Pizza
Saturday - Lentil soup
Sunday - Leftovers

To get some more ideas for menu plans, visit or Mindful Menus.