Do you ever get overwhelmed when you buy an ingredient because you know you could make a number of scrumptious dishes from it but can’t decide which ones to try? You don’t know which way to turn and you can’t purchase a large quantity (sometimes) of this thing because of budget issues and the fact that it could “go bad,” then you have wasted this beautiful thing. That sums up my Thursdays-there’s anxiety and yet a wonderful feeling at the same time- which is grocery list day. I take time out to focus on what we need and what I would like to make for the following week. I plan for a few weekend meals, snack meals (like cheese and crackers with fruit) and 5 weekday dishes for less than $100 and without wasting any ingredient.
I plan for 6 days of cooking and to keep my sanity, a day to dine out. Going to the store several times a week to purchase groceries doesn’t work for me. That often results in spending over our budget so I leave it for the weekend, making it a grand event.
I love grocery shopping…not exactly the crowds and often rude people but the fact that so many great products are out there to try. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that one ingredient you’ve never had and it changes your life. (I had this with chipotles in adobo and Sriracha.) That might sound silly to some but that’s how I feel and I guess that’s part of why I started a food blog.
Many people resort to picking out the same exact things every week but even changing the type of potato you pick can be exciting, in my mind, and can lead to more adventurous purchases. When you get into the habit of buying the same things, grocery shopping isn’t a positive experience (and it probably doesn’t help if you have kids asking for this and that or ramming the cart into your ankles or dropping cans on your toes…that happened to my mom and my sister used to ram the cart into my heel so I get it) but it can be an opportunity to teach your kids or take time for yourself.
I revel in the thought that whatever kind of week I’ve had, that I can manage what we eat and feel like I accomplished something by staying within our budget. Sometimes I tell Greg how little a dish cost to make and provide him the calorie content or, since I sometimes do the Weight Watchers points, I tell him the point value. He gets it.
When I was young, my family used to go out together on Friday nights. We’d make it a family event by eating out and if we were well-behaved, we got to pick out a candy or other treat. I remember doing this up to my teenage years. After college, I began going with my mom and sisters, often involving dining out. I miss those Fridays.
Greg and I follow that tradition on either Friday or Saturday. Instead of eating out though, we make something together and only go out occasionally. Come Friday, I am ready to be out of the kitchen. Know what I mean? Then, I become reinvigorated Saturday mornings, when our cooking shows are on Twin Cities Public Television (TPT), and wind up cooking something out of inspiration from the shows for lunch or what we call linner/lupper or dunch/sunch (around 2 or 3). When it’s warm out, we venture to the arboretum, sometimes with a picnic fare, to walk along the 4.5 mile trails and wind down with a mixed drink, wine or beer in the evening alongside a nice dinner. With camping season upon us, we also walk around (with my camera) on the trails at the camp site and make something tasty in our cast iron Dutch oven and/or skillet over the fire.
If you were to stop by the campfire, you might find this next recipe: grape crumble. This would be easy to make in the cast iron skillet and if you have a cooler with ice, bring along some ice cream. A friend/professor once had us over and served grapes with ice cream and it was surprisingly a delicious combination. I made this in the oven since it’s too cold for my kind of camping but very soon that will change.
4 cups of purple grapes, smashed to release some juice
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp water
2 tsp cornstarch
1 ½ cups oats
6 tbsp brown sugar
a few pinches of cinnamon
a pinch of salt
8 tbsp butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 400. Place the grapes, sugar, water and cornstarch in an ovenproof skillet or pan and cook over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, until the grapes begin to soften. Mix all of the ingredients for the topping, crumbling with your fingers. In the cast iron skillet, sprinkle the topping over the softened grapes and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. If cooking over a fire, top the skillet with foil and simmer for the same amount of time, 15 to 20 minutes (as long as your fire is nice and hot), again until oozing and the topping is golden brown. Add ice cream to the side, it goes well with grapes.