Archive | Food Shopping RSS feed for this section

Food Shopping: Number 1 Sons Kimchi, Kraut & More

16 Apr

photo-3

Ever tried Korean kimchi before? Kimchi is a spicy, pickled, hot-as-all-heck mixture of fermented (read: pickled au naturel) cabbage that’s frequently a garnish, condiment and all-around addition to Korean cuisine.

It’s also delicious.

Which is why, when I ran into the Number 1 Sons booth at this past Saturday’s Silver Spring Farmer’s Market, I stopped, tasted, and purchased some kimchi-licious goodies.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Food Shopping: World Market & Williams Sonoma

8 Feb

feb2013 007

Time for another food-venture in shopping! This weekend, to prepare for a Mardi Gras-fest with some DC friends (details and Jambalaya recipe pending!), I ventured to the foreign land of Friendship Heights — which really does sound like a foreign land — to hit up two favorites. First, World Market supposedly had a killer collection of Mardi Gras goodies. Secondly, Williams-Sonoma is always worth a perusal.

And, thankfully, I took my camera! Here’s a fun round-up of what I found at both stores. Let’s laissez les bons temps roulez at two fun chef-friendly outposts.

Continue reading

Kitchen Tips and Budget Eats: Making a Menu and Using a Grocery List

6 Oct

Image sourced from themetapicture.com

This weekend, I — like many of you — will be heading to that mecca of munchies, that forum of food, that headquarters of hunger-quenching, the grocery store. (Did you like that one? I did, too. Hehe.) And while I love to head to my local Giant Grocery to stock my kitchen, pantry and fridge, I don’t love a recent trend: the steady, upward crawl of grocery prices.

Have you noticed this, too? Due to circumstances like the recent Midwestern drought, increased costs of shipping and/or production, and that pesky little inflation thing, food costs are continuing to rise in the U.S. (Granted, they’re still often lower than costs elsewhere in the world — Europe, I’m looking at you — but for us American consumers, it’s still noticeable.) Less rain = fewer harvested veggies = animal feed becomes more expensive = meat & dairy, inevitably, become more expensive. All this adds up to a bigger and bigger impact on your wallet every time you step through that produce section or frozen foods aisle.

Keep reading

Budget Eats: Doctoring Store-Bought Ingredients

25 Sep

In the spirit of Sandra “Semi-Homemade” Lee, this “Budget Eats” entry focuses on taking things you can easily find in a grocery store (dry mixes, spice packs, sauces, and even pre-cooked meat products like chicken sausage) and turning them into something totally dynamite. Can you do it? Can it be done on a budget? Heck yes.

I’ve constructed this post with 3 categories: Mixes & doughs, meat products, and sauces. Each has its own tips and ideas for how to use those products in a pinch for dinners, desserts, snacks & more. Please (seriously!) feel free to leave comments with other ideas — this is a place to share what we’ve all learned, especially the shortcuts that keep us sane on a hungry weeknight!

MIXES & DOUGHS:

  • Take a standard mix — Bisquick, Jiffy mixes, etc — and play around with their use. Bisquick, in a pinch, is a killer ingredient in a single-breaded or double-breaded chicken dinner. And Jiffy mix? Jiffy is a whole nother ballgame of multipurpose cooking. My favorite use for Jiffy mix is Savory Corn Muffins — Prepare Jiffy mix as noted on box; add garlic powder, frozen corn kernels (up to 3/4 cup), chopped fresh chives & freshly grated black pepper; bake as usual and serve with chili, tacos or other Tex-Mex cuisine. See the above picture, or this one:

  • Biscuit dough — like Pillsbury Grands — is incredibly versatile. For example, you can make Easy-Peasy Cinnamon Donuts with a tube of Grands biscuits: Separate and lay biscuits out on a baking sheet; Using a shot glass or medicine cup, cut circles out of the center of each biscuit; either bake as directed or deep-fry in vegetable oil until browned; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. NOM NOM! Here’s a great recipe (with actual measurements) from Make and Takes.

Image sourced from Makeandtakes.com. Amazing, right? And so easy!

  • Pizza dough — either Pillsbury or a store brand — can be used for its obvious purpose (pizza, kiddies), or for calzones, strombolis, or even mini-pizzas. Or, try these Holiday Hors d’OeuvresCut the pizza dough into 1″ X 1″ squares; top with pesto, chopped roasted red peppers, and feta cheese crumbles; bake as directed for pizza dough. (These also make a great light supper.)
  • Got Spice Cake Mix and a jar of pumpkin? (Of course you do, lovely GKG readers — you wouldn’t go anywhere without your trusty can of pumpkin!) Combine the two, bake according to the cake mix package’s directions, and poof. Instant Pumpkin Cupcakes. Top with store-bought cream cheese frosting with a splash of maple syrup mixed in, and WOWZA.

MEAT PRODUCTS:

Image sourced from baltimorecrab.com. This may or may not currently be in my freezer …

  • Those bags of frozen Tilapia filets? Seriously your best friend. Use them to create Single Serving Foil Packs — stuff a packet of tinfoil with Tilapia, a splash of cooking liquid (broth, oil, butter or white wine), sliced veggies & spices to your liking; bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until fish and veggies are cooked through. Win! This method also works for chicken and beef equally well.
  • Got frozen chicken nuggets? How about turning them into Chicken Parm Bites? Top individual nuggets with tomato sauce and dried basil, baking according to package directions; then, add shredded mozzarella cheese on each nugget and return to the oven for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, bubbly and brown. Mmm!

Image sourced from seriouseats.com. So much tasty!

  • Pre-cooked chicken sausage is incredibly versatile. Use brands like Al Fresco to whip up a Healthy Pita Pizza: Top individual Greek-style pitas with pesto or tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, sliced chicken sausage, and shredded kale (thawed and formerly frozen is great!); Broil for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and sausage is heated through. Mmm!

SAUCES

The players in Operation: Sauce Doctoring — fresh or dried herbs work well here.

  • Got jarred tomato sauce? Doctor up that boring blend with a few extras that you may have hiding in your pantry or spice cabinet: dried basil, dried oregano, dried parsley and a bay leaf. Add sauteed chopped mushrooms and peppers to create an instant Cacciatore sauce for chicken and spaghetti. Or, stir a little store-bought pesto into a jarred tomato sauce. Serious good eats. (I even used this method on my chicken parm! Shhh. Don’t tell the aunts and grandparents! 🙂
  • I’m counting mayonnaise as a “sauce” here, because it’s one of the most versatile condiments on the planet. Add some Sriracha for Spicy Mayo; stir in some pesto for a dee-licious Pesto Mayo on your panini; or crushed cloves of garlic (use a sprinkle of salt and a fork to turn garlic into a mushy, incredible paste) and a drizzle of olive oil to DIY your own aioli. Mmmskies.
  • If we count cake frosting as a “sauce,” too, then your possibilities are pretty much endless. As I mentioned above, add a drizzle of maple syrup (and a dash or two of cinnamon) to frost fall desserts. Or, try stirring mashed strawberries or raspberries into a whipped vanilla frosting for a light, fruity flavor to top your cakes and cupcakes. I’m also experimenting with adding — you guessed it, lovelies — some jarred pumpkin. I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out.

Here’s to getting creative! Using some pre-made, store-bought ingredients can save you time, energy and money. Wallet-friendly and fun? Sign me up! What are your favorite ways to add to what you’ve already found at the grocery store?

Food Shopping: My Hipster Farmers Markets Are Less Mainstream than YOUR Hipster Farmers Markets

1 Sep

Public artwork in Mount Pleasant. Love!

Disclaimer: I am far too mainstream to be any sort of legitimate hipster. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

2nd Disclaimer: Today I am consumed with college football. These photographs were taken last weekend. Can’t say I was at a farmers market while Notre Dame was playing Navy at 9am this morning. I was, however, at the only open watering hole in the DC metropolitan area. #Breakfastofchampions.

It’s been a while since I wrote a farmers market post, and after my recent venture to the Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant farmers markets here in DC, I felt inspired by seasonal goods and local vendors. Both markets are within a mile or so of each other in Northwest DC, easily accessible on the Yellow and Green Metro lines (Get off at Columbia Heights to hit up the CoHi market on 14th, then walk less than a mile due west to Mount Pleasant’s Lamont Square). Win!

For more information about both markets, hit up this site for Columbia Heights, and this one for Mt. Pleasant.

We’re now in that delicious late summer phase, when some of the summer’s best seasonal veggies are making their debuts (or singing their swan songs) at farmers markets. First, I found …

So many watermelons, so little time.

…watermelons! So beautiful and in-season, watermelons can be used in more versatile ways than just slicing up a wedge for a summer night’s dessert. Try topping a tomato-based gazpacho in diced watermelon for a sweet crunch to balance the soup’s tangy flavor, or dare to be … daring with this excellent Watermelon Feta Salad recipe from the folks at PBS. 

Next, I spotted these beautiful heirloom tomatoes.

Is it weird if I visualized one of these bad boys as Bob the Tomato from Veggie Tales?

While heirlooms can be a bit pricey, their flavor is unmatched and so unique from tomato to tomato. (Tomato, to-mah-to, to-tasty…) I recommend slicing them, salting them lightly, and adding to a grilled cheese sandwich with something distinct and flavorful — say, shredded Gruyere or a slice of soft, lovely Fontina? They’re also phenomenal in salads — try this lovely-looking take on a Panzanella (read: best use for stale bread aside from French Toast EVER) Caprese salad from Bites Out Of Life, using diced or sliced heirlooms.

After that, I spotted these lovely little pints of raspberries. They looked fresh and juicy, ripe (heh heh, puns … oif.) for the taking.

Raspberries have about a million excellent uses in various recipes — top your morning yogurt and granola with raspberries and a drizzle of honey for a tart-sweet topping, or stir them into warm oatmeal with a drizzle of maple syrup for a pink-tinted breakfast treat. For a surprising twist, try this savory raspberry sauce with garlic, chicken stock and even jalapenos (!) over pork chops. Thanks to Amy’s Cooking Adventures for such a killer recipe.

I also discovered — hurrah! — some great-looking oyster mushrooms.

Yup, photobombed by a pint of tomatoes.

Oyster mushrooms impart a savory flavor to any dish, such as a stir-fry (add them towards the end — they’ll cook very quickly) or a rice bowl (cooked brown rice + sauteed mushrooms + 1/2 cup chicken broth + soy sauce + chopped green onions and sesame seeds = MMM). They’re best in the fall, and will likely keep showing up at your local farmers market for weeks to come. Here’s a slide show of recipes using oyster mushrooms from Martha Stewart, including a divine-looking Mushroom Soup.

Lastly, I spotted these plums at a great price, which is clutch when they’re in their peak late-summer season.

Oh yeah. Look at those bad boys.

Plums might be one of my top 3 favorite fruits, which is saying a lot for this fruit-and-veggie-loving gal. Try them in my Skillet Upside-Down Cake for a lovely dessert, or if you’re in more of a savory mood, this decadent Chanterelle, Bacon, and Plum Salad with Blue Cheese from Jaden Hair at Steamy Kitchen. Wow!

That’s all for this farmers market roundup. Get excited for fall produce! I’m seeing lots of dark greens in your future …

Budget Eats: Scrambled Eggs Master Recipe with 3 Variations

27 Aug

You WILL make this! Scrambled Egg Fried Rice? Mmm!

One of my best friends from college is starting a new graduate program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. (Shout-out to Laura, the woman who first introduced me to the wonders of kimchi. You are amazing – miss you so much!) She and I were chatting recently about the big move – how a Minnesota girl like her was going to adapt to a slower, Southern pace of life in Tennessee.

As we were chatting, she posed a question to me and to my blog: How can a grad student – or, really, any young professional who’s just starting out on a somewhat limited budget – afford to feed herself semi-nutritious food, using some prepared items (frozen foodstuffs, canned and dried goods, etc.) and some fresh ingredients? Are there tasty, filling recipes that suit this kind of budget and lifestyle? What’s a food-loving girl to do?

Determined to rise to the challenge, I’ve started writing and testing a Budget Meals series. I’ll post meal ideas with average pricing based on my market research, including tips for stretching a dollar, basic nutrition advice (hey, a girl’s gotta get those vitamins) and ideas for multipurpose cooking. (I.e. how can I creatively twist one recipe into 3 or 4 different dishes?)

Today’s topic: Scrambled Eggs, an easy master recipe that we’ll be converting into 3 different budget meals: Egg Panini, DIY Fried Rice, and Breakfast Burritos. How yummy does that sound?

Grocery List (prices according to Peapod.com)

  • 1 dozen eggs –  $1.93
  • 1 quart skim milk – $1.49
  • 1 loaf of wheat bread – $2.50
  • 1 pkg tortillas – $2.09
  • 1 pkg sliced deli cheese – $3.59
  • 1 jar salsa – $3.00
  • Produce (tomatoes, frozen veggies, carrots, 1 bag spinach) – $8.20

Total Cost (excluding condiments, oil/butter and spices): $22.28

How doable is that? 3 meals and then some, using these ingredients in 4 different recipes listed below. Check ‘em out. Happy eating and happy shopping, my budget-friendly friends!

Scrambled Eggs Master Recipe – serves 1 (easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc.)

You’ll need:

  • 1 tsp oil or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp milk
  • Salt, pepper & spices to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • In a small bowl, lightly beat together eggs, milk & spices. I recommend garlic powder, dill, or even some cumin.

Leggo my egg-o! Heh heh heh, I kill myself.

  • Heat oil or butter in a small sauté pan over medium-ish heat (4 or 5 on your stovetop). When the oil is hot, add the beaten egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, stir egg mixture constantly, folding it over onto itself and “scrambling” the contents. Cook egg mixture this way until completely cooked through, about 1-2 minutes (Max.)

This will all happen …

… very, VERY quickly. I think about 1 minute elapsed between the previous pic and this one.

  • Use your rubber spatula to additional “chop up” or “scramble” the egg contents if any pieces are too large or chunky for your taste.

Variation One: Egg Panini – serves 1. This sandwich is a delicious way to use those scrambled eggs for lunch or dinner. Dried herbs – great to stock your budget pantry – really take this to the next level.

You’ll need:

  • 1 Master Scrambled Eggs Recipe
  • 2 slices Swiss, Cheddar or Provolone Cheese
  • 2-3 slices tomato
  • 3-5 basil leaves or baby spinach leaves (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp butter or margarine
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or basil
  • 2 slices bread (whole grain is great, but buy what you can afford)

Here’s what you do:

  • Butter both slices on one side; sprinkle the buttered slices with dried herbs. On one slice’s unbuttered side, stack one slice of cheese; basil or spinach leaves; scrambled eggs (spoon gently onto bread); tomatoes; and your final slice of cheese. Top with 2nd bread slice, buttered side out.
  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add sandwich. Cook until pan side is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip, and cook until other side is also golden brown. Remove from pan, slice along the diagonal, and serve.

Variation Two: DIY Fried Rice – This is great for using leftovers lurking in your fridge. It can also be as gourmet or as simple as you like.

This is you, adding soy sauce LIKE A BOSS.

You’ll need:

  • 1 Master Scrambled Eggs recipe
  • 1 cup cooked rice (type and grain are totally your choice)
  • ½ to 1 cup frozen or fresh veggies (I like broccoli, peas, and carrots)
  • ½ cup cooked meat (chicken, pork, beef), if desired. (Leftover pork chop or steak, perhaps?)
  • 1 tsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Additional spices to taste (salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes)

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat (7-ish on your stove dial). When hot, add the rice and frozen vegetables. (If your veggies are fresh, cook them first for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through to your liking.) Stir the mixture frequently for 3-5 minutes, or until all frozen veggies are warm and rice is heated and starting to brown.
  • Add scrambled eggs, cooked meat, and additional spices as desired. Continue stirring the fried rice frequently with rubber spatula; drizzle with 1 tbsp soy sauce, and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes. Scoop the mixture into a large bowl, and enjoy.

Variation Three: Breakfast Burritos – This is as easy as it gets. Take a tortilla; fill it with scrambled eggs, deli cheese, salsa, and anything else you feel like adding (whatever’s in the fridge). Give it a quick nuke in the microwave to melt the cheese / reheat the eggs, roll it up Chipotle-style, and you’re off!

Next time in Budget Eats, we’ll talk about making a big batch of something economical – like vegetarian or turkey chili – and storing / freezing individual portions to eat throughout the week. Nom nom nom!

“Food” Shopping: DC’s Hill’s Kitchen

21 Aug

As much as I love me some Target-scoping or Home Goods exploring, big box stores have their limitations. One, they tend to be low on quirks. (Fun fact: small business owners are just quirkier people.) Two, your neighborhood friendly sales rep is just as likely to hate their job (“Angst. Angst. Angst”) as they are to know the answers to your queries. And three, they’re often less aesthetically pleasing. (At least on the outside. Can’t say I envy the look of concrete blocks topped by … concrete blocks.)

Hot stuff right there. Ow-OW.

Which is why, in restaurants and in shopping, my bias is often in favor of the “little guys” – the small businesses, the locally owned joints, the places whose owners could just as easily be your second cousin or high school buddy. When it comes to kitchens, cooking and foodstuffs, these sorts of establishments tend to be fiercely local. Can’t say I mind that.

My favorite kitchen-stuffs establishment (and I say “kitchen-stuffs” specifically – this is a food-free establishment, and I’m only just beginning my tours of DC’s gourmet food shops. Review of the Cowgirl Creamery is pending – a mini-review in two terribly punny words? Holy Cow!) in the District is Hill’s Kitchen. Hill’s Kitchen (heh heh, get it? Love.) is located, not-so-surprisingly, in Capitol Hill. Specifically, it’s just across Pennsylvania from the entrance to Eastern Market, in a strip of D Street shops between 7th and 8th Streets SE. Easily accessible by Metro, Hill’s Kitchen is open Tuesday through Sunday, and their wares have served me well.

“Come on in!” said the cute & gigantic doorway.

My first purchase – after a few scouting trips, during which I spent most of my time drooling over what hey had to offer – was none other than my cast iron skillet. The salesgirl I spoke with was super-knowledgeable about the ins and outs of cast iron, instructing me in how to care for my new friend and season it properly. [She also warned me about its flesh-frying properties, which – in hindsight – I probably should have remembered better!]

Regardless, knowing that the proprietors are affectionately familiar with their wares gives me confidence in buying from them. It’s the opposite of my experience in most big box stores, which – while this frugal gal loves her some chain-store-sized discounts – can sometimes lack a human element. When Target gives you the option of scanning your own merchandise to figure out prices when no red-wearing employees are to be found, I start to feel like our devolution into cyborg-osity is only that much closer.

Or we might all just turn into Bender from “Futurama” in 100 years. Can’t say that’s a bad thing.

My second purchase, then, was a SWEET silicone cover that’s designed for the handle of – you guessed it – my cast iron skillet. In addition to devices that will save me from future scarring, they carry pretty much anything you’d want in your own midgie (or not-so-midgie) kitchie at respectable prices. Highlights include specialty honeys, oils and vinegars; an excellent array of cookbooks; every possible decorating tool for frosting a cake, cupcake or even overly-decked-out-s’more; and a great collection of cute and cheeky tea towels.

Here’s a shot of their wares from a feature on Apartmenttherapy.com. Lots to explore!

Could you find the same item for less on eBay or Amazon, or even in the hallowed fluorescent aisles of Target and Wal-Mart? Maybe, but if you shopped there, could you have a chat with your salesperson about the exciting prospect of taking the store’s own knife skills class? Nope.

Yep, that’s right – on the Hill’s Kitchen web site, they list a number of cooking and kitchen-based classes that you can take right on their property. If you check this page, you’ll see one-session courses in knife skills, farmers’ market-based menus (how fab does THAT sound?), and no-cook pasta sauces. Sounds like they’re right up this girl’s alley.

Here’s a short from one of their classes featured in a recent Washington Post story. Dig in!

So if you find yourself in the vicinity of Eastern Market and are looking for fun shopping diversions, head to D street and poke through Hill’s Kitchen. Who knows – you might find your next big culinary adventure.