Tip 9: Treats
[Brown Butter Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies]
I had a couple weeks this December (so far) where I fell asleep half a page into reading a book, every evening after I put Willow to bed. A symptom of total exhaustion. I work a lot you guys. Probably too much, but our home is in working order mostly because it is managed by my husband and life partner, Jazz. He does the laundry (like go to the laundromat, dreadful kind of laundry), cleans the house, does the dishes most of the time (because when it’s my turn I’m frequently too exhausted), makes the bed, shovels the walkway, spot cleans the sofa, runs any middle of the day errands, is enrolled in grad school full time,`and five days a week makes breakfast and dinner for our family. He is also my personal barista. Besides the fact that I am one lucky son-of-a-gun, we have had to strategize in order to make all this work, and when it comes to food, without a weekly meal plan, our lives would be in utter chaos (ok, that’s a little hyperbolic, but you get the picture).
This series is finally/sadly coming to a close but the entire idea I have tried to portray is that you can eat well and live on a budget. On average we spend $50-$70 a week on groceries for a family of 3. IN CANADA! And we eat well. Tonight we’re having tacos with black beans, caramelized onions, fresh pico de gallo, avocado crema and a maple garlic aioli. Tomorrow we’re having a balsamic spinach salad with candied walnuts and pizza with roasted peppers, onions, basil pesto and goat cheese. Um, hello…yum! But eating this way takes a lot of work and some planning when your pocket book is slim. Here are a few tips about menu planning:
Before you go grocery shopping, decide what you will have for dinner every night of the week. Sometimes I look at our grocery store’s weekly flyer to see if any of the items we typically use are on sale and base meals around that. Sometimes I look what we have left in the pantry and plan around what we already have. Or in most cases, I do both. Put the menu out somewhere where everyone can see it.
When I have too much time on my hands, I tend to go Pinterest crazy, but when it comes to meal planning, Pinterest is a really helpful tool. Type in the search bar the words of some of the ingredients you want to use and an overwhelming number of recipes are at your disposal with really clear images of what that dish will be like. When I find something I like, I copy the link to that recipe in an email to Jazz and note any modifications I would like him to make (by the way, you can follow me on Pinterest here).
Curate a Grocery List//
I know it sounds silly that something like a grocery list would be curated, but I have come to find that making a well thought out grocery list, one that keeps your buying on track and is not too distracting, is a lot of work. So, as I’m browsing through Pinterest and choosing recipes, I make a note of the ingredients each recipe requires that we don’t already have. Then I think about any fruits or veggies we need for snacks, breakfast items we need and ingredients for baking bread (we’ll get there, hold on). I then sort the items on the grocery list in order of how the grocery store is laid out (for example: produce first, dairy next, dry goods…). And typically, once that is done, I write how much I expect to pay for each item next to that item and give an estimated total at the top. This way, if while I’m shopping, I notice a number of things are more expensive than I anticipated, I can remove a few things from the list on the spot rather than being surprised when I get to the check out counter (because that is a really crappy feeling). In the end, the grocery list has helped you to buy exactly what you need for the week, kept you from overspending and avoided you from running back and forth all over the grocery store.
If you can master the art of meal planning, you will be eating well all the time.
The last recipe I want to share with you in this series is one that is a labor of love. So, I bake all of our own bread every week. I know, I know, I’m one of those people. But I didn’t use to be. We had a couple hard weeks where we really had to cut corners and baking our own bread saved us a few dollars. And then we became totally spoiled by it. First, baking bread by hand is a completely therapeutic experience. Kneading dough relieves stress but also leaves you with that amazing feeling of “I made something really awesome” after you’ve finished. And seriously, what can compare to fresh, out-of-the-oven bread (sorry, once again, my sans gluten and grain friends)? So for breakfast we have an egg or two [as mentioned in a previous post] with a slice of homemade bread.
I had been making an easy, basic, and run of the mill, white loaf a couple times a week, and then I started to get bored. I was reading a couple blogs who had featured a challah recipe and decided to try it. Now, I’m kind of obsessed (maybe because of the amazing grilled cheese it makes, maybe because of the french toast. I use a lot of parenthesis, don’t I?). What I am sharing with you here is my variation of the Kitchn’s Challah recipe. Mine is made with a whole wheat flour blend. The Kitchn also gives a detailed description of how to make this gorgeous, 6-strand braid (which is very easy by the way, but if it’s too intimidating, a regular 3 strand braid would be great). I have also included weight measurements in grams for most of the ingredients. I think it makes a more consistent loaf of bread.
There’s a good chance, that you may never bake this bread. And that’s ok (although I do recommend that someday, if you eat bread, that you give bread baking a try). What I really want, is to demonstrate that the art of eating well does not have to be hindered by a tight budget. That the experience of enjoying a truly delicious meal is not only for the privileged. Although it will take you time and some extra thought, it can happen. I have truly enjoyed writing this series and I hope it can be of use to you.
If you find yourselves having a frugal food moment and want to share it, use the hashtag #frugalfood and tag @keepingwillow on Instagram and Twitter. I would love to see what kind of culinary nonsense you guys are up to.
With that I give you this recipe and some photos of a large loaf of bread that didn’t last us more than 24 hours.
Whole Wheat Challah Bread
10 g active dry yeast (2 tsp)
1 cup warm water (like almost hot)
304 g bread flour + extra for kneading and dusting (2 cups +)
232 g whole wheat flour (2 cups)
14 g salt (2 tsp)
58 g sugar (1/4 cup)
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk (keep the egg white for the egg wash)
1/4 cup pure (not extra virgin) olive oil, or another mild flavored oil like canola or vegetable
Corn meal for dusting or parchment paper.
1. Turn the light on in your oven (this will be a warm enough place to proof your dough). In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the water and yeast along with a big pinch of sugar and dissolve. Allow to sit while you prep the other ingredients, or at least 5 minutes. If by 5 minutes there is not a bubbly foam on top, your yeast is probably too old and is dead.
2. In a large bowl, combine your dry ingredients (the flours, sugar and salt) and whisk together with a fork until combined. Make a well in the center.
3. Add your eggs, egg yolk and oil into the well. Whisk the eggs with a little bit of the flour until the eggs have been completely combined.
4. Pour the yeast mixture over the eggs and with your fork slowly incorporate the flour into the liquid. Once all the ingredients are almost completely combined, it is ready for kneading.
5. Pour the dough onto a clean, floured surface and knead any remaining flour into the dough. Once you have a workable ball, begin kneading for 10 minutes. You will need to continue to add flour if the dough becomes too sticky and sticks to your hands or work surface. The dough should be fairly round and firm by the time you’re done.
6. In a large bowl, pour a small drop of oil. Put the dough in the bowl and flip once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover in plastic wrap and place in your oven. (Which is off and has the light on. If your light is burned out or something, I find turning your oven on at 170 and just setting the bowl on top of the oven is warm enough as well). Allow to sit and proof until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
7. Take the dough out of the oven and punch down to remove any built up gas. If you have a food scale, weigh your dough and divide it into 6 equal pieces. If you don’t have a scale, just do your best to cut 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball by cupping your hands around the dough and dragging it across your work surface in a circular motion. This step will help you roll out even pieces to braid with.
8. Roll each ball into a 16-18″ rope. Start with your fingers together, and begin to roll. Spread your fingers as you roll to begin bringing your dough outward. Combine the ropes at the top to begin your braid. The trick is to take the outside rope and go over two, under one and then over two. Then take the next rope on the outside and do the same thing. Repeat until you have a braided loaf. Tuck the ends of your braided loaf underneath itself. Place on a cutting board that has been generously dusted with corn meal or a baking sheet with parchment paper, cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 1 hour in the oven.
9. 10 minutes before you are ready to bake the loaf, take the dough out of the oven and turn it up to 350F. Brush the dough with your egg white. If you are using cornmeal, dust a baking sheet with corn meal and slide your dough off your cutting board and onto the baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating halfway through. Allow bread to cool on a wire rack. Cut yourself a piece while the bread is still warm. Yum!