Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mid-Month Grocery List, Dehydration of Fruits and Humans, Gardening, and Messy Lasagna!

Day 104.

There are several things on my mind today, so I'll get right to them.

But first, Diego says hi. Or hola, as it were.
In all the chaos surrounding my in-laws' visit, I never did do a real grocery shop for the month of April. Rather, it was a couple weeks of shopping as need be. Thankfully, we didn't spend too much money on those trips. Here is what my mid-month trip list looks like. I'll update with prices tomorrow night:

  • apples (several pounds)
  • bananas
  • green onions
  • sweet potatoes
  • 5 bell peppers
  • onions
  • spinach
  • zucchini
  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes
  • strawberries
  • lettuce
  • mozzarella
  • butter (2 pounds)
  • eggs (2- 18 packs)
  • milk
  • cheddar
  • greek yogurt
  • heavy cream
  • yeast
  • flour
  • confectioner's sugar
  • granulated sugar
  • peas
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • canned tomatoes (4 cans)
  • quinoa
  • almond milk
  • black beans (4 cans)
That ought to do it until May.

Next I'd like to talk to you about dehydration. I decided to make some granola this week. I was going to pick up some dried fruits for the granola, but I thought it would be nice to dry them myself, instead. Since I have no food dehydrator at my disposal, I'll be using my oven set at the lowest temperature I can get it. All the instructions online that I can find recommend a temperature of about 140 degrees. My oven doesn't go that low, but I'm still going to give it a go at 170 degrees. I'm hoping it works out. If it doesn't, I've only invested 8 strawberries which I purchased on sale.

But wait! Didn't I mentions something about dehydration of humans in that subject line? Why, yes! Yes, I did! There's a bit of a clash of the wills going on within my mind right now. You see, I am determined to get my family living a healthier, more natural exisitence. And yet, at the same time, I fill my own tank daily with Diet Coke. Now, could I get any more processed than that? Plus, Diet Coke helps dehydrate me! I know I should give it up. I know I should. There are better alternatives. Coffee is a better choice. Tea is even better. Water, well, let's not push it yet.

I really am addicted to my Diet Coke. It's going to be really hard. But I think I'm ready to give it up. Not only will I feel better without that junk in my body, I'll also save my family even more money. Keep me in your thoughts as I kick this habit. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Now that that's off my chest, can I share with you my total excitement over my little patio garden? I'm so thrilled about it. We're already getting sweet, bright red strawberries from our hanging container, and I'm already using my herbs. But here's what I have to look forward to in about two months:
  • sweet bell peppers (red, green, yellow)
  • sweet banana peppers
  • chili peppers
  • jalapeno peppers
  • cayenne peppers
  • cherry tomatoes
  • crookneck squash
  • broccoli
  • cucumbers
  • okra
I can't wait to start cooking with them and eating them! I took my Picky Eater-turned-Possible Vegetarian out back and asked her what she thought we should make with our veggies, and she wants to make lots of soup. Squash soup. Pepper soup. Cucumber soup. All possible, sure, but I am going to try to work on some alternate recipes with her in the near future.

Any ideas on all-natural pest control to get the buggies to stop eating my leaves?

And now, what you're here for...a recipe! Messy lasagna. I love lasagna. It's the ultimate in comfort food. But don't you hate it when you burn your fingertips on the hot, cooked noodles? And don't you have better things to do than to neatly and evenly spread the ricotta filling over the slippery noddles? And don't those pesky torn noodles just bug you? They bug me! Not to worry! This dish has all the flavors of lasagna with none of the hassle!

Messy Lasagna

What You Need:
  • 1/2 lb pasta (any variety will do, but I used mini wagon wheels today)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • **SPICES AS DESIRED** If you skip this, your dish will be very, very bland. Spice it as you normally spice lasagna. I used fresh basil, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, fresh rosemary (not normally in lasagna, but it's fresh and I couldn't resist!), salt, and pepper
  • a sprinkling of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
How it's Done:
  1. Cook pasta al dente according to pacakge directions. Drain and reserve. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, brown ground beef with onion until no longer pink. Add tomatoes, sauce, garlic, sugar, and spices. Simmer 15 minutes.
  3. Combine sauce with pasta. In a separate bowl, mix ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. 
  4. Pour half of the pasta and sauce into a 9x11" baking dish.  Dot with mounds of the ricotta mixture. Don't try to be neat or even. It's messy lasagna. Cover with remaining pasta and sauce. Sprinkle the rest of the cheeses over top.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.


heather said...

sounds tasty!

have you done a post about your monthly shopping and how you make it work? im worried about produce mostly. i try to get as much as i can fresh, but usually buy on sale. im thinking some of it i can freeze, like peppers

Michelle said...

I've touched on it briefly. Basically, I have two strategies:

1. I buy plenty of fruits and vegetables that have differing "expiration dates" -- for example: In week One of the month, we mainly eat the tomatoes, lettuces, berries. In Week Two, we're still eating lettuce, and also cucumbers and peppers and melons and bananas and grapes. In week 2, I go shopping again for a refill and pick up more fresh produce. My mid-month trip typically costs around $40 and includes fresh items such as those listed on this post. In week 3, we also eat the potatoes, cabbages, carrots, and other more sturdy vegetables.

2. Mid-month refills are my other strategy. I use this quick trip to get more fresh dairy and produce and anything else I'm lacking. I never spend more than $50 and more than 15 minutes shopping mid-month.

Amy said...

I'm SO excited that you posted this, I've been waiting since I saw it on your menu! It sounds delicious and I bet my kids will love it!

Andrea said...

for pest control lady bugs are a gardners best friend. If you don't have lots of them in your area you can buy them at a local nursery. I saw small bags holding 1500 lady bugs for about $6 here. What plants are getting eaten? the garden is looking great!! its still way too cold here to plant outside, boo. but I have seedlings going crazy inside, very fun.

Angie said...

Hi Michelle
You have won an award! Please come to my blog to pick it up!

Ashley said...

My first time commenting, but I've already tried (and loved!) several of your recipes!

As for the plants, simple dish soap and water works to get rid of the bugs! I usually just put in a few drops in a spray bottle of water and then add more soap if the bugs are still bad!

Michelle said...

Andrea, I read that. I'll call around today. It's my cucumber plants and bell pepper plants that are being eaten.

Angie, thank you!!!

Ashley, glad you chose today to comment! Do you use a certain kind of soap, or will any do? I have Great Value green apple scent at the house...wondered if I could use that or if it should be something milder. Do you spray all the leaves of the targeted plants? How frequently? This is my first garden. ;)

Lisa said...

I too am an addict... Coke Zero/Regular Coke. Trying to cut out the diet drinks and have regular pop, on a limited basis, but it is difficult. I'm learning to like coffee, but still have to load my cup with sugar and half-n-half.

Don't you just love the Piccolini pasta's!

heather said...

thank you for the pointers! We will have farmer's markets opening soon so that will help. I know some of our produce only lasts a week, but is probably due to the area we live in and its not a growing season here yet.

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