Tuesday, January 29, 2013

This year will be, legen...wait for it, wait for it...dary!!

Well cats and kittens, it's officially 2013.  Last year's goal to blog more didn't quite pan out, as it's been 2 months since we last posted.  Fear not, the goal is back with a vengeance in 2013!!  This year is an important one for us, we're getting married, combining our finances and living the whole year by ourselves (well... and our cats).  The biggest change for 2013 is our budget, since we're getting married we've decided to start saving for a down payment on a loveshack of our own.  As you may know, in the SF Bay Area even a shack runs you $400-900k, so saving a 20% down payment given sky high rental costs is quite a challenge.  We're selling a well maintained 2008 BMW and trading down to a scooter for our second "car".  Trying to pare down our stash of stuff.  All while living a fun and exciting life with cats, family and friends.
The scooter and our motorcycle safety course endorsement :)
Since, we like a good challenge and as good little beavers, we set out a strict budget beginning on Jan 1 of this year.  Our biggest variable expense of course is food. According to the USDA, feeding a family of 2, aged 19-50 should cost between $350 and $696 per month, which is more like our weekly spending... OUCH!! So we've set a goal, $300 per week or $1200 per month, I know this sounds like a lot, but we've cut down substantially from before and maybe if we can master this we'll lower it again.
In the red and still 3 days to go!
As I write this it is January 28th at 5pm and mint.com says we're over our budget by $8... whoops!  So today we get creative, using only things we already have on hand and try to squeeze enough for two dinners, two lunches and dessert out of our pantry, fridge and countertops, let the adventure begin!!!
But first a break for this important cat yoga session!!

Jesse's Cook What You've Got Freekeh & Shrimp Jamboree
Serves 4 (or makes 2 servings and leftovers)


  • 8oz Freekeh (this is a green wheat, aka an ancient grain, you can get it at Whole Foods, we happened to have a package in our cabinet so in the pan it went)- you could use quinoa, rice, or whatever other grain you have on hand, just cook according to package directions
  • 2.5 cups of liquid (we used a cup of leftover veggie broth and water, you can use whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 eggs (added to give a creamy texture, add more if you want a traditional fried rice texture)
  • Shrimp (we had a half package of TJ's frozen precooked shrimp on hand, saves on the deveining and cooking time)- just run under luke warm water for a minute or two in a bowl to knock off the ice crystals before cooking
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (get this dirt cheap at the asian markets)
  • 1 tbsp sesame seed (get this dirt cheap at the asian markets)
  • 1 tsp five spice powder (get this dirt cheap at the asian markets)
  • As many veggies as you want/have on hand, we used 3 carrots, 2 green onions, 1/2 head of cabbage and half bag of "stir fry greens" from our CSA 
The Hardware:
  • a clean veggie only cutting board
  • a medium sized bowl to catch the veggies
  • a small bowl to defrost the shrimp then to mix the eggs in (reuse the bowl to save a dishwashing!)
  • a large pan
  • a medium pan (or a medium bowl to hold the grain in while you saute the veggies and shrimp)
  • a sharp knife

And now the adventure begins!!
We began as usual by gathering our ingredients in a mis-en-place.
Once all the ingredients are gathered, I suggest starting the grain to cook.  Freekah takes about 25 minutes to soak up all the liquid, so get that started and you can prep veggies while it simmers away on the stove.  To give it a nice toasty flavor, I first heated the grain and tossed it in a tbsp of olive oil for a minute or two and then added the liquid and brought it to a boil.  Once a rolling boil begins, drop down to a simmer (your low setting) and leave covered for 25 minutes.
Toasty grains
Now the fun begins, start prepping your veggies, ideally everything should be in bite sized pieces (remember the smaller/thinner the faster it cooks.  Since carrots take much longer than greens to cook, I used a bowl to separate out the quick cook from the slow cook veggies.
Once the veggie prep was done, it was on to defrosting the shrimp.  This was easy, just grab a small bowl, fill with your frozen shrimp and just run under luke warm water for a minute or two in a bowl to knock off the ice crystals before cooking.

When the 25 minute timer has about 5 minutes left, toss the carrots and other long cooking veggies in a warmed sauce pan with 1tbsp olive oil, stir and cover over medium heat.  This will simultaneously steam and caramelize the carrots, YUM!!

When your 25 minute timer dings, go ahead and turn off the burner and give your grain a stir.  You should see a dry pan under the grain, if not set it back on to cook for 5 minutes.
Now back to your carrot pan, open the lid and dump in the rest of your veggies, give them a few minutes to soften up on the heat.
Now toss your veggies, egg, sesame oil, five spice powder, lemon juice and sesame seeds in the big pan with the grain and give it a good mix.  Once you see the egg bits cooked, you're ready to serve (about 3-5 minutes).  Grab a bowl, and dig in!!

The Verdict:

Jesse:  This was ok, I think some more egg and maybe an onion would've been good additions to kick the flavor in to high gear.  But when you're strapped for cash or have an overabundance of good food at home, this kind of dish is great.

Home cooking: 13, Restaurants: 2

Naris: I thought that was great, I'd definitely eat it again.  In fact, I'll be eating it for lunch tomorrow.

Home cooking: 14, Restaurants: 1

Until we cook again,
Cost Breakdown:
We had all of these ingredients on hand, so costs for those are estimated.

- 5 eggs ~ $0.66
- freekeh -$2.40
- shrimp - $2.50
- veggies (1/5 of our CSA share) - $3.00

TOTAL: $8.56 for 4 servings, or $2.14 per serving

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