Lemon Shrimp with Risotto Milanese

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Hey Guys!

This is a fun and fresh recipe for a summer gathering that is something a little different than grilling. The bright acidity of lemon and freshness of parsley make the shrimp extra delicious, and the fresh veggies in the risotto keeps it from being too rich. Even better, this recipe uses just a little butter and no cheese, so the creaminess is from the starch cooking out of the rice, not added fats. This is a meal my mum whipped up for our family, and I thought I’d share it with you! At around $3.75 per serving, it’s not a crazy affordable meal, but it was delicious and can be made more affordable if you use your veggie scraps to make your own stock in advance (brings the total cost down to $11.54 or $2.89 a serving).

Lemon Shrimp with Risotto Milanese

$15.48 for four, or $3.75 per serving

For the risotto:

1 cup of Arborio rice- $1

1 small shallot, diced- $0.50

2 carrots, small dice- $0.72

3 sprigs thyme- $0.25

2 containers vegetable stock- $3.94

2 pinches saffron threads- ~0.80 or 1/2 tsp saffron powder ($0.04) if you can’t stomach the cost of buying saffron threads

Pantry: a small dollop of olive oil to start sautéing, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper

Optional: Butter to finish, white wine to deglaze

For the shrimp:

~20 shrimp, peeled and deveined- $7

Zest of a lemon (one lemon is used for this recipe)- $0.77

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Garnish: the other half of the lemon, cut into four slices for squeezing

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The first step of this recipe is the same as any other where we’ve been making risotto- mise en place, or as I like to call it…. getting your shit together.

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You can see from these photos that 2 separate plates were used- one for the shrimp prep and one for the risotto prep. It just makes things easier in the long run. It’s not shown in this picture, but after this, the lemon was halved and set on the parsley plate.

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You’ll need to tackle your risotto first since it’ll take about thirty minutes to make. Start by popping your veggies (and thyme if you like) into a pot with either butter or oil in the bottom and soften about 1/2 to 3/4. You want some nice color on those onions. While you do that, take your stock and put your saffron in it, then warm it either in a pot or in the microwave. This stops you from bringing the temperature of your risotto down every time you add stock to it (which means it takes longer to cook), and it helps infuse the saffron.

Once your veggies are appropriately cooked, add your rice and toast it. Don’t be afraid to add a bit of extra oil if the pot seems too dry. I talked about toasting risotto rice here, if you need a bit more information. Once your rice is appropriately toasted, you will either deglaze with a ladle full of your stock, or a 1/2 cup of dry white wine, whichever you feel like. Stir until the first deglazing liquid evaporates and then add stock by the ladle and stir occasionally until that liquid evaporates, too. Repeat. Keep repeating until you’ve gone through about a box of stock or 3.5-4cups. Add a pinch of salt and pepper each time you add stock. Taste it at that point- is it soft, or do the rice grains stick to your teeth? If it’s soft and ready, turn off the heat and remove it from the burner. If not, continue the stock-stir-evaporate-taste process until the rice is cooked.

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Once your risotto is ready and off the heat, using a skillet on medium heat with olive oil and chili flakes, throw in your shrimp. Once they are 1/2 way cooked, flip them and add your parsley, lemon zest and squeeze half of your lemon over the shrimp while they finish cooking. This only takes a few minutes.

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To serve, give yourself a generous scoop of the risotto and about 5 shrimp. Squeeze additional lemon over your shrimp if you’d like! I’d recommend serving in a bowl rather than a plate like in these pictures- if your risotto spreads out, it cools faster.

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Do you have a favorite recipe that tastes fresh like spring or summer, but doesn’t require a barbeque? I’d love to hear about it!

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Vegan White Bean Stew with Saffron Rice

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Hey guys!

With my love of bacon, we all know I’m no vegan. With that being said, I’m a total “pantry” cook, eating a lot of canned/tinned tomato products, frozen veggies, and beans to keep costs down and food healthy. Sometimes that results in vegan meals. One day in early June, my friend Kirsten was coming over and I realized the meal I made was completely vegan, so she could eat with me!

This Spanish inspired white bean stew used literally no fresh vegetables except garlic and onions- that was it! Everything else came from a tin or the freezer and it was amazing. If you wanted to add meat, I’d recommend poaching chicken thighs in the stew or slices of cured chorizo sausage.

White Bean Stew with Saffron Rice

Serves 6 for $10.87 or $1.81 per serving

For the stew:

One white onion – $1.61

2 tins cannellini bean – $1.76

1 jar fire roasted tomato sauce – $2.50

2 tins whole stewed tomatoes – $2

2 cups frozen spaghetti mix vegetables – ~$0.50

2 frozen spinach pellets (or any frozen green you have kicking around) – $0.50

Pantry staples – garlic, smoked paprika, paprika, crushed red chili flakes, thyme, olive oil

For the rice:

2 Cups Basmati – ~$2

Olive oil

Optional- 2 Saffron threads (use turmeric for color of saffron if you don’t want to buy saffron)

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This is a bit of a “dump and go” recipe honestly. The only items I pre-cooked were softening down the onions and garlic- then I put them in my Lagostina Tuscan Collection Casserole Dish from Canadian Tire with the beans (don’t rinse), tomato sauce, tomatoes, frozen veggies (not greens!) and a half tablespoon of smoked paprika, a teaspoon regular paprika, 2-3 shakes of red chili flakes and some dried thyme.

I then popped my casserole dish in the oven at 375 for an hour to get everything toasty and let the aquafaba from the beans do its job and thicken the stew. I checked it at one hour and tasted it and was happy with the flavors, but the one hour mark is when you’d add more heat or spice if you’d like. I also added the greens at this point because I was popping it back in the oven for 30 minutes or so while I set the table and made rice.

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You make the rice however you normally would in a pot, and just toss your saffron or turmeric in with the cooking liquid if you’re wanting the look of saffron rice. I wouldn’t recommend doing it with a rice cooker though… mostly because I have no idea how those things work. If you would like a step-by-step on always perfect rice on the stove, let me know!20170614_191757

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Do you have an easy recipe that just happens to be vegan? Or an easy recipe that just happens t have bacon? I’d love to hear about both!

Vegetarian Tomato-Fennel Penne

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Hey Guys!

I’m back with a fun and easy meal idea! This was a total salvage use-up, with wrinkly tomatoes I stole from my mum  that were headed to the garbage and some fennel she had laying around! With some other bits and bobs it became a perfect bit of sauce for penne.

I love fennel, it has this flavor profile that reminds me of the spice blend in mild Italian sausage, just without the meat! The natural sweetness comes out as you cook it down. This dish is naturally vegetarian, and vegan if you omit or swap out the parmesan cheese, so this is a perfect dish for when you don’t know all of the food preferences of a guest.

Tomato- Fennel Penne

$5.32 for 4 or $1.33 per serving (but really… 59 cents a serving if those tomatoes were going in the trash)

~15 wrinkled tomatoes (salvaged from going to the garbage)- $0 ($2.97 for a pint if you have to buy)

1/4 of a fennel bulb- $0.82

1 shallot- 0.88

Penne- 0.65

Pantry essentials- garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

Optional: grated parmesan to finish

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This pasta is seriously so easy to make that your first step is to get your pasta water on to boil! Next, mince your garlic (1-2 cloves) and finely dice your shallot and put them in a hot electric skillet (med-high heat) to start working.

Next, add in slices of your fennel, and start halving your tomatoes. I toss mine in as they’re sliced to save cutting board space. Once the tomatoes are starting to soften, flip them cut edge down and squash them lightly with your wooden spoon. The seeds and pulp will come out and start to create the liquid of your sauce.

Continue cooking and squashing your tomatoes until your pasta is done, drain your pasta (reserve some pasta water in case your sauce won’t stick) and put it straight into your skillet to coat the noodles! When dishing it up, add a bit of grated parmesan!

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How do you like to use up tomatoes that are just on the edge of going off? I’d love to hear in the comments!

No-Buy Update

 

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Well, I made it around a month. Not my best but… there were 3$ pints of strawberries that I just couldn’t deny myself. I also really wanted fresh dairy. So after thirty days of not buying groceries, I bought a few things. This no-buy isn’t firmly over, I’m still trying to work out of the meals and proteins I have frozen and my shelf stable items, but I’m running out of things like eggs and in my house… that just won’t do.

March was a pretty easy month to not be buying groceries. I had a hospitality suite at work for three days and lots of invites out to my family’s place. I also did a cooking class that sent me home with three+ days’ worth of food.

I think as I go forward my “no buy” will just be modified- if I need eggs or a fresh item, I’ll buy it, but I’m still working through frozen items and enjoying them. Being that it’s spring (sort of… it’s been snowing for hours as I type this) I’m also not going to deny myself things like salad greens or fresh burratta if I can get my hands on them.

So what did I make and eat during this time?

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Freezer Mushroom Risotto

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Easy Ramen

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Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca

White bean dip and focaccia (post coming soon!)

Cauliflower rice and shrimp (at Mom’s, but post still coming soon!)

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Chicken Pesto Burgers with Rice

Vegan Spaghetti and “Meat” Balls (post coming soon!)

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Italiano Breakfast Bowls

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins (post coming soon!)

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Lentil Ragout with Isreali Cous Cous

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Butternut Squash Risotto Nourish Bowl (gifted, affordable re-make coming soon!)

Baked Rigatoni Bolognese (post coming soon!)

…and lots of eggs, guacamole toast and overnight oats!

 

Strawberries were the straw that broke the camel’s back for this no-buy. I really wanted them and life is short. I also wanted lettuce, ground meat and fennel. I have everything but the ground meat now! The spare time that eating pre-made meals gave me allowed me to work on other things in life, work items, visit family more and even start baking bread!

Cheater Lasagna

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I love lasagna. I think pasta is one of life’s best luxuries so I try to enjoy it decently often. Is that weird?

I don’t care if it is.

I love to make baked pastas when I have friends over, or just to keep in the freezer for when I need a comforting meal. Lasagna and I used to have a love-hate relationship because honestly, it was a bit high maintenance! You have to make the sauce, make the béchamel, par-cook the noodles and assemble it… it was a “once in a blue moon” item rather than something I could enjoy on a weeknight with friends.

Enter this cheater lasagna. Instead of making your sauce, grab a couple jars of meat sauce. Instead of slaving over béchamel, grab a tub of ricotta. And instead of grabbing dried noodles and cooking them, grab fresh lasagna sheets, which are ready to go! This makes lasagna a ten minute assembly with about an hour of baking time- just enough time to enjoy a salad and a glass of wine with friends (or solo!).

Cheater Lasagna

$13.70 for ten or $1.37 per serving

1 package of lasagna sheets- $3.50

2 jars of Bolognese- $4.96

1 small tub of ricotta- $4.49

1 cup of shredded cheese- $0.75

Optional: 1 tablespoon pesto (mix it into the ricotta if you feel like it)

Start off by grabbing a baking dish- this could be a Pyrex one or a stoneware one like le Creuset. I’ve used both, and achieved similar results. I’ve linked some options in the “shop the post” section. Pre-heat your oven on bake at 400 degrees.  Open one of your jars of meat sauce and pour down a healthy layer- this makes sure your noodles don’t stick so make sure it’s a decent layer down there. Lay down a couple lasagna sheets, cutting them to size if necessary. Next, layer on your ricotta, and lay down more lasagna sheets.

Always go meat sauce-sheets-ricotta-sheets-meat sauce and so on. Once you’ve laid down your final sheets, even if you laid ricotta on top of it, put meat sauce to cover the whole situation. If you don’t, your ricotta will dry out and so will the underlying noodles. Next, sprinkle your shredded cheese on top, wrap with tin foil and pop into the oven for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and put it back in the oven for a final 20 minutes.

When you pull your lasagna out, let it sit to cool and set for 10-15 minutes. There’s nothing quite like being burned by molten lasagna.

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What is your favorite pasta dish to make for a crowd?

Freezer Breakfast Bowls

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I hate the morning. Those that have lived with me, travelled with me, worked with me or even just tried to talk to me in the morning know this fact very well. I’m just not my most friendly in the morning, and my extreme morning productivity is really only born out of the internal rage I feel about needing to be out of bed before I feel ready to be.

For this reason, I try to have my breakfasts ready before I go to bed. Sometimes that means having a guacamole pack, bread and a hard-boiled egg or two ready to throw in my bag on my way to the office, and sometimes it means pulling a pre-made meal out of the freezer like my freezer egg wraps! Nothing makes morning rage worse than hanger. These easy italiano breakfast bowls are freezer-friendly and perfect for busy mornings.

Italiano Breakfast Bowls

$16.43 for ~12-13 bowls or $1.26 per serving

4  Potatoes- $2.24

1 tray of Italian sausage ~$9

8 eggs- $1.60

¼ cup of italiano cheese- $0.75

2 zucchini- $2.44

½ an onion- $0.40

Pantry staples: 1 tbs of tomato paste, hot sauce, Italian spices, olive oil, salt and pepper

Start by washing and chopping your potatoes into a medium sized chunk. Put them on an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through and crispy.

Once your potatoes are in the oven (just pull them out to cool when they’re done), it’s time to work on that Italian sausage. You just want to fry it up in a large pan until its cooked and finely crumbled, then remove it from the pan to a plate lined with paper towel to cool completely. I’ve said before, the trick to freezing breakfast items is to have everything completely cooled, then refrigerated for 2 hours, and then put in the freezer to freeze in order to avoid condensation ice. That ice will make your eggs rubbery and the entire meal watery upon defrosting and heating. AKA gross.

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Next, crack your eggs into a bowl, whisk and add your hot sauce and Italian cheese. Scramble cook them and remove to another plate to cool. Chop up your onions and zucchini, then place the onions to soften in a pan on the stove. Add Italian seasoning to your preference- once they’re softened then you can add in your zucchini and cook down about half way before adding your tomato paste and cooking it out while they finish cooking. (These pictures are of a batch where I used crushed tinned tomatoes and spaghetti freezer veggie mix… it was what I had around but I like the version I described in the ingredients list much better.) Then, put this mix in a bowl to cool.

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Once everything is nicely cool, take out 12 containers and split everything amongst the 12 containers. I tried to make mine look pretty for these pictures but honestly just split it up and put them in the fridge to cool for 2-3 hours and then pop them in the freezer until you are ready to eat one! Mine usually gets defrosted in my work bag for about an hour and then microwaved for 2-3 minutes.

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Black & Decker Family Sized Electric Skillet – Black • Black & Decker •

Do you have a favorite freezer breakfast? Or are you one of those people that loves the morning? Let me know in the comments!

How to Prep for a No-Buy

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This post is probably well overdue. If you’ve been following me for a while then you probably remember that I did a 35 day no-buy stint from May-July last year and truth be told, I am on a food no-buy right now as well.

Yep. It’s been seven days since I last bought food, and no signs of buying anything soon. I actually had started about five days before that, but there was a wiiiiicked sale on sirloin beef that I just couldn’t pass up. I bought them using Airmiles, but I believe in transparency. I bought the beef (and potatoes!). I’m planning on not buying any food for at least another month and here’s why:

a. Life is expensive

b. I owe tax money (damnit)

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c. It’s a great way to make sure you’re investigating what’s lurking in your freezer and cupboards and not wasting through expiration or freezer burn (food waste is like throwing money in the air on a windy day, it’s just dumb). Think of it like an edible freezer and cupboard spring cleaning.

People ask me all the time how I do this. My number one tip is pre-planning (take a look at what you actually have. If you have no veggies in the freezer, this isn’t going to be healthy) and my number two tip is to schedule it during a busy time. What could feel like a shitty time of not allowing yourself to purchase food becomes “thank God I have these meals made and ready for myself”, and attitude is as important when you’re doing a no-buy as it is in any other area of life.

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So how do you logistically get ready for a food no-buy?

  1. Take an accurate account of what you have. This seems a bit brutal while you’re doing it, but it’s important to know what you have in the cupboards and freezer, as well as what kind of freezer space (you’ll understand soon) you have at your disposal. I look at it as making a list of my dry/canned/shelf stable ingredients, taking stock of my freezer “fixings” (uncooked items that need processed into meals) and pre-made meals. I usually do this the day of my final grocery shop before the no-buy.
  2. Make a list of what you would need to get through the 30 (or however many) days you don’t want to buy groceries for. How does this match up against what you have “in stock”? Those areas, whether it’s breakfast cereal or meat items, that are understocked go on your actual grocery list. My list of what I need actually becomes a bit of a meal plan, I think of it from that standpoint because I know if I plan it out that way, I’ll never be hungry. Be sure to prioritize eating what you already own previous to the no-buy, because this can’t become an excuse to buy thirty days of food on one bill rather than an exercise in using what you have. Well it could, but it wouldn’t save you any money. Tip: Try to avoid buying anything “convenience”. Yes, it’d be nice to have chips or flavored water, but it’s 100% not necessary. The meal plan is designed to remove these items and show you what you really need. Tip #2: If you have very little freezer space, do not load up on fresh or frozen components. Shop canned or dry items and vice-versa.
  3. Once you’ve created that list and meal plan, it’s time to hit the store. I start by shopping the dry and canned foods first, then produce, meat, dairy and freezer sections (in that order, too). Pick up everything on the list at the most affordable price possible, and if there’s something that you can’t get or is too expensive, substitute with something similar or buy frozen. These shops are a great opportunity to use up AirMiles cash or your PC Points rewards. They can feel expensive but keep in mind, you’re done after this. No more shopping!
  4. Once you come home with your loot, put it away and make plans for any fresh or non-meal items that you’ve purchased. I will look at my yogurt for instance, and say to myself… can I eat all of this before it goes bad? If the answer is no, I freeze some. If I’ve bought brussel sprouts or another veggie, I’ll often roast or cook it and then freeze it. Lastly, if it is something like a roast you bought, why not cook it and some potatoes, make the gravy and veggies and make meals? It makes life easier and you also know the day before you’re supposed to be done buying food if you’ve actually forgotten that you’ll need something like potatoes! Even just thinking about it and then popping the roast (or whatever) in the freezer will bring up those helpful thoughts.

That’s seriously it. I’m hoping to stay on my no-buy through into April for basically as long as I can (lettuce is very tempting this time of year hah) or until the food I recognize as not-so-new is  gone. I don’t want to decimate the nice base of a pantry that I have, just ensure that I’m eating what I have and not just refilling the top 1/3 of the freezer weekly. I’m thinking that every week or so I’ll do a roundup post of what I’ve been eating and how the no-buy is going.

 

Would you ever consider doing a food no-buy? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.