Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How to pack

We passed through the storm without incident. We still have power, and no damage. However, I'm heartsick at what's happened to NYC. I still consider myself a New Yorker, and New York was the first (and really, only) city I ever loved. I hope all my friends there are okay.

Also, Happy Halloween!

I spent the last couple of days packing and watching CNN. So, today's moving post will be about packing.

The women in my family are known for their ability to, as my dad puts it, "pack nine pounds of crap in a five-pound bag." Remember, every box you move is a box that you're paying for, and lifting, and unpacking. So it behooves you to have as few boxes as possible. That's one of the reasons why it pays to be ruthless when culling. (Less stuff = less stuff to pack = less stuff to move.)

Start with the stuff you don't use on a daily basis, and slowly work in toward the stuff you use constantly. Don't bother with trying to keep the kitchen stuff separate from the bathroom stuff; when you're packing a box, everything is fair game.

When you pack a box, pack it tight. I mean TIGHT. If you pack a box full of books, and there's a little space left over in the corner, maybe the size of a coffee cup, put something in that space. You want to use every available cubic centimeter in every box. To maximize space, of course, but also to keep items from rattling around loose.

If you're wrapping fragile items, wrap them in your own linens--towels, sheets, washcloths, potholders. I've used sweaters and scarves and socks as packing material before, as well. Quilts, blankets, and curtains can be used to wrap pictures and furniture. Old newspapers make great packing material, too. Ditto plastic bags, Ziploc bags, and trash bags (all of which can be saved and reused after the move). I'm hoping to get all the way through this move without having to buy bubble wrap.

Spices and small kitchen items can be burrowed inside glassware. Silverware can be wrapped in newspaper, a few pieces at a time, and wedged into corners. Small office supplies--pens, boxes of paper clips, Post-it note pads--can also be wedged into small spaces. Packing a jar or a coffee cup? Put something inside it first.

Remember to remove batteries from things, and to remove the light bulbs from lamps. If you're dismantling something (say, a bookshelf), put the screws in a Ziploc bag and tape it to the item in question.

The last box packed should be the first one unpacked, and it should contain all the basics you'll need before the serious unpacking begins. To wit:

Shower curtain, and rings
Toilet paper, and maybe a roll of paper towels
Sheets and a pillow
Box cutter
Tools (if you don't have a separate toolbox)
Toiletries (toothbrush, etc.)
Flashlight, just in case

Mark the exterior of the boxes well. You can use a shorthand (B for books, K for kitchen stuff), but make sure each side of the box is marked. If a box contains fragile items, or needs to stay right-side up, mark those as well. I keep a roll of packing tape and a Sharpie in each room.

Examples I'm particularly proud of:

I removed all my shoes from their respective shoe boxes, and filled one box with all my shoes--nestled together end to end, and packed in tight. I put socks in between the shoes, and filled the spaces in the box with bracelets, unspooled Christmas ribbon, and belts.

I rolled all the wrapping paper into one large roll, wrapped a couple of posters around that, and dropped the whole thing into a poster tube.

A box of wine glasses had a little room at the top, so I took my espresso cups out of their boxes, wrapped each one in newspaper, and dropped one in each glass slot. I spread some maps over the top to fill the box all the way.

I'm also starting a separate pile of things that will stay with us, in the cross-country car journey, rather than be packed. Tomorrow's post: maybe some actual cooking.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What to do when you're moving, Part 1

I've moved an average of once a year since...well, since I started college. Let's see, that was 20 (!) years ago. So I consider myself a pro at moving. Especially since the move from San Diego to Boston, where we had exactly two and a half weeks from start to finish to move cross-country. We were both still working full-time. I made it happen.

Fortunately, we have a little more time with this cross-country move. But whether you're moving across the country or across town, the first steps are the same.

(For the purposes of these posts, I'll ignore the obvious first steps, like: Alert your landlord. Alert your parents. Alert your current workplace.)

1. Cull. Go through all your closets, all your boxes, all your bookshelves. Examine, ruthlessly. In our case, we're able to be particularly ruthless, since we're moving cross-country on our own dime. Is this item worth the hassle and expense of hauling it 3,000 miles? In most cases, not really. Some things with sentimental value will live in my parents' garage for a bit; the rest will either be sold (Craigslist) or donated to the Salvation Army (tax credit).

We're selling off all the furniture, except for the bed, my red leather chair, and Grandma's dining room table. We weeded out what's left of our book and movie collections (See Making money off your stuff), took some household items to a furniture consignment shop, and have started a huge donation pile.

Examples of things that are not worth hauling cross-country: a fake Christmas tree. Cheap Target nightstands. Cheap Target floor lamps. Fans. Gardening implements. Anything that is missing parts or only partially works. Our second car.

2. Get rid of all the stuff in the pantry. Not by throwing it out, but by using it. You won't be able to transport liquids (oils, vinegars, booze), and canned goods are heavy. The only kitchen stuff I'll pack are the spices, and I'm trying to use those up, too.

3. Ditto cleaning supplies and stuff in the bathroom--shampoo, etc. Any leftovers (partial bottles of ketchup/dishwasher detergent/whatever) can be listed on freecycle. Trust me, someone will come to get them. (This is a good way to restock on the other side of your move, FYI.)

4. Start making a list of what will need to be replaced on the other side. Furniture, pantry supplies, household items, stuff from the drugstore, whatever.

Up next: Packing!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Selling a car

We've sold one of our cars.

We sold the Camry in anticipation of our upcoming cross-country move; the Prius gets such good gas mileage, that it's become our primary vehicle. The Camry was handy when we were both commuting to work, but with one of us unemployed, it's sat largely untouched in our driveway for six months. Rather than have to deal with getting two cars cross-country, we decided to sell it. If we need a second car in Seattle, we can purchase one there.

We took the easy way out: we simply returned it to the dealership. No, it wasn't a lease. Dealerships will buy a car directly off you, without it being a trade-in. We made an appointment at the nearest Toyota dealership, and brought it in. They looked it over, and offered to buy it back for what we still owed on the loan. Some minimal paperwork later, and we walked off the lot sans one car and one car payment. The whole process, from start to finish, took about an hour.

Now, if the dealership had not offered us what we still owed, I would have then taken the car to Carmax, to see what they would offer, and then listed it on Craigslist to see what the private market would bear.

It's easier than you think to sell a car you don't technically own, especially if it's not to a private buyer. The blue book value was about $2,000 more than what we owed; it's possible I could have made a profit, especially if I'd shopped it around a little, but I have enough to worry about with this move. I don't have to make a car payment on it anymore, which is all I really cared about.

That same day, I returned the plates to my nearest AAA office (they can do simple things like cancelling plates, saving me most of a day waiting in line at the DMV), got them cancelled and got a refund on the registration, removed the car from our insurance policy (did that online, took 5 minutes, saved $60 a month), and returned the EZ-Pass box.

I think I spent more time and energy selling the sofa.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Butterscotch pudding

What better way to use up the last of the milk?

2 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter

Put 2 cups milk, the sugar, and the salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook just until it begins to steam. Combine the cornstarch and the remaining 1/2 cup milk in a bowl and stir to blend, with no lumps. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and just begins to boil. Reduce the heat to very low and continue to cook, stirring, another 5 minutes or so. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour into small ramekins and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Storm prep

As Sandy tracks toward New England, we're taking some basic precautions. Remember Irene?

We already have flashlights, extra batteries, and plenty of candles. We have a gas stove, so we'll still be able to cook, even if we lose power. Ditto water--city water isn't dependent on power. (It'll just be very cold water.) Temperatures are supposed to be relatively mild, so it won't be a catastrophe if we don't have heat for a few days.

As far as food is concerned, I plan to spend today cooking up the last meat in the freezer (a whole chicken) and making a batch of soup, as well. The freezer is full of frozen broth; if that thaws, no big deal. There isn't anything in the refrigerator that will go bad quickly, outside of cream and eggs, and we can eat the eggs first. Cheese can sit at room temperature for a while, as can vegetables.

A few kitchen tips:

A full freezer maintains its temperature for much longer than an empty one. If your freezer isn't full, fill some Tupperware with water and freeze those. When you lose power, don't open the freezer for at least 24 hours; everything will stay cold for at least that long (if it's full, and you don't open the door). After 24 hours, you can use the still-frozen Tupperware containers to line a cooler, at which point you can transfer the contents of your refrigerator to the cooler. Once the ice melts, you then have some extra containers of water, in case something happens to the water supply.

Try not to open the refrigerator any more than absolutely necessary during those first 24 hours, either, to preserve the inside temperature as long as possible.

Many things can stay at room temperature, if need be, and still be fine. Cheese, juice, vegetables, greenery, condiments, and butter will all be perfectly safe outside the cooler. If you have a gas stove, or a camper stove, there's no need to stock up on canned soup. You can cook just like normal, and heat up things on the stove.

Do your laundry now, and make sure you have a full tank of gas.

If we lose power, it won't change much. We'll be doing exactly what we're doing now: packing, and drinking the last things in the liquor cabinet, except by candlelight.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Chicken and lentils

This is a great one-pot dish, somewhere between a stew and a big messy pile of goodness. If you want something closer to a stew, add more liquid; if you want something closer to chicken with juicy lentils, add a little less.

Bonus: I've almost used up all the lentils!

1/2 cup olive oil
1 whole chicken, cut up (I used a package of eight boneless chicken thighs)
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon coriander
1 bunch each cilantro and parsley, chopped
4 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils

In a Dutch oven, brown the chicken in the olive oil. Remove from the pan once browned on all sides, and add the onion, garlic, ginger, tomato sauce, coriander, cilantro and parsley. Salt and pepper. Add the broth (or water) along with the cinnamon sticks and lentils.

Cook on low, covered, for about 30 minutes or until lentils are almost tender. Remove the cinnamon sticks. Add the chicken back in and cook for another 10-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Penne with garlic and broccoli rabe

This recipe is straight from Smitten Kitchen. It's incredibly easy to throw together: a box of penne (or other shape), a head of broccoli rabe, a few cloves of garlic, a half cup of olive oil, seasonings, parmesan cheese.

Reprinted below:

1 pound pasta, whatever shape you like (but chunky ones will match up better with the rabe)
1 pound broccoli rabe, heavy stems removed, remaining stems and leaves cut into 1- to 2-inch sections
1/2 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more or less to taste
About 1 heaping teaspoon Kosher salt (or more to taste)
To serve: Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

 Bring a huge pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and five minutes before its cooking time is up, add the broccoli rabe. It will seem like too much for the water, but with a stir or two, the rabe should wilt and cook alongside the pasta. Drain rabe and pasta together and pour into serving bowl. In the same pot or a tiny one, heat the olive oil with the garlic, pepper flakes and Kosher salt over moderate heat, stirring frequently for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the garlic becomes lightly golden. Pour mixture over pasta and toss to evenly coat. Shower with freshly grated cheese and eat at once.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We're moving!

If you've been a loyal reader, you'll know I started this blog in San Diego (after just moving there from New York), and continued it when we moved to Massachusetts and then Rhode Island.

Now, dear readers, it looks like we're heading back to the West Coast: this time, Seattle.

We'll be officially moving after the holidays, although we'll pack up our stuff and send it out sooner than that. DH will spend the holidays with his family, while I work and save up a last gasp of cash for the move. Then we'll drive out in January.

Neither one of us has a job there yet--but his chances of getting a job are much higher there, and I can (hopefully) get a job anywhere. Seattle has great high-end restaurants, too; dare I say it, more than Boston even. DH has lived there before and loved it. Since becoming unemployed, he's become increasingly depressed, and since we moved to New England for the job he lost, being here is a constant painful reminder  of that lost job. A change of scenery--let's call it a geographical cure--will go a long way toward putting a sparkle back in his eyes.

So, this blog will warp a bit over the next few months. For now, in addition to recipes--most of which will be dedicated to using up the remaining weird stuff in my pantry--I'll also be posting advice, resources and stories about cross-country moving (and moving in general). Of course I'll keep you posted on our progress. Once we move, look for posts about getting settled, unpacking, and all that delicious Pacific Northwest seafood.

If any of you are in Seattle, drop me a line.

Now, back to packing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Alaskan

I'm faced with about 2 inches each of a bunch of weird stuff in my bar: Creme de Violette, Herbsaint, yellow Chartreuse, Cointreau. Our drinking is about to get really creative.

1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters

Shake with ice, strain. Serve with lemon twist.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Butternut squash and bacon baked pasta

This is really a casserole, but nobody likes the word "casserole," so we'll call it baked pasta instead. Any shape of pasta will do. I threw in an acorn squash, too.

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
6 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices (raw)
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
8 ounces uncooked mini penne (tube-shaped pasta)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp provolone cheese
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425°. Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450°. Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan; crumble bacon. Increase heat to medium-high. Add shallots to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Combine squash mixture, bacon, and shallots; set aside.

Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain well. Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add provolone, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Making money off your stuff

Not cooking related, I know, but valuable information nonetheless.

Hubs and I are in the process of going through our books and movies and getting rid of the fluff. We'll also be getting rid of the last bits of extraneous furniture. When you're getting rid of stuff, there are a bunch of different ways to get some money for it.

1. Yard sale. Good for getting rid of random crap, but labor-intensive.
2. Sell it on craigslist. (Not good for rural areas.)
3. Donate it to the Salvation Army. If you itemize, that's a tax deduction. Also, if you call 800-SA-TRUCK, they'll come and pick up your donation for you (if there are big items involved, like furniture). Sometimes the tax-deduction value at the Salvation Army is worth more than whatever cash you can get for it.

All of the above is great for bigger stuff, like furniture and electronics. I've also taken some household things to a local furniture consignment shop. But for smaller things, like books and DVDs?

You can swap them, on and For every book/movie you post, and someone wants, you get a credit that you can then use to claim something else. You pay for shipping your stuff out, but then you get your new selections shipped to you for free.

You can sell used books at or (You can also donate them to your local library and collect an additional tax deduction.)

You can sell used Blu-rays and DVDs at or (Also

You can sell used videogames at or

Or, you can list it on You won't get any money, but someone else will give it a good home and maybe you'll get some extra karma points.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Maurin Quina

I discovered this stuff last night at work. I actually have the poster--I think the poster is more famous than the beverage it depicts--but I didn't know this liqueur was still in production.

Surprise, it is, and it's delicious. It has a rich cherry and almond flavor, without being sweet. Maurin Quina Liqueur was created in 1906 by Auguste Maurin in Le Puy en Velay, and quickly gained fame with the help of Leonetto Cappiello, the Italian-born artist who created the infamous green devil on the label. Smooth and delicate, it's created by macerating wild cherries, quinine and bitter almonds in fortified white wine, and then blending it with cherry brandy, lemon juice and cherry juice.

Drink it neat or on the rocks.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Black bean soup with sausage and chard

It's that time of year again: the leaves are changing color, it's cold outside, and I just want to eat soup all the time. Are you like that, too? This is today's concoction: black beans, Italian sausage, and chard.

1 bag of dried black beans, soaked and pre-cooked
1 large onion, diced
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
4 links sweet Italian sausage
1 head Swiss chard, stems removed, chopped
Seasonings: cumin, chili powder, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper
Optional: 1 jalapeno

Squeeze the sausage meat out of the casings into a large stockpot with some olive oil. Brown gently, then add the onion and garlic (and jalapeno, if using). Saute until softened. Add the beans and enough broth to float the mixture.

Cook on low for an hour or so, or until the beans are cooked through. Add the seasonings and chard, and cook until the chard is just wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

All-purpose tomato sauce

I've updated my tomato sauce recipe a bit. There are a few variations; with meat or without; with carrots and celery or without. (With carrots and celery is better, but I've made it without before, when I was out of both, and I just increased the onion, garlic and seasonings a bit.) I've included the full version below. Obviously you can leave the meat out if you want.

4 28-oz cans of whole tomatoes
1 big onion, diced
5-6 big cloves of garlic, minced
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
4 links of Italian sausage (2 hot, 2 sweet)
Olive oil
Seasonings: bay leaves, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper

If using the sausage, squeeze it out of the casings and brown it in a little olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Saute until softened. Add the tomatoes with juice and seasonings. Cook on low for a couple of hours, until fragrant and delicious. Season to taste.

Let the sauce cool, and then puree it in your food processor. (That way you get the better flavor of the whole tomatoes, without big weird chunks of tomato.)

At this point I usually divide the pureed sauce into various containers, and freeze most of them. That way I can always pull a container out of the freezer, and have a steady supply of tomato sauce.

This can be used as spaghetti sauce, soup flavoring, or used in any recipe that calls for either canned tomatoes or tomato sauce.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bucatini with broccoli rabe, bacon and goat cheese

Broccoli rabe is one of those great bitter fall greens. It's versatile, and it was on sale last week. Also on sale: bucatini (hollow spaghetti).

1 lb bucatini (or spaghetti)
1 head broccoli rabe, chopped
1 leek, chopped
6-7 slices of bacon, in chunks
2 tablespoons dried sage
1 log of goat cheese
Salt and pepper

To make this, I cooked the bucatini until al dente. I cooked up the bacon, removed it from the pan, and gently sauteed the leek and the broccoli rabe until the rabe was wilted. I then added the cooked pasta, the bacon, sage, and a log of goat cheese. Stir well; salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Garlic bread

Not a day for cooking anything complicated. I'm still recovering from work last night; it was incredibly busy, and I got my ass handed to me repeatedly. So today I'm whipping up some basics: pasta with pesto and peas (quick, easy, nutritious) and root vegetables with wheatberries (to use up the turnips, parsnips, and pretty blue potatoes). As a treat, I'm making some garlic bread.

The nice thing about working all the time is that I can bring home slightly stale leftover bread. I have a bag full of baguettes for this garlic bread.

4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 loaf crusty bread, split
3 tablespoons grated cheese, Parmigiano or Romano, optional
Chopped fresh parsley

Combine garlic, butter, and oil in a microwave safe dish or in a small saucepan. Heat garlic and butter and oil in microwave for 1 minute or in a small pot over moderate-low heat for 3 minutes.

Toast split bread under broiler. Remove bread when it is toasted golden brown in color. Brush bread liberally with garlic oil. Sprinkle with cheese, if using, and parsley. If you added cheese, return to broiler and brown 30 seconds. Cut into chunks and serve.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Green tomato soup

It's that time of year again: green tomato season. I ripped all my dead tomato plants up, and saved the unripened green tomatoes. They were cherry tomatoes, so I couldn't make fried green tomatoes: I made soup instead.

2 tablespoons butter
4 to 6 ounces country ham or bacon, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
8 medium green tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 medium red tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and stem removed, minced
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
dash Tabasco sauce, optional
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; add ham or bacon, onion, and garlic. Sauté, stirring, until onion is tender. Add chicken broth, chopped green and red tomatoes, and minced jalapeno pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, pulse in a blender or food processor until almost smooth. Pour back into the saucepan and add celery salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper and Tabasco sauce, as desired. Serves 4 to 6.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Kabocha squash curry

It's that time of year: squash, chard, apples, soup. I got some fun squash at the store the other day, including kabocha squash. It's green and speckly, and very similar to butternut squash on the inside.

I made this curry with it, copied below:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 medium green bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed and cut into 1/4-inch strips
4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (from about a 1-1/2-inch piece)
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 (13- to 14-ounce) can unsweetened regular coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 medium kabocha squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Steamed white rice or steamed brown rice for serving

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened, about 6 minutes. Add the peppers, garlic, and ginger, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the curry paste, stir to coat the onion-pepper mixture, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, water, soy sauce, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer.

Stir in the squash, return to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium low, and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is fork-tender but still firm, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lime juice. Taste and season with salt as needed.

Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately over steamed rice.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Small grocery shopping

I've perfected the art of what I call "large" grocery shopping: buying in bulk, keeping a full pantry, and supplementing that occasionally with fresh produce.

But now, my unemployed husband is looking for jobs all over the country, so it's possible we could move anywhere at any time. A fully-stocked pantry is a definite liability during a move, so I've been eating down our full pantry and not restocking it.

And now it's empty. So rather than "large" shopping, I've switched to "small" shopping: going to the store once a week or so and picking up a few things, plus produce, for the next week. I suspect this is how 97% of people shop, but it's new for me.

Surprisingly, if you're careful, it's not that much more expensive. With bulk shopping, I can keep our grocery bill under $200 a month for two people. With weekly shopping and no pantry stores to draw off of, if I shop the sales, I can usually keep us to $250 or so.

First, I go to Aldi. Off-brand staples at cheap prices ($1.35 for a dozen eggs, $2.29 for a gallon of milk). Then I go to the local big-box supermarket, buy the produce that's on sale, buy one meat product that's on sale (chicken thighs, pork chops, whatever), and fill in with anything else that's needed (pasta, canned tomatoes, baking supplies, coffee, whatever). I buy what's on sale and sometimes supplement that with coupons.

I'm also keeping a list of what I'm running out of and not replacing, so that those things can be gradually restocked once we move to wherever our new home will be.

This week I got some really beautiful chard, broccoli rabe, a whole chicken, and several varieties of squash. Look for new recipes soon!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Orleans redux recap

New Orleans was awesome, as always. I got to spend some quality time with my sister and her family. My new nephew is cute as a bug (he only pooped on me once). We saw Kermit Ruffins live at Vaughan's, ate turtle soup and bread pudding souffle at Commander's Palace, ate hot sausage and cheese po' boys at Gene's, and caught some live jazz at Three Muses. I drank my weight in Abita beer, and DH managed to have at least a little fun. Seeing Kermit was the highlight of the trip. I want to spend every night dancing in smoky bars to live jazz/soul.

Commander's Palace was less awe-inspiring than I thought it would be. I think the takeaway of the trip is that fancy dinners are nice, but you really get into the soul of a place when you hang out in its dive bars and barbecue joints. We spent far less money this time around, mostly because we were seeking out po' boys and jazz bars more so than going to all the great restaurants in town.

Also, my feet still hurt from all that dancing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Summer's over

We're back from our week in New Orleans, and I'm already missing it. 85 degrees and sunny all week, amazing food, and best of all, I wasn't working. It's a bit disconcerting to be peeling off my sunburn when it's 47 degrees and raining outside.

I'll recap the trip for everyone tomorrow. When we got home, I realized that summer is indeed completely over. Not only are all the trees changing color here in New England (with nights in the 40s), but all my tomato plants are dead. So I spent yesterday ripping them out, saving all the green tomatoes for future use.

The container garden yielded a pretty good amount of tomatoes, considering they were in pots; I got a good handful of ripe cherry tomatoes every day for six weeks or so. The herbs were less successful; not sure why. Last winter's windowsill herb garden was also lackluster. I think I'll skip it this year, since we're still in a position where we may have to move at any second. I cut the last of the mint and hung it to dry.

Next year's garden? I guess that will depend on where we are (could be anywhere, really), and how much room we have. I'll keep you posted.

For the record, although I'm glad I didn't have to work as hard on this garden as last year's, I missed having 47,000 pounds of ripe tomatoes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Basil julep

Just like a mint julep, only with basil!

Muddle basil with a little powdered sugar or simple syrup. Add crushed ice and bourbon to taste. Garnish with fresh basil.

My sister's garden is overrun with basil; I'm helping her get rid of some of it by drinking it down. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.