Chopping on the Cheap, with a Little Help from Friends

Our initial shopping day was Monday last week, and we needed to make dinner…  After returning home from the grocery store, we dove right into cooking. We had worked up quite the appetite after our dance through Ralphs.

As soon as we cascaded through our front door I asked Kaia to turn on the oven. I grabbed the Vitamix – this is an incredible machine. It’s like a bullet blender, but a thousand times better.

We have an electric stove and oven that, for some reason, doesn’t hold the temp or remain consistent throughout cooking. I think it has less to do with the oven, and possibly more to do with Kaia opening the oven door every 30 seconds while something is cooking. I’m guessing your kids have that same heightened anticipation while waiting for the object in the oven to become edible! I almost didn’t sign our lease due to the electric oven/stove conundrum, but alas here we were, and I had asked Kaia to turn the oven to a higher temp than necessary so it would cook properly.

I was thinking chips and salsa, some rice and our tri-tip on the fly! As I mentioned, we were so hungry by the time we started cooking. Kaia and I talked it over and she concurred. This would be the fastest way we could feed our hungry faces.

With the oven heating and the Vitamix out, we grabbed our ingredients…

  • Tri-tip roast: seasoned with our home mixed dry rub and some liquid smoke, we wrapped it in tinfoil and tossed in the oven at 300 degrees for 45 mins
  • 5 roma tomatoes: combined these in the Vitamix with some shallots, garden fresh cilantro, jalapeno, fresh garlic and salt

**The above are things we purchased this week, the below are items we already had at home…  Remember we try to always work with what we’ve got!

  • Corn tortillas: we brought a pan of oil up to about 450 degrees and fried the tortillas
  • Basmati Rice: not really a traditional rice to go with a beef roast, salsa and tortilla chips; but we added some of our fresh cilantro and shallots to rice and allowed them to work their flavors in.

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Fast-forward to Wednesday and three meals were already consumed. Kaia and I made our way across town to her Godfather’s place. His name is Miki (pronounced like Mickey Mouse) and coincidentally he is also my bestie. He’s an amazing guy with an incredible family of his own. He has 2 kids under the age of 2, and a very patient fiancé. His brother, whom is also one of my dear friends, happened to be babysitting a 6 year-old named Max.

So our count was a little higher than usual…. we were up to 4 adults, 1 pre-teen, 1 first grader, 1 toddler, and an infant… by my count that’s a 7.5-er on the food-consumption-o-meter. Our group epitomizes the modern families that we see grace the small screen today. Every one of our stories is different, but those differences are what make us all alike. Miki is a camera operator and photographer. We had set up this date to shoot some food photos.

As our time together sometimes does, our evening turned into a family dinner for everyone. Kaia and I still had a number of our veggies from the initial purchase this week. Those coupled with some other things around our house from weeks prior made for a great shoot (for this blog!). After we talked about what Kaia and I could bring, Kila, Miki’s brother, decided to pick up some protein. A whole chicken and 2 extra chicken breasts were bought and paid for and BOOM! We had a well-rounded dinner planned and ready to be enjoyed by our families.

First shots were of some very pretty veggies:

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Generally with these impromptu family dinners we fly by the seat of our pants; spontaneity sprinkled with love become our main ingredients. Kaia and I took a look at what we had.

Red Potatoes
Green Onions
Red Onions
Shallots
Sweet Peppers
Kale
Roma Tomatoes
Jalapeno

We knew that the kale needed to be eaten, as well as some of the potatoes. Both Kaia and I said HASH! …slow down pot-heads, we are talking potato hash! We used a cast- iron skillet to cook the diced potatoes and small chopped kale. The first thing we did was use olive oil on a paper towel to grease the pan. We added some brunoised shallots to sweat in the pan. Then we added our potatoes, followed later by the kale. The kids kept asking for more. They ate all of it!

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As parents, we know how difficult the “eat your veggies” conversation can sometimes be. If you are looking for something delicious to feed the kiddos, this potato hash is your jam!

Next we utilized the dehydrated spring mushrooms by adding about 2 cup of veggie stock to a small pot with the mushrooms. These would become the base for a mushroom cream sauce. We let these rehydrate while we broke down the whole chicken.

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Finally we got to the chicken in its now broken down state. The smaller pieces make it easier (and quicker) to cook: 8 pieces, plus the 2 additional breasts Kila brought along with the whole chicken. We preheated the oven to 400 degrees (not our oven, so this is the real cooking temp). The potato hash was removed from the cast-iron. This not only gave us a pan to cook on, but one that already had some great flavor already on it. That’s what we call a win-win!

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Our goal was to blacken the chicken with the skin still on. Kaia used a mortar (grinder) to create a powerful rub. After searing the chicken skin down for about 5 minutes we placed the skillets in the already pre-heated oven. Toss some of the green onions on the top of the chicken before putting them in the oven for added plate filler and flavor. 20 minutes in the oven is ample time for the chicken to cook through.

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It sometimes seems that the importance previously placed on family meals and time spent together has almost completely disappeared. At least that’s how it feels these days – insert sad face.

Daddy Daughter Cooking wants to help remind everyone about the importance of family socials. The cooking bonds that were once forged by trips to Grandma’s or by going to Mom and Dad’s for Sunday dinner is seemingly a lost art. We need these interactions. For Kaia and I this time spent together and memories that we continue to make are shaping our future.

Thanks to all for sticking around and following us on our journey. We hope that these recipes strike a chord with you!

Watch our video here!

Chopping on the Cheap, Budgeted Groceries with Creative Intent

New week, new shopping list! Our weeks usually begin in a flurry, spending a lot of time catching up from the week prior or being inundated with new happy-happy, joy-joy stuff. Sometimes it’s a new unexpected bill or a parking ticket (wink wink) because maybe you forgot to move the car for street cleaning… all on account of Sunday Funday becoming unmanageable. This isn’t the type of Sunday Funday I had in my 20s, but the day at the park that turned into a BBQ and then turned into a bowling night with Kaia and her two best friends. If you live in a larger city like we do, the likelihood is pretty strong that at some point you’ll get a parking ticket.

Anyhow this leads us to just one of many Monday things on our list, Chopping (and shopping) on the cheap, budgeted groceries with creative intent!

After picking Kaia up from school we headed directly to our local grocery Ralphs (They are a subsidiary company under the KROGER umbrella). I knew before we walked in that I had a limited budget of about $40. We were looking to maximize our spending.

I have always been upfront with my daughter about what we can afford, and not just in the food department. She has never gone without what she needs, but she understands that we can’t spend money on all the frivolous things we might want. That being said, I think she trusts me to always make it work… and she should.

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On our drive we discussed what we thought we can do on our $40 grocery budget for the week. Lots of roma tomato, fruits, and other veggie ideas came up. Produce is always a great place to start. We think it’s better to start with a veggie option and build the meals around them. The versatility of veggies and what is doable with them is far greater than that of meat.

We have turned our shopping into a dance. Think of the produce section as the introduction to a ballet and as you build to the crescendo we hit the meat and poultry counter. As we sauntered through the store, we notice different things that inspired our budgeted creativity. Our $40 needs to stretch for 4 dinners for 2, as well as some breakfast stuff. We also have some things like cream, spices, herbs and some mixed noodles (we sometimes like to make our own noodles so we wanted to pick up some semolina, the base grain, too).

This weeks shopping purchases:

  • 1 gallon of 2% milk – we like it better than whole milk on our cereal or in our oatmeal, and it’s less fat – $2.79
  • 1 bag of dehydrated organic spring mushrooms – to use for homemade cream of mushroom soup – $3.99
  • 1 large white onion – purchased to be used in a pasta sauce or even a salsa. Who doesn’t like chips and salsa? – $0.85
  • 1 bunch green onion – these can also be used in sauce, pasta, or salsa – $0.99
  • 1 large jalapeño – again this is something that could be used in our salsa or to spice up a sauce and/or soup – $0.21
  • 1.05 lbs broccoli (stalks on) – Kaia requested some broccoli, so we got some. My thoughts were that they could be used to make a broccoli cheddar soup (we have some leftover cheddar from our amazing grilled cheeses with beet greens) – $1.67
  • 2.42 lbs. roma tomatoes (about 12 tomatoes) – these were bought in bulk to be used in a number of different things. Tomato sauce, salsa, possibly a soup or a layer to some sammies – $3.61
  • 1.99 lbs. organic Chiquita bananas – for breakfast smoothies or just as a snack – $1.77
  • 2.05 lbs. of beef roast (tri-tip) – this item was on sale at nearly 50% off so we grabbed it… always have to be on the lookout for solid sale item. We cook this meat in a much shorter time period than BBQ masters. We do however have a way of doing it that emulates that of a 12 hour smoke – $12.76
  • 1 loaf french bread – just because we wanted some carbs to go along with all that we had – $1.59

Our total coupons or savings because that’s what we do, was $9.65. Our total expenses were $30.23. When all was said and done we still had some dollars left for treats we might want later in the week.

For additional savings, check out IBOTTA – it is awesome! Basically you have to scan the items your purchased using the barcode and your receipt. Here’s a referral link from me for the app. Its great for additional savings. For instance, we earned $2.75 from this trip alone. They will send a check or link it to your venmo account and you get paid when you have at least 20 bucks in your IBOTTA account.

Takeaway from this trip to the grocery store: Shopping on a budget is not such a daunting task. We have learned over time that most people in the stores are pretty gruff to begin with; meaning everyone is in a hurry, employees might not be as excited as we are, etc. It’s not a complaint, just an observation. Ultimately, our goal has been to make grocery shopping fun.

We try to put smiles on other people’s faces as we laugh and frolic through the store. We have very little shame in the store: You might occasionally hear me speaking loudly, calling for Kaia who may be 2 aisles over, or Kaia asking me if she has grabbed enough tomatoes, from across the veggie department.

The best suggestion I can give is to give less *insert bad word*. It’s a win/win: you will live longer and so will the kids… plus you may even keep your hair the same color a little longer. And for the Dads out there, you may even keep your hair on your head for a little while longer.

Keep following us, later in the week you will be able to see what awesomeness we came up with with these items plus a few others we already have in the fridge and cabinets at home.

Hope you all are having a great week. See ya soon!