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The rest of the week with the Fresh 20
Skitten is out of town until Tuesday, so I had dinner on Thursday and Friday with (with special surprise guest Marilyn on Friday).

On Thursday, we had Veggie Bean Tacos

The recipe is fairly simple: saute onions until soft and translucent, then add beans, tomato paste, and spices, and combine. Then serve the mix on warmed tortillas with toppings. I reused the left-over yogurt-chive topping from a previous meal.

There were a couple of changes to the recipe that I did, some intentional, some not: First, because instead of buying six 15oz cans of beans (3 black, 3 pinto) I bought a 29oz can of pinto and the rest in 15oz cans, I used only pinto beans, not a mix of pinto and black beans. Second, I think I accidentally bought 4" tortillas, not 6", so even with tacos overflowing to the point of nearly being messy (see sloppy joe discussion in the past post), we still had lots more filling left over. Third, "spicy" isn't appreciated too much by Skitten nor Zahde (although she is trying), so I didn't bother to buy the cayenne pepper and left it out. The tablespoon of cumin made it spicy anyway.

We both enjoyed it. I think a mix of beans, especially smaller beans, would have improved it, but I'm not complaining too much ('twas my fault anyway). If it came up again in the rotation, I would certainly make it again.

We also finished off the leftover cucumber soup, which Zahde also liked.

Friday was time for Nectarine Summer Salad and balsamic vinaigrette.

It's a salad, of iceberg lettuce, nectarines, avocado, carrots, cucumber, tomato, beans, and shredded cheese. The dressing was a home-made balsamic vinaigrette.

When we bought the avocados on Sunday, they were very hard, with very little give. On Friday the remaining avocado was very soft with a dark olive-green flesh. They still tasted OK, but it was a clear example of how avocado has a very limited lifespan. The nectarine salad wasn't a dish we rearranged on the schedule; it was always supposed to be "meal 5". I'm not sure what I could have done differently to prolong the avocado better.

Other than that, it was a perfectly good salad. The three of us ate multiple servings of it, and there is still plenty in the fridge awaiting my desire for left-overs.

The vinaigrette was good, if a bit finicky in the spicing (it has 8 ingredients, all in the 1/2teaspoon-1 tablespoon range, except for the oil and vinegar, at 1/4 cup each, and the honey and mustard were sticky liquids at that). There was none left over. I think it could have been made in advance without too much bother, and saved time at service.

Doing it over, I think I would consider a different lettuce than iceberg. Unlike the tacos (which called for shredded iceberg lettuce) I don't think this benefited from the crunch of the iceberg, and a more leafy lettuce, like a butter lettuce, would have done just as well or better.

Reviewing the week, overall the food was very good, and the cooking relatively easy. There were quirks at times, and Wednesday (corn cakes) took a bit longer and more effort than I had time for, but it all worked out.

It is obvious looking over several menue that "beans" were the protein-choice-of-the-week. Every meal called for a can of beans,

Shopping had a bit of a sticker-shock, as I think I had mentioned. The estimate from the Fresh20 people was for $62 in groceries, but I walked out with a $129 receipt. I never did get around to finding out what caused us to go $60 over. I know some of that was due to us getting stuff not on the list, but it still seemed a bit excessive.

One quirk I had to work with was the variety of what was considered "make ahead" items and what wasn't. I was asked to dice to tomatoes for the tacos ahead of time, but the tomatoes for the salad were to be cut as part of the prep. For meal 3, I was to zest and juice one lemon ahead of time, but for meal 2, juicing the lemon was done at cook time. The 6 large cucumbers for the soup were to be pealed, seeded and chopped 3 days before they were needed, and the 1 cucumber needed for the nectarine salad was to be be peeled and sliced that day. What made some bit of work suitable for doing ahead of time, and what needed to be done as part of cooking was unclear.

One lesson learned is the difference between regular cucumbers and seedless cucumbers. The recipe called for "large" cucumbers, and the seedless ones are gigantic. Zahde says that each seedless one is about the same size as two large seeded one. That's identifiable in the price, as well. Wegmans has large cukes at $1/ea, and seedless cukes at 2/$5, or over twice as much. The "family packs" I got (3 seedless cukes each) are better, at $4/pack, so I spent $12 for 9 gigantic cukes instead of $7 for 7 large cukes. I suppose if I realized that 1 seedless cuke was the same as 2 large seeded cukes, I could have spent $5 for all my cuke needs. As it is, I still have an unopened pack of 3 seedless cukes in the fridge, and won't have to buy the 4 cukes needed for next week.

Looking forward to next week, it seems like I should continue this.

For next week, I've already got the menu (Thai Tofu with pickled cucumbers and brown rice; Summer Vegetable Ceviche Tostada; Sundried Tomato Feta Pasta; Asian Wraps; Greek Pasta Salad and herbed tortilla chips), and I've reviewed the shopping list and pantry items. Their estimate is $63, my estimate, including pantry items I need to stock up on, is $80, and that's including about $15 for seltzer, grapeseed oil, and tomato paste that is not actually needed for next week's menu. So the sticker-shock is probably not that bad. Granted, I'm not paying for cilantro (Zahde's giving me some from her CSA), basil (we have some in our back yard), cucumber (see above), or sliced black olive (listed as "optional", not enjoyed by Skitten, and not as good as proper cured olives), but it's still not as bad as last week.

There does appear to be a bunch more prep work, including marinating tofu and chopping lots of vegetables that weren't done in the previous week. The Friday salad (I'll have to check to see if that's a regular thing) calls for pre-making the oregano vinaigrette rather than waiting until Friday. Curiously, the recipe for Meal #1 calls for grating a 3-4" piece of ginger ahead, but that isn't listed on the prep-guide. The prep-guide does call for grating ginger ahead for Meal #4, so it looks like an oversight. I'll have to check for that more closely. It also looks like I'll have to beef up my storage container situation, as there appears to be 21 things to prep, up from 9 last week.

I'm uncertain how well I'm going to like this next week. I'm not a big fan of pasta salad, and this has a "Greek pasta salad". But I'm willing to try.

As far as storage containers go, I'm trying out the Sistema "Klip-It" line, which seems to work well. They stack nicely, the lids have a gasket and a clip system to attach them, and they are clearer and stiffer than most of the other kitchen plastic storage containers I've seen. They are rated as good for freezer, microwave, and dishwasher. So I'm working on building up a collection.

I like what the Fresh 20 is doing to my life, so far. I like the cooking and eating daily. I like that Skitten and I are cooking, sitting, and eating together. Even at the $130/week grocery bill level, it's still cheaper than the two of us eating out for those 5 meals -- and generally better food, too. And I like having an excuse to actually write about it.

I'll keep it up a bit longer.

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Thai Tofu with pickled cucumbers and brown rice sounds good.

Have you gone shopping?

I'm a bit worried about Labor Day crowds.

Marilyn wants the recipe for the vinaigrette.

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