4 Ways to Save On Groceries

Groceries

I read that about 40% of produce in America gets thrown out. I’m guilty of throwing away half a head of lettuce, old avocados, etc. In addition to reducing food waste, I’m also on a mission to pay down my debt this year so I’ve been brainstorming ways to save on groceries.

1/ Buy from bulk bins. Grocery stores including Whole Foods, Smart & Final, and Sprouts carry grains, nuts, spices, trail mix and more so you can buy what you need. I appreciate that I can buy a tablespoon of poppy seeds rather than buying a $5 jar and only use it once or twice.

2/ Find multiple uses for produce items. I bought some frozen artichokes this week and it’s been a fun challenge to find multiple ways to incorporate them into my meals for the week like this recipe and throwing them into an omelette. I love that Chef Julie has this post on multiple uses for lemons on her blog.

3/Dedicate one night of meal cooking and planning for the week. This is so helpful! I typically spend a few hours on Sunday night to get a head start on the week. Going to the crowded grocery store on Monday night and wandering the aisles is no bueno for me. Below is my sister’s photo of her spicy peanut salad she shared on instagram (looking good!). Reliable sites for finding recipes and ideas include theKitchn, DALS, and this blog.

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4/Use leftover veggies for chicken broth. Throw them into a freezer bag for future broth. Check out my recipe; homemade broth makes amazing soups, risotto, etc.

What are your tips and trips for saving money on produce and other groceries?

 

Challah Bread

Happy Holidays! Hope you had a lovely Christmas and are looking forward to the new year. What better way than to try out a new recipe like this one from William Sonoma on challah bread. I always think of the college students at the Claremont Colleges that sell this bread every Friday to raise funds for Darfur. So goooood.

If I knew how easy it was to make this bread, I would have made it sooner! This bread is great by itself or with mashed avocado on top with coffee. I just love the smell and taste of fresh baked bread.

Check out the full recipe on the hyperlink and I also included some notes below on what I learned/Googled along the way.

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  • Recipe makes 2 loaves.
  • No stand mixer is needed. I mixed everything with a wooden spoon. The recipe is written for both methods. Using a stand mixer will probably result in a smoother looking braid but I like the rustic look.
  • Active dry yeast dissolves in warm water and doesn’t need to foam although the recipe indicates it should.
  • Use fresh ingredients. To make this, I used ingredients that I bought the same day (eggs, flour, butter).
  • For butter to come to room temperature quicker, slice it and lay it out on a cutting board or plate.
  • The hardest part of making this is waiting for the bread to rise the first time (takes about 2 hours). Place the loaves in a warm room covered with a damp paper towel, cheesecloth, or plastic wrap and wait patiently (I kept peeking).
  • No rolling pin or pastry brush is needed. I used my hands to roll out the dough ropes to make the braid and used a spoon to apply the egg wash before going into the oven.
  • The recipe calls for a 4-threaded braid. I opted for a traditional 3-thread braid as a newbie, I wasn’t taking chances and over complicating things.
  • Experiment with add-ins like raisins or ground cinnamon. Next time, I’ll add poppy seeds on top. Enjoy!

Vancouver

Hi there! I took a much needed vacation to Vancouver earlier this month and wanted to share some snapshots from the trip. We split up our time between Whistler and mostly exploring Vancouver. Btw, April apparently is a really affordable time of year to visit. Our direct flights were about $200/RT from LAX! What a great excuse to explore this beautiful city.

Whistler is about a 90 minute drive from the city and the drive getting there is GORGEOUS! Having lived in SoCal most my life, I’ve never seen so much greenery or water for that matter. Compared to our drought-stricken state there was water trickling down the side of the mountain. O_O Can we import some of the water to our arid climate?! I digress… we made stops along the way and visited two suspension bridges (Capilano and Lynn Canyon), which I highly recommend!

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We spent a full day skiing/snowboarding in Whistler which was an adventure for me since it was only my second time ever! I was so concerned with nailing down the basics (thanks to my patient teacher & friends) that I didn’t take the gondola to the top of Blackcomb! =( Just means I need to make another trip there. Btw, the water and air is so different up there!

It’s so interesting that Whistler draws visitors and seasonal employees from around-the-world! We met other Americans, Polish instructor, Aussies, etc., and everyone was super nice. Who wouldn’t be happy to live/work/visit Whistler?

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The Food. Chinese, Indian, American, Japanese-Canadian, Canadian. We enjoyed it all, 5 meals/day. The standouts include Vij’s Indian and Peaceful for Chinese food, although fresh seafood from Granville Island Public Market is a very close 3rd. Below, Vij’s lamb popsicles in a curry sauce and Peaceful’s dan dan noodles. Below that is poutine from Fritz’s (poutine is gravy and cheese curds over fries) and steamed dungeness crab (from Nova Scotia).

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Sometimes the most memorable travel experiences are the ones you didn’t plan/anticipate! Haha.. we took a 30-min seaplane ride above the city and enjoyed an aerial view of the city, both urban/modern and breathtakingly green!

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For lodging, we rented an airbnb condo in the heart of downtown (w/a corner view of Stanley Park) which was perfect for our party of 5 that was very affordable and convenient option. Not only was our flight inexpensive, the exchange rate was in our favor (about $1 US = $1.20 CD) which helped too!

I’m blessed to have both the luxury of time and company of travel buddies to enjoy a great city like Vancouver and all it has to offer. Hope you enjoyed my YVR travelogue and have an upcoming summer vacation to look forward to :)

copa vida in pasadena

I spent part of last Monday at this charming cafe, Copa Vida in Old Town Pasadena. I originally stumbled upon it about a year ago when they had just opened, looking to get some change for the meter, and enjoyed pistachio kumquat croissant. It was so great to see the cafe thriving having just celebrated their one year anniversary and being embraced by locals and visitors alike. With almost 400 yelp reviews (average 4 stars), this cafe is here to stay (yay!).

I definitely need to revisit for brunch (read their croque madame sandwich and kale salad are popular). I was impressed to learn that they bake/make their breads, pastries, and desserts in-house.

What I noticed about this place on both my visits is the airy and spacious feeling. Great place to catch up with a friend or to inspire creativity (I noticed one guest painting watercolors).

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My sister ordered the shakerato, an iced espresso drink sweetened with raw sugar and mixed with milk. I had a cappuccino which was incredibly smooth, no sugar needed.

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Disclaimer: my sister knows one of the staff members (Hi Sam!) and he was so gracious to treat us to a dessert on-the-house. It was a light ‘tres chocolate’ mousse that had a couple layers of crackly bits. Couldn’t put my finger on it, whether it was spun sugar or some other confection. Whatever it was, I had to refrain from licking the bowl clean. Would be perfect with a cup of tea.

This inviting space has plenty of seating with the back room serving as an informal study area during my recent visit but I’ve read that it’s used for hosting special events as well.

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The coffee shop was also featured on a blog, Steamed Not Fried so check out their review. They also feature upcoming classes and events like live music on the weekends on their instagram, @copa_vida and facebook page, so check them out.

Copa Vida | 70 S Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105

steamed mussels in white wine sauce

As another birthday draws near, I was thinking about what I would tell my decade-younger self. One big piece of advice I would give myself is not to be afraid to fail by taking more risks. I wish I would have studied abroad and taught English in Asia before heading to graduate school. Why was I in such a rush to have my life figured out? I often tell my students that they’ll be working for the next 25+ years and delaying grad school or a ‘real job’ for a year or two won’t make significant impact in the long run. Funny how I’ve gained that perspective many years later having been in their shoes.

I can’t rewind myself back to my early 20’s, but having this food blog has challenged me to take more risks in cooking things I’m not familiar with like mussels. I was wondering the aisles of Whole Foods and came across some live mussels and thought about Chef Julie Yoon’s recipe for mussels in white wine. I was able to experiment on my lovely roommate and college friend for dinner as we were celebrating my friend’s birthday. Serve this simple, light, and satisfying dish with a toasted bagette slices or over spaghetti. Btw, Chef Julie’s how-to video was helpful in walking me through the process.

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Steamed Mussels in White Wine Sauce
adapted from Chef Julie Yoon’s blog
serves 4

2.5 lbs live mussels (see notes below on storing these)
3 TB unsalted butter, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion or 1/2 large onion diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 lemon
3 roma tomatoes or 2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

1. Clean the mussels under cold running water in the sink. Remove beards by slicing them with a paring knife. For ones that are slightly open, gently tap the hinge of the mussel on your cutting board so they close. If it doesn’t, discard. Should take about 15 minutes.
2. In a large pot on medium heat, add 1 TB of butter. Once melted, add your onions and garlic until cooked through (about 2 minutes). Add chicken broth and wine; bring mixture to a boil and add mussels. Cover with a lid.
3. Let the mussels simmer for about 5 minutes (set a timer) and shake in the middle for even cooking. At the end of 5 minutes, check to see that the mussels have opened. Turn off the heat and add parsley, tomatoes, and remaining 2 TB of butter. Gently toss to make sure the butter melts.
4. Toss any mussels that didn’t open. Squeeze half the lemon over the mussels and serve over pasta or with crusty bread.

Note: I bought my mussels 2 days before cooking them. To keep them fresh, I kept them in the mesh bags they came in and placed them in a colander in the fridge with bags of ice. Make sure to place a Pyrex or some kind of plate to catch the melting ice. I also covered the colander with a wet paper towel and re-wet it each morning. I know it sounds complicated but I had to keep them alive before serving for optimal flavor =) I wouldn’t recommend freezing them. 

kimchi making class

Last weekend I took a kimchi making class at the LA home of a Hae Jung Cho, professional chef and master preserver. I had a blast learning how to make 3 types of kimchi: poggi (whole napa cabbage), kkakdugi (diced radish), and oi muchim (cucumber salad). Learning how to make poggi kimchi gave me a newfound respect for the generations of Korean women that make it.

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Although it was a lot of work, I enjoyed the experience and getting my hands dirty with Korean red chili powder, garlic, ginger, and learning the names of the herbs that go into the sok (or ‘filling’ of the poggi kimchi). I always see them at the Korean supermarket produce section but never know what dishes they’re used in.

4 days later, fermented kimchi :)

4 days later, fermented kimchi :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I definitely plan on making the oi muchim and kkakdugi as both were very easy and not labor intensive. Not sure if I’ll make the poggi kimchi again, at least until I live in a home with storage space for ginormous size mixing bowls (that I can easily fit in). I told my mom about the experience and she said, Don’t make poggi kimchi, it’s too much work. Just buy it!. For reals, mom.

If you’re in the LA area and interested in taking a kimchi making class or Korean market tour, check out this interview with Hae Jung Cho where it also lists her contact info. The beauty of the internet, that’s how I learned about her kimchi making class.

mornings at republique

My roommate and I enjoy coming to Republique (in Hancock Park/LA) for Saturday breakfast pastries. It’s airy, has unique interiors, freshly baked pastries, and their drinks have me coming back for more. I haven’t been for lunch or dinner (made LATimes’ restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s top eateries 101 in LA), as it’s on the pricey end ($$$) but breakfast is an affordable luxury. My roommate tried a hazelnut croissant and highly recommends it.

One of my favorite bloggers, Joy Cho features Republique in a recent post w/more pastry case pics! Check it out here. She recommends their Hong Kong milk tea latte.

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almond and carrot cake next to a strawberry-filled cream puff

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market fruit crostata (flaky sweet crust)