A Readjustment

by Laura on October 3, 2010

in Blog

I’m pretty proud of my ability to hit the mark when it comes to grocery shopping. I set a limit for our weekly food bill, then hit that mark within $10 dollars all the time. It has taken some practice, but I have found that the key to doing this is planning the meals, with leftovers in mind. I am even pretty good at planning a weekly menu that incorporates some of the higher-priced meat dishes with recipes that highlight veggies and grains at a lower cost all to meet the goal of variety for the family within a price range. I have been using this ‘planning’ tactic for some time now – ever since I decided that I had to stop the practice of dumping the never-eaten leftovers and never-used (and now-mushy) produce in the garbage.

I plan pretty lean, so that we have enough, but not too much left over at the end of the week.  Come Thursday, the last day before weekly shopping, our fridge is getting bare. My choices for midday snacks are somewhat paltry, but we make it through until shopping day without any major starvation issues.

Lately, things have been going awry. Come Wednesday things are looking bare. The leftovers I had hoped for are nonexistent, and my backup stash of frozen meats and meals in the freezer has dwindled. Luckily it is early Autumn and we have a prolific garden. Right now, it’s all about tomatoes, pears and apples. This week, we had tons of tomatoes, so it was homemade tomato sauce drizzled over penne pasta. Last week I grabbed some basil and made pesto pasta, with salad  (lettuce from the garden) for dinner.

And, thanks to a recent posting on Food Buzz, (From thePen and the Pear website) I was inspired to create a pear and Gorgonzola pizza instead of our usual pepperoni and mushroom. Although it didn’t use up many pears, it at least made me feel good that I was using some of them. The pizza was a delicious change for us, and I’m still inspired to find different uses for our garden fixings. I’m perusing old cookbooks, and enjoying things like Chocolate Pear Tart, Roasted Apple and Cheddar Salad, and Tomato Casserole.

But, the summer garden can’t keep up with us, and we’re nearing the end of our garden stash. Unfortunately, we’ve been so busy that we haven’t had much time to start planting our fall/winter crops, so I’m not going to be able to rely on those for some time

The reason behind me needing to readjust my shopping habits is that the kids are going through a growth spurt and eating much more than they used to. Darn, just when I got into this fabulous groove, now I have to adjust my buying habits. . and worse yet, spend more for my groceries.

To ensure I won’t increase my weekly food bill by too much, I need to put some thought to my planning. I’ll need some patience and think creatively in order to find new recipes that will feed the family, and help me fit in the budget.

In the meantime, I think I’ll make another Pear and Chocolate Tart to drown my sorrows.

(As I seem to be experiencing lately – I am sure there will be no leftovers!)

Chocolate Pear Tart:

Serves: 8

Make pâté brisée:

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter

 

1. Sift flour onto a work surface and make a large well in the center. Pound the butter with a rolling pin to soften it. Put the butter, egg yolk, sugar and salt in the well. Work together with your fingertips until partly mixed. Gradually draw in the flour with a pastry scraper, pulling the dough into large crumbs using the fingertips of both hands. If the crumbs are dry, sprinkle with a tablespoon of water. Press the dough together. It should be soft, but not sticky. Work small portions of dough, pushing away from you on the work surface with the heel of your hand, then gathering it up with a scraper. Continue until the dough is smooth and pliable. Press the dough into a ball, wrap it and chill for 30 minutes or until firm. Can be refrigerated overnight, or frozen.

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 3 ripe dessert pears (about 1 lb)
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar (for sprinkling)

For the custard:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup light cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla, or tsp kirsch
  • 10-11 inch tart pan

 

1. Butter the tart generously, then sprinkle with sugar. Make the pâté brisée and chill it for 30 minutes. Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick and line the tart pan.

2. For the custard, beat the egg, egg yolk, cream, and vanilla until thoroughly mixed.

3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Sprinkle the bottom of the tart with the chopped chocolate. Peel and thinly slice the pears crosswise; flatten the slices lightly. Arrange them in a flower petal design on the chocolate so that slices overlap. Spoon the custard so the surface of the pears is coated. Note: The custard should be visible between the pear slices. Sprinkle the pears with sugar.

4. Bake the tart well down near the base of the oven so the bottom cooks, 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake until the crust is brown and the custard set, 15-20 minutes longer. If the pears are not caramelized, brown them under a hot broiler for 2-3 minutes.

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