Tag Archives: pizza

Eating Well on a Budget

In my dream world, I’d eat at a different restaurant every day, just trying as many different foods as I can. Since that’s not happening anytime soon for both health and financial reasons, it’s a good thing I can cook. We’ve had some great meals on a budget, and I thought I’d share them for anyone else who is hoping to eat well without breaking the bank.

Pardon the shadow.

This is broccoli cheese soup, which I made in an attempt to be better than Panera Bread at everything. It was pretty good, full-flavored but light. The soup’s thick texture came from pureed broccoli, not cream or cornstarch. If you’ve never made this at home, I recommend it! It’s easy, and a much healthier alternative to something that most restaurants pump full of calories.

This is Philadelphia tomato pie, which was a hit both at home and with my coworkers when I brought in leftovers. I got the recipe from Serious Eats. Philadelphia tomato pie is one of those things that you can’t truly appreciate unless you taste it. It just sounds weird. Pizza-like, but thick and doughy crust? No gooey, stringy cheese? But try it, and you’ll be a convert.
This is pretty self-explanatory. If you know me at all, you’ll know that making the best possible pizza at home is something I’ve been working towards for years. I’ve made some tweaks to my dough recipe and cooking method, so I’m getting close. This pie features just tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala, and proscuitto. It was awesome.
Here is an iPhone photo of last Sunday’s Asian-themed meal. We’ve got honey-soy lacquered duck, stir-fried asparagus, and citrus ginger rice. This was awesome. Duck is definitely my favorite protein, especially when you sear it so it’s medium rare and really juicy!
And here’s another iPhone photo of another Asian-themed Sunday supper. We’ve got spicy seared tuna, roasted Brussels sprouts, and some plain white rice (yes, we like rice a lot). This was also awesome. (And in the background is the pot and a leaf from the beautiful orchids that surprised me when I got home last week – just had to mention that).

You might be asking how I call these budget meals when they’ve got expensive protein. Well, yes, the duck and tuna were definitely the most costly parts of the dinner. Buying these at a grocery store and preparing them at home is a fraction of the cost of eating the same meal at a restaurant. We just eat more vegetables and enjoy smaller portions of meat.

As for the health factor? Pizza, admittedly, isn’t the healthiest choice… but in this case, it’s not so bad. My pies are exercises in moderation. The crust is thin, not heavy and bready. I use sparse amounts of toppings that add pops of flavor without overwhelming. The ‘worst’ part, the cheese, is lightly scattered: just a piece of the flavor puzzle, not the whole thing. This is not calorie bomb pizza. And just because I don’t have photos of my veggie pies on here doesn’t mean they don’t exist! Furthermore, the meals that we eat are generally very healthy. Even the broccoli-cheese soup that you saw above isn’t bad for you. The dish was 95% broccoli and plain chicken stock; the remaining five percent consists of flour and butter for the thickening roux, and a little bit of cheddar cheese. If you cook with whole, healthy ingredients, a little bit of fat for flavor goes a long way, and you’re still eating light!
Anyway, these are just some of the meals that we’ve been eating lately. Eating at home is a great way to stay on a budget and stay healthy. If you plan it right, you just might end up with better meals than what you’d get at a restaurant. Does anyone want recipes?
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Quarter-century down

Best birthday ever!

After a mere month of blogging, things got busy and I forgot to keep it up. Not good. In my defense, it’s been somewhat of a crazy week. To begin: I turned 25 last Thursday. If I’d gotten my wishes, this would have been a completely forgettable occasion. Aging ceased being fun after the 21st birthday. However, my birthday ended up being a surprisingly great time.

After ringing things in at midnight on the 9th with some of my favorite people in the world, I was completely ready to leave work a little bit early the next day when Xavier asked me to. (I’m not a work-slacker; I had the flexibility to go after working long hours earlier in the week).

Here’s some context as to why this was the best birthday to ever take place in the history of all human birthdays. As you might know, pizza is my favorite food (see the slice ranking system on What I’m Reading Wednesdays). You also might know that I love making pizza at home. Using a combination of recipes from Jeff Varasano, Peter Reinhardt, and lots of my own trial and error, I make an edible pizza. Unfortunately, as many pizza addicts know, the 550-degree heat produced by home ovens cannot come close to reproducing the magical pies that a 1000-degree wood-fired oven makes. It’s always been my dream to try making pizza in an oven like that – or better yet, to have one in my backyard!

Since we don’t have a 1000-degree oven, we often go out for pizza, and the place we go most often is Antico. Antico cannot be beaten for convenience, deliciousness, and the BYOB factor. Where else can you and your date arrive with your own bottle of wine (or a couple of beers), have a freshly-made pizza at your table in less than five minutes, stuff yourselves silly for $20 total, and have leftovers to spare? While we do love other pizzerias around Atlanta (Varasano’s in particular), for those reasons we find ourselves in Antico at least once a week.

Anyway, Xavier had told me in the morning that we were heading to Antico later. When he picked me up from work, he told me the surprise: he had arranged it so that I would be making our pizza! By the time we got to the restaurant, I could hardly breathe from excitement. But somehow, with the help of the awesome guys who work there, I managed to make a margherita pie with pepperoni. They even let me slide it into the oven from the peel, which I did with remarkable success, if I do say so myself. (It didn’t stick at all!). Xavier filmed everything, so there aren’t many photos, but here are some.

Me holding my pie, making weird face. Flour on my shirt? Comes with the territory.
Close up of the final product

I am so grateful to have an amazing boyfriend who is thoughtful enough to arrange such an amazing surprise for me! Seriously, what did I ever do to deserve him? Between him, my friends who came to dinner later, and the guys at Antico who made everything happen, there are some awesome people in my life. I’m a lucky girl.

Between stuffing myself with pizza and receiving not one but two birthday cakes (ice cream AND cookie – yeah, did I mention that I’m a lucky girl?), my fitness regimen fell to the wayside for a few days. But I have exciting news to report. After months of agonizing and weeks of seeking out options, we have finally joined a fitness facility. Best of all, it’s better than any gym we could have imagined – it’s the biggest rock-climbing gym in the country!

Stone Summit Climbing and Fitness Center
Our new gym has 30,000 square feet of indoor climbing surface. It also has a full workout facility, where the machines have individual TVs! Furthermore, they offer classes: spin, pilates, abs, etc. So now I have a place for cardio when the weather’s not conducive to a run or bike. All of that climbing will help to tone and maintain great physical shape; during our visit, I loved that the clientele was overwhelmingly thin and muscular. If we work out there with regularity, I can only assume that we’ll join their ranks soon! And the best part? The membership cost was considerably less than any other facility we looked into. Jackpot.
An added benefit of the new gym is that it’s going to help me overcome my crippling, overpowering fear of heights. When we went this weekend, just looking at the walls was terrifying and made me want to cry. But after a few attempts, I scaled my way to the top of some of the bouldering walls! Not the ones you see in the  previous photos, but the smaller ones in the bouldering room.
Bouldering room

The bouldering room doesn’t look intimidating, but it’s scary because climbers aren’t hooked up to any ropes. If you fall, you fall. Granted, the floor is soft and bouncy, but if you’re scared of heights, just being off the ground is enough to incite a stress reaction. On our second trip yesterday evening, I managed to overcome my fear enough to work up a real sweat tackling the climbs. There are some seriously challenging courses in that little room. My fear of heights still prevails, though – once I reach the top of the wall, all I can do is slap the taped-on target and then I shimmy down as fast as humanly possible. Today, I’m legitimately sore. It’s a good feeling.

So please pardon my absence from blogging, as this has been a pretty great week. I promise to make it a point to write more often!