March Summary and Observations

March was our consolidation month into our new home.

The averages for this month:

  • Lunch prepared at home $2.95 ($1.98 in February)
  • Lunch eaten or purchased outside the home: $6.02 ($8.16)
  • Dinner eaten at home: $5.29 ($4.83)
  • Dinner eaten out: $17.34 ($18.70)

Our most expensive meal was a working dinner with another software developer at Gordon Biersch at $24.02 a head (with tax and tip).

Had we purchased every lunch and prepared none it would have cost us $186,62 per person in March. We actually spent $50.12 for lunches at home plus $72.20 for lunches purchased or eaten out: $122.32.

Had we purchased every dinner out at the same average it would be $537.64 each, compared with $111.07 for meals prepared at home and $104.06 for meals out, or the $215.13 total.

That’s just working on the average. Several of the meals we had would have been well over $30 a serve in a restaurant.

Apr 1: Pulled Pork Sandwich; Pea and ham soup

Lunch

Foodie Philip was playing tour guide to some Danish guests, so BBQ was on the agenda after a healthy climb up behind the Hollywood Sign earlier in the day. Dr Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas BBQ was the venue.

It turns out they were no stranger to pulled pork and wanted to compare with their previous experience. Pulled pork all round.

What I like about this sandwich is that coleslaw is on the sandwich by default. It gives a nice textural crunch, and an offset to the sticky sweet bbq sauce.

As the guest paid I’m putting this one in as a free lunch.

Dinner

Thanks to the shopping habits of young ladies at outlet malls and Los Angeles traffic, we got home well into the evening. Thank goodness for leftovers.

Out came the pea and ham soup from two nights ago, with cubed ham in the bottom. On the table in about 15 minutes.

  • The soup was 60c per serve
  • 8 oz of ham each was 50c.

We didn’t serve any bread so dinner tonight cost only $1.10 per serve.

Mar 31: Ham and Avocado on English Muffin; Burrito

Lunch

For lunch we paired up some of the left-over ham with avocado on an English Muffin.

  • Each muffin is 50c
  • Half an avocado is 50c
  • About 4 oz of ham is 25c

Lunch today cost $1.25 per serve.

Dinner

We were out toward Westlake Village for an appearance on the Digital Production BuZZ with Larry Jordan. A group from the show went out to dinner at a well Sagebrush Cantina on the way home.

One of the others picked up the check, so technically dinner out cost us nothing, but our burrito would be around $22 with tax and tip. It was a huge serve and hit the spot.

Mar 30: Massaman Curry; Pizza

Lunch

For lunch we finished the Eggplant Massaman Curry from Monday night, with a little added peanut butter, which improved the flavor.

  • The curry as it was on Monday is $3.36 a serve
  • Peanut butter is $3.99 a jar, and adds 50c per serve

Lunch today was $3.86 per serve.

Dinner

Tonight was the postponed LACPUG meeting, followed by pizza. Each person contributes $5 so that’s the cost per serve tonight.

Mar 29: Sushi; Pea and ham soup

Lunch

Supermarket sushi day.

  • Two dishes split between us $6.74 per serve.

Dinner

One of the great joys of baking a ham is to make ham stock, and then pea and ham soup.

The ham bone is pressure cooked with water and three bay leaves. The cost of the bone is probably $2.00 because its weight was included in the total cost of the ham, but not in the calculations of meat usage. We split the stock into two batches. One was frozen, the other used immediately.

The soup is simply prepared by adding split peas to the stock and pressure cooking again. Our innovation is to blend in one pound of fresh (frozen) peas at the end. It lifts the texture and provides a bright note to the flavor.

The soup recipe makes six serves. We cubed some left over ham and put it in the bowl, poured soup on top and served with fresh baked bread.

  • The $1.00 of stock is split six ways, or 17c per serve
  • The pack of split peas was $1.59 or 27c per serve
  • The frozen peas is 99c a pack, or 16c per serve
  • 8 oz of ham per serve is 50c
  • 1/4 of a loaf of par baked bread is 63c.

For dinner tonight the soup cost 60c per serve. With ham and bread $1.73. The bread was more expensive than the soup!

Mar 28: Double Double; Eggplant Massaman Curry

Lunch

Burbank Monday so foodie Philip had the regular In and Out Double Double (animal style).

  • Lunch today was $4.03

Dinner

With the arrival of some massaman curry paste it was time to try a massaman curry. A simple recipe with potato, Thai eggplant and broccoli, we were underwhelmed with the result. We’ll try again tomorrow night with the addition of some peanut butter to bring the peanut flavor associated with massaman.

Thai eggplant is a small, round eggplant that looks more like a miniature water melon than a typical eggplant. We aren’t fans of basil so that was left out of the recipe. It also turns out -with some research – that it is more usual to add salt than fish sauce to a massaman curry.

  • Thai eggplant – $2.99 or 75c per serve
  • Red potatoes – 38c or 9c per serve
  • A can if coconut milk is $1.59 or 40c per serve
  • The organic broccoli was $3.49 or 87c per serve
  • Limes were 78c or 19c per serve
  • Add 15c for fish sauce and other seasonings
  • A pound of ham was 99c or 25c per serve
  • The sprouted brown rice was 66c per serve

Dinner tonight cost $3.36 a serve and, while it was quite tasty, we’ll do better.

Mar 27: Smoked Salmon, cream cheese and slow cooked scrambled eggs; Cauliflower, Ham and Cheese

Lunch

Being a weekend lunch with time to prepare, foodie Greg decided on slow cooked scrambled eggs, with wild caught smoked salmon and a smear of cream cheese.

Slow cooking the scrambled eggs – with not dairy or water added – creates an entirely different experience. Eggs are creamy, and taste of yolk. It’s almost like the barely cooked yolk was held in suspension by the set whites. It took about half an hour to slowly bring the eggs to temperature.

  • The wild caught smoked salmon was $5.99 or $3.00 a serve
  • An English Muffin is 50c
  • Each egg is 50c or $1.00 per serve
  • Add 20c for the smear of cream cheese.

Today’s gourmet lunch cost $4.70 for a meal that would be well over $20 in a restaurant.

Dinner

Time to use up some leftover ham! A simple dish of roasted cauliflower florets, with cubed ham and cheese sauce. The cheese sauce is interesting because it is simply water, sodium citrate and cheese. No white sauce involved.

The sodium citrate (available from Amazon) allows the cheese to be blended into the water without breaking. The cheese sauce is richer and more ‘cheesy’ than one made with a roux.

Roast cauliflower, ham and cheese.
Roast cauliflower, ham and cheese.
  • We shared about 1 lb of ham for 50c per serve
  • An entire 7oz block of cheese went in to the sauce or $3.00 a serve
  • The organic cauliflower was $3.22 or $1.61 per serve.

Dinner tonight hit all the right notes and cost $6.11 per serve.

Mar 26: Cheese and ‘pickles’ on ciabatta; Baked Ham with Choucroute Garnie

Lunch

For lunch today we did a repeat of the March 8th lunch with Wildbrine Fermented Madras Curry & Cauliflower Sauerkraut substituting for the pickle. Interestingly, the flavor profile of the Wildbrine product is very similar to an English Piccalilli pickle.

  • The bread was $2.99 or 75c per serve.
  • The cheddar is $5.99 for the 8oz block or $1.13 per 1.5 oz serve
  • The sauerkraut was $6.99 for 18 oz or 88c per serve.

Lunch today cost us $2.76

Dinner

At Christmas and Easter most of the major supermarket chains have a loss-leader ham, which we duly purchased for 99c per lb. A generous 11 lbs we will be eating ham-based leftovers for a while!

Tonight we paired it with Choucroute Garnie, although in a very non-traditional variation, Greg left out sausage and any pork product. We figured the ham would be enough pork! We prepared a smaller batch with four serves.

The technique we used was to bring the ham to 130ºF before removing the skin, basting and returning to a hot oven to finish at 140ºF.

We served with a dressing foodie Philip came up with: a combination of pomegranate molasses, dijon mustard and horseradish. It has a perfect balance of earthiness, sweet, tart, savory and a little hot from the mustard.

  • A generous serve of ham is 99c
  • The sauerkraut is $2.99 a pack or 75c per serve
  • The carrots were 50c or 13c per serve
  • Potatoes add 50c per serve
  • The ingredients for the sauce add 25c per serve

Dinner tonight was $2.62 per serve.

Mar 25: Sardines and avocado on English Muffin; Burrito/Noodle soup

Lunch

For lunch we went back to a staple: avocado and sardines on an English Muffin. Trust me it tastes much better than it sounds. We chose Trader Joe’s Sardines in Harissa sauce for even more flavor.

  • One English Muffin is 50c
  • Half an avocado is 50c
  • Trader Joe’s Sardines in Harissa retails for $1.29 per can, or 65c per serve.

Lunch today cost $1.65 per serve.

Dinner

Editor’s Lounge was at Key Code Media so food was supplied by Alpha Dogs so foodie Philip ate for free.

At home Greg had a noodle soup from Whole Foods for $1.99.

Mar 24: Hot Cross Buns; NY Strip Steak, Crash Hot Potatoes, Arugula, beet and blue cheese salad

Lunch

One of the strongest recollections of my childhood years was the appearance of Hot Cross Buns – a sweet, spiced fruit roll – around Easter Time. I got word from Facebook that Whole Foods had some and we dutifully purchased, toasted and enjoyed two each for lunch.

  • A pack of nine Hot Cross Buns costs $7.99 and we had two each, or $1.77 per serve
  • Neufchâtel cream cheese makes a fine alternative to butter and is $1.99 a block, or 33c per serve.

Our nostalgic lunch today cost $2.10 a serve. Nostalgia comes at a price.

Dinner

Having moved from the convenience of Avalon’s outdoor grill, we avoided any grilling until today. The cast iron griddle on the induction cooker makes a fine substitute, as long as you have great ventilation for the inevitable smoke.

The induction cooktop had the griddle too hot for me to hold my hand on, in 14 seconds! Great for cooking steak.
The induction cooktop had the griddle too hot for me to hold my hand on, in 14 seconds! Great for cooking steak.

We served with Crash Hot Potatoes and a simple salad of Arugula, cooked beets and blue cheese crumbles. This is another meal with great flavor and is easy enough to cook  that you could enjoy a date night, (apart from that smoke issue but cooking outside would solve that).

  • Prather Ranch organic NY Strip Steak is $18.99 for 12 oz, or $9 a serve
  • Potatoes and fresh rosemary from the garden, 55c per serve
  • The pack of arugula is $2.99 or 75c per serve
  • The pack of pre-cooked baby beets is $2.99 or $1.50 a serve
  • The crumbled blue cheese adds about 40c per serve

Tonight’s dinner, worthy of a steak house night out, was $12.20 per serve, which compares very favorably with the $45-50 it would cost with tax and tip.

You’ll note that we like our steak rare. At first I thought this was underdone because of the new setup, but because the meat is of such high quality, and there’s little fat served, that the rare parts were much more tender than the cooked area around the outside. We wonder if we’ve been overcooking New York Strip in the past.