Thanksgiving Challenge Recap

For those of you who don’t remember, here is the post that explains the Thanksgiving Challenge.  The basic idea was to spend $100 on food in the month of November.  Throughout the month you reflect on how thankful you are for what you have, and get the added benefit of clearing out your kitchen cabinets.

I did great on the second half, not so hot on the first!  Here’s a breakdown –

  • the $100 was for our entire (two-person) household
  • it did not include things like toilet paper and toothpaste
  • we chose not to include booze, although we only ended up drinking once or twice in the month

I included everything I ate in the challenge.  I also included everything my husband and I ate together, as well as all of my husband’s meals.  In the end, I did not include the snacks my husband ate without me.  His dinners the weekends I was out of town went into the total.  The ice-cream cones he bought and ate entirely by himself did not.

In the end, our balance was $98.86.  This included all of our groceries and most of our meals out.  It’s that most that was the problem – we did some cheating!  In the end there were 4 occasions of eating out that did not go into our totals.  Some were deliberate choices (the meal I mentioned before the start of the challenge that came from my last paycheck, a last minute meet up with my cousin) that I’m happy I made.  Others were spur of the moment choices I regret.  Chicken fingers eaten drunkenly at midnight are not a necessity.

It’s also worth noting that we started with a fairly stocked kitchen.  And my grandparents paid for our meals our entire visit (and Turkey Day).  But it’s also worth noting that the Foodbuzz Festival was often surprisingly absent of food and I managed to stick to my guns (and my budget).

In spite of a few disappointments, my overall reactions to the challenge were positive.  Having to think more about my food choices often led me to think more about how fortunate I am to have those choices in the first place.  And it was very cathartic to clear out my kitchen!

Here are some links to some key learning opportunities from the challenge –

Cheating happens.

Sometimes empty pantries led to strange choices,

but the most wonderful meals are often low-budget.

Did you participate in the Thanksgiving Challenge?  What did you end up learning/feeling?

One last link!  Here is a blog reflecting on the evolution of Thanksgiving that I think you all would like!

Cooking Beans and Baking Cookies

It’s been a kitchen day here at the Bear-Mouse household.  We emptied the dish washer this morning and it’s pretty much full again with casseroles and mixing bowls.  Good times 🙂

We got up late late this morning, since I stayed up late late last night feeling sick.  Our first mission was a walk to Walgreens for Junior Caramels and cream of chicken soup (you’ll see in a minute).  $3.32, Challenge Balance – $98.86.

First up on the cooking agenda was green bean casserole.

I followed the recipe on the back of the onion can, but I subbed in cream of chicken for cream of mushroom and skim for whole because it’s all I could find.

Then came the baking of cookies.  I kept changing my recipe plan (Adam just might have eaten ALL of our oatmeal without my knowing) as I discovered ingredients we were out of.  In the end I made a half batch of the toll house recipe.

I used 1t skim milk instead of vanilla extract, and used half a cup of Jr Caramels with half a cup of chips.  Not my best substitutions, they might have been a little stuck.

Lunch was rather reminiscent of Turkey Day meals.

A small serving of Annie’s Shells.

A large serving of casserole.

Pretty tasty.

Once the cooking was tasted, I had to try the baking for dessert.  Adam and I split this crumbly plate.

My homework due date got pushed back so I doubt I will be motivated to do much today and dinner is going to be PF Chang’s leftovers so it’s looking like a lazy day.  I think there is a stack of magazines in my future!

Do you make substitutions in cooking/baking?  How do they usually turn out?

Hello Again From Buffalo

Hello again from Buffalo.  Sorry I didn’t post last night, we didn’t get in until late and I am sick so I was exhausted.  Honestly though, when you see my poor food choices I feel like I won’t have to have mentioned that I was sick.

Friday in a thousand words –

+ several bites from Adam’s plates.  Sorry to be lame, but I would like to completely be home and unpack all our crap.  Another apology.  All total we spent $16.30 yesterday, bringing the Challenge Balance$95.54.  All I need between now and Monday is a small can of soup, so technically, we made it!  However, one of my favorite cousins just called and said she would be passing through town today.  There is no way I am turning down lunch with her (and her baby whom I’ve never met, and my husband whom she’s never met) just to stick with the Challenge.  Sorry 🙂

So I’ll be back this afternoon after this shamefulless lunch!

Road Tripped

We are in Ohio!  My grandmother’s internet isn’t the best and it’s been a long day so I won’t be able to be as detailed as I would like.  It’s been a good day though 🙂

We got up at 6:30 this morning and were out the door before 7am.  The trip was 400+ miles so we had to get an early start.  I packed up food for the road, a la Thanksgiving Challenge, threw on a sweatshirt and split.

I had some am amazing grass – 1banana, 1scoop grass, big pour skim milk, 8 ice cubes, blender.

I was so proud of the husband for drinking some too!

A few hours later I ate a yummy leftovers sandwich.

1.5 buffalo blue bean patties on toasted bread with honey and jack daniels mustard.

We split the driving fairly evenly – 2hours Adam, 2hours me, 2hours Adam.  The switches were a nice excuse for pee and diet soda breaks!

When we got in to Piqua my grandparents had a great lunch ready for us.

Carrot and dill soup was delicious.

And the two-cheese grilled cheese were so nice and gooey.

There were also spicy bread and butter pickles and sunchips on the table.

I ate more chips throughout the day than was a good idea!

To drink I had half of Adam’s holiday Coke,

and I split a lime beer with my grandmother.

For dessert I had a cherry cordial from the box of candy we brought as our hostess gift.

We had a great time hanging out with my grandparents.  We played Euchre and my grandpa bought us all fun lotto cards!

I didn’t win, but it was nice to dream.

My aunt and uncle drove up this evening and we all had a great dinner together (more soup and sandwiches!).

The soup was white chicken chili,

and the sandwiches were pulled chicken – I think we are done with chicken for a bit!

I also had one delicious deviled egg.

Dessert was homemade old fashioned cream pie.

It was awesome, but the crust was store-bought so I just scraped out the filling.

Plus coffee with 2% milk.

Look at their adorable sugar bowl!

Now it’s almost 10 and I would love to get in bed!  Overall it’s been a fabulous (filling) day!  My grandmother is such a good cook and it’s so great to be with family.

What do you usually pack for road trips?

Liver Spots

There were all sorts of goods and bads today but I’ll try to focus on the goods.  Like, for example, the fact that it’s Turkey Day week!

I went ’80’s style when I got dressed today, all I needed was my old Doc Martin boots!

Now that I live in Buffalo I wear sandals every day, but when I was growing up in the Caribbean I went through an intense Doc Martin phase.  I guess I like anything that’s out of season!

I was in desperate need of greens/fruits so I made a smoothie for the road.

1C frozen blackberries, a scoop of Chocolate Amazing Grass, and some skim milk.  I loved how purple it got!

I arrived at school really early so I walked around with Adam for a bit before heading to my appointment.

Fun fact #1 – my leg hurts like crazy.  Fun fact # 2 – according to the RN at the health center I have a varicose vein!  It’s not a terrible one, and at this stage my insurance won’t cover removal.  They are hereditary and my teaching career (on my feet nonstop from 7-5) is a big factor, as well as my years as a waitress. She said I need to wear support hose and supportive shoes, but wouldn’t give me information about how long that would need to happen.  If a month or so will ‘fix’ me then I’m all for it, but if it’s a rest of my life thing I’d rather keep with my sandals and just have the surgery when it gets worse.  I have an imaging appointment tomorrow to make sure I don’t have a blood clot and I’ll get more information then.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a good thing Adam drove me to class because I bawled all the way there.  I’m able to put up with a lot of pain, but having a yucky old lady problem pisses me off!  I don’t want to wear support hose!  I sort of lost it.  I think things will be better once I get more information tomorrow.

The good news is that physical activity can’t make it worse.  I try to be very careful of injury (that’s why I took time off when the leg pain started) because I would never want to permanently side-line myself.  However, I am ridiculously stubborn and am pretty good with putting up with pain.  I decided last week that I would always stop running if I would cause permanent injury by not taking a break, but that if I could safely run through the pain I would do so.  Therefore, 7 out of 10 leg pain be damned, half marathon training is back on!!

I recomposed myself once I got to campus, but definitely bought this bag of Jalapeno Cheddar Cheetos to ease my sorrows.

($1, Challenge Balance – $79.24 ) I ate about half the bag – go me for not just downing the whole thing.

At 6 I got more good news when Caroline showed up with her laptop, class was cancelled!  Adam was already at the gym with a friend so she offered to take me home.  We made a pit-stop at the mall (shopping for her bf) so that was fun.

Dinner was more good news.  Delicious, all around!  The first course was Dr. McDougall’s Soup.

Adam had Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato and I had Chunky Tomato.

I almost never eat ‘mater soup but I love it.

The second/main course was my newest creation.

Buffalo Blue Bean Patties, serves 4

  • 2 15.5oz cans black beans we use low sodium
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2T buffalo wing sauce we used the sauce from Anchor Bar, the birthplace of Buffalo wings
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup gorgonzola cheese crumbles
  • salt and pepper, to season
  1. Preheat the oven to 450*.  Foil and spray a baking sheet.
  2. Empty bean cans into a colander and rinse thoroughly – this is a heart healthy step, reduce your sodium intake.
  3. Pour beans and 2 cups wing sauce into a blender and puree.  If you have a rickety blender you may want to do this in two batches.
  4. Empty blender into a large mixing bowl.  Add rest of wing sauce and eggs, stir.  Add bread crumbs, stir.  Add cheese and fork to combine.
  5. Using your hands, form 12 patties out of the bean mixture.
  6. Put patties on prepared sheet and bake for 20minutes, it is not necessary to flip them during baking.

I ate mine with the sad remains of our ketchup (that’s a small plate).

Man they were good!  I don’t want to toot my own horn, but this was such a good idea!  They were also very filling, I ended up only eating 2.5.

You what what else is a good idea?  The big bowl of popcorn I’m about to make!  Yes, I used up the big bag of ‘corn my in-laws brought me just last month!

Have a good night folks!

What makes you feel old?  I’m 24, I’m not cool with the idea of support hose!  Teenage entertainment makes me feel old too, shows like “Gossip Girl” just make me uncomfortable!

Updates, an Outline

1a. I definitely went to bed at 9:30, and then got back out of bed at 10:30 and went and got sandwiches with Adam.  Being hungry like that makes me really sad and I had been hungry all day.  We watched Bones, ate Buffalo chicken sandwiches, and stayed up until 2am; it was fabulous.

1b. I kind of suck at the Challenge.  There is a recap to come at the end of November, but we’ve cheated so much it’s kind of ridiculous.

2a. I will not be running today.

2b. I haven’t really been talking about it but my legs (right in particular) hurt like crazy.  I haven’t run in 2weeks but yesterday I was limping because I was in so much pain.  Adam “diagnosed” me with tendonitis last night and I am planning on going to the doctor ASAP.  I am so sad about this fact that I have to leave it at that because it’s just too frustrating.

3a. I will not be posting a real post today.  I am turning my computer off completely for the day.

3b.  I woke up with some sort of bug today and am hoping that if my only activities are walking to buy Airbone and getting back into bed I’ll kill it off for this weekend.

4a. This post was lame as all get out.

4b. But I kind of had fun, I miss writing papers!  🙂


Thank you (once again) for the encouraging comments on the last post.  Today has been good.

I spent an hour in the library this morning attempting to figure out my class schedule for next semester, but ultimately the computer glitches made it impossible.  My registration window is tomorrow morning, so I’m going to make sure I know exactly what the plan is before I go to bed tonight.  I ate a Cashew Almond Prana Bar while I worked.

I caught up on Chemistry reading until 12, and then I met up with my friend Katie for a trip to Starbucks.  I let my sweet tooth talk me into the cheapest option –

🙂 mint brownie, $1.95.  On the side I had some cheap healthy ice water.

Challenge Balance – $63.10.  I had a great time catching up with Katie and getting in some serious blog gossip.  Katie recently became a full-fledged RD so she’s kind of a rock star to me!  During our chatting a barista offered us a sample of the newest drink – Creme Brule Latte.

I was expecting to love it, but neither of us were that impressed.  It was too sweet, without acting tasting like Creme Brule.

By the way, those of who met me at the Foodbuzz Festival and thought I was underdressed, check out my ‘it’s 41* in Buffalo’ duds.

Katie said my sandals in November made me a bad-ass, oh yeah!

I headed home around 2:30 and I ate some peanut butter.  And a teeny apple.

PB Loco rocks my socks.  And if you skim to the bottom of this post, I tell you some ways they can rock your socks.

Adam and I have to run some errands and then the rest of the day will be all about business.  I have more Chemistry work I’d like to do and it’s possible my clothing just will get up and walk away as my laundry is so embarrassed about living in the living room for the last weekend!  I’ll see you with dinner.

Ways to get your fabulous pb fix on –

1.  If you sign up for “free stuff” at you will receive coupons to use at the online store.

2. Spend $30 or more at and receive a FREE jar of P.B.Loco Dreamy Creamy Peanut Butter.  To redeem this coupon, place $30 or more of merchandise in your shopping cart at  Enter coupon code BLOG1209 when you checkout.  A free jar will be added to your order.  Offer expires December 25, 2009.


Now that I unpacked yesterday, we got up at 9:30 today and went straight to the laundromat to deal with our 4+ loads of dirty laundry!  I packed a Cinnamon Apple Prana Bar to eat in the car.



On the way home we stopped at the store to buy some cereal ($2.99; Challenge Balance – $61.15) and I picked up lunch, free.


Several readers recommended Sunshine Burgers to me but I wasn’t sure about them and didn’t want to make the $5 commitment.  So I e-mailed the company about some coupons and they happily complied. 

I decided to try the South West variety today.  Verdict?  Super-duper impressive, I totally see what the fuss was about.


I ate two patties, topped with low fat mozzarella, and a heaping side of guacamole and hot salsa.


So good!  I was full, but I almost went back for a third patty just because I didn’t want to lose the taste in my mouth!  I did however, gobble the last T of cheese while I was making lunch.


Thankfully, I got some distracting excitement –


My Foodbuzz box is here!  I can pretty much promise I’ll be eating some sampler cookies for dessert.

Now I’ve got to tackle my loads of schoolwork.  Adam and I are actually going to a semi-formal with his school tonight so it’ll be a late recap.  Happy Saturdaying everyone!

Dinner with Outstanding in the Field

Tonight was amazing!  I am so sorry for another lame post, I truely truely am.  I get so excited about food but I have so much to say that it is too much and I’m exhausted.

Dinner was put on by Outstanding in the Field (a very locavore, farm to table, excited about sustainability organization) and was held at Greenleaf Warehouses.  The setting was legit a warehouse, I love industrial/fashionable settings.




You can just go ahead and multiply this glass of vino by 3.


And I had 1 shrimp crisp,


and a whipped tuna cracker.


Dinner was family style, so we got to serve ourselves.  First was a pickled veggie plate Ahi tonnato on pain de mie with gochukaura and parsley.


I loved how spicy everything was.


Next was soup Mushroom dashi, maitake, shimeji, enoki mushrooms.


It was very similar to a miso but the mushrooms had an insanely lemon taste.  This was the only thing I didn’t love.

Then they brought out udon noodles with fresh calamari Udon, grilled Monterey calamari in a browned butter ponzu reduction, cucumber, kaiware, frisee & yellow pear tomato with chojang & sesame vinaigrette.


I was very nervous about it but Jenna convinced me to try a taste.


So glad I did!  I actually really liked the calamari but the soba noodles were the best, very doughy and raw.  Plus the dish had a good spice kick.

Then came salmon and mushroom risotto Salmon baked with dashikombu, fried garlic and Japanesse curry powder / Mushroom risotto with koshihikari rice, crispy maitake mushrooms.



I don’t know why I took such a tiny serving, but it was delicious.  I love love loved the curry powder.


There was oxtail, but I obviously ignored it, and then came out a platter of brussels sprouts Roasted brussels sprouts, ponzu fried garlic, guanciale, bonito flakes.  Jenna told me there was short rib in them, so I resisted.  But brussels sprouts are in my top five all time food favorites, so I finally said f’ it and ate one.  Delish.  Then the waitress came by, and said “vegetarian.”  So I loaded up a plate.


So.Fricking.Fantastic.  They tasted like McDonald’s fries, which sounds awful but was just amazing.  However, apparently, so not vegetarian.  They definitly had pork in them.  Which makes me quite sad 😦 

Finally, dessert.  Ah dessert Koshihikari rice pudding, cookie crumble, and warren pear.


I love rice pudding, but  the pear, oh the pear!  I had a bite of pear at the farmer’s market this morning and I’ve been telling people all day that it was seriously the best thing I’ve eaten out here.  The dessert was from the same farm!!!  I was in heaven.

Before we headed out they did Foodbuzz awards which was a lot of fun.  I definitly congratualate some very deserving winners!

A bus ride later, Camile and I walked the mile back to our hotel for the last time.  On the way home I just might have seen a 7-11 and shrieked at the top of my lungs.  Bosenberry and cola, oh yeah.


Even more exciting?  Getting in bed now!  Tomorrow morning there is a goodbye breakfast and then I fly all day long and get back home at midnight!  I have a big test on Monday so I’m not sure what the posting situation will be.  I hope everyone else’s weekend ends well!!

Challenge Balance – $31.71

We Are Here!

I’m finally in California!  I’ve been waiting for this since I was a kid!  I need to finish getting ready so I’ll keep it quick, but I wanted to check in. 

My flights went well, things were nice and uneventful.  Because of the challenge (I’m not gonna lie, I love airport food, it is totally worth the money to me usually) I tried to pack all of my own snacks for this travel day.  I’m not quite sure how things will work on my return flights, but I do have some bars stashed in my suitcase.

I ate breakfast before I got on my first flight, a crumpet(!) topped with Crofter’s Superfruit Spread and an egg.



I cooked the egg in the microwave – small bowl, crack, stir, salt & pepper, 45second nuke – and it worked out very well.  I was worried about how well this would keep as ‘leftovers’ but it was pretty tasty.  I’ll be doing the micro method more often.

I ate a sandwich on my second flight.  For my sandwich I packed 3slices of turkey on 2slices of bread, with a packet of horsey sauce from Arby’s to squeeze on in flight.


My long flight (5+hours) went well.  I watched “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Masectemy” on my laptop and bought a “Real Simple” and “Bon Appetit” that kept me very occupied.

Camile and I met up in the airport and headed to our hotel via the BART.  We are sharing a room and the receptionist was totally sweet and upgraded us to a king bed.


I think the room is gorgeous, it is tiny, but well decorated.  Plus the front desk has awesome candy.


As soon as our bags were dropped off we headed out to explore the area around our hotel – Market Street.  I munched on an apple from home to hold me over.


Now we are finishing getting ready for the first Foodbuzz event, a cocktail party!  I am so excited to meet all the bloggers!  I’ll be back with a recap this evening.

What eats do you pack for travel?