Many moons ago, Justin and I had a budget and we were good at sticking to it. Time went buy, we started making a little more money, started spending more money and eventually the budget went bye-bye.
Flash forward to now, we’re making less money and becoming well aware of how bad our spending habits became. We’ve jumped right back into budgeting. The number one thing we spend money on is groceries. I like to cook, we like to eat, we eat almost entirely organic and we don’t pay attention to prices. Even with meal planning, we’ve been spending waaayyy too much. Healthy, good food is important to us though and we’re ok with spending more money on that rather than something else. We chose a number we were comfortable with spending that is about half the amount we have been spending. It’s a huge wake up call, but it’s been good.
The wake up call came in that I spent most of the grocery money early on and had little money left to cover 9 days of meals. Oops! Even though we have money to cover it, I’m really adamant about staying within our budget. I spent an hour standing in the kitchen looking through the cabinets meal planning for those 9 days. 9 dinners, 4 breakfasts, 2 snacks and 2 lunches — I only planned for the lunch and breakfasts we’d eat together, since we typically eat something quickly on our own. I only needed 2 ingredients for all of those, using only what was in my pantry! I bought some frozen broccoli rabe (cheaper than kale and actually healthier) and a dozen eggs. My kitchen was nowhere fully stocked at the time either. This was me using up all of the random ingredients I had leftover or had purchased for a recipe that I never got around to making.
This recipe is extremely versatile. You can use just about any random vegetables you have leftover — zucchini, broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots, squash — it all gets pureed at the end anyways. If you have some leftover chicken or beef, cook that up and toss it in at the end. It’s a great “clean out the fridge” recipe.
The roasted cauliflower cut and cooked the way it was kind of resembled hamburger in texture. I told Justin this was like a vegetarian hamburger helper. After a few bites he informed me that I had to write down what I did and not forget, because it was really good and that I might as well just put it on my blog. Yes, sir. 😉
I used a short pasta, similar to penne. You could use just about any pasta you want, but I would choose something short. You could even mix together a few different kinds, if you have small amounts of random kinds leftover. I really like brown rice pasta, so this was gluten free. You could use oil instead of butter and the cheese is completely optional, so it can be vegan too.
I encourage you to take a week off of grocery shopping and see how many meals you can come up with! It was a great challenge for me and is going to eliminate a lot of waste. That cauliflower wasn’t going to make it much longer and those bell peppers have been in my freezer for several months.
Cauliflower Pepper Pasta
1 head cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons butter or more olive oil, one for now and two for later
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, one for now and one for later
2 cups dry pasta, cooked to package directions
10 oz bag of frozen bell peppers or 2-3 fresh bell peppers, cut into strips (any color)
1 yellow onion, largely diced
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed or 2 teaspoons dry rosemary
Sprinkle of salt
1 teaspoon molasses
2 handfuls shredded cheese, optional
Toss the cauliflower with a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet
Bake at 425°F for 20-30 minutes, stirring periodically
While the cauliflower is baking, cook the pasta according to package directions
While the cauliflower and pasta are cooking, start the sauce
In a pot over medium heat, combine 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, the frozen (or fresh) bell peppers, onion, garlic, rosemary, salt and molasses
Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened — 10-15 minutes
Blend in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth
Taste and add more salt, if you want
Combine sauce, pasta, cauliflower and cheese in a bowl — the heat from all of the ingredients will melt the cheese