Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Good Week For Grocery Specials

Some week's sales are pretty lackluster, but this week is looking good. Highlights of deals I like are in the sidebar to the left, but you might want to inspect the full ads of the stores, too. Online versions can be found for Sprouts, Sunflower, and Whole Foods. I'm still not eating conventional potatoes, no matter how good the deal, but I'm looking forward to seeing how many 10 lb bags of russets go flying out the door at Sprouts for 49 cents each, yikes. Menu ideas (not for how to use 10 pounds of potatoes) to follow shortly.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Celebrate Spring With Strawberries

It's strawberry time, and tomorrow only, our local Whole Foods will have one pound packages for $1.99, a dollar less than Sunflower is doing right now. Since neither specifies, they're probably conventional at both places.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Farmers Market Opening

In a sure sign of spring, this coming Saturday will see the opening for the season of the Boulder Farmers Market. Yeah! Can't wait for my favorite farm stands like Cure Organic Farm and Munson's (so conveniently across the street from one another) to follow suit.

Wine Kudos for Frasca

Departing briefly again from home cooking, we're so lucky to have the restaurant scene that we do in a town the size of Boulder. Frasca continues to make headlines, this time in the wine department. Last week, the news was its being named a finalist for the James Beard Foundation's outstanding wine service award, so stay tuned on that one. Today, I opened my April issue of Food & Wine magazine to find an article on food and wine pairings that names five "pairing meccas" across the country, and you guessed it, Frasca is one of the five. Wow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Brings Holidays

On this Palm Sunday, thoughts are turning towards Easter dinner, but also, tomorrow evening brings Passover. Bon Appetit has some nice-looking ideas in the Passover guide on their website, and Saveur, my new favorite magazine, has a slideshow.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

More Dinners For This Week

Looks like we've finally escaped a snowstorm, and things are going to warm up around here! Continuing to think about dinners, I'll celebrate with shrimp risotto with peas, one of the New York Times' recipes for health. Will undoubtedly cheat by skipping the shrimp stock step, using stock from a box instead. Raw shrimp are on sale for $3.97/lb at Sunflower, but I have a pound in my freezer from an even better prior sale at Sprouts.

Then it's an easy dinner finishing off the rest of the potato and root vegetable chowder from earlier in the week, keeping in mind the leaf lettuce that's $1.50 at Sunflower for the side salad.

Looking to a pasta dish, and with chicken breast/tenders at a good price at both Sprouts and Sunflower, I'll do a pasta dish with chicken and artichoke hearts that's kind of a combination of ideas. It's starting point is probably Cooking Light's recipe for kamut spirals with chicken-artichoke wine sauce, using a regular whole wheat pasta instead. But I find this tastes kind of flat using the rinsed canned artichokes, so I prefer a smaller amount of marinated artichokes, including the marinade. Sometimes I'll toss in some broccoli flowerettes, making the dish close to a wonderful one called Scoozi that's served at Carelli's fantastic restaurant.

Finally, with pork chops $2.99/lb at Sprouts and $3.99/lb at Sunflower, depending on where you're shopping anyway, pork chops sauteed with a little garlic and finished with a splash of balsamic vinegar will make an easy finish to this week's dinners. Don't forget that Whole Foods has some beautiful organic chard on sale through Tuesday at $1.50 a bunch for a side veggie, and organic russet potatoes (88 cents a pound at Sunflower) microwave pretty decently and quickly.

And that does it for the week. If this week's warmup continues, next week will be on to grilling!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some Dinner Ideas

If you like salmon, hope you caught either the last day of $6.99/lb sockeye at Sprouts yesterday, or yesterday's one-day coho sale at Whole Foods. Last week was a great one for fish, and this week isn't so impressive. I'll probably pull more Copper River salmon from my freezer, although the shrimp & crab mac & cheese that's $7.49/lb at Whole Foods is positively torturing me. The frozen tuna steaks that are $5.99 for a 12 oz package at Whole Foods, or fresh tilapia $5.99/lb at Sprouts are other possibilities.

I've mentioned this recipe before, but with chicken sausage on sale for $2.99/lb at both Sunflower and Sprouts (bulk form at Sprouts), I want a hearty pizza alla salsiccia from Cooking Light one more time, while I can still get good fennel and want to turn on the oven. I've always made this with the great multigrain fresh dough found at Whole Foods, but this week, Sunflower has their own white or wheat dough at $1 off, $1.99 for 19 oz. Might give it a try. Be sure to adjust the toppings to correspond to the size dough you choose.

Another winter dish I want to get to before all this snow melts and it totally feels like spring is Bon Appetit's potato and root vegetable chowder with bacon. Organic leeks are $1.99/lb this week at Sunflower, and I still have most of a sale bag of russets to substitute for the Yukon Gold potatoes. In any case, Sunflower this week also has organic russets at 88 cents a pound, and organic leaf lettuce is $1.50 for the side salad.

More thinking to come soon. Have to get ready now for the Title Nine Blowout Sale!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Upcoming Ice Cream Social

The Whole Foods in Superior will hold an ice cream social from 1 to 3 this coming Saturday, the 27th, with proceeds benefitting the Whole Planet Foundation. That same day, the Pearl Street store will host a "spring has sprung celebration," decorating pots and planting seeds, with a $1 donation suggested to the Foundation as well.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Coho Salmon Sale

Our local Whole Foods stores tomorrow will have coho salmon on sale for $8.99/lb, $4 off. One day only, while they last. Tomorrow will bring us new sales at Sprouts and Sunflower (Whole Foods' already posted ones continue through March 30th), and I'll have highlights of the best deals in the column on the left, dinner ideas following shortly.

Title Nine Blowout Sale - Shop Till You Drop!

With all this cooking, you have some calories to work off, right? Every once in awhile, Title Nine, the wonderful women's activewear company, does a huge merchandise clearance, and it's back in Boulder this week. Note - it's not at the Title 9 store. They need a warehouse-sized space for this, so it will be in the 29th Street Mall at the corner of Arapahoe and 28th Street (I think where Wild Oats was originally planned - another food connection?). Starts Thursday, the 25th, and runs through Sunday (10-7 Thursday and Friday, 10-5 Saturday, 11-5 Sunday). They'll take Visa, Master Card, cash and checks, but not gift cards. Prices get marked further down as the sale progesses, so Thursday will have the best selection but highest prices, while Sunday will be pretty picked over but the best prices. It's the kind of thing where they hand out trash bags at the front door to carry all the stuff you'll collect, and a feeding frenzy of buying ensues. Just be sure you don't get carried away with your enthusiasm - while some incredible bargains can be found, some prices, at least at the sale's start, aren't that much lower than regular retail. Shop smart, shop well.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

More Dinners For This Week

Rounding out the dinners for the week, I'm thinking about the chicken breast tenders for $1.69/lb at Sprouts. One good way to use them would be chicken burritos with poblano chiles and corn from Bon Appetit, but for ease, substituting roasted Hatch chiles from the freezer. (Whole Foods has roasted fresh chiles every fall, good to keep frozen through the year.)

With organic eggplant only $1/lb at Whole Foods, this week's pasta dish will be penne with eggplant from Cooking Light, using Sunflower's inexpensive whole wheat pasta. Hope you stocked up on pasta sauce during last week's sale.

For an Asian spin, and to incorporate more sale chicken, it's time for spicy stir fried chicken and greens from Bon Appetit, served over brown rice. I wonder how it would be with the organic chard that's $1.50/bunch at Whole Foods.

Finally, for a super-quick dinner, you can make a modern spin on tuna casserole by preparing a box of Annie's mac and cheese ($1/box at Sprouts), tossing in a can of nice tuna and some defrosted peas. Quick comfort food. Also really good to keep these ingredients in stock to pull off this dinner when you aren't prepared to do something else.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Seafood Sale Alert

Tomorrow, the 20th, the Boulder Sunflower will hold a one-day "seafood road show" from 10 to 4, during which they promise "huge savings."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Starting on This Week's Dinners

Good prices this week on fish, ground beef, and chicken, so let's get started.

Preparing to be snowed in on Friday and maybe Saturday, I'll be stocked with either cod ($3.97/lb at Sunflower, $6.99/lb at Sprouts) or sockeye salmon ($6.99/lb at Sprouts), maybe roasting some potatoes from last week's Sunflower sale bag, along with roasted cauliflower, $2 a head for organic at Sunflower. (The wonderful roasted cauliflower from Boulder's The Kitchen got me going on this.)

With Harris Ranch 85% burger $1.97/lb for the family pack and Muir Glen tomatoes $1.25/can at Sunflower, I'm thinking layered enchilada casserole, originally published in Bon Appetit, while we dig out of the snow. Sprouts has mild cheddar cheese on sale for just $2/lb, but the sharp cheddar that's called for really would be better.

Somewhere I also need to fit in a reprise of last night's great corned beef and cabbage, which made just a huge amount of food.

More to come with the warm weather returning (yeah!).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More Dinners For This Week

Thinking about the rest of the week, I'd like to do something with the shrimp Sprouts has on sale for $2.99/lb. (Even better deal is to ask at the meat/seafood counter for the 2 pound bag they come from anyway, which you'll get for less than $6, and can keep in the freezer for later.) Hate to jump straight into an adaptation, but last month's Bon Appetit has a recipe I've been wanting to try, linguine with bay scallops, fennel, and tomatoes, that strikes me as a good possibility for substituting the shrimp. The pesticide-free cherry tomatoes on sale at Sunflower make this even more of a lure (not to mention the 77 cent organic leaf lettuce there for the side salad).

Of course, the lentil soup with spicy Italian sausage, made with the sale sausage from Sprouts, makes enough for a second dinner for us.

Wednesday is of course Saint Patrick's Day, and we'll celebrate with classic corned beef and cabbage, following the ancient directions from my well worn Joy of Cooking. (I'm half Irish and know there are lots more authentic and/or gourmet Irish options, but tradition has a comforting draw on this one.) I'll go with the corned beef brisket from Whole Foods at $5.99/lb, since I'm troubled by the ingredients in the corned beef being sold by my other favorite stores, as I mentioned yesterday. If really ambitious, I might try my hand at an Irish soda bread, inspired by a wonderful article in this month's Bon Appetit that includes the recipes.

Finally, to compensate for all that beef and butter (if slathered on Irish soda bread), Thursday will probably be a more ascetic dish like tofu and broccoli stir fry over brown rice, using Sunflower's organic broccoli at 99 cents a pound. My version is a hard copy from from our dear, former Wild Oats, but recipes abound on the web, and it's simple to invent one on the fly. Just add enough ginger and red pepper flakes to make it lively.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How Natural Is Natural? A Tale of Corned Beef

Our beloved local natural food stores play by different rules as to what kinds of things they'll stock. Timely case in point is corned beef. Here are some of the curing ingredients in the Harris Ranch corned beef brisket that's on sale for $2.99/lb this week at both Sprouts and Sunflower: sodium phosphates, sodium erythorbate, and sodium nitrite. I'm no expert, but that doesn't sound completely natural to me. Meanwhile, the Market Made corned beef brisket on sale now at Whole Foods for $5.99/lb contains nothing but the beef and recognizable seasonings like paprika and mustard seeds. As always, it's a matter of awareness, balanced by the size of your wallet. P.S. If you're concerned about nitrites (and many people aren't), it pays to look closely when buying cold cuts, too.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Beware the Roma Signage

If you're shopping for organic roma tomatoes soon in the Pearl Street Whole Foods and see a very large sign in front of them saying they are on sale for $1.49/lb, watch it at checkout, as they'll ring up at $2.99/lb in the system. Happened to me Wednesday and again this morning. Actually, when you think of the complexity of what goes on in these stores, it's amazing they get it right at the very high percentage that they do. The prices in the system have to be right, the signage has to match what the prices are supposed to be, the stockers have to put the right product (organic vs. conventional) behind the sign, and finally, the cashiers have to accurately identify a dazzling array of exotic veggies just by sight. It almost always works, but it's still a good idea to check your receipt.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Few Dinner Thoughts

I'm looking for something to showcase a couple of beautiful Meyer lemons I received from a friend's garden, so I'm thinking fish. When I was at the Pearl Street Whole Foods yesterday, I noticed some nice looking cod for $9.99/lb and sockeye for $10.99/lb. I'll be stocking up on the organic veggies on sale at Sunflower this week, so sides might be baked yams, acorn squash, or steamed broccoli from there, all at 99 cents/lb, or organic russets baked from a $2.50 bag.

Saint Patricks' Day alert. With the holiday falling in the middle of next week, doing a corned beef that takes hours to cook might be a better idea for this weekend or next, although I'm still aiming for the holiday.

That said, I'm interested in trying a soup recipe recently published in Bon Appetit, lentil soup with spicy Italian sausage, fully cooking the fresh Italian chicken or pork sausage on sale at Sprouts for $2.99/lb. It's also a chance to get in more wonderful parsnips before we're on to spring vegetables.

One night this week I get to cook just for myself, which gives me a chance to indulge in unhealthy stuff I wouldn't feed my family. It will probably be a favorite invention from my starving student days, which I dubbed cheesy rice with medley of rotting vegetables. Eons ago back in Boston, my roommates and I would do a weekly shopping trip for cheap veggies at Haymarket, near Faneuil Hall. I'd concoct a rice dish to finish off the veggies at the end of their shelf life by combining things no self-respecting Boulderite would do. The basic idea is to saute at least two (probably more) slices of bacon, saute some onion in the bacon grease, add the medley of nearly past prime vegetables, then rice and liquid to cook until the rice is done. To complete the affront to the Boulder (and my) healthy living mentality, finish by melting in some grated cheese, preferably as greasy as you can find. Oh, then top with the cooked bacon. Enjoy as an indulgence once every few years, then get out the Tums.

More dinner ideas (healthier than the immediately above one) to follow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tasting Events Alert

The end of this week is shaping up to be a good one for tasting fairs. On Friday the 12th, from 4:30 to 6:30, Sunflower will be part of a cheese and wine sampling to be held at Bottles Liquors, which is in the shopping center across Arapahoe. Then on Saturday the 13th, the Pearl Street Whole Foods will host a "Healthy Eating Taste Fair" at 11. Happy sampling.

Summary of the best of this week's Boulder natural grocery store deals to follow shortly, along with menu ideas.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Grapes for Cheap

Tomorrow's one-day sale at our local Whole Foods will be green seedless grapes for 99 cents a pound, $3 off (as in 75 percent off). Wonder how my chicken curry would taste with some grapes added.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

More Dinner Ideas for the Week

Thinking about the rest of the week, both Whole Foods and Sprouts have an inexpensive pork roast for $1.99/lb, which brings to mind a slow cooker recipe from Cooking Light, Tuscan pork with white beans. The recipe calls for the pork shoulder that's on sale, and it's quite good with that, but I actually liked it better the time I made it with leaner pork tenderloin.

Of course, the previously mentioned salmon chowder made enough for two dinners, so that's an easy reprise.

Since Sprouts is doing 40% off ground meats, I've been looking around for something else to do with ground turkey besides turkey burgers, and came upon something that sounds great from Bon Appetit, penne with turkey and wild mushroons. Interestingly, the recipe is from a fellow Boulderite, Joan Brett. Kudos for getting published in Bon Appetit!

Finally, I'm once again looking for something to do with rice, and my freezer is stocked with sale chicken, so it might be time for a chicken curry. No recipe needed, just sauteing chicken and onions with lots of curry powder (or to taste, as they say), mixing in with rice, maybe with some peas (or apple added to the chicken while it's cooking if you're feeling wild). Can't get easier than that.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Game Day Sampling

All Colorado Sunflower locations will be hosting a "Game Day Sampling" tomorrow from 11 to 2, sampling appetizers. Also, the Boulder Sunflower will hold a Sports Nutrition Information class Tuesday, March 9th, from 7 to 8 pm, presented by Quick Fit.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Few Dinner Thoughts

Gorgeous weather settling in here in Boulder, and this week's specials aren't inspiring me in any other direction but grilling. Salmon is great grilled, and I still have a freezer full of Copper River, and Sprouts also has Alaskan sockeye for $8.99/lb this week. If I opt for a big soup instead, think it will be Whole Foods' salmon chowder.

Some of the Harris Ranch steaks on sale at Sunflower are definitely going to make it onto the grill, accompanied by a fennel and leek gratin that unfortunately doesn't have a link. Many steaks to choose from, including New York steaks at $4.97/lb for bone-in ($6.99/lb boneless) and ribeyes $6.99/lb bone-in, $8.99/lb boneless. Saturday the high should be around 55, and the days are light a little longer (even more so when we hit Daylight Savings on the 14th), so fire up the grill.

To compensate for the steaks, vegetarian then sounds good. I was impressed with the quinoa risotto with mushrooms and thyme I tried a few weeks ago when Whole Foods had quinoa on sale. Since I stocked up at the sale, that sounds like a good idea, unless you're looking for a lavish dinner to celebrate the Academy Awards.

Meanwhile, it's too nice outside to sit inside and blog, so more ideas to follow later.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Price/Quality Conundrum

Whole Foods locally will be doing a one-day sale tomorrow on boneless, skinless chicken breasts, $3.99/lb, which is $3 off their usual price. Meanwhile, sales on boneless, skinless chicken breasts will continue through tomorrow at $1.67/lb at Sprouts and $1.77/lb at Sunflower. (All sales are for the larger sized packages.) Virtues of the various products are touted in nebulous terms ("air chilled for premium flavor," "all natural"), leaving one to wonder just how they really stack up in quality and "naturalness," given the pretty big price differences.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Potato Fixation Observed

I've mentioned the 10 pound bags of conventional potatoes that Sprouts is selling for 67 cents this week. I'll take the high road and stick with paying more for organic, since potatoes grow in the ground and we eat the skin. But the guy ahead of me in the checkout line at Sprouts just now was buying 4 bags of these things. No matter how well you store them, what the heck does somebody do with 40 pounds of potatoes, short of running a soup kitchen??