Homemade Tzatziki Sauce

As you all may have imagined with my days of silence, it has been crazy times over here at Blonde Ambition headquarters (<– totally a real place).

I worked 10.5 hours on Friday, received a staggering 100 emails between Monday and Tuesday, and worked another 10.5 hours on Wednesday, but now it is all over and done with. Breathing a sigh of relief until the next big thing (which is…a committee hearing on Monday. Argh)

Anyway, I know I bragged last week about being able to come up with meals even when I’m busy during the week. I’d be lying if I told you that I made every meal at home this week. (I had a Caesar Salad at our Symposium on Weds, pizza at dodgeball last night, and was belatedly treated to Administrative Professionals Day lunch today) But considering I didn’t have time to do Sunday Food Prep this week, my other meals weren’t so bad…in part, thanks to my realization that I can make a damn good tzatziki sauce:

This random sandwich came together on Monday and consisted of 2 fried eggs, alfalfa sprouts (one of my fave sandwich ingredients), and a heavy smear of tzatziki sauce. I ate it with a side of potato wedges that I dipped in the rest of the sauce. Aaaaamazing.

Our Legislative Symposium closed out on Wednesday with a Cocktail hour and, after a couple of glasses of Chardonnay and entirely too many crackers and cheese, I finally got home around 7pm and decided I needed more sustenance. Some roasted vegetables and my new favorite fresh, fat-free dipping sauce were exactly what the doctor ordered.

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I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping a large tub of fat-free plain Chobani in my fridge. It’s a great healthy substitute for some not-so-healthy baking ingredients, makes sauces creamy and fresh, and if you love making dips, it is a perfect alternative to sour cream or mayonnaise.

Who wants hot dip when it’s 85 degrees outside? Tzatziki is a perfect warm-weather condiment. All you need to transform the sometimes-tart plain Greek yogurt into a fresh tzatziki sauce is a little bit of cucumber, a squeeze of lemon juice, and some herby dill.

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Just make sure you’ve got enough of whatever vehicle you’re scoopin’ at the sauce with…because you’re gonna want to use your fingers if you run out and there’s still tzatziki left 😉

Now who’s got a killer falafel recipe? I sense a perfect combo in the works….!

Homemade Tzatziki Sauce
makes ~1 cup

1/2 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
1/4-1/3 cup cucumber, peeled & de-seeded, then either finely diced or shredded
~1 tbsp fresh dill – OR – 1/4 tsp dried dill
juice of 1/2 lemon

Prepare cucumber. If you want a chunky sauce, then finely dice the cucumber. If not, grating it is fine too. I actually like to do a combination of both!

Combine ingredients. Taste and adjust according to your preference. For best results, prepare sauce first and let it sit in the fridge while you prepare the rest of your meal.

Use as a dipping sauce or spread on bread as part of a delicious sandwich!

Note: if you use regular (non-Greek) plain yogurt, most tzatziki recipes will require that you strain the yogurt over a period of at least 1-2 hours. This is to avoid wateriness when it comes in contact with the cucumber.

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Happy weekend!

A Week in Groceries

Today, I was planning an update on my jogging/health/etc, but I decided to put it off because I’ve been too busy working on my darn Halloween costume that I haven’t had much spare time to do what I really want regarding the update (which is make a training plan to run a 5K on Thanksgiving!). So I thought I’d do a little something out of the box:

OK, more like out of the Safeway shopping bag…

I’m sharing my grocery shopping, what I generally like to stock my kitchen with, and what I make with what I buy!

First up, my grocery haul for the week from Safeway. There was a tiny version of this photo included in this week’s Weekend in Photos, but here’s the full thing:

Apples, Swanson’s Flavor Boost (‘cuz I had a coupon), Greek yogurt, multigrain tortilla chips (Food Should Taste Good has the BEST chips!), frozen burritos for lunch, granola, frozen chicken breasts, quick oats, cinnamon – pumpkin pie spice – poppy seeds, a sweet potato, and sage. For a total of $38.26!

The next day, I also picked up a spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and a pack of whole wheat English muffins to add $10.99 to the mix, which made my total just about $50.

Notes: I usually do a full grocery trip every two weeks, with a small trip in between. This was actually a pretty expensive grocery week for me, as I invested a good $10 on the spices and stocked up on a few pricier things (see italicized items above) that will last me a while. I usually buy things like tortilla chips, canned goods, and spices at Grocery Outlet (an extreeeeemely cheap bargain grocery store), but their stock frequently changes, and I didn’t find anything good there this week.

Lest you think I survived on these things alone this week, here is a peek at what was already in my kitchen:

Beans (garbanzo and black beans), several whole grain pastas, quinoa (hiding), brown rice, another sweet potato (never keep them in the fridge!), green chiles, an onion, Pop-Tarts, and there is also a giant bag of fun-sized candy hidden behind the penne. Ahem, I bought it for the trick-or-treaters me me me.

And now I apologize to my roomie in advance for exposing the world to the disaster that is our fridge, but…

Pretty much everything in the bottom two rows is mine. Hummus (I ALWAYS have hummus), tortillas, peanut butter, almond milk, a jar of homemade balsamic dressing, bacon, and a thing of sour cream that has probably gone bad. Also, there are brussels sprouts and romaine lettuce in the crisper drawer. Surprisingly, no wine at the moment.

As for the freezer…pumpkin puree, broccoli, and corn. That’s about it. 😉

With the exception of the two squashes and the sweet potato I bought, I’m pretty low on fresh produce at the moment. I was relying pretty heavily on the Farmer’s Market by my work this summer for produce, and as the summer has left, so has it unfortunately. There’s a big market on Sundays, but for some reason I never find myself with the motivation to wake up early enough!

Anywho, here are some of the things I made this week with the above groceries.

Strawberry greek yogurt + Strawberry vanilla granola = Sooooo yummy. A filling breakfast at only 250 calories. Holla. My breakfast each morning is either this, or oatmeal packets at work.

Spaghetti squash tossed with olive oil, fresh thyme, and basil from my parents’ garden. Notice how I have real spaghetti sitting on stand-by, just in case? Haha. Luckily, the squash (plus Mom’s meat sauce, fresh bread, and salad) was just enough to feed me and my parents. Next up, I think I’ll get T-Man to try it out!

Peanut butter and apple sandwich on an English muffin (if you look real hard, you can see some honey too!). I had this for lunch twice this week! I felt like a 6 year old, but it was totally worth it.

I don’t have a picture of me eating a frozen burrito, haha, but here’s one of my soup cups. I pretty much alternate which one I buy each week, and have at least a couple of each on hand at all times.

I used the butternut squash and sage to make soup! So far, that pot is half gone, and it’s served as dinner for me and a two-bowl lunch for T-Man. He’s been holding it hostage at his house since Tuesday…..I’ve been craving it alllll week.

Other lunches this week included quinoa mixed with whatever veggies & beans I had…Other dinners included a quesadilla, sweet potato fries, and baked chicken with broccoli.

Also, it’s safe to assume that I ingested a lot of chips and hummus. As I do..every week.

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THE TAKEAWAY:

  • My main goal when I’m at the grocery store is to buy things that will either last me a long time, or that I can easily make into single servings, since I’m buying for just myself. Also, to save money, obviously. (I never bought meat in college because I didn’t know how to properly preserve it before it went bad — now, I know how to manage my poultry, haha.)
  • I try to keep my kitchen balanced with carbs, proteins, veggies, and just a couple of snacks and sweets (e.g. chips and hummus, Halloween candy).
  • Quick meals like soup cups and burritos are a must for lunch, but for dinners I like to utilize the season’s produce.
  • You won’t find a lot of store-bought sauces, salsas, or dressings on my side of the fridge- I think it’s cheaper, healthier, and more fun (!) to make them yourself. (In fact, most of the hummus I ate this week was homemade, not the Sabra stuff.)

How much do YOU spend on groceries, and how often do you go? Which things do you always make from scratch, and which do you tend to buy ready-made from the store?