Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Three-Bean Morrocan Stew

As a member of Cooking Club of America, I get what are called "Food Now!" emails. They show up in my email once or twice a week. I'm not completely sure, but I think they are randomly selected recipes that were in previous copies of Cooking Pleasures. Regardless, as the subject implies, they are quick recipes.

When I got the Food Now! email highlighting this recipe, I figured I'd give it a spin. Rodney occasionally hints (ok, blatantly states) that maybe it would be better if we went vegetarian. We'd be less chubby, more healthy in general, etc. That's usually when I start screeching something along the lines of, "But we wouldn't get to eat meat!" I typically follow that up by making something with pork in it. So, this one was to accommodate Rodney's "I wanna be a vegetarian" moments. As it is loaded with yummy beans and spinach, how wrong would I be to make it?

Three-Bean Moroccan Stew

2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed
1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
2 (14-oz.) cans lower-sodium chicken broth
1 c golden raisins
1 (10-oz.) pkg. baby spinach

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat until hot. Cook onion 3 minutes or until softened, stirring frequently.

Stir in cumin, coriander and cinnamon.

Add all remaining ingredients except spinach; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 15 minutes.

Stir in spinach; cook 3 minutes or just until wilted. (It barely fit in the 5-qt Dutch oven and I was worried at first, but it worked out. Check out the progression...)

That spinach-wilting bit is fast.

6 (1 1/2-cup servings)

Certainly cheap. Again, we had all the stuff on hand but the spinach. I'd guess I picked it up for $2. If you are wondering how in the heck we have so much stuff "on hand", let me explain by saying that
  1. I like to buy in bulk (remember when I talked about EVOO?) and
  2. I try a pretty wide variety of stuff. How would I have known that the golden raisins I'd picked up for a dessert would be an ingredient in a main course? I didn't. I'm just rollin' along and it just happens to work out.
As for flavor: Bland, with a capital B. It didn't taste bad, it just didn't really taste like much. The recipe could certainly handle some jazzing. The email did say that addition of cayenne pepper would add a bit of fiery flavor. That tid-bit should be included in the recipe rather than as a side-note. On the plus side, it is filling (which means we had 4 cups of the stuff leftover that I eventually fed to the garbage disposal*), fast (dinner was done in less than an hour) and I believe it went down ok for Rodney. I won't try this again unless I'm sick and just want something bland to sooth the throat. Even then I'll add the pepper.

*I already had enough stuff for the worms to eat and since we lack in fridge/freezer space, something had to go.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Vietnamese Chicken in Caramel-Ginger Sauce

This is another recipe I tried from Cooking Pleasures. It is fast, easy and delicious. Plus it's a good reason to buy some kimchi.

  1. 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  2. 3 lb. chicken thighs, quartered breast, cut into 1" pieces
  3. 3 tbsp minced ginger
  4. 2 tbsp chopped onion
  5. 1 tbsp minced garlic
  6. 1 tbsp fish sauce
  7. 2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
  8. 1 tbsp sugar
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  11. 1/2-1 tsp crushed red pepper
  12. 1/4 c water
  13. 1 c diagonally sliced green onions (2 inches)
Heat large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil; heat until hot. Add chicken; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until browned.

Add ginger, shallots and garlic; cook and stir 1 minute.

Add all remaining ingredients except water and green onions. Bring to a boil; boil 1 minute or until sauce begins to thicken.

Add water. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 8 to 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center. Stir in green onions.

4 (1-cup) servings

This is good every time I make it. The original recipe calls for half the amount of chicken, but if I do that, it's only enough for Rodney! Maybe the recipe assumes you'll load up on rice and have salad and egg or spring rolls and some other stuff on the side? We find this is so good that we simply eat it over some steamed white rice and maybe have kimchi on the side, which adds some nice crunch and a little bit more heat.  Note that breast meat tends to be a bit more dry than thigh meat.  If you are finicky, go with the thigh meat.

Another great thing about this recipe is that we usually have the ingredients on hand. When I know I'm going to make this, I check to be sure we have enough ginger (you can buy it minced in a 3 oz jar in the produce section), chicken and green onions. Everything else we have anyway.

The cost:
  • chicken breast: usually about $0.59-0.99 per pound if you buy whole chickens
  • minced fresh ginger: I'm guessing about $3/3 oz. jar
  • fish sauce: you may be able to find this at Ralph's or Stater Bros, if not you'll have to make a run to the nearest Asian market, be it Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese etc. It'll be $2-5 depending on the size you buy.
  • green onions (2 inches): usually $0.60 per bunch, which is plenty.
Grand total assuming the highest price for each item mentioned above: $11.57 or $2.89 per serving.

Considering ease to make, the simple ingredients, time requirement, low-cost and fantastic deliciousness, it's a wonder we don't have this on a daily basis.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Oatmeal Pancakes with Dates and Walnuts

After a late lunch yesterday at my nephew's 4-year birthday party and thus a late dinner of pepper-lime broiled chicken, we got a late start regarding breakfast today. What do you have when you have buttermilk, dates, oatmeal and walnuts on hand? Awesome pancakes. What do you do when you don't have the items in the pantry to make awesome pancakes? You go and get the stuff to make these:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 200°F. Combine flour, oats, dates, walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in large bowl.

Whisk eggs, buttermilk and brown sugar in medium bowl until blended. Whisk in butter and vanilla until well-blended. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until combined.

Heat griddle(s) or large nonstick skillet(s) over medium heat until hot; oil griddle(s). Ladle batter by scant 1/4 cupfuls onto griddle(s), spreading to 4-inch rounds.

Cook 2 minutes or until bubbles break surface of pancakes.

Turn; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until golden brown.

Place in oven to keep warm while cooking remaining pancakes.

These 'cakes are delicious!! What's kick-ass is that they are just as good reheated the following day if you, somehow, can't consume them all fresh from the griddle in one sitting. Regardless, you'll be spoiled and no other hot-cake will be satisfactory, especially if you top these bad boys with butter and Grade A maple syrup. Actually, I bet they'd be good with margarine and some Mrs. Butterworth's. Yep, they're THAT good.

Also, they are so filling that you don't need a side of eggs or bacon or ham or sausage or steak or anything else to go with breakfast. So that means you can use both your skillets for making the cakes.

If you had to go buy all the stuff to buy these specifically, they're definitely not the cheapest 'cakes to make. However, considering the multitude of uses for the most costly ingredients, it's worth it if you can swing it. In other words, we only have these when we have something else that requires buttermilk, like buttermilk-brined fried chicken. Dates (about $4/lb at Costco), oatmeal ($0.50-1/lb at Ralph's) and walnuts ($2-3/lb from Costco) will stay ok forever if you treat 'em right. Buttermilk is the most high-falutin' of the group. The rest we end up having on-site anyway.

See Take 2 here if you're still not convinced. It even has a link to print.

Rosemary-Chicken Lasagna

You know that lasagna recipe I mentioned earlier? Well, here's the recipe. It's a long one and you'd do yourself a favor to review it a couple times before starting. I didn't change much: red bell peppers instead of green and I couldn't find plain Gruyere cheese so used smoked. And man, could we taste the smoke! I'd like to find plain Gruyere and try it again when I have a couple of hours to make dinner.

  1. 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  2. 1-lb. bone-in skin-on chicken breast halves
  3. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  5. 6 oz. mushrooms, sliced (about 2 1/3 cups)
  6. 2 small green bell peppers, diced (1/4 inch)
  7. 2 tablespoons white wine chicken broth
  8. 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (Toast pine nuts in dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, or microwave on high 1 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned.)
  1. 24 oz. low-fat ricotta cheese
  2. 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Gruyère cheese
  3. 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  4. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  1. 5 tablespoons butter
  2. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  3. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 3 cups milk
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  1. 2 cooked lasagna noodles
  2. 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
  3. 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Gruyère cheese

Chop enough rosemary to measure 1/2 teaspoon; reserve for garnish.

Place chicken and remaining rosemary sprigs in medium skillet. Add enough water to almost cover chicken.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 10 minutes or until no longer pink in center and juices run clear, turning once. Place chicken and rosemary on plate; cool.

Shred chicken. Remove rosemary from stems; finely chop. Place chicken and rosemary in medium bowl.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add mushrooms, bell peppers and broth; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until liquid is reduced and vegetables are tender. Stir in pine nuts; remove from heat.

In small bowl, stir together all cheese filling ingredients.

To make sauce, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 minced garlic cloves. Whisk in flour; cook 2 minutes, whisking constantly.

Slowly whisk in milk until smooth and thoroughly blended. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper; cook 2 to 4 minutes or until thickened.

Yee, gross image!

Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 13x9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of the sauce in pan. Layer as follows: 3 noodles, half of the cheese filling, half of the vegetables,

3 noodles, 1 cup of the sauce, chicken filling,

3 noodles, remaining cheese filling, remaining vegetables,

3 noodles and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, 1 cup Gruyère cheese and 1/2 teaspoon reserved chopped rosemary.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until hot and cheese begins to brown in spots. Let stand 10 minutes.

12 servings.

Wow. This took a bit more effort than what I usually put into a meal. And it was worth it. As I mentioned above, I would like to try plain Gruyere rather than smoked. Unfortunately, with the smoked, it overrode a lot of other flavors -- like the rosemary. Regardless, it was good. Rodney even liked it. He had a HUGE salad and a tiny piece of lasagna with garlic bread to minimize his suffering due to lactose intolerance -- and it worked.

The cost:
  • fresh rosemary: $1.29
  • 1 lb. bone-in skin-on chicken breast halves: leftover from another meal
  • mushrooms: $2.39/8oz.
  • red bell peppers: $0.61
  • pine nuts: $2.41
  • ricotta cheese: $4.99/30oz.
  • Gruyère cheese: $6.49/8oz.
  • eggs: $1.79/dozen
  • milk: $2.50/half-gallon
  • lasagna noodles $2.17/lb
  • mozzarella cheese: $0.75/4oz (we buy this in bulk).
Total: $25.39. Seems insane, but it's $2.12 a serving!  And there is stuff leftover. If I cut, bag, and freeze it in individual portions, it will make future dinners (and lunches) a snap. Just warm up some lasagna and chop a quick salad and dinner's done in less than 30-minutes. Definitely a good deal and it's gotta be better for you than Stouffer's.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pepper-Lime Chicken, Southwestern Macaroni and Cheese, and Glazed Carrots

I have a chicken lasagna recipe I'm going to try which only calls for one bone-in chicken breast. So, what do I do with the rest of a whole chicken? Chop it up and broil, baby, broil!

Pepper-Lime Chicken
  • 1 whole chicken, cut-up, 5 lb
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
Cut up your bird into serving sized pieces if you didn't buy it that way. Cut breasts in half.

Place chicken pieces in a resealable plastic bag.

For marinade, stir together lime juice, oil, thyme, basil, pepper, salt, and garlic. Pour over chicken; seal bag. Marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Drain chicken, reserving marinade. Place chicken on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat about 6 minutes or until light brown, rotate chicken pieces and return to broil an additional 6 minutes.

Turn chicken and brush lightly with reserved marinade. Discard any remaining marinade. Broil for 6 minutes, rotate chicken, broil 6 more minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F).

Southwestern Macaroni and Cheese
  • 8 oz. elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups vanilla soymilk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Mexican-blend cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling lightly salted water 4 to 5 minutes or until barely tender. Drain; rinse with cold water to cool. Place in large bowl.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 400°F. Spray 8-inch square (2-quart) glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the soymilk and flour until smooth.

Heat remaining 1 3/4 cups soymilk in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles form around outside edge.

Add flour mixture; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until sauce bubbles and thickens, whisking constantly. Remove from heat.

Add cheese; stir until melted.

Stir in chiles, green onions, cilantro, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Pour over pasta; stir to mix.

Place in baking dish.

In small bowl, mix bread crumbs, paprika and oil. Sprinkle over pasta. (Casserole can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Bake, uncovered, 35 to 45 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

The thing that sucked about this is that I made broiled chicken along with a side that had to be baked, which just prolonged things. In other words, I had to do the mac'n'cheese AFTER the chicken was done.

However, the chicken and the macaroni and cheese were tasty (even by Rodney's finicky standards), though the mac'n'cheese was a little overdone. I'll watch the progress toward the end if I make this again.  And if I make the mac'n'cheese again, I'll make it a point to use real milk.  The vanilla flavored soy was a little much.

Overall, cheap. Chickens, when you get them whole and on sale are, well, cheap. I'm guessing $0.79/lb. The marinade? Dirt cheap if you have the items on-hand anyway. I'll have to get back to this post later for the $ breakdown.

Time to make this meal -- too long for what I got out of it. I mean, it was tasty, but it wasn't like 4-star and the time/reward ratio wasn't great. I'll have to remember that time-wise these two things don't accompany each other.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Empanada's Place

We spent the day doing some last-minute shopping for my nephew, who is having a birthday party tomorrow. He'll be the big FOUR Sunday! We picked up the last item to round out all of his motorcycle riding gear and some Spiderman wrapping paper. Spiderman is the shit, you know.

On the way home, we figured on stopping at Empanada's Place, which has recently opened in Costa Mesa. We tried it for the first time on my birthday a month or so ago and it is go-od. So we had empanada's for dinner:

Probably not good for you, but definitely good to the tastebuds!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hearty Pasta with Tomatoes and Garbanzo Beans

Since today was the first of the year, we slept in, had breakfast really late and dinner extremely late. To keep it on the lighter side and fast -- like dinner-is-ready-in-20-minutes fast, we went with this vegetarian option. Another great thing about this one is that it calls for stuff that I buy anyway and so we always have the ingredients on hand to put it together, which sort of makes it, in a way, "free."

  • 8 oz. (1 c) rotini 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sea (coarse) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz.) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cook rotini in large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions; drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion; cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned.

Add all remaining ingredients except cheese. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 minutes or until flavors have blended.

Toss rotini with sauce; sprinkle with cheese.

Easy, simple, filling pasta dinner done in 20 minutes!

The only thing I changed was that I doubled the original recipe since my smallest can of garbanzo beans was 15 oz. We're more likely to eat the leftover pasta rather than half a can of extra beans.

If I were to guess how much this cost (assuming we had the spices), it would be about $5-7 depending on what sort of parmesan you use. Still, that's 1 to 2 bucks a portion.