Friday, October 30, 2009

Chili Mac

Chili Mac topped with cheese. You'll need the spoon to help scoop the Chili Mac onto any flat tortilla chips.

I didn't have a plan for dinner so quickly needed to think of something. Chili was an option, but with just less than 1 pound of ground beef when my regular recipe calls for 1.5 and I usually use toward 2? Hmm. I could cut all of the ingredients accordingly, which would make a reasonably-sized pot of chili for two. Or I could do a combination of chili and Chili-Pasta Skillet, which I enjoyed and Rodney didn't think was so hot.

Check it out.

Chili Mac:

1 lb lean ground beef
1 c chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 c water
3 heaping tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 c elbow macaroni

In a 4-qt Dutch oven, brown ground beef, onion and garlic. Drain; return to pot.

Add beans, tomatoes and juice, tomato paste, and water.

Stir in chili powder, basil, and pepper. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer and cover for 10 minutes.

Add macaroni, cover, continue simmering 8-9 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Top with cheese and serve with tortilla chips if desired.

Eh, this was alright. It was chili with some limpish macaroni in it.  I've never had the actual Kraft Chili Mac from a box and so maybe this was spot on.

Just now I Googled to provide that Chili Mac link and realize my concoction was way, way off.  It turns out Kraft Chili Mac is macaroni and cheese with tomatoes, beef, and chili powder in it.  What Korean-American gal would've guessed that?  I seriously thought Chili Mac was chili.  With macaroni in it.  Wouldn't Kraft have called it Mac' Cheese 'n' Beef otherwise?  Or would that be too close to a Betty Crocker Hamburger Helper?  And no, I've never had that either.

This recipe definitely needs more tweaking. I think more pasta of a sturdier type would help, especially if it was added later in the cooking. 

  • ground beef: $2.49/lb
  • onion: $0.20
  • black beans: $1
  • kidney beans: $1
  • tomatoes: $2
  • tomato paste: $1
Total:  $7.69.  I know the beans and paste were less that what I listed, but I figure the rounding will include the cost of macaroni and spices, but to be sure, let's round it up to $8.  So that makes this pot of chili mac $1.33 for each of 6 servings.

We ate half and put the other half in the freezer for a day when I don't feel like cookin'.  It'll be interesting to see how the pasta holds up.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tombstone Pizza, the frozen stuff

Hot Tombstone pizza slices.

Frozen meals are not a big one on my "fave's" list. Other than pizza, the only meal on the frozen-food list is Banquet Fried Chicken.  I do enjoy some Banquet Fried Chicken, fresh from the oven, with a side of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, both slathered in ketchup. 

Unfortunately, Rodney is nearly inside out after a meal of grease and milk-laden pasta, so needless to say, it's been a long time since I've had some Banquet.  Something like 2+ years.   

That's not the point though, is it?  Back to it:  

Since Tombstone Pizzas were on sale, I grabbed a couple.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Slide frozen pizza onto middle rack of oven.

Bake 19 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet or cutting board. Cool for 5 minutes, slice and serve.

The pizza came out of the oven a little warped.

While this wasn't as tasty as Red Baron, it wasn't horrible. It'll make a turd.

$2.50 which makes two servings at $1.25 each.

I do have to say that I like how much less packaging there is with the Tombstone compared to Red Baron.  It's pizza and a sheet of paper shrink-wrapped in plastic.  That's it.  Red Baron has the pizza covered in shrink-wrap inside a really unnecessary box.

Maybe I'll write a letter to Red Baron and let them know they could be greener, which would cut the cost of packaging, in turn allowing them to pass on the savings to us, the consumers.  I'm sure their marketing people will have a fit at first, but eventually, they'll see the light.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food Plan 102509

I spent yesterday morning and afternoon with my brother. Then the four of us (brother, Old Friend, Rodney, and I) went to the AMA Grand Nationals in Pomona (dude from homestate won!) and then hauled ass over to Hollywood and caught the Daniel Johnston show at The Music Box. What a Saturday! Usually, I'm just goofing around at the apartment, feeding worms, contemplating what the hell we're going to eat the following week, pestering Rodney about what he wants to eat, and blogging.

Needless to say, I don't have a food plan. I spent this morning recuperating from the day and night out "on the town" and catching up on all the stuff I normally do on Saturday.

I have come to realize that I tend not to have a decent plan (for a multitude of excuses reasons), but instead of just rolling with it, I turn around and try to make up for it. Just for the sake of this blog. And that sort of skews things. Food tends to be much more expensive since I don't plan in advance, I make tons of trips to different (or worse, the same) stores, dinner gets on way too late, and really, it wears me out as I find myself trying to play catch-up. The Chianti Beef Stew is a prime example.

When did this blog start taking over my life?!

Beginning this week, that is no longer.  I'm getting back to the basics: cheap, healthy and lactose-intolerant friendly.  That's it. Not poorly planned, hectic and expensive. If I don't have a food plan, that's ok, I'll just have to deal with it and make something out of what we have already.  Getting back to the way it used to be will get me back to blogging at a nice pace and probably into smaller pants.

Hopefully I won't have to, but as I shop this week, I'll update my grocery list:

102709 (1 stop for cat food)

  • Tombstone pizza: $5/2
102909 (1 stop for frozen pizza)

  • Red Baron deluxe pizza: $10/3
  • pork shoulder blade roast: $4.02 @ $0.88/lb
103009 (1 stop for chips and juice)
  • tortilla chips: $3.29/48 oz
103109 (1 stop for eggs)

  • eggs: $3.59/24
  • pork chops: $14.64
Grand Total: $40.54.

I just had a thought: maybe I should make a defined goal for how many posts I should make a week.  As it is now, I post every new recipe I try which is quite a few and why I'm perpetually behind in posting.  Or should I cut back on the number of new recipes I try?

Baked Red Potato Fans, Take 2

Baked Red Potato Fans alongside Broiled Lemon Chicken.

These were super duper when I made them the first time. I wanted to see how they look when imaged with the new camera. I used the original recipe and tried sticking to it, but ended up making a variation anyway. Click the link to find the original recipe at Cooking Club.

Baby Baked Potato Fans

12 small new potatoes
1/4 c olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Heat oven to 400°F. Tape 2 wooden chopsticks or dowels to cutting board, leaving a space between them the width of the potatoes. Place 1 new potato between chopsticks; thinly slice (1/8 inch) without cutting through bottom. (Chopsticks stop knife from cutting too far.)

Rub potato with 1 teaspoon of the oil; place on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining potatoes.

Mix thyme, salt and pepper into remaining oil; pour over fans.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until tender and golden brown.

Ok, these didn't turn out to be as completely bitchin' as the first time I made them. It's because I cut out the butter this time.  Stop. Don't say it. I know. My head is hanging in shame.  

Last time, I didn't measure out the 1/4 cup of olive oil.  I did measure this time and dipped each potato fan into the oil and rubbed it all over.  When I was done with the last potato, I saw how much oil was left: a lot.  A ton!  I thought it wouldn't make that big a difference if I used the remaining oil instead of butter.  So wrong, so very wrong.

I'm definitely going to try this again, with regular sized red potatoes rather than baby reds.  And I'll measure out 1/8 cup of oil.  Maybe then the oil quantity won't be so out of control.  Stay tuned.   

As for the camera, it was able to image the potatoes without a flash, even though it was night and I only had fake light to illuminate my cave-like kitchen. The majority of images came out so much better than those with the old camera. 

Still, part of the art of photography is simply getting a good shot.  I much prefer the final image for the potatoes the last time I made them -- that really cute potato.  Believe it or not, but that cute potato image was posted without any Photoshop (as were all photos with the old camera).  Damn, I was just gettin' good with that sucker.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chianti Beef Stew Leftover Sandwiches

What kind of coocoo-brain puts a cactus in her purse? -- Early Grayce, Kalifornia

"Oh yeah, right, a beef stew sandwich," you say.
I say, "Hell yes, and they are goood."
You say, with a roll of the eyes, "What kind of coocoo-brain puts stew in a sandwich?"

And so you see, this kind of coocoo-brain does:

You don't always need a spoon to eat some stew.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chianti Beef Stew with Porcini

Fork-tender hunk of beef from the stew.

My last "go for the gusto" turned out well, so well, that I'm going for that gusto again. This Chianti Beef Stew recipe happened to be on the same page of the latest Cooking Club magazine as the Sicilian Roast Chicken and since it's been getting colder, stew sounds damn good.

1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 lb. trimmed boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 c red wine, preferably Chianti, or lower-sodium beef broth
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
12 oz. new potatoes (about 6), unpeeled, quartered lengthwise
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 parsnips, sliced diagonally
1 medium sprig fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 325°F.

Pour enough boiling water over porcini mushrooms in small bowl just to cover; let stand 30 minutes to soften.

Drain, reserving soaking liquid. Rinse mushrooms; chop. Strain soaking liquid through cheesecloth or coffee filter to remove any particles; reserve strained liquid (about 1/2 cup).

Meanwhile, heat large skillet over medium to medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil; heat until hot. Cook beef in batches 5 to 7 minutes or until browned on all sides, adjusting heat and adding additional 1 tablespoon oil as necessary. Place beef in large overproof pot.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet; cook onions 4 to 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds or until fragrant. Place in pot with beef.

Pour wine into hot skillet; boil over high heat, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of skillet. Pour over beef.

Add porcini mushrooms, reserved soaking liquid and all remaining ingredients except bell pepper to pot. (Liquid will barely cover vegetables; make sure meat is nestled in liquid.) Bring to a boil; cover, leaving lid ajar.

Bake 2 hours; stir in bell pepper.* If there’s a lot of liquid in pot, open lid more. Bake 45 to 60 minutes or until beef is fork-tender. (If liquid is thin, remove beef and vegetables. Boil liquid over high heat until slightly thickened. Return beef and vegetables to pot before serving.)

*I stopped before adding the peppers. After allowing the stew to cool, I refrigerated it overnight. The next day, I let it stand at room temperature while preheating the oven. I stirred in the peppers and continued from that point.

This tasted good. Rodney thought it ok but felt the peppers detracted from everything else. That's not surprising though, as Rodney dislikes peppers and is gradually hating even the red peppers which he used to tolerate.

The stew wasn't difficult to make but it was time-consuming. If you plan ahead, most of your time will be spent waiting for the oven to do it's thing. Like a boob, I started this at 8 p.m. on a Tuesday. Don't ask me what I was thinking because it's obvious I wasn't thinking at all.


  • porcini mushrooms: $7.99/oz
  • beef chuck roast: $4.94/2.8 lb
  • onions: $0.33/lb
  • Chianti: $8.99/750 mL
  • diced tomatoes: $2/28 oz
  • new potatoes: $2.09
  • crimini mushrooms: $2.87/0.41 lb
  • parsnips: $0.53/0.38 lb
  • rosemary: $1.29
  • red bell pepper: $1.17 

Total: $32.20 or $5.37 for each of 6 servings. Outside of the seafood extravaganza and each of it's constituents, this may be the most expensive meal I've ever made.

So will I make this again? I'm not too sure. The shopping and time put into making it set the bar really high. Since it didn't meet that expectation, the stew came up short. You know, like when someone tells you how great a movie is, you get all stoked to see it, and when you finally do, you think to yourself that you'd have been better off putting it in the NetFlix queue.  Maybe I'll try it when we have a guinea pig or two over. If that does happen, I'll skip the red bell pepper.

Now I need to figure out what to do with the leftover wine and all that extra rosemary.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sicilian Roast Chicken Caponata Leftover Sandwiches

Sicilian Roast Chicken Caponata leftover sandwich with Swiss cheese on toasted sourdough

Dinner tonight was supposed to be a beef stew (soon to be posted). While that took so much longer to stew than anticipated, Rodney and I were starving. I cooked up some sandwiches made up of what was left from that chicken dinner last night. And I have to admit, they were completely slammin'. I mean, so friggin' good, that I'd consider making that chicken just to have the sandwiches again!

This is what you'll need:

  • sourdough bread slices
  • Swiss cheese, sliced
  • butter
  • Sicilian Roast Chicken Caponata leftovers, chicken removed from bone and shredded
  • olive oil
  • mayo
  • tomatoes, sliced
  • olives, sliced
Since Rodney was dead set against having any "pea" laden vegetables, I made his sandwich first so as not to contaminate the skillet I reheated the chicken in.

Rodney's sandwich:
Butter two slices of bread on one side each, place a slice of Swiss on one slice and grill in hot skillet. Remove bread from skillet once browned and cheese is slightly melted.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook 2-3 minutes until heated through, tossing occasionally.

Place hot shredded chicken on Swiss side of bread. Spread mayo on other slice; top with tomatoes and olives. Flip one slice onto the other and eat.

Rodney was gnashing on his sandwich while I made mine.

The Cook's sandwich:
Toast bread as above. Meanwhile, heat chicken and roast vegetables in hot skillet over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally.

Place chicken mixture on Swiss-topped bread slice. Place the other slice on top.

Return sandwich to hot skillet. Place the other skillet on it and press down while cooking an additional 30-60 seconds to flatten sandwich.

Cut sandwich in half and chow.

Mmm. Great sandwiches!

I'll say Rodney's sandwich cost $1 to make as he had Swiss, mayo, tomatoes and olives on it. Mine was probably $0.50, which counts bread and Swiss.

New Ingredient: Chianti, a red wine

A bottle of Dellatorri Chianti.

For my next "go for the gusto" recipe, I needed to hunt down a couple of things, one of which was a "red wine, preferably a Chianti."

I don't know anything about wine except it gives me a hellacious headache, not the morning after an evening of wine swilling, but immediately after one small glass. As I did for the dry white wine, I had to do some homework on this Chianti. I learned a few things about wine while I hunted for a name-brand Chianti online and then for a bottle in the store:

  • First of all, it's not Shee-auntie or Chee-auntie. It's Key-auntie.
  • Second, it's damn near impossible to get a straight answer about what brand of Key-auntie is best to use for cooking since only wine extraordinaires have an opinion on the first 1,000 Google hits and they are all about drinking it. All those experts are willing to get into detail about the finest points of each Key-auntie and all I want to know is which relatively inexpensive one can I stew some beef in!
  • Third, there is a sort of method to the wine madness at Ralph's (known as Kroger out east) -- it's by wine type. I hope this is the case for all grocery stores. All you have to do is browse until you find the type you want and then focus in on the prices.
  • Lastly, you'll find that Key-auntie is the tiniest section of wine right down there about 2" off the floor. In other words, you'll find it in the last place you look. Yup, as you give up the hunt, you'll finally see it.
Good luck with your wine-hunting if you are a wine novice like me. Hopefully this post has helped. We'll see how my selection worked for us.

Dellatorri Chianti, 750 mL = $8.99.

New Ingredient: Porcini Mushrooms, dried

Organic, dried porcini mushroom slices.

An ingredient required for my second "go for the gusto" recipe is dried porcini mushrooms. I had stopped at multiple stores over 2 days looking for them. The stores I'd been to either didn't carry them at all or were out of them.  I gave up the hunt as I needed to get this recipe rolling for dinner tonight. 

I arrived home from yet another store and explained the situation to Rodney. Rodney determined the porcini's were a must-have. Out to the store he went. After two stops, he scored those imaged above.

Dry organic porcini mushrooms, $7.99/oz, available at some Ralph's locations.

Sicilian Roast Chicken Caponata

Roast chicken with brown, crispy skin and roast vegetables.

The only magazine I subscribe to, Cooking Pleasures (now known as Cooking Club), is always received every other month with much joy. Each time, I spend about an hour flipping through it as soon as I get it. A weird phenomenon occurs: I don't find anything in the magazine immediately appetizing. It's not until weeks, months, or even years later when reviewing an old copy I say, "Wow! There's one I'd like to try! Why didn't this appeal to me before?"

This time, I made it a point to spend much more time perusing the latest copy. Then I decided to "go for the gusto" as Dad would say and just pick something from the magazine, whether or not I thought it pleasing at first (or last) glance.

I followed the recipe to a T (except for the fact that I used dried thyme instead of fresh) and present to you,

Sicilian Roast Chicken Caponata:

1 (5-lb.) chicken, cut-up, wings reserved for another use
1 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp pepper, divided
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 (1-lb.) eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1 1/4-inch pieces (4 cups)
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, sliced
3 to 4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped (4 1/2 cups)
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 c pitted Kalamata olives
2 tbsp capers, drained
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Heat oven to 425°F.

Sprinkle chicken with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil; heat until hot.

Cook chicken in batches 8 to 10 minutes or until browned, adjusting heat as necessary and turning once.

Place on large rimmed baking sheet. Scatter onions and garlic around chicken.

Add eggplant to skillet; cook over medium heat 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

Toss eggplant, tomatoes and thyme with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Arrange over and around chicken. (Reserve skillet.)

Bake 30 minutes. Carefully stir in olives and capers; bake 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center and vegetables are slightly charred.

Remove chicken. Place vegetables in bowl with slotted spoon.

Pour pan juices into reserved skillet; bring to a boil over high heat.

Add vinegar; boil 6 to 9 minutes or until reduced by half and pan juices are slightly thickened (you’ll begin to see bottom of skillet when stirring).

Stir into vegetables; serve with chicken.

I thought this was completely fantastic and loved the crispy chicken and roast vegetables.  Even the new-to-us eggplant was great.  Rodney however had spied a caper, pointed it out, and asked me what it was.  I glanced at it and said, "a pea." I don't think he believed me because from that point on, Rodney decided he didn't like the vegetables.  The chicken though, Rodney had no problem puttin' away.

  • chicken:  $0.59/lb: $3.00
  • eggplant: $0.70
  • onions: $0.21
  • tomatoes: $2.76
  • Kalamata olives and capers: $1
Total: $7.67.  Let's round it up to $8 to cover cost of oil, salt, pepper, vinegar, etc.  That's $2.67 for each of three servings, 1 of which is Rodney-sized. 

I'll definitely be making this again in the future, though without the caper "peas".