Monday, November 30, 2009

Vietnamese Chicken in Caramel-Ginger Sauce

Vietnamese Chicken in Caramel-Ginger Sauce served over rice.

Having tried Ravenous Couple's Ga Kho, I didn't care to ever try this recipe again except for experimental purposes. After all, Ravenous Couple's recipe was just as easy and better yet, used bone-in thighs and legs, which are much less expensive than boneless thighs or breasts (breasts being the pieces I used in my first post of this recipe), and tasted so much better as well!

Unfortunately, Rodney's colon pitched a bitch about Ga Kho, though his palate enjoyed it immensely. I think it was probably the jalapenos; I'll have to investigate that in the future. Rodney requested this chicken dish, but requested it the "old" way.

I prepared it according to the original recipe; like last time, I doubled the amount of chicken, however, I used thighs but didn't bother to quarter them.

Vietnamese Chicken in Caramel-Ginger Sauce

2 tbsp olive oil
3 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp chopped shallots or onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 c water
1 c diagonally sliced green onions (2 inches)

Ingredients mise en place.

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil; heat until hot. Add chicken; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until browned.

Because I used twice as much chicken as what was called for in the original recipe, I browned the chicken in two separate skillets and then combined them in the larger skillet.

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

Add all remaining ingredients except water and green onions. Bring to a boil; boil 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.

If you want to, serve with a side of kimchee.

Sure, this chicken tasted really good but not nearly as good as Ravenous Couple's recipe. While writing this post, I realized that this recipe is for "chicken in sauce", not "caramelized chicken". And there is a difference. A distinct difference.

  • boneless skinless chicken thighs: $12.23/3 lb
  • minced ginger: $1.75
  • green onions: $0.33
Total:  $14.31.  Geez!  You're better off saving this recipe for when thighs are on sale.  This is outrageous.  

Ultimately, I hope to eat regularly a caramely chicken than chicken in sauce in the future.  I'll only achieve that through trial and error. Since Rodney's boop-chute is the judge, I'll have to be completely sure of my design of experiment before I actually proceed. Rodney may one day tell me, "Screw all this! Just stick with the first Vietnamese chicken recipe!" I need to be sure of what I'm doing next time as I begin to integrate the two recipes...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oven-Braised Spare Ribs

Easy spareribs done in the oven!

When I checked out the store ads, I saw that Stater Bros had spareribs on sale for $0.97/lb and had to have some. I've only done spareribs once before in my life and it ended up being more a lesson on trimming the ribs. Now that I've had that practice, I needed a good recipe. I turned to Alton Brown and found that he had a recipe for baby backs. Baby backs, spare ribs, close enough.

I shopped for a couple of the ingredients. The Old Bay was located in the seafood section of the store over by the meat counter, the closest thing I could come to jalapeno seasoning was McCormick dried diced jalapenos, I couldn't find white wine vinegar so used rice wine vinegar, and since Noilly Prat for dry white wine worked in other recipes, I rolled with that here too.

Click the link below for Alton's recipe.

Oven-Braised Spare Ribs
adapted from Food Networks "Who Loves Ya Baby-Back"

2 whole slabs pork spare ribs

Dry Rub:
8 tbsp light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dry diced jalapenos
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp rubbed thyme
1/2 tsp onion powder

Braising Liquid:
1 c Noilly Prat
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well.

Place each slab of spare ribs on a piece of aluminum foil, shiny side down. Sprinkle each side with 1/4 cup of the dry rub. Pat the dry rub into the meat. Enclose the ribs in a foil packet.

I used two long pieces of foil and folded the edges together so the bottom foil was like a boat and all folds were top-side to prevent liquid leaking later.

Refrigerate the ribs for a minimum of 1 hour. In a microwavable container, combine all ingredients for the braising liquid. Microwave on high for 1 minute.

Place the ribs on a baking sheet. Open one end of the foil on each slab and pour half of the braising liquid into each foil packet. Tilt the baking sheet in order to equally distribute the braising liquid. Braise the ribs in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Transfer the braising liquid into a medium saucepot.
Place one rack at a time on a saucepan so the center hangs; cut a couple holes in the foil at the lowest point.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce by half or until of a thick syrup consistency.

Open the foil, exposing the ribs.

Brush the glaze onto the ribs. Place under the broiler just until the glaze caramelizes lightly.

Slice each slab into 2 rib bone portions and if desired, toss in extra sauce.

These were fall-off-the-bone tender and tasted really good. While Rodney said they weren't, I thought they were a bit too salty. I used WAY too much of the rub and not enough of the sauce.

The amount of dry rub is supposed to be enough for "several" racks of ribs. I used half on two racks! Lesson learned. While I brushed some of the sauce onto the ribs before they went into the broiler, I wasn't too keen on tossing the ribs in the sauce like the original recipe says. I couldn't get past the fact that I'd be tossing the finished ribs in fatty sauce. Sure, it'd taste good as hell, but in the future I'll get one of those fat separator do-hickies, separate out the fat, reduce the sauce and toss like crazy.

A repeat will be done in the future, for sure.

  • spare ribs: $9.50 for 2 untrimmed racks
  • spices and seasonings: $2 SWAG
Total: $11.50. Or $3.83 per serving.

We had the ribs with mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and a side of cole slaw. Rodney ate one slab plus some. I ate some of one slab and will take what's left for lunch. Hooray for leftovers!

Click for the printable

Food Plan, 112909

Thanksgiving was awesome and having the extra days from work was really nice. But now, we're back to the grind, pushing ahead to the next days off: Christmas. And I thought Thanksgiving came on fast...this month is going to haul ass!

We have in the queue and in no particular order:
  • spare ribs, with corn on the cob, cole slaw and mashed potatoes
  • Vietnamese Chicken, the old way per Rodney's request
  • Baked Dijon Salmon
  • taco salad
  • Italian Marinated Chicken Breasts with Homestyle Rice Pilaf
  • Garlic Chicken-Fried Chicken with something TBD
I bought:

112909, Freshia
  • rice vinegar: $2.99
  • cabbage: $0.68/2.07 lb
  • romaine lettuce: $1.69
  • navel orange: $0.10
  • kimchi: $3.99
  • asparagus: $2.35/1.18 lb
  • onions: $0.3/1.51 lb
  • mushrooms: $1.98/16 oz
  • parsley: $0.50
  • broccoli: $1.78/1.80 lb
  • italian squash: $0.85/1.71 lb
  • white corn: $0.99/4
  • bananas: $1.23/2.49 lb
  • brown rice: $5.49/5lb
  • Samyang Ramen box: $12.99
  • TOTAL: $37.91
112909, Stater Bros.:
  • frozen shrimp: $7.49 (I was ripped off! They were supposed to be $5.49!)
  • eggs: $1.79/12
  • Better Than Bouillon chicken: $3.99
  • jalapeno, dry dices: $5.79
  • kosher salt: $2.89/3 lb
  • apple juice: $1.99
  • taco sauce: $3.98/24 oz
  • boneless skinless chicken breasts: $7.44 @ 1.59/lb
  • pork spare ribs: $5.29
  • pork spare ribs: $4.21
  • boneless skinless chicken thighs: $6.97
  • boneless skinless chicken thighs: $5.26
  • iceburg lettuce: $1.79
  • tomatoes: $3.91/1.57 lb
  • TOTAL: $65.61
112909, BevMo:
  • Noilly Prat, 375 mL bottles: $3.88
  • TOTAL: 7.76
Grand Total: $111.28. A lot of that cost was boneless skinless chicken pieces I don't normally buy. Boneless skinless chicken thighs at $2.99 a pound?! Get out of here! And yet I bought 3 lbs anyway. ETC.

The ribs though, were my big extravagance this time around! Though coming in at only $0.97/lb, they were a hot new attraction!

Hopefully, I won't be going to the store until December 6th.

Scratch that.

120109, Stater Bros.
  • tortillas, $2.99

Grand Total: $114.27

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hershey's Best Brownies

Mmm, soft chewy brownie with crispity crisp top -- love it!

I can't remember where I came upon this recipe which prompted me to make them for the first time over a year ago, but I whipped the recipe out from the files. Rodney had recently put together a "dessert wishlist" of sorts and brownies with ice cream was on the list. It was a little surprising that brownies were on the list since they give Rodney heartburn. Maybe it was this recipe that was heartburn inducing. Regardless I made these again. I liked them. They're yummy.

Hershey's Best Brownies

1 c (2 sticks) butter or margarine
2 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Place butter in large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50%) 2 to 2-1/2 minutes or until melted.

Stir in sugar and vanilla.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with spoon after each addition.

Add cocoa; beat until well blended.

Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat well.

Stir in nuts, if desired.

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Frost if desired. Cut into bars. About 36 brownies.

Deelicious! Even without ice cream. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beef Pot Roast in a Slow Cooker

Beef pot roast from the Crock Pot.

Since I was going to be messing around with the turkey and prepping dressing for Thanksgiving, I wanted to have something simple for dinner. I turned to the pot roast page in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

We have had this quite a few times. Last time, Rodney made it. I like that you can do this on the stove-top, in the oven, or in a slow cooker. Plus, if you have them, you can substitute parsnips for carrots and use a variety of potatoes to change up the flavors. Typically, we always have carrots and a couple of Russet potatoes and use those.

Click the link below to check out the recipe on the Better Homes site:

Beef Pot Roast

1 2-1/2- to 3-pound boneless beef chuck pot roast
2 tbsp cooking oil
3/4 c water
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Beef stock
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
4 medium potatoes
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 small onions, cut into wedges
2 stalks celery, bias-sliced into 1-inch pieces

Place vegetables in a 4-1/2- or 5-quart slow cooker.

Trim fat from meat. In a skillet brown roast on all sides in hot oil.

Cut roast to fit, if necessary; place on top of vegetables.

Combine the 3/4 cup water, Worcestershire sauce, bouillon granules, basil, and salt. Add to cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 9 to 11 hours or on high-heat setting for 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 hours.

I already mentioned that we've had this plenty of times before, so I won't go into how it tastes.  Honestly, it's not exceptional.  However, it is easy and not too bad.  If I come across another recipe that looks good, I'd be willing to give it a try.  Until then, I'll continue to roll with this one.

  • 2-1/2- to 3-pound boneless beef chuck pot roast: $6.97 
  • potatoes: $0.32
  • carrots: $0.30
  • onions: $0.15
  • celery: $0.10
Total:  $7.84 and serves 4-6 depending on how hungry you are and how big your belly is, LOL!  That means each serving ranges from $1.31-1.97.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tombstone Pizza

Do all Tombstone frozen pizzas come out of the oven warped?

Cost: $5.98/2 or $2.99 each.

Alton Brown's Turkey Brine

Brine after chilling in the fridge 24 hours.

I prepared my first ever roast turkey last year using a fresh young turkey and Alton Brown's Turkey Brine -- it turned out wonderfully. This year, I'm going to do it again, though I bought a frozen young turkey.

While I don't plan on showing the roasting part, I'll do a pictorial on the brine-making process and will report back on how the bird turned out.

Normally I would go to completion with the pictorial, but I'm bringing the brining bird over to my brother's house and with all the stuff I'll have to remember (like strapping the bird/brine down well enough so it doesn't spill over and roll around in the bed of the truck), I'm not going to stress over the camera. Besides, it's Thanksgiving, and as much as I like to image food, I'd much rather enjoy the company of friends and family.

Click the link below to check out Alton's original recipe at the Food Network:

Good Eats Roast Turkey Brine

1 c kosher salt
1/2 c light brown sugar
1 gal vegetable stock (or 1 gallon of water and some Better Than Bouillon vegetable stock)
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp allspice berries
1 1/2 tsp chopped (or not) candied ginger

Candied ginger is located in the produce section, vegetable stock in the soup aisle, and everything else dry in the baking aisle.

2 to 3 days before roasting:
Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38°F.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a 8-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil.

Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Easier than pie.

  • kosher salt: $1
  • vegetable stock: $4.99/8 oz  
  • allspice berries: $3.99/0.75 oz
  • candied ginger: $4.99/6 oz 
Total: $14.97.  I didn't count the pepper or sugar, but I didn't break the cost down of everything else to the portions used either. And there's lots of everything left.

The actual amount of time to prepare this was less than 2 hours, not including the refrigeration time before adding turkey, and most of that is spent waiting for the stuff to boil and cool.  Near zero effort!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Food Plan 112209

The week of Thanksgiving, can you believe it's here already?  I'm dumbfounded. 

I'm going to try to keep this weeks meals simple because I'm going to be brining a turkey and preparing stuffing for the Turkey Dinner at my brother's house.  That means prep here and bring it over. 

Today Rodney and I cruised over to a new-ish Mexican grocery store called El Super to find out how super it really is.  I planned on getting what I couldn't get from there at a local mart.

112209, El Super:
  • Reynold's oven bags: $1.97
  • baking soda: $.97/lb
  • Braeburn apples: $1.09/4
  • tomatoes: $1.70
  • green peas (huh?  I didn't buy peas!) :$0.89
  • onions: $0.38/0.5 lb
  • orange: $0.16
  • cucumber: $0.25
  • green onions: $0.33
  • celery: $0.33
  • carrots: $0.91/2.77 lb
  • romaine lettuce: $1.99
  • russet potatoes: $1.59/10 lb
  • radishes: $0.25
  • iceburg: $1.39 
Total: $15.64 w/ tax

112209, Vons:
  • flour: $2/5 lb
  • dry parsley: $1.39
  • paprika: $5.47
  • Stove Top stuffing: $3/2 boxes
  • granulated sugar: $6.49/10 lb
  • Better Than Bouillon Vegetable: $4.99
  • Better Than Bouillon Chicken: $4.99
  • eggs: $1.79/12
  • frozen mixed vegetables: $1.69/10 oz
  • frozen turkey: $5.00/14.5 lb
  • Old Bay: $4.49
  • yams: $1.01/2.59 lb
  • fresh rosemary: $1.99
  • fresh sage: $1.99
  • minced ginger: $3.49
  • candied ginger: $4.99
  • deli chicken: $5.99
Total: $60.76

112409, Stater Bros.:
  • milk: $1.79/half gallon
  • Tombstone pizza: $5.98/2
  • pumpkin in a can: $5.58/2
  • Stove Top stuffing: $1.98/2 (I knew I just bought some, but couldn't pass up a deal!)
  • boneless chuck roast: $6.97
  • turkey: $5.06/15.34 lb
  • bananas: $1.09
  • mushrooms: $1.99
Total: $30.44

112709, Vons:
  • limes: $.39
  • avocados: $2.97/4
  • taco sauce: $2.49/12 oz
Total: $ 5.85

Grand Total: $112.69. 

Ouch.  However, realize I bought 2 turkeys, 1 to share and 1 to make "leftovers" from.  And it is worth the cost to keep ones sanity, don't you think?  In other words, why I bought frozen pizza even when I have a freezer half-full of food.   

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chicken Tacos

Chicken tacos made with chopped broiled chicken.

Tonight I was feeling pretty burned out and hadn't a clue what to do for dinner. Rodney took it upon himself to fix us up with some chicken tacos.

I'm not sure what he seasoned the breasts with, but once he spiced them up a little Rodney put them in the broiler until they were nicely browned. Rodney chopped up two of the four breasts for tonight's tacos.

Check out his handiwork:

The tacos were made up of flour tortillas, refried beans, Mexican-blend shredded cheese, salsa, tomatoes, black olives and chopped onion. Usually something green, a type of lettuce or cilantro would be in there, but we were out. Regardless, the tacos were pretty tasty.


  • chicken breasts: $1.77, assuming they were $0.59/lb
  • olives: $0.99/15 oz can
Total: since everything else is negligible, I'll call it $3 even.

This made 4 or 5 tacos plus two chicken breasts left over. Maybe we'll have tacos again for dinner tomorrow night!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Garlic Toasts

Fresh baked golden garlic toasts.

Last time I made these, I buttered the bread and smeared the garlic into the butter. This time, Rodney made the toast and he mixed the garlic into the soft butter and put it on thick.

And it was good.

Rodney had three which initially served as the hair for his spaghetti face.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Classic Saffron Rice, Take 2

Fluffy, golden yellow saffron rice served with glazed carrots and Salmon with Balsamic Olive Sauce.

Tonight when I made saffron rice, I was out of the Better Than Bouillon Chicken stock stuff, so used Better Than Bouillon Vegetable stock stuff. And while I was at it, I rolled with long-grain rice rather than basmati. What the hell, right?

The image below was collected when everything was added in and brought to a boil. I was surprised at how much darker the solution is with the vegetable stuff than the chicken.

Long-grain versus basmati, I didn't notice too much difference. The long-grain was a bit more "grainy" than basmati, which was a bit more creamy in texture.  Long-grain wasn't like eating granola by any means, so don't let texture scare you from trying it if that's all you have.  This rice, made with the vegetable stock stuff, was much more mild in flavor than the rice made with chicken stock.

I believe the cost when using long-grain is less than when using basmati.  But I guess that might be different if you compared bulk packages of each.  I'd have to check into that.

Regardless, the rice was whoop-ass.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Golden Dragon

Happy Birthday, Rodney!

It's Rodney's birthday today and so I broke my "I'm never going to Chinese again" vow for the second time. It has been about 5 months since Rodney's had Chinese in my presence. It's his birthday for Pete's sake. And he loves it. Feverishly.

I meant to stop at the Chinese place which is conveniently located a couple doors down from a Korean place on my way home to surprise Rodney with Chinese and please my own palate with Korean. My mind and body though went on autopilot at some point during the drive from work and I came home empty-handed.

After some "we should" "no, we shouldn't" "we could" "nah, let's not" back-and-forth, we agreed to do Golden Dragon again. They did make some stuff for us a few times that was decent before I was forced to put my foot down on the Chinese.

We ordered some of the special egg rolls to share, Aromatic Shrimp for me, and Mushroom Beef with Broccoli added for Rodney.

My dinner of Aromatic Shrimp on steamed white rice accompanied by a piece of the speciall egg roll.

Rodney's dinner, mushroom beef add broccoli. There wasn't room on his plate for egg roll pieces, so took the remaining ones and ate them from the box/trough.

I didn't think my shrimp was too bad. Sure the breading was sloppy, the shrimp slightly overcooked and there was a little bit too much sauce. Still, it was edible. It didn't remind me at all of leather simmering in a soupy brown gravy like last time.

Giddy at first, Rodney acknowledged my previously stated contempt of Chinese food after having quite a fair share of his beef dinner choice. He realized that Chinese is really W, X, Y, Z meat with A, B, or C sauce and L, M, N, or O vegetables. It's a big mix-and-match. And none of the flavors of any one thing really stand out.

I'm sorry this Chinese food thing came to light for him on his birthday. But he is 36 years old now. It's about time.

I can't wait until we can afford to travel to China and eat there. I bet it'd be fantastic. Rodney will want to globe-trot just for the sake of eating -- which is really the point in travelling, if you ask me.

$37.46 out the door.