Sunday, January 31, 2010

Linguine with Roasted Tomato Sauce

Linguine and roast tomato sauce with wheat garlic bread toasts -- a meatless dish.

Because Rodney has been grumbling lately of a, uh, slow-processing system, I opted to go meatless tonight in order to help move things along. This pasta fit the bill, and good for me as well since it looked stupid simple! Not as simple as the sugar chicken, but still pretty dang easy.

I started the sauce and while it was in the oven worked on preparing the salad. While it seemed I'd spent hours putting the combo together, it was really more of a kismet sort of thing. When I browsed my Cooking Club/Pleasures magazines this time around, I stuck to looking at January/February/March issues to get the most of the veggies currently in season. Why haven't I done this before? Typically, I look at June/July issues in January and get frustrated over the cost of blueberries, or I look at December issues in May winding up frustrated due to the cost and rarity of winter squashes. No longer.

The original recipe called for spaghetti. We were out of that and had linguine instead. I also skipped the capers and cut back on the cheese by 3/8 of a cup -- remember that lactose intolerant thing Rodney has.

Linguine with Roasted Tomato Sauce

1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained, or 4 cups chopped tomatoes
1 c sliced mushrooms
16 Kalamata olives, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 c +1/8 c grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
8 oz. linguine

Heat oven to 350°F.

Spread tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, and garlic in 13x9-inch baking pan.

Sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the cheese; drizzle with oil (I forgot the oil!).

Bake 45-55 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and liquid is reduced, stirring occasionally.
Baked 15 minutes and stirred before returning to the oven.

Finished sauce, done in 55 minutes.  I don't like my sauces too wet.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain. Plate noodles and top with tomato mixture and cheese.

Rodney declared his love of this by saying between bites that we don't have to have meat in our spaghetti anymore. Schwing, daddy. I like the sounds of that since that's less ground beef we'll be buying. It's crazy, but ground beef at about $2.60/lb is generally the most expensive flesh we buy. Isn't ground beef supposed to be cheap?

As for me, while I did like it, the sauce didn't have much going in the titillating herb/spice department. It was very simple to prepare and simple on the tongue. Next time, basil is definitely going in there.  No two ways about it.

  • tomatoes: $0.99
  • mushrooms: $2.49
  • parsley: $0.15
  • Parmesan cheese :$1
  • linguine: $0.50
Total: $5.13 or $1.71 for each of three servings, 1 for Rodney and two for me.

Spinach Salad with Warm Maple-Mustard Dressing

Warm dressing tossed with spinach, red cabbage and shredded carrots. Best part is that bacon is in there.

As part of the colon-cleansing program of the day, I opted for salad. And what better salad is there to do that job than one with lots of spinach and cabbage and a little bit of bacon. I had to try this one, which was in my latest Cooking Club mag.

I assumed a 6 oz bag of spinach was 6 cups and skipped brushing the finished bacon with syrup and sprinkling it with pepper. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly. Click the link below to go to the original recipe at Cooking Club.

Spinach Salad with Warm Maple-Mustard Dressing

6 c baby spinach
2 c very thinly sliced red cabbage
1 c julienned or shredded carrot
1/3 c cider vinegar
1/4 c pure maple syrup
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
8 slices bacon, diced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 c chopped red onion

Toss spinach, cabbage and carrot in large bowl.

Whisk vinegar, 1/4 cup of the syrup, mustard, salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper in glass measuring cup.

Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat 5 to 8 minutes or until crisp, stirring frequently.

Drain on paper towels. (Remove and discard drippings; reserve skillet.)

Heat oil in same skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook onion 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until softened, stirring frequently.

Stir in vinegar mixture; simmer 1 minute.

Pour warm dressing over spinach mixture; toss to coat well. Sprinkle with bacon.

This was sooo dayum good! Both Rodney and I wolfed it down; I mean, no messin' around eating. I really liked that the dressing was just enough to wet the vegetables without any excess pooling at the bottom of the bowl. Quantity was perfect. Plus there was no slick-lip feel. Mmm, yeah, we're going to have a lot of this salad in the future.


  • spinach: $1.99
  • red cabbage: $0.50
  • bacon: $1
  • red onion: $0.25

Total: $3.74 but let's round up to $4 to assume cost of the other stuff like pepper. I'm guessing three servings, making each serving $1.25.


How good was this salad? Rodney ate what was left today, which is highly atypical. We're definitely having this salad repeatedly in the future.

Food Plan and Grocery List, 013110

Over the holidays (and since), we've been eating a lot of chicken, pork and beef with a lot of red potatoes. I've been hearing from the peanut gallery that all of this is starting to, uh, shall we say, clog the plumbing.This week I'm making it a point to incorporate a ton more vegetables and have a new granola recipe to try out too. To off-set extra cost, I'll be focusing on using the meat from the freezer.

I browsed my Cooking Club magazines (including the latest one, received yesterday!) as well as to come up with this line-up: 
  • Spaghetti with Roasted Tomato Sauce
  • Spinach Salad with Warm Maple-Mustard Dressing
  • Vietnamese Chicken
  • Black Bean and Corn Chili
  • Slow-Cooker Roast Beef with Red Wine
  • Winter Fruit Salad with Parmesan Puff Pastry
  • Oven-Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and carrots or something
  • Crispy-Topped Herbed Orange Roughy Fillets
  • Seared Autumn Vegetables
  • Honey Nut Granola with Dried Fruit
All of this, except the Vietnamese Chicken is brand-spankin' new for us. Certainly, if I follow through on everything, there will be plenty for lunch this week.

I'm off to the stores.

  • Samyang Ramen: $12.99/20
Grower's Direct:
  • dried figs: $1.59
  • bananas: $1.14/1.93 lb
  • lemon: $0.44/0.49 lb
  • red onion: $0.51/0.74 lb
  • red bell pepper $0.79/0.57 lb
  • Bartlett Pear: $0.51/0.52 lb
  • brussel sprouts: $0.92/0.93 lb
  • red cabbage: $1.01/1.71 lb
  • romaine lettuce: $0.79/head
  • jalapeno peppers: $0.11/0.11 lb
  • butternut squash: $1.78/2 lb
  • parsley: $0.39/bunch
  • baby spinach: $5.97/18 oz
  • baby greens: $3.98/12.8 oz
  • dried apricots: $2.49
  • TOTAL: $22.42
  • frozen corn: $1.76/24 oz
  • frozen pearl onions: $1.76/24 oz
  • milk: $1.99/ half-gallon
  • oats: $2.50
  • sunflower seeds: $4.29
  • slivered almonds: $7.99
  • Israeli couscous: $2.29
  • parmesan cheese: $4.29/8oz
  • whole tomatoes: $1.98/56 oz
  • black beans: $1.79/ 30 oz
  • Better Than Bouillon Beef base: $5.99
  • black olives: $5/60 oz
  • large eggs: $2.59/18
  • Gallo merlot wine: $4.49/750 mL
  • apples: $1.44/2
  • mushrooms: $4.98/1 lb
  • flax seeds: $3.49
  • boneless skinless chicken thighs: $4.98
  • French wheat bread: $1.47
  • TOTAL: $67.28
GRAND TOTAL: $102.69. 

Hmm.  That's better than what I thought it would be, what with all the nuts and seeds and dried fruit. Ralph's was out of the puff pastry, so I might stop for that later this week or we'll just have the salad with regular croutons.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Steamed Carnival Squash

Once the chicken was nearly done, I thought about what we'd eat with that salty-sweet chicken. Hmm, that carnival squash has been hangin' out in the kitchen about 2 weeks; it's due to be cooked.

Carnival squash.

What's a simple, fast way to prepare squash?
Steam it in the microwave.

First, halve the squash.

Remove the pulp and seeds with a spoon.

Place halves cut-side down in an 8x8 baking dish, add about 1/2 cup water, cover dish with plastic wrap and pierce the plastic a few times with a fork.

Microwave approximately 10 minutes or until squash is fork-tender. Drain water; let stand cut-side up a few minutes before serving.

These were certainly fork-tender...and water-logged. I'd cut the water by half when I try it again. They still tasted ok, just a little, uh, watery.


  • carnival squash: $0.81
Total: $0.81 to yield two servings at $0.41 each.

Incredible Chicken

Perfectly browned chicken breast -- done with sugar in the oven!

I had a whole chicken that's been sitting on the bottom shelf (aka coldest spot) of the fridge in it's original packaging since Sunday. I wasn't sure if it's even going to be good. How long does a whole chicken last anyway? Looking for a recipe for cut up whole chickens on, I found the easiest chicken in the world. Whether it would taste good was questionable. But look! Only two ingredients other than the bird!

I checked the chicken and it was just fine.  So I proceeded. 

The original recipe called for 1 tsp garlic salt and 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Judging by the comments, it appeared the garlic salt was too little and in many cases the sugar too much. I upped the garlic salt to approximately 1-2 tbsp (I didn't measure, but sprinkled straight from the container to apply an even, light coat) and decreased the sugar to a couple hefty pinches. Original suggestion for baking time was a bit too long also; I cut the time to 40 minutes plus standing time and it was spot-on.

1 (4-5 lb) chicken, cut into pieces, wings reserved for another use
1-2 tbsp garlic salt, or to taste
2 tbsp brown sugar, or to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Season bottom (skinless) sides of chicken with garlic salt.

Arrange chicken skin side up in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Season with additional garlic salt and sprinkle with brown sugar to taste.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes or until juices run clear. If chicken appears to be browning too much and getting dry, cover with foil for the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking.

Rodney and I were impressed with how this tasted. I thought it would be really sweet or too garlic-salty and it wasn't overdone in either flavor. If you apply a very even coat of sugar, the chicken will come out evenly browned. If you simply lump the sugar on one spot of the bird, I'm sure it would brown there first and slowly blacken; as the sugar melts and spreads, it will become gradually brown in those spots.

The only mistake I made was to tent the chicken and let it sit for 30 minutes while I goofed around trying to figure out what to have with the bird.  (I know, who does that, right?) The skin ended up a little more moist and chewy as a result.

I tried broiling a couple pieces to crisp the skin some, but that only resulted in burning the sugar on the skin.

Regardless, I would not be opposed to having this again. I might even trying going all out with the sugar (1/4 cup!) just to see how it turns out. It'd be like having candy for dinner! Man, what I would've given to be able to cook whatever I wanted when I was 9 years old!

Dirt cheap I bet:

  • chicken: $3.70
  • sugar and garlic salt, generous SWAG: $1
Total: $4.70 for 4 servings or about $1.20 per serving.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cost of Lunch, week ending 012910

I did it!  I was better about bringing food from home and so this week:

Friday: Ralph's deli sandwich, $5.99

I am quite pleased.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Crock-Pot Carnitas

Delicious crispy pieces mingled among scrumtious, butter-soft pieces of deliciousness known as carnitas.

I spied a fabulous photo of some carnitas tacos on Tastespotting.  Lo and behold, it led me to The Noshery, home of the Slow-Cooker Pernil.  There was no way around it, I had to have it.

Following Meseidy's recipe as well as her notes (click the link below), I wound up with this:


3.5-4 lb pork butt roast (or country-style ribs), cut into 2" cubes
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
3/4 c fresh-squeezed orange juice
juice from half a lemon
7 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp cumin
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
1/4 c chicken stock

Cut pork into cubes if you haven't already.

Place salt and cumin in a bowl large enough to accomodate pork. Stir pork in bowl to evenly coat with spices.

Heat oil in large skillet.

Add pork to skillet in batches, turning to brown on all sides.

Place pork in Crock Pot.

Pour juices, broth and garlic over pork; sprinkle with cilantro.
At this point, I covered the Pot with plastic wrap and placed it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, the Pot was allowed to come closer to room temperature (30-45 minutes) and placed in the Crock Pot heating element to cook.

Set on low for 8 hours.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in cast iron skillet. Add pork batchwise, smooshing the pieces with the bottom of a sturdy fork, coarsely shredding the pork. Toss pieces on occasion; remove pork from skillet when satisfied with the crunchy-to-tender ratio.

I tasted this from the Crock Pot and wow, it was simply fantastic.  I couldn't wait to crisp up those succulent pork pieces in my cast iron.  What is it about those crispy pieces of pork that make it so irresistable? 

So easy to make, so easy to eat and so easy on the pocketbook. 

  • pork butt roast: $3.81
  • oranges: $0.50
  • lemon: $0.33
  • everything else?  Let's say: $1
Total: $5.64, generously serving 4, conservatively serving 6, bringing it to a range of $0.94-1.41 per serving.  Definitely a winner.

Make some tacos if you have tortillas, beans, diced onions, extra cilantro.  And guacamole and salsa. And chips.  Or serve it with a side of refried beans (topped with some fresh cheese), rice and tortillas.  However you have it, this pork is awesome.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts with Shallots

Pan sauteed chicken breast with shallot non-sauce.

A couple months ago I was on a kick to find recipes utilizing boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I had some Randall Farms chicken breasts in the freezer and wanted to use them up, so I dug out this recipe from the recipe box I have on and away I went.

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts with Shallots

3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 tbsp olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - pounded thin
salt and pepper to taste
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 c dry white wine
1/2 c chicken broth

Melt 1 tablespoon butter and heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Season chicken with salt and pepper, and brown on both sides in the skillet. Cover, and continue cooking 10 minutes, or until chicken juices run clear. Set aside, and keep warm.

Mix shallots and garlic into skillet over medium heat, and cook until tender.

Stir in wine, and cook until heated through.

Stir in broth, and continue cooking 5 minutes, or until reduced and slightly thickened.

Mix in the remaining butter until melted.

Serve the sauce over the chicken.

While it tasted ok, the chicken was dry.  I overcooked it by about 10 minutes.  And my sauce wasn't exactly a sauce by the time I was done with it.

There were a few things I should have done differently:
  1. Avoid using the biggest breasts in the world to make this.  Randall Farms breasts are huge anyway and after pouding them to flatten a bit were even wider.  This resulted in my skillet becoming way too crowded and the chicken didn't brown well.  Searing?  No way.
  2. What is the point in pounding this chicken anyway?
  3. After cooking the chicken, there was quite a bit of pan juice left.  I dumped it. That may have been a problem.
  4. Cooking 5 minutes before the butter was added to the shallots was way too long.  I think it was actually slightly reduced (but not exactly thickened) within just a couple minutes.
  • Randall Farms chicken breasts: $1.97/lb or $8
  • shallots: $0.26
Total: approximately $8.26, bringing each serving to $2.10.

Pan-seared chicken breasts with shallots, Crash Hot Potatoes and steamed carrots for dinner.