Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vietnamese Chicken in Carmelized-Ginger Sauce

Chicken thighs in a caramelized-ginger sauce over steamed white rice, ready to eat with my metal chopsticks.

It turned out so very well last time when I altered the cooking method slightly, I had to make the dish again just to make Rodney stop begging. Since I had about 3.4 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, it  more than covered the bottom of my biggest skillet. With that much chicken to play with, I increased the "browning" time to about 5 minutes on each side as the thigh quarters were so crowded.

And it was fantastic. The pepper, both crushed red and black, were evenly distributed throughout and enhanced the appearance of the slightly seared pieces. The ginger sauce was more of a caramel that lent stickiness and excellent flavor without being too wet and well, saucy.  I don't care for stuff that is overly sauced.

I've come to a conclusion:  my ultra-creative improvisation made this recipe perfect for us.  Further experimentation is now discontinued. Rodney and I both love how this tastes, the heat isn't too much and best of all, it doesn't cause Rodney to run to the nearest bathroom upon consumption to alleviate his poor intestinal tract.

Ha, I said nearest bathroom as if we have more than one. Isn't that cute?

Now that the chapter on this Ga Kho/Vietnamese Chicken in Caramel-Ginger Sauce is officially closed, let's recap the progression:
What hasn't evolved is the bowl, the same exact bowl as I only have one, from which I eat this chicken.

Food Plan and Grocery List, 022810

Two weeks of eating less meat and we're back in the meat saddle.  Rodney gorged on meat last weekend (his fervor was almost frightening) and picked up meaty tacos for lunch at least one day during the week. While I could continue this less meat thing, it doesn't make sense to do that if 50% or more of our groceries goes to waste because Rodney's chowing on buckets of take-out meat instead.  I have learned that not all of our meals have to have flesh as the primary focus in order to be good.  I'm hoping to mix it up a little more in the future.

This week's line-up though is meat-ladened, however chicken accounts for a good portion. In no particular order:
  • Taco Salad
  • Chicken Chilaquiles-Spiced soft tacos
  • Vietnamese Chicken in Caramel-Ginger Sauce
  • Italian Basil, Tomato and Pasta Salad
  • Chicken with Marinated Olives and Roasted Tomatoes
  • Spinach Salad with Warm Maple-Mustard Dressing
  • Sauteed Cod (from my new-to-me but used $2 copy of How to Cook Everything)
    • Caramelized Onions
    • Mashed Potatoes
A lot of this is stuff we've had before and a couple are new things carried over from last week that I didn't get to. I'm off to the stores...

...and here's what I bought:

  • Kirkland organic salsa: $5.99
  • Kirkland organic salsa: $5.99
  • tortilla chips: $3.09
  • tortilla chips: $3.09
    • what can I say, we love chips and salsa
  • Guerrero flour tortillas: $3.25
  • maple syrup, grade A: $13.49
  • cod fillets: $14.89
  • turkey slices: $6.93
  • TOTAL: $56.72
Grower's Direct:
  • green grapes: $3.56/1.43 lb
  • lemon: $0.45/0.5 lb
  • red potatoes: $1.19/2.01 lb
  • red onion: $0.39/0.56 lb
  • Roma tomatoes: $2.11/1.52 lb
  • brown onions: $0.41/0.83 lb
  • carrots: $0.41/1.05 lb
  • romaine lettuce: $1.38/2 heads
  • fresh cilantro: $0.29/bunch
  • baby spinach: $1.99/6 oz
  • fresh basil: $1.20/bunch
  • grape tomatoes: $4.78/2 pints
  • TOTAL: $18.16
Stater Bros.:
  • oatnut bread: $2.49/loaf
  • medium shrimp, frozen: $13.98/4 lbs
  • eggs: $2.59/18
  • provolone cheese, sliced: $2.99/8 oz
  • Herdez verde salsa, mild: $2.49
  • whole chicken: $4.24 @ 0.77/lb
  • whole chicken: $4.19 @ 0.77/lb
  • boneless, skinless chicken thighs: $3.70 @ $1.99/lb
  • boneless, skinless chicken thighs: $3.05 @ $1.99/lb
  • TOTAL: $39.72
Grand Total: $114.60.  Is that right?  Let me double check: $114.60.  Sure enough. 

I can't say that it was due to the meat since we bought tons of chips and salsa.  What can I say?  We love our chips and salsa.  And there is the fish and shrimp (I couldn't pass on the shrimp as it was on sale again). 

As for the bread, provolone and turkey, I wanted to make sure I'd have something to bring to work in case there were no leftovers to take with me.  At least I'll be able to slap a sandwich together.  Rodney's lucky -- he works close enough to be able to come home for lunch and have whatever he wants.

Oh yeah, I also picked up 2 white Corelle dinner plates when we were getting Rodney some moustache wax -- $11 and they are made in the USA!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oven-Baked Yam Fries, Take 3

The first time I made these, they tasted simply fantastic but some fries were a little burnt.
The second time I made these, I cut the yams so thick and had so many, the fries came out a little mushy.
This time...well, check it out.

Yam Fries

1 giant yam, peeled and cut into french-fry pieces
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with foil and place them in the oven to get it hot.

Toss cut yams with oil, salt and pepper until all yam surfaces are coated evenly.

Remove hot baking sheets from oven; arrange yam pieces in a single layer.

Return sheets with yams to oven and roast about 12-13 minutes. Flip the yams to allow even browning.

Return yams to oven and continue roasting another 12-15 minutes until they are brown and crispy on the outside.

I cooked the yams in two batches on two separate baking sheets to provide ample room for each fry. It was a hassle and I quickly tired of flipping the skinny fries. The results were worth it. While still not perfect, it was a vast improvement over the last time I tried the fries and the color was better than the first time I made them. Finally, I'm getting somewhere with these crazy fries!

Cost: $0.91 for a 1.15 lb yam

Garlic Ginger Honey Wings

A plethora of wings in the freezer led me to hunt a recipe for wings. While I've done wings without marinating before that turned out exceptionally well, I wanted to try a different flavor. Finding a wing recipe from Week of Menus was a no-brainer since that's where the spice-rub for the last batch of wings came from.

Garlic Ginger Honey Wings

3 lbs of chicken wings (you can either use drumettes or wings)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c honey
3 tbsp rice vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix together olive oil, garlic powder, ginger powder, onion powder and salt. Mix well.

Add chicken wings and rub spice mixture all over the wings making sure to coat everything thoroughly.

Line your baking pan with foil (for easier cleanup). Lay chicken wings/drumettes in a single layer on the pan. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together honey and vinegar. Place this on the stovetop so the oven heat will warm the honey.

Watch chicken carefully after 45 minutes. When the wings are golden and crispy, take the wings out and drizzle honey vinegar mixture over each wing.

Return wings to the oven for an additional 5 minutes or until the honey caramelizes on top.

These wings were ok. They weren't as great as the wings I'd made from Week of Menus' spice rub, but still ok. Part of the problem, I think was the overload I had of wings. I'm not sure how many pounds I had, but enough to cover two 11x15" baking sheets without crowding, which is a lot of wings. Without thinking too hard about it, I'm sure doubling all other ingredients would have been a worthwhile thing to do.  Also I forgot to salt and pepper the chicken upon finish.

In the future I'll also raise the heat on these (Week of Menus' fast cook method?) or put them under the broiler a few minutes to really get the skin crisp. As it was, waiting for the skin to crisp led to some pieces, especially those drumettes with a bit of breast attached, to become overdone.


I'm at a loss since the wings were pieces from whole chickens I'd used in a variety of recipes. Like I did before, I'll swag the cost of wings at $0.75/lb and assume I had 4.5 pounds, making it $3.40 for this dinner with a bunch of wings leftover.

Inka Mama's Inka Special leftovers

Yesterday I went out to lunch with a co-worker. We went to a place called Inka Mama's, a Peruvian place. I was hoping to find what I had for lunch on the online menu, but no luck. Or no patience -- I didn't read each online listing. The one I selected was the Inka Special from the lunch menu.

We started with complimentary unlimited bread that smelled really good and tasted equally delicious. The bread came with butter and an unlabeled bottle of some green stuff. Skipping the butter, I squirted some of that green stuff on the bread. It was certainly pepper and something else I couldn't put my finger on. Later after inquiring, I found it was serrano peppers, lettuce and onions. That's it! Lettuce! Who'd have guessed that lettuce could be a component in something so awesome?

When we ordered, we each had soup or salad as an option. I asked the waitress to surprise me and she suggested I get the soup. So soup I agreed with. And that cup of soup was awesome. It was chicken with rice and vegetables and some sort of green broth that was warming and quite hearty.

My dish arrived and it was positively radiating glowiness, if that makes any sense. The rice was perfectly done. The sauce was light, the peas and carrots were tender yet crisp. Even the french fries in the dish were great. My only complaint is that the chicken was a little overdone. Dark meat would have fared better here.

I could eat only half and brought the rest back with me in a box. Fortunately, I remembered to bring it home so I could have it for lunch today.

Inka Special in the take-out box.

I transferred it to a small bowl and microwaved it 3:30 minutes on 40% power.

And it was awesome...again!

Doesn't natural light make everything so much more tasty-looking? Sometimes I wish I worked third shift just so I could make dinner in the morning and take better images.

Maybe I should just take my ass to work earlier in the a.m. so we don't eat dinner at 11 p.m. every day.

Yeah, right.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cost of Lunch, week ending 022610

Monday: Subway, 6" Turkey Melt: $4.35 after hitting balls at the driving range
Friday: Inka Mama's, Inka Special: $11, lunch with a coworker

Total: $14.35.

Laventina's Big Cheese Pizza

Pizza slices

from this pie

from this box

from this place are always great.

Nacho Taco Salad

Originally, we were going to have taco salad. The lettuce was running a little too scarce to make a decent salad, so I thought about doing nachos. Rodney shot that down and suggested tacos instead. I compromised.

Nacho Taco Salad

1 lb ground beef
taco seasoning
tortilla chips
14.5 oz pinto or black beans, rinsed
Mexican-blend cheese
lettuce, chopped
tomatoes, diced
green onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Prepare the taco meat per the McCormick taco seasoning mix instructions.

Dump a few handfuls of chips into a 9x13" baking dish so the bottom is completely covered.

Sprinkle the beans over the chips.

Spread the seasoned beef over the beans.

Sprinkle cheese over the beef. Go crazy if you aren't lactose intolerant.

Bake in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and gooey.

"Cut" the baked cheesy, beefy, beany, chippy mixture into squarish pieces and place a square on a plate.

Top with lettuce, tomato, green onions and salsa.

Like a taco or nachos but with a lot more greens and tomatoes; still like a salad, but the meat/bean to lettuce ratio was more 1:2 than 1:5 or so. I'll definitely do this again as Rodney and I both liked it.


  • beef: $2.49
  • beans: $0.89
  • everything else, SWAG: $1
Total: $4.38 or $0.73 for each of six servings.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sauteed Zucchini

Tonight when I planned on preparing the last of the orange roughy, I didn't know what to accompany the fish with.  Looking around in the crispers, I found a couple Italian squash rolling around in there, probably purchased for the pasta salad.  That zucchini wound up contributing to the execution of my first Bittman recipe.

Sauteed Zucchini
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
About 2 lbs zucchini, the smaller the better
1 tbsp salt (optional)
3-4 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
minced fresh parsley for garnish

Coarsely grate the squash. Place grated squash in a colander and salt it liberally.

Toss to blend and let drain for at least 30 minutes. Rinse quickly and dry by wringing in a towel.

Italian squash wrung dry.

Place oil in a large non-stick skillet and turn heat to medium-high; add garlic.

When oil is hot, toss the squash in the oil, sprinkle with pepper, and raise the heat to high.

Cook, stirring frequently, until the squash is browned, about 10 minutes.

Garnish and serve hot.

I wasn't sure how this would go over, but it turned out pretty good. It was different from how we usually have zucchini, which is sliced and sauteed in oil/butter.  Afraid it would be really cooked down and mushy, I was surprised to find that it still had firmness, not just from the browned parts either.  Interesting. 

Bittman says the salting part is optional, but I'm not convinced the results would be as pleasing.  Without drawing out most of the water from the vegetable, you might end up with sauteed and soggy zucchini.  That's just me speculating.

  • zucchini: $1.21
  • everything else, SWAG: $0.50
Total: $1.71 or $0.57 for each of three servings.

Salsa-Style Orange Roughy

Here's a recipe I've been waiting to try. Originally calling for halibut, which is outrageously expensive, I thought it would do well to try the orange roughy out on it as both are firm white fish, though orange roughy isn't quite as "steaky" as halibut.

I cut the recipe by 1/4, reducing servings from four to three, and omitted capers entirely.

Salsa-Style Orange Roughy

3 (6-oz.) orange roughy fillets (1 inch thick)
3/4 tsp ground coriander
3/8 tsp ground cumin
dash salt
1/3 c purchased chunky salsa
1/4 c sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
1/8 c coarsely chopped cilantro

Heat oven to 400°F.

Arrange fish on greased baking sheet; sprinkle with coriander, cumin and salt.

Combine salsa, olives and capers; spoon over fish.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until orange roughy just begins to flake.

Sprinkle with cilantro.

Rodney and I liked this recipe, but the salsa was a bit much. The orange roughy/salsa combo tasted great, but a more steaky fish, such as halibut, could just be a better fit like the original recipe insinuated. Go figure!

Regardless, I wouldn't be opposed to having this again, with a different fish, convenient as we are now out of orange roughy. It was excellent while it lasted.

The first time I tried preparing orange roughy though was the best. If you have orange roughy (please don't go out and get some for the sake of trying it), aim for the simplest of seasonings and preparation.


  • orange roughy: $8.10
  • everything else, SWAGged: $2
Total: $10.10 or $3.47 for each of three servings.

Crab with Spaghetti

Flipping through a Cooking Pleasures magazine, I came across this one that I'd passed over about 1,483 times. This time, I put it in the weekly food plan rotation for kicks. After all, there's no meat, plus is calls for crabmeat, olives, walnuts and fresh basil, all wonderful things.

8 oz. spaghetti
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. canned lump crabmeat (1 1/2 cups), 1/2 c crab liquid reserved
1/2 c chopped Kalamata olives
1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp chopped pimiento
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dried oregano, preferably Greek
1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Cook onion 2 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds or until fragrant.

I added the garlic and onion at the same time out of habit.

Add all remaining ingredients except spaghetti, crab liquid and cheese; cook until heated through.

Add spaghetti and crab liquid; toss to combine.

Sprinkle with cheese.

This wasn't the flavor explosion I'd anticipated. Maybe I expected that each time I flipped past this recipe in the past. It wasn't gross in any way, just not great. If I were to do this again, I would select a different pasta, one with ingredient-holding capacity, like shells. Eating this as it was resulted in mouthfuls of plain noodles and a bunch of crab-nut-olive litter in the bottom of the bowl. Rodney wasn't hot for this pasta dish either. What a bummer.


  • spaghetti: $0.50
  • crabmeat: $3.49
  • everything else, SWAG: $2
Total: $5.99 or about $1.50 for each of four servings.