Sunday, October 31, 2010

Grocery List, 103110

No plan, no list. I'm going to eat soups (Chicken Fajita Chili, Southwest Tomato Soup, and Slow-Cooker Black Bean Soup) like crazy, and mixing it up with lasagna (Number 1 Best Lasagna or Sausage Cheese and Basil Lasagna).

I'll update as I shop, if necessary.

110210, Grower's Direct
  • Ambrosia apples: $2.69/2.72 lb
  • romaine lettuce: $0.99/head
  • SunFlour onion rolls: $3.99/pack of 6

Total: $7.67

BC Broiler

I wanted to try a new place today. Well, what I really wanted was a big, juicy burger from a new place. I had beef on the palate and I wanted something good to satisfy. OC voted TK Burgers the Best Burger this year. While I tried finding the joint and finally succeeded, what I found was that TK Burger is closed on Sundays. At least the location on 19th is.

Dicking around, trying to figure out where I wanted a burger from, I wound up driving by BC Broiler on Newport. Flames from within observable from the street brought me in. I parked in the small lot and walked in through the back door to be overcome with the delightful aroma of BBQ. Mmm!

I perused the menu quickly and decided to stick with what I was craving, a burger. Yes, a dumb choice in a BBQ place. I should've gone with the ribs.

Nevertheless, the extremely quiet and to-the-point guy behind the counter took my order and then prepared it. Frozen patty on an open broiler. At least he gently toasted the bun.

This is exactly what Anthony Bourdain is talking about when he says to order whatever the place specialty is. I should've gone with the flame-broiled chicken on mechanical-spit. Or at the least the friggin' ribs! And they were beef ribs even! Insert image of myself kicking my own ass here.

Here's photos of my meal:

While not great, the burger and fries were edible. I need to go back and try the chicken and ribs.

$7.06 on the AmEx, a couple of cash bucks in the toke jar.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chicken Fajita Chili

This chili really does taste like fajitas and goes so good with chips!

After seeing this recipe repeatedly in one of my Cooking Club magazines, I decided to give it a go. It looked so good and the only thing off-putting was the fajita seasoning mix. Getting past that, I finally prepared the chili.

The recipe called for 8 thighs, but I had a 1.61 lb package of chicken consisting of 6 thighs. I rolled with it. Other than that, the only thing I changed was substituting fire-roasted crushed tomatoes with more fire-roasted diced tomatoes.

Chicken Fajita Chili
from Cooking Club of America

1.5 lbs or 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed (3/4 inch)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 sweet onion, halved, sliced lengthwise (1/4 inch)
2 tsp minced garlic
2 1.12-oz. packages fajita seasoning
3 14.5-oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, undrained
1 c chopped roasted red and/or yellow bell peppers
1/3 c chopped cilantro

Place chicken in resealable plastic bag; add 2 tablespoons of the oil, lime juice and crushed red pepper. Massage bag to coat. Refrigerate 2 hours.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in large pot over medium-high heat until hot. Cook chicken 8 to 10 minutes or until browned on all sides, stirring frequently. Remove chicken.

Add onion to pot; cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic; cook 30 to 60 seconds or until fragrant.

Stir in fajita seasoning to coat onions. Return chicken to pot.
The fajita seasoning mix is scary looking and is not due to my poor lighting and photography skills.

Stir in all remaining ingredients except cilantro; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes to blend flavors.

Stir in cilantro.

Yep, this is good food. I'm glad I made it. I look forward to eating the remaining 7 servings! If you like fajitas and chili, this is a perfect combination. You get the hearty chili feel with fajita flavor. It was so enjoyable that I didn't even think about the fajita packet gunk it contained.

The two hour marinating time is convenient as it allows for mise en place including roasting the pepper. Oh, and outside of marinating time, it took me about 1.25 hours to prepare this chili.


  • chicken: $4.03
  • onion: $0.31
  • fajita seasoning: $2
  • tomatoes: $4.17
  • beans: $0.89
  • bell pepper: $1.50
  • cilantro: $0.15

Total: $13.05 or a $1.63 for each of 8 servings.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper, a How To

I did this once before and was grossed out by the charred bits and the rinsed the roasted pepper to get the bits off. Don't do that. You'll essentially wash away the "roast" flavor and yield a pepper with a horrifying texture.

Roast a Red Bell Pepper

Wash and dry a red bell pepper. Turn a burner of a gas range on. Place the bell pepper directly onto the burner.

Rotate the pepper with tongs so that each side is blackened. Place the blackened pepper in a large bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let stand about 15 minutes to soften the skin. Condensation will accumulate.

Place the pepper on a cutting board. With a paring knife, cut the top off the pepper and carefully excise the seeds with the top.

Place the pepper on it's side, and scrape the black skin off with a chefs knife. Slice the pepper along one side and flatten it on the board and continue scraping. Once the majority of blackened bits are removed, dice or chop the pepper.

I've read that roasting the pepper in the oven yields better results.  I'll have to look into that one day.

Update, 101611:
I just roasted a red pepper and this time I really made sure all of it was blackened, where last time there were still some parts that were clearly red -- check out the photo above, the one with the pepper in the bowl. After letting the completely black pepper sweat in a covered bowl, the black skin slipped right off, no knife-scraping required!

Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes

I don't know what other company produce these, but Hunt's offers some Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes that are out of this world! They are so good, giving such a dramatic flavor to any dish you use them in. Certainly on the pricey side for a can of diced tomatoes, they're worth it. Let me know if you find them in a can larger than the standard 14.5-oz.

Available at Stater Bros. for $1.39/14.5-oz can.

McCormick's Fajita Seasoning Mix


There were three or four different fajita seasoning mixes at the store. They all have about the same ingredients: sugar, spices, seasoning, sugar, color (aka sugar), flavors and thickening agent/emulsifier/stabilizer.

I was kicking myself for not having looked for a fajita seasoning mix recipe to make at home.

Each 1.12 oz package of McCormick Fajita Seasoning Mix available on sale at Ralph's for $1.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sausage Pasta, Leftovers

"Serve immediately" said the recipe. Pfft. Though it doesn't look nearly as vibrant and fresh as it did when, well, when it was fresh, this stuff is good reheated in the microwave. And that's nice since I have four more servings. The pasta does get softer, so I'm glad I cooked it toward the more firm side originally.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Southwest Tomato Soup

Browsing through magazines of mine for the month of October of years past, I came across this one. It caught my eye because it's called "southwest tomato soup" and entails ingredients, the majority of which, I already have.

Sitting down to write this post, I realize a mistake I made: inadvertantly substituting ground pork for pork sausage. Don't ask me what the heck I was thinking when I prepared the soup and didn't realize the difference between ground pork and pork sausage. Maybe a brain fart? A big brain fart?

Southwest Tomato Soup
adapted from Cooking Club of America

8 oz. pork sausage ground pork
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, halved, thinly sliced
1 large rib celery, thinly sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lb. tomatoes, peeled, finely chopped, OR 1 (28-oz.) can Italian crushed tomatoes
2 c water
1 (14-oz.) can lower-sodium chicken broth
1 (5-oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (4.5-oz.) can diced green chiles
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c orzo (rice-shaped pasta), if desired

Cook pork in large pot over medium heat 4 to 6 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Drain on paper towels.

Heat oil and butter in same pot over medium heat until butter is melted. Cook onion and celery 8 to 10 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste and garlic; cook 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, water, broth, tomato sauce, chiles, cumin, paprika, crushed red pepper, oregano and salt. Stir in sausage and orzo. Simmer 30 minutes.

The soup turned out to be ok, though I think it would've been better with some spicy sausage instead of plain ground pork. It would've kicked the flavors up a notch, which it could use. The soup flavors were mild, none overbearing. While I added the optional orzo, it didn't really do anything for me.  If anything, it seemed a little weird. Next time: spicy sausage and omission of orzo.


  • ground pork: $1.22
  • onion: $0.18
  • celery: $0.10
  • tomato paste: $0.07
  • tomatoes: $1.29
  • broth: $0.21
  • tomato sauce: $0.39
  • green chiles: $1.59
  • orzo: $1, SWAG

Total: $6.05, but I'll round up to $6.50 to account for the dry seasonings. That makes each of 6 servings $1.08.

Have the soup with a simple salad of romaine, red onions and green peppers lightly dressed with Italian. And maybe a wedge or two of corn bread if you have some.

Sausage Pasta

A quick pasta dish loaded with sausage and vegetables: what's not to like?

I subscribe to All Recipes by email which means I get a new recipe daily.  Most I don't find interesting, but some are worthy of a go. This was one of those.

There were a couple of things I changed: links vs "regular" sausage as the store was out and upping the quantity of sausage because it just so happened that links are more than a pound packaged, using fresh instead of frozen spinach because it's just as easy and not so soggy, increase the liquid reducing time by 10 minutes because I don't like soupy food, and skipping the cheese just because I forgot to buy it.

Sausage Pasta
adapted from AllRecipes

3/4 lb pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1-1.25 lb spicy Italian sausage links, casings removed
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
1 tsp dried basil
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped fresh spinach
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and reserve.

In a large skillet, heat oil and sausage; cook through until no longer pink.

During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add onion and garlic to skillet. Drain fat.

Add broth, basil and tomatoes with liquid.

Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes to slightly reduce. Add spinach; cover skillet and simmer on reduced heat until spinach is tender.

Add pasta to skillet and combine with spinach and sausage.

Sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately.

This dish turned out to be a good one as I enjoy a spicy sausage with pasta especially when fresh vegetables are in the mix. I also liked that the dish was ready to eat in about 45 minutes and was not difficult to prep for or complete. Also the majority of ingredients are pretty much common items, and for some, possibly completely pantry items.

As this dish was similar to the Chickpea, Sausage and Kale Pasta, I couldn't help but make comparisons. Personally, I prefer the Kale Pasta, but that in no way means I am opposed to doing this dish again!

Turns out that if budgeting is critical, Sausage Pasta is more economical than the Kale Pasta.

  • pasta: $1
  • sausage: $1.99
  • onion: $0.18
  • broth: $0.21
  • tomatoes: $0.80
  • spinach: $1.59
Total: $5.77, but I'll round up to $6 to include garlic and other seasonings, bringing each of 6 servings to $1 each.

Click for the printable