Friday, April 30, 2010

Cost of Lunch, 043010

Tuesday: Subway, 6" Spicy Italian combo with Sunchips and Coke: $6.53 for lunch with the guys at the park
Wednesday: La Salsa, Grande Burrito, $6.47 for fast lunch -- La Salsa is close
Thursday: Baja Fish Taco, Fish Taco Bowl, $7 another lunch with the guys
Friday: Corner Bakery, Chicken Pomodori, $7.93 yet another lunch with the guys*

Total: $27.93 for lunch over four days. That sucks.

*The guys = my immediate coworkers, all of whom happen to be male.  I can personally attest to the fact that there are not nearly enough female chemists/engineers/physicists in industry!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Joanne's Yummy Egg Rolls, Take 2


Egg rolls: the burnt ones were cooked first and it took me a few batches to figure out proper browning requirement time.

I made these once before (click the link below). While I thought I cut the entire recipe to a quarter, I mistakenly used too many bean threads. This time, I made it a point to use only one bunch of bean threads and upped the quantity of pork. Like I said before, I like pork.

Joanne's Yummy Egg Rolls, Take 2

1/2 lb of ground pork
2 1/4 tsp of ginger
1 tbsp of garlic
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/4 head of cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 onion, thinly sliced and quartered
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
1 bunch of bean thread noodles
eggrolls wrappers
vegetable oil
egg

Put the bean threads in a large mixing bowl.


In a large skillet, add 2 teaspoons of oil, ginger, garlic and pork.


Working quickly, completely cook the pork and stir in the oyster sauce.


Pour the pork and liquid over the bean threads. Cover the bowl with a lid.


In the same frypan, over medium heat, add another 2 teaspoons of oil and add cabbage to the oil.


Stir fry until the cabbage is wilted, but not totally soggy. Add the cabbage to the pork and threads. Cover.


Continue batch frying the carrots and onions with oil and add to the cooked ingredients until you are done frying. Cover.


Add scallions to the bowl of cooked vegetables and slowly begin mixing the ingredients.


If the noodles are soft enough (like last time, mine were certainly not), take kitchen shears and cut them into smaller pieces. If your noodles are NOT soft enough and there doesn't seem to be enough liquid or heat to make the noodles soft enough, add boiling water in 1/4 cup increments, slowly, mixing as you go, in order to produce the soft noodles and yield a uniform filling. Cut noodles once softened.

This time, I dumped in 1/2 cup of boiling water and it worked out almost perfectly. Some strands were pretty tough, but I guessed they'd soften as they fried.

Heat oil in a skillet or pot. I used my 8" cast iron skillet last time. I used it again this time, with the same oil even.

Meanwhile, roll the egg rolls like burritos, securing the final seam with beaten egg. Place seam-side down while waiting to fry.

Place eggrolls into hot oil allowing enough room to move around. The filling is completely cooked and the objective is to fry the skin to a golden brown.

NOTE: If your oil has been used once before, frying time is drastically reduced! Browning occurs very quickly!

Allow egg rolls to cool on a wire rack.


These were, in our opinion, better than the first/last time I made them. Increased pork and decreased bean threads were certainly key. One thing I've yet to figure out is how Joanne doesn't have to add water to her final mixture in order for the bean threads to soften.

One thing I did notice is that if the cabbage is not sliced thin enough or wilted well enough, the harder thick parts will make it a point to jab straight through the wrappers while wrapping. As you can imagine, this is frustrating. Be sure to cut your veggies very thin, particularly the "woodier" pieces.

I should note that I omitted salting the vegetables this time. That might have something to do with the fact that the woodier cabbage pieces didn't wilt.

And maybe that has something to do with how my bean threads didn't get enough moisture! Eureka!

Next time, I'll salt the vegetables, especially the cabbage, more generously. That will draw out the moisture from the cabbage inducing a quicker wilt and more water to pour over the bean threads.

Cost:
  • ground pork: $1.22
  • ginger: $0.15
  • oyster sauce: $0.12
  • cabbage: $0.42
  • carrots: $0.40
  • onion: $0.20
  • bean thread noodles: $0.25
  • egg roll wrappers: $0.75
  • egg: $0.18
Total: $3.69 or $0.37 per egg roll with more egg roll material left over.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cast Iron Skillet "Grilled" Asparagus



Cast Iron Skillet "Grilled" Asparagus

1 tbsp butter
1-1.5 lb asparagus, trimmed

Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat; add butter.


Once butter is melted, add asparagus and toss to coat over two minutes.


Cover skillet and allow asparagus to steam until fork tender, about three minutes.


Serve immediately. With some mahi mahi if you so desire.  It'll be tasty whatever you serve it with!

Cost: $1.50 or $0.75 for each of two very generous servings.

Lemon-Orange Mahi Mahi


I looked for mahi mahi recipes and once fed up with the search results went with a recipe I'd tried before but with a different fish.

Lemon-Orange Mahi Mahi

1 tbsp olive oil
3 (4-oz) fillets mahi mahi
1 orange, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp lemon pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.


Arrange fillets in the skillet, and drizzle with orange juice and lemon juice.


Sprinkle with lemon pepper.


Cook for 5 minutes or until fish is easily flaked with a fork, turning once.


Remove mahi mahi from heat until ready to serve.



While good, it wasn't as good as it was with the orange roughy. However, it is definitely worth a repeat.

Cost:

  • mahi mahi: $3.31
  • fruits and seasoning: $1
Total: $4.31

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sweet and Sour Pork Chops



Pork chops were on sale and I wanted to try doing them differently than before without too much hassle or breaking the bank. This recipe from Food Network looked easy enough and so it went into the queue.

Sweet-n-Sour Pork Chops
adapted from Food Network

1 tbsp sesame oil
Salt and ground black pepper
5 (3-oz) boneless pork loin chops
3/4 c apricot preserves
2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 c chopped scallions

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.


Season pork chops all over with salt and black pepper and add to hot pan. Seeing how thin my chops were, I made it a point to reduce cooking time.


Cook chops 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Place chops on a loosely-covered plate.


Meanwhile, combine apricot preserves, soy sauce and ginger.


Add preserve mixture to skillet and bring to a simmer.


Add pork and simmer 2 minutes or until pork is cooked through, turning once.


Remove from heat and stir in scallions.



Originally I'd planned on doing a cole slaw accompaniment to the chops and I'm glad I didn't follow through on that plan. These were certainly a "Chinese" flavored dish in which white rice and broccoli worked perfectly.

While sour was not much of a presence, if at all, the sweet wasn't over the top. And this dish was so simple, done in just minutes. Fortunately, I went with my gut regarding cooking time. The chops I purchased were thin, between 1/4-1/2 inch each.

The other five chops from the pack are currently freezing. When I bring them out to thaw, I'll prepare them according to my adaptation. It's good.

Cost:
  • pork chops: $1.90
  • apricot preserves: $2
  • ginger: $0.10
  • scallions: $0.25
Total: $4.25 or $2.13 for each of two servings.



Sweet-n-Sour Pork Chops served with steamed broccoli and steamed white rice. Do this. It's easy!

Hero Premium Apricot Fruit Spread



I needed some apricot preserves for a pork chop recipe.  My choices at HMart, the Korean grocery, were Smuckers made with primarily high fructose corn syrup or this Hero Apricot Fruit Spread. You want to know what's in the the Hero ingredient statement?  Apricots, sugar, glucose syrup, citric acid and pectin.

Hero Premium Apricot Fruit Spread in a 12 oz jar is available at HMart for $3.99.

When I saw the brand, my mind tried to remember where I'd seen it before.  Oh yeah, at Big Lots.  I bought some Hero Blackberry preserves at Big Lots of $3 the day before I put the food plan together.  I bet they had the apricot too, dangit. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pasta Primavera without Burnt Walnuts



The first time I made this dish, I prepared it exactly as described in the original recipe. I meant to do that again, hence no additional photos, but accidentally burnt the walnuts by forgetting to reduce the heat under them to low. So I just skipped them. No big deal. I'd even suggested in the Pasta Primavera post that if one were to omit the walnuts to add a bit if oil/butter to make up for lack of moisture. I forgot about that part too.

How did it turn out? OK, but on the dry side, just as I'd suspected it would. The Parmesan cheese in drier pasta dish tends to clump instead of becoming evenly distributed. Still very much edible.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Korean Braised Short Ribs


Braised short ribs over steamed white rice

When I was preparing the food plan for the week, I did it how I always do, by browsing the store ads to see what was on sale and then, when spying something at a lower-than-usual price, looked for a suitable recipe. Beef short ribs were on sale at the local supermercado.  Braised short ribs courtesy of Week of Menus was immediately placed on the food plan.

Unfortunately, when I arrived at the store, ready to make my selection, I realized the short ribs were boneless.  So I turned to the butcher cases and selected three pounds of what was labeled beef bone-in short ribs.  I should've gone with my gut, but I bought them anyway, even though they were simply thick-cut flanken ribs. 

Korean Braised Short Ribs
adapted from Week of Menus

2 1/2 to 3 1/2 lbs of short ribs
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c water
1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c sesame oil
1/4 c rice wine
1 large onion, cut into chunks
2 carrots, cut into 2 inch chunks
1 potato cut into 2 inch chunks

Place beef into a large pot and cover with cold water. Let the beef sit in the water, about 45 minutes so meat is drained of blood.


Drain water. Section the pieces into three by cutting each meat-ladened bone away from the others (if you bought cross-cut ribs like I did). Slice the pale beef across the grain, cutting into the meat but not through to the bone.


Return the sliced meat into a pot and cover with clean water. Bring the beef and the water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking 45 minutes.


Drain the beef and rub it clean of the foam and dirty bits. Rinse well under cool water.


Place sugar, garlic, and pepper in a clean large pot; add soy sauce, water, sesame oil and rice wine. Heat over medium heat until simmering, stirring until sugar is dissolved.


Add beef to the simmering liquid. Cook over medium low heat for 40 minutes or until beef is tender, turning often allowing different pieces of the beef to soak and cook in the liquid.


Stir onion and carrots into the beef mixture. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are fully cooked, about 15 more minutes.



While the flavor of this dish was excellent, the beef was very chewy and quite a disappointment to me. (Note that by this time, I was full of egg rolls).  Rodney however, chawed his way through nearly all of it.  Certainly, the chewiness was due to the cut I purchased and the fact that I inadvertantly didn't cut it across the grain, but rather with the grain, as I cut perpendicular to the bone.

When you shop, be sure to compare true short ribs vs. flanken, or kalbi, style ribs.  You'll see that flanken style, like I bought, are typically sliced thin through bone and three rib bones are present.  This type is already cut against the grain, which is why it is cut thin.  Short ribs are the same ribs, but instead of cutting across multiple ribs, each rib is sectioned into short 2-4" pieces.  When you cut perpendicular to the bone on short ribs, you are cutting across the grain.  If you have a good eye, you can see the natural grain. Unfortunately, I don't consider these things until after I'm finished cooking.  Do yourself a favor and learn from my mistakes!

I'm definitely going to try this again, though with true short rib cuts of beef.

Cost:
  • beef "short ribs": $14.41/3 lb
  • onion: $0.40
  • carrots: $0.40
  • everything else, SWAG: $1
Total: $16.21.  A disappointing price considering the beef was tough.  While you'd think this would yield 4 or possibly more servings considering it was 3 pounds of beef, bone is heavy and we only got three servings. And if I wasn't already full from egg rolls, we'd only have two!  Anyway, $8.11 per serving.