Friday, December 30, 2011

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 123011

Monday: holiday
Tuesday: Sango Sushi Combo B: $10.56
Wednesday: Mimi's Cafe Crispy Chicken Salad with Honey-Bran Muffin: $11.03
Thursday: on a coworker
Friday: holiday

Total: $21.59
Total for the year: $1819.36

I more than doubled what I spent on lunch last year. Looking back at my last lunch post of 2011, I can't help but laugh -- I thought I was going to beat it this year! Of course, I didn't anticipate the apartment drama that occurred from March through May which caused lunch cost chaos.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Food Plan and Grocery List, 122411

We're having California Beef Stew with Zinfandel for Christmas dinner. I plan on bringing some back home.

Stater Bros.:
  • Tostitos chips: $2.50
  • Tostitos chips: $2.50
  • Total: $5
  • Italian-style tomatoes: $1.49/14.5 oz
  • Italian-style tomatoes: $1.49/14.5 oz
  • Better Than Bouillon Beef: $5.29
  • Barefoot CA Zinfandel: $5.99/750 mL
  • Barefoot CA Zinfandel: $5.99/750 mL
  • Barefoot CA Zinfandel: $5.99/750 mL
  • Private Selection organic rosemary: $1.99
  • garlic bulbs: $1/2
  • chuck roast: $9.96
  • chuck roast: $12.56
  • Lodge Dutch oven, red: $39.99 (for my SIL)
  • FOOD TOTAL: $51.75
Stater Bros.:
  • French bread: $1.49
TOTAL: $58.24
Total for the year: $1536.89

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 122311

Monday: Arby's Roast Chicken Club combo: $8.07
Tuesday: el Curtido Restaurant pupusa starter and Salvadorian beef stew: $13.69
Wednesday: ?
Thursday: ?
Friday: holiday
Total: $21.76
Total for the year: $1797.77

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Food Plan and Grocery List, 121811

No plan this week. It's the week before Xmas and there's too much stuff to get done. Eating is going to be rummaging, though there will be shopping for Xmas dinner at my brother's. Fortunately, it's a short work week!

  • Dr. Pepper: $1.89/2-L
  • Tropicana orange juice: $2.99
  • Hagendaaz ice cream: $3.99/pint
  • Chobani yogurt: $5/5 cups
  • Russet potato: $0.55/0.79 lb
  • eggs: $2.50/dozen
  • smoked ham: $4.49
  • Private Selection Pugliese loaf: $2.99

TOTAL: $24.40
Total for the year: $1478.65

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 121611

Monday: Corner Bakery Pasta combo for a coworker and sandwich combo for me: $16.90
Tuesday: Inka Grill on a coworker
Wednesday: Burrito Bandito: $11.97
Thursday: TGIF unlimited lunch (soup and salad): on a coworker
Friday: Burger King Chef's Choice small combo: $7.53

Total: $36.40
Total for the year: $1812.41

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage-Lemon Butter

Butternut squash is a favorite of mine; it's too bad it doesn't show up on this blog more often. It's unreal I haven't had any since March. I'm really glad I made it today. At least there was one part of my Meat Loaf Bolognese meal that turned out great!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage-Lemon Butter
click to print

8 c cubed butternut squash (3/4 inch), (a 2.5 lb squash)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dry sage
2 tsp grated lemon peel
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice

Heat oven to 450ºF. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Toss squash, oil, salt and pepper in large bowl; arrange in single layer on baking sheet.

Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until tender and browned in spots, turning several times.

Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Cook sage, lemon peel and garlic 2 minutes or until fragrant, stirring constantly.

Stir in lemon juice; remove from heat. Add squash; toss to coat.

Because the meat loaf and squash required two different oven temperatures, I baked the squash and let it stand around while the meat loaf baked. Then I did sage-lemon-garlic part. While the squash tasted great, not too lemony, the squash cubes had that hour to dry out a little bit. Had I prepared the squash one step after another, I think it would've been fantastic!

  • butternut squash: $3.03
  • butter: $0.07
  • lemon: $0.69
  • garlic: $0.12

Total: $3.91 or $0.65 for each of six tiny servings. Honestly, because the meat loaf didn't rock my world, I got two big servings out of the dish, making each serving $1.96.

Meat Loaf Bolognese

Meat Loaf Bolognese and Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage-Lemon Butter

If you've read About Me, you know I'll post everything I make, good or bad. This is one I fouled up. It started out when I shopped. It started with these ingredients. Specifically, the pork sausage.

I did make other changes, but there is no way they were the cause of the foul. As always, click the link before if you want to see the original recipe.

Meat Loaf Bolognese
adapted from Cooking Club of America

1 tsp olive oil
1/3 c finely chopped onion
1/3 c finely chopped carrot
1/3 c finely chopped celery
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. 85% lean ground beef
1 lb. bulk pork sausage
2 c dry bread crumbs
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp dried basil, divided
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 c purchased spaghetti sauce

Heat oven to 350°F.

Heat oil in small nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Cook onion, carrot and celery 5 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally.

Stir in garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds.

Gently combine onion mixture, beef, pork sausage, bread crumbs, egg, 1 teaspoon basil, oregano, salt, and pepper in large bowl.

Lightly spray 11x7-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Mound meat loaf mixture in loaf pan, smoothing top.

Spoon 1/4-1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce over top; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon basil.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until no longer pink in center and internal temperature reaches 165ºF.

Serve meat loaf with remaining sauce.

The meat loaf formed well, smelled good as it baked, baked well, cut well, and tasted funky. Not funky like bad chicken funky, but odd, like the flavors were just not right. I readily blame the pork sausage. I will have to do this again, reading what I purchase at the grocery store much more closely.

While I hate wasting food, especially meat since I can't feed it to my composting worms, there is no way I'll be able to choke any more of this down. How much money did I waste?

  • onion: $0.40
  • carrot $0.06
  • celery: $0.14
  • garlic: $0.50
  • ground beef: $4.43
  • pork sausage: $3.47
  • bread crumbs: $0.24
  • egg: $0.32
  • spaghetti sauce: $1.20
Total: $10.76 or $1.35 for each of what was supposed to be eight servings.

Newman's Own Marinara

A recipe for meat loaf called for 2 cups of spaghetti sauce. I wanted something simple and selected Newman's Own Marinara because profits go to charity and the ingredient statement wasn't a mile long.

The ingredients:
Tomatoe puree (water, tomato paste, citric acid), diced tomatoes, sugar, soybean oil, salt, extra virgin olive oil, spices, dried onion, and dried garlic.

While the sodium content was more than what I'd prefer, I liked that fiber was high!

Available in the pasta aisle at Stater Bros. for $2.99 a 24-oz jar.

Simple Roasted Broccoli

When I picked up the broccoli the other day, I planned on following a recipe. Then when I got started with intentions of coupling the dish with One-Pot Sticky Chicken Drumsticks, my rational mind took over and I went simple.

Simple Roasted Broccoli
adapted from Epicurious
click to print

12 oz broccoli florets
2-3 tsp olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F. Spread broccoli florets onto a rimmed baking sheet. Spray the broccoli generously with oil via a Misto or drizzle about a tablespoon of oil over the broccoli and toss to coat.

Sprinkle broccoli with salt and pepper and toss.

Roast 20-30 minutes, or until broccoli begins to brown.

Serve hot.

I enjoyed mine with One-Pot Sticky Chicken Drumsticks and steamed white rice.

It's been a looong time since I've had roasted broccoli of any sort and I can't, for the life of me, figure out why that is. It's so good! The next time I have it, I'll follow through on the recipe I was planning on making this time around.

  • broccoli florets: $1.99
or $1 for each of two servings.

One-Pot Sticky Chicken Drumsticks

While wings are neat and cute and fun, those jokers are expensive! I wanted to see how this recipe of Zimmern's would turn out if I used a chickens more useful appendage, the drumstick. It's just a huge drumette, but with myoglobin and iron, right?

One-Pot Sticky Chicken Drumsticks
click to print

3 lb (about 12) chicken drumsticks
1 tbsp ginger powder
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/3 c soy sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp sugar

There were 16 drumsticks in this 4.13 lb package. Four of the 16 were packed into a quart-sized Ziplock and stowed in the freezer. The remaining 12 drumsticks went on the following journey.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the drumsticks over moderate heat in batches, turning occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes. Combine batches.
Each batch took about 8 minutes to get lightly browned and a total of 15 minutes to get nicely browned, though this much browning probably isn't necessary. Yes, it was 30 minutes before both batches were combined.

Add the ginger, crushed red pepper, star anise, and cinnamon and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a slurry of the soy sauce, oyster sauce, aji-mirin, and sugar; add it to the chicken and bring to a simmer over moderate heat.

Cover and simmer for 10 minutes; uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wings are cooked through and the sauce has reduced to a thick glaze covering the chicken.
This took about 20 minutes for me once the lid was removed.

Discard the star anise and cinnamon stick and serve, say, with some roasted broccoli and steamed rice.

As I'd suspected, this recipe worked just as well with drumsticks as it does with wings. One thing I should point out is that the musculature of the drumette is different than the drumstick, and I almost started to panic when it looked like the legs were going to fall apart. Turned out, they can handle the beating and were just fine.

While I spent a lot of time browning the drumsticks, maybe too long, I found that there was less time required for the sauce to reduce on the back end. Overall, this take took me 15 minutes longer than with wings.

Regarding cost, wings were $10.47 for three pounds, and these drumsticks were about $4.17. Saves you six bucks!

Eat Smart Broccoli Florets

Similar to the Private Selection Rainbow Slaw, this bag of Eat Smart Broccoli Florets was found in the produce section of the grocery. Against my usual tendency, I put this package in my cart instead of rubberband bound heads of broccoli complete with stems. In this case, I was LAZY.

I'm not going to do a long talk from my soap-box, but I'm going to admit feeling guilty about this purchase as it came in plastic. Normally, when purchasing fruits and vegetables, broccoli included, I feel no need to put it in a plastic bag before tossing it, gently, into my cart. Hopefully I remembered to bring my reusable grocery bag to avoid the waste of additional plastic bags.

See what the broccoli looks like after dumping it out of the bag? Amazingly, the florets look like those I'd cut from a head within 30 seconds in my kitchen. Oh yeah, I saved on that difficult step of "washing" my broccoli, which is usually a 30 second rinse in water.

Eat Smart Broccoli Florets, available in the produce section of your local Stater Bros. in a 12-oz plastic bag for $1.99.

Okay, I'm unplugging the asskicking machine now.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Food Plan and Grocery List, 121011

This week is simply a meatloaf and butternut squash. Oh, and those one-pot wings, but I'll be using drumsticks instead of wings. I picked up odds and ends too, simply because I was shopping when hungry.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 120911

Monday: Subway 6" Spicy Italian on wheat, chips and Dr. Pepper: $7
Tuesday: Taco Stop's tacos al pastor plate: on a coworker
Wednesday: Pho the Bowl #65: $10
Thursday: Kassra Restaurant buffet for two: $27.81
Friday: Jack in the Box Sirloin Cheeseburger and large Dr. Pepper: $6.77

Total: $51.58
Total for the year: $1776.01

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reheating A Cold Slice of Pizza

The image above depicts a slice of Doria's Haus Special reheated in a skillet. In my opinion, it's the only way to reheat a slice as the toppings are nicely warmed, the cheese ooey-gooey, and the crust crisp, not at all mushy.

Mushroom-Spinach Lasagna, Part 2

Oh my, lasagna corner piece heaven!

Remember the last lasagna I prepped? It was that Mushroom-Spinach Lasagna back in October about 1.5 months ago. I baked half then and stuck the other half in the freezer. Now it's all about that other half.

6:00 Thursday night, I pulled this covered dish from the freezer.

After popping the lid off the glass 8x8 dish, I peeked past the plastic wrap. It looks like something I picked up from the frozen section of the grocery store. The dish went into the fridge to thaw out.

2:30 Saturday afternoon, I pulled the same lasagna from the refrigerator and figured it was thawed enough -- maybe completely thawed. It sat out on the countertop for 30 minutes. Meanwhile I preheated the oven to 350°F.

The plastic wrap was removed and the thawed lasagna placed in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until browned.

After cooling for 10 minutes allowing the lasagna to set, it was quartered and a portion served. Note that each piece is a corner! I swoon.

Take a quarter of this lasagna and rejoice in it's delicious corner-piece-ed-ness.

And it's cheesy, mushroomy, spinachy goodness.

I am astounded by how fabulously this lasagna turned out. While it baked a little differently than the first time, not quite as even browning, no bubbling toward end of browning, it tasted just as great as the first one did in October.

This is one of those tricks to keep in the mental-note files, particularly for those singles and couples out there. It's really true you can divide a lasagna into two 8x8's, bake one today and bake another a later day, rather than make a giant 9x13 and going through the (ok, fairly minimal hassle) of wrapping individual baked pieces to reheat later.

Additionally, it confirms to me that you really can freeze a whole lasagna and bake it another day. I've read many times from various places that preparing two lasagnas (9x13" each) isn't too much more difficult than prepping one, so plan to make one to bake today and another one to freeze for later. I'll keep this in mind for things like potlucks, family get-togethers and that sort of "bring a dish" deals.

The recipe source says the frozen lasagna is good in the freezer for two months. I wonder if the limits on that can be lengthened. Anyone interested in subsequent trials?

Click here for the recipe, play-by-play execution, and cost.