Friday, May 31, 2013

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 053113

Monday: Holiday
Tuesday: Thai Bite for two: $29.19
Wednesday: Subway on a coworker
Thursday: Inka Mama on the boss
Friday:  leftover Pad Thai

Total: $29.19
Total for the year: $828.79

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mexican Red Rice

Rounding out my meal of Caramelized Chipotle Chicken and Classic Calabacitas (say that 3 times fast) is a side of rice. Like the calabacitas, it was found, conveniently, in my copy of The Border Cookbook.

Mexican Red Rice
adapted from The Border Cookbook
click to print

2 tbsp peanut oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c uncooked rice
2 small Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 c chicken stock
2 tsp chipotle chile powder
3/4 tsp salt

Warm the peanut oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan.

Saute onion and garlic until softened, about 4 minutes.

Add the rice and tomatoes; saute another couple of minutes, stirring to coat the rice.

Add the stock, chile powder, and salt, and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 15-18 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Remove the pan from heat and let the rice steam covered for 5-10 minutes.

Fluff the rice with a fork and serve while warm.

I'm glad I cut the chile powder down to two teaspoons from a tablespoon because this rice is freakin' spicy! It's been a long time since I used chipotle chile powder; I don't remember it being so potent.

The rice turned out a little bit wet which was surprising at first. Then I thought of the reasons why that would be: my stock measurement was off and it was still partially frozen. Plus I measured the rice quantity before washing it, so some (not a lot!) was likely lost there. And maybe the rice should've gone into a raging boil before covering/simmering. The grains are uniformly cooked through though and still held their shape when fluffed so not a total fail. It sure is spicy!

  • peanut oil: $0.22
  • onion: $0.30
  • garlic cloves: $0.14
  • rice: $0.50
  • Roma tomatoes: $0.50
Total: $1.66 or about $0.28 for each of six servings.

Classic Calabacitas

Looking for sides to accompany the chicken, I turned to my cookbooks. I wanted something with a Mexican flair, so perused The Border Cookbook and this recipe caught my eye. Having done a non-classic version of calabacitas and thought it superb, this one was a shoe-in. While I had my doubts, I needed to find out how this would compare.

Classic Calabacitas
adapted from The Border Cookbook
click to print

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
5 c sliced zucchini and summer squash (about 2 lbs)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 c corn kernels
1/2 c chopped roasted Anaheim chile
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground canela
4 green onions, sliced
2 tbsp cilantro, minced

Warm the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the squash and onion; saute for 10 minutes or until well wilted.

Stir in the corn, chile, salt, and canela. Cook, covered, another 10 minutes.

Add the green onions and cilantro; heat through.

Serve immediately.

I didn't think I'd much care for this calabacitas since I really, really, really liked the non-classic version I'd made last summer. It's not bad though. The cinnamon is really interesting and I don't mean that in a sarcastic eye-roll sort of a way. It contrasts and compliments the squash very nicely. Next time though the biggest skillet will be utilized and the squash won't be cooked quite as long - I prefer my squash to have a resistance to the teeth. And I might use more chile. That said, I'm not absolutely confident there will be a next time. I did like the other version very much.

  • butter: $0.14
  • vegetable oil: $0.12
  • zucchini and summer squash: $2
  • onion: $0.30
  • corn: $1.40
  • Anaheim chile: $0.45
  • green onions: $0.50
  • cilantro: $0.25
Total: $5.16 or about $0.86 for each of six servings.

Caramelized Chipotle Chicken

Looking for something along the lines of BBQ but for the oven rather than a grill, I found this recipe. Originally written to include two whole chickens, I went with dark meat, just the drums and thighs.

Caramelized Chipotle Chicken
adapted from Epicurious
click to print

1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 c ketchup
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo (from a 7-ounce can)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 chicken thighs and 4 chicken drums, about 3.5 lbs

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers.

Cook garlic, stirring constantly, until golden, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium and cook onions, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, about 15 minutes.

Add garlic and remaining ingredients, except chicken, to skillet with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.

Coat chicken with half of sauce, then roast, skin side up, in a 17-by 11-inch heavy 4-sided sheet pan 25 minutes.

Remove from oven and brush with remaining sauce, then continue roasting until chicken is cooked through and well browned in spots, 20 to 25 minutes more.

This chicken turned out very well! I thought it'd be a lot spicier since I didn't remove many of the seeds - I had chopped the chipotles and then considered removing some seeds before deciding against it out of sheer laziness. But maybe the heat-level is really from the insanely hot rice I made to accompany.

Sticky fingers and sauced lips are good. If it turns out the baking sheet is a nightmare to clean, I'll remember to use foil next time. However, if you use up to six or seven pounds of chicken as the original recipe specified, there will be much less sauce to stick to the pan. Either way, I wouldn't change a thing, though I do think a go on a grill would also be excellent.

Oh, that garlic? Frying it like that made them like little potato garlic chips. It was the weirdest thing. The brush I used didn't allow for many chunks to be applied to the chicken so I can't tell if I'd eaten any garlic crisps or not. Maybe they'd softened even though I didn't do the 25 minute simmer, instead just stirring the sauce components together and calling it done. The sauce was already so thick after combining the ingredients that I was certain the sauce would burn without constant stirring. Note for next time: prep the sauce in the skillet, dredge the chicken in it before transferring the pieces to a baking sheet and baking. Proceed as directed.

While I went Mexican with my meal, the sauce is BBQ'y enough that it would be suitable with a plain buttered ear of (grilled) corn and some mashed potatoes.

  • extra-virgin olive oil: $0.36
  • garlic cloves: $0.50
  • onions: $0.60
  • ketchup$0.60
  • Dijon mustard: $0.90
  • dark brown sugar: $0.07
  • chipotle chiles in adobo: $1.49
  • Worcestershire sauce: $0.30
  • cider vinegar: $0.04
  • chicken thighs and drums: $9.15
Total: $14.01 or about $3.50 for each of four servings.

Grocery List, 052713

I didn't do any grocery shopping last week, instead eating breakfast for dinner on the nights I didn't eat chocolate chips. Oh, did I tell you? I'm back on Dr. Pepper at work. Sigh.

I've been reading a couple of motivational blogs (they aren't motivational by design, but by virtue) recently and I'm all fired up to eat healthy(er). Plus the coworker I typically lunch with is planning to do the Crazy Lemon Juice diet of Beyoncé fame for his third (?) time soon. It works for him as long as he sticks to eating healthy after the mega weight loss. Personally, I'd probably pass out into the second day. Me and a lack of sugar just don't mix, yo. Anyways, that means I'll be bringing lunch again. Not this week, but the week after.

Since it's Memorial Day and everyone in the world is grilling out, I'm giving it up for the folks, like me, with no grill: Caramelized Chipotle Chicken with Classic Calabacitas and Mexican Red Rice. IF I get all gung-ho, I might even make a few flour tortillas. Conveniently, this should mean one simple stop at the local supermercado.

For the event (and because this is the fourth day off work in a row and I'm driving myself mental) I've even cleaned the oven. I know, I know! I shouldn't have! Details to come.

El Metate
groceries: $8.22

Meat & Produce
garlic (5): $1.10

Total: $9.32
Total for the year: $774.27

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Valentino's Pizza Special?

So I decide to look at Yelp and see if there's any new pizza joints around of interest. There's Valentino's Pizza which says it's been established since the mid-80's, though it looks like the location in my city is shiny and new.

Checking out the menu online, they have five Specialty pizzas, one of which is called "Special". Chances are that's the one closest to what I normally would get anyway, pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.

Calling to place my order, I stated that I'd like to place an order for a pizza to pick up. She asked for my digits and then asked what I wanted. A large Special. She asked which one. I said the Specialty pizza they call The Special. She asked if that was just cheese or just pepperoni. I told her I didn't know, it was just The Special. "Well, we have a lot of specials going on right now."

Oookay. So I ordered a large with my standard "test" toppings. It's supposed to be ready in 10-15 minutes, so I'll mosey over. I hope my decision not to order Two Brothers won't bite me in the ass.

Arriving at the store, parking was a cinch even though the location is in a strip mall near a sushi place, a laundromat (with 99 cent top-loaders!), a Subway, etc. Walking in it seemed clean and was certainly bright, though I might have had the flashing lights of the casino-esque laundry etched onto my retinas. I was immediately received by the guy I'd guess was the owner*. Right away my pizza was brought out (was I the only one with a pizza to pick up?), I was rung up, and out the door.

The toppings are evenly dispersed; the crust is skinny except for the handle, which is crispy and chewy. It has that banh mi bread crisp happening, which is nice.

Unfortunately, there's something on this pizza that tastes weird. I don't think it's the's not the sparingly applied sauce. God, I think it's the parm I sprinkled on from the glassine pouch.

Yep, that must be it. My third slice doesn't have that taste.Well, it's not as dominant. What is that taste?

*I guessed this since he was immediately behind the counter munching on some sort of snack that requires spitting into ones hand. He greeted me but made no move to assist, relying on the girl who likely took my phone call. I was good with that.

Large 5-topping Valentino's pizza out the door for $15.11.

Oatmeal Pancakes with Dates and Walnuts, Take 2

Now with a growing supply of buttermilk, I want to use a bunch of it and it only makes sense to make these pancakes because they are criminally delicious. I've imaged this recipe before but the fact that there is daylight prompts me to do it again.

Oatmeal Pancakes with Dates and Walnuts, Take 2
from Cooking Club of America
click to print

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c quick-cooking oats
1/3 c chopped dates
1/4 c chopped walnuts
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 2/3 c buttermilk
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 200°F.

Combine flour, oats, dates, walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in large bowl.

Whisk eggs, buttermilk and brown sugar in medium bowl until blended.

Whisk in butter and vanilla until well-blended.

Stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until combined.

Heat griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot; grease griddle (I used butter).

Ladle batter by scant 1/4 cupfuls onto griddle, spreading to 4-inch rounds.

After my first pancake was done (see images below), I wised up and did two at once.

Cook 2 minutes or until bubbles break surface of pancakes.

Turn; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until golden brown.

Place in oven to keep warm while cooking remaining pancakes (or throw them on plates and dig in immediately).

Oh my god, these pancakes! I cannot believe a boring thing as a pancake can be transformed into something so incredibly magical with oats and dates and nuts. It is absolutely magnificent.

As an FYI, the batter tends to gradually get thicker, probably as the oats absorb the moisture. Mix in additional buttermilk until the batter is of the desired consistency.

  • flour: $0.10
  • oats: $0.15
  • dates: $0.18
  • walnuts: $0.35
  • eggs: $0.61
  • buttermilk: $0.43
  • brown sugar: $0.08
  • unsalted butter: $0.28
  • vanilla extract: $0.04
Total: $2.22 or about $0.11 for each of 20 pancakes.