Monday, September 01, 2014
Today's post on the food pantry blog. Find the links at gardentablecommunity.blogspot.com/20
Hope you're having a great Labor Day weekend!
Salads make great lunches, but theyíre hard to carry with you to work or to school, even if you have a fridge when you get there. The salad dressing gets on the lettuce and other veggies and you can end up with a yucky slimy mess by the time you get around to eating lunch. Itís not so bad if you have a place where you can store things like an opened bottle of salad dressing, but many of us Ė especially students Ė donít have that luxury. So whatís a body to do? Go without salads?
Nope. You just have to plan a little bit differently. I have two suggestions for you. First, change the way you pack and carry your traditional lettuce based salad, and two, switch to different ingredients that hold up better to sitting for hours with dressing on them.
The first isnít so much a recipe as a concept. Most salads are built with lettuce on the bottom, then other veggies, meat, etc., and salad dressing on top. The salad dressing works its way down through the other veggies and meat and ends up dressing the lettuce on the bottom. Which is great, as long as you eat the salad right away. Not so great if youíre not eating the salad for a few hours, especially if youíre carrying the salad so it gets bounced around the dressing reaches the lettuce even faster. The solution? SALAD IN A JAR. Basically, just put the dressing in the bottom of a jar, then the meat, then the wet veggies like tomatoes, then dry veggies, and the lettuce on top. The lettuce stays nice and crisp and dry until you turn the salad upside down on a plate or bowl, and then you have the lettuce on the bottom and the dressing on top, just like usual. As I said, itís more of a concept than a recipe, but there are some ideas at SALAD IN A JAR. By the way, they say that the salads keep for several days, so you can make a weekís worth at the beginning of the week and just pull one out each day to take. Donít know, havenít tried it, but thatís what they say.
I have a few actual recipes for salads using sturdier veggies like cauliflower, broccoli and celery instead of lettuce, or you can make up your own using your favorite ingredients. One of the best things about salads is that they are so adaptable!
The one I make most often is CAULIFLOWER AND EGG SALAD. Pretty much what it says. Cauliflower and hard-boiled eggs in ranch dressing, with some sunflower seeds if you happen to have them.
A close second is PACKABLE PORK SALAD, which is leftover pork (any kind Ė pork roast, pork chops, pork neck bones, whatever Ė boned, of course), cauliflower and celery in a mustard-mayo dressing.
One that I keep forgetting about for some reason, is PACKABLE CHICKEN SALAD. Leftover chicken and celery in a slightly teriyaki-mayo dressing.
And finally, CAESAR-STYLE SALAD, with broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots and peppers a Caesar-style dressing with parmesan cheese. It doesnít have much protein, but you could add some chicken to it or have it as a side salad to some chicken or other protein that you carry with you.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Like my title? School starts here on Monday, and I decided to build my column around that with a dozen really, really easy recipes, most of which take no more than two ingredients and all of which can be made with just one skillet and one baking dish and a sharp knife.
Aldi has avocados for 49 cents each. Seedless watermelons are $1.99 each and cantaloupe are $1.49 each. Strawberries are $1.49 per pound and blueberries are $1.49 per pint (about 12 ounces).
Kroger has boneless pork loin for $1.99 per pound. Milk is $2.69 per gallon. Indiana sweet corn is ten ears for $3.00, or 30 cents an ear. Bartlett pears, Gala apples, red and black plums, black seedless grapes, and Roma tomatoes are all 99 cents a pound.
Marsh has red, white and black seedless grapes and red grapes with seeds for 99 cents a pound. Large seedless cucumbers are ten for $10.00, or $1.00 each.
IGA in Ellettsville and Bedford has several things for 88 cents each Ė 24 ounce cans of pasta sauce, 12 ounce bags of frozen vegetables, 20 ounce bottles of mustard, 24 ounce bottles of ketchup, 12 ounce bottles of hot sauce, 18 ounce bottles of barbecue sauce. Cabbage is 59 cents a pound. Cucumbers and green peppers are 79 cents each. Zucchini and yellow squash are 99 cents a pound.
Did you know that you can exchange food stamps for twice as many Market Bucks to use at the Farmers Market? You can get exchange up to 18 dollars of food stamps for up to 36 dollars of Market Bucks, and then you can spend the Market Bucks like cash at the Market. Thatís like getting the food from the Market at half price! And speaking of the Farmers Market, here are some prices. They vary from week to week, of course, and from vendor to vendor, but cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash are about 75 cents each or three for $2.00. Peppers are about the same. Tomatoes start at about $2.49 per pound, though you may be able to find ďsecondsĒ or ďugly tomatoesĒ or ďcanning tomatoesĒ for less, sometimes for half price. Green beans are about $3.50 per box, or two for $6.00. These are all guesstimates, as I havenít been there for a couple of weeks.
Lots of sales on produce, but not protein, so I canít build my post around a sale item. I could do the chicken leg quarters for 69 cents a pound in a ten pound bag at Walmart again. I havenít done that for a long time. Or I could build my post around something thatís happening now. Labor Day is coming up, and picnics, or just people wanting to get in picnics while they still can. And then thereís IU students moving back into town this week and classes starting next week. Iíve already given menus and recipes for picnics, so I think Iíll go with IU students coming back. Now to figure out what there is about that to talk about. Hmmmm.
What do college students lack? Time and money. And usually anything more than just the most basic ingredients and cooking equipment. And frequently culinary knowhow. Thatís it! Letís see what I can come up with thatís cheap, quick, easy, and doesnít require much in the way of cooking equipment or knowhow or very many ingredients. Should be a snap, right?
There are a lot of cookbooks that deal with each of these constraints. Eating on a budget. Quick and easy recipes. 15 minute (or 20 minute or 30 minute orÖ) recipes. Cooking for dummies and/or idiots. 4 or 5 ingredient recipes. I think I even remember a cookbook along the lines of cooking when all you have is one saucepan. But I donít think Iíve ever seen a book of cheap, quick, and easy recipes for dummies and idiots who donít have anything but the very most basic of ingredients and cooking equipment and appliances. Maybe I should write a book? Or maybe I should start with a few menus and see how far I get before I get too carried away.
I figure that to really qualify as a ďmealĒ you need about three parts. Almost always a protein (meat, chicken, fish or eggs), and two of the following three Ė salad, vegetable, or fruit. Sometimes you can get by with two or three of them in the same dish Ė a casserole, for example, that has protein and vegetables in it, or a big salad with protein. And sometimes you can get by with just a protein and vegetable or salad, if the portions are big enough. But I usually aim for three parts to the meal. So Iím going to give some ideas for all three, give you the costs of the different meal parts (using this weekís prices, so the costs may not be valid any other time) and then some ideas for how to put them together into meals.
Pork loin is on sale this week. Itís not a great price, but because there is practically no waste on it you can start with a smaller piece than you would with, for example, bone-in and skin-on chicken legs, which is the other protein Iím going to talk about. The pork loin (a lean, boneless strip of meat from the back) is $1.99 a pound at Kroger this week, and I figure that one serving is about 6 ounces. Thatís about 75 cents per serving. The chicken leg quarters are 69 cents a pound for a ten pound bag, or $6.90 a pound, at Walmart. I figure that a leg quarter, or at least the drumstick and thigh together, is one serving, for about 69 cents. Thatís the usual price there, and I rely on chicken legs a lot. Higher price per pound for the pork, but the price per serving is almost the same.
At $6.90 cents for a ten pound bag of chicken leg quarters, theyíre a great deal. There are usually about 10 leg quarters per bag. A leg quarter is a thigh, a drumstick, and a piece of the back where the thigh and the back intersect. You can cut the leg quarters into the three pieces, but Iím going to assume you donít have the interest and/or energy and/or time and/or knowhow to do that. No problem. I figure that a whole chicken leg quarter is one serving. Iíve found that if I take the meat off of the bones and measure it, it comes out to about one cup of meat.
Chicken legs are very easy, versatile, and forgiving. Because there is more fat in the legs, they arenít as likely to turn out dry as chicken breasts are. Iíll start with some very easy, two ingredient recipes.
1. BASIC ROASTED CHICKEN LEG QUARTERS. Just salt and pepper them, put them in a single layer in something that can go in the oven and that has sides at least an inch high (there will be some juices, and you donít want them to spill in the oven or on the floor or on you), and bake them at 375 for about 45 minutes.
2. BARBECUED CHICKEN LEG QUARTERS. Thatís oven barbecued, not grilled. As in pour some commercial barbecue sauce over them after youíve put them in that baking dish with sides, then bake them at 375 for about 45 minutes.
3. TERIYAKI CHICKEN LEG QUARTERS. Same as barbecued, but with commercial teriyaki sauce instead of barbecue sauce. You could put the teriyaki sauce in a plastic bag, add the chicken, and smush it around so the chicken has sauce all over it, or you can just put the chicken in the pan and pour the sauce on the top.
4. ITALIAN CHICKEN LEG QUARTERS. Use Italian dressing (the kind thatís based on oil and vinegar and is sort of clear, not the kind thatís thick like ranch or blue cheese or that orange French dressing) instead of the barbecue or teriyaki sauce. Again, you could do the plastic bag thing to get the dressing all over the chicken or you can just pour it on top.
5. CHICKEN LEG QUARTERS MARINARA. At its simplest, itís just chicken baked with pasta sauce instead of barbecue or teriyaki sauce or salad dressing. You can sprinkle it with some parmesan cheese if you want to, but it isnít absolutely necessary.
So there are five quick and easy ways to fix chicken leg quarters, and you only need one ingredient in addition to the chicken. (Iím not counting salt and pepper as ingredients. I figure that everyone has those. Donít they?) Actually, itís more than just four, because there are so many different kinds of barbecue sauce and teriyaki sauce, or you can use a commercial marinade or sauce. Thereís lots of scope there.
Assuming that you really donít know what youíre doing, figure that it will take you about 10 to 15 minutes to prepare the chicken and get it in the oven, and then about 45 minutes for it to cook, while you donít have to do anything. Be sure to turn on a timer, though, so you donít forget to take it out. Iíve done that with more things than you can imagine, and it is really annoying for everyone whoís planning to eat whatever it is I just burned.
All of these recipes meet the quick-and-easy-recipes-for-dummies-and-idi
ients test. But what about the cheap part? Well, a chicken leg quarter (a thigh and a drumstick plus a little bit more) will run you about 69 cents. A jar of barbecue sauce or teriyaki sauce or Italian dressing or pasta sauce will run you 88 cents this week at IGA and is enough for all ten of the leg quarters. (Iíd suggest getting two or three different kinds, though, unless youíre feeding more than just yourself. Theyíll keep in the fridge and youíll be glad of the variety.) So thatís 78 cents for a leg quarter plus sauce, but letís call it 80 cents. I like round numbers. Theyíre easier to work with and think about.
And now for what to do with a pork loin. It should run about 4 or 5 pounds and youíll probably want to have the butcher cut it up for you. Iíd suggest that you get half of it cut into pork chops and the leave the other half as a pork roast. Ask to have the pork chops cut about ĹĒ thick. That way, one pork chop should be a serving.
The pork roast can be cooked pretty much the same way the basic chicken legs are cooked. Just rub salt and pepper all over it, put it in a baking dish with sides about one to two inches high, and bake it in a preheated oven at 350 for about an hour. Let it ďrestĒ for about 10 minutes after you take it out of the oven. That means that you drape some foil over it and let it sit before cutting it so the juices get reabsorbed. It makes for a juicier roast. You can put some peeled carrots and onions around it while it roasts, and that takes care of your side dishes. Some potatoes, too, if you eat potatoes. Just donít crowd the veggies.
As for the pork chops, youíll want a heavy skillet. Turn the heat on under the skillet and let it get hot while you salt and pepper the chops, then put them in the skillet in a single layer. Let them cook for about 5 minutes, or until theyíre nice and brown on the bottom, then turn them over and brown the other side. Turn the heat down to low and add about a fourth of a cup of water (you can use part orange juice if you want to), cover and cook them for about 30 minutes. The first time you cook pork chops you might want to check them after about 15 minutes and make sure thereís still some liquid in the pan. Now you have two choices. You can take the lid off and turn the heat up and boil off the liquid in the pan, which will make a nice finish on the chops, or you can take the chops out of the pan and cover them to keep them warm while you make gravy out of the drippings. To make gravy, put a tablespoon of flour in a small jar with a tight lid and add a cup of water. Shake it up really well so there are no lumps, then add it to the skillet. Stir it constantly as it thickens, and when it gets as thick as you like it, pour it into a bowl and serve it with the chops. An easier but more expensive way to make the gravy is to use condensed cream of mushroom soup. Carefully pour the juices from the skillet into a measuring cup and add enough water to make one cup. Pour it back into the skillet and add a can of mushroom soup. Stir it well so it doesnít get lumpy and heat it until it just starts to simmer. Remove it from the pan and serve it as gravy.
If youíre trying to control your costs, you need to be aware of how big a serving is. A six ounce serving of pork will cost about 75 cents this week if you buy the pork loin at Kroger. Thatís six ounces raw, not cooked. Weigh your roast and figure out how many servings you need to get from it, and then cut it into that many pieces. You should get five or six servings from a two pound roast, for example. The pork chops will probably be about 6 ounces each if you have them cut 1/2" thick, but weigh a couple of them to make sure. You may need to adjust the cost if theyíre more or less than six ounces. There really isnít any other cost to the pork, so just figure 75 cents per serving.
I had planned to talk about side dishes, but this is getting awfully long already, so Iíll do that another time. Just a few quick comments here.
First, plain lettuce makes a good salad. Itís usually 99 cents a head at Aldi and you should be able to get four to eight servings of lettuce from a head, depending on how big they are. (They vary a lot, so try to get big, heavy heads.) Thatís about 15 to 25 cents per serving. Aldi has salad dressings for $1.29 for 16 ounces, and there are two tablespoons per ounce. A 16 ounce bottle of salad dressing is 16 servings of two tablespoons each, which is a reasonable size. Thatís about 8 cents per serving. A simple salad of lettuce and dressing will run about 20 to 35 cents.
Roma tomatoes are 99 cents a pound at Kroger this week. There are usually four to five Roma tomatoes to a pound. Letís say four of them, which means they cost 25 cents each. Tomato adds a lot to a salad. Figure on one Roma tomato, sliced or chopped, for two to three people.
Corn on the cob is ten ears for $3.00 this week at Kroger, or 30 cents an ear. If you have a microwave, pull off the silk that sticks out from the husks but leave the husks on. Set the ears of corn on a plate or a paper towel and nuke on high for about 4 to 6 minutes for two ears. Cook them one or two at a time. If youíre cooking very many, you might want to boil them instead of nuking them, but that takes a pretty big pot. Put enough water in the pot to cover the ears and bring it to a boil. Donít add the corn until the water is boiling. Add about a tablespoon each of salt and sugar to the water and be sure it dissolves, then add the corn. Cook it for about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove it carefully, using tongs if you have them. Actually, if you donít have tongs, you probably shouldnít boil the corn because you wonít be able to get it out of the pan. You could get to the corn by pouring out the water, but youíre likely to (or I would be likely to) scald yourself with the steam and/or pour out the corn, too. I guess pouring the corn out too wouldnít be too bad, as long as your sink is clean and you donít splash yourself with the boiling water.
And finally, since I said I wasnít going to talk about side dishes today, donít forget fresh fruit. Whole seedless watermelons are $1.99 each at Aldi and cantaloupe are $1.49 each. You should be able to get a minimum eight servings from a watermelon and six servings from a cantaloupe, either of which would be 25 cents per serving. You may be able to get a lot more than that, depending on how big the melons are. You know how to fix watermelon, Iím sure. To fix cantaloupe, start by cutting it in half, then scoop out the seeds from the half youíre going to eat first. Cut that half into serving pieces. Cover the rest with plastic wrap. Frozen green grapes are a special treat. I donít know why itís just green grapes, but thatís what Iíve heard about. Just wash them and lay them out in a single layer on a plate or cookie sheet, preferably without touching. Freeze them for at least an hour and serve frozen.
So there you have it. You now know how to make Plain Roasted Chicken, Barbecue Chicken, Teriyaki Chicken, Italian Chicken, Chicken Marinara, Pork Roast, and Pork Chops. And know how to make a simple salad and corn on the cob, and how to fix watermelon and cantaloupe and frozen grapes. You can put together any number of three part suppers for under $1.50 per person by combining different meat dishes with salad and corn, or salad and watermelon, or corn and grapes, or whatever. Youíre well on your way to becoming a chef!
PS Ė Wondering where the cheapest place to get groceries is? For general non-sale prices, I find that Aldi is usually cheapest. Theyíre across from Samís, just past the Steak Ďní Shake. Turn at the stoplight between Samís and Walmart. They donít have a lot of variety Ė usually no more than one brand or size, and mostly just the basics. I do most of my shopping there. Walmart is usually next cheapest, and is usually cheapest for anything that Aldi doesnít carry. For meat, I usually wait until Kroger or Marsh has it on sale. They sometimes have really good prices on fruit, too.
Check out the weekly specials online, and be sure to check the dates. Aldiís sales run Wednesday through Tuesday, and Marsh and Kroger run Thursday through Wednesday. IGA (Bedford and Ellettsville) sales run Monday through Sunday.
Aldi Ė aldi.com Ė the sales are posted shortly after midnight Wednesday morning.
Kroger Ė kroger.com Ė the sales are posted early Thursday morning.
Marsh Ė marsh.net Ė previews are posted about 8 Wednesday morning for the following week, starting Thursday. Iíve gotten burned by this when I wasnít paying attention to what was the current weekís ad and what was the preview.
MyIGA.com Ė ads are posted Monday, but not sure when.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Isn't there a green bean called Kentucky Wonder? Well, here are some Wonder-ful recipes using fresh crisp green beans. Hope you enjoy them!
ďGreen Beans, or string beans as they are usually called, must be done [boiled] till very tender -- it takes nearly an hour and a half.Ē
Sarah Josepha Hale, 'The Good Housekeeper' (1839)
I grew up eating canned green beans, just plain from the can. Heated, of course, but plain. Not at all fancy or exciting, but not bad, either. Just sort of there. And thatís pretty much how Iíve always thought about canned green beans. Fresh green beans are better, though. Thereís more scope, more things you can do to them to fancy them up while retaining the green beaniness. Here are a few of my favorite ways to fix them.
First, of course, is green beans with bacon or ham. Southern Style cooks the beans to death Ė at least one or two hours, maybe more Ė with a ham hock and some extra lard or butter or something like that. The idea is that the beans absorb all that delicious flavor. Maybe they do, but they also end up way too mushy for my taste. I prefer the beans fully cooked Ė tender, but not tender-crisp and not mushy. And with a few slices of bacon or some ham. I donít know that thereís a name for beans cooked this way. Maybe Northern Style Green Beans? You can add some potatoes to either version and kill two sides with one dish, or even have just the beans and potatoes for supper.
Something that I just learned about a couple of years ago is fried green beans. The recipe Iíve been using calls for frying them on top of the stove, but I just found a recipe for ROASTED GREEN BEANS, and Iím going to give you that recipe instead, just because itís easier. And cheaper and healthier because it uses less fat. But still good.
I belonged to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) when I lived in California, and we used to get lots of green beans. I donít remember where I got the tomatoes, but I made GREEN BEANS HELLENIKA a lot with the CSA beans. Iíd still make it today if I had lots of green beans and tomatoes, because itís really good. Since I have to buy them, though, and theyíre both pricey at the Farmers Market, Iíd rather eat my green beans and tomatoes separately, so I can concentrate on how good they are individually. If you have a garden and lots of beans and tomatoes, give this a try.
I always thought that succotash was corn and lima beans, and since I donít like lima beans, I didnít like succotash. Turns out that it can be made with green beans instead of or in addition to the lima beans. Like in this recipe for GREEN BEAN SUCCOTASH. The Joy of Cooking is a classic cookbook. Pick one up if you happen to run across one. Mine is one I inherited from my grandfatherís sister. I like old cookbooks.
One final dish that combines fresh green beans with another summer vegetable, GREEN BEANS WITH ZUCCHINI. An added bonus is that the cost of the green beans offset by the much cheaper, at least this time of year, zucchini.
I just looked through my oldest cookbooks Ė going back as far as 1815! Ė and most of them said to cook the beans to death, though that may have been because the varieties of beans that they had back then werenít as tender as the ones we have today and they had to be cooked longer. Most of them called for cooking the beans for an hour or more, draining them, then adding salt and pepper, butter, and cream. Some of the recipes called for adding a bit of flour to make a thin white sauce, but most of them just called for cream. I think Iíll give it a try the next time I have some fresh green beans.
Whatís your favorite way to cook green beans?
ROASTED GREEN BEANS
1 lb fresh green beans, washed, tipped and tailed, but left whole
1 t olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
Preheat oven to 425. Put the beans on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the oil. Use your hands to rub the oil on every bit of each and every bean. If you absolutely have to, you can use a bit more oil, but donít use too much or they wonít get as crisp. Lay them out in a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning once during cooking. Donít worry about getting each and every bean turned. Just use tongs and try to get most of them.
GREEN BEANS HELLENIKA
(The New Laurelís Kitchen, by Laurel Robertson, et al, 1986)
1 lb green beans, cut in bite-size pieces (about 4 cups)
1 small onion, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
1 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
About 1 c water or stock
Cook all ingredients together at least 20 minutes, until beans are tender, using just enough water to prevent sticking. Stir from time to time.
GREEN BEAN SUCCOTASH
(The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer, 1931)
2 c corn
2 c finely shredded green beans
Heat the corn and green beans, then season to taste with butter, paprika and salt.
GREEN BEANS WITH ZUCCHINI
(adapted from a recipe in Southern Living, November 2002)
1 lb green beans, in 1-1/2Ē pieces
2 T butter
1/2 small onion, diced (about 2 ounces)
1 medium zucchini, sliced
3 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
Cook green beans in boiling salted water until tender-crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter, then sautť the onion for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the zucchini and sautť another 3 or 4 minutes, or until just tender. Stir in the beans and remaining ingredients and cook for a few minutes, until thoroughly heated through.
Or check out the post on the Food Pantry blog and find the other green bean recipes at gardentablecomminity.blogspot.com
Friday, August 15, 2014
There's lots of produce on sale around here this week, but not much in the way of protein. Top round steak, roast and London Broil are on sale for $2.99 a pound, and I've never used steak or even a roast as the protein in my blog posts, so that's what I chose for this week. I did it a bit differently, though. Because I had to increase the budget for supper, I had to decrease the budget for breakfast and/or lunch, so I gave complete menus for two days for all three meals.
Lots of fruit, since it's on sale, but you could make the menus lower carb by just substituting cantaloupe for the grapes and peaches (all are on sale around here) and substituting homemade yogurt for the milk in the smoothie.
Have a great day!
Friday, August 08, 2014
What a lousy bunch of sales this week! A few good prices on produce, but that's about it. Instead of picking a meat and basing a few recipes and menus around that, I came up with menus for the whole week. That's 3 meals a day for 7 days, or 21 meals. For four people. For under $115. Mostly low carb, too. Here's the link
Hope you're having a great month!
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