Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Here's this week's column for the food pantry blog. Not everything is low carb, but a lot of it is.
For those of you who don't know, I write a weekly column for the local food pantry. The basic idea is that I give menus for full dinners, usually with generous - sometimes very generous - portions, for about $1.50 per person. That's based on the average food stamp benefit actually received in Indiana. I figure $1.00 for breakfast, $1.50 for lunch, and $1.50 for supper, plus a bit extra because you have to buy a whole jar of mayo, for instance, and not just the few tablespoons that you need. And I do this without resorting to things like beans, pasta, rice, noodles, bread, potatoes and other cheap fillers. In other words, basically low carb, though not entirely.
I start with what's on sale at all the local grocery stores. That's only for the stuff that I eat, plus fruit, in large part because I have no idea what a good price is for most of the other stuff. Then I give a few recipes using what's on sale, and cost them each out. Then I make up menus for each recipe, and cost out the entire menu. Occasionally I go over $1.50 per person (last week was a bit over $2.00, for instance, for my Easter ham dinner), but I usually keep it to $1.50 or less.
This week's column is a bit different because because I'm travelling and had to put it together in bits and pieces. Instead of costing out the recipes and giving menus for them, I've just pulled together a bunch of recipes and ideas using hard-boiled eggs. From the Easter baskets, if you have them, or just plain hard-boiled eggs if you don't.
Marsh has strawberries for 99 cents a pound. I think thatís the cheapest price Iíve seen all year. Theyíve been on sale for $1.49 a pound or two pounds for $5.00, but not for 99 cents a pound. Hams are on sale again at various prices. Fresh pork picnic roasts are $1.29 a pound. Thatís my absolute favorite cut of meat from any animal, but there is a big bone in the middle, so the meat itself is probably more like $1.50 to $1.75 a pound. Still worth it in my books, though! These prices are good through next Wednesday, April 23. Some of the hams are on sale only through Sunday, April 20th, so if youíre in the market for a ham you might want to get there this week.
Aldiís ad looks a lot like last weeks, at least as far as the stuff Iím interested in is concerned. Celery is 79 cents a bunch. Baby carrots are 79 cents a pound. Sweet potatoes are $1.49 for a three pound bag, or 50 cents a pound. Pineapples are 99 cents each and oranges are $1.99 for a four pound bag. Cream cheese is 99 cents for eight ounces and butter is $2.19 a pound. Eggs are 79 cents a dozen. Hams are on sale. These prices are good through next Tuesday, April 22.
IGA has ham on sale, too. Various brands, various cuts, various prices. Frozen vegetables are 99 cents a bag, and the bags are twelve to sixteen ounces. Itís a good price for sixteen ounces (one pound) but not so good for twelve ounces. Be sure to check the bags for the weight. The picture and the recipe are for Brussels sprouts, though, and 99 cents for twelve ounces isnít a bad price for them. Thatís $1.33 a pound, if you have a one pound bag to compare them to.
EGGS, EGGS AND MORE EGGS!
Due to time constraints (I was out of town until the wee small hours Thursday morning and this had to be in Thursday because MHC is closed on Friday), I wonít be able to work with whatís on sale this week. Instead, Iím going to be talking about what to do with leftover Easter eggs. Or things to do with hard-boiled eggs in general. Theyíre usually a cheap source of protein.
When I was a kid, I loved to decorate Easter eggs. And with four kids in the family, we needed a lot of them for our Easter baskets! And that, of course, meant lots of leftover Easter eggs. I assume that families have the same problem today. Whatever do you do with all those hard-boiled eggs? I donít know why it is, but for some reason leftover Easter eggs seem more ďleftoverĒ than just a batch of hard-boiled eggs that you make up to have on hand.
You know the basics, of course. Egg salad sandwiches and devilled eggs, and eggs in potato salad and macaroni salad. But then what do you do? Iíll give a few ďrealĒ recipes, but mostly just some general ideas of things that you may have forgotten about or that you hadnít ever thought of but that youíll know what to do with.
First the general ideasÖ
Turn coleslaw or cabbage salad into a whole meal salad by adding some chopped hard boiled eggs and some bacon and/or cheese. Or some sausage cut into small bits. Some sunflower seeds are good, too. I usually shred the cabbage for a whole meal salad instead of chopping it. It somehow makes it seem more substantial. I have this a lot in the summer when I donít want to cook, but itís good any time of year.
Combine raw cauliflower, a bit of celery (optional), chopped hard boiled eggs, ranch dressing and sunflower seeds (optional) for another main dish salad. Use lots of eggs, since this will be the protein for the meal.
Add a chopped hard-boiled egg to a can of tuna when you make tuna salad. It stretches the tuna. It works with chicken, too. Or ham.
Make a Cobb salad, with lettuce, tomato, bacon, avocado, egg, and blue cheese. Or any combination of these. I seldom use all of them at once, though theyíre all part of an official Cobb salad.
Make a chef salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, egg, cheese, and leftover meat. Add some olives if you like them.
Make a spinach salad with spinach, bacon, egg, onion, mushrooms, and hot bacon dressing or a sweet dressing.
Serve chopped eggs in white sauce over toast. Asparagus is good with it, too. Mom usually uses canned cream of mushroom soup instead of the white sauce.
Add some chopped eggs to soup as a garnish. Especially good with potato soup or a green soup like cream of spinach or cream of broccoli.
Add some eggs to creamed spinach.
Or just use chopped eggs (especially the yolks) to garnish cooked vegetables like broccoli and spinach.
Peel them and throw them whole into a jar of pickle juice for pickled eggs. Or into the juice from canned pickled beets. Or add the juice from a can of beets to some pickle juice and add the eggs to that.
Chop the eggs and add them to fried rice.
Make your usual meatloaf, but before you bake it put some whole eggs down the middle. Put a layer of meatloaf on the bottom of the pan (it needs to be a loaf pan for this) and put the eggs in a row down the middle of the pan. Put the rest of the meatloaf around and over the eggs. The eggs need to be completely covered. Bake as usual. When you slice the meatloaf, there will be a slice of egg in each slice.
Scotch Eggs - Wrap each egg in bulk sausage meat so itís completely covered, dip in beaten raw eggs, then roll in bread crumbs. (You can skip the raw egg and bread crumbs if you want.) Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400 for about 35 minutes, or until the sausage is done. Scotch Eggs are traditionally deep fat fried, but baking is easier. The picture from Betty Crocker shows them on a stick, like a cake pop sort of thing, which might please the kids.
Add chopped eggs to a white sauce and toss with pasta. Or Alfredo sauce instead of white sauce.
Make a sandwich with pumpernickel bread, mustard, sardines, and sliced hard boiled eggs.
Peel the eggs and marinate them for a few hours in 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sugar. (recipe from the Boston Globe via several people online)
Add eggs and vegetables to your favorite curry sauce. Or just make a white sauce and add some curry powder and use that as your curry sauce.
Make a ďlayeredĒ salad. In a big bowl (glass if you have it, so you can show off the layers), put some chopped or torn lettuce. Then a layer of frozen peas, a layer of hard boiled eggs, another layer of lettuce, a thin layer of sliced green onions, a layer of halved cherry tomatoes (sliced regular tomatoes get too juicy), a layer of crumbled cooked bacon and a layer of grated cheddar. Mix some mayo with some salt and pepper and a couple of teaspoons of sugar and spread it over the top, sealing it all the way to the edges. Refrigerate overnight. Youíre supposed to serve it from the glass bowl, but I find it works best to show it off, then mix it all up myself. Otherwise some folks get just lettuce and others get the good stuff. Itís a really flexible recipe. Sometimes it calls for broccoli or cauliflower, sometimes for sliced water chestnuts. I like to put some sunflower seeds in it, and some people use chopped or whole peanuts. Basically, just use whatever you have. You could mix some ranch dressing with the mayo for the topping, too, if you wanted to.
Hard boiled eggs are in most chicken liver pate recipes, too. Cook the chicken livers (in bacon grease is best, of course) and set aside. Cook some onions (again, preferably in bacon grease) until very soft. Combine the livers and onions in a food processor until mostly smooth. Add some chopped hard boiled eggs. Youíll probably need to season it too. Salt and pepper, of course, and sometimes a bit of Tabasco sauce. Or however you like your chicken liver pate. Itís good with cream cheese mixed in with it, too.
Add chopped hard boiled eggs to cooked green beans and some onion that has been cooked in butter with a bit of garlic.
Now for some ďrealĒ recipesÖ
RUSSIAN VEGETABLE PIE
(from The Vegetarian Epicure via tastebook.com)
1-1/4 c flour
1 t sugar
1 t salt
4 oz softened cream cheese
3 T butter
3 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 lb (8 oz) fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 T butter
4 oz softened cream cheese
4 Ė 5 hard-boiled eggs
Basil, marjoram, tarragon, salt and pepper to taste
2 T dried dill weed (the leaves, not dill seed)
Make a pastry by sifting together the dry ingredients, cutting in the butter and working it together with the cream cheese. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry and line a 9Ē pie dish. Roll out the remaining pastry and make a circle large enough to cover the dish for the top crust. Put it away to chill. (Or you can use two purchased pie crusts. Leave the second one out for a bit to soften, then roll out flat to use as a lid for the pie.)
In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cabbage and sautť for several minutes, stirring constantly. Add at least 1/8 teaspoon each of the marjoram, tarragon, and basil, and the salt and pepper. Stirring often, allow the mixture to cook until the cabbage is wilted and the onions soft. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan and sautť the mushrooms lightly for about five to six minutes, stirring constantly. Spread the softened cream cheese in the bottom of the pie shell. Arrange the egg slices in a layer over the cheese. Sprinkle them with the dill weed, then cover them with the cabbage mixture. Layer the mushrooms on top, then cover with the circle of pastry or the second crust. Press the pastry together tightly at the edges, and flute them. (Or use the tines of a fork to press them together, going all around the flat rim of the pie pan so the two crusts are pressed tightly together.) With a sharp knife, cut a few short slashes through the top crust. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 and continue baking for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is light brown.
(Aunt Maryís Cookbook)
6 hardboiled eggs, peeled and halved
1/4 lb boiled ham
3/4 can Campbellís tomato soup
Grind ham and egg yolks together. Mix with enough cream to make a paste and fill the whites like you would deviled eggs. Place in buttered baking dish. Thicken the soup with a little flour and water and pour over the eggs. Cover with cracker crumbs and bake until light brown.
EGG BALLS FOR SOUP
(Compendium of Cookery and Reliable Recipes Ė 1890)
Boil four eggs; put into cold water; mash yolks with yolk of one raw egg, and one teaspoonful of flour, pepper, salt and parsley; make into balls and boil two minutes. Use to garnish soup.
ESCALLOPED BACON AND EGGS
(Paper Plates to Silver Service, Young Attorneysí Wives of Polk County, 1982)
1/2 c onion, chopped
2 T butter
2 T flour
1-1/2 c milk
10 Ė 12 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c shredded sharp processed cheese
6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1-1/2 c potato chips, crushed (or you could use crushed Ritz crackers)
Cook onions in butter until tender; blend in flour. Add milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add cheese, stirring until melted. (You could use cheddar cheese, but the processed cheese melts more easily.) Place a layer of half the egg slices in a 10x6 pan. (An 8 inch square pan will work, too, or a 9Ē pie pan.) Cover with half the cheese sauce, half the bacon, half the chips. Repeat the layers. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
KITTENCALíS BEST DEVILED EGGS
I wasnít going to include a recipe for deviled eggs because everyone makes them, but this recipe had 129 reviews and an almost perfect five-star rating. A few hints from me Ė First, cook more eggs than youíre going to need. Some of them wonít peel nicely or the white will tear. You can always add the extra yolks to the filling. Second, for fancy eggs, pipe the filling into the whites. Put the filling in a small plastic bag and cut a small bit off one corner. Being careful not to let it squeeze out the top, gently squeeze the bag to fill the whites.
12 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 c mayo (or half salad dressing and half mayo)
2 T milk (or half-and-half)
1 t dried parsley flakes
1/2 t dried chives (or 1 large very finely chopped green onion)
1/2 t ground mustard powder
1/8 Ė 1/4 t dried dill weed (thatís the leaves, not dill seed)
1/4 t salt, or to taste
1/4 t paprika, plus a bit more to sprinkle on the eggs
1/8 t pepper
1/8 t garlic powder
Slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and set the whites aside. Mush the yolks well in a small bowl, using a fork and leaving no small lumps. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well to combine. Spoon or pipe the egg yolk mixture evenly into the whites. Sprinkle with paprika. Cover tightly with plastic wrap until ready to serve. If possible, refrigerate the eggs for at least 5 hours to give the flavors a chance to blend and intensify. Actually, it would be better to make the filling ahead of time so the flavors can blend, but not fill the whites until youíre ready to serve them. If you cover the filled eggs tightly, the filling will stick to the plastic wrap.
I wasnít going to give a recipe for egg salad, either, and for the same reason. But hereís a site that has eighteen (yes, 18!) recipes in one place, so Iím passing it on to you.
I mentioned White Sauce several times. Donít worry Ė itís easy to make. First Iíll give you a recipe for a single batch of it (a little over a cup), and then Iíll give a recipe for a homemade make-ahead mix. By the way, just as you can usually substitute canned cream-of-anything soup for white sauce in most recipes, you can substitute white sauce for the canned soup. You might want to add a bit of chicken bouillon cube, or some chopped celery or chopped mushrooms. Or not. As far as Iím concerned, all the cream-of soups do in most recipes (unless youíre eating it as soup, of course) is to add something to hold it all together, and they donít add much flavor anyway.
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 c milk
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook gently, stirring constantly, until the butter and flour are combined. Slowly add the milk, again stirring constantly. (Stirring constantly keeps it from being lumpy. Or at least it helps. To be perfectly honest, itís going to be lumpy sometimes anyway. Thatís just the way life goes sometimes.) Heat gently, still stirring, until it thickens. This will make a thick white sauce. If you want it thinner, just add more milk.
White Sauce Mix
2 c instant dry milk (powdered milk)
1 c flour
2 t salt
1 c butter
Measure all ingredients into a bowl and blend very well. (A pastry blender works great for this, or you can use your food processor.) Put in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate and store up to one year.
To use: Combine mix (see below for amounts) and 1 cup cold water in a small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Thin sauce Ė 1/3 cup mix. Medium sauce Ė 1/2 cup mix. Thick sauce Ė 3/4 cup mix.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
IGA has boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.69 a pound, leg quarters for 69 cents a pound, and legs (drumsticks) for 99 cents a pound. The chicken breasts are ďpreviously frozenĒ so technically you shouldnít refreeze them, but I always do anyway. Fresh green beans and Red Delicious apples are both ten pounds for $10.00, or a dollar a pound. Thatís a particularly good price for the apples. Del Monte canned fruit is ten for $10.00, or a dollar a can, which may or may not be a good price. Frozen vegetables are ten one-pound bags for $10.00, or a dollar a bag, which is a very good price. Pollack fillets are $2.69 a pound, which is a good price for fish. Pollack is a mild white fish. Ground turkey is $1.99 for a one pound roll, as is turkey breakfast sausage. You might want to check the nutritional info. Some ground turkey has a lot of fat in it. The more fat, the more it will cook down and the less cooked meat youíll have. Two pound (32 ounce) bags of shredded cheese are $5.99, which is $3.00 a pound or $1.50 for eight ounces, so thatís a good price. (I donít know why I sometimes say that something is a good price. I wouldnít be listing it here if I thought it wasnít.) Prices are good through Sunday, April 13.
Marsh has sweet corn, ten ears for $3.00, or 30 cents an ear. Sweet potatoes are 79 cents a pound. Libbyís canned vegetables are 50 cents a can, but you have to buy at least ten items from a list of things. Frozen vegetables are 67 cents for a one pound bag, but only Thursday the 10th through Sunday the 13th. Lots of ham on sale for Easter. Prices start at 98 cents a pound for the Sugardale Prestige Fully cooked Hardwood Smoked Shank Portion, which is a water added product. Indiana Kitchen Heritage House Spiral Sliced Ham Hams are $1.28 a pound, limit of one and you have to buy at least $25 of other stuff. Marsh Honey Gold Half Spiral Sliced Glazed Hams are $10 or $20 off for a whole ham, but they donít tell you how much they are per pound before the discount. That always makes me suspicious, though Iíve gotten some really good deals that way. You may need to calculate the per pound price yourself. Prices for hams go up to $2.39 a pound, depending on the brand, size, etc. With the exception of the frozen vegetables, all prices are good through Wednesday, April 16.
Aldi has hams on sale for Easter, too. (I guess IGA doesnít this week because theyíll have new sale prices on Sunday.) Appleton Farms hams (a water added product) vary from 99 cents a pound to $1.69 a pound, depending on whether they are sliced and whether they are shank or butt portion. Eggs are 79 cents a dozen, which is a great price! The ones I bought a couple of weeks ago were $1.59 a dozen. ďNew low pricesĒ are butter for $2.19 a pound and 99 cents for eight ounces of cream cheese. This may mean these prices will continue for a while. Pineapples are $1.49 each, four pound bags of oranges are $1.99, baby carrots are 69 cents a pound, asparagus is $1.49 a pound, and a ten pound bag of russet potatoes is $1.69, or 17 cents a pound. Strawberries are $1.49 a pound. Canned green beans and corn are 49 cents a can and cream of mushroom soup is 59 cents a can. Prices are good through Tuesday, April 15.
Easter menus arenít as fixed as Thanksgiving menus. Ham and lamb are both traditional, and some people have roasted chicken or turkey. Hereís what I would probably have for Easter dinner, based on this weekís sales. If you donít celebrate Easter, this would make a good dinner to celebrate Spring, instead. Iím assuming eight people for dinner.
Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce (donít worry Ė itís easy if you have a blender)
Maybe a green salad, but probably not
Strawberry Pavlova or individual strawberry meringues (again, very easy)
Serve the dinner in the kitchen and give each person a full plate, rather than putting the food on the table and letting everyone serve him/herself. Each plate gets a slice of ham, a whole (but cut in half) or half sweet potato thatís already been buttered, and a pile of asparagus with Hollandaise sauce poured over it. The reason for plating in the kitchen is that thereís only about two tablespoons of the Hollandaise sauce per person, which is plenty because itís so rich, but people might take more than that if they served themselves. If thereís any food left after filling the plates, you could put the extra on the table for seconds. Clear the table, and then serve the dessert. If youíre serving Pavlova, serve it at the table because it looks impressive whole. If youíre serving individual meringues they can be plated in the kitchen.
Ham Ė Iíd check the price on the Marsh Honey Gold hams after the $10 or $20 off and see whether it was actually a good price. Iíd probably end up with the Sugardale ham for 98 cents a pound, even though it is water added. Score the outside of the ham in a 1Ē diamond pattern (That means cut almost through the fat in a diamond pattern. Itís easiest if you cut a 1Ē strip of cardboard or foil or something, and use that to make your lines.) and put a whole clove at each point of the diamonds. Then bake according to the directions on the packet. You can make a glaze of brown sugar and either apple juice or orange juice if you want to, but I wouldnít because I donít need the extra sugar. Figure you get about 12 ounces of meat from each pound of ham (because of the bone). The bones will be about the same size regardless of how big the ham is, so you might as well get a big one and have lots of leftovers. If you get a ten pound ham, you can serve eight ounces of meat (about a cup and a half, if it were cubed) per person and use just barely over half the ham. Letís assume youíve got a couple of little kids and say youíll use half of it. Thatís $9.80 for the ham (letís call it $10.00) and youíll use half of it, so thatís $5.00 for the ham, plus another 25 cents or so for the cloves, or $5.25 total.
Sweet potatoes Ė Wash them, poke holes in them so they donít burst in the oven, then bake them whole. Get small ones and give everyone either a whole potato or a half potato. Cut them open like baked potatoes and put lots of butter on them. Six ounces of sweet potato per person would come to three pounds total, or $2.37 (letís call it $2.40). A tablespoon of butter per person (I like lots of butter on my sweet potatoes!) would run another 55 cents, or a total of $2.95.
Asparagus Ė Wash the stalks, cut off the scales (not the ones at the very top), and cut off the tough stalks at the bottom. Steam or nuke it until tender-crisp. It doesnít take very long. Mom would cut it into 1Ē pieces, but I like the long stalks. They look more elegant on the plate. Drain the asparagus well. Figure three pounds, or $4.50.
Hollandaise sauce Ė A long time ago you used to have to make your Hollandaise sauce in a double boiler, slowly adding the butter to the eggs and having a good chance of ending up with very buttery scrambled eggs instead. Thatís why people are afraid of Hollandaise sauce. Today, with a blender, itís a snap. Figure 70 cents for the butter and 15 cents for the egg yolks (the other 15 cents are for the whites), or 85 cents total for the sauce. See the recipe below.
Green beans Ė If you decide to have fresh green beans instead of the asparagus and Hollandaise sauce, try to pick out ones that are about the same size, and not too fat. Top and tail them and wash them. Youíll probably need to cut them. If you can leave them in about 6Ē lengths, do so. Otherwise, go ahead and cut them in about 1-1/2Ē pieces. The longer ones look more elegant but arenít as easy to eat. Cook them in boiling salted water until tender-crisp. I like all of the raw taste gone but I want them to still have a bit of bite. Mom likes hers cooked to death. Cook them however suits your family. As soon as theyíre done, drain them and set them aside. Throw out the water. In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter. Add Ĺ cup of slivered or sliced almonds. Heat for a couple of seconds, add the green beans, toss everything together, and serve. You can cook the beans ahead of time, if you want, and then reheat them in the butter at the last minute. Three pounds of green beans is $3.00, plus 15 cents for the butter and 60 cents for the almonds, or $3.75 altogether.
Strawberry Pavlova or individual strawberry meringues Ė A Pavlova is just a big ďbowlĒ made of meringue and filled with a fruit and whipped cream mixture. A meringue is just whipped egg whites and sugar thatís been baked at a low temperature. Theyíre both easy to make. The strawberries themselves will cost $1.50. The meringue (whether you make it in one big shell for the Pavlova or in individual shells for the strawberry meringues) will cost about 40 cents (youíre using the whites from the yolks you used for the Hollandaise sauce). The whipped cream filling will cost about $1.60. Thatís $3.50 for the Pavlova or $1.90 for the meringues without the whipped cream. See the recipe below.
The total cost of the meal Ė ham, sweet potatoes, asparagus and Hollandaise sauce, and Strawberry Pavlova Ė will be about $17.30, or $2.20 per person for eight people. For the ham, sweet potatoes, green beans with almonds, and Strawberry Meringues (no whipped cream), the total cost will be about $14.10, or $1.75. These are generous, adult-size portions. If youíre serving kids, too, it will all go further, and the cost per person will be less.
BLENDER HOLLANDAISE SAUCE
(I copied this from allrecipes.com, but the recipe is everywhere)
4 egg yolks (save the whites for the dessert)
1/4 t Dijon mustard
4 t lemon juice
1 dash Tabasco or similar hot pepper sauce (optional)
10 T (1/2 cup +2 T) butter, completely melted and still hot
Combine the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and hot sauce in the blender. Cover and blend for about 5 seconds. With the blender on high, slowly pour the butter through the hole in the lid in a thin stream. It should thicken immediately. Serve immediately, or keep warm by putting the blender container in a pan or bowl of hot tap water. Donít use boiling or simmering water or the eggs will curdle.
(adapted from (mostly translated from) bbcgoodfood.com)
4 egg whites (use the yolks for the Hollandaise sauce)
1-1/4 c sugar
1 t white vinegar
1 t cornstarch
1 t vanilla extract
Heat oven to 300. Using a pencil, trace around the outside of a dinner plate on parchment paper or foil, being careful not to tear the paper or foil. Beat the eggs until they form soft peaks, then beat in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the meringue looks glossy. Beat in the vinegar, cornstarch and vanilla. Spread the meringue inside the circle, creating a crater by making the sides a little higher than the middle. Bake for 1 hour, then turn off the heat and let the Pavlova cool completely inside the oven. Leave the Pavlova in the cold oven as long as you can. The dry air in there will make it keep better than being out in the more humid kitchen. (Donít forget itís in there, though, and turn on the oven! I find that fastening a note to the on/off switch for the oven is a good idea.)
1 lb strawberries
1-1/2 c whipping cream
1/4 c sugar
Wash the strawberries and pull out any stems and leaves. Let them dry completely. Slice them if theyíre large, or leave them whole if they are small. Whip the cream and the sugar until thickened. (Start with the mixer on low and gradually increase or youíll end up with cream all over the kitchen.) Fill the crater in the cooled Pavlova with the whipped cream and put the strawberries on top. Cut into wedges to serve.
INDIVIDUAL STRAWBERRY MERINGUES
Use the same recipe for the meringue shells, but instead of making one big one make eight small ones. Trace around a coffee cup or mug Ė something about 3 to 4 inches across. Pile the meringue onto the circles and use the back of spoon to make them bowl shaped. Bake at 275 for about 45 minutes. Fill the meringues with the strawberries. You can make individual Pavlovas by adding the whipped cream.
If you donít have a mixer, fresh strawberries over vanilla ice cream is Springy, too.
Thursday, April 03, 2014
Here's this week's column. It's a good thing pork chops were on sale. I was going to do a column on beef liver, but Mom didn't think that was a very good idea.
Kroger has 8-ounce packs of cream cheese ten for $10, or $1.00 each. I donít think you have to buy ten to get that price. Butter is two pounds for $5.00, or $2.50 a pound. Chicken drumsticks, thighs, and whole fryers are 99 cents a pound. Thatís not a great price unless you specifically want whole birds or just the thighs, but itís not bad if you do. ďCrisp broccoliĒ is three for $5.00, or $1.67 each. Unfortunately, it doesnít say how big the ďcrisp broccoliĒ is, so thereís no way of knowing whether itís a good price. I sure wish they would be more precise with their descriptions. Eggplants are 99 cents each and green beans are 99 cents a pound. Itís making me think of summer produce at the Farmers Market! Check the eggplant to be sure itís fresh. If it is, and itís a reasonable size, thatís a good price. Sweet potatoes are 99 cents a pound, too. Whole cantaloupe are two for $3.00, or $1.50 each. These prices are good through next Wednesday, April 9.
Marsh has red, white, and black seedless grapes and red grapes with seeds for $1.47 a pound. Family pack assorted pork chops are 99 cents a pound. And fresh tomatoes are 97 cents a pound. These prices are good through next Wednesday, April 9.
Aldi has strawberries for $1.49 a pound. Anjou pears are $1.49 for a two pound bag, or 75 cents a pound. Pineapples are $1.49 each and mangoes are 69 cents each. Fresh boneless skinless chicken breasts are $1.69 a pound in family packs. These prices are good through next Tuesday, April 8.
IGA has fresh fryer leg quarters in family packs for 59 cents a pound through Sunday, April 6. Dole Classic Iceberg Salad and Classic Coleslaw Mix are both 99 cents for a 12-14 ounce bag, but only on Friday, April 4. Large eggs are 99 cents a dozen, but again only on Friday.
Do you remember the column a few weeks ago when I talked about buying herbs and spices and gave recipes for three very different yet very similar fish soups? They all had fish, tomatoes, onions and green pepper, but the seasonings made them very different. Iím going to do something sort of similar this week. Iím going to start by talking generally about different seasonings for pork chops, and then will give the regular three recipes or so for pork chops and menus using them. Sometimes you donít need a new recipe as much as you just need a new idea for varying an old standby with some new seasonings.
First, herbs and spices that go well with pork. Just about everything, actually! Think of all the different cuisines that use pork, and the different seasonings that each uses. Chinese. Mexican. German. Italian. Thai. French. English. And many more. They have each found a way to use their traditional seasonings with pork.
Hereís a partial list that I combined from half a dozen web sites. Basil, bay leaf, caraway seeds, chili peppers, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, dill, fennel, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, lemon grass, lemon juice, lime juice, mint, mustard, onions, orange juice, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, pickle juice, rosemary, sage, savory, shallots, soy sauce, star anise, thyme, turmeric, and Worcestershire sauce. The ones that were mentioned most often were cinnamon, cloves, cumin, fennel, garlic (I think everyone mentioned garlic), ginger, rosemary, sage, shallots, soy sauce, and thyme. And salt and pepper, of course.
So what do you do with this list? Well, the next time you make plain old pork chops, try adding a different herb. Maybe marinate them first in a mixture of juice (lemon, lime or orange) and an herb or two. Some combinations you might not have thought of include:
Soy sauce, ginger, garlic, with or without some orange juice
Apple juice, cinnamon and cloves
Chipotle peppers, cumin and tomatoes
Mustard, caraway seeds and sauerkraut
Chili peppers, cilantro, garlic, lime and peanuts
Lemon and/or lime and/or orange juice with garlic
Apple juice, shallots, garlic, ginger and soy sauce
Lemongrass, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, shallots and lime juice
Pork goes well with fruit, too. Pork and apple sauce is a classic. Other possibilities include cherries, pineapple, peaches, plums, nectarines, cranberries, oranges, pears, and mangos. Try opening a can of something and either marinating the pork chops in the juice or using the fruit to make a sauce or glaze after the chops are cooked. Or heat the fruit up with a spice or two and serve it on the side, like you would applesauce with cinnamon.
Some people donít like fruit with meat. The complaint Iíve usually heard is that itís too sweet. If you feel this way, try something less sweet. Instead of pineapple in heavy syrup or cherries in syrup or sweetened applesauce, try a fruit salsa. The heat from the peppers may balance out the sweetness of the fruit enough to make it work for you. Or a relish made of cranberries and oranges without sugar. The tartness of the cranberries may offset the sweetness of the orange enough for you.
Cabbage, sauerkraut, mushrooms, acorn and other winter squash, green beans, peas, broccoli, corn, potatoes, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes are vegetables that go well with pork.
As for sauces, BBQ sauce is a natural, as are the sweet Chinese sauces like hoisin sauce. Something thatís used a lot in casseroles is Cream of Mushroom Soup. The simplest version is simply a can of soup, possibly diluted with a bit of milk or cream, poured over the chops (browned if you have time, not browned if you donít) and baked. Serve it with broccoli or other vegetables and use the soup as a gravy. Of course, itís better if you use homemade Cream of Whatever Soup instead of the canned stuff. Iíll give the recipe for it in a bit. Curry sauces are good with pork, as are some salsas. Pan gravy is great with it. Sauces with peanuts and peanut butter are good, too.
I havenít given any recipes yet, but I hope thereís something here that made a light bulb go off for you. While I donít think you can get away with serving pork chops every night by just changing the seasoning, sometimes all it takes is a small change to make something acceptable instead of boring.
OK, now for some recipes and menus. The first recipe, creatively titled PORK CHOPS, is seasoned with tiny amounts of several Indian seasonings. Be sure to buy them in tiny little dabs at Bloomingfoods and not in the jars or cans at a traditional grocery store.
(based on a recipe at janssushibar.com)
4 pork chops (about 2 pounds total)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch ground cloves
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons drippings or other cooking fat
Mix all of the ingredients except the pork chops and drippings in a small bowl. Rub the pork chops with the spice mixture and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Melt the lard in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the pork chops until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Lower the temperature to medium-low; cover and continue to cook until the pork chops reach an internal temperature of 145 F, another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the chops from the skillet; cover and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
The pork chops themselves are going to cost about $2.00. Letís say 25 cents for the smidgeons of spices - it only comes to a total of one teaspoon. If you use drippings, theyíre free. If you use vegetable oil, it will cost less than 10 cents. Letís call it $2.35 altogether. Thatís so cheap you can spend more than usual on side dishes.
The original recipe says to serve it with applesauce (in fact, the original name is Pork Chops and Applesauce), so letís go with that. You want unsweetened applesauce, and not very much of it Ė only about a cup, or a fourth of a cup per person. Letís say 50 cents for the applesauce. Sweet potatoes would be good. Two pounds would allow an 8-ounce sweet potato per person. Just bake the sweet potatoes in the skins; they donít need any butter or anything else. Add coleslaw or other cabbage salad for about a dollar and youíve got a hearty meal for under $6.00, or $1.50 per person.
This next recipe, EASY MUSTARD PORK CHOPS, is super easy. The author describes it as a recipe for those days when just getting dinner on the table seems like more than you can do. We all have those days, donít we?
EASY MUSTARD PORK CHOPS
(from a recipe at lowsopaleo.com)
4 thin cut, bone in pork chops (about 2 lbs total)
1 tablespoon prepared mustard (Dijon or other)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp olive oil
Optional: 1/4 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
Pepper & salt to taste
Mix mustard, garlic powder & olive oil into a smooth paste. Add parsley if youíre using it.
Lay out the pork chops and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slather mustard mix on pork chops, stack them on top of each other, and set aside for 10 minutes or so. Line a baking pan with foil, and lay the pork chops in it. Set the broiler on low and put the pork chops on a rack about 4Ē or 5Ē from the broiler. Broil for 3 minutes. Take them out and flip them over and broil for 3-4 minutes more, or until the tops have started to brown well. Check for doneness; different ovens broil differently, and the thickness of the chops will affect the cooking time.
The only significant cost here is the pork chops, which will run you about $2.00. The mustard, garlic powder, olive oil, salt and pepper wonít cost more than a dime.
If getting supper on the table is almost more than you can manage, you definitely wonít be spending any extra time on the side dishes. How about a couple cans of green beans ($1.00), half a head of lettuce cut in wedges (50 cents), two tablespoons of salad dressing per person or half a cup total (50 cents), with half a cantaloupe for dessert (90 cents). The whole meal can be prepared in less than half an hour for a cost of right about $5.00 or $1.25 per person, and no one will guess that it was that cheap and easy. Or have some broccoli instead of the green beans. Itís still well under $6.00.
The final pork chop recipe (donít worry, I havenít forgotten I said Iíd give you the recipe for homemade Cream of Anything Soup) is for SMOKEY CACAO NIBS ENCRUSTED PORK CHOPS. And just what are cacao nibs, you ask? Nibs are bits of cacao seeds that have been processed almost to the point of being ground for cocoa powder or made into chocolate bars. Theyíve been dried, fermented, roasted and crushed. Youíve heard of the health benefits of dark chocolate? Well, cacao nibs are even better for you because theyíre just the chocolate part without any sugar or milk or other additions. Theyíre bitter because they have so many flavonoids, the antioxidant for which dark chocolate is known. Donít worry Ė the recipe isnít for chocolate coated pork chops! Cacao nibs smell like dark chocolate but have just a hint of chocolate flavor. You can buy cacao nibs at Bloomingfoods in the bulk foods section. One fourth cup should weigh about one ounce.
SMOKEY CACAO NIBS ENCRUSTED PORK CHOPS
(based on a recipe at thisissogood.wordpress.com)
ľ cup Cacao Nibs
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 pork chops (about 2 pounds total)
3 Tablespoons fat, preferably bacon grease or butter
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Using a spice grinder, crush the nibs to the size of tiny pebbles - only 1 or 2 pulses. (If you donít have a spice mill, place the nibs on a cutting board and pulverize them with the bottom of a heavy pan. Just donít pulverize them too small.) Combine with the paprika, salt, and cayenne. Rub the pork chops with half of the mixture, saving the other half for the second side of the chops when they are in the pan. Let the chops sit for about 15 minutes to come to room temperature. When you are ready to fry the chops, melt the fat in an oven-proof skillet. Let it get nice and hot and then place the pork chops, seasoned side down, in the pan. Fry for 2 minutes. While they are frying, coat the bare side of the chops with the remaining cacao nibs mixture. After 2 minutes, the chops should lift easily from the pan with some tongs. If they are sticking, give them 30 seconds to a minute more. Flip and fry the second side for 2 minutes. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then check for doneness. If done, remove them to a heated (yes, thatís what the recipe says, but I donít think Iíve ever heated a plate or platter my life!) platter and let them rest for a few minutes. If you leave them in the pan to rest they will continue to cook and will probably end up overdone, dry and tough.
I have to admit that Iím just guessing at the cost of the cacao nibs and smoked paprika. I havenít bought them or checked the price in a long time. Iím going to guess about a dollar for the two of them. I think thatís probably high, but I donít know. Letís use that as an estimate anyway. The pork chops will run $2.00, the bacon grease would be free if you have it, or the butter would run about 35 cents. So letís say $3.35 for the whole thing.
The picture on the blog shows the pork chops served with a baked sweet potato and something that I canít identify. A pound and a half of sweet potatoes (six ounces per person, or about three-fourths cup) will cost $1.50, which leaves us $1.15 for something else. How about some fresh green beans (a little over half a cup of cooked beans per person) or, depending on how big the packages are, some fresh broccoli. Either way you should stay at right around $6.00, or $1.50 per person.
And now, as promised, the recipe for homemade Cream of Anything Soup. Which is actually called CAMPBELLíS SOUP CASSEROLE SAUCE MIX in this version, though Iíve seen similar versions with different names. Whatever.
CAMPBELLíS SOUP CASSEROLE SAUCE MIX
(this is Maxine Von Risenís recipe, from the Stamford (Nebr.) Centennial Cookbook, via soar.berkeley.edu)
2 c non-fat dry milk
3/4 c cornstarch
1/4 c instant chicken bouillon (veggie bouillon?)
2 T dried onion flakes
1 t crushed dried thyme
1 t crushed dried basil
1/2 t pepper
Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.
To use: To substitute for one can of condensed cream of something soup, mix 1/3 cup of dry mix with 1-1/4 c water in a saucepan. Cook and stir until thickened. Add cheese, mushroom bits, or celery to duplicate the canned soup called for in the recipe. In my not-so-humble opinion, thereís really not much difference in taste between the different kinds of cream of whatever soups. Mostly itís just something that holds the casserole together. So, while it wonít hurt to add some mushrooms or celery or whatever, it probably isnít necessary.
And finally, here are a couple of recipes for pork seasoning mixes. You can make them up ahead of time and have them ready the next time youíre cooking pork chops, or other pork dishes.
PORK SEASONING MIX #1
(from a recipe at foodnetwork.com)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container in a cool dark cupboard.
(from a recipe at about.com)
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt, finely ground (or regular table salt)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons mustard powder
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1/4 cup granulated garlic
2 tablespoons cayenne
Mix all ingredients and store in a tightly covered container. You'll want to keep some in a shaker next to the grill or stove. Keeps indefinitely but won't last long.
Friday, March 28, 2014
Here's this week's column. I'm surprised I was able to come up with three menus (actually a lot more, if you count all the variations) and keep the cost down to around $1.50 per person. I allowed myself some leeway this week, since I was using ground chuck at $2.99 a pound since there weren't any real deals on meat. The last recipe and menu options come in closer to $2.00 per person. I gave some ideas for lower cost breakfast and lunch, though, so you should still be able to get in the day for around $4.00 per person.
This is a horrible week for specials! Or maybe itís just the price increases that theyíve been talking about so much and I donít recognize good prices. Here are the few things that seem like good deals to me.
Marsh has family pack chicken leg quarters for 79 cents a pound. Three one-pound packs of strawberries are $5.00, or $1.67 per pound. Frozen vegetables are $5.00 for two 32-ounce (two pound) bags. Thatís $2.50 per bag, or $1.25 per pound. When comparing this to the price for other vegetables, be sure to check the size of the packages. A lot of them are 10 ounces these days, or maybe 12 ounces. These two-pound bags come out to 78 cents for 10 ounces or 94 cents for 12 ounces. The picture shows corn and broccoli; other vegetables may be on sale, too. These prices are good through next Wednesday, April 2.
IGA has ďbunched broccoliĒ two for $3.00, or $1.50 each. It may be a good price, depending on how big the ďbunchesĒ are. Donít forget that the stalk is good eating, too. It needs to be peeled, though. I use a knife to cut back the thick peel, then pull it off. Most of it comes off that way. ďTomatoes on the VineĒ are 99 cents a pound. Frozen vegetables are ten 1-pound bags for $10.00, or $1.00 a pound. ďSelected varietiesĒ are at this price; the picture shows a bag of mixed vegetables. ďSelected varietiesĒ of canned vegetables are two for $1.00, or 50 cents each. Three 8-ounce packages of chunk cheese are $5.00, or $1.67 each, or $3.33 per pound. Shredded cheese is the same price. These prices are good through Sunday, March 30.
Aldi has fresh broccoli for 99 cents for a 1-pound package. If you shop there, you know that their produce is all prepackaged. Iíve noticed that some vegetables are a lot bigger than they say. You might be able to get a better deal if you can find a big package. Strawberries are $1.49 a pound. These prices are good through Tuesday, April 1.
Kroger has Anjou pears and Asian pears for 99 cents a pound. Are you familiar with Asian pears? They look more like apples, have brown skin and very crisp slightly grainy flesh. Ground turkey is $2.50 a pound.
It seems like all I ever talk about is chicken and pork, chicken and pork, with an occasion foray into fish or hamburger. Iím tired of chicken and pork! But then again, what else is there besides chicken, pork, beef and fish? OK, thereís also lamb (too expensive), turkey (done that one, too), duck and goose (also too expensive), venison (if you happen to hunt), and beef other than hamburger (too expensive). But from a practical standpoint, thereís not much except chicken, pork, beef and fish. The thing to do is to find different ways of fixing them.
Do you realize Iíve been doing this column just over six months now? The first column came out on September 3, 2013. I went back and did some checking and, if Iíve counted correctly (always a questionable assumption), Iíve given 166 recipes so far! A few of them are duplicates, but not many. Probably 150 is more like it. That includes 11 recipes for beef (6 corned beef and 5 hamburger Ė I thought there were a lot more for hamburger), 40 recipes for chicken (no wonder Iím tired of talking about chicken!) and 10 for turkey, 4 for eggs, 11 for fish, 40 for pork (17 for pork chops and roasts, 11 for ham, and 12 for sausage), 29 for miscellaneous things like tortilla chips and pumpkin pie, 13 for salads, 15 for soups, and 51 for vegetables! Yes, I know that comes to a lot more than 150, but some things fall into more than one category. Like chicken soup is both chicken and soup. Based on this informal and probably inaccurate analysis, it looks like I should see what I can do with hamburger, if it ever goes on sale again. Even at sales prices, though, itís still too expensive to be much of a ďbudgetĒ meat.
Hamburger isnít on sale this week, but IGA has ground chuck for $2.99 a pound in the three pound or bigger packages. I guess that is on sale; I just tend to think that a sale price on hamburger should be under $2.00 a pound. Letís go with the ground chuck. Iím going to try to keep my dinners to $1.50 per person, but Iím allowing myself some leeway here. Iím willing to go as high as $2.00 per person. That means cutting back on breakfast or lunch to keep the dayís meals at $4.00 per person or less, so Iíll throw in a couple of menus for them, too.
My breakfasts tend to be pretty boring; how about yours? Do you eat the same thing every day? I do. Or at least I go in spurts, eating one thing for several days or even weeks, then suddenly changing to something else that I eat every day for a while. One breakfast I eat often is scrambled eggs. Usually four eggs, scrambled in a tablespoon of butter. (I know what youíre thinking, but for most people, when they donít eat carbs they can eat lots of fat and not have problems with cholesterol. Itís definitely the case with me.) Eggs have been $1.59 a dozen at Aldi lately, so four eggs is 53 cents. Butter has been $2.49 a pound, which is 32 tablespoons, or 8 cents a tablespoon. So my usual breakfast of scrambled eggs runs about 61 cents. Thatís 39 cents less than my budget of $1.00 for breakfast.
Whatís a cheap lunch? Salad. A can of tuna is 69 cents at Aldi. Add a couple of tablespoons of mayo (about 7 cents), a chopped carrot (about 15 cents), a bit of pickle relish (about 10 cents), and some lettuce (99 cents a head for iceberg lettuce) and youíve got a big lunch for about $1.20. That leaves 30 cents out of my lunch budget to spend on a slightly more expensive supper. Or make the same kind of salad with hard boiled eggs instead of tuna. With four eggs it will come to about $1.05. Or a cup of chicken, from the leg quarters at Walmart, for about $1.20. Or make some soup. A cup of homemade bone broth (you are saving all of your bones and making broth out of them, arenít you?), half a pound of frozen vegetables (spinach and broccoli are best, or whatever you have or is on sale, so letís say 65 cents for half a pound of broccoli from Marsh, since we know they have broccoli), some cream or milk (21 cents for half a cup of half and half at Aldi), a couple of tablespoons of grated cheese (25 cents at Aldi), and some seasonings and youíve got a big hearty bowl of soup for about $1.15 if you use homemade bone broth, or $1.40 if you use canned chicken broth. Or you can just buy canned soup and stay around $1.00, though you never know whatís really in it.
Back to the hamburger recipes. Cabbage rolls are very tedious to make. Or at least it seems to me that they would be. Iíve never actually made them because they sound so finicky. CABBAGE ROLL CASSEROLE gives you the flavor of traditional cabbage rolls without all the blanching and rolling and filling and so forth. The original recipe calls for some white rice, and some broth to cook the rice. If you want to try it that way, add half a cup of rice and a can (2 cups) of beef or chicken broth when you add the cabbage and tomato sauce.
CABBAGE ROLL CASSEROLE
(based on a recipe at allrecipes.com)
1 lb ground beef
1 c chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
16 oz can tomato sauce (or spaghetti sauce)
2 lbs cabbage, chopped
1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 T Worcestershire sauce
Brown beef, onion, and garlic in a large pot or Dutch oven, seasoning with the salt, pepper and cayenne as you do so. Add the Worcestershire sauce and mix well. Spread the beef mixture evenly over the bottom of the pot or Dutch oven, spread the cabbage over the beef, and then the tomato sauce over the top of that. Cover tightly and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir well, cover, and cook another 5 minutes or so, or until the cabbage is done to your liking. Some like it really soft, others like it to still have a bit of crunch.
A batch of this will cost about $5.00 and will make four big servings. If you want to serve something with it, how about some carrot sticks. A good dollop of sour cream on each serving would be good, too. These will keep it to $6.00 total, or $1.50 per person.
The next recipe, KANSAS CITY BEEF SOUP, makes lots. At least eight servings, more like ten or twelve. Big servings, too. The butter and flour will make a sort of gravy base for the soup. If you leave out the butter and flour, youíll have a clear broth for the soup instead of the gravy but it should still be good. Youíll save close to 10 cents per serving, too. If you happen to have some homemade beef broth, you could use it instead of the water and beef bouillon granules. Of course, youíll use regular ground beef or ground chuck, not the ground sirloin.
KANSAS CITY BEEF SOUP
(Best Easy Ground Beef Recipes Cookbook, by Best Recipes 2Day)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
8 cups hot water
2 pounds ground sirloin or extra lean (at least 90%) ground beef
2 tablespoons beef bouillon granules
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, diced
1 cup celery, sliced
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (any variety)
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon pepper
In a large Dutch oven or pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the flour, stirring to form a smooth paste. Gradually add in the hot water, a little at a time, whisking after each addition, until smooth. Simmer until thickened. In a large skillet, cook the beef until browned. Drain. Add beef bouillon granules, onion, carrot, celery, mixed vegetables, tomatoes and the pepper to the flour mixture in the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the vegetables are thoroughly cooked.
This costs about $9.20 for eight servings, or $1.15 per serving. How about some carrot and celery sticks to go with. Or some wedges of iceberg lettuce with dressing. You can stay under $1.50 per serving either way. Using a can of vegetables instead of the frozen would save 50 for the batch. Or you could use two cans of vegetables instead of the frozen vegetables, which would make it even chunkier and would make the servings a little bit bigger and it would still cost about $9.20.
The final recipe, CHEESY BEEF AND GREEN BEANS, is super quick. You just brown the meat and onions, toss in everything else, and heat it until itís hot. If you happen to have some hamburger that you got on sale and cooked up with some onions and froze until you needed it (something I definitely recommend Ė it takes up a lot less room in the freezer if itís already cooked and itís handy for when you need to get a meal on the table right away) itís even quicker. I cut the recipe in half and increased the green beans from one to two cans to make the servings bigger. I think that thereís plenty of meat and sauce and cheese for the extra beans, but you can always cut it back if think itís too green beany.
CHEESY BEEF AND GREEN BEANS
(based on a recipe from grace2882.wordspot.com)
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cans (14-ounces) green beans, drained
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
In a large skillet, cook the beef, and onion over medium heat until the meat is browned and onions are tender. Drain. Stir in tomato sauce, green beans, garlic powder and chili powder. Cook until heated thoroughly. Add cheese and stir until the cheese melts.
The cheese makes this a little more expensive than the other recipes. It comes to $5.80 for four servings. Theyíre big servings, but youíll still probably want something to go with it. Some iceberg lettuce with dressing would be good, or a simple cabbage salad or coleslaw. Or some fresh fruit. You could slice up a couple of pounds of the Anjou pears or the Asian pears. They would probably have to be sliced and shared because they will probably be too big for everyone to have a whole pear. Or some canned fruit would be good. Just be sure to get some thatís canned in juice and not in a sugary syrup. It should come to under $8.00, or under $2.00 per person, with any of these additions.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Here's last week's column for the food pantry blog, which someone informed me is not a blog because there's no way to get feedback. Okay, so it's the column for the website. Or whatever.
I started with split chicken breasts and they were on sale but seem to have wandered all over the place. Chicken broth, three kinds of chicken veggie soup, homemade tortilla strips (I know - not low carb, unless you make them with low carb tortillas.) Italian dressing. And a couple of recipes for the split chicken breasts. The Sante Fe Salad is not low carb, what with the black beans and corn, but it sounded so good I not only included it in my column but also used it for a tasting at the food pantry. Since then I've seen several similar recipes. Apparently black beans and corn is a common combination. It just seemed unusual to me because it's not something I eat. Oh well. Folks seemed to enjoy it.
Kroger has several things that are a good price if you buy ďany five.Ē Itís really easy with a deal like that to buy something you donít need to get in your five items. Donít do it! You usually end up paying more than you would if you just bought the items you do need without the discount. At least thatís the way it works for me. Saving money can be really expensive! But on to their salesÖ Kraft salad dressings are 99 cents for a 16 ounce bottle. Kraft cheese is $1.99 for 5 Ė 8 ounce packages, which is a good price for 8 ounces but not for 5 ounces. Oscar Meyer lunchmeat is $1.99 for a 1 pound package. Itís going to be heavily processed, but it is convenient. All of these prices are assuming you buy ďany 5Ē of the various sale items. Theyíre all $1.00 more if you donít buy 5. There are also a few things that are on sale even if you donít buy 5 items. Split chicken breast, drumsticks or thighs are 99 cents a pound. Cottage cheese and sour cream are $1.99 for 24 ounces. Butter is two pounds for $5.00, or $2.50 a pound, and you donít have to buy two to get that price. These prices are good through Wednesday, March 26. There is also a four-day-only sale, with prices good only through Sunday, March 23. Among these sales items are five half gallons of milk for $5.00, or $1.00 each, or $2.00 per gallon. You donít have to buy five gallons, and there is a limit of five gallons. Asparagus is 88 cents a pound.
Marsh has pork chops in the family pack for 99 cents a pound. Grapes Ė red, white or black seedless or red with seeds Ė are $1.48 a pound. Anjou and Bosc pears are $1.49 a pound. Jumbo cantaloupes are 3 for $5.00, or $1.67 each. These prices are good through Wednesday, March 26.
IGA has split fryer breasts for 99 cents a pound. Turkey sausage is $1.99 for a one pound package. ďJumbo sizeĒ lemons are two for $1.00, or 50 cents each. Ambrosia apples are $1.49 a pound. ďRed ripe tomatoes on the vineĒ are $1.49 a pound. Some Kraft products are buy-one-get-one-free. Some cheeses $2.99 for two 5 to 8 ounce packages. Thatís a good price for the 8 ounce packages, at $2.99 a pound, not good for the 5 ounce packages. Planters peanuts are $3.49 for two 1-pound jars, or $1.75 per jar, and peanut butter is $2.79 for two 15 Ė 16.3 ounce jars, or $1.40 each, also on the buy-on-get-one-free sale. These prices are good through Sunday, March 23.
Weíre back to chicken breasts this week. IGA and Marsh both have split fryer breasts for 99 cents a pound. Theyíre bone-in and skin-on, so thatís something to consider when you see the price. By the way, Iíve been wondering how the price of split fryer breasts and boneless, skinless fryer breasts compare. You can often get the split breasts for 89 or 99 cents a pound, and boneless, skinless breasts are often on sale for $1.89 or $1.99. I had a pack of split fryer breasts and I cut off the meat to make pieces like the boneless skinless kind you can buy. I donít remember the exact numbers, but when I compared the cost of the original chicken to the cost of the meat I had cut off at the boneless, skinless price, they came out almost exactly equal. I paid the same for the split fryer breasts as I would have if I had bought the boneless, skinless fryer breasts. And I had the skin and the bones and the meat on the bones, besides. I cooked up the skin to make Chicken Crisps, boiled the bones to make bone broth, and there was enough chicken left on the bones to make a salad. So, the result of my little experiment was that it really is cheaper to buy the split fryer breasts and do the work yourself. Of course, the ones that are already boned and skinned are quicker and easier to use. I use both.
Figure that about half the weight of the split chicken breasts will be in the boneless, skinless portions, so if you need a pound of boneless skinless chicken, youíll need to start with two pounds of split chicken breasts. Between 8 and 9 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast will yield a cup of diced, cooked meat. Letís call it 8 ounces, so 1 pound of split chicken breast will yield about 1 cup of diced, cooked meat. More or less. Thatís about 99 cents per cup of cooked meat this week, plus you get the bones, the skin, and some meat thatís left on the bones after you cut off the big chunks.
Twice as Nice: 25 Chicken Breast Recipes for Today and Later, by Sandra Liu, is one of the free books I found for the Kindle. (If you donít have a Kindle, you can download Kindle for PC onto your computer. Unfortunately, the library doesnít have Kindles and doesnít have the Kindle software on their computers.) The idea behind the book is that you can buy chicken breasts when theyíre on sale, grill or bake them, then cut them up and freeze them to have available whenever you need them. Theyíre a lot cheaper that way than buying the precooked strips of chicken breasts. The book tells how to grill or roast them, how to cut them up, how to freeze them, and then gives 25 recipes using the cooked meat. Here are the basic directions for cooking the chicken, and some recipes I found for using the meat.
BASIC GRILLED OR ROASTED CHICKEN BREAST
(Twice as Nice: 25 Chicken Breast Recipes for Today and Later, by Sandra Liu)
However you cook the chicken, start by salting and peppering some split fryer breasts, bone in and skin on. Then proceed as follows.
Heat the grill to high, then put the chicken on oiled racks, with the thickest part towards the center of the grill. Cover and cook for 7 minutes. Turn the chicken, keeping the thickest part to the center, and reduce the heat one notch. Repeat two or three more times, always keeping the thickest part towards the center of the grill and reducing the heat one notch each time. It should take about 25 to 30 minutes total, depending on the size of the chicken breasts. Test for doneness; if itís not done, return it to the grill and cook it for another 5 minutes, then test again. Repeat until itís completely done.
If using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grill them for about 15 minutes total, turning them two or three times. Check for doneness. If not done, return them to the grill and cook another 3 minutes. Repeat as necessary.
Prepare the coals, and put an oiled grill 4 to 6 inches above the coals. When the coals are medium hot, put the chicken on the grill. Cover and cook, turning every 5 minutes, until done, about 25 to 30 minutes, depending on the size. Test for doneness; if itís not done, return it to the grill and cook it for another 5 minutes, then test again. Repeat until itís completely done.
If using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grill them for about 15 minutes total, turning them two or three times. Check for doneness. If not done, return them to the grill and cook another 3 minutes. Repeat as necessary.
Preheat the oven to 350, and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Place the chicken breasts in a single layer in a roasting pan, without crowding, skin side up. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size. Turn on the broiler and broil about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown with a few charred parts. Check for doneness. If the chicken is not done, reduce the heat back to 350 and cook the chicken another 5 minutes. Check again for doneness, and repeat until it is completely done.
If using boneless, skinless chicken, preheat the broiler and broil the meat about 5 minutes per side. Test for doneness. If necessary, return to the oven, retesting every 3 minutes until thoroughly done.
Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165. If you have a meat thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the meat, but be sure it does not touch the bone. If you donít have a meat thermometer, poke the meat with a knife at the thickest part. The meat should be opaque and no longer pink.
What do you do with the cooked chicken breasts, however you cook them? Start by carefully cutting the meat off the bone, trying to get as much as possible off in one big chunk. Set aside the bones; weíll get back to them in a minute. Slice the meat crosswise. If youíre going to eat the chicken immediately, you might want to leave the skin on the chicken and slice it too. If youíre going to be saving the chicken and using it later, go ahead and pull the skin off and eat it right away. Itís much better when itís freshly cooked.
To find recipes for the cooked chicken breast strips, I did a google search for ďgrilled chicken breast recipes.Ē One site that came up was the Tyson website, which included almost 90 recipes using their precooked chicken breast strips. Iíve included one of them. Of course, I adapted it to use your own home-cooked chicken breast strips instead of Tysonís!
Letís go back and start with the raw chicken breasts. Letís start with six pounds of them, since you frequently have to buy them in the family packs to get the best price. First, cook them with the bone in and the skin on. (You could cut the meat off the bone before we cook it, in which case youíd pull the skin off, too. It comes out pretty much the same either way, and some people donít like handling raw chicken.) Then you pull the nice crisp skin off of the meat and save it for a treat. Next, you cut the meat off the bones, trying to get it off in one big chunk, but not scraping the bones to get every bit of meat off of them. You put the bones in a pot of water with some vegetables and seasonings and make some soup for four people. And then use the meat you cut off in two main dish recipes for four people each. Thatís twelve servings from $6.00 of split chicken breasts.
Letís start with the soup. I donít really have a recipe for SIMPLE CHICKEN VEGETABLE SOUP. I just use whateverís handy that sounds good at the moment. So Iíll just describe the process instead of giving a formal recipe. Put the bones, along with the meat that didnít come off in the nice big chunks, in a big pot, along with about 6 cups of cold water. (Use cold water when you want the flavor to go into the broth, hot water when you want the flavor to stay in the meat.) Add a small onion, a peeled but whole carrot, a stalk of celery, salt and pepper, and whatever seasoning you like. Some poultry seasoning is easy and good. Bring it to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for half an hour to an hour. While itís simmering, take about a cup of the broth and pour it in the pan you cooked the chicken in, and use it to scrape up any juices and browned bits that stuck to the pan. Carefully pour the liquid back in to the pot. Repeat if necessary. You want to get all of the flavor that seeped out into the roasting pan while you were cooking the chicken. (Of course, this doesnít apply if you grilled the chicken.) When the broth is done, strain it, saving both the broth and the solids.
When the solids are cool enough to handle, pick any meat off of the bones and add it back to the broth. There will probably be a cup or so of meat, depending on how closely you cut off the big chunks and also on how the store cut the split fryer breasts to begin with. Chop the cooked carrot and add it to the pot. You can chop the cooked onion and celery, too, if you like, but I usually donít bother. I just toss them.
Add a chopped onion, a couple of chopped carrots, some chopped celery, and whatever other vegetables you have. A chopped tomato is good, if you happen to have one (I use fresh in the summer, or, in the winter, one I froze the previous summer. Or I skip the tomato.) Some frozen chopped spinach, or chopped kale, or chopped chard adds some nice color. Sliced mushrooms, if they happen to be on sale. Broccoli florets. Sliced or chopped zucchini or summer squash. A few green beans, cut about ĹĒ long. Peas, either fresh or frozen. You get the picture. Whatever you have on hand and feel like using. Ditto with herbs. Some thyme, or parsley, or basil, or rosemary would be good, if you have them. I seldom add any more herbs. Thatís up to you, too.
Let everything simmer together for about 15 minutes to half an hour. The vegetables should be not only done, but soft, though not necessarily mushy. Taste it and add more salt and pepper if needed. Now you can go either of three ways. You can leave it as it is and eat it as CHICKEN VEGETABLE SOUP. You can run everything through the blender and then add some cream to make a CREAM OF CHICKEN AND VEGETABLE SOUP. If you do blend it, do it in batches, only filling the blender about half full and holding the lid on with a towel. The heat from the soup can make it splatter all over the kitchen, making a huge mess and burning you while wasting a lot of the soup. Or you can add some eggs and make CHICKEN VEGETABLE EGG DROP SOUP. To do this, bring the soup back up to a full boil and add some eggs, anywhere from four to a dozen, depending on how thick your soup was to begin with. I usually use two or three eggs per person, but I like a really thick soup, almost a custard. Once the eggs are in the soup, beat them with a fork, being sure to get the yolks, then simmering until the eggs are done. With four eggs, you should have shreds of egg throughout your soup. With twelve, it should be almost a soft custard.
Thatís a lot of directions for a simple soup, but it really is simple. If youíve read this column for long, you know that I tend to be long winded when Iím describing a process.
How much will this soup cost? It depends, of course, on what you end up putting in it. I figure that the broth and the meat and free, because I include the entire cost of the split fryer breasts in the cost of the chunks of meat that I cut off for other things. Letís say 2 onions, 4 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, 8 ounces of frozen peas, and 8 eggs. Thatís going to be about $2.85 for four big servings of soup. Letís call it $3.00, or 75 cents per serving, just because I like things that come out nice and even. Youíd want to add a salad or something if you were having this for supper, but for lunch I just have a big bowl of this type of soup and call it good.
I figure $1.00 for breakfast and $1.50 each for lunch and supper, or $4.00 a day to keep my costs down to the average food stamp benefit per person received in Indiana. I donít have the exact figure, but the latest Iíve seen is just under $1.40 per person per meal, or just under $4.20 per day per person. Since this soup is only about 75 cents per person for lunch, that leaves an extra 75 cents for other meals that might go a bit over $1.50 per person, or for special meals where you want to splurge a bit.
By the way, if you cut the meat off the bones before you cook it, so that you basically have boneless skinless fryer breast meat to use in recipes, youíll make the soup the same way. Just cook the broth the full hour to begin with. Or, whether you cut the meat off the bones before or after you cooked them, you can freeze the bones instead of making the broth right away, and make a big batch of broth later. For that matter, you can save the bones after you make the soup and add them to other bones to make bone broth. There wonít be as much flavor in the bones, since theyíve been used once, but theyíll still have lots of minerals and such to add to a long-simmered bone broth.
Now to a few recipes using those chunks of meat you cut off the bones in big chunks, and then sliced. I didnít really intend to when I started todayís column, but I seem to have ended with Southwestern or Tex-Mex recipes. The cooked chicken breast doesnít have to be used only in Tex-Mex recipes; it can be used plain, or in Italian dishes, or Thai dishes, or curries, or just about anything else. The recipes that I ended up using today just happen to be more or less Southwestern.
(based on a recipe from Tyson.com)
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/3 cup green onion, sliced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 t chili powder
1/2 cup tomato, chopped
1 cup cooked chicken breast strips
1/2 cup Colby-Jack cheese
In a medium bowl combine eggs, cumin, and salt; set aside. In a 10-inch broiler-proof skillet add olive oil, corn, sweet pepper, onions, garlic and chili powder and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes; add tomato. Continue to cook, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken. Pour egg mixture over mixture in skillet. As mixture sets, run a spatula around edge of skillet, lifting egg mixture so uncooked portion flows underneath. Continue cooking and lifting edges until egg mixture is almost set (surface will be moist). Sprinkle with cheese. Broil 4-5 inches from heat for 1-2 minutes or until egg is set and cheese melts. (Or cover loosely and continue cooking on top of stove until cheese melts and the egg is set.) To serve, cut into quarters.
The frittata will cost about $4.00. Add half a cup each of sour cream and salsa to top it off (two tablespoons of each per serving) for another 60 cents. Serve it with a quick fruit salad of one cup of halved grapes and half a cantaloupe for $1.25 and youíve got a good brunch or lunch or even a light supper for just under $6.00, or $1.50 per person. Or sautť a couple pounds of asparagus in butter with some garlic and serve that instead. Or serve salad. Or a salad and a pound of asparagus. There are lots of ways you can use that other $2.00 on side dishes to accompany the frittata.
The next recipe, LEFTOVER CHICKEN SANTE FE SALAD, is different than I usually .give, with corn, beans and tortilla strips. It just sounded too good to skip, and it can be adapted so many ways. Leave out the tortilla strips and put it in taco shells instead for LEFTOVER CHICKEN SANTE FE TACOS. Spread the salad in tortillas or wraps for LEFTOVER CHICKEN SANTE FE WRAPS. Wrap it up in tortillas for LEFTOVER CHICKEN SANTA FE BURRITOS. Leave out the lettuce and add the rest to some cooked rice for LEFTOVER SANTE FE CHICKEN, BEANS AND RICE and serve the salad on the side. And so on. You get the idea.
LEFTOVER CHICKEN SANTE FE SALAD
(based on a recipe at food.com)
1/4 c Italian dressing (creamy or regular) (see below if you donít have any)
1/4 c chunky salsa (hot or mild) (added later - use more salsa)
2 T lime juice
2 c cooked chicken
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained
4 c salad mix (lettuce, cabbage and carrots), or shredded lettuce
1/4 c (4 T) sour cream
2 oz shredded Cheddar cheese (1/2 c)
tortilla strips (see below)
Mix the Italian dressing, salsa and lime juice together in a large bowl, big enough to hold the whole salad. Add the chicken, beans, corn and lettuce and toss to coat. Divide the salad on four plates and top each serving with a tablespoon of sour cream and two tablespoons of shredded Cheddar cheese. Sprinkle a few tortilla strips on each serving.
This salad comes to about $5.50, not counting the tortilla strips. I have no idea how much they cost, though I do remember when I bought a big bag of plain corn tortillas for Mom they didnít cost very much. You should be able to get plenty for the salad and stay under $6.00 for the meal, if you make your own.
To make your own TORTILLA STRIPS, cut corn tortillas in strips about 1/2Ē wide and 2Ē long. Place them on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake them at 350 for 6 minutes. Use a spatula to turn them over (donít worry if not all of them get turned over, just try to get most of them), sprinkle them with salt, and bake them another 6 to 9 minutes or until they just start to brown. Remove them from the oven and let cool. Sprinkle with more salt to serve.
You can make tortilla strips in the microwave, too. Cut the corn tortillas into strips like above, and spread them out in a single layer, not touching on a paper towel-lined plate. Nuke them until they are crisp but not burnt. Check them after 30 seconds, though it may take up to a minute and a half. How long it will take depends on your microwave. Sprinkle with salt to serve.
Donít have any ITALIAN DRESSING and donít want to buy a whole bottle when you only need a fourth of a cup? Make your own.
(based on recipes in Quick-Fix Healthy Mix, by Casey Kellar and Nicole Kellar-Munoz, 2009)
1-1/2 t ground pepper
1-1/2 t sugar
1-1/2 t dried parsley
1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil (or other oil)
2 T white vinegar
Mix the pepper, sugar, parsley and salt together in a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Add the oil and vinegar and shake well. Shake again immediately before adding to the salad.
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