Friday, July 30, 2010

Garlic and Citrus Infused Shrimp with Angel Hair, Grilled Asparagus and Sweet Corn

So there was this amazing Italian restaurant called Santo Pietro's that I used to frequent when i lived in Studio City California.  My friends in Cali may remember it.  It was on the corner of La Brea and Ventura.  I worked right across the street at another place called the Daily Grill that got destroyed in the '94 Northridge was eventually rebuilt, but my days of living large in LA were winding down and that effing earthquake was the cherry on the cake.  Anyway...I ordered a pasta dish one night and was amazed to see that pasta did not have to be buried in heavy red or white sauce.  It was a true culinary moment in hindsight.  All i had ever known of Italian cuisine was of course spaghetti with meat sauce and tons of that shake on cheese stuff.  It stuck with me over the years.  This is a take on that dish.  I have jacked it up and made it my own of course.  I used whole wheat angel hair pasta instead of penne.  I have added some crushed pepper flakes to balance the sweet elements and i topped mine with finely diced and seeded tomato.  This is a very "clean" dish.  The flavors all hold their own here.  One trick i will share is grilling the asparagus before chopping it into the dish.  If you par cook it on the grill to soften it you can really just toss it in at the last minute.  

What you will need:

1/2 pound raw white shrimp out of shell ($2.50...on sale at my HEB)
1/2 red onion thinly sliced ($.60)
1 small can of sweet whole kernal corn ($.40)
1/2 pound asparagus grilled and then chopped ($1.87)
1 roma tomato seeds removed and finely diced  ($.30)
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon ($.22)
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 pound of whole wheat Angel Hair pasta (on closeout for $.50)

How to make it happen:

You will want to start by cleaning the shrimp and hitting it with the lemon juice and setting it aside.  I cook off my pasta before i even start the saute.  I like to shock the cooked pasta with cold water to stop it from cooking.  I like my pasta al dente, but my family does we all kinda compromise and go for kind of al dente...LOL.  Al dente, if you are not famaliar with the term, just means a firmer pasta that is not cooked as long as is traditionally the norm.  I let the pasta rest in cold water until i am ready for it.  Slice the garlic really thin and add it to the olive oil on medium heat.  I like to continuously stir the oil and garlic on medium for about ten or so minutes allowing the garlic flavor to infuse the oil.  This is the best way to pick up some huge flavor on the Angel Hair when it is tossed in.  I add the onions first and let them go for about 3 or 4 minutes before tossing in the grilled asparagus...once the asparagus is heated i add the corn and shrimp at the same time.  As you all know...shrimp cooks really fast and the corn heats just fine in that time.  All you have left to do is toss in the pasta.  It is very important the pasta gets tossed into this one...that is how it picks up the great flavor of the olive oil and garlic.  A little salad and some crusty whole wheat baquette and you got yourself one heck of a meal.  I asked the little one what she liked most and she said..."all of it!" there you have much sought after validation for a job well done.  You can rock out this little Italian throwdown for under $7 bucks....fresh and fast.  I will say i paid a bit more for the dish i used to get at Santo Pietro's...but i'm making up for it now.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sweet-Hot Pan Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This one is for my girl Kristi.  She just had a beautiful baby girl...Willow...and she asked me to blog this.  There was a great Martini/Sushi bar in Flagstaff that i used to visit on a regular basis that introduced me to Pan Asian.  It is simply a fusion of flavors, be it Thailand, Japan, China or the Philippines inspiring it...just mix it up.  We had it over a couple of bottles of wine one night a while back...that was a good night.  I did change it up a bit from the original, but that usually happens in our kitchen quite often.  I added a "hot" element to these and went for toasted almonds slivers as opposed to the crispy chow mein noodles to finish it off.  Here the heat from the sriracha marinade gets balanced by the sweet sesame ginger dressing and the cool wrap.  I always thought butter leaf lettuce was the accepted norm, but after a little research i have decided that any substantial leaf lettuce will work just fine.  I chose red leaf this time around, but my favorite would have to be romaine.  This is a very light meal and works equally as well as an appetizer. 

What you will need:

6 lettuce leaves ($.50)
6 chicken strips ($2.50)
I can sliced water chestnuts ($.50)
1 cucumber ($.48)
1 carrot ($.15)
hand full of bean sprouts ($.36)
handfull of slivered almonds ($.38)
1/4 soy sauce
3 tbs sriracha
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Ken's Steakhouse Lite Asian Sesamen Ginger Dressing

How to make it happen:

The chicken needs to marinate in the soy, sriracha and crushed red pepper flakes for a couple of hours.  Chop the chestnuts, carrot and cucumber (seeds removed) pretty fine...nice little chunks.  Add the bean sprouts and the dressing before tossing and allowing to chill in the fridge.  You need the salad to be nice and cold to balance the temp of the chicken when it comes off the grill.  The almonds need to be toasted on the stove top until they are browning and releasing their oil.  Grill the chicken and dice into chunks.  Each leaf of lettuce will get a spoon of the cold salad topped with chunks of chicken and the toasted almonds.  You could get really crazy and throw some grilled and chunked Asian pears into the mix if you wanted to.  There really is no wrong or right with this.  Asian flavors meld really well and often just elevate each other.   If you have never cooked with me a favor and Google it right now.  I hope you like these....seriously one of my favorite things to eat.  Add it all up and you got a great, fun to eat meal with leftovers for...under...five bucks.  Unconventionally Gourmet wouldn't you say? 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Enchiladas con Pollo

Fast and EASY!!!  Absolutely the right choice for a Tuesday dinner.  Clifton hooked this one up for next to nothing.  This shiz had some flavor people.  I'm blogging it because it is completely unconventional and completely gourmet.  Gourmet on an everyday budget.  There are so many calorie cutting ideas in this one it is almost hard to know where to start.  My favorite is the use of the hot broth to soften the tortillas before rolling the enchiladas....very clever and way more flavorful than dipping them in oil.  The traditional Spanish rice has become Spanish couscous.  It could have even been done with brown rice.  These ordinary ingredients make for an extraordinary dish.  This one really works on the strength of the spices used.

What you will need:

6 corn tortillas ($.25)
6 chicken strips ($2.50)
1 cup couscous ($.50)
1 can tomato sauce ($.25)
1/4 cup any mexican cheese ($.40)
1/2 bunch cilantro ($.24)
1/4 chopped onion ($.30)
1 jalepeno


fresh cracked pepper
garlic powder
1/4 tsp comino
2 cloves garlic

How to make it happen:

Ready for this....yes you....the one who is too busy to make a home cooked meal....listen.  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil with everything but the chicken, tortillas and couscous.  Add the chicken and boil until done.  Remove the chicken and allow to cool before shredding.   Use a hand mixer to blend the liquid mixture.  Dip the tortillas into the mixture to soften before rolling with the shredded chicken and placing into a baking dish.  Bring 1 1/2 cup of the liquid to a boil and toss in the couscous...cover and remove from heat.  Pour the remaing sauce mixture over the enchiladas and top with the cheese...cover with foil...bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  You could even add a little non fat sour cream to the chicken if you wanted.  I know your tired, but you just fed a family of four for less than 5 bucks.  We paired this with a little salad...but you could just have easily added black beans for another $.65 or so.  I really love spending time in the kitchen preparing a great meal, but i have just as much respect for quick and easy.  This meal is a great way to avoid the drive thru because your pressed for time and provide a homecooked, nutritious meal for the family.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rosemary Baked Chicken with Carmelized Onion Polenta and a Balsamic Pomegranate Reduction

My HEB had split chicken breast on sale for $1.00 a i picked up a pack.  In hindsight i wish i had picked up like six more.  I thought it was 2 breast and it was actually 3....this is alot of chicken.  I honestly had no idea what i was going to do with it.  I started thinking about it sunday morning and the idea of a baked rosemary chicken popped into my head.  I immediately thought about serving it with polenta.  I love polenta.  I was first exposed to it way back when at Via Fettuccini, a restaurant i waited tables at in Los Angeles.  Polenta is an Italian staple.  You can certainly purchase it premade or you can stick with me and save about $3.75 each time you make it.  A very helpful HEB cooking connection chef came up to me one day in the store and said "i can let you pay 5 bucks for that premade polenta or i can just tell you how my grandmother makes it..." long story short....1 1/2 part liquid to 1 part plain cornmeal.  Polenta, like couscous, will take on the flavor you impart upon it.  So spice it up.  Here we go!!!

What you will need:

3 bone in split chicken breasts ($2.40...on sale of course)
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cup chicken broth ($.50)
1/2 cup nonfat milk
8 cloves garlic ($.15)
1/2 sweet yellow onion ($.60)
1 bag frozen zucchini ($1.18)
4 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese ($.40)
1 cup balsamic pomegranate vinegar ($.50)

How to make it happen:


Carmelize 1/4 of the onion adding the garlic during the last 5 minutes.  Bring the chicken broth and milk to a boil and toss in the onion and garlic.  Slowly whisk in the cornmeal.  You will need to continually stir this as it thickens...mine took about 15-20 minutes and i added a few more pinches of cornmeal.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.  Dump the polenta out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper...once it is into a square shape about 1/2 inch thick.  Put it in the fridge for atleast an hour to cool.  Remove from the fridge and cut into any shape you like.  Rub the polenta with olive oil and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.  Turn it once at the 15 minute mark.

I made a rub of fresh rosemary, minced garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and 2 tbs of the olive oil for the chicken.  I released the skin of the chicken and equally dispersed the rub on all three pieces before covering with the skin.  This went in a dutch oven for an hour and ten minutes at 350 degrees.  I kicked the oven up to 450 an hour in and popped the polenta in.  I took the chicken out, removed the skin and allowed it to rest while the polenta finished up.  I sauteed the zucchini down with the other 1/4 of sliced onion in the remaining olive oil.  The vinegar gets reduced down over a high boil until it reached a thick syrup like consistency.  Perfect to drizzle over the chicken and polenta.  The was a flavor packed meal.  If there is anything to take away from this I would say it is polenta.  This dish is so versatile.  One of my favorite versions is a smooth polenta (not shaped and baked) under roasted vegetables.  This recipe might prove to be more of a challenge, but well worth it.  I love being in the kitchen, escpecially when this is the outcome.  Give it a can do it!!!  This meal cost less than $7 to prepare...and to be perfectly chicken breat fed all three of us.  The little one will be eating good at summer camp the next couple of

Friday, July 23, 2010

Southwestern Roasted Poblano Corn Chowder with Blackened Shrimp

Hey everyone....sorry so long...i'm in this 6 week fitness challenge at work and i am trying to lose a few pounds...and by a few i mean alot....LOL.  This recipe just popped into my head and trust me the flavor combination is sick...and by sick i mean really sick!...I will warn you it is a bit labor intensive, but well worth it.  I told you from the start this blog would be healthy and budget for anyone thinking to themselves "corn chowder....healthy?....heavy cream, butter and white flour...healthy?...sure David...what ever you say....".  I have substituted fat free milk for the heavy cream and instead of doing a traditional white flour and butter roux I have decided to allow the blended elements and a high boil thicken it for me.  I thought about a wheat flour and olive oil roux, but i really am trying to lose a few.  The gorgeous sweet flavor of the corn is seriously elevated by the underlying flavor of my roasted poblano chili pepper.  I thought the spicy blakened shrimp would be a great compliment and hey...the shrimp was on sale at my HEB!  This one works well....really well.  I am using sweet potato in this one because we love sweet potatoes and the creamy texture once it is blended is off the chain.

What you will need:

1 poblano pepper ($.48)
1 sweet yellow onion ($1.10)
2 cans cream corn ($1.20)
4 ears corn on the cob ($1.00)
1 can chicken broth ($.60)
1 pound shrimp ($3.98)
1 sweet potato ($.48)
1/2 quart nonfat or 2% milk ($.59)
4 cloves rough chopped garlic
sea salt (to taste)
fresh cracked pepper (to taste)

How to make it happen:

First things first.  Wrap the corn in foil and pop in the oven on 360 degrees for 40 minutes.  The poblano will go in for about 30 minutes.  Pull the poblano out and insert 2 skewers and then roast it stove top over an open flame to blaken the skin.  Set it aside to cool before peeling and removing the seeds.  Clean the shrimp and coat liberally with any blackening seasoning.  Allow them to hang out and take on some of the spice.  Now for the chowder.....Rough chop the onion and throw it in a pot on medium high heat with a couple teaspoons of olive oil.  Saute the onion to your know i like mine dark for the flavor.  Throw in the garlic and work it in the last 5 minutes of the saute.  Add the chicken broth, roasted poblano and canned corn and let that business simmer for about 20 minutes.  Using a hand mixer...blend all this together right on the stove while it continues to simmer.  I rough chop when i know i am going to be breaking it down with a hand mixer.  Remove the corn from the oven and allow to cool before shaving from the cob.  You can also roast for a few seconds over an open flame if you happen to be entertaining and want to add a little color for a great visual touch.  Add the milk, diced sweet potato and shaved corn as you bring the chowder to a boil.  Contiue to low boil without a lid, stiring frequently to avoid sticking while it thickens up.  Once it thickens to a pretty decent chowder like texture use the hand mixer to break down the sweet potato and shaved corn.  This can simmer on low while you cook them shrimps....Heat the skillet up with some cooking spray until it gets really hot...nothing new here...shrimp cook really a minute on each side.  We just served this up and dropped the shrimp and a bit of the roasted corn in at the last minute.  When its all said and done this one came in at about $9.50 for 10 servings....hmmmmm thats about ninety five cents a serving.  This could easily be done with blackened chicken or way outside the box...spoon onto a shallow plate and serve under a piece of blackened salmon.  If you re-invent this one....let me know so i can try it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Big Fat Greek Chicken Kabobs with Curried Cashew CousCous

I will never forget wandering into a Middle Eastern restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard shortly after moving to California way back in 1987. The smell was amazing...the only problem was that I had grown up in a household who's specialty was a chicken casserole with cream of mushroom soup and a bag of crushed Lay's potato chips. The only thing culturally different I had ever experienced was Mexican Food...and by Mexican food I mean Larry's Mexican Restaurant for my peeps from the berg. I had no idea what to order. I eventually decided on a Gyro and the first bite of the tender herb marinated lamb wrapped in warm pita bread owned me, thus inspiring my long standing love affair with Mediterranean food. It really is my favorite. Tonight i am making a relatively simple chicken kabob with tzatziki and a dynamite curried couscous with cashews, cucumber and dried cranberries.

What you will need:

2 chicken breasts cubed for kebabs ($4.50)
1/2 large red bellbepper cubed for kebabs ($.75)
1 large red onion cubed for kebabs ($1.20)
1 cup couscous ($.50)
1/2 head of cauliflower ($1.50)
3 tbs tzatziki ($.75...this is store bought but could be made)
1 can low sodium chicken broth ($.60)
2 tbs curry powder
1 cup plain greek yogurt ($1.50)
1/2 cucumber ($25)
1 lemon...zest it for the salad($.22)
1/2 cup dried cranberries ($.40)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped and toasted cashews ($.60)
2 tbs olive oil ($.50)
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
How to make it happen:

Cube the chicken and marinate in lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano and 1 tbs olive oil....toss it in the fridge. Bring the chicken broth to a boil with 1 1/2 tbs of curry powder...add the couscous and cover...remove from heat and set aside. Break down the 1/2 cauliflower into to site size pieces and roast in the oven on 425 degrees for 25 minutes. Prep your onions and bellpepper for the skewers. Fluff the couscous with a fork and transfer to a glass bowl...add the diced cucumber, dried cranberries, lemon zest and roasted cauliflower once it cools. Cover and refrigerate. The dressing for the couscous is a combination of the greek yogurt, 2-3 tsps of curry powder, salt, pepper and olive oil to thin it out. Toss this into the couscous and top with the freshly toasted cashews once you are ready to plate your dish. Now your ready to grill. Build your kabobs and place them on a nice medium to high heat grill. The grilling time will vary based on the size of your chicken. I like to plate my kabobs and spoon the tzatziki onto just the chicken. I put together a small traditional greek salad to finish the plate...and because I love feta cheese and you can't go greek without a touch of feta. The only thing missing from this meal is the warm pita bread, but alas i walked out of the grocery store this morning without it. I hope you enjoy this one. It turned out for us to be a great way to expose Cameron to another culture and of course alot of new flavors. This one tallys up to be a bit more than most i have shared, but i'm certain you will find it much cheaper than eating out. This dinner for 4 came in at under $14 bucks....and when you break it down your still at only $3.50 per person. Well worth it in my book.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Baja Fish Tacos

Well...the flavor train left the station about 7:30 tonight and I rode it all the way to the end of the line my friends. Clifton wasn't messing around in the kitchen tonight...boy got down to business. I'm going to keep this post relatively short and sweet in terms of the actual recipe...only because it can be taken in so many different directions. The sky is literally the limit on this one. I thought I would share with you a tradition my friend Jenni shared with me about fish taco night at her house. She likes to cut her fish in strips, coat with crackermeal and pan fry. She quick frys corn tortillas to soften them and then fills them with fish, fresh pico de gallo and a pinch of salt...thats it! Doesn't get much easier. Even better than Jenni's recipe for me is the family tradition that goes with it. This ain't no sit down meal ya'll...the whole family congregates in the kitchen with their favorite beverage and enjoys each others company...all the while eating Jenni's fresh fish tacos as fast as she can make them. I love it! Clifton managed to keep it really simple and slam some flavor at the same time...way to go babe!

What you will need:
3/4 pound fish (we used Orange Roughy...$7.75)
8-10 white corn tortillas ($.40)
1 roma tomato scooped and diced ($.25)
1/4 sweet yellow onion diced ($.25)
2 tbs chopped cilantro
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 egg white
1/4 cup nonfat milk
4 tbs olive oil ($.30)
2 leaves of shredded romaine

How to make it happen:

Clifton opted to cut our fish in strips just like Jenni G's before coating with dry mix, dunking in milk and egg mix and returning to dredge once more in the dry mix. He lightly pan fried the fish in the hot olive oil about 3-4 minutes per side and then set aside while he made the fresh pico de gallo by combining the onion, tomato and cilatro. He heated our tortillas over an open flame on the stove and tossed them into a warmer. The only liberty i took was adding a generous splash of aged balsamic before gettin' down on a taco. Clifton and Cameron hit their's with sliced jalepenos cuz they likes 'em spicy! This was definately enough to feed atleast five people. I hated throwing a little fish away, but i have a real thing about leftover fish. So, it doesn't matter how you make them...just get in the kitchen with the family and make them.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Szechuan Crispy Chicken Salad

What a long week....almost there...another entree salad tonight...quick and easy! The thing i love most about preparing chicken this way is teaching the little one that it is possible to make a healthy crispy chicken nugget. I actually saw this technique done by that naked chef guy...Jamie Oliver. I have made it my own by jacking up the breading on the chicken with a ton of spice. If your not in the mood to have this awesome chicken over a salad i would definately suggest pairing it with sliced baked sweet potatoes lightly dusted with a little cinnamon to bring out the earthy taste of the sweet potato. This salad was quick, different and actually left our daughter asking for seconds....of a salad....success!!!!!! The best part is 4 chicken strips was more than enough for all three salads and leftovers for Cam's lunch tomorrow.

What you will need:

4 chicken strips ($2.75)
1 egg white
1 1/2 heads romaine hearts ($1.50)
1 roma tomato ($.25)
1 cucumber ($.48)
1 can water chestnuts ($.50)
1 can mandarin oranges ($.50)
1 handful of chow mein noodles or crispy wonton ($.25-$.50)
1 cup whole wheat flower
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 tbs olive oil ($.30)
1/4 cup Ken's sesame ginger dressing (again...this was free using coupon)

How to make it happen:

I started this one by slicing the chicken down to popcorn like bites and marinating in a tbs of the dressing. I mixed all of the dry ingredients together and set aside. I chopped the lettuce, tomato and cucumber and threw in the oranges and water chestnuts before slipping into the fridge to cool while i cooked the chicken. I like to dredge my chicken in the dry mix before dipping in the egg white and returning to the dry mix. I heat the oil up to a medium heat before adding the chicken. I like to fry on one side, flip and then add a lid to lock in some moisture. I can't give you a real time to cook this....just keep an eye on it and brown it to your liking. Once you remove the lid you can crisp it up to your liking as well. The pan is going to dry out...but thats much better than saturating the chicken under oil. Let the chicken chill on a paper towel while you toss the salad with the dressing. I like to plate the salad before adding the chicken and the chow mein noodles or crispy wonton. That my friends is one tasty take on a Szechuan Chicken salad that will feed four for under 7 bucks...holla!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Spaghetti with Goat Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Turkey Meatballs

I love making meatballs...the only problem is that they usaully turn out a bit light on flavor. I have tried mixing the turkey with sauteed onions and garlic and tons of spice and I always seem to end up with boring meatballs. I took a completely different approach with this dish and I am glad to say it freakin' worked...well. I jacked these balls up with some spinach and goat cheese. The creamy goat cheese worked so well with the meatballs...just left me looking forward to the next bite.

What you will need:

1 lb ground turkery meat ($2.49)
1 lb thin wheat spaghetti ($1.25)
1/4 sweet yellow onion chopped ($.20)
4 cloves garlic chopped ($.10)
1/2 bag spinach ($1.20)
1 can Huntz roasted garlic and onion spaghetti sauce ($.98)
2 oz herbed goat cheese ($1.50)
1/2 cup bread crumbs ($.20)
1 tsp sriracha
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.
1 egg white

How to make it happen:

The first thing I do is carmelize the onion down until it starts taking on a good dark color. I throw the garlic in and continue on for about two minutes before adding the spinach. I let the spinach wilt down and toss it a couple of times with the onion and garlic before removing it from the heat to cool slightly. I like to open the sauce and get it going on a low heat before
moving on. The only thing i do to the sauce is kick it up a bit with the crushed red pepper flakes. I mix the ground turkey with with the bread crumbs, sriracha, salt egg white and then set aside. I use a piece of cheese cloth or a clean kitchen towel to ring out the liquid from the spinach and onions before mashing in the goat cheese. I seperate the turkey into 8 meatballs and then use a tsp to press a crater into each one. I spoon in about 1/2 teaspoon of the goat cheese and spinach mixture into each meatball before very carefully closing them around the filling and reshaping the meatballs. These should bake in the oven at 350 degrees under foil. Remove the foil and continue baking another 15 minutes to brown. This is a great time to get your pasta going. I like mine al dente, but i am not even here trying to tell you how to cook Remove the meatballs from the oven and drain off any excess liquid before covering with the spaghetti sauce. Place the meatballs back in the oven and turn off the heat. Once your pasta is done drain and rinse. This was definately a different take on meatballs and i can't wait to experiment with this one. This particular recipe will feed four and it looks like i came in around eight bucks or $2.00 a portion.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Soups On! Harvest Vegetable & Wild Rice

Hey everyone....let's talk soup. I love making soup. Its also a fantastic way to stretch a buck. A big pot of soup on Sunday provides delicious and nutritional lunches for the upcoming week. If you don't feel like having soup for lunch everyday just freeze half and you'll always have a quick go to when your pinched for time. The soup I made today is a Harvest Vegetable and Wild Rice. The base for my broth soups never changes, but where I go from there is always open to interpretation. This one turned out to be super easy, super tasty and crazy cheap.

What you will need:

1 medium sweet yellow onion ($.75)
1 tbs olive oil
3 cups low sodium chicken broth ($1.00)
4 cloves garlic ($.10)
2 can tomato sauce ($1.00)
1 bag frozen soup vegetables ($1.15)
1 bag frozen cauliflower and broccoli ($1.15)
1 box long grain wild rice with seasoning packet ($1.75)
1/2 cup pearl barley ($.30)
1 tbs sriracha
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
4-6 cups water

How to make it happen:

I start by chopping the onion and getting it going in the hot olive oil. I like to rough chop the garlic for this soup so you can really taste it on your spoon. I let my onion go for about 15 minutes because i love the flavor that comes once it starts to really carmelize. I throw the garlic in for the last couple of minutes of the saute. Add the chicken broth, water, tomato sauce and all your spice including the spice packet in the wild rice. Bring this to a boil and add the rice and barley. Drop the heat down to medium and give the rice and barley about 25 minutes to do their thing. Add the frozen vegetables and simmer another half hour of so. The sriracha and crushed pepper flakes really deepen the flavor in this soup without over heating it. I'm pretty pleased with this one and will be adding it to my list of everyday recipes. It truly is a budget friendly recipe. A weeks worth of lunches for the family for under $8. Try it and if you improve upon it...please let me know so i can give it a shot.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mashed "Faux"tatoes

Well we kept it really simple tonight and opted for a real simple salad. Nothing to really take pictures of and, with that being said....I thought I would share a really awesome side dish with you. We had mashed "faux"tatoes (as i like to call them) for the first time at a friends house with lamb and peas. I totally thought they were potatoes. I had no idea i was consuming a big ole pile of cauliflower. Our friend explained how she had broken down and boiled a head of cauliflower before mixing it in a processor with butter and spices. Made perfect sense to me. I researched it and found a prep method that i have really made my own. This method calls for the cauliflower to be slow baked in a covered dish for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. We have tried this a couple of ways...once we baked it down with an apple and finished it off in the processor with creamed horseradish, salt and fresh cracked pepper. My favorite seems to be baking it down with a whole sliced sweet yellow onion and 3 of 4 cloves of garlic. We substitute olive oil for butter in the processor and of course add salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. The best part about this dish is that it is the best way we have ever found to introduce a new vegetable to Cameron. She is really good about trying anything once, but this one has actually become one of her favorites. This is a great example of doing it once by the book and then making it your own. Give it a can do it...and please, please...share your tasty "faux"tato interpretations.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Herb Crusted Pork Loin with a Sweet Potato and Pear Compote

Well tonights undertaking was a bit more labor intensive than most and cost a couple more bucks. The best part of working with a roast is knowing it can be repurposed the next couple of nights into less expensive dishes. I love working with pork because it pairs well with sweeter elements. I am pairing this one with a sweet potato and pear compote. I know most people associate the word compote with a sweet fruity dessert, but trust me if it can be done sweet it can also be done savory. I am taking this one from dessert to side dish. It can also be done with an apple or as a dynamite Holiday side dish with apples, cranberries and pecans.

What you will need:
2-4 lb pork loin roast (mine was 2 lbs $6.52)
1 onion ($1.14)
1 sweet potato ($.64)
1 pear ($.86)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 balsamic ($.10)

1 handful of baby bellas ($.75)

Herb Crust:

2 tsp fresh rosemary (from the garden)
2 tsp fresh basil (from the garden)
4 cloves minced garlic ($.12)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp seasalt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
Mix together and set aside.

How to make it happen:

I started today by cubing the sweet potato and pear in equal chunks to ensure proper baking. I tossed the together in a covered baking dish and sprinkled them with the cinnamon. I cubed the butter and placed it on top. The butter will melt down and offer the moisture the dish will need. This will go in the oven alongside the roast for the last 35 minutes of baking. The roast needs to be hand rubbed with the just want to make sure the crust in evenly dispursed over the roast. Preheat a dutch oven with the tbs of olive oil...make sure it is nice and hot. You will want to sear the roast on all sides to lock in the fastastic flavor of the herbed crust. Put the sliced onion in the dutch oven all around the roast and cover. This will roast in the over on 475 degrees for 30 minutes....reduce the oven temp to 425 degrees and continue roasting for another hour....don't forget to pop the compote in the oven for the last 35 minutes. The roast should come out of the oven and rest for about 20 minutes. The internal temp shoud be 155 degrees. It will continue to cook and lock in the natural juices of the meat. Bring the balsamic and mushrooms up to a boil in a small saucepan while the roast is resting. Stir the balsamic frequently as it thickens up....throw the onions from the roast in at the last minute and remove it from the heat. This glaze will add one powerful punch of flavor to the pork. I will serve this dish with peas and carrots to round out the meal. That is how you feed a family of four a gourmet meal for under ten bucks! Clifton will be using the leftover pork tomorrow for a pork carnita dish. I find if we have plan in place to use the leftovers we are less likely to be scraping them into the garbage disposal a week later...i mean who can afford that?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Asian Sesame Chicken Salad

A really popular new addition to the weekly menu at our house is the entree salad. We have salad with every meal, but quite often we take it a step further and build a bigger better salad and enjoy that for dinner. Tonight its an Asian Sesame Chicken Salad. Summer is such a great time for salad...a satisfying meal that doesn't leave you in a food coma for the rest of the night and costs very little to prepare. The best part is the creativity you can draw upon in designing the perfect salad. I love going to the grocery store and stocking up on all sorts of fresh vegetables and salad fixin's with no idea how they are all going to come together. One staple on my list is Mann's Romaine Hearts. Romaine is an awesome base to any good hearty salad. These also work great for lettuce wraps...but more on that later. Mann's offers a package of three heads of Romaine hearts for $2.97. I stick with Ken's Asian Sesame dressing most of the time. It has great flavor and my grocery store quite often gives it away free via coupon when i buy a bag of packaged spinach.

What you will need:

1 head romaine lettuce hearts ($.99)
1 chicken breast ($2.00)
1 roma tomato ($.30)
1/2 cucumber ($.22)
1 handful baby carrots cut into sticks ($.25)
1 can water chestnuts ($.50)
1 can mandarin oranges ($.50)
1 handful baby bellas ($.75)
Sprinkle of chow mein noodles ($.40)
7 tbs Asian sesame dressing (free...this time around)

How to make it happen:

I start by pounding out a chicken breast and letting it marinate in a small bag with 1 tbs of the Asian sesame ginger can kick it up a notch by adding a tbs srirache. I let it marinate for about a half hour or so...the flavor sticks when you grill it. Once i have the chicken on i turn my attention to the salad. I first open and dump the oranges and chestnuts into a strainer to drain. I like to chop my lettuce pretty thin on this one, but it really doesn't matter. The tomato and cucumber i like to chop chunky so you really get that flavor in the salad. The baby bellas can be cut in half or even left as whole slices depending on the texture you prefer. All of the ingredients excluding the chicken and chow mein noodles go in a big bowl and get tossed together. I like to add the chicken and chow mein noodles once the salad is plated. This is one flavor infused salad that will feed four for around $6.00 If you have more than four to feed simply add another head of romaine for a buck. The best Asian salad I ever had was in Los Angeles at a place called Chin-Chin. I remember way back in the day paying more than 6 bucks for a single portion of salad...well as they say hind sight is 20/20. This is a really simple recipe that totally leaves room for personal interpretation....don't be can do it!


Put a 1/4 cup of dressing in a saucepan and bring it up to a boil, constantly stirring, for about three minutes as it begins to thicken. Reduce heat for another two minutes and allow it to thicken further. Once cooled drizzle over the salad. I love this technique. The end result really sticks to the salad as opposed to pooling on the plate underneath.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Gourmet Grilled Rosemary Chicken Quiche

Well I've heard said before that "real men don't eat quiche"...well they haven't tried mine. Quiche is a great way to stretch a buck...and that is exactly what we all seem to be doing these days. A nine inch deep dish pie crust will yield enough slices to feed a family of 6 paired with a side salad or fresh fruit. I'm finding salad preparation is a great way to actually get our daughter away from TV and the DS and into the kitchen learning...and what another great way to extend family time. A family of four can enjoy this and guess what? The kids lunches are good to go. I would much rather our daughter have a wholesome home cooked lunch at school rather than a choice of fried, fried or fried. The Quiche thats in the oven now as I blog is an egg white Quiche with rosemary grilled chicken, portabella mushrooms, sauteed onion and herbed goat cheese.

What you will need:

1 chicken breast ($2.00)
1 handful of sliced baby bellas ($.75)
1/2 sweet yellow onion ($.55)
1 9" deep dish pie shell ($.80)
2 oz herbed goat cheese ($1.50)
16 oz egg whites ($1.75)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary (we grow it in the garden)
1/2 lemon ($.11)
1 tbs EVOO

How to make it happen:

Hit the chicken breast with a little olive oil and lemon juice. Season both sides with salt and fresh cracked pepper. I like to slow grill mine under cover to hold in the moisture. While the chicken is grilling sautee up the onion. An onion can be sauteed between 5 and 20 minutes depending on how you like it. I find the flavor really intensifies the longer i I'm right at 20 minutes on mine...i like them browned. Do a slight chop on the mushroom slices and lay them out on a small plate. Cover the mushrooms with the sauteed onion. The heat of the onions will bring out the flavor of the portabella without risking over sauteeing in a pan. Once the chicken is done allow it to cool before chopping. I like to throw my goat cheese in the freezer while i do the rest of the prep work. It is much easier to cube with a slight chill on it. Once everything is ready to go I simply layer it into the pie shell. Pour the egg whites over the gourmet ingredients until you reach the top of the pie shell. I topped this one with four fresh basil leaves from the garden. The Quiche should bake between 350 and 360 degrees for 45 minutes. I drop the temp to 250 degrees and usually leave it in another 5-10 minutes. You can use the baking time to make that fresh salad with the kids. So, there you have it a healthy, gourmet meal that will feed a family of six for around $9.00 when you add in the salad. I'm not completely sure how much it would cost for a family of six to eat out, but i'm pretty sure it would be much more than nine bucks! Remember....yes you can!