Monday, April 25, 2011

Okie dokie, artichokie

Artichoke with Vinaigrette

Sometimes, all I want for dinner is an artichoke. That's it. Mom gave me a beaaauuutiful artichoke, so that was dinner. And it was fantastic! I just love the process of eating the artichoke like I love the process of doing a tequila shot (minus the hangover the next day). I love pulling the leaves off, dipping it in the vinaigrette, scraping off the yummy flesh with my teeth. I remember a summer night with my parents where we sat at the Tiki Hut (my dad's "man-cave") and just munched on a couple of artichokes with vinaigrette and called it a night. It was perfect for a hot summer evening when it's too hot to really cook or eat anything heavy.

This recipe has been in the family for a couple of generations, so you know it's a good one.

1) Cut off the tip of the artichoke and the bottom. Snip the tip of each leaf with a pair of kitchen shears.

2) Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and drop in the artichoke with a couple slices of lemon. Let the artichoke boil for 30-45 minutes. The artichoke is done when you can stick a fork in the heart (from the bottom) and it comes out easily. I recommend a fork rather than a sharp knife because a knife will almost always come out easily, even if it isn't fully cooked.

3) Meanwhile, combine a finely chopped shallot and 1/3c finely chopped parsley in a bowl. (I used a food processor to chop the parsley, but I don't recommend it) Add 1/2-1 tsp. dijon mustard, or enough to make a mush (yes, a mush). Slowly drizzle about 3/4c EVOO into the mush, whisking. Add wine vinegar, starting with 2 Tbsp., adding more as needed. Of course, S&P to taste.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

BBQ Chicken Pizza

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Once again, I'm trying to work with that college budget of $0, so I'm using up what I already have. I had some dough in my refrigerator from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, marinara sauce, and BBQ sauce, so I thought I'd make some pizza. I used to work at Cosí and one of our seasonal items was a BBQ chicken pizza. I kept telling everyone how it was soooo gooooood and they should definitely try it. One day it hit me: I had never myself tasted the pizza. It just smelled so good coming out of the oven that I thought I had tried it. Anyhow, I finally made one and I can confirm that BBQ Chicken Pizza is delicious.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

1) Preheat the oven to 550℉ with a pizza stone on one of the racks. (500℉ will work, too, if your oven doesn't go to 550℉- just cook it a bit longer)

2) Using a grapefruit-sized hunk of dough, create a ball by using the palms of your hands to smooth the dough from the top, pulling toward the bottom. Flatten the dough, using your fingertips, loose fists and/or a rolling pin.

3) Coat a pizza peel or edgeless cookie sheet with cornmeal. Set the flattened pizza dough on top. Remove any excess cornmeal by shaking or brushing with pastry brush.

4) Combine marinara sauce and BBQ sauce about 1:1. Spread some on the pizza dough, being careful not to over-sauce. Sprinkle cheese, like gouda or mozarrella. Add some cooked chicken breast, cubed. Sprinkle some red onion pieces on top.

5) Slide pizza onto the pizza stone with a sliding/flicking motion. Cook for 5-8 min. Check the pizza's progress. Cook another 5 minutes, if needed, until it looks delicious and the crust is golden.

P.S. Sorry about the not-so-good picture. End of the semester makes me start using my phone to take pictures. :/

Mom's BBQ Sauce

Mom's BBQ Sauce

This is my mom's BBQ sauce. You want to make this, seriously. Most people like to go out to eat for their birthday. All I want is barbecue ribs with this sauce. That's it. Corn on the cob and potato salad and watermelon are nice sides (I have a summer birthday), but as long as there are barbecue ribs with Mom's BBQ sauce, I will have a happy birthday. Brother face came home the other night and when I told him I was making barbecue sauce he perked up and said with a little twinkle in his eye, "the kind Mom makes?"
Alright, fine. She found the recipe in an old edition of The Joy of Cooking. It was the first edition she ever bought. It was spiral bound and fast-forward 20-some years and it's falling apart. She bought a new one, but it didn't have the same recipe! Tragic, I know. But we've kept our fists clenched around this recipe. Even though it's so good it should be kept Top Secret, I'm a firm believer that good things should be shared, so I'll let you guys in on the secret...

(Note: Chili sauce usually comes in 12 oz. containers, so it's easier to make 1.5x the recipe and have some leftover- it freezes well)

Mom's BBQ Sauce

Makes about 2 cups
1) Sauté until brown 1/4 c. chopped onion in 1 Tbsp. drippings (i.e., rendered bacon fat) or butter.

2) Add and simmer for 20 minutes:
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 2 Tbsp. vinegar (cider vinegar is good)
  • 1 Tbsp. woresterchire sauce
  • 1/4c. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 c. chili sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. yellow mustard
Simple, right?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Brother's Birthday Dinner

Roasted Chicken

Brother's birthday was on Thursday and I decided to make a nice dinner for him to enjoy when he got back from the big scary law library. I had been planning to bake him cookies (chocolate chip, of course), so dessert was covered. This also happened to be the day that I realized I had $0 left for groceries, soooo I had to be a little frugal. Hence...

...roasted chicken! So versatile! Sure, you can buy a rotisserie chicken at your supermarket for $5 or so, but it's much more economical to roast a chicken yourself. Granted, if you're low on time, it's quicker to just get one that's already made. Roasting a chicken, though, takes about 10 minutes of prep work and then you just pop that baby in the oven. Really!

Roasted Chicken

1) Preheat oven to 400℉ if using a non-glass baking dish or roasting pan. Preheat to 350℉ if using a glass pan.
2) Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
3) Place in a foil-lined roasting pan or baking dish. Stuff the chicken with a quartered onion, lemon slices, fresh herbs, or whatever you have.
4) Rub with butter and season with Seasoned Salt and black pepper on the inside and outside.
5) Roast the chicken about 15 minutes per pound. Use a meat thermometer to check the chicken.

So what do you do once you've roasted that chicken?
Well, you could eat it as is with a side dish of some sort. You could serve it with BBQ sauce. Save the leftovers to add some protein to a salad, make chicken salad, a BBQ chicken sandwich, add some to your chicken-flavored Top Ramen. :)

Next on the blog line-up... Mom's BBQ sauce. Keep an eye out for it!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Improv Pantry Pasta

Improv Pantry Pasta

So I spent all my grocery money for this month, so I've really been trying to use that I already have. I made this pasta entirely out of things that I already had around the house. I mean, you should always have pasta in the pantry because you can put almost anything in it. Remember this? This marinara sauce has been super handy! Seriously. It turned into another pasta, chicken parmesan, this pasta, and a barbecue chicken pizza (more on that later!).
The dish on this pasta is basically just that I looked in the cupboard, the fridge, and the freezer to see what I had to work with. I found marinara, frozen artichokes, onion, angel hair pasta, baby spinach, parmesan cheese... I actually wasn't so sure how this all would turn out, but the flavors came together really well! Everything about this recipe is improvised, so there really aren't any measurements. Just use what you have and how much you want.

Improv Pantry Pasta

1) Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add a little butter and/or EVOO. Add sliced onion. Let them caramelize (ie: don't move them around to much- it's a fine balance to leave them long enough to caramelize, but not so long they burn). Add a little salt at the end.

2) Boil water, salt it well, and cook some angel hair pasta (or whatever you have). Heat some marinara sauce in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave.

3) Defrost frozen artichokes in the microwave.

4) Roughly chop baby spinach a little bit (don't overdo it!).

5) When the onions are a nice golden color, remove from the pan. Add a little more oil and the artichokes. Let them brown, stirring occasionally.

6) Add the cooked pasta, onions, marinara sauce (a little bit at a time), and baby spinach. Let the spinach wilt a little bit and add sauce to taste. Shave a little parmesan cheese over the top (try using a vegetable peeler).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup update

Remember this?

I froze the leftovers of the Chicken and Wild Rice soup, but my mom warned me that the rice might disintegrate in the thawing process. Well, the rice may have fallen apart a little bit, but still pretty darn good! My advice, make the soup, freeze the leftovers, thaw it when you need a quick lunch on a rainy day.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Taking my pantry for all it's worth...

Guess who spent all of April's grocery money before April even began...

This is not something I'm proud of. I now have a few tasks to accomplish:
1) Figure out how I'll pay for groceries this month.
2) Spend as little as possible on groceries this month.
3) Remedy my spending habits.
4) Use what I have as much as possible.

My first tactic is going to be to identify the cheap foods. Lots of veggies are cheap, like lettuce and carrots. Carrots make a great snack. Especially with dip! Bananas are also very cheap. You can get like 6 bananas for about $1. Pasta and rice are pretty cheap considering how much you can get out of them. By the end of this month, I expect to have scoured the grocery store for the cheapest products they have.

The foods between your knee caps and your eyeballs at the grocery store are the most expensive. Check out the top and bottom shelves for the cheap foods. Seriously. Get down on those hands and knees and crawl around a little if you have to!

You know those fliers at the front when you walk into the supermarket? They put those there to tell you what's on sale in the store. (Yes, this was a revelation I had today) Take a look through that thing to get a feel for what's cheap that week and find inspiration for upcoming meals.

Keep an eye out for more updates on how to eat cheap, use what you already have, and do minimal spending!