Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chicken Fried Rice

Hey Internet! My friend, KG, inspired my recipe choice this week…truly! KG was thinking about fried rice dishes and what she could do to make them both health-ful and do it frugally. As the dish implies, most of the ingredients are typically fried some way…so doing a healthy makeover on this ubiquitous meal is wonderful!

Here’s her email to me, edited to maintain her privacy:

“… so I was thinking about J’s fried rice dish she's bringing to [the] pot luck on Sunday. And eventually I started formulating recipes since that's what I day dream about and I thought of you and your blog! Your blog as lots of recipes for cheap and I came up with a fried rice one! I don't know if you have one or not, but this one is packed with protein and veggies. I prefer more ‘stuff’ than rice! My recipes don't include measurements (I'm a cook not a baker!), so taste as you go along. I'm trying it out tonight, so if it’s bad I'll email right away and tell you to tear it from your recipe book!

Using just enough sesame oil to coat the pan, stir fry [your] veggies of choice, garlic, ginger, touch of cumin, [and] white pepper. (When I need veggies I get them off the salad bar at the grocery. They're inexpensive, pretty fresh, and I don't waste anything.)
Add eggs and finely scramble (2-3 eggs)
Add Morning Star Meal Starter "ground beef"
Add cooked brown rice with soy sauce to heat through.

Dish out and enjoy. (Hopefully)

I just wanted to share because assuming the most expensive thing is the Morning Star, and assuming you have spices on hand, I think it’s about $3.50 per serving. And I’m excited that someone else is looking for cheap recipes!”

That was so awesome of her to think of me and my blog! I made the fried rice last night and it turned out great!

Changes that I made: 1) I used chicken instead of Morning Star because I already the cooked chicken on hand, see the previous post . 2) I forgot to add eggs. I even bought eggs to put into this recipe! Oops! I might add them in later, as I have method for making eggs for fried rice that I learned from my mom. There’s no secret recipe, but there is a way to get the “chiffonnade” of the eggs. It’s more time consuming than just scrambling them but I think it makes the eggs taste better…or maybe it’s because it reminds me of my mother! 3) I used frozen veggies (corn and peas), fresh carrots (a few “leftovers” from last week), and fresh whole mushrooms, quartered. I don’t think that there’s a salad bar at the Super Wal-Mart…if there was, I forgot to look for it… I will probably use Morning Star “ground beef” crumbles in a future edition of fried rice because they really do taste like ground beef…and that’s coming from a definite meat eater. 4) I forgot the sesame oil…I blame my shoddy memory once again. Sesame oil (or sesame seeds) would be an outstanding addition to this dish. 5) Not really a change but a note about the spices I used. I happen to have a large collection of dried spices which drives down the costs of this recipe considerably. Fried rice is the casserole of the Asian world...just use what you have.

I wanted to add some bean sprouts but there weren’t any at the grocery store…bummer. My mother also traditionally adds cooked Chinese Sausage…which tastes divine, but doing so also increases the fat content considerably. Sigh. Decided to leave it out.

I have somehow misplaced my camera…I will add a picture if I find it before I eat all of the fried rice!


Chicken Fried Rice

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
¼ cup water
¾ cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
8oz whole mushroom, washed, and cut into quarters
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
½ tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground red pepper, or to taste
½ tsp dried basil
½ ground dried coriander
½ tsp oyster sauce. May also substitute plum sauce or hoisin sauce or even honey.
½ tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp dried onion (or 1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh chopped onion. I used dried because I forgot to chop the real onion that I had!)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced. Adjust amount to taste.
1 cup cooked white rice, preferably a day old
1 cup cooked brown rice, preferably a day old
Splash of apple cider vinegar. Rice wine vinegar would also work well…might even be better!
½ tsp soy sauce

Directions:
1) Heat a large, non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the carrots and the water. The water should sizzle slightly. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium low. Then add the frozen peas and corn. Stir to mix the veggies. Cook for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms and stir to mix the vegetables together. Add another splash of water if needed so that the veggies on the bottom of the pan don’t stick. Cover the pan and cook until the mushrooms have reached a desired “done” consistency; about another 3-5 minutes.
2) Add the chicken and stir to mix everything. Mix in the sea salt, ground cumin, ground red pepper, dried basil, dried coriander, oyster sauce, ginger, and garlic cloves. Allow the chicken to warm through, 1-3 minutes more.
3) Mix in both the white rice and the brown rice. Add the splash of the vinegar, about ½- 1 tsp, then the soy sauce. Mix well and cover the pan, allowing everything to heat through. About another 3-5 minutes. Then dish out and enjoy!


Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving

Calories 217.3 Total Fat 1.8 g Saturated Fat 0.4 g Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g Monounsaturated Fat 0.5 g Cholesterol 45.6 mg Sodium 314.3 mg Potassium 502.9 mg Total Carbohydrate 28.1 g Dietary Fiber 3.4 g Sugars 3.8 g Protein 22.4 g

Friday, April 24, 2009

Simple Roast Chicken

Click here to see the recipe at EatingWell.com

Okay, as promised earlier this week, a post about my meals from this week. I actually didn’t eat much of what I made…yet. I went to a potluck dinner on Sunday night and took home lots of leftovers. I just finished all of the leftovers yesterday!

I chose the roast chicken recipe in the interest of time. Normally, I would carve and debone the chicken then use the chicken pieces in some recipe. However, I knew that I had to work late on Monday night so that option was out. I remembered this recipe and pulled it out…it looked easy enough and there wasn’t a lot of prep work involved. I cooked the chicken Tuesday night and then stuck it in the fridge until I ran out of leftovers. This was the first time I’ve ever made a whole roast chicken. It really was simple! The hardest part for me was figuring out how to tie down the wings. The result wasn’t pretty…but it worked. I forgot to take a picture of it but think “The Mummy.” Just kidding!

I didn’t make that many changes to the recipe…I used a red onion instead of white and dried tarragon and dried thyme because that’s what I had on hand. I eyeballed the amounts of the dried spices but I kept it small, as the original recipe only calls for three sprigs of each. I probably used ¼ -1/2 tsp of each. All of the herbs and such are stuffed into the center cavity of the chicken. I also used an oil sprayer, like this one (NAYY), to mist the chicken with the oil.
The chicken turned out pretty well! It was a pleasing brown color and the flavor was delightful. To be honest, I’m not sure how much a difference the onion and garlic made to the flavor…I’m not picking up any onion or garlic flavor as I’m eating the chicken. I might not bother with stuffing the chicken the next time I roast a bird. I did notice that there was a lot of fat the pooled under the skin of the bird, so I used a fork to prick the skin all over and then propped the chicken upright to let it drain. Wow. There was a lot of fat/juices that drained out! I want to say that I collected the juices in a small bowl, refrigerated it, then skimmed off the fat. I didn’t. I want to do that next time…and use it for…something. I DID remove all of the skin and subcutaneous fat from the bird. I also confess to sampling the crispy yummy skin before I threw it out…oh, it was SO GOOD. Too good. I’m glad I threw it out. I wouldn’t been able to resist the temptation otherwise!

I still need to carve and debone the chicken. I will confess that I already ate the drumsticks. That was lunch today. Drumsticks are my favorite part…I guess you just never out grow some things! I’m going to keep the bones and small bits of meat to make chicken stock. I have the bones of another chicken in the freezer, so maybe I’ll make that stock in the next couple of weeks.

Last but not least, I thought it would be helpful to post my weekly grocery receipt. This receipt is from last Sunday and I’ll give myself kudos…I did pretty well. I’m still shopping at the Super-Walmart. See this post about my Wal-Mart opinions. Alas, I’m still keeping a tight grip on my finances and Wal-Mart is the best way to keep on that budget.

This week’s expeditures:
1) Store brand vinegar, $0.83
2) Green cabbage, $1.27, ( $0.50/lb)
3) Cilantro, $0.84
4) Red onion, $0.71, ($1/lb)
5) Store brand dried lentils, $0.94
6) 1 lb of bagged carrots, $0.88
7) Hormel Canned Chicken, $1.36
8) Store Brand Canned Chicken, $2.08
9) Yellow onion, $0.69, ($0.68/lb)

Total, including tax: $9.79. The majority of the ingredients was for the Vietnamese Chicken Salad that I brought to a potluck…and I ate the leftovers for the next three days. I’ll blog about the recipe in the future. It’s super easy and really healthy. The only thing that went into the roast chicken was ¾ of the red onion (the rest went into the Vietnamese dish). I already had the other necessary ingredients for the roast chicken on hand.

If you make the roast chicken, I hope that you enjoy it!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Avocado Salad




Today's post is an actually an old entry (From January, 2009) that I never put on the blog because my previous my previous internet connection was so slow running hamsters could beat it. I was smart enough (or Type-A-enough) to save it. I am have a ton of housework to do today so writing has to wait until later this week. Which is actually good for my readers, since there will be two entries this week. That's a 100% increase :) Enjoy!

Oh, avocado, how I love thee. Those glorious fruits were on sale this past weekend, because of the Superbowl. So I bought 5 Haas (California) avocados and made up the Avocado Salsa that I found on EatingWell.Com. Which, by the way, has become my new favorite site for healthy n' tasty recipes. Those folks know what they are doing. As I was looking over the recipe and the ingredients, I thought that chopped red bell pepper and a bit of onion would be good additions (they were). I also did not have any limes one hand, nor did I want to buy any, so I just used a store brand raspbeery vinagrette. With the chunky cut veggies/fruit sitting in the bowl, it occurred to me that this was more of a salad than a salsa (which was a bit of a conundrum, because I had purchased a 1 lb bag of corn tortillas...I'll find a use for them eventually!). I let all of the flavors blend for about an hour and brought it the all-girls Superbowl party I was attending. I'm proud to say that the salad was a total hit! Yippee! I had a small bowl of leftovers this evening (that's all that was left) and I thought the flavor would be perked up by a touch of ginger...maybe 1/2-1 tsp and a splash of lemon juice. I didn't add either because I finished up the leftovers too quickly :)

Avocodos are bit of a pain in the neck to prepare, but totally worth it. Using a sharp knife, slice the fruit in half lengthwise, the through the skin and all of the soft flesh, all they way to the seed and stop at the seed. You'll never cut through it. Take each half in hand and twist your hands away from each other. This loosens the flesh away from the seed and one half will come away. On the half that is seed-less, run a large spoon between the skin and the soft flesh, all the way around the "rim," then start doing the same over the entire avocado halft. The flesh will eventually sort of pop out of the little skin. You'll get some avocado all over your hands. I won't tell if you lick them clean. For the other half, take a smaller spoon to loosen the remaining flesh from the seed, running it all around the seed, then kind of pop the seed out. Then use the large spoon as above. Use the knife to slice the avocado flesh into a rough chop.

Here's the recipe.

Avocado Salad, inspired by EatingWell.com
Click HERE for a picture of the salad.
Serves: 8

5 Haas avocados, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 tomato, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried cilantro, or to taste
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded, roughly chopped
1/2-1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp diced onions
raspberry vinaigrette, to taste

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for 30 minutes to chill.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 247.9 Total Fat 18.1 g Saturated Fat 2.4 g Polyunsaturated Fat 2.1 g Monounsaturated Fat 10.7 g Cholesterol 0.0 mg Sodium 359.8 mg Potassium 727.4 mg Total Carbohydrate 22.8 g Dietary Fiber 8.9 g Sugars 4.5 g Protein 3.5 g

Monday, April 13, 2009

Black Bean Vegetable Soup

I love black bean soup. This is the first time I've ever made it. The first time I ever ate it was at a hole-in-the-wall, authentic Cuban restaurant in Tampa, FL. Of course, I cannot recall the name of the restaurant now but I have fond memories of their pressed Cuban sandwiches, and of course, this soup. I actually got it at the recommendation of the waiter and boy, was I glad. It was black beans in an inky black broth ladled over white rice. I'm sure there was more to it because the flavor, the flavor was outstanding. I never knew a vegetarian dish could be so amazing. I had this soup long before I was really cooking for myself. And I never had any desire to replicate this soup at home because I knew I wouldn't be able to...

I stumbled upon this week's featured recipe in my search for ways to utilize black beans, my new alternative protein, in something other than a rice dish. I was not trying to duplicate my previous soup experience...I had a desire to introduce some variety into my black bean repertoire. There are many, many black bean soup recipes...possibly as many as there are spaghetti sauce recipes. However, most of the available recipes have sodium contents that raise my blood pressure just by reading them. It all comes from the canned black beans, the canned tomatoes, canned chicken/veggie broth, and various other canned vegetables. This particular recipe, Black Bean Vegetable Soup, from Allrecipes.com (NAYY), is reasonably low in sodium. I decided to reduce the sodium even further by rehydrating and cooking dried black beans. Having never done this before either, I searched the internet for concise, easy instructions with photos.

Holy cow, there are lots of ways to do it. You can do it on the stove top, in a pressure cooker (neat!), and finally, in a slow cooker. There are "traditional" methods, "quick soak" methods, and so on. Most of the web-instructions are essentially the same: pick out any stones mixed in with the beans, soak them somehow, then cook 'em. Some instructions have you add various spices, some say add salt at the end. One thing I learned about adding salt...if you're gonna do it, wait until the end, otherwise those little beans will never soften up. That's not from experience...I actually read the directions before embarking on this adventure. Good for me :). I finally chose the EatingWell.com instructions for soaking and cooking my beans...mostly because they made it sound so easy, the instructions were concise, and they gave directions for using a slow cooker. Awesome. And I'm proud to announce that my first batch of beans came out pretty darn well. They're slightly overcooked because of poor time-management on my part. I started the actual bean cooking process at like 11pm, and frankly, I was tired and wanted to go to bed pretty badly. I decided to add an extra cup of water to the slow cooker to prevent any adverse dehydration and let the appliance do its magic. I don't have any pictures of the beans themselves, but I used the beans in this week's soup as well as the black beans and rice I made for lunch this week. The black beans and rice didn't turn out very well...entirely because I forgot to buy more rice...and used diced potatoes instead. Ugh...the whole dish was too mushy. And FAR TOO STARCHY. Blech. It was edible but I'm not making that particular substitution ever again!

I made the soup the next day after work and it's pretty easy. Saute a chopped onion with minced garlic, and throw in chopped carrots. Let that cook for several minutes. Then spice things up with cumin, chili powder, a touch of salt (maybe 1/2-1 tsp), and pepper. Let that heat through and become aromatic. Add broth (or water, if you're hard core but I think low-sodium, low fat chicken broth is better). Add 1.5 cups of black beans and corn. Then take another 1.5 cups of black beans and diced tomatoes, put them in a food processor and liquefy the two. Then add them to the soup and allow everything to come to a boil. Taste and add more salt, pepper, chili powder, whatever...to taste. Changes I made: 1) reduced sodium chicken bouillon cubes, reconstituted, 2) my very own cooked black beans, 3) frozen corn, 4) low sodium diced tomatoes. You could probably use diced fresh tomatoes instead. I noticed there was a lot of "scum" in the soup....it floated right to the top and I skimmed it off as needed. It was probably the extra starch cooking out of the beans. Here's a picture of my finished product...I'll confess it was the very last "bowl full" of the soup and I remembered just in time that I had to take a picture of this soup for the blog. The beans are hardly visible..in fact, most of the contents are hidden by the liquid of the broth. It's a very chunky soup and somewhat filling...eaten alone, I'd say 2.5-3 cups is a serving. With rice, a serving may be 1.5 cups. I didn't have any rice to eat it with but it was delicious none the less. This recipe gets 4 stars. I hope you try it!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Eats

I just got back into town, visited some friends for the Easter weekend. No cooking/shopping news in this update. Just have to say how much I LOVE the dried Mango from Costco...it's like candy. And slightly good for you too. There's a ton of sugar in there! And my friend's spaghetti sauce recipe...I'll have to beg it off of him and show it off for you all. (I almost wrote ya'll....yeah, I live in the South!). The sauce was a simple marinara style but oh, it was lovely. I couldn't get enough of it. I didn't take any pictures...I was too busy eating the pasta!

On the menu this week is an "African Beef Curry" from the "Fix it and Forget it...Light" cookbook for crockpots. (NAYY) Breakfast is frosted mini-wheats mixed with low fat cottage cheese and a glass of vanilla soymilk. On a side note, I am truly addicted to that stuff. When I was drinking the lactose free milk, a 1/2 gallon lasted me a full week. Now I'm finishing the soymilk in 4 days... I might switch to regular un-flavored soymilk to see if that slows my consumption down! Dinner this week is a Penne Pasta Primavera from Allrecipes.com. (NAYY) I will cook the curry tomorrow and hopefully I can get to the primavera on Tuesday.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. Until next time!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Shopping at the Super Wal-Mart and Basic Corn Muffins

Last week I finally used up my stores of frozen meats and poultry. I decided to live on black beans for one week but I also wanted to re-stock my freezer. Unforuntately, there was NO WAY I could even afford to buy a whole chicken and stay on budget AND shop at the local Food Lion. Trust me, I tried. I always ended up going $1-2 dollars over. What to do?? I was going to have to do my grocery shopping at Wal-Mart.

I avoid going to Wal-Mart, nearly at all costs. The check-out lines take FOREVER...I've sat in a Wal-Mart line for 20 minutes at midnight on a Sunday. A Sunday!! Twenty minutes! What the heck were all these people doing at a Wal-mart at the witching hour?? I was there because I had unknowingly run out of ibuprofen and the W-M was the only store open. There is usually no parking...although on the night (morning) mentioned above, the parking was great. And the parking lot is at least an acre, maybe the three. I have trouble figuring out how the store is organized. For instance, kitchen towels are in the housewares section but paper towels are in the GROCERY portion of the store. Clear on the other side of the freakin' store. Canned tomatoes are not near the canned vegetables section but stocked in the pasta section. Come to think of it, all grocery stores do that. Darn W-M for following the herd!

I also dislike Wal-Mart for philosophical reasons. Long before I came to live in this small town that shall remain unnamed, there was once a Harris Teeter. A not-quite-top-scale grocery store. A step above Publix. A step below Lowes Foods. Then, when I was complaining about the lack of a local HT in this town, one of my friends pointed out that the HT closed shortly after the W-M opened. Darn W-M! They chased out my favorite grocery store. And finally, I once read a book called "The Wal-Mart Effect." In this book, it essentially discusses how Wal-Mart our economy can't live with the giant but also can't live without it. For instance, it can cause other local stores to close, due to it's crazy low prices that no one can compete with. However, certain products, such as the microwave bacon cooker, could not continue to exist without the Massive Buying System of W-M. In other words, the purchasing process of W-M finances mom-and-pop products, which in turns provides them capital to finance mail-order purchases and even shipments to other stores, such as Kmart. There's more to it than that, but it's been a few years since I read the book and that's what I remember. I kind of avoided Wal-Mart before reading the book, but afterwards, I specifically shopped at local stores or rather, Target. I also think that the quality of merchandise at Target is generally better, but maybe I'm just being fooled by the prettier packaging. Presentation is a part of selling.

Alas, I could not sustain my thrifty ways this week without the uber low prices at Wal-Mart. Peruse Exhibit A, my grocery receipt:

1) Store brand vanilla soymilk, $2.56 (The soy milk at the Food Lion is $2.99).
2) 1 lb roll of ground turkey, $1.64
3) 1 lb roll of ground beef, 73% lean, $2.16
4) Whole Chicken Fryer, $5.01
5) Cheese It Crackers, $2.88
6) Store brand pretzel sticks, fat free, $1.18
7) bulk garlic, one head, $0.15 (at $2.48/lb)
8) Reduced sodium chicken boullion cubes, $1.82
9) Canned, diced tomato, salt free, $1.08
10) Yellow onions, $0.68 (at $0.98/lb)
11) Store brand dried black beans, $1.14
12) 1 lb bagged carrots, $0.88.

I was able to buy ground beef, and ground turkey, *and* whole chicken. I was also able to TWO convenience items, the pretzel sticks and the Cheese It's. Those two were not actually on the shopping list but I decided to buy them for the office since I had extra money left over. In fact, even with all of the extras, my grand total came to $21.40. I could have purchased something else! Wal-Mart is c-h-e-a-p.

While I am glad that the low, low Wal-Mart prices enabled me to purchase some much needed groceries, I am planning on going back to the Food Lion next week.

On to this week's surprisingly good meal of the week, the Basic Corn Muffins



This is a great base recipe to twiddle around with; throw in corn kernels for a more robust corn-y flavor. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) Or some diced/chopped pimientos for a spicy muffins. Add more sugar to please your sweet tooth. I only made one change...and it was because I forgot to buy eggs. I realized this as I was mixing the batter together. After a brief search on the internet, I found a vegan, cholesterol free egg substitute: 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp of water. I wasn't sure if it would work, after all, there's no fat! But, my corn muffins turned out very nicely. I liked them so much that I made a second batch. Both batches are a touch on the dry side but I'm sure that's easily fixable next time. The muffins have a nice crumb, a pleasing, slightly sweet taste and of course, a yummy corn flavor. The recipe states that it makes twelve...I found that both batches had a yield of 8-9 muffins each. I used an ice cream scoop to portion out the batter, so that may have been the difference but I don't think that my muffins are large...just the right size. I eat two of them for breakfast, along with a cup of vanilla soymilk.

Enjoy!