Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day Two

Day two, and I think I met my goal for a good, healthy, inexpensive dinner for this extra large family: Pepper steak over rice.

At the Food Lion the other day I ran into a package of six small center-cut round steaks marked down from $7.50 to $2.25, add to that a bag of Bird's Eye pepper stir fry, an extra onion, and a simple brown sauce and: Ta-Da.

Total cost: $8 -- or about 90 cents per serving (see Note below).

Six small center cut round steaks
1 package Bird's Eye pepper and onion stir fry
1 sweet onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
1 T olive oil
1-2 t crushed garlic
2 T flour
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 t beef base (See Note below)
1/2 cup red wine
1-2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups white rice, prepared according to package directions

Par freeze steaks. Once semi-solid, slice thinly against the grain.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium, add garlic and saute until golden. Add onion and cook until begins to soften, about five minutes. Add frozen peppers and onion and continue to saute until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove vegetables with tongs and pour off any excess liquid into a measuring cup and reserve.

Turn heat under pan up to high and add beef. Saute until cooked through. Remove from pan, add to vegetables and toss to combine.

Meanwhile, whisk flour into liquid in saute pan and cook briefly. Continuing to whisk, add wine and scrape the sides of the pan to remove any bits. Add reserved vegetable liquid, water, beef base and Worcestershire sauce, stirring constantly until sauce thickens, about 5 to 10 minutes. Pour sauce over meat/vegetables and stir.

Serve meat mixture over prepared rice.

NOTE: When I figure the costs, I do not include basic every day seasonings (garlic, herbs, spices) or fats (butt
er, olive oil), since these are things I always have on hand and in the small amounts I use don't add dramatically to the cost.

Other NOTE: You can find beef base in the soup aisle, usually near the bullion. One $6 jar makes 36 cups of beef stock, making it very economical. And, it's far less salty than bullion.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Call it a February resolution. I decided that for one month I will track every dollar we spend on food. Every receipt will go into an envelope, and I'll keep a running tally of how much I spend, and how much I save on coupons and in-store specials. At the end of the month, I'll know not just how much we spend, but how many gallons of milk we really go through, and whether we spend more on produce or salty snacks.

At the same time, I've been on a quest to make economical dinners for this family of nine. I'll admit I'm one of those people who gets thrilled when I put dinner on the table for $10 or $12 (or, on a really good day, even less).

Turns out February is a very good month to do this: I recently cleaned out the pantry and used up everything I could before stocking up on the things I like to cook with and we like to eat. Before that I used up
things that had been taking up shelf space for a while.

Like this large bottle of bourbon with just a little left in the bottom taking up way more space than it was worth on the shelf. It inspired tonight's bourbon chicken, which I served with roasted potatoes and sugar snap peas and onions. Total cost: less than $1 per serving.

Bourbon chicken (serves 8)
5 chicken leg quarters, skin and fat trimmed, legs separated from thighs (see Note)
1 cup bourbon
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T soy sauce
In a sauce pan, mix together bourbon, oil and soy. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until reaches the consistency of syrup. Preheat oven to 375 F. Wash and dry chicken. Place in a roasting pan and coat with glaze. Bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes, glazing with additional bourbon mixture every 10 to 15 minutes.
Note: The other day I thought I did a great job when I found a 5 lb. package of chicken leg quarters for $2. Then the very next day I was at Food Lion when they announced a "yard sale" and picked up a 10 lb. bag, which usually sells for $9, on sale for $3. Of course, it was due to expire that day, so we either had to eat it or freeze it. My only regret was that I don't yet have my spare freezer here, so I didn't have room to buy two bags.
Now, with leg quarters you do get a lot of waste in the bone, skin and fat. I usually figure 5 lbs. will feed our family of eight meat eaters.

Roasted potatoes
2 1/2 lbs. white potatoes, washed, dried and cut into bite-size pieces
1 package onion soup mix
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Mix together soup mix and olive oil. Add potatoes and toss to coat. Place in a baking dish large enough to spread out in one layer and place oven with chicken at 375 F. Stir, scraping potatoes from sides, every 15 to 20 minutes. Once chicken is done, boost heat to 425 F and continue cooking another 15 minutes.

Snow peas
1 sweet onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
1 bag frozen snow peas
2 T butter, divided
2 tsp soy sauce
Prepare snow peas in microwave according to package directions. Meanwhile, melt 1 T butter in a large saute pan and lightly saute onion. Add additional T butter, snow peas and soy sauce and toss to coat.