Monday, June 18, 2007

Frugal Food Wrap Up II: Frugal Recipes

Quite a few people have asked me what I've been cooking, so I thought I'd post a few of the recipes I've used over the past couple of weeks and into the week to come. If you're interested, expand the post.

Pasta Salad with Chicken and Edamame
I meant to make this with peas, but substituted edamame (frozen, shelled) when Trader Joe's was out of peas. I liked it better this way (plus, extra protein), but making it again, I would add some extra greenery (maybe broccoli florets?).

  • Cut about 1.5 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs into approximately one-inch cubes. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar over them on a plate or in a sealable plastic bag, let that sit for a few minutes (ten should do).

  • While the chicken is marinating, boil the edamame in a pot of water for five minutes. Drain them and set them aside to cool.

  • Sautee the chicken in a tiny bit of oil and as much minced garlic as you like.
    Add the chicken and chicken juices to a cooked (not overcooked--keep it al dente, or it gets yucky in the fridge) pound of bowtie pasta; toss.

  • Add the cooled edamame and a crumbled block of feta cheese. Toss.

  • Add the juice of 1/2 lemon (or to taste), a little balsamic vinegar, and a little oil if necessary (it probably won't be). Add salt and pepper to taste. You're done!

  • Optional: a diced red onion might spice this up a bit, and again, if I were making it again today, I'd bulk it out a bit with some broccoli florets--you can get them frozen.

  • Figuring you already have the oil, vinegar, and garlic, the basic version of this salad costs about $11 for the batch (I paid about $4.30 for the chicken and $.69 for the pasta, and had the edamame and feta at home--so I'm guesstimating their prices). We got 8 servings out of it, I think, so that's a per-serving cost under $1.40. Not bad.

    Black Bean Salad
    This one's super cheap and easy--but I think of it as a side dish, not a full meal. I'm eating it this week, paired with some turkey meatloaf. This is a particularly great batch dish, because it gets better as it continues to marinate.

    Rinse and combine two cans of black beans and one can of whole-kernel corn (I actually used one very large can of black beans, and one normal-sized and one tiny can of corn, but it's about a 2:1 ratio that you're going for). Dice a large red onion and add it to the bowl. Add a package of grape tomatoes, halved (cherry tomatoes would work just as well). Add fresh parsley or cilantro (your pick). Add a little splash of olive oil, a big splash of vinegar (whatever you've got on hand, though probably not balsamic), and the juice of one lime. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    This cost me about $7 for all the ingredients (again, assuming you have oil and vinegar at home already), and I expect we'll get at least 8 side-size servings out of it. Cost per serving: about $.88 or less.

    Dinner-on-the-go Wraps
    These definitely have the highest cost-per-serving of any of the recipes I've been using lately, but they're also totally unbeatable for eating in a hurry, and certainly cheaper than buying a sandwich.

    Cover a tortilla (you could also use a pita, or lavash) with a thin layer of honey mustard (or regular mustard, or whatever you prefer). Cover that with a layer of baby spinach leaves (if you've got them or can buy them by weight--don't buy a prepackaged bag for this purpose alone; you won't use enough). Cover that with 3-4 slices of sliced meat (I use ham and turkey, alternately) and 1-2 slices of cheese (I like Muenster). If you like, you can add half a sliced avocado in the middle, or some slices of onion, or whatever. Roll it up (this is the hardest part; I can't really describe how it goes, quite--I sort of roll the whole thing, then pull the middle tortilla edge out from the rolled fillings and pull it around the whole thing--the mustard helps it stick) and pack it in aluminum foil.

    Without the avocado, these probably cost about $3 per--it's the presliced meat and cheese that make them a little pricier. Nevertheless, I'd spend three times as much on a sandwich and a drink if I stopped at a deli (plus, these are really good, and really nutritionally balanced), so this is okay by me.

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