Thursday, February 26, 2009

Meal planning night!

Tonight I will sit down and plan out a month's worth of dinners. How do I do it? Well, picture me on the floor in my living room... a pile of cookbooks to one side, the Acme, Shopright, Target and Wal-Mart flyers to my other side, and a list of what's in my current grocery stockpile in front of me. Then I'll look at what's on sale and plan around what ingredients I already have or can get on the cheap. I keep a few things in mind as well. Tuesdays are usually CrockPot days because Josh has his gymnastics lesson at 5 and is hungry as soon as he gets home. Mondays are "quick fixes" because Jim either has martial arts or meetings at church. Thursdays I usually cook vegetarian because I have dance and don't want a belly full of meat!

Actually, cooking vegetarian meals at least twice a week has had a few very good effects... one, a cut in our food bill, as meats are usually the most expensive of ingredients, and two, a broadening of our palates! Josh will eat almost anything, and I think that's because I've given him variety from day one.

Monday, February 23, 2009

$0.80 per serving ~ Chickpea-Tomato Ragout over Couscous

I needed something super-fast and a big change from our recent dinners. This was inspired by a recipe in the newspaper, with a few of my own changes.

Chickpea-Tomato Ragout over Couscous ~ $0.80 per serving, $4.80 total cost
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced ($0.30)
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
2 15 oz. cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed ($1.50)
1 14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, drained ($0.50)
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tbsp. honey
2. tbsp. lemon juice
1 3/4 cups broth of your choice ($1.00)
Salt and pepper
1 cup couscous ($0.50)
Water according to couscous directions

1. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Saute onion and garlic until fragrant. Sprinkle with cumin and stir to mellow.
2. Stir in chickpeas, tomatos, thyme, honey, lemon juice, and broth (I used vegetable). Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 5 minutes.
3. While chickpeas are cooking, prepare couscous according to package directions.
4. Taste chickpeas and adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve over couscous in shallow bowls.

The Verdict
This is my favorite new recipe in a LONG time! Delicious and fresh-tasting, filling but not heavy, super fast and easy, and everyone enjoyed it. This was a great choice for a stressful day when I wanted something different and "spring-y". It was like being at a Morroccan restaurant! I think I'll make some mint tea tonight and complete the experience.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

$0.60 per serving ~ "I'm Tired and Embarassed" Dinner

I have no energy:

I'm Tired and Embarassed Dinner ~ $0.60 per serving, $3.50 total cost
1 pound ground beef ($2.00)
1 package "Cheesy Italian Shells" Hamburger Helper ($1.00), prepared with water only
1 cup frozen broccoli ($0.50)

1. Prepare according to package directions. Add broccoli at the same time as the pasta.
Makes 7 servings

The Verdict
It's food, it's easy, Jim & Josh always like it. Grandma taught me to keep stuff in the house for nights just like this. At least I'm marinating a flank steak for tomorrow's dinner...

Monday, February 16, 2009

$0.59 per serving ~ "Josh's Favorites" Soup

Today I asked Josh what his favorite vegetables were. He said "Sweet potatoes, corn, peppers, carrots, black beans, tomatoes, and broccoli!" I didn't have any broccoli in the house, but I had the rest, and here is the result...

"Josh's Favorites" Soup ~ $0.59 per serving, $4.70 total cost
1 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped ($0.25)
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 red pepper, chopped ($0.50)
1 carrot, chopped ($0.10)
1 large sweet potato, chopped ($0.65)
1 can corn ($0.45)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes with basil and oregano, undrained ($0.50)
2 cups vegetable stock or broth ($1.50)
2 cups water
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained ($0.75)
2 tsp. lemon or lime juice

1. Heat oil in soup pot. Add onion, garlic, red pepper and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, until tender.
2. Stir in sweet potato, corn, tomatoes, stock/broth, and spices. Heat to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in beans and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in juice.
Makes 8 servings

The Verdict
Josh was in heaven! That alone would be reason to make it again. It was surprisingly filling with a nice kick from the cayenne. I will enjoy this for lunch this week!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

$1.00 per serving ~ Mom's Famous Onion Soup

Yes, yes, I know.... 11 days without Puttanesca?!?!? Suffice to say we've been dealing with a lot over here, but all is well. This month I did my first ever monthly meal plan... and I only needed about $30 worth of groceries, plus my existing stockpile, to complete it! I even have a few "reserve" meals for moments when I just can't face the kitchen.

With that said, let me share a family favorite:
Mom's Famous Onion Soup ~ $1.00 per serving, $6.00 total cost
1/2 cup butter ($0.25)
5 large sweet onions, chopped ($1.25)
2 tbsp. flour
1 32 oz. box beef. chicken, or vegetable stock ($2.50)
salt and pepper
hardened bread ends (leftovers, free!)
6 slices mozzarella ($1.00)
6 slices swiss cheese ($1.00)

1. Melt butter in soup pot. Add onions and saute until browned, stirring regularly.
2. Add flour and stir until smooth.
3. Add stock and pepper to taste. Simmer 30 minutes covered.
4. Add salt to taste. Place bread ends in soup bowl, top with 1 slice each mozzarella and swiss. Ladle hot soup over top. serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings

The Verdict
When Jim saw me chopping onions, he was very happy. I don't make this very often, which is strange because it is so easy and so delicious! Josh wanted just the broth and bread, but he left all the onions in the bottom of the bowl. Typical 3 year old! The verdict is, I should make this more often!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

$2.09 per serving ~ Shredded Beef Wraps with Steamed Broccoli

Shredded Beef Wraps ~$1.59 per serving, $9.50 total cost
1 flank steak ($4.50)
2 cups beef stock ($1.50)
1 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, not in oil ($1.00)
3 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. cumin
1 package flour tortillas ($1.50)
1 cup shredded cheese ($1.00)

1. Cut flank steak into quarters. Place in CrockPot. Add stock, tomatoes, garlic, and cumin. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
2. Remove beef to bowl and shred with fork. Pour remaining ingredients into blender and puree until smooth. Mix into shredded beef.
3. Serve beef topped with cheese wrapped in tortillas.
Makes 6 servings

The Verdict
Josh really loved this. He thought the wrapped up sandwich was fun and liked the taste. Jim liked it enough to pack some for tomorrow's lunch. I will probably play with the spices next time, but I definitely enjoyed it. I served it with a head of broccoli steamed in the microwave topped with a bit of salt and pepper.