Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Orzo Stuffed Tomato with a cup of soup and a breadstick

     I know it won’t be long till the chill of fall is upon us, so while it is still warm I’m celebrating summer tonight with a cool orzo salad served in a fresh tomato, with a side of pear zucchini soup and a bread stick.

I chose a couple of the biggest most fragrant tomatoes I could find and I’m stuffing them with a flavorful & colorful whole-wheat orzo salad

Tomato (2) tops sliced off seeds & liquid removed  $1.38
Whole-wheat orzo a little over ½ cup  $.90
I paid $6.99 for about 4 cups dry orzo 32oz. (regular white  orzo is less money but we like whole wheat and it lasts a long time for us) 
Feta cheese $1.00
Cucumbers a few slices seeded diced small   $.50
Basil from the garden (dried herbs are fine too)
Lemon  $.25 but I only need about a tablespoon of lemon juice & save the rest for a cup of tea
Garlic 1 clove diced & smashed into a paste with a bit of salt  $.10
Red & green Pepper $.60 ¼ of each small dice (pepper leftover from fajita night)
I added black beans ¼ cup  $ .45  (because I had them on hand and thought it would add a nice bit of protein to the mix)
Served with a little cup of Leftover pear zucchini soup  $0 (already accounted for)
Bread from Thursdays dough  $0 (pilfered from Thursdays dinner check back to see.. )
Total $ 5.18

TIP OF THE DAY: Sometimes the leftovers from a previous meal can be a really nice addition to a meal later on in the week. Today my pear zucchini soup will be the perfect compliment to this fragrant summer salad. My bread stick is a small piece of dough borrowed from the meal I plan to make Thursday.Plan your menus to allow some leftovers for lunches or side dishes, doing so can save  you time and money

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bison Burgers

     Several years ago on one of our road trips John and I stopped into a unique food shop near Fredericksburg Texas, whittingtons jerky.Their specialty is Meat Jerkys, and they have all kinds. John had in the past made homemade jerky in his food dehydrator but I was not a jerky eater and never thought I would become one. 

     This jerky was tender, delicious and full of flavor. We tried several varieties and left with a pound of their buffalo jerky. This was right about the time Buffalo was reemerging in popularity and becoming more available in local markets. 

   On the strength of the excellent flavor of the jerky we immediately returned to our local grocery store and purchased a pound of ground bison. We prepared it as we would a classic burger but it cooked a bit faster and the flavor was just delicious. We were hooked. Its now quite a common thing for our guests to be fed bison burgers, bison stew and bison steak when sharing dinner at our house. If you haven’t tried it please give it a try. Bison is so much easier to find then it was years ago. We generally pay $4.99 to $5.99 a pound for the ground bison and it is worth every penny. 

     I like to serve this with oven baked sweet potato fries. Peeled and cut like  french fries tossed in a bit of oil and sprinkled with S&P (there are countless great sweet potato recipes to be found.Tonight I add some summer corn, seasonal and sweet

Bison     $5.00
Buns       $2.00 We like whole wheat buns. Sometimes I bake them and sometimes at certain times of year we find treats like hatch green Chile burger buns
Roasted green chiles to top the burgers $ .75
Sweet Potato  $1.00
corn 2 ears   $.40

Total $9.15

TIP OF THE DAY: We all tend to get in a rut with the selection of our proteins. Try something new next time you’re at the meat counter. Step out of your comfort zone. There is a recipe out there for practically anything you can think of so experiment and have some fun

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pear zucchini soup

Years ago I stumbled upon a travel show that featured a visit to a restaurant serving zucchini pear soup. I love making soup and I try to incorporate it into our meal plan every week, more often during winter months. I wondered how this soup would taste and I was curious enough to look for a recipe on line. There is a good recipe on the food network website courtesy of the corn exchange so I adapted it for John and I. We have enjoyed this recipe countless times and it has become one of our favorites. I have done many adaptations of it and they are all great. I’m feeling in the mood for a light dinner tonight so I think this zucchini pear soup will be wonderful. I plan to serve it with slices of the bread I baked the other day spread with avocado and sliced tomatoes 

I begin with a Mirepoix of onion carrot and celery

Olive oil and or butter for the pan  $.25
¾ Onion                       $.59
Carrots 2-3                  $.50
Celery 2-3 ribs            $.40

I cook it till tender and slightly browned
I then add
2-3 diced zucchini        $.88
1-2 diced pears peeled $.88
I generally make this dish when pears are in season 
I add a couple of sage leaves from my garden or dried is fine as well  (about ½ TBS to taste)
Sometimes I add a touch of little thyme

After they are almost tender I add about
3 cups water             $0.00
Salt to taste $.05
Cook for about 20 minutes
When everything is tender I blender with my immersion blender or my food processor till smooth
Sometimes just before I serve it I add a couple of tablespoons of ½ and ½ or milk, which makes it creamy and rich but I’ve left it without milk as well.
2 Tablespoons milk or ½ &1/2   $.25

 Bread (4 slices) $.75 if you buy good crusty artisan bread
One tomato  $.40
One small. Avocado & $.79

Total $5.74 give or take a few cents and as a bonus I’ll have leftover soup for John’s lunch.

TIP OF THE DAY: If you see an interesting recipe write down the info so you can give it a try. We have all forgotten things we swore we’d never forget. You can usually find some adaptation of the main ingredients in a book or on the Internet and you can reinvent ingredients it to fit you families’ taste and budget.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chicken Fajitas

My favorite part of any Saturday is spending time with my husband; so, unless we are cooking or baking together I like dinner to be fast and easy.

I don’t always use chicken breasts for fajitas. I sometimes like the flavor of a thigh or drumstick. Tonight I have an entire medium sized leg, which I will roast, and when cool I’ll pull the meat off. Sometimes I do this the day before while the oven is still on from the preparation of a previous meal. That saves me time and saves our energy costs too. I will simply add the shredded chicken to sautéed red and green peppers onions and some garlic. There are times, like tonight I will add black beans to the mix.  I’ll be using tortillas made fresh at the store near my house.( I’ve made tortillas from scratch once before and it really isn’t hard to do) I love to spice this dish up with Chile powder from New Mexico

Chicken Leg $2.50
Red Pepper $. 88 (I know they can be much higher but these were on sale and they freeze well so buy extra and freeze them or grow some of your own)
Green Pepper $.35
Onion $ .59
Black Beans $.89
Garlic cloves $ 30
Tortillas $ .85 ($2.49 per 12 pack and we may have two each)
Total $6.36 give or take a few cents

TIP OF THE DAY: When I’m choosing vegetables for any meal I look for what is currently in season in my area. It will be fresh, abundant and most likely more reasonable than out of season choices that have to be trucked in from far away

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pappardelle with roasted tomato and basil

Lately I have been teaching myself how to make pasta from scratch. We listened to Michael Ruhlmans book Ratios as we traveled through Europe. The ideas and recipes he wrote about set my mind whirling about all the fun food experiments I could try when I got home. Since I have flour eggs and salt and oil in my kitchen I figured why not start with pasta.

Make no mistake those Italian ladies in their little villages make it look easy but there is definitely and art to it. There is a technique to implement and a big learning curve. What those ladies know and I have yet to learn is the way the dough is supposed to feel and behave as you work with it. They know the precise moment when the dough achieves its optimum texture and give. I believe that to be after about ten to fifteen minutes of kneading I am improving and have increased my repertoire to include linguine and ravioli. Today I tackle Pappardelle, which as I read on Wikipedia is derived from the Italian word “pappare,” meaning to gobble up. In Italy they serve it often with wild boar and I’d love to make that sometime but today I’m fresh out of wild boar.

I generally use whatever pasta I have on hand, from the boxed kind to gourmet shop designer variety,it all works for this dinner.I will say that making pasta is fun. Sometime you might want to grab your husband, boyfriend, kids, and or parents and try to make pasta together. At the very least you’ll make memories.

I’m roasting the tomatoes with a bit of oil and salt at 350 till they are tender. On the same baking sheet I’ll put several garlic bulbs slit but unpeeled, wrapped in foil with a touch of olive oil and a bit of salt. When cooled I the remove the seeds and skin from the tomatoes and squeeze the garlic out of the clove into a fry pan. Often I add some canned tomato and herbs. Depends on what I have on hand. I buy low salt varieties because I like to control our salt intake.
After boiling the pasta I add it to the fry pan and finish it with the sauce. I add fresh basil because I grow it in my garden but dried can be just fine too, today I’m adding a sauteed zucchini but peppers work well too. I top it with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. I always like to grate fresh cheese on our pasta.

*1 cup AP Flour 4.25 OZ $ .16
*¾ cup WW flour 3.18 OZ $ .12
3 eggs $.65
1 tea salt $.05
1 tea olive oil $.15
for the flour costs-My 5lb bag of flour was $2.98 containing 80 ounces of flour
Making pasta costs pennies but dry pasta is quite reasonable as well

3 roma tomatoes $ .99
1/ can of low salt tomatoes $ .60
1 zucchini $ .88
½ onion $ .30
2-4 fat garlic cloves smashed $ .10
Cheese $1.40

total cost $5.40

TIP OF THE DAY: I try to buy the very best cheese I can for our pasta dishes. It is another product that tends to keep well in the freezer. The one I’m using today is weighs 10oz cost me $7.00. I’m using about 2oz grated (and probably not even that much) so net cost is $1.40 well worth it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Orange Soy Marinated Ahi

I often grocery shop more than once a week. I like to do the bulk of my shopping on Wednesdays and then supplement our grocery needs with a trip to the farmers market on summer weekends or to a unique food shop if get the chance.I usually don't make a final decision on the protein I will choose until I see what's available and how it looks in the case.

Yesterday I noticed some beautiful wild caught Ahi on sale for $8.99 a pound. I bought a little over half a pound. Each portion is less than 3 oz. I chose a small portion to illustrate that if something you enjoy is more costly per pound buy a smaller amount of it, enjoy the taste and supplement the meal in other ways.
I marinated the ahi in about ¼ cup of OJ, some grated fresh ginger and a dash of soy with a touch of ground Szechuan pepper mixed in. (careful they are hot) You may have cayenne or red pepper flakes and that’s OK too.

 Wild caught Ahi $4.50 
OJ soy ginger marinade $.60

Cauliflower cooked & whipped to looked like
Mashed potatoes. I add butter a touch of milk and S&P & whip till smooth  $1.45 

Carrots glazed w/OJ (I cooked about 10oz for John and I)
I put carrots in a pan with water & OJ water will boil away and the OJ makes a nice glaze (I sometimes add a touch of cayenne its great) $.80

Diced roma tomato with finely diced red onion (1/4 of small one) & basil topped w/ a touch of S&P and a dribble of oil and very nice balsamic vinegar $.75
Total roughly  $8.10 give or take a few cents 

TIP OF THE DAY: I like to keep a canister of frozen orange juice concentrate in the fridge. I buy it on sale and scoop out the amount I need for cooking or marinating ~I also freeze hands of ginger for use as needed with almost no waste.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Green Chili Stew

August 25th 2010 Tonight's Dinner
Green Chili stew for two (plus enough leftover for Johns lunch tomorrow)
I cook like my grandmother did, I adjust according to what feels and smells correct for me. I add spices liberally for this dish I used the green chili powder we brought home from New Mexico,salt and a bit of ground pepper.I have not accounted for spice costs because the go a very long way. Invest in good spices and they will serve you well.

Add a bit of oil in the dutch oven to coat the bottom~ 2 Tbs approx $.25
Add diced celery onion carrot  and green hatch chilies 1/2 cup each $1.25
when cooked till tender removed it and put a touch more oil in the dutch oven
Add  4 thin cut pork chops which I had cut into chunks and dusted with flour $2.35
(I sometimes use chicken as well~ the protein varies based on what I decide look well at the market)
when  browned I add a few cloves of chopped garlic $.30 then
Add  the veg back in
Add organic box broth 2 cups $1.25 (normally I'd use home made but I had not thawed)
Add 1 small red potato that I finely dice to cut down on the carbs but get the taste of the potato $.25
Add a handful of green beans trimmed and cut into thirds $.14
Add a diced tomato or two or three $.80 
 Total for the stew $6.59
The prices are approximate but pretty close and we will get three servings.It is also easily doubled and freezes very well. A great dish to make and use all week.
Please share your ideas for recipes that are healthy and reasonable to fix and I will try them here and share the information.

TIP OF THE DAY: Using spices liberally make it easier to cut down on salt intake. Experiment with new spices and give your families favorite dishes a new twist

Getting Started

  Welcome to my new blog Smart Cooking.I have for the past several years devoted my efforts to learning about how the choices we make regarding our food effect our health, our state of mind and our budget. When I moved in with my husband John we made a decision to see if we could be healthier and feel better if we made a conscious effort to pay attention to what we bought, cooked and  put into our bodies. We both love to cook and bake. We also enjoy wine, sweets and carbs as much as anyone. We are probably very much like most people and we wondered was there room for good choices within the context of an enjoyable culinary lifestyle.
 I hope to share our adventures along this journey and provide a window into what I serve and how it works for us. I'm not a doctor and I don't give any medical advice. I am also not a chef but I am a home cook and I spent a great deal of time cooking and trying to find interesting food to prepare for John and I. this blog is just my way of sharing how I put together meals that I consider healthy and how they don't have to cost very much. I hope my readers will find a way to eat well for less than they would pay for fast processed foods.