Mar 31, 2010

Calzone: On The Cheap

The Jackson home is usually bustling with activity around 5:00 p.m. A squawking Lucy wants her dinner, some juice, a banana, a Popsicle, PICKLES ( oh how she screeches for pickles at decibels I can not fathom), Saint Michael is home from work and wanting to catch up on our days, change out of his monkey suit( he works at a business professional joint and not as a birthday party mascot for the record.) and play with our squawk box of a toddler. Where am I? Happily in the kitchen prepping some sort of easy wonderment for my family to eat. I am not a fussy eater, nor is my family. We know what we like and we try to incorporate goodness and flavor in all the food we feast on. Usually this involves orange cheddar cheese. I have a theory family happiness is proportional to the amount of processed orange cheese you consume. Maybe the NIH will fund me some research grants to figure it out.

Last night I made calzone. Nummers. This is one of the easiest, cheapest, tastiest, most satisfyingly gooey meals I make. I like to make this when we are in a hurry to get outside and enjoy the rest of the evening. I make this meal when we want something tasty the whole family loves and no one will complain about. I also make this meal because it is all about easy prep and for just over $3.00, this meal requires no cutting, chopping, shredding or kneading. Simply thawing, sprinkling and baking. Oh and jar opening.
This recipe requires ZERO slaving, kids can even help it is so easy. It also has little for nutritional value, but eat it and have a happy belly because it is a fun treat for the wee ones. And me...

Quick and easy family sized Calzone

your shopping list:

Frozen bread dough- Reeds is great and is about $.60 a loaf. You need one loaf white or wheat (white tastes better I think). Don't make your own, that would take a long time and be lame.

1 jar pizza sauce- We use Ragu traditional and you only need about 1/8 of the jar so you can pop it in the fridge for future use. It costs about $.17 worth of pizza sauce to make one huge calzone.

Shredded Mozzarella cheese- how ever much you like I use about 1/2 cup or $.50 worth

Shredded Cheddar cheese- ORANGE and how ever much you like, again about 1/2 cup or $.50 worth.

One small can sliced black olives- $.69 and it saves you the work of slicing. My scarred up fingers are grateful.
One sack o' peperoni- we use the Hormel ones. Full fat, not turkey based. You only need about 20 peperoni so you can certainly get a smaller pack if you want. It is about $.70 worth of peperoni because we get about 5 calzone out of a sack.

To make:

Take your frozen bread dough out 6 hours before you want to use it in warm weather, 8+ in cold weather. You do not want your dough super huge and puffy, just risen. Place the dough in a greased ( with shortening) pan of some sort, grease the loaf with shortening too as it will dry out a little as it rises. Leave uncovered. Don't poke at it. Go by the clock not by how it looks, this method has never failed me.

1.Once dough is thawed, heat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Spread dough out, work with hands into a rectangle about 14 inches long and 6 or so inches wide. Toss the dough onto a cookie sheet.
3. Spread pizza sauce on the dough, I take it to the edge but you don't have to if you like less sauce. Spread out the peperoni as generously as you like. Eat a couple while you do this- it just feels right.
4. Sprinkle cheeses on top, as much as you like.
5.Sprinkle olives on top of this mess- omit if you are weird.
6. Grab the long side of the calzone dough closest to you and try to roll it, think jelly donut, over so you make a big, long log of dough and goodness. You don't really need to roll it multiple times, basically just make a log.
7. I like to sprinkle a little extra cheese on top.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and done. You should see cheese and what not burbling out the ends, this is a good thing.

9. Remove from oven, slice with pizza cutter and enjoy.

This recipe is really similar to a Stromboli, except not as fancy and super quick. I like that it is more substantial and bready than your average Stromboli, it makes it easier to enjoy on the quick.
You can stuff these bad boys with whatever pizza toppings you like. I make it this way cause, well, we know what we like.
If you try it, tell me what you stuffed it with. Please, nothing healthy, o.k.?

Eat this meal on paper plates and clean up is a cinch, and it gets you outside into the fresh air to work off all the cheddar cheese fat. Serve it with a salad if you must, but try not to ruin the unhealthy perfection, please?

Mar 24, 2010

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches: On the Cheap

Some where out there you have a sandwich soul mate. I bet you didn't know that?
True story. I have found my favorite sandwich in the entire world. The best part is, aside from the sodium in them, they are really healthy and low calorie. Oh, and you cook them in a slow cooker. Hello, delicious, cheap, easy meal. If you do not have a slow cooker ( and why wouldn't you?!) you can toss these in a casserole and simmer in the oven for many hours on low.

Total cost:
About $7.00 for 4 chicken breasts, stock, soup and buns.

This chicken dish is cheep cheep cheep ( that is a barnyard pun...please forgive me)

Your shopping list:
Chicken breasts of the bones less skinless variety. 1 per person. My recipe assumes 4 people, obviously double as you increase your group.
1 box of Lipton Onion soup mix. The Market Pantry brand is just as awesome and way cheaper.
1 4-6ounce can/ box of chicken stock

Cooking Instructions:

Dump the container of broth into the crock pot, if you bought it in one of those little cardboard containers it makes a very satisfying sound if you dump it over and squeeze the box. Try it, I dare you not to love it.

Add in 1 packet of onion soup mix. Stir in. I like to let the broth warm up with the mix in it before I add the chicken because I like it to be soupy. But you don't have to, you can totally just dump it all together.

Add in chicken. Raw chicken is a color I can only describe as pale, try not to look at it.

Cover the pot and simmer on low for about 6 hours. Or high for about 2.5 hours. Low lets you leave your chicken babies in the crock pot while you are at work. Trust me, 8 hours in the pot will do no harm. It will only make your chicken juicier and more delicious. If you are leaving for 8 hours, add in a couple extra ounces of stock to compensate.

Open up the top and take two forks and drag them through the chicken to shred it. This should take about 4 seconds because the chicken is so tender.

Pile a big blob of chicken on a whole wheat bun ( I prefer mine toasty in the broiler) and enjoy the crumbs out of it. This chicken nukes up amazingly.

Guess what guys? This chicken dish is actually really good over rice with fresh veggies on top- think Curie.
Try a few different mediums but try this chicken. I swear you will like it! And your kids will like it, even your " I hate everything that isn't white or blu-razzberrie flavored" kids will like this.

For a super decadent sammie add a dollop of sour cream on top. It tastes like french onion chip dip.

Mar 23, 2010

Mac and Cheese: On the cheap

I am a connoisseur of all things cheddar, the oranger the cheese, the happier the Sarah.
I prefer my cheese to have zero nutritional value and I like it to have at least 150 grams of fat. In fact, if the serving size on the bag is less than 1/4 cup, I guarantee that is a cheese I would eat.Something about the way melted orange cheddar gets that orange grease on it just makes me swoon. Why am I still sporting an inner tube around my midsection? Now you know. Now you know.

This Christmas my big brother's beautiful wife Rachel made a feast for our massive gang to enjoy. Any time Rachel cooks, find a way to invite yourself as I guarantee you will never eat better. My job was a side dish, easy right? I decided that a holiday where a whole pile of people would be eating together was a great time to get creative and challenge myself. I made a faboosh truffled mac and cheese.This mac and cheese was so special, it was made with aged white cheddar and Gruyere cheeses, truffle butter,garlic and shitake mushrooms. Divine. Every one liked it but I got a resounding chorus of "Gosh darn it send me the recipe, omit the mushrooms. Thanks." Well this was an eye opener. I had made a $40 mac and cheese and every one much preferred the regular old kind, cheddar, mac and done. Inneresting....

Something about that orange cheddar is magic, MAGIC I tell you.

Well I have since perfected my mac, sans shrooms and cut it down to a very budget happy, not at all healthy, $6 to make an entire 9X13 pan of home made mac. Oh, and read the bottom of the recipe for the best nuker version for leftovers.

Your shopping list:
4 cups of cheese- cheddar of the orange kind is the bulk of it, 3 cups or so, maybe toss in a cup of Monty jack or white cheddar too.
1 box of shells.( medium sized shells work GREAT as they hold the cheese in their pocket, like a cheesy kangaroo. Would you eat cheesy kangaroo? I would.)
1 & 1/4 cups milk. NOT SKIM.
A couple squirts of mustard- yellow of course.
Salt, pepper
1/2 stick butter

With out further ado:

Sarah's Mac and Orange Cheese casserole:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Boil pan of water- a big one.

1.Dump the pasta into the boiled, salty water
2. While those little babies are are cooking to al dente, grab a sauce pan and put in a 1/2 stick of butter, slowly melt it.
3. Once butter is melted add in a couple tea spoons of flour. Do not use the tsp. measuring spoon. Grab your regular old spoon from the drawer and shake a couple of tea spoons of flour in the butter. You are making a rue, this is a thickening agent for a sauce. Whisk this mess all together till it is blended and a pasty yellow color. Don't try to eat this, I know you will want to, it tastes like it looks, I have done it and just saved you a really weird experience. Although isn't learning I ate melted butter and flour a really weird experience for you?
4. To this mix of pasty rue ( my stripper name) a cup to a cup and a quarter of milk and whisk together till it is well blended. Let it start burbling on the stove, you'll need to turn the heat up a bit to achieve this. See if your sauce is starting to thicken, if it gets too thick, add a dash more milk. Do not use skim, you will regret it.
5. To the milky rue add in a couple squirts of yellow mustard, you can get fancy and try a Dijon or something but I promise, people much prefer things that taste like the color they are ( purple Popsicles and green jello any one?).
6. Whisk in the mustard and salt and pepper to taste.
7. Let burble till your noodle babies are done boiling. Whisk occasionally, cream sauces break really easily and separate if they stand too long or get skin on top. You don't want a broken, skinned sauce. It will make you sad.
8. If you haven't already done so, shred your cheese. You need 4 cups of orange cheddar. If you were smart you bought the already shredded kind. We call that the Sarah Special. Cause I am lazy, obviously. A tasty mix of cheese is 3 cups Orange and 1 cup white cheddar or Monty Jack. Or 5 cups of cheese if you are adventurous....And want to die young of cholesterol clots in your brain.I admit, sometimes I tempt fate and toss in 5 or so cups.
9. Drain your noodle babies and add in the sauce, stir it up add in the cheese, stir again.
10. Dump in a greased casserole, cake pan, whatever will hold that mess.
11. Bake for about 30-35 minutes. You want every thing melty and burbly.
12. Enjoy. Holy yum.

Nuker instructions in case you don't kill it the night before:

1.Grab your leftover mac, nuke it for about 1 minute.
2. Remove from nuker, sprinkle some more cheese on top to freshen it up. ( Any time I sneak away to "freshen up" at a party, you better believe I sneak away to eat cheddar.)
3. Nuke again for about 45 seconds.
4. When your mac is delicious and melty, put some awesome fresh tomato on top. I tell you, nothing will taste better coming out of a microwave than that. Wow.

My recipes are how I think them out in my head. If you need a more scientific explanation of any thing just let me know. I made this one up on my own and am darned proud of it. I hope you like it!

Mar 8, 2010

Terriyaki Chicken: On the Cheap!

Recently a friend lamented about her bill after she bought some chicken terriyaki from a large chain Asian restaurant. While I detest this restaurant for their bland, flavorless food and absurd prices, I thought I'd share a better way to get this dish. The following recipe is both tastier, better for you and cheaper.
I am not a nutritionist or anything so no suing me over the following recipe. I am not paid to endorse any of the following brand names, they just taste good and work for the "Explains It All" family. So buy whatever you want and take the following recipe for cheap-o chicken terriyaki with a grain of rice.

To do this up easy peezy and on the cheap:

Go to the store and buy:
One back of Bridseye "Steam Fresh" white rice with vegetables
One poundish of raw chicken- the Gold'n'Plump tenders kind of rock.
One bottle of your favorite Terriyaki sauce from a big box chain Asian type restaurant ( they all sell their sauces, it is darned right predatory if you ask me!!)
-or, you could stick it to the proverbial man and just buy some terriyaki at the grocery store.

Grab your self a pan you can brown up some chick'n' tenders in, some oil of the flavorless variety ( canola is a good choice) and a spoon/ spatula/ kitchen implement that can get raw chicken and hot fat on it- I highly recommend a wooden spoon and here is why:

Pop those chicken tenders into oil that has been heated to the point where when you put the end of the wooden spoon into the oil you see bubbles. This means it is frying temp.
Brown that chicken up for about brownish minutes. Seriously, when it is golden brown on all sides you should be ready to safely consume the chicken. Or get fancy and use a meat thermometer- whatevs.

Once your chicken is brown and beautiful, lay it to drip dry on some paper towels.
While your chicken is getting a spa treatment on some Bounty, you pop that bag of rice into the nuker and cook it up per the package instructions.
When it dings, carefully dump the rice into two portions/ bowls/ plates.
Toss that chicken on top and pour your terriyaki sauce down on top of the whole mess. Enjoy your sloppy, cheap Terriyaki. Take THAT big chain blandness and your steep price tags too.

I have done this meal a couple of times. The price tag for this meal with the sauce from a restaurant chain- $9 for two portions. Keep in mind there is enough sauce in that bottle to make this meal 4 or so times. If you buy 2 bags of rice, this meal will feed 4 people for about $10.50 total. It really is inexpensive and tasty. The price tag for this meal if you buy terriyaki from the grocery store? About $7.00 for 2 portions, $8.50 for 4. That totally beats $18.00 for two portions at that other crap place or $36.00 for 4 portions just for the pleasure of them doing this same basic thing and bringing it to you on a plate instead of doing it at home.
We tend to eat out when I am too lazy to wash dishes. After doing the math, $9.50 is worth it to me in savings to just wash some dishes and eat at home.

So next time you think of take out to feed your sloppy, starved, out of energy face, think cheap, fast and easy.
Stick it to the man, save your money, eat at home!