Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Christine's Easy Peasy Chocolate Cake

I asked friends to contribute their delicious recipes for cheap eating, and Christine sent me back this delicious recipe for cake. Yum, cake. Perhaps over the weekend I can prepare one of these.

Says Christine, "If you splurge on the Kahlúa, it costs a bit more..but I don't think I have ever spent more than $20 on this cake ... maybe less."

Easy Peasy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cake

1 box chocolate cake mix with pudding
1 cup mayo (full fat or low fat; I use Best Foods or Vegenaise)
1 cup Liquid (it can be water, soy milk, whatever you like. I sometimes put a cup of regular coffee or Kahlúa for a little kick)
3 eggs (you may also substitute egg beaters or applesauce for vegans)
2-3 cups chocolate chip mini chips

Dump cake mix, mayo, liquid, and eggs in mixer. Beat until smooth. Then turn off mixer and with a spatula, fold in chocolate chips. VERY IMPORTANT that you do this. I warned you. Carry on.

Coat pan (furiously) with Pam and bake in a deep round pan. Just something big enough that you can fill 3/4 of the way full but not small enough that it will overflow. If you use a long pan you'll have to adjust (shorter time) the cooking time. This ain't brownies folks.

You can also use two (or three!) smaller pans and layer the cake with jam (seedless strawberry jam and fresh blueberries are great) or frosting (I use a yummy Peanut Butter one that is to die for) in the middle. It's also good just by itself with a little dusting of powder sugar on top.

Bake for 30-40 min at 350 degrees or until you stick a toothpick (or knife) in the middle and it comes out dry. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30-40 min or until cool. Cut and serve.

Super rich and delish! This cake will make you look like the queen (king) of the party.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Flank Steak

In order to make this week's lunch, I needed to prepare the meat. I bought a .83 lb flank steak and tried out my mom's amazing marinade, which requires a good 24 hours soak in the fridge before broiling (or grilling). It's a large recipe, but my mom said she freezes it after using it and reuses it about 3 times.

Flank Steak Marinade

1 cup soy sauce (I used low-sodium)
1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
1/2 cup sugar (my mom said she uses a little bit less)
1 jigger gin or vodka (I went without since I didn't have any on hand)
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
3 - 4 green onions, thinly diced
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. fresh ginger (I probably used closer to 3)

Combine all the ingredients and let the steak marinade over night in the fridge for at least 12 hours. I prepared my steak by broiling it for about 5 - 7 minutes on each side. Doing this on a warm, humid New York night was probably not the wisest of decisions, but it makes your kitchen smells divine and gives the meat a delicious crust on the outside.


Sesame seeds $2.49
Kikkoman Lite Soy Sauce (large bottle) $3.49
Ginger root $.72

Total: $6.70
approximate cost per use: $2.24 (if you use it 4 times total -- you should also have plenty of soy sauce, ginger and sesame seeds left over for other meals)

Lunch: Steak Salad

I have been wanting to make a steak salad for a long time now, and when I had delicious flank steak at my parents' a few weeks ago while visiting them in Marin, I decided to finally go for it. At the very least, I'd learn my mom's recipe for the marinade (see above). After eating a couple slices tonight for dinner, I sliced the rest of the meat and combined the following ingredients.

Steak Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
makes 4 lunches

cold, cooked steak, thinly sliced (about .75 lbs)
red leaf lettuce
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped (optional - I had one in the fridge I wanted to use up)
4 oz. parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. walnuts, toasted

Lemon Vinaigrette

juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp. and 1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1/4 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic, grated
1/8 tsp. lemon zest

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, egg, walnuts and cheese. Divide into 4 containers, and top with some torn lettuce. Divide the sliced steak evenly between the containers, then place remaining lettuce on top. To prepare dressing, combine lemon juice, olive oil, sherry vinegar, mustard, honey and garlic, whisk well, then strain. On the day you're taking it to work, drizzle about a tablespoon of dressing into the container or over the dish if it's being plated.


Beef Flank Steak $9.44 (for .83 lb)
2 Tomatoes $2.49
Red Onion $.43
Cucumber $.99
Lemons $1.49

Cost per meal: $3.71 (this is slightly inflated since I ate part of the steak for dinner the first night, but it doesn't take into account the cost of the marinade)

Nutritional information per serving: 348 calories, 19g fat, 6g saturated fat, 13% sodium, 9g carbohydrate, 2g dietary fiber, 5g sugar, 35g protein, 90% vitamin A, 25% vitamin C, 23% calcium, 16% iron. Also a good source of Niacin (38%), Vitamin B6 (38%), Zinc (38%), and Selenium (52%).

Chicken Fajitas

One of my summer favourites, I prepared this to have on hand for the week's dinner. Usually chicken breast would be a more typical choice, but chicken thighs were at a very good price at the supermarket and I happened to have a fifth in my freezer, so it worked out well. Also a nice way to use up the 1/2 bell pepper I had in my fridge from last week's Three Bean Salad.

Cilantro Lime Marinade
makes enough for 4 - 5 pieces of chicken
adapted slightly from
The Joy of Cooking

2 limes (1/4 cup lime juice)
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 scallions, chopped (if you don't have scallions, substitute with 1/2 small red onion, diced)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. anise (optional)

Last night I marinated one of the chicken thighs in the marinade while I prepared the rest of the ingredients for fajitas and meals for the rest of the week, placing the other four chicken thighs in a ziplock bag with the marinade once I began cooking the marinated thigh. They're sitting in the ziplock bag and I'll either cook them tonight in the stove or the oven. Another idea would be to cut chicken breast into strips and marinade or freeze so that the chicken pieces are ready to use at a later date. Thighs are not really typical fajita meat, but as I said before, they were very cheap so that trumped tradition.

I also prepared some rice (1/2 cup dry cooking with half a chicken bouillon cube), a can of low sodium black beans cooked with about a half cup good salsa), and 1/2 bell pepper and 1/4 white onion sautéed in a small amount of olive oil and a bit of the Cilantro Lime marinade. I made two fajitas using small, 6-inch whole wheat tortillas, topped with 1/2 chopped tomato, a bit of grated cheddar cheese and a dash of hot sauce.

Now I've got some good things waiting for me in the fridge for the week that I can use either separately or combine into other things -- I might turn two of the chicken thighs into meat for a chicken salad one night, or use the rice later on for fried rice. Vamos a ver, as the Spanish would say.

Cost of certain ingredients (other than what I had on hand):
4 Chicken Thighs $1.63
Cilantro $1.39
Green Bell Pepper $.46
Black beans $.99
3 Limes $.38
Scallions $.89 (also using this for this week's lunch recipe)

Total: $5.74

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cobb Salad

This week for dinner, I've been having Cobb Salad, which I threw together on kind of whim when I noticed that I had all the ingredients for it in my fridge after my weekly shopping trip (and particularly wanted to use up some bacon I had on hand). As I was preparing the first serving, I put the remaining amount of what I'd chopped into a tupperware container so that I'd have two more servings that could easily be added to lettuce, then adding freshly chopped tomato, avocado and blue cheese. There is a bit of prep work that goes into this, which is why it's nice to reserve two more servings to have on hand for two easy dinners without a lot of clean-up during the week. Also I had prepared the chicken for the Three Bean Salad as well, so I didn't deal with that part of the recipe.

As a side note, the chicken breasts I bought this week were huge (and a little frightening), so if you're finding very tiny chicken breasts, firstly good for you, and secondly you might increase how many you use for this recipe.

Cobb Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
makes three servings

Red leaf lettuce (at least 12 large leafs)
1 large chicken breast, seasoned
2 tomatoes
2 eggs
1/2 red onion
1 avocado
3 oz. blue cheese
2 slices bacon

Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 tsp. balsamic vinegar
3 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. grainy dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. yellow french mustard
1 clove garlic, grated

In a sauté pan or skillet, cook seasoned chicken breast on both sides over medium heat until cooked through (approx 15 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Put 2 eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Place uncovered over high heat until water comes to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, cover with a lid, reduce to low heat, and cook for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, immediately drain and put in cold water.

While eggs are cooking, you can begin preparing the bacon. As bacon and eggs are cooking, chop onions, 1/2 tomato, and 1/4 avocado. Place lettuce on a plate and add ingredients. Remaining onions go into a tupperware container. When the chicken had cooled, chop and place about 1/3 on plate; remaining goes with onions in tupperware. When bacon is finished and has drained for about a minute on paper towels, chop, adding 1/3 to plate and remaining to tupperware. Once eggs have cooled entirely, peel, chop and add about 1/3 of chopped eggs to plate, and remaining to tupperware. (When preparing the salad the following nights, chop tomato and avocado then.) Add about 1 oz. of blue cheese, or less depending on preferences.

To make dressing, combine ingredients in a small glass bowl or measuring glass. Use about 1/3 on tonight's salad, the rest can be reserved in fridge for two following nights.

Chicken $1.66
Blue cheese $7.99 (for a glass container with blue cheese cubes marinated in peppercorns and olive oil)
Tomato $4.11 (for 3 total)
Red onion $.60
Eggs $1.89 (for 6)
Avocado $1.99

Total: $18.24

Cost per meal $6.08

Nutritional information per serving: 432 calories (246 fat calories), 28g total fat, 10g saturated fat, 11g carbohydrate, 4g dietary fiber, 4g sugars, 35g protein, 125% vitamin A, 29% vitamin C, 21% calcium, 14% iron. Also a very good source of niacin (54%) and selenium (55%), and a good source of protein, vitamin A and vitamin K (141%).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lunch: Three Bean Salad with Chicken

In order to really like this meal, you've got to already have an inclination for traditional three bean salad. This is a simple, light meal that gets better as the week goes on and the marinade has time to deepen. This recipe is a combination/alteration of various ones I saw doing research on this typical summer picnic dish.

Three Bean Salad with Chicken
makes 4 lunches

1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 can (15 oz.) red kidney beans, well-rinsed
1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, well-rinsed
2 radishes, thinly diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 chicken breast, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tbsp. fresh parsley
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Sherry vinegar (or red wine)
2 tsps. dijon mustard (I used a tsp each of a smooth yellow dijon and a grainy one)
1 1/2 tsps. sugar

Heat about 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan. When the oil has become heated, add the chicken. Cook through, approximately 10 minutes. Let cool for a long time, at least 1/2 hour.

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add green beans and cook for about 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, immediately drain and wash in cold water to stop cooking.

In a mixing bowl, combine kidney beans, garbanzo beans, radishes, bell pepper, onion and parsley. Combine, then add cooled green beans. Combine again.

Make the vinaigrette by combining 1 tbsp olive oil with 2 tbsp Sherry vinegar, the two different mustards, and sugar. Whisk, then pour over salad and mix. Dice chicken and add, stirring again.

Green Beans $1.12
Garbanzo beans $.79
Red kidney beans $.79
Radishes $.79
Sherry vinegar $6.15
Red onion $.60 (I only used half)
Green pepper $1.13 (again, only used half)
Chicken breast $1.66

Total: $13.03

Cost per lunch: $3.26

Nutritional information per serving: 348 calories (59 fat calories), 7g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 46g total carbohydrate, 13g dietary fiber, 5g sugar, 25g protein, vitamin a (10%), vitamin c (40%), calcium (10%), iron (21%). Also a good source of vitamin B6 (46%) and Manganese (50%).