Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lunch: Macaroni & Cheese with Broccoli & Chicken

Since the weather is getting cooler, I have been more inclined to make microwaveable dishes to take in for lunch. I made a chicken & broccoli mac & cheese last fall and made this based on some previous learnings, adapted from a recipe I found on Epicurious. I even had a package of whole wheat macaroni to use up, so that saved some costs on this particular dish this week.

Macaroni & Cheese with Broccoli & Chicken
makes 4 servings

1 1/4 cup dry whole wheat macaroni
1 large chicken breast
1 package frozen broccoli florets, thawed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup half and half (or whipping cream, but half and half has less fat)
.75 cup shredded Asiago cheese
.75 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Cook macaroni for about 12 minutes, then drain.

As water is coming to a boil, in a sautée pan, heat a small amount of olive oil (about 1 tsp). Sautée chicken breast til cooked through and remove from heat. When the chicken has cooled for a while, dice.

In a saucepan, melt butter and add flour. Cook for about 2 minutes to create a roux. Slowly whisk in half-and-half, then stir as adding cheese. It creates a luscious, gooey sauce.

In the saucepan or a large mixing bowl, combine pasta, chopped broccoli florets, chicken and sauce. Add salt and pepper as necessary.


Chicken breast $2.19
Cheddar cheese $3.15
Asiago cheese $4.67
Half and half $1.50
Broccoli $1.39

Total costs: $12.90
Cost per meal: $3.23

Lunch: Fresh Linguine with Sausage and Savoy Cabbage

I found this recipe on Shape's website and should have followed it to a T, but instead I opted to try another route to their suggestion of cornstarch and ended up making some kind of a balsamic reduction sauce which worked out nicely. Here's Shape's recipe verbatim. This whole meal was super cheap since I had half of a savoy cabbage from the preceeding week's borscht as well as 2 chicken sausages from another meal made a while back.

Fresh Linguine with Sausage and Savoy Cabbage
serves 4

2 chicken sausages (about 5 ounces total)
1 small red onion
1/2 wedge savoy cabbage
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground
black pepper
1 12-ounce package fresh linguine

Bring a large covered pot of water to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low and simmer covered until ready to cook pasta. Meanwhile, cut sausage into diagonal pieces, slice onion to make 1/2 cup, and shred cabbage. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and cornstarch.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add sausage, reduce heat to medium, and cook 1 minute. Turn sausage and cook another minute. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, onion, and cabbage and sautée 1 minute. Add broth and 1/4 cup cold water; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in cornstarch mixture and pepper. Cook, stirring, until liquid is a little glossy, about 30 seconds. Set aside.

Return pasta water to a boil over high heat. Add linguine and cook uncovered according to package directions, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander. Add drained pasta to sausage and sauce in skillet and toss gently to combine. Divide among four plates and serve immediately.

Fettucine $2.79
Red onion $.46
Chicken broth $1.35
Sausage $3 for 2 (from a previously purchased package)

Total: $7.60
Cost per meal: $1.90

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lunch: Borscht Soup

I was inspired to make this about a month ago when I was reminded of its existence at a Polish restaurant down the street from my house. Why had I never ventured to make this particular soup before, as I have tried to make virtually every other soup that I enjoy, I wondered. So I did some research, and settled upon trying this recipe from a soup cookbook my aunt gave me a few years ago for Christmas, as it was one of the few I found that didn't require procuring a cut of beef from a butcher. I have no doubt that using beef shank would make an amazingly richer, more heavy soup, but this one turned out amazingly well -- a clear, delicate, bright purple broth (both in colour and flavour), with a hearty amount of vegetables to balance the flavour of the beets. I can't wait to try it again, next time with the aforementioned beef shank.

makes 5 large, lunch appropriate servings

3 beets
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 celery stalk, cut into matchsticks
1 leek, sliced
1/2 savoy cabbage, sliced
1 1/2 quart chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups reserved beet juice (from boiling the beets)
3 beets, parboiled, peeled and diced (wear gloves!)
1 teaspoon marjoram
4 parsley stalks, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup fresh dill (or about 1 tablespoon dried, which is what I used)
pepper to taste
red wine vinegar to taste (about 1 tablespoon)
sour cream for garnish

In a large saucepan, cover beets with water and bring to boil. Boil for 12 - 15 minutes, until beets are partially cooked. Strain, reserving liquid from beets. Allow beets to cool. Return liquid to saucepan and simmer until it's needed later on in the recipe (this will allow the liquid to reduce some and concentrate its flavour).

In a soup pot, cook bacon until crisp, over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add carrot, parsnip, celery, leek and cabbage. Cook about 5 minutes, then add cabbage. Cover pot and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, allowing cabbage to wilt. Add stock. Using gloves, peel and prepare beets. Add beets, then add 2 cups of simmering beet liquid. Add marjoram, parsley, garlic cloves and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Remove garlic clove and bay leaves, add dill, pepper, salt (if needed) and red wine vinegar. Cook for a few more minutes, then serve, with a dollop of sour cream.

One of the better dishes I've made in a long time. Now to find a butcher so I can try this with beef.


Beets $2.59
Cabbage $2.62
Vegetable broth (can) $1.39
Chicken broth (carton) $3.49
Red wine vinegar $3.79
Onion $1.10
Parsnip $.75
Carrot $.73
Leek $1.08
Garlic $.51

Total $18.05
Total per serving $3.61

Monday, September 8, 2008

Lunch: Farfalle with Summer Squash, Zucchini, Red Bell Pepper and Chicken Sausage

I was planning for this week to be this big borscht experience, but when I got to the grocery store after the gym, I realised I'd forgotten the recipe. So I improvised and threw this together, knowing that I had plenty of farfalle pasta on hand already, plus some parmesan cheese, half an onion, and a wee bit of heavy cream that needed to be used up. Thankfully, this dish turned out delicious (thanks no doubt to the cream).

Farfalle with Summer Squash, Zucchini, Red Bell Pepper, and Chicken Sausage
(4 lunches)

2 cups dry rainbow farfalle pasta
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 yellow summer squash, sliced
1/2 zucchini, sliced
2 chicken sausages (I bought some made with spinach and feta cheese -- all that was left when I did my shopping)
8 oz. tomato sauce
1/2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. dried basil
dash of dried thyme
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Cook farfalle according to package directions; cool. While pasta begins cooking, sautée white onion in olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add red bell pepper and sautée for about 5 minutes. As red bell pepper cooks, heat a small frying pan and begin to cook sausages. Add summer squash and zucchini to red bell pepper and onion and cook, about 10 minutes. When sausages are finished, removed from heat and allow to cool. Add tomato sauce to pepper and squash mixture and simmer for about a minute, then add cream. Add salt, pepper, basil, and thyme. Slice sausages and add to vegetables. Stir well, then remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine pasta and sauce, then add parmesan and toss a few times to coat. And voilà. A delicious pasta that will heat up well for lunch.


Red bell pepper $1.75
Yellow squash $1.67
Zucchini $1.71
Tomato Sauce $.70
Sausages $3 for 2 ($6 for 4)

Total cost: $8.83
Cost per meal: $2.21