Wednesday, March 30, 2011

10 Facts About Me and My Better Half - Betty Beguiles post

Alright, this is usually about food. Thus, as our lives tend to revolve around food/meals, I think this is appropriate.

My husband and I met in college - but we don't know when. 
I threw grass at him to let him know I liked him. 

He introduced me to some really great food. I had refused to eat Chinese food for so very long because of food poisoning in an egg roll from a convenience store. Thanks to my husband, I am a Hot & Sour Soup Lover. While in labor with my first, I was eating Hot & Sour soup and pacing. 

When I'm in labor, my husband is my strength. He taught me the Hail Mary in Latin before I had our first child. He taught it to me in Greek for the second.

We have been married for almost six years and have already lived in two of the most expensive cities in the country - and he's a grad student! We lived in New York City for a year and now outside of Washington, DC. 

On our first anniversary, we ate dinner at a place called Good Burger in Manhattan, where I thought I was in labor. That was the best burger ever. The milkshake. Oh. Yes.

We were both born in Texas. We both only applied to the school we ended up going to (and meeting at). We both considered applying to UChicago...and didn't.

I was a cradle Catholic, and he was confirmed a week before he proposed to me.

He proposed with a sonnet. He wrote it. And memorized it. And recited it. Where we had our first kiss. 

It is dangerous for him to ask me to do anything...because I would be happy to pick up and drive across the country at the drop of a hat.

For our second anniversary, he took me on a shopping spree...for kitchen stuff! Oh, it was heaven.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Steak, Homemade Fries, and Sautéed Onions & Mushrooms

Last night we had a bit of a celebratory dinner. My husband finished up his first 6 hours of Latin comprehensive exams on the way to getting his PhD (6 of 25). He takes 6 more in October for Greek. Then he's got the rest for his major and minor dissertation topics. Whew. So, since I know my husband and know that the weight hasn't really lessened on him, since he's still got so much to do and still has four jobs...I thought I'd go through the papers and find out which grocery store had Porterhouse on sale. Lo and behold, Safeway did. Go Safeway! They also had a few other deals, so I got a few other things, but I continue to do most of my grocery shopping at the safe and much cheaper Bottom Dollar. My husband made the marinade for the steak, but I'll try to get it all listed here from what he told me he put in. He loves banana cream pie, so we closed with this. Great night. :)

Ingredients & Prices

2 pounds Porterhouse Steak @ $5.99/lb - $11.98
1 1/2 tsp Garlic - $0.09
1/4 Cup Olive Oil - $0.44
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce - $0.13
1 Tbsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce - $0.23
Salt & Pepper to taste - $0.05
2 tsp Lemon Juice - $0.02
Charcoal for Grilling - $3.12 (half of the bag used previously)
3 Medium-Large Potatoes, Skinned - $0.23
2 Tbsp Butter - $0.14
3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil - $0.04
1/4 lb sliced Mushrooms - $0.85
1 Medium/Large Yellow Onion, Sliced - $0.15
1 Tbsp Olive Oil (to drizzle over potatoes) - $0.11

Steak: Marinade each side in mixture of olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and lemon juice for 1-2 hours. Cook on grill to your preferred done-ness. We like medium rare to medium. My older brother likes it lightly browned on both sides! heh 

Potatoes: Peel potatoes, slice in half and then slice longways about five times to make steak fries. Melt 1 tbsp butter, and 2 tbsp veggie oil in pan and sear the outsides while preheating oven to 350. 

Move to a cookie sheet and drizzle with a tbsp of olive oil. Bake 10-15 minutes.

Slice mushrooms and onion. Sautée on low heat with remaining butter and oil.

My husband could tell I was in a rush, as the mushrooms were too close together. Give 'em some room!

Enjoy! It was all quite yummy. I kept thanking my husband for grilling the steaks, even though I found out how easy it is to do. The flavor of the smoke is just so intense, I feel as if he has done something amazing. And, with the flavor of that steak, he has. At one point, I had laid a fry on my steak, and I picked it up and ate it...the flavor of the steak had run into it, and it was DELICIOUS. Wow. I love this game.

Sorry, I had to eat some before I could take a picture!

Total Price of Meal, feeding 2 Adults, 1 Child with a few potatoes, mushrooms and pieces of meat for the baby - $17.58. That is right at half what we spent on a late lunch/early dinner at PF Chang's on Saturday.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tarte à la Banane

So this Sunday I was aiming at a fancier version of the banana cream pie. So, I jumped into Julia, and chose her Tarte aux Fraises (page 641) and used the variation of bananas instead of the strawberries. Actually, I went with the idea of this recipe, and then I took it apart. I made the suggested Pâte Sablée (see last week) with the suggested Crème Pâtissière (page 590-591) and swept over the top with the Gelée de Groseilles (page 594). There were a few choices here and there, so I'll show you what I used and what it cost. I followed her recipes pretty closely, but I just used three of them and put them together. 

Ingredients & Prices

Pâte Sablée

See this page. I did not do so well a job on it this time. I looked a little less at the book while making it, rushing a bit, since we had lovely steaks about to be cooked. I just wanted to get it done, so I could finish up the fries. I didn't take a picture of it, since it looked funny. But here's last week's. It should come up higher, though, like pie crust. In fact, you could reasonably substitute a sweet pie crust for this.

Price: $0.68

Crème Pâtissière (Custard Filling)

1 Cup Sugar - $0.32
5 Egg Yolks - $0.70
1/2 Cup Flour - $0.02
2 Cups Boiling Milk - $0.40
1 Tbsp Butter - $0.07
2 tsp vanilla extract - $0.20
2 Tbsp orange liqueur - $1.29

Price Custard: $3.00

sugar and egg yolks first, then flour - pasty

while you boil the milk - but watch it...don't scald it!
Lots of fast stirring, and close watching.
see those brown flecks? That's the burn-ness. Don't do that.
The custard was difficult. It would have been easy had it my full attention, but I was working on dinner a little bit at the same time, so I scalded the milk a bit and burnt the bottom of the custard.

custard in shell pre-banana & glaze
It still tasted great, though. However, I should have let it cool before serving. In the ice box. For an hour. Oops.

Gelée de Groseilles

Don't worry - you can't burn this. Ok, you could, but you won't.
1/2 Cup Apricot Preserves - $1.33
2 Tbsp Sugar - $0.02

Price Glaze: $1.35

Ta-da! Ok, it could be prettier, but not much.
3 Bananas - $0.79

It's a fancy banana cream pie! It's yummy. It tastes much better cold, though, so be sure to chill it. Eat with tea, coffee, or some white wine!

TOTAL PRICE for this Dessert - fills up a 9" pie pan nicely, I'd say dessert for 8-10 people: $5.82

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Son's Got the Cooking Bug

So he made up this recipe that I will share with you. Pardon my not including prices. Ha.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So I did... Zuppa Toscana (Olive Garden), Salad, & Leftovers

I made that soup. I found the recipe yesterday and got the stuff today. And it was good. Really good. Really really good. The only problem is that we had no bread to sop up the drops at the bottom of the bowls. You know, those Olive Garden breadsticks. Those ones. Alas.  I added salad and leftovers of this.

Ingredients & Prices

Zuppa Toscana

1 lb. Italian Sausage - $1.80
4 Small-Medium Russet Potatoes Sliced in half, then sliced 1/4 inch or smaller - $0.31
2 small yellow onions, chopped - $0.10
3 Slices Bacon, crisply cooked and broken up - $0.58
2 tsp garlic - $0.12
2 Cups chopped Kale - $0.31
32 ounces Chicken Broth - $1.69
1 qt Water
1/2 Pint Heavy Whipping Cream - $1.98
1/2 tsp fennel seeds - $0.03

Total Cost of Soup - $6.92

Bag - $2.50
1/2 Cucumber - $0.44


The recipe I made was based on this, but I did quite a few things differently, so I will give you my instructions. First of all, I did bake the sausage links as the instructions said, but next time I will likely pre-slice and sauté them instead. It was easy to just stick 'em in there, though. I guess it depends on how my day is going next time. If you do cook the sausage in the oven, it's at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.

Go ahead and cook your bacon, now, too. You'll notice that the copy cat recipe used bacon bits. !?!?! What? Why? No. Don't do that.  Anyhow, cook it and let it cool on some paper towels.  

Chop up all your veggies and all. 

Then put the broth (I ask for more than the recipe does) and water (I threw in about a quart, but I was generous, since I was so generous with the broth) in the pot. 
Go ahead, laugh at my monstrously-sized stock pot. At the store, it seemed small. (ha!) 

Dump on in the onions, potatoes, and garlic, now, too. Cook on medium-high until the potatoes are cooked through but not too soft, just enough to stick your fork through and feel a tiny bit of fight from the potatoes.

This takes much longer than you'd expect. In that time, you can  break up your bacon and slice your sausages. 

Then, add in the sausage, bacon, and however much salt and pepper you like. I threw in about a tsp salt and I dunno, a half a tsp of pepper.
Simmer on medium for about 10 minutes.
Toss in the kale and cream and cook covered on low for another 5-10 minutes. 

Now you can put together your salad and reheat some pasta leftovers. 

With soup this good, nobody minds some leftovers. 

I didn't end up eating any leftovers. I had 2 bowls of soup and 2 bowls of salad and I was good to go. 

Total Cost of Soup and Salad for 2 Adults, 1 Child, with a Lot of Leftovers (probably another quart - I think we ate half of it and leftover salad for 1) - $9.86 - it woulda been cheaper if I'd just used the lettuce I had.

Now, I've got a ton of leftover kale. Any ideas?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vanilla, Day 7

Day 7

As you can see, we've got a little bit of color. It pretty much tastes like lightly vanilla flavoured vodka for now. I still used it in a recipe today, though, as the recipe called for vanilla "essence," which I believe is a subtler flavoured extract.

Baked Chocolate Cheesecake

This second Sunday in Lent brings chocolate. It had to. We're having Baked Chocolate Cheesecake tonight from page 156 of The Complete Book of Chocolate and 200 Chocolate Recipes, a recipe book from...someone. I cannot remember where I got this one. Perhaps my sister? Or my mom? Or a friend? If you are the one who gave it to me, you're awesome. Thanks! We're taking it over to a friend's house, so I'm really hoping it works out. I've never made cheesecake before. It felt easy while I was doing it, though. Oh, and did you know that cheesecake has A LOT of cream cheese? We stopped at the store to get cream cheese, chocolate and chocolate biscuits, and I bought...ONE eight ounce package of cream cheese. Then I came home and looked over the recipe to discover that I needed to get four more! Oh yeah, cheesecake should have lots of cheese, eh? Haha. Now I know. Silly silly me. Also, this recipe is for a BIG cheesecake. I didn't have a big old cake pan with sides that come off to put it in, and my layer cake cake pan was MUCH too small, so I had to substitute my 13 x 3 glass casserole dish.

Ingredients & Prices

10 ounces plain chocolate (I got chips) - $2.89
5 Cups Cream Cheese - $8.90
Scant 1 Cup Sugar - $0.32
2 tsp vanilla essence - $0.20 (my vanilla)
4 Eggs - $0.56
3/4 Cup Sour Cream - $0.71
1 Tbsp Cocoa Powder - $0.07

For the Base

7 oz Chocolate biscuits, crushed - $0.78
8 Tbsp Butter, melted - $0.59
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon - $0.02

Generalized Instructions from the Book (see the book in the background)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease the base of either a 9x3 springform tin OR a 9x13 casserole dish if you don't have the former (like me). Mix the crushed biscuits with the butter and cinnamon.

I crushed the biscuits in the processor.
Press into base of tin to make crust. 

Melt the chocolate and set aside.

Toward the end, I held the pot high over the flame, so the chocolate would not burn.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Note that you really should have room temp. cream cheese, else your mixer will get mad at you. Mine did. 

Add the sugar and vanilla essence and beat some more. (I used my homemade stuff). It gets much easier once you've added the sugar. Notice my grumpy face below. I looked up the term "scant" in the dictionary, and it said grudgingly giving the minimum. Thus I grudgingly add the sugar...just barely.

Add the eggs, one at a time.

In another bowl, mix together the sour cream and cocoa powder.

Add to the cream cheese mixture.

Add in the chocolate. YUM.

Finally, pour it all into your baking dish and bake for 1 hour.

Take it out and let it cool for a while. Serve chilled. 

Total Cost of Cheesecake to serve 10-12: $15.04
So, if ever you think that a slice of pie for $8 is too much, make your own!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Grilled Burgers & Chips

I just grilled my first burgers. Boy was it a heck of a lot easier than I thought it would be. And, man, were they good!

Ingredients & Prices

1 Pound Ground Beef - $1.98
1 1/2 tsp Garlic (minced) - $0.09
1 Egg - $0.14
5-7 Ritz Crackers - $0.15
Salt & Pepper to taste - $0.03
4 Buns - $0.55
4 Slices American Cheese - $0.12

3 Small Yellow Onions - $0.15
3 Tbsp Olive Oil - $0.33
1 Roma Tomato - $0.34
1/8 Head Lettuce - $0.20
1 Jalapeno - $0.15 (for husband again)
8 or so Pickles - $0.20

3 lbs Charcoal - $3.12 (we got a 6.3 pounder for 6.24 including tax and used half.)
I do not usually include the price of the gas used while cooking on my stove or in my oven. However, the price of gas used then is much lower than this. I think this should be taken into account as part of the total price.

1 Bag Chips (We didn't eat them all...of course!)  - $1.88 - We ONLY buy chips that are on sale unless it is a special occasion or somebody's coming over. Our fabulous grocery store always has some kind of chips on sale for $1.88. Why that price? Who knows. We probably only ate about 1/3 of the bag, so I'll count this as: $0.63.


First you mix all the burger stuff together. 

It should be pretty uniform. Then separate into four patties, about 1/4 pound each.

Slice the tomatoes and separate the lettuce. Chop up some onions - size up to you. I wish I'd had some mushrooms. If you do, chop them up, too. Saute the onions in the olive oil.

Set all your sides aside or place on table. 

Look at those onions. You could just spoon 'em straight into your mouth...

Start your grill. Stack up your briquettes in a nice neat lil' pile. (oh, wipe off the grill with some olive oil, too)

I had easy light charcoal.
Easy light charcoal kinda scares me, so I got a big long piece of newspaper and lit it and waited to see if it really lit right up. It did. Nice. 

Once your coals are white hot and the flames aren't too high anymore, throw on your burgers. 

I closed it for a bit. Then I flipped 'em.

Top 'em with the sliced cheese when they are almost ready to take off. This takes pretty much no time.

I like grilled buns, too, so I put those on for a minute. 

Take 'em off and go yummy.

I couldn't let the fire go to waste, so I grabbed some pork chops and stuck 'em on there, too. They look pretty good. I think I'll make some pork fried rice tomorrow for us to eat for lunch on Monday & Tuesday. Or something. 

Total Cost of 4 Burgers (husband had 1 1/2, kid had 1, I had 1 - could have eaten another) enough for 2 Adults, 1 Child - $8.18