The Cheap Dish
Shrimp Scampi with Thin Spaghetti - $4.02

Santa Monica has been a bit gloomy this past week, which has left me feeling uninspired when it comes to food. I peeked into my cupboard and found some pasta noodles, but the thought of making yet another red sauce left me feeling even more dismal. This was my solution:

Ingredients:

  1. 1/4 Cup White Wine (The cheaper the better as long as it’s dry and tart.) - $2.69
  2. Jumbo Shrimp (6 pieces) - $1.33

Staples:

  1. Thin Spaghetti  (Always keep pasta in your cupboard. Always.)
  2. 1/3 Cup Butter
  3. 1 tbl. Lemon Juice
  4. 2 Garlic Cloves, minced

Spices:

  1. 1 tsp. Onion Powder
  2. Parsley
  3. Salt & Pepper
  4. Parmesan Cheese

Start boiling water for your pasta noodles. Next, put on your Plastic Bag Gloves and mince your garlic on a small plate. Wait until your pasta is in the boiling water to start your sauce.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Once the butter melts, saute your garlic until softened (but not brown). This will take about 5 minutes. Add in your cooked shrimp (I like to get mine fresh that day from the grocery store), then stir in onion powder, wine, lemon juice and salt and pepper. While you’re at it, give your noodles a stir as well. Let your sauce simmer 5-10 minutes turning the shrimp so they brown on each side. Your noodles should be tender by now. Pour out the excess water and plate.

This sauce is light, but it packs a lot of flavor. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and parsley for some added texture. And have I mentioned the Cheesy Bread lately?

Serves 2, but sadly there are no leftovers. Happy Eating!

Baked Lemon Chicken with White Rice and Green Beans - $7.17

I have the very best cookbook on planet earth. If you don’t have this, buy one…now! With that out of the way, I searched through the poultry section to discover a tart but crunchy baked lemon chicken recipe and decided to pair it with white rice and green beans.

Ingredients you will need:

  1. 1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs - $2.39
  2. 1 Garlic Clove from the head - $.50
  3. White Rice - $3.49
  4. Green Beans - $.79

Staples in the kitchen:

  1. 2 Chicken Breasts, thawed (Again, I buy a big pack and freeze so I always have a back up plan)
  2. 1 1/2 Tbl. Lemon Juice
  3. 2 Tbl. Butter, melted
  4. Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I hate that lingering garlic smell on my hands long after the clove has been minced, so I made plastic bag gloves (meaning sandwich bags on my hands) and grated the garlic clove over a small plate. This left my hands smelling slightly of garlic for only one day instead of one week. Anyway, I digress.

Next, combine the butter, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper in a shallow dish. In another dish, place bread crumbs and sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper.

Dip chicken in the butter mixture, then coat evenly with crumbs. Place in a greased baking dish and drizzle with remaining butter mixture. The remaining mix should coat the bottom of the pan. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until juices run clear.

While the chicken bakes, boil rice in a small sauce pan according to package directions and start heating up your green beans 10 minutes before your chicken is ready.

Happy Eating!

Baked Wild Rice & Chicken Casserole - $10.47

I’ve been a little bit homesick this past week, so I wanted to make some comfort food. With a box of Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice in the cabinet, a large piece of chicken in the freezer, and a limited budget in my pocket, I googled ‘casserole.’ The Internet bestowed upon me this recipe.

Ingredients you will need:

  1. Wild Rice - $3.09
  2. Chicken (I buy in bulk so I always have a backup plan when planning dinner) - Staple
  3. Chicken Gravy - $1.65
  4. Chicken Broth - $1.15
  5. Cream of Mushroom Soup - $.99
  6. Ritz Crackers- $3.59
  7. Butter - Staple

Spices you will need:

  1. Garlic Salt
  2. Onion Powder
  3. Salt & Pepper

I took the chicken out of the freezer after lunch, and let it thaw in a bowl of warm water  in the sink throughout the afternoon. When I got home at 5:30, I was ready to start cooking.

I first put water on the stove to boil the wild rice (prepare according to package directions). Then, in a small frying pan, I cooked 2 chicken breasts on medium heat. To speed up the process, I began cubing my chicken while it cooked. The chicken and rice take about 15 - 20 minutes to cook. When they’re done, turn the burner off and let them cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a separate bowl, crush up half a sleeve of Ritz Crackers with a large fork or masher (Variation: Use 1 cup of Cheez-Its). Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a microwave safe bowl and pour over crushed crackers. Mix lightly.

Then, in a greased baking pan, mix: cooked rice, cubed chicken, 1 can of mushroom soup, 1/2 cup of chicken gravy and 1/2 cup of chicken broth and season to taste (garlic salt, onion powder, salt and pepper). Cover the casserole in the buttered crackers mix. Bake 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll have plenty of leftovers for a yummy hot lunch the next day as well.

Happy Eating!

Thin Spaghetti with Pink Sauce - $8.26

My roomie and I stumbled upon an amazing little Italian hideaway, Fritto Misto, located on Colorado Avenue and 6th Street in Santa Monica. Because the meal was so amazing (and cheap!) we tried to recreate it at home.

For this recipe you will need:

  1. Thin Spaghetti Pasta (or pasta of your choice) - $.99
  2. Plain Marinara Sauce (8oz.) - $.79
  3. Tomato Paste (6oz.) - $.50
  4. Heavy Cream (pint) - $2.99    
  5. Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded - $2.99
  6. Olive Oil - Staple

We spiced our sauce with:

  1. Italian Seasoning
  2. Onion Powder
  3. Garlic Salt

I was pretty sure we could make it without a recipe, but, for safety’s sake, we went online to find a simple recipe just to make sure we had everything we needed. We followed it very loosely. No pepper flakes or vodka was harmed in the making of this meal.

To begin, boil the water for pasta. I used a dutch oven and filled it about half way with water, and put a cap full of olive oil in so the pasta wouldn’t stick together. In about 10 minutes, you will begin your sauce. In the meantime, maybe you should do some of those dishes in the sink?

To make your sauce, begin with the marinara sauce and spice it to your taste. Then, add in half the can of tomato paste, or the whole can if you like your sauce thick. Once this is heated through, add in 1/3 cup of Heavy Cream and stir continuously. We like cheese in our apartment, so once the sauce began to simmer we added a handful of shredded Mozzarella cheese.

At some point while you are making the sauce, the water begins to boil. Make sure you stop and stir in your pasta.

The sauce is heating nicely, the pasta is boiling and you’re stirring occasionally. Once your pasta is done (usually takes about 10 minutes depending on what kind), the sauce should be warm enough. Feeds 2 people or 4 if you want to have some guests over for a homey Italian meal.

You will have plenty of leftovers for dinner the next night too. I also have enough heavy cream to try out a Basil Cream sauce with Fettuccine recipe I found this week.

Happy eating!

Filet Mignon, Baked Potatoes & Green Beans - $10.39

For this recipe you will need:

  1. Filet Mignon (or 8oz. steak of your choice) - $7.79
  2. Baked Potatoes ($.99 per lb.) - $1.81
  3. Green Beans - $.79

The spices you will need to season your steak:

  1. Olive Oil
  2. Salt & Pepper
  3. Granulated Garlic
  4. Onion Powder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your potatoes by washing them, stick them with a fork about 6 times all over the potato and place them in the microwave for five minutes. This just helps them cook faster once they are in the oven. Wrap them in tinfoil and place them in the oven. Put timer on for 30 minutes.

Now turn to seasoning your steak. If you’re super prepared (unlike me) you can marinate your steak overnight in the fridge. But, I bought my steak after work so, I  marinated it by rubbing on a little olive oil, garlic and onion powder then placed it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Once your oven timer goes off turn the potatoes in the oven and put your oven on Hi Broil (I put mine on Lo at first and it took forever for the steak to begin to cook). Because broil is the hottest your oven can go, this will make those potatoes in the oven bake even faster. I like my steak a little pink so, it only took about 10 minutes once I turned my broiler on High and the potatoes were already beginning to soften. Make sure you heat your green beans up on the stove while your steak broils. If you crave something fresh, I also recommend making a crisp garden salad.

Cook your steak to taste (anywhere between 10 - 20 minutes), your potatoes should be done in 45 minutes or less and you can take them out to cool while the steak finishes. In this time you can heat your green beans on the burner and begin plating. Feeds 2 people.

Happy eating! Oh and by the way, there are no leftovers.

Father’s Day Buffalo Wings & Beer - $19.18

In honor of my father, who lives in Western New York, I wanted to make Anchor Bar Buffalo Wings at home and wash it down with a cool Pabst Blue Ribbon, the working man’s beer. So, even though we live 3000 miles apart, this meal will make it seem like he’s just around the corner. You will need:

  1. Chicken Wings (Run between $4.50 - $6.00 a pack) - $4.71 
  2. Blue Cheese (I like Marie Calender’s Extra Chunky) - $2.99 
  3. Celery (Pre-cut is the hassle free way to go) - $3.99
  4. Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (12 pack) - $7.49

From the fridge grab:

  1. Anchor Bar Wing Sauce or wing sauce of your choice
  2. Butter
  3. PAM or cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grab a cookie sheet along with your package of wings. I like to buy mine on the day I make them, because they just taste better fresh to me. Wash your wings in cool water and place on the greased baking sheet. Put a “dollop” (my dad’s word) of butter on each wing and place in the center rack of the oven.

Bake for 25 minutes and take them out of the oven. Careful, they’re hot. Now, turn each wing with a pair of tongs. Slide them back into the oven and bake another 20 minutes. You’ll turn them one last time, and then put them in for another 15 minutes.

Next, you will need a mixing bowl, wing sauce, blue cheese and celery. Once the wings are golden brown, place them in the mixing bowl and douse the wing sauce as desired. Serve with blue cheese and celery, and chase down the fire with an ice cold Pabst beer.

Serves 2 people (7 wings a piece) and you can reuse the blue cheese and celery.

Happy eating, Dads!

Penne Pasta with Ground Turkey & Tomato Sauce - $15.14

I don’t usually like to eat pasta sauce that comes in a jar. My mom taught me how to make my own, but it’s very time involved. So, when you’re hungry (ahem, at 8pm) and you want to eat something filling fast. Try this! You will need:

  1. Pasta Sauce (8oz.) - $1.88
  2. Penne Noodles (12oz.) - $1.59
  3. Mozzarella Cheese - $2.99
  4. Ground Turkey (1.25lb.) - $5.49

I used to eat a lot of red meat, but in my quest to eat better I found ground turkey to be a wonderful alternative. I also like to cut the 1.25 lb. of meat in half and use it for 2 recipes. This week I also made tacos which were, of course, super delicious.

I spiced the raw turkey meat with:

  1. Italian Seasoning
  2. Salt & Pepper
  3. Granulated Garlic
  4. Onion Powder

Other ingredients you will need.

  1. Olive Oil

Place your turkey in a pan and begin to simmer on med-low heat. If you don’t like to just throw your spices on (which I do), then measure out 1/2 teaspoon of each and sprinkle salt and pepper as desired. While that cooks, fill up your dutch oven about half way and begin to boil. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil (this just keeps your pasta from getting sticky) into the water along with a little more salt and pepper. I told you, I liked salt. While your meat and water heat up, pour a little more than half of the jar of pasta sauce (I used Classico Tomato and Basil) in a saucepan and let it sit. I like to use my time wisely, especially when I’m eating so late.

Break up the ground turkey and saute until it is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Hopefully, by the time your meat is done the water will be boiling. When it does, pour in about half of the package of penne and stir all along. When your meat is cooked, stir it into the pasta sauce and turn on your burner to a very low flame. You want your sauce to cook slowly so it doesn’t spatter everywhere or burn on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring the penne and sauce continuously.

I like to pair my pasta with freezer bought garlic bread ($3.19/each), or this would be a great time to use my Mozzarella Cheesy Bread recipe. Just sayin’.

So, taste your pasta all along until it’s the consistency you like and heat up your pasta sauce thoroughly. I also threw in a little extra mozzarella cheese at the very end to thicken up the sauce. And about 15 minutes before everything is ready, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake the bread. A delicious and filling meal ready in 20 minutes. Feeds 2 people.

Happy eating!

Rotisserie Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans & Corn on the Cob - $9.42

I love buying a Rotisserie Chicken from the grocery store. They are slow roasted, tender and juicy. Not to mention, you can eat on it all week. But what should you eat with it when you buy it fresh? Here’s my suggestion.

  1. Rotisserie Chicken - $5.49
  2. 1 Can of Green Beans - $.79
  3. 2 Ears of Corn - $1.38
  4. 2 Russet Potatoes - $1.76

You will also need to head to your spice rack and fridge for this meal. Grab:

  1. Granulated Garlic
  2. Salt & Pepper (Always)
  3. Milk
  4. Butter
  5. Sugar/Splenda

One of the biggest tricks of cooking is to time everything just right so you can eat everything at the same time. This has been one of the biggest challenges for me, and after three years I still have to plan everything in my head before I even begin cooking.

The best way is to get out all of your ingredients and then decide what takes the longest to cook. In this case it’s the potatoes. So I took them out of the cabinet (it’s best to keep potatoes in a cool, dark place so they don’t spud as quickly), washed them and peeled them. I think this is one of my least favorite things to do ever. I recently bought a hand peeler from the 99 Cent Store, and I guess you get what you pay for because the peeler only worked mildly better than a knife.

When your potatoes are clean, place them in a saucepan and fill the water until it covers the potatoes. Begin heating on medium-high heat and add in 1 tsp. of granulated garlic with salt and pepper to taste.

While that boils, begin work on the corn. This is my first time boiling corn on my own, so I texted my mother for any extra information she could provide. Being southern, she told me she liked to add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the boiling water - but now that she’s a bit of a health nut she told me to put in one packet of Splenda. It’s your choice, this just sweetens up the corn.

I then turned to undressing the corn. I hold mine far away from me in case any silk worms decide to jump out, but I was lucky and all was clear. Then, place the ears of corn in a dutch oven half filled with water and begin boiling on a medium-low flame with or without sugar - your choice.

Make sure you check your potatoes again. You can do this by sticking a fork in the middle of them. If I’m super hungry, I’ll cut the potatoes in half after they gotten soft enough in the center to do so. This just boils them faster. After you’ve checked your potatoes, pour your can of green beans into a shallow dish and heat over a very low flame. This is the time when everything starts to come together.

Check your corn. Grab a colander and drain the potatoes (when they’re soft enough) and put back them back in the sauce pan. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup milk. This is open to interpretation. I usually just eye it instead of measuring the ingredients out.

Now comes the fun part. I’ve tried using a hand masher, but it just doesn’t do the job the way an electric mixer does. I’m not a fan of lumpy, mushy potatoes. I like them whipped and smooth. After this is done you can begin plating.

3 large scoops of potatoes, 2 scoops of green beans with a spoon strainer, 1 ear of corn on the cob and as much chicken as you can stand. Feeds 2 people.

Leftovers? I like to eat the chicken cold with A1 sauce. I also make a yummy chicken salad with mayo, spices and chopped celery.

Happy eating!

Mozzarella Cheesy Bread & Tomato Soup - $8.47

Great for dipping in your favorite tomato soup. If you live near a Vons, I highly recommend the store brand, Tuscan Tomato and Basil Bisque ($3.99 for 24 oz.). But if you’re not that lucky and you need to cut down on costs, you can buy two cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup for only $.95 each.

To make the bread you will need:

  1. French Bread - $1.49
  2. 8 oz. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese - $2.99

You will also need my favorite addition to any recipe - butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and while the oven heats, slice half the loaf (6 pieces) in 1” thick pieces and place on a greased baking sheet. Generously butter both sides of the bread and place back onto sheet, then cover the slices in mozzarella cheese to your taste. I like mine cheesy.

Pour about half the soup container (or two cans of tomato soup as directed) into a saucepan and heat on medium-low heat. Soup burns easily so you want to stir continuously. This will also help it heat up the soup evenly.

Place bread in oven and check in about 5 minutes. You want the cheese to melt and the bottom of the bread to be golden brown. But don’t forget about your soup! Keep stirring and checking on the bread until all is done. Feeds 2 people.

Leftovers? I like to take the fresh bread to work the next morning with a few slices of extra sharp cheddar cheese and for lunch I heat up the soup and eat it with a slice of buttered toast.

Happy eating!