Category Archives: food porn

Chicken for 77 Cents per Pound…nostalgia and inspiration!

chicken and kimchee lettuce cup

Chicken at Safeway this week is 77 cents per pound – seems like Safeway changes the chicken price to this level from time to time. I remembered that long, long, LONG ago, I bought a whole chicken and froze it. I figured that I should use it…nearly a year later?

chicken price sticker

So I defrosted it overnight, and then brined it. Didn’t follow a recipe for the brine – just threw everything (for just a few hours, with salt, sugar, and apple cider) into a large stockpot, stuck it in the fridge for about 4 hours. I figured the apple cider vinegar would help liven up the taste if the chicken had fallen victim to freezer burn.

Someone had given me many bags of veggies, including a wealth of root veggies: fingerling and purple potatoes, as well as carrots. I decided that they would form a bed for a roast chicken. While the chicken marinated, I soaked the root veggies which were a tad dried out.

potatoes

carrots

bed of root veggies

After quickly rubbing it with some chilic powder I got for $1.00 at the dollar store, I put the 4 lb chicken on a bed of root veggies into the 450 degree oven. About 75 minutes later, it was all quite roasted. The feedback on the chicken? No one knew it was previously frozen!!! I could have roasted a (previously frozen) woolly mammoth if I brined it first!!! Brining is truly magical.

roasted chicken on a bed of root veggies

Roasted chicken was part of one day’s meal (yesterday’s). And what about the second day of roasted chicken? Why not make lettuce cups? That’s right, slather that chicken with kim chee and roll it up in some lettuce. And call it a day. So so easy.

chicken and kim chee lettuce cups

I can see doing something similar with cold, drained, firm tofu. Hm…maybe I’ll have to try that.

Thanks for still reading my blog, despite my inattention! Here’s a totally gratuitous photo of some California goodness.

sunset

Kotonk Chow Fan // Spam Fried Rice

Beware of Hawaiians. They will laugh at your “mainlander” accent. They thought I talked funny because I am a kotonk. I speak native Californian! Meanwhile, they spoke pidgin. Who’s right? Ah, when in Rome…do as the Romans do. And in Hawaii, that means, fall in love with Spam. From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

Hawaii residents consume nearly 7 million cans of Spam a year, an average of about six cans for every man, woman and child.

Not a fan of spam musubi (mandatory for Hawaiian residency). But, I do love it in my fried rice, as do many Hawaiians. Putting spam in your fried rice is a modern nod to the more traditional char siu. Plus – spam costs a lot less!

Kotonk Fried Rice

  • 3 cups of cooked, refrigerated Japanese rice;
  • 1/4 of a full container of Spam (thanks mapgirl!) ham / other savory meat-like thing;
  • 4 green onions, sliced moderately thin;
  • 2 eggs, beaten like they owe you money;
  • salt and pepper – be generous!

Use your favorite skillet – for this, I used a cast iron pan. I like to start off by frying the Spam. Then, add the rice – use your spatula vigorously! Add vegetable oil whenever necessary. Ideally, you would scramble the eggs separately, but, let’s not get too crazy here. Add the green onions when the rice is hot and the eggs are scrambled. These will wilt in a matter of seconds. You are done! Season with plenty of salt and pepper!

(My mis en place…well…minus the rice, salt, pepper and vegetable oil for frying…)

(action shot of beating the eggs)

(plated, just for you!)

P.S. I’m going to have to do the price calculations later. But, I think this is quite inexpensive to prepare! I think 1/4 of a container of Spam is going to work out to less than $1.00.

My Mom’s Kohi Kanten – Coffee Pudding (Vegan – and about $.10 per serving!)

Kanten…so many reasons I love it:

  1. it’s a naturally ZERO calorie food. That’s right. I said, ZERO!
  2. it’s filling and yet not wiggly-jiggly (unlike gelatin);
  3. even the laziest prep yields yummilicious results; and
  4. I grew up eating it!

Below is a picture of agar agar in stick form.

At any Asian market you can find premixed packets of almond kanten for less than 2 or 3 dollars – really tasty with even the least interesting fruit cocktail. Growing up, we had that all the time. Perfect summertime dessert. Nice and cool! But avoid buying agar agar at Whole Foods. I have seen the Eden versions for almost 6 dollars!!! You should be able to buy the stick agar agar for $2.00 or less per 10 grams (.35 oz). the urban vegan recommends buying the stick format and sticking the sticks into the food processor to make flakes.* I’m used to the stick forms, but, I think this is a great tip for people accustomed to the flake format. Also, people can get quite glamorous with agar agar (also known as kanten in Japanese). I am stockpiling ideas for what do with it. And coffee kanten is a classic (kohi = coffee in Japanese). So here it is!

Mom’s Kohi Kanten

  • 2 cups of boiling coffee – sweeten to taste (pennies);
  • 5 grams of powdered agar agar (about 1/2 of a stick of agar agar – about $.50 worth); and
  • coconut milk – this is optional (about 10 teaspoons – roughly 1/4th of a 13 oz can – $1.59 = $.40 cents worth).

Dissolve the agar agar in the boiling hot coffee in a saucepot. Mix mix mix. Add your sweetener. Mix. Pour the piping hot mixture into a pie plate. Alright, just cover and chill it for about 2 hours. Done. It’s traditional to cut it into squares (as you see above). Splash on a teaspoon of coconut milk per serving. If you have them around, put a roasted coffee bean on top. Makes eight~ ten servings, depending on the size (less than $.10 per serving – half of that if you do not use the coconut milk of course). Be sure to have this with some lovely tea!

(you can also cool it into cute little cups for individual servings)

* the urban vegan’s post is actually VERY helpful for gaining a good understanding of agar agar. Read it and let the erudition flow!

P.S. I don’t really follow diet news, so, maybe someone can tell me if there are any standards for what is “low-carb”? My very casual research shows me that the FDA hasn’t made a decision yet, but, I’m guessing that might not be the latest info.

Update: VegCookingBlog, thanks for linking to this post! My stats are blowing up :-) !!!! I’ve also written a post on making Mango Kanten.

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Housekeeping notes:

(1) I’ve added a “Tips” page to the blog to park handy things I learn about (and/or blog about). For example, last week, limes went on sale – 10 for a dollar. So…I’m not going to use ten in a given week…and they don’t last forever…but they can last longer if you slice them and freeze them. Like so:

Might be better to peel skin off – haven’t tried it that way yet. Works grrrrreat in iced tea. (This is a tip contributed by my mom.)

(2) Not sure why, but Feedburner sent off an old post (from April ’07) on May 10. It wasn’t my doing! I’ll try to find out why that happened.

Luxurious, Lazy and Thrifty – Poached Eggs

If you have a little vinegar, and a small pot, you can have the most glorious poached eggs. Do you need silky golden yolk slipping away from a firm white? Don’t get me started!

Poaching away. Happily.

Adorned with a stripe of salt and black pepper.

Digging in!!!

Lately, I have been thinking about lowering my fat intake by just a little bit. Having fried eggs all the time is no path to glory. So I thought I might try poaching eggs instead. Many many ugly eggs later, victims of my experiments, I realized I needed perhaps to actually learn how people do it. I got a serious bee in my bonnet after fixating on …Lisa’s… eat, drink and be a fat bastard photostream on Flickr, where she displays her first proper set of poached eggs. I was totally inspired! After a few more tries, I feel like I have it down to a science!*

Poached Eggs

  • 2 eggs; (about $.16)
  • water in a pot, enough to cover the eggs by 1/2″ or so – about 2 cups;
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar (the very cheapest distilled or apple cider is fine – mere pennies, if at all).

Bring the water to a boil. Shut off the heat. Wait until the bubbles stop. Add the vinegar. Crack each egg carefully and slip them in. Wait about 5 minutes, if you like them a teensy bit runny (as I do). Fish them out of the pot with a flat spatula. If you have some roasted garlic or garlic butter lying about, drop a teaspoon or two on the eggs. I like my poached eggs with some pita bread (about $.10 per pita) – costs less if you use regular bread (shown above with a toasted white roll). Lot of goodness for less than fifty cents. Enjoy!!!

*With practice, it’s totally multi-tasking friendly. For example, the other day, I started the water, made a short phone call, checked email, plopped in the eggs. I was done with the eggs at the end of the call!

Canned Fish is a Superstar III: Spicy, Instant Spaghetti (about $.30 per serving)

Faster than you can say puttanesca, you can muster up a nice lunch from a can of California Girl Sardines in Chili Sauce (there are also tomatoes in this). Not too hot – just a small twinge of heat. For $1.49, you get 15 oz. I’ve seen these in the wilds of Cub Foods in the Twin Cities as well as the Safeways of California – I’d be shocked if you can’t get them in a supermarket. If not, they will surely be on the shelves of your local Hispanic/Asian groceries.

Part III in a series of posts about the wonders of canned fish – click here for part I (about fishcakes and capellini), and here for part II (about fried rice).

These are quite delicious. Surprising, actually – maybe I had low expectations? I boiled about 1/2 lb of dry spaghetti (usually can be found for $1.00/lb – likely $.50 worth), drained it. Turned off the stove and threw in minced garlic (pennies) and olive oil to get the garlic to sweat in the residual heat. Added about 6 or 7 filets from the can (~$1.00 worth) and a bit of Parmesan. Mash the fish with the garlic. Throw the spaghetti back into the pan and mix, mix, mix. That’s it! Garnish with green onions/chives/etc.

Make many servings – five or six for $.150, at least (so, about $.30 per serving). Total time is about 15 minutes – 10~12 minutes to boil the pasta, and a few more minutes to add the garlic, sardines, and parmesan (I used the grated parmesan by kraft – very inexpensive at Costco). If you have diners that like sardines, I think this is actually good (and pretty enough) for company. My taste tester gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up!

The snipped chives and green onions garnishing the dish came from some container gardening – here’s a closeup of them.

P.S. I found this handy chart for measuring various ingredients in their cooked/uncooked states (like pasta diameters).

P.P.S. And, one of my friends found this video on Youtube…lesson of the day, kiddos, is that you must have the best tea no matter what!

Feijoada post: now with a photo

Back in ye olden days, I was innocent of flickr and such. And now at times, I have pangs of guilt for all the posts that are sans photos. So, from time to time, I will update an old post with a new picture – from my most recent encounter with the recipe. So, here’s my attempt to capture the magic that is feijoada (on steamed Japanese rice – likely Homai from Costco (around $9/25lb bag)):

I’m putting the pic here to encourage you to take a gander at the post for the recipe…very easy! Smoky, garlicky, tender beans melting on rice…absolutely a comfort food (and less than a dollar per serving!).

Canned Fish is a Superstar II: Spinach & Sprats Fried Rice

Comfort is the ultimate expression of love. Or perhaps laziness? Maybe that is why I adore fried rice. Comfy and lovely. So easy, so cheap, so good! So tolerant of whatever you might happen to have around the fridge. Or in the case of canned fish, whatever is in your pantry.

Part II in a series of posts about the wonders of canned fish.

I usually like to use smoked pork products – like sausage or bacon (or even…gasp…SPAM! one of my secret loves). Smoked pork is my nod to the char siu traditionally found in fried rice . But this time, in the interest of advancing the culinary arts, I thought I’d try some smoked sprats. This brand, unlike the Riga canned sprats, have no tartness or sour sparkle to them. Instead, they have an unadulterated smoky sprat flavor. Whoa Nelly! That is some real fish. I wondered how the smokiness and fishiness would hold up in a fried rice dish. And would spinach’s earthiness do combat with the fish? Only one way to find out!

Spinach and Sprats Fried Rice

  • 2 cups of leftover rice, still chilled from refrigeration (used white Homai rice from the beloved Costco for $9.00/25 lbs);
  • 2 loose cups of fresh spinach, chopped (I’m sure frozen would work fine too, if you squeezed out the excess water);
  • 2 jumbo eggs;
  • 1 cup of chopped onion (about two smallish yellow ones);
  • cheese as garnish (Kraft Parmesan worked nicely for me);
  • salt; and
  • copious amounts of black pepper.

My fried rice is pretty informal. In an ideal world, maybe you scramble the eggs first, then add them back to the rice mixture. That’s probably what I should have done, but the results were fine without that step. Heat up the cast iron skillet, to almost smoking hot. Lower to medium high. Add the vegetable oil. Throw in the onions. Then add the rice and use the spatula furiously – folding, folding, folding. Beat the eggs, then throw them in. Scramble wildly. Loosely chop the sprats. Throw them in. Fold in the spinach. Sprinkle salt generously, after tasting. Load up the rice with as much black pepper as you can stand. Garnish with cheese. Yes, I know this is not traditional. Serve with a flourish. Wait for adulation – it will arrive! I received compliments, just a warning!