Soycutash Soup

LatelySoycutash Soup I’ve been on a kick of almost all Asian or Indian dishes. Unfortunately my wallet prefers that I don’t run out and pick up a ton of new ingredients. Here at Cooking without Cash, I always strive to show you how to make innovative dishes with what’s already lying around your apartment. Today’s soup is an interesting Asian twist on a classic American vegetable dish, succotash. Most exciting, it was made only from items you already have in your cabinet.

You’ll need:

  • 1 package Ramen (any flavor)
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1/2-1  chicken thigh, cubed
  • corn, shelled edamame, and any other veggies, such as red peppers
  • a dash of soy sauce
  • olive or vegetable oil
  • cayenne, parsley, and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook ramen fully. You won’t need the seasoning packet. Drain ramen and add a can of chicken broth. Bring this to a low simmer. Meanwhile, heat a pan with oil and add small chunks of chicken thigh meat. You could substitute thigh meat for breast, or even tofu, but the thigh meat has flavor which holds up better in soup. As the chicken starts to cook add in the soybean & corn veggie mixture. You’ll want to stir fry these on high heat. When the ingredients begin to brown or stick a bit, add them to the broth and noodles. Add a dash of soy, season and let simmer  for 5 minutes.

Coming soon: Thai Salmon Burgers! Until then, stay hungry my friends…


Deep Fried Mac

Despite my best efforts I was snowed in all weekend. Even my flying monkeys couldn’t get out to the grocery store. Time to experiment with a new dish! The best cure for a snow day is comfort food and I’ve had deep fried mac and cheese in the back of my mind for a long time. After searching around the interwebs I found a couple good attempts, and found a great recipe here.

To make this a CwoC meal we need some modifications. First, the recipe calls for a lot of ingredients; moreover, some like Gruyère cheese, aren’t the cheapest. Secondly making Mac and Cheese from scratch is an enormous hassle. If you’ve ever tried making a bechamel sauce, you understand how time-consuming and difficult homemade mac can be.

My solution this weekend was to reuse some left over Velveeta mac and dress it up. You’ll want to add a splash of milk and stir the leftover mac and cheese to make it easier to shape. I tried adding some bacon and finely diced onion cooked till it’s just translucent. The only other element in the filling is a hint of paprika and cayenne pepper to taste.

Roll the cold mac and cheese mix into small balls, a little bigger than Swedish meatballs. Then dip the ball in a beaten egg and dredge though seasoned breadcrumbs.

The last step is simply frying the balls in vegetable oil. These fry up golden brown faster than you might think, so keep a close eye on them and rotate often. If you don’t, you’ll get burns on one side and cold mac inside on the other side!

Enjoy the snow and these Mac and Cheese Bites today!

More Chili?!

Yes folks, you can never have too much chili, and it was one of the most popular recipes featured thus far. Today we have a guest post, straight from the cookbook of Rich Fogal, a true chili master, who shows us there are many ways to approach this dish.  Take the poll and enjoy!

[ed note: My original chili can be found on the Aug 11 post]

Rich Fogal’s 6 Alarm Chili
Start to finish: About 25 min.

2 cans of Goya tomato sauce (preferrably either Spanish Style or Picante)
1 can Goya kidney beans
1 can Goya black beans
1/3rd of a Red Onion
1 (or 2, if you’re brave) Habanero Pepper(s)
2 Jalapeno Peppers
Around 1.25 lbs of either ground beef or beef/pork/veal mix. (~85% lean)
Chili Powder
Cayenne Pepper
Tabasco Sauce
About a tablespoon of White Vinegar (optional)
Some olive oil

Cooking instructions:

Coat a frying pan (make sure it’s a large frying pan or a skillet) with a fair amount of olive oil. Chop up about 1/3rd of a red onion, the habanero pepper, and jalapeño peppers. Throw them into the frying pan; makes sure you keep the seeds as the seeds are what provide the heat. Heat the vegetables until the onions become translucent (but not browned). Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside.

Next, pour in a dash or two more of olive oil. Wash off and break up chop meat, throw in pan. Start cooking the meat, cooking until most of it has browned, while also breaking the chunks of beef up. At your discretion, drain or do not drain the fat; I find the fat adds some flavor and so I do not drain it, but if you’re health-conscious, by all means, go ahead and drain it.

Next, while the meat is browning, apply a liberal amount of chili powder and cayenne pepper onto the chopped meat. Throw in some Tabasco sauce too if so desired. Add the splash of vinegar (But do NOT put too much vinegar in or else it will be ruined…a tablespoon or so is enough to impart the chili with a bit of a tartness; it is actually better to err on the side of too little vinegar than too much).

After most of the meat is browned, return vegetables to pan, and add in both cans of tomato sauce, as well as both cans of beans, being careful not to go over top the pan. Stir intermittently for about 15 minutes, tasting occasionally to check to see if additional spices need to be added; adjust the spice levels according to how spicy you want it to be.

Makes around 5 bowls. Recommended serving includes adding a handful of shredded cheese (usually Cheddar/Jack mix; but the Sargento’s “Authentic Mexican” cheese is good too) and a dollop of sour cream to the bowl.


Extemporaneous Sheppard’s Pie

By now you know that I’m a big fan of the freezer, mostly because it allows one to preserve bulk items. Unfortunately, there was a small blunder in the CwoC Kitchen last night. It would seem that mashed potatoes don’t freeze very well. Well, not so much that they don’t freeze, as they don’t really thaw very nicely. Moreover, they were left out too long and were warm. When the budget is tight, one simply can’t afford to lose food. Fortunately, this blunder paid off big time, creating one of the better shepherd’s pies I have had in a long time!Here is what happened.

In the morning I recorded the internal temperature of the potatoes to be 54 degrees. Any chef worth his salt needs to know the rules of food safety. This means knowing the safe temperatures for refrigerating foods as well as the safe internal temperature for any cooking various meats. Regardless of  your cooking method, internal temperature is invariable measure, telling you if your food is safely cooked. I find that the use of a digital meat thermometer is the easiest and most reliable way to archive this goal. Fifty degrees is the maximum temperature for something to be considered refrigerated. Considering the container was sealed, the dish hadn’t been this warm for long (previously frozen), and had small quantities of perishable ingredients, I decided to replace them to the fridge and think about what I would do next.

To further complicate things, the potatoes had thawed into a very unpalatable texture. When you’re on a budget you have to be  MacGyver in the kitchen. To that end, I puréed the mashed potatoes in the blender. (Where’s he going with this?) Next, I needed to reduce the water content in the potato purée, which was done by simmering the mash until it began to thicken.

Meanwhile, I reheated some leftover beef stew, removing the mushy potato chunks. Now I had runny pseudo-beef stew (and I don’t even like beef stew). Most shepherd’s pie recipes call for Worcestershire sauce, which I don’t have. Further improvising, I browned a hamburger-sized beef patty with soy sauce and a dash of hot-chilli sauce. Added to the stew mixture, this thickened the stew sufficiently to give it the proper texture. Ground beef is expected in shepherd’s pie, but existing stew meat ads an unexpected rustic quality to the dish!

From here on, things go as you might think. I used half the potatoes to make a pie crust, which I heated enough to firm up and not be penetrated by the stew juices. Finally I added the stew mix, covered with the remaining potatoes and brushed with garlic butter. After 30 minutes at 400 degrees, I was rewarded with a hearty meal that would make James Joyce happy. In retrospect, the only thing I would have done differently is using the broiler to brown the top a bit more.

This is less a story about Sheppard’s Pie and more a reminder of three key rules you should always remember when cooking without cash:

1. Know food safety, and use the right tools to limit your mistakes.

2. Always, always be willing to improvise. (This dish could work well for you with canned stew, and some stir-fry veggies)

3. Think in terms of texture and tastes, rather than simply ingredients. You can misread a recipe, but your sense of taste will never lead you astray.

Chocolate Chip cookies were a mistake, accidentally discovered by Ruth Wakefield in 1933 when she ran out of baker’s chocolate and opted for a substitution of semi-sweet chunks. These famous cookies are a reminder it is always important to keep an open mind in the kitchen.

As always, I’d love your comments on this, or other recipes. I’m anticipating some more improv recipes for Sunday. Until then, stay hungry my friends.

Double Header: Surf and Turf

Welcome back!  Today I’ve got a first for Cooking without Cash; we’re doing two related recipes at the same time.  There are two things I want you to take away from today’s post:

1. Cooking should always be an experiment. If you arent tasting as you go, and infusing your own style into dishes, then your dishes will get boring.

2. Once you learn a new style or technique in the kitchen, start to think, “How can I apply this skill to something new?”

As a follower of CwoC you understand just how cost-effective chicken breast (especially  in large freezer packs) can be. For me, this has meant a ton of chicken cutlets. However, this quickly got boring and I needed to try something new. While living with Mama Brusca, I was introduced for the first time to Chicken Saltimbocca. It’s a deceptively easy dish to make, and with the notable exception of prosciutto, it’s made primarily of cheap ingredients. Extra chicken broth can be saved for making soups, and no eggs are used in the coating. If nothing else, it will impress you guests far more than another cutlet or parm.

Better yet, Chicken Saltimbocca only really takes fifteen minutes to make. Hungry yet?

  • Mix flour and salt & pepper (to taste) in a bag or large plate, and coat a chicken breast. Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. The chicken should be golden brown on both sides after about 5 minutes.
  • After removing the chicken, deglaze the pan with a 1/2 cup of chicken broth and a squeeze of lemon. Once this begins to boil, whisk in about half a tablespoon of butter and simmer the broth until it’s reduced by half.
  • Top the chicken with prosciutto, drizzle the savory butter sauce over the chicken and garnish.

Now this same simple sauce we made can be applied to Tilapia Cutlets. Tilapia is affordable and not overwhelmingly fishy, especially good if you have guests who aren’t big seafood eaters.

  • After rinsing  the fillets, beat an egg, coat the fillets,  and dredge through seasoned breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese. After the coating firms a bit, coat again in Parmesan cheese.
  • Repeat the steps outlined above, pan frying the cutlet and then covering with the buttery lemon sauce.
  • The lemon compliments tilapia well, but depending on your taste, you may want to dilute the chicken broth, so it doesn’t overwhelm the fillet’s delicate flavor.
  • When done, the fish should be crisp and flaky. Be careful not to overcook it!

Hope you liked today’s two-for-one special. I’d love to hear feedback about these dishes when you try them out. Until then, stay hungry my friends!

Caesar Penne

Hello again, and welcome back to Cooking without Cash. Today I’ll be sharing with you one of my favorite pasta dishes, Poor Man’s Penne. It’s my variation on a Caesar Salad, but in pasta form. While I was researching how to make this dish, I found there are a number of different recipes for making a Caesar pasta but as we like to do here at CwoC, this version is designed to provide you with the most amount of food with the least cost for ingredients.

I choose to use penne for this dish, but other pastas would work well. What makes penne a good choice for this dish is that the noodle is large enough to hold some of the sauce. Not all noodles are created equal, and some noodles simply are better for certain sauces than others. Chances are if you were to ask an Italian chef to substitute the pasta in a given dish for another, your request would be denied, and the answer you’d get would be nothing more than, “That’s not how it’s made.” While this is somewhat a matter of taste, the right pasta will help a dish come together. Because there is some chunkiness to this dish, fusilli would work best, but once again, I am broke and penne is what I have!

While your boiling about half a box of pasta, heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and toast a half cup of seasoned breadcrumbs. You cant really walk away from this because as soon as you think you have a minute to spare they will burn. If you’re careful, you can clean and dry a couple fistfuls of spinach in the meantime. Once they are done you can remove the breadcrumbs to a bowl and sauté some garlic in the same pan. Add a enough vegetable broth to wilt the spinach or improv with a cup of water and some salty seasoning of your own devising. You will however, have to be very careful adding water to the pan with oil in it. Reduce the heat and add the fluid slowly.

By now your pasta will be done. It shouldn’t take more than 8-9 minutes and it is OK if the pasta is a little firm. After draining the pasta, add the  contents of your pan and coat the pasta before adding  a tin of anchovies. Stir on low heat, and once this is all incorporated, add some tomatoes. I used sun-roasted tomatoes since I had some lying around, but you could easily use most of a drained can of tomatoes, or a handful of plum tomatoes cut into chunks. How much you use is up to you, but a good metric is enough to cup in two hands comfortably and no more.

Finally once the sauce and pasta mixture has simmered a minute or two, add in the breadcrumbs and a generous amount of Parmesan cheese (Maybe a third of a cup). Serve into a bowl and hit it with a dash of coarse-ground black pepper.

Not only is this another original and cost-effective way to use pasta, but it will also provide 2-3 generous servings, so you can pack some for lunch or tomorrow night’s dinner.

I’d love to hear some feedback especially if you try this recipe.  Until then, stay hungry my friends.

Countrymen, Lend me your stomachs!

Here at Cooking Without Cash, we know what you’re thinking…  ‘That poor kid, I haven’t seen anything from him in a long time, he was so broke, he must have just starved to death!”

Rest assured, I haven’t starved to death…yet, and I remain dedicated to providing the lowest tax bracket culinary experiences that are easy on your wallet. After a short break, CwoC is poised to return like a phoenix from a grease fire, bigger, badder, and tastier than ever! I’ll be starting New Years resolutions early this year with the goal of providing you, my hungry readers, with new content each week. In the new year you can expect to see a new post each Sunday (or something close to that). I like you so much I’m even going to start a week early, beginning the Sunday after Christmas!

A new schedule is just the beginning folks. Those of you who know me in civilian life know I am an aspiring interaction designer/ user experience guru. As my skills develop expect to see some exciting new things going on here at Cooking Without Cash in 2010, including an official CowC Flickr, videos, and possibly a shiny new layout and more. Let me know what you want to see in 2010, and I’ll put it on the plate. Get it… plate? Until then, stay hungry my friends.