We first tasted Elote – grilled corn Mexican style – at Cafe Habana in Malibu where it’s on the menu for $4 an ear. We decided to try cooking it ourselves.
On the way to do some work on our newly purchased home, we stopped in at the Country Deli in Chatsworth for lunch. With coffee, tax and tip my $14.50 marinated skirt steak was just over $20. But it was very good. 10 oz of really good skirt steak cooked perfectly, three good eggs and crisp home fries. And a bagel. A hearty feed before heading off to dig a channel for a box drain!
Fortunately Greg planned a much lighter dinner: Pan seared scallops with butter ponzu sauce; mango, avocado and arugula salad with meyer lemon vinaigrette. The sharpness of the meyer lemon against the avocado is a perfect balance.
The scallops need to be dried before pan searing in a hot pan. One minute 30 seconds per side. And serve.
Ponzu is a citrus-based sauce commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It is tart, with a thin, watery consistency and a dark brown color. Like soy or tamari (a gluten free soy) it pair beautifully with butter in a simple, but delicious sauce. Three tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of butter. Mix over heat.
Chop the ripe Mango and avocado toss in meyer lemon juice. That also prevents the avocado growing. Dress the arugula with a generous amount of olive oil (to taste). Toss together and serve.
- The Kroger Wild-caught Scallops cost $14.99 or $7.50 a serve
- Mango cost $1.49 or 75c a serve
- The Hass avocado was $2.99 or $1.50 a serve
- The pack of baby arugula cost $3 and we used less than 1/3 in total, or 50c each serve.
- It’s hard to quantify the small amount of butter and ponzu sauce but let’s say 25c serve.
That’s $10.50 a serve: easily 2-3 times that in a restaurant. Good scallops are beyond delicious and the slightly sharp salad is a perfect balance for the butter ponzu sauce.
Once again Sushi from Ralph’s (Kroger) because that’s where we shopped for ingredients today. $6.50 a serve today.
Tonight’s dinner is Pioneer Woman’s Baked Beans recipe with a few minor changes:
- Greg used dry mustard instead of dijon
- Instead of barbecue sauce, he used organic ketchup
- and the final change was molasses instead of brown sugar because it contributes more flavor and is less sweet than brown sugar. Brown sugar is refined sugar with molasses sprayed on it.
- Only two cans of beans went in. Again organic.
Pioneer Woman says 18 serves, but that would be as a side dish. Served with a muffin as an entree (main) and a couple of eggs on top I’m going to assume 4 serves to keep the math simple.
Bacon was purchased on special: 24 oz for $8. Our four rashers are roughly 3 oz or about $1 split over four serves: 25c.
The onion is less than 50c and the bell pepper $1, or 38c a serve. The two cans of organic beans (Simple Truth) were on special at 99c each, or 50c per serve combined.
The other ingredients might add up to another 25c per serve: molasses, ketchup, dry mustard and vinegar.
Total price per serve (assuming 4): $1.38. Served with an English Muffin, adds 50c a serve, and two eggs are 50c each, adding another $1 per serve. (We choose free range eggs, which are somewhat more expensive than conventional. It also explains the deep golden color.) Add it all together and we had a delicious meal for $2.88 a serve.
While this has the most wonderful smell when its cooking, the special treat is the bacon that’s been macerating in the beans during the slow cook. Savor it.
As is our regular Friday lunch pattern, we bought lunch: today a Cuban sandwich from Wild Carvery here in Burbank. It’s a huge sandwich so we halve it and the included salad. Even half is a good sized portion and cost us $7 a serve. It’s also an interpretation of a Cuban.
Wild Carvery uses only organic, GMO free ingredients so we feel comfortable buying from there.
Since dinner is a repeat of the Scotch Broth that’s lunch in the featured image above.
For dinner we had an encore performance of the Scotch Broth from two nights ago. $3.75 a serve. Actually less, as there is still one good size serve left after the four planned serves.
Because the collagen from the lamb shank has had time to set, the repeat was more unctuous than the original.
Another wholemeal wrap at 67c and half a chicken breast at 88c serve. To go with it we smeared the wrap with hummus and a Quinoa Edamame Salad we purchased. Two tablespoons of hummus is 1/5 of the $3.99 tub or 80c. Two ounces of the salad (twice what we’d normally put on, but it needed using) is $1.59 a serve.
Lunch cost $3.94 a serve.
Dinner is a splurge: bacon wrapped filet mignon. A $16 Filet at just over 8 oz each is higher than normal supermarket because, again, it’s direct-from-farm in our monthly delivery and it is dry aged!
We’re celebrating our house closing so it’s time to let loose a bit. Besides, in a steakhouse, that’s a $40 steak. Without sides, which run $8-10 each or up!
Greg cooked crash hot potatoes and an arugula, beet and blue cheese salad to go with it. So our bill at the steakhouse would be close to $50 each without wine. Plus tip. We rarely have appetizers or deserts.
Potatoes are typically $1 lb this time of the year and that will serve us both, so 55c for the potato, because there are some salt and seasoning added. I’ve read that purple potatoes have more nutrition, but they don’t look great on a dark plate.
The pack of baby arugula cost $3 and we used less than 1/3 in total, or 50c each serve. The pack of beets cost $2.50 and was split between us for $1.25 per serve. The blue cheese was $7.50 or 5 oz – definitely not the cheapest on the market.
The salad is one Greg created: strew some arugula on the plate, add the warmed beets and sprinkle blue cheese (crumbles are easier) over.
So, our celebratory meal cost us $19.55 per serve, which seems pretty reasonable for a top class, dry aged steak, awesome potatoes and a great salad. It was beyond delicious. Unlike most filet, this had beef flavor so I’m glad we didn’t smother it in sauce, as is usually the case with filet. Typically filet has great texture but not much flavor. We’ve definitely noticed that grass fed beef has better flavor.
For lunch on this cold, rainy day we decided to go for a warming soup: Pilgrim Joe’s Clam Chowder. At $1.49 a can it’s both delicious and cheap. You’ll need to add a can full of milk at $3.80 a gallon. 15 oz is about 1/8 gallon or 48c total. Each serve was almost exactly $1. The Wholemeal Lite English Muffin we served with each soup is also about $1 per serve. (Usually less for us because we buy on a 2-for-1 special and freeze them.)
Tonight it’s time for Serious Eats’ Scotch broth. In what passes for the cold in LA, warming soups are definitely on the agenda. This recipe has four good serves, so prices are divided by 4 to get the per serve price.
Greg first pressure cooks the lamb shanks before adding them to the broth. His major variation from the written recipe is to use rutabaga (a.k.a. swede, turnip or keep) instead of the potato.
- Lamb shanks $8.87 or $2.22 a serve
- Parsnips 74c or 19c serve
- Carrots 38c or 10c serve
- Rutabaga (was rung up as turnip so might be off price) 81c or 20c serve
- Chicken Broth $2.29 or 57c serve
- Onion and other ingredients about 50c a serve (probably less)
Total cost about $3.75 a serve.
Lunch today was both easy and cheap. A wholemeal wrap at 67c and half a chicken breast. That $7 chicken had two serves of leg, used last night. Half a breast per wrap, halves the $1.75 a serve to 88c. We added some of the leftover Vietnamese Salad from last night (already paid for in last night’s calculations) for a cost per lunch wrap of $1.55.
Tonight Greg cooked Emeril Lagasse’s Stir Fried Beef and Broccoli. The organic broccoli was purchased on special for $1.79 or 80c a serve. The beef came from our farm-direct meat delivery as “fajita steak” – basically a fast cook steak perfect for stir fry. $10.21 is expensive for just under 12 oz (although that will provide a good size portion each) or $5.11 per serve. More conventional sources would be around $8 lb or $6 for our 12 oz or $3 a serve.
Greg upped the garlic and ginger in the sauce and replaced the honey with sweet chili sauce. We don’t mind a bit of spicy heat! The ginger was 28c or 14c per serve.
Greg slow cooked sprouted brown rice (instead of the pressure cooker, which is normally used for rice in our kitchen). The pack – 6 serves – was $5.49 or 92c serve.
Total for the meal with our protein -around $7 a serve. With more conventional beef, the serve would be $4.90.
More leftovers. Today we had the leftover pot roast on a wholemeal wrap. The pot roast was $4 and the wrap 67c. If anything it was even better than last night.
Nigella Lawson’s Vietnamese Chicken Salad, but kind of deconstructed. Instead of chopping the chicken and mixing into the salad, we’re serving a chicken leg (thigh and drumstick) with the salad beside. Having made this recipe both ways, we prefer the chicken separate. Besides, the weather is cold so having warm chicken makes it more winter friendly.
The chicken component comes from a supermarket roast chicken. In this case a $7 chicken, which will contribute to three meals. Tonight we’ll have one of the legs each, for a cost of $1.75 per serve.
The napa cabbage is going to be less than $1 or 50c a serve. Cirina provided ours out of her CSA box. The limes for the dressing were 33c but only about half the juice was used, leaving the rest for the accompanying Gin and Tonic.
All up this meal was under $2.50 a serve. The chicken breasts will each serve as a protein component in a lunch wrap over the next two days.
One of the great things about cooking your own food is leftovers! There were two serves left of Friday’s Ham hock and lentil soup, and that’s what we had for lunch. $2.50 per serve.
We had an afternoon snack of half a meatloaf sandwich each. Only half a serve, split two ways, so $0.85 for the meatloaf, and two slices of multigrain bread, say 40c, split two ways so $1.05 for the half sandwich.
We’re in what passes for Winter in California, so a pot roast is a wonderful dish for the season. The slow cook also fills the room with wonderful smells across a lazy Sunday afternoon. The recipe Greg chose is Pot Roast with Mushrooms from Serious Eats.
We went a little overboard on the beef. We’ve been getting a monthly delivery direct from farm, and haven’t been keeping up. The quality of the meat is very high – grass fed and organic – but so is the price. We used a 12 oz (350 g) chuck steak, which will give us a 6 oz serve each. Six ounces is the size of a typical protein serve in a restaurant.
Our steak cost us $7, but conventionally grown would run around $3.75-4.00 for 12 oz. Two 8 oz (250 g) boxes of mushroom were $6. The vegetable components ran to around $1.
A quart of beef stock is around $3 (depending on the quality) and half that was used in the recipe, so $1.50. I’ll allow 50c to cover the flour, salt and pepper.
Our organic meat extravaganza cost us $16.00 or $4.00 per serve. With more conventionally grown beef, the meal would have cost $12, or $3 a serve.
We served with left over cauliflower mash and frozen peas. The mash was 40c serve, and the peas around 50c serve.
The pot roast was amazing for such simple ingredients.
One of the things I love about living in Southern California is the abundance of decent sushi. Sushi is not something that Australia didn’t do particularly well when I lived there, nor even on recent trips. It’s a regular thing for us when grocery shopping and lunch co-incide. If the weather is good we like to continue on to a park and eat there, just to be outside the office/apartment for a while.
Lunch was a mix of spicy tuna and cucumber avocado rolls and totaled $17 or $8.50 a serve. Compare that with dinner at $3.80 a serve!
Dinner: Classic American Meatloaf with cauliflower and parsnip mash
During the time my mother and niece were visiting from Australia, Greg wanted to expose my niece to American classics, and some modern interpretations. Tonight he cooked it again for Cirina Catania.
Greg chose Barefoot Contessa’s classic recipe but used 1 lb (250 g) each beef and pork. This is a great recipe and with the mix of meats has more flavor than you’d expect from something this simple. We also cook a mushroom and red wine meatloaf, and a turkey, bacon and chipotle meatloaf with a recipe we created. All are great.
Because we get a direct-from-farmer meat delivery, the ground pork and beef were about $8 each. Grass fed, organic ground beef or pork usually runs about $6 lb. The other ingredients are inexpensive. It makes five generous serves so we still come out at around $3.40 a serve or with regular organic ground meats around $2.60.
For the mash, take a head of cauliflower and break it into florets. Cut up two large parsnips into cubes about 1″ on each side. Greg uses the pressure cooker to cook the vegetables (only three minutes!), but you could steam, or even boil them. (Boiling tends to lose flavor into the water.)
Let the vegetables steam until the steaming stops, otherwise the mash ends up too sloppy.
Mash the cauliflower and parsnip or use a Cuisinart like we do, with some butter, lemon, garlic and sea salt to taste. (But a quick search will find many interesting variations on the basic recipe.)
Greg found this alternate mash a year ago when my mom was on an elimination diet and nightshades (including potato) were temporarily off the table. We rarely go back to potato mash now. Cirina brought some yellow beets with her that had been previously roasted.
Cauliflower and parsnip are cheap and this works out under 40c per serve, for a total meal cost of $2.80 or $3.80 per serve depending on where you get your ground meat.