Jan 6: Clam chowder; Scotch Broth

Lunch

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.)

Dinner

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.

 

 

Jan 5: Chicken salad wrap; Stir Fried Beef and Broccoli

Lunch

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.

Dinner

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.

 

Jan 4: Pot roast wrap; deconstructed Vietnamese Chicken Salad

Lunch

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.

Dinner

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.

Jan 3: Ham Hock and Lentil Soup, Pot Roast Meal

Lunch

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.

Dinner

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.

Jan 2: Sushi; Meatloaf dinner

Lunch: Sushi

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.

 

Jan 1: ‘Frenchish’ lunch; Pork hock and Lentil Soup

Lunch

Today we went for a walk in the local Burbank area and picked up a baguette from Jons supermarket, along with some liverwurst, irish cheddar and a tomato. Fortunately the baguette is one of best we’ve found in the US. You probably really have to go to France to get a great one.

The trip to Munich last September rekindled our love of liverwurst and it’s also available at Jons. So lunch was little rounds of baguette, with either liverwurst spread, or a cheddar/tomato combination. Eat until full.

Dinner: Pork hock and lentil soup

Having lentil soup for the New Year is traditional among many South American countries like Brazil and Ecuador. Beans are symbolic of money, and the pork, of progress, so pork and lentil dishes are common. In fact some combination of pork and beans is common in even more countries.

Greg found tonight’s recipe in a book he found at his mother’s home in Australia during his last trip there. He took a photo of the recipe so I can’t appropriately credit it.

It serves four and keeps well in the refrigerator for several days. In the image above you can just see the pork shoulder poking through.

Ingredients cost us about $10 excluding the parmesan for the pesto, which we didn’t make. That’s about $2.50 a serve. Don’t wait for the next New Year to try it. It was very, very good.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced (20c)
  • 1 leek, washed and finely cut  (50c)
  • 1 celeriac, peeled and finely diced, or 1 cup of chopped celery. We opted for celery for the faster cooking time. ($1 for a bunch so 3 sticks is about 25c)
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, crushed. You should smell this cooking! (20c)
  • 2.5 tablespoons of oil. The recipe suggest Olive oil, but we prefer to use Coconut oil because it’s more stable at higher temperatures. (20c)
  • 200g (8 oz) red lentils, well washed and drained (Half a 1 lb pack for $2.50 or $1.25)
  • 1/2 tsp of (freshly) grated nutmeg. There really is no substitute for fresh with nutmeg  (5c)
  • 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds.  (5c)
  • 6 Tbsp of chopped parsley (15c)
  • 3 Tbsp of chopped mint (10c or less if you grow it yourself)
  • 1 bacon hock, fat trimmed or removed. We substituted pork neck. ($4.51 or $2.99 lb)
  • 1 liter (2 pints) chicken, veal or vegetable stock. In other words, a flavorsome liquid. ($2.50)
  • 60 g (a generous 2 oz) grated parmesan cheese
  • Pepper to taste

Method

  • In a stock pot or large saucepan gently cook the carrots, leak, celeriac (or celery) and garlic in 1 Tbsp oil for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add drained lentils and store, while continuing to cook for about 30 seconds. Grate and stir in nutmeg and fennel.
  • Stir in about 2 Tbsp of the parsley and 1 Tbsp of the mint. Keep the rest for the pesto sauce.
  • Add the bacon hock (or pork neck) and stock. Put on the lid and simmer soup slowly for 1.5 hours.
  • Make up a pesto sauce by pounding in a mortar (or blender which is a heck of a lot easier, but more washing up) the remaining parsley and mint, with the parmesan cheese and 1/5 Tbsp oil, until a smooth past is achieved. Season with pepper.
  • When the hock or neck is cooked, remove and cut meat into bite-sized pieces.

To serve

Put bacon pieces into individual soup bowls, and then pour the soup over the meat and top with a spoonful of the pesto sauce. Although truth be told we skipped the pesto sauce.

Accompany with crusty bread.

Hello, and welcome.

You can read about our background in our About page.
Our goal is to encourage you to cook more of your own food. Each day we’ll be posting details about what we eat. There will also be video episodes where we cook the food we eat in a restaurant, particularly when we travel.
Greg and I eat most of our meals at home, prepared (mostly) from fresh ingredients. We’ll share the recipes and techniques we use to eat “healthyish“.
Since what is ‘healthy’ seems to be as variable as the weather, we’ll share what we’ve found during Philip’s journey back to robust good health over the last five years, and why we don’t necessarily believe a lot of conventional food wisdom.
Our focus is on easy to prepare meals that will be cheaper than eating out.
So welcome. Each day we’ll be blogging our meals from the day before, with recipe and approximate cost of ingredients. We hope you’ll realize how easy it is to eat better, for less.
The image above is of pan seared scallop with butter ponzu sauce, served with arugula mango and avocado salad with passionfruit vinaigrette. Easier to make than say!