It is now summer, which means I may actually have time to do some cooking again!
Tonight, I am going over to a house of some friends for dinner, and I’m bringing (in their words) a “salad-dessert combo”. (I gave them a list of things I would be very happy to bring, including “some combination thereof”, which then translated into a combined salad-dessert. Yup. Head’s up: Don’t try to take things too literally with me, because I will respond in kind.
So for dessert, we’re having a frozen fruit salad with a cinnamon-lemon “dressing”, and canned whipped-cream.
I’ve sampled it, and it’s gonna be good. 😀
1/2-1 1/2 C Strawberries
1 C Blueberries
Glaze / “dressing”
About 1 Tblsp honey
About 1-2 tsp lemon juice
About 1 tsp vanilla
Make the “dressing” / Glaze
In the bowl you will be mixing and freezing from:
Pour in the honey. Make sure the honey is liquidy. Mine solidifies… frequently. So, in order to use it, I needed to stick it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time until it was liquid again. I do things in about increments of 15 seconds at power level 5 at first, and then 7 second intervals to get rid of the lumps. Note that you should do this step first.
Add the lemon juice. Stir a bit.
Add the vanilla. Stir more.
Add cinnamon. Stir vigorously or whisk until completely smooth.
Making the fruit salad
Slice the fruit into bite-size pieces
Add the fruit into the bowl with the “dressing”, one type of fruit at a time
As you add the fruit, stir it in with the glaze.
Sample as needed to ensure that the fruit and “dressing” really go together. 😉
Freeze for a while
I have not done this yet, but stick in refrigerator for probably about an hour before ready to serve. Or bring it out for a few minutes, and let it sit in the summer heat, so that it can partially thaw.
Divide into individual portions, douse with whipped-cream, and enjoy.
It’s getting on towards the end of the quarter for me. At some point I’m going to need to do a series of posts on the interesting snacks I’ve experimented with, but I don’t have the time.
I do have the time, though, to share a fairly quick coffee drink recipe with you. It’s a white-chocolate, chocolate, peppermint drink I’m calling “Mocha Meltdown Madness” for a few reasons.
A) Alliteration. Duh.
2) Chocolate. I’m getting towards (2ards? Meh) the end of the quarter, which means that chocolate is required to prevent / help with “meltdowns.” Also, chocolate melts. So, it’s a pun.
last) Madness. Why didn’t I think of this before? Why is the end of the semester so busy? Why are all these ingredients in the same cup tasting so good? Madness, I tell you!
Mocha Meltdown Madness
1-2 ounces of milk (per 10 ounces of coffee, up to you. It depends on the size of your mug.) Cream would be better, but hey- grad school budget. (negligible price / not worth the time of estimation.)
10 ounces of coffee, thereabouts. (About 30 cents, according to my Dad’s calculations. Or free, if you get someone else to buy the coffee for you.)
About 1 TBSP white chocolate chips (negligible cost)
About 1 TBSP bittersweet chocolate chips (negligible)
5-6 drops peppermint extract / a bit less than 1/4 tsp. (If you don’t like peppermint that much, even though it helps with concentration so it’s practically a necessity / healthy for students, use less.) (negligible)
A small capful of vanilla (optional). Or a big capful. But that’ll change the flavor. Obviously.
Heat milk, either in microwave or saucepan/skillet/stovetop-safe-thingy until it is hot enough to melt your chocolate
Add the chocolate chips, peppermint, and vanilla
Stir/whisk together until blended
Stick in microwave again, to ensure that your coffee stays hot for as long as possible. I use about 45 seconds on 20% power. Or use whatever setting you would for melting chocolate.
Pour coffee into mug, stir again.
(Optional: If you have whipped cream, put on top. Peppermint sprinkles would make a nice garnish. However, since this is a recipe by a graduate student, the original recipe does not have anything like that. After all, I choose not to afford cream on a regular basis. So, no whipped cream… for a regular thing.)
Test it. If necessary, or if merely desired, add more chocolate chips. White chocolate chips makes the drink sweeter, whereas bittersweet makes it more, well, chocolatey.
Total price? Probably less than a buck. But does it matter? Nope. It is SO. WORTH IT.
Once more I made a chicken dinner thingy. (Big surprise, right?)
This one took a bit of time to prepare. As in, I marinated the chicken all day. So, plan on that, if you wish.
A handful of spinach. More than you think you want, and it’ll still be less. I used probably about $0.20 worth of fresh spinach.
1 Tbsp Onion (negligible cost)
About 1/2 tbsp butter (my roommate has non-stick pans that I get to use. 🙂 The butter is for flavor.) (about $0.05).
Cook onions in butter until onions are tender
Put the spinach in until cooked and heated.
Cook according to directions. Add a bit of salt to the water, and then after it’s done, add about 1 tsp of butter. Probably about $0.25. This is a totally and completely random guess, though, and probably waaay overestimated.
I used this recipe. Use a bit less salt than it calls for, though. By probably 1/8-1/4. (I made it according to a half-recipe, and baked it in the oven.) According to my rough calculations, the pita cost about $0.15. Probably a bit less.
About 1/4 LB chicken, or one chicken piece like the one shown above. (About $0.55)
Almost 1/2 cup milk (about $0.15)
1/2 TBSP lemon juice, plus a little extra for later (negligible cost.)
2 cloves garlic (I really don’t know… I misplaced how much the bulbs cost. Probably quite negligible, though.)
1/2 tsp Salt + a bit. (Negligible.)
Parsley, Basil, Oregano (Negligible)
1/2 TBSP Oil (negligible)
In a small bowl, mix together the milk and 1/2 TBSP lemon juice. Let stand for at least 5 minutes. This makes fake buttermilk.
Then, combine the fake buttermilk with the salt, garlic, parsley, basil, and oregano. I used more parsley than basil, and more basil than oregano. Basically, until it looks seasoned…
Next put the chicken into the marinade and coat it. Sprinkle a little more salt on. (I’d heard that it helps pull the marinade/stuff in. And it seemed to work!) Let it sit in the refrigerator for the day.
If you can, you might want to turn it occasionally throughout the day and re-coat. I happened to come home early today, so it worked for me, but it shouldn’t be necessary.
When you’re ready to cook the chicken:
Preheat the oven to 425 f.
Transfer chicken (and about 1TBSP of the extra marinade) to a small casserole dish to cook in.
Put the 1/2 TBSP oil into the pan, drizzling it over the chicken, and then into the excess marinade.
Turn the chicken a couple of times to coat.
Bake for about 12 minutes. Check the readiness, and (in theory) turn over the chicken. (I forgot to turn it over… I knew there was a reason I underdid the amount of time! Oh well…)
Bake for about another 7 minutes. However, because of the moisture you’ve pulled into the chicken, an extra minute or two won’t hurt it. At least, it didn’t hurt mine, so yours should be good.
There you go!
Total cost of the meal: $0.70 for the chicken, $0.15 for the bread, no more than $0.25 for the rice, and about $0.25 for the spinach. Total cost: $1.35. Maximum. Not bad, right?
First, a bit about me. I am a brand new Ph.D. student. That means that I’m leaving the luxurious life of an undergrad (where all my meals and living expenses were taken care of by a combination of the cafeteria and my parents) and entering the dark scary world of paying rent, paying other bills (INTERNET!), and… cooking for myself! (Gasp!)
And all this on a graduate student budget. So, cheap.
And there’s very little out there about eating cheaply but tastily.
Trust me. As I started doing the research last year to find out about budgets and stuffs for graduate students, I did a lot of Google searching. And I found very little of interest. All right, there was some stuff on there about how to still survive as a vegan/vegetarian/health-nut/etc. on a budget, but I’m not any of those!! I happen to really like eating tasty things (like cookies and things with butter), but there wasn’t much info on doing so cheaply which I could find.
So I’m aiming to fix that. I intend to make food that I like (insofar as I can without sacrificing internet or coffee) but (hopefully) inexpensively. At the very least, realistically. Odds are high I’ll end up just cooking up a thing of Mac & Cheese for dinner a few times when I’m running tight on my budget, since it’s cheap and I love that stuff. (Taste of my childhood! Yay!)
But I digress. I’m talking about the blog, and how hopefully this will help someone. 🙂
To start off with, I’ll share what I made tonight.
Tomato Bisque Soup and Chicken for about $2 a serving.
(Makes 2 servings.)
(Yes, I made some assumptions and did some rounding here in my estimations.)
Yeah, I know… I need to work on my food photography skills. Sorry.
But this was really good. And surprisingly filling. And easy!
Ingredients (and approximate price.)
1 can of Campbell’s tomato soup. ($1 from the local dollar store.)
About 7/8 of 1 can’s worth of milk. (Call it about 1 cup? Maybe 1.5 cups? Regardless, if a gallon of milk costs $5, then a cup would cost about 30 cents. So, between $0.30 and $0.50. Being generous.) (Cost so far: $1.50 for two servings.)
About 1 Tbsp of Half & Half. (Or, the rest of the can.) (Cost: less than $0.10.) (And yes, I know- this is not a true bisque because of the lack of true cream. It still tastes good. 🙂 )
Parsley and basil.
1 Tbsp butter (I bought in bulk. Less than $0.10.)
1 Tbsp onion (I’m not sure on the cost of these.)
1 Chicken Breast. This is where some of the real expense, and guessing, comes in. The chicken my roommate and I purchased was at about $2.20 a pound. I think the breast I got out of the freezer was no more than 3/4 lb. But suppose it was a $2.00 chicken breast, which would be about .9 pounds, or almost half a pound per person. This is up to you, after all. That puts the total cost at about $3.70 for two servings, or $1.85 per serving, leaving a bit for extras.
Extras: Spinach and Cheese. I got a bag of spinach for $1.99. We used a few leaves- CERTAINLY no more than 1/10 of the bag. So, $0.10 per serving. I also purchased a bulk thing of Mozzarella. (I love shredded Mozzarella! It’s one of my favorites. 🙂 ) I think I put about a tablespoon in. By my estimations, that would put it at call it $0.10. $1.75 + $0.10 + $0.10 = $2.05. But that assumes that all the “less than $0.10” expenses were, in fact, $0.10. And that 1.5 Cups of milk at $5/gallon were used. It’s also still pretty close to $2.00 a serving. (Less, if you don’t add either the spinach or the cheese. MUCH less if you use less than half a pound of chicken per person, which I am quite sure I did!)
Cut chicken into smaller chunks, and cook until done. (I did not season it.)
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, cook onions in 1 TBSP of heated butter until translucent. (Do not brown them.)
When onions are about done, pour the can of soup into the pan. Instead of using water as the instructions would have you do, use the milk and half & half instead. Stir. Add a pinch of dried basil, a pinch of dried parsley, and salt to taste. Stir until heated.
Once the soup is heated and the chicken cooked, remove from heat. Get a couple of bowls ready, with a few spinach leaves and chicken in each bowl. Ladle soup into the bowl, on top of the spinach. (There should be about two bowl-fulls of soup.) Sprinkle some cheese on top, and enjoy!