If you didn’t catch last week’s post, check it out to see everything we buy, how many meals we cook for, and what our projected budget looks like. I’m diving in straight away to the food this week!
Check out the meals, the list, and the receipts below!
1. Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs with Shallot-Wine Pan Sauce Over Orzo
I’m excited to share this go-to recipe with you guys soon, but for now, bear with some basic instructions. Trust me, it’s so worth it. We serve this with a basic veggie on the side.
Preheat your oven to 375º. Heat an oven-proof skillet large enough for your chicken thighs/legs over high (but not maximum) heat until super hot. Meanwhile, pat your chicken thighs very, very dry and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Squirt in a bit of neutral oil with a high smoke point (canola or vegetable works well). Carefully place chicken thighs skin-side down in the pan and let sit for four minutes. Do not touch! After four minutes, use tongs to flip your chicken thighs and cook another four minutes.
After the four minutes, carefully move your skillet to the oven and leave for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove chicken thighs from skillet with tongs and cover loosely with foil to rest. Being super careful to use a potholder or towel to handle the skillet, pour off all chicken fat but about 2 teaspoons. Place skillet on stove over medium heat. Sauté 2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots until softened, a couple minutes. Deglaze pan with 1/4 cup white wine and cook until reduced to about half. Add in 1/3 cup chicken broth and cook until reduced to about half. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 tablespoon cold butter. Place chicken thighs over orzo and drizzle sauce over. Tada! Feast.
2. Chick-Fil-A Copycat Nuggets and Oven Fries
No matter how many confits I delight O with, no matter how many mother sauces I master, he loves these chicken nuggets like you would not believe, understand, or want to believe or understand. I always emit a little sigh and wonder if I shouldn’t just give in to these dishes, hanging up my blue apron and stocking up on any Pinterest recipe that combines cheddar, bacon, and ranch dressing! But I’ll admit, they’re damn good.
I brined the chicken breast overnight in pickle juice, which made for an unbelievably tender texture, yet slightly pickly taste. Next time I might brine the chicken in a traditional, yet slightly less salty brine, then “marinate” the chicken in pickle juice before frying. I’d also add way more powdered sugar to this recipe.. and fewer dried herbs. Turns out I liked my original attempt much more! I always feel like any copycat recipe can get closer to the original, so I rarely cease my efforts for improvement. Oh, and we still don’t go to Chick-fil-A, so I guess I can’t blame O for craving these little bites too much.
I whipped up a batch of oven fries cooked in some tallow I rendered from beef fat a little while ago. Another rule of budget gourmet: don’t waste anything you could possibly do something with.. especially not fat! Tallow is far superior in terms of vitamins and nutrients, though, despite what our culture touts!
3. Asian Meatball Soup
We still had a bit of kale leftover from last week, thanks to a trick I learned. Carbon dioxide prevents greens from going bad as quickly, so I blow into the big bags and seal them puffy! It works beautifully, and we end up with fresh greens exponentially longer than ever before.
O loves this meal because it’s flavorful and comforting, yet light. And who doesn’t love plum-sized meatballs?! In addition, we had enough ground chicken left in the freezer from the tostadas I made a couple weeks ago to not need to go out and buy more.. but it was only $2 to start with! I got rid of packages and packages of rice vermicelli when we moved (why?!), so I picked up a small package at the Asian market, along with some scallions. We pretty much had everything else on hand!
The beauty of cooking a weekly meal plan is that you soon learn your favorite recipes in a way that you can fit them in to what you already have on hand, saving you money, as well as improving your skill. I truly believe that we become better cooks, not by constantly trying new recipes (though I am clinically addicted), but by perfecting recipes.
Find the recipe here.
4. Tom Kha with Tofu, Jasmine Rice, and Quick Thai Pickled Cucumbers
Another one of O’s favorites, this tom kha soup is what really turned on my love for Thai food when I was in college. I’d been raised with pad thai and pad see ew, dishes I’m still not terribly fond of, so I automatically assumed I disliked Thai food. It wasn’t until I found this perfectly rich and creamy blend of sour, salty, earthy, and sweet flavors that I realized what I’d been missing.
This isn’t the traditional tom kha I’ve posted before, but a version that tastes almost identical to the bowl of my conversion. It includes red Thai curry paste and lemongrass, galangal or ginger and coconut milk, lime juice and fish sauce, silken tofu and mushrooms, thinly sliced scallions and sprigs of cilantro. Ugh!
I served this with bowls of jasmine rice and a side of a quick cucumber salad–cheap and easy, my friends!
Here’s a quick and dirty version of the tom kha recipe:
1/2 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Thai chile, chopped
2 slices galangal or ginger
1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 2-inch sticks and smashed
1 teaspoon red thai curry paste
2 tablespoons peanut oil
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups coconut milk, not light
Fish sauce (nampla) to taste
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 pieces scallion, sliced
cilantro, to taste
1 package silken tofu, extra firm, cubed
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
In medium to large heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sweat the onions, garlic, chile, galangal, lemongrass and curry paste in oil for 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and simmer for 1/2 hour. Add coconut milk, tofu, mushrooms. Season with nampla and lime juice. Cook for 2 minutes. Garnish with scallions and coriander springs. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.
Note: You can use chicken here if you like, though we prefer it with tofu. I recommend velveting your chicken for the best texture–find the directions from my old blog here.
5. French Onion Soup with Salad
French onion soup is another comfort food that’s cheap and easy. Whether you want to go all out and make Julia’s recipe, or if you need a “quick” recipe for after work, the melty, broiled cheese and rich beefy broth are sure to satisfy. The key to keeping French onion soup cheap is to use sliced gruyere from the deli, rather than investing in a whole hunk if you won’t need or use it. A couple slices of gruyere comes to about a buck, maybe less, and you really notice the rich and nutty, slightly smoky taste of real gruyere.
I’ve been using a recipe I wrote down in an app for a couple years now, but can’t find the original post! I plan on blogging this in the future, but for now, you can follow these directions for SQ-approved, super simple, super quick, super cheap French onion soup:
Quick French Onion Soup
1½ medium onions , thinly sliced
2 Tbsp butter
1 (13 3/4 ounce) cans beef broth
¼ cup water
1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 slices French bread , toasted and buttered
parmesan cheese , grated
2 slices gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon thyme, dried, if desired
In saucepan, cook onions in butter until onions are tender. Add broth, water, Worcestershire sauce, and thyme, if using. Bring to boil. Simmer, covered, 25 minutes.
Spoon into 2 ovenproof bowls. Place piece of French bread in each bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Top with cheese slice. Broil until cheese melts.
Find my quick recipe for authentic Dijon vinaigrette at the link.
6. Leftovers with Salad
Chicken pot pie is truly the gift that keeps on giving.. and giving. We had this towards the beginning of the week, when it was still fresh from last week, thanks to some killer plastic wrap skills. We typically don’t eat a lot of leftovers, but there’s something about the creamy filling, rich roasted chicken, and flaky crust that gets us. This is one of our mega meals that’s cheap and produces many meals. Quiche is another!
If you don’t have any leftovers, try whipping up an “ad hoc” meal. Look at what you have in your pantry, what’s leftover in the fridge. Make a meal of it! Maybe you have an extra zucchini, a bit of pesto, some mozzarella, some frozen edamame, and pasta – fry up the zucchini, steam the edamame, toss the pasta in the pesto, and combine it all. Delicious. Making a solution out of what you have (the task at hand!) is a great way to grow your culinary creativity and stretch your budget.
The List (for two)
As a reminder, anything in bold we already had on hand, including that lot of frozen chickens we’re still working our way through!
Pan-seared chicken thighs with shallot-wine pan sauce over orzo
- 2 chicken thighs
- 1 shallot (leftover from last week’s Moroccan chicken)
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/3 cup chicken broth
- orzo, two servings
- 1 tablespoon butter
- vegetable for side dish, if desired
Chick-Fil-A copycat nuggets and oven fries
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup flour
- ¼ cup pickle juice
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ cup flour
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon celery salt
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- oil for frying
- chipotle mayo for dipping
- 2 russet potatoes
- 4 tablespoons tallow, or other oil with high smoke point
Asian meatball soup with rice vermicelli
- 2 cups chicken broth I used the stock I made from last week’s chicken back
- 2 quarter-size slices fresh ginger root Leftover from last week’s wonton soup
- 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 6 oz. ground meat Leftover chicken from wonton soup
- 1/2 egg white Who doesn’t love splitting eggs?!
- 1 tablespoon plain dry bread crumbs
- 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 3/4 teaspoon soy sauce – Finally ran out!
- 1 1/2 trimmed, chopped, firmly packed kale leaves Leftover from last week’s giant bag of kale – such great value!
- 4 oz. thin rice noodles – I bought a small package at the Asian market for about a buck
- 3/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 scallion
Tom kha with tofu, jasmine rice, and quick Thai pickled cucumbers
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 Thai chile
- 2 slices galangal or ginger
- 1 lemongrass stalk
- 1 teaspoon red Thai curry paste – An excellent staple for a quick coconut curry dinner
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil – Used canola oil, as that’s what I had on hand
- 4 cups chicken broth – Use Chinese chicken broth here, it’s worth it!
- 2 cups coconut milk – Not light!
- Fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons lime juice – About 2 limes
- 2 scallions
- 1 box silken tofu, firm or extra firm
- 8 oz. button mushrooms
French onion soup with salad
- 1½ medium onions , thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 (13 3/4 ounce) cans beef broth – Used homemade beef broth I made from some beef rib leftovers from my parents
- 1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 slices French bread , toasted and buttered – Used homemade loaf I had
- parmesan cheese , grated – Went without
- 2 slices gruyere cheese
- 1 teaspoon thyme, dried, if desired
Check out what we actually spent on all of this! I couldn’t find the SuperLo receipt, but it totally out at $31. We made our friends with a new baby a casserole this week and bought a package of chicken from there, as well as some soups, broths, rice, etc., so I deducted $8 for those items. We totaled at a cool