Friday, September 28, 2012

Five Cheap Recipes to Feed a Big Family

Okay. So I'm trying to get the vim back together with my vinegar. I'm trying to get the Zip back with my edy-do-da; my Roll back with my Punches. Been a slogging couple of weeks. Worked hard but had no idea what direction to go. Have four stories to work on and a great friend coming in for a few days at end of next week and so need at least one of them done. So I drove nearly 400 miles to a story site yesterday and nobody came to meet me. Wasted 10 hours, unless you appreciate that I contributed $50 in gas to the economy and environment. Going back out tomorrow.
    Saw Chepa's babies, fed them well. Argued with Madeleina, who suddenly thinks the world sucks and is a far cry from the little girl who used to ask me, "Dad, when I grow up will you marry me?" Now she wonders who the heck I am and why I think I have the right to ask about homework.
    Marco just had a birthday and I want to have a party for him Sunday but don't want Chepa's boyfriend to come. No offence, but I'll have a better time with just my family. On the other hand, he's the dad of her two new babies, so I guess he is family. Not in my book, but at the same time..... Still, I think he should just make himself scarce while my family and I have the kind of birthdays we are used to, which generally involves throwing a lot of food around the kitchen at some point and people putting a lot of cake in each other's hair and making a royal, hilarious mess, while the kids run around picking up and eating the food from the floor screaming things like: "Alexa! Look! There's cake here!" or "The potatoes are always better when you mash them on the floor!"  I think everyone will be reserved around him. Too reserved for that, anyway.
    And then last night, after all my driving--which is not a ton but not what I'm used to--I was tired and then Italo called to say he was bringing me the new puppy they got last month. "Dad. He just shit on everything, including the rug you bought me. And Taylor's blanket. If you don't take him, well, you have to take him." So I did. And all night the puppy, on a leash tied to the front porch, cried. So I brought a blanket and then had to sleep with him outside so he wouldn't be afraid. Which meant that today I spent half the day making Boots, the blind wonderdog, feel just as loved. Which means I am freaking covered with fleas and not a happy camper at all!
    That said, I was poor this week. I already told you about someone sending a present out of the blue. That was great. But for me there is never enough for the food I like to cook. If I have money, I'll buy swordfish at $23 a pound. I'll buy sea scallops or Chilean bass at $21 a pound. And I'll match it with organic asparagus and so forth. So I can easily spend $50 on a meal for just a few of us.
    But when I'm poor--which means I sent $20 to the local soup kitchen and have just $30 to feed Madeleina and I and Boots and now and then Chepa and the babies for a couple of days, I can still do it. Here are a couple of great starvation recipes that don't take time or money but do take a little work.
1) Roast Chicken: Take a whole chicken ($3.79). Wash it, cut it in half. Salt and pepper both sides, and drip a few drops of olive oil infused with fresh garlic on it as well. Bake for about an hour at 350 degrees. Toss a sliced red onion ($.59) near the end.
    Cook rice in garlic and olive oil. Start with three tablespoons of good garlic in oil. When the garlic starts to brown, add water and a bit of salt. When the water is boiling, add good basmati rice ($6.69 for 5 lbs, or  $.20 a portion). Cook on high heat and stirring until most of the water is absorbed, then turn down to low, cover with a plastic bag to seal the rice and then put a lid on it. Let it cook for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is done.
    Broccoli: When chicken and rice are near done, boil a little water with a touch of salt (good sea salt is better if you can afford it) and toss in 5 florets of broccoli per person. Steam for 7 minutes.
    When chicken is done, if you want gravy, remove chicken from pan, add a bit of flour, stir, add chicken stock ($.59-$.82 a can depending on quality) whisk pan drippings/flour/chicken stock and you have fantastic gravy for the chicken and rice.
    Cut the chicken into as many as 10 portions if you need to feed a big family (One chicken leg, or one chicken thigh, or half a breast, or two wings should be plenty of meat for any person, unless they're freaking pigs (sorry) so a regular chicken should feed 10 people. (That's two drumsticks, two people; two thighs, two people; two breasts, four people; two wings, one person; one back, one person.)
   So your $4 chicken and $2 rice, plus $1 in garlic and olive oil, plus $1.75 of broccoli, plus $.59 in chicken stock, plus $.59 in onion, plus $1 in salt, pepper and soap to clean pots and pans comes to $11 to feed a family of 10 a great freaking meal with great nutrition. That's a buck ten a plate. Good deal. Good meal. Enough bones left over to feed your 70 lb dog.
2) Chicken Thighs: Same technique, but use chicken thighs and serve with sauteed red potatoes. One thigh per person. $5.58 for a 5.5 lb pack of 10 pieces. Cut in quarters and boil eight nice red potatoes ($4,00), then saute them in the garlic infused chicken pan drippings till golden brown. Serve with steamed asparagus ($1.50-$2.75 a pound, enough for everyone to have 5 pieces each).  Cost for 10 people? About $1.30 per person. Enough bones left over to feed the dog.
3) Broke but want a change up? Roast 5 chicken thighs ($2.77) with salt, pepper, garlic in olive oil. Buy large tortillas ($2.88 for a package of 10). On each tortilla, put the meat of 1/2 chicken thigh, including the diced skin. Add good beans ($.1.09 a can for good tart black beans, for instance), plus 2 table spoons of  no-fat sour cream ($1.79 a pound, enough for 10), plus two spoons of pico de gallo (Diced red onion, scallions, roma tomatoes and cilantro in good lime juice: 10 portions costs about $2 to make). Put two slices of reasonably good cheddar cheese ($4 for 20 slices)on that, fold and bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees. If you don't have an oven, put them, two by two, in a microwave for 57 seconds.
    Wrap them in paper towels so you don't scorch yourself. 10 large stuffed burritos (you can always add left over broccoli, spinach, etc) will cost you about $14.40. Maybe $15 with salt and pepper. But your family will love you. You need to supplement your dog tonight as he has only five thigh bones. Give him leftovers with the bones.
4) Chicken de luxe: Roast a chicken ($3.80) with salt, pepper and garlic. Rosemary or whatever else hits your funny bone. Clean the meat from the bones. Serve the bones to the dog. He'll be happy. Chop  the chicken meat roughly and put it aside. Now, to the pan you cooked the chicken in, add garlic, one diced head with a bit of olive oil ($.50), one diced red onion, large ($.89), one green pepper, diced and cleaned ($.79), a diced head of cilantro ($.33-$.39). Stir. Add a can of chicken broth ($.59-$.89). Reduce. Add a little bit of decent barbeque sauce (couple of tablespoons of even the best on the market does not cost more than $1.00). Serve over good rice ($.20 a person) with fresh cantaloupe or watermelon ($.35 per person).
    Total cost for 10 people? $12 tops.
     There are a million recipes for chicken. Getting good chicken is the first thing. Being smart and investing in 10 heads of garlic weekly, plus 1 ping of good olive oil is also key. Dice the garlic and put it in the olive oil. If you can afford a gallon of olive oil and 30-40 heads of good garlic, all the better. It will sit for a month making the garlic and the olive oil more and more yummy as they steep together. That's important to keep your blood clean.
   Try to always add good broccoli or spinach or asparagus or collard greens or whatever you want but something green/organic is better, but something green. Always add good onions. I don't care if they are yellor or red or tiny or big. Onions are, like garlic, just good for you. Now and then add fresh beets, mango, papaya, quinoa, potatoes (good red ones, with skin).
    Last recipe for the night: Good mashed potatoes.
   For 10 people. Get yourself 10 nice sized red potatoes. Organic if possible. Expensive at $1.29 a pound and you're looking at 5 lbs, or $6.45.
   Clean then cut the potatoes in half. Put them in lightly salted, cold water, with skin. Turn water on high. Bring to boil, then boil about 15 minutes, until potatoes are done but still solid. Pour off water; drain.
   When potatoes are drained, take potato masher and mash. When good and mashed, with skin, add 1 cup of 2 percent fat milk. Mash more. Then add 1 stick of good non-salted, sweet butter. Mash more. Add a bit of salt and pepper. The potatoes should fluff and get light and very nice. If not, add a bit more butter or milk. Be careful: Too much of either make soggy potatoes.
   That should serve 10 people a really good potato dish. Add gravy if you have it.
Now, I'm tired. I hope this was cool.
Just trying to feed a big family, and even though I don't have one this second most days, I still remember how to do it if there is not a lot of money around for prime angus beef rib eyes or shrimp...

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