Monday, February 8, 2010

Dinners: Easy, Satisfying, and Nice to Wallet

I've been trying to find meals for our little family that aren't so costly but are healthy and fill the tummy. We're students right? I suppose because of it, my weekly trips to the grocery store are usually centered around finding economical dishes. I do have my weak moments though.... like when we brush by the fancy cheese section and there sits a log of goat cheese beckoning for consumption. Gotta take care of that!

Anyways... these are all very tasty and will provide leftovers for at least one-two subsequent nights. I like it for the money saving aspect, I like it more because it means at least 2-3 nights in the week that my sink is semi-free of piled-up dishes.

My first dish is a sweet-and sour chicken, which I'll be completely upfront: I do not like Chinese-American food all that much. Nor do I ever prepare it, but per my husband's request, I acquiesced to attempting it. It was successful. I think.

I have to warn you- the sauce is super tangy. For us, that's good. For others, not good. Presenting dinner number 1:

Sweet and Sour Chinese Chicken
{The Gathering of Friends, Vol. 11, 82)

8 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
4 eggs
1 cup corn starch
1 cup flour
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar (we used a bit more)
1/2 cup ketchup
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Cut chicken breasts into 1" pieces. Beat eggs in a shallow bowl, set aside. Combine the corn starch, flour, and S & P in a Ziplock bag. Dip chicken pieces in egg, place in Ziplock and coat in flour mixture. In a large skillet lightly fry chicken in oil (I think I used about 1/2-1 cup), until just semi-done (you finish cooking it in the oven). Drain oil and place chicken in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.

In a medium saucepan, combine soy sauce, ketchup, sugar, chicken broth, and vinegar; bring to a boil. Pour over chicken and bake for about an hour (more or less), carefully turning chicken pieces over and around every 15 minutes (very important!). While chicken is baking, prepare Jasmine rice for the side, as well as some vegetables (whatever you have on hand)

We took sugar snap peas, green onion, and carrots and sauteed them in a wok with sesame seed oil, served along side the chicken with extra sauce... YUM!

Dinner #2 comes from the February issue of good ol' MS Living. I was surprised by how flavorful rice and beans are when seasoned and garnished correctly. This is a dish I'll eat 5 nights a week. You can just feel the healthiness of it running through your body with each spoonful. Sour cream included.

Brown Rice and Black Beans


8 cups water

1 lb dried black beans, picked over, rinsed, and drained

1 jalapeno chilie, halved and seeded

2 medium onions, quartered

5 garlic cloves, smashed

2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar

Salt and pepper


¼ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups brown rice

3 ½ cups water

Salt and pepper

Making the beans: Bring water, beans, jalapeno, onion, garlic and red-wine vinegar to a simmer in a medium pot, not forgetting to season it with salt and pepper!:)

Cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, at least 1 ½ hours, adding more water in ¼ cupfuls at a time, if needed.

Meanwhile, make the rice. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat and cook onion and garlic until tender. Add 2 tsp salt, ¼ tsp of pepper, and rice. Cook until rice is slightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer with a cover until rice absorbs water, another 30 minutes. Remove from heat, let the rice stand and fluff with fork. Serve with beans.

Garnish: fresh cilantro, chopped avocado, cheese, sour cream, chopped tomato, and fresh lime wedges.

Dinner #3. Requires very little effort, except for some on-hand brown rice, which you can use from dinner #2 with leftovers.
If you have that, the remainder of the dish takes about 5 minutes to whip up. Plus baking time. Snap.
Red Enchilada Casserole
1 can black beans
1 package whole wheat tortillas
1 bottle Trader Joe's Red Enchilada sauce (or, any red enchilada sauce you find)
2 cups brown rice
1 cup corn
1-2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
In a large bowl, combine black beans, rice, corn and sauce. Mix all together, tasting to see if it needs salt or pepper. In a circular casserole dish, layer as follows: bean mixture, then tortilla, then a little cheese, then bean mixture, tortilla, cheese, and finish by ending with cheese on top.
Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes until heated through and cheese is bubbly!
Serve with lime and sour cream.

The end.

PS Apologies for the odd and inconsistent spacing of this post- blogger is not cooperating.

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