Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Slow Cooker Chicken Chili (Eat on 30)
After a power moment with Microsoft Excel, Eat on $30 seems doable. (for an intro, other participating bloggers, and the whole point, go here. #eaton30 on twitter. I am eating/twittering @feedingmaybelle)
For today’s post, I thought I would talk about Mr. Chicken.(Excuse the psychedelic coloration; my scanner is broken so I had to photograph the drawings.) This story takes us way off topic for a moment. Every college has certain stock characters: the guy wearing shorts in a snowstorm, the jugglers, the theatrical speakers, the smokers/intellectual folks, and then the boy who acts (and looks 35) but is only 18. Someone in the later category turned me on to the money saving possibilities of Monsieur Le Chicken. My mom basically cooked vegetarian Indian food at home with the occasional fish dish, so I never really purchased chicken until I started experimenting with cooking in high school. And, then I often fell into the skinless, boneless trap. But, then again, I wasn’t paying for the food or earning the money. It was that balding, practical college friend, F--, who told me one afternoon about the dream of spending only $10 a week on food. He had heard of someone who used one chicken to make all his lunches and dinners for the whole week. He told me this as if it were some mythical legend. In the infancy of the Interweb, and before I really thought about keeping a budget, this promise of the miraculous chicken seemed to me an aspiration not likely attained. I just assumed he would eat 1/7 of the chicken eat day; and how could that be satisfying. Now of course, I have put a modified version of this into practice for years. We will often use the same chicken for meals for 3-4 days and then go veg the other days, if only for respite from the bird.
For this week we started on Monday with the Mr. as a roasted bird. In the pan, we also roasted 4 beets, 2 carrots, 3 sweet potatoes, 3 onions, 1 head of garlic and a partridge in a pear tree. (Incidentally we also roasted the squash for Wednesday and the tomatoes for Tuesday. Nourished Kitchen has wonderful tips on saving money while eating healthfully and she mentioned how much energy is wasted in oven cooking. To save energy do all of your oven prep at a time, she tells readers) One big thing was that I didn't send those beet stems to the compost. We used them to add body and flavor to the chili; and it was delicious. I will never compost them again.
Monday was the quietest night in my schedule this week so I decided to prep some of the other meals. For us, eating out at the last minute is a double drain on the budget—we spend money on eating out and we waste what is in the fridge. To curb that, I prepped Tuesdays and Wednesdays meals on Monday night. Tuesday would be chicken chili with the beet stems and beans. Wednesday some sort of risotto thing (Arborio was too expensive.) So, after the chicken rested, we worked fast, plated the dinner plates with chicken, put bones in the slowcooker for the stock and also stripped done the back meat and one leg for the chili. By the time we sat down for dinner, the ingredients for dinner 2 were prepped in the fridge and the stock was simmering in the cooker.
It is worth saying that this dinner was $2 more expensive than the roast chicken and princess couscous (posting recipe tomorrow) in part because I decided to go back and get cheese as it was on sale for 1.50 today. Plus, I costed out organic tomato paste and organic cherry tomatoes (even though they were actually free) and that bumped us way up. Also, I decided to be honest to the challenge and be minimal in the spices that I use throughout the week. I do buy my spices bulk at an ethnic market (cheaper than at the grocery store) but they still add up when you use many. So for this week, I will make use of the herbs that are on the window sill plus cumin and chili pepper. I think even on a budget 1-3 well chosen spices or condiments will make the food taste good enough to keep you from straying. So dinner cost us $8.66 (for 4 people (Belle, J--, my Mom and I plus three lunches for tomorrow.)
And for those of who with your calculators out, we spent $17 for both of us for the day ($30 for the week). We had some successes. Homemade yogurt was darn cheaper than the orgo brands. Homemade bread is much cheaper than anything in the store. We had some failures. J—forgot lunch and had to buy something shooting a $4 hole in the budget. I got weak and bought a large tea to get me through my evening meeting. It would have only been .75, but I tipped the guy 1.25. He was telling me about his five year old son and I felt compelled to give him a big tip to help him out. I should say I know two days in and we seem to be ½ way through the budget. But, I am still confident we will make it.
To find the rest of the Eat on 30 folks...
In a slowcooker, add:
The meat from the back of a chicken plus one leg
2 large carrots diced
3 onions roasted
3 cloves of garlic roasted
2 T tomato paste (we had homemade but it is often on sale)
10 oven roasted cherry tomatoes (we had some left from the garden)
1 cup cannellini beans (soaked overnight)
1 cup chickpeas (soaked overnight, pressure cooked today and added later in cooking)
Stems on one bunch of beets
2 T cumin
1 T red pepper powder
1 green pepper diced and sautéed
1 eggplant diced and sautéed
2 cups stock
Drippings from roasting plan deglazed with water (no vino in our budget)
stems from one bunch of beets, chopped
Salt and black pepper accordingly
Cook on slow for 6 hours.
Serve with a dollop of homemade yogurt, shredded cheese and crusty bread.