Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 08:17 am
I'm on a tight budget and have been trying to find recipes I can follow using chicken, ground beef, inexpensive cuts of beef, and pork. I've been looking for recipes that call for ingredients I've got or that won't cost much to get.

Last night I made beef stew. The stewy part was pretty tasty, but the beef was dry and relatively tasteless. Edible nonetheless.

I've been getting recipes from the Internet and a few cookbooks I have. The ones from the cookbooks are fairly reliable, but the ones from the Internet are hit and miss.

Things to know: I have a fair amount of Chinese ingredients on hand. I don't like chili. I don't like chicken but will eat it anyway. The more disguised it is, the happier I am. I don't have wine in the house. I bought an inexpensive cooking wine. I have a feeling it was a waste of money.

I'm a fair to middling cook. Not great, but I'm willing to give things a try. I'm hoping to find things I can actually get down. (Something I tried made me gag. It ended up in the garbage.) I'm cooking for one, so I have to adjust all the recipes I find. I'm fairly good at this, but I think sometimes the proportions are off.

I welcome any and all suggestions.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 08:22 am
ok - so what do you like? (that'll be easier to work toward, than away from what you don't like)

cheap and cheerful is generally the order of the day for meals here

lots of veggies come into play

Question - if the beef was in stew, how did it end up dry? long, slow-cooking of any cut of beef should result in it being tender and moist. It's the traditional technique for cheaper cuts of meat. Whaaa happened?
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 08:33 am
The problem, Bethie, is that what I like is expensive. I like lamb, veal, and steaky kinds of meat. I'm not a big veggie fan, but I eat them. Except for potatoes. I love potatoes.

I have no idea what happened to the meat. I followed the recipe. Salt, pepper, dredge in flour, brown the meat, while sprinkling with thyme. Each piece of meat was about half its original size and dry. Not much taste either. What did I do wrong? Don't have a clue.

Don't worry about what I like. I'm trying to learn to eat stuff I don't like (except for the chili).

I've tried about six different chicken recipes so far. Eh, except for the chicken parmagiana. That was good. I just substituted chicken for veal (what I used to make). Made the sauce a while back and froze single serving sizes.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 08:37 am
Roberta - do you like tunafish, pasta and spinach?

I saw a recipe once that called for fresh tuna- which I didn't have - so I improvised and used canned tunafish and I loved it and it became kind of a favorite staple for my kids too.

While boiling your water for pasta in another pot, you saute garlic in butter in a frying pan. After that - you can pretty much improvise depending on what you have on hand.
The original recipe called for cream or half and half, but I didn't have any, (and besides, I try not to use too much cream or half and half in recipes unless I'm in the mood to just go all out and splurge healthwise) so I used half skim milk and about three big tablespoons of coffee mate dissolved in hot water (this gives a creamier taste and texture without all the fat and calories). How much you use, depends on how much pasta you're making.
(For one person, I'd say to make the liquid amount to from one half to one full cup).

Then you add your spinach - either frozen or fresh- and your flaked tuna. If it needs more spices, doctor it up with a little salt and pepper and garlic powder- I admit- I'm a butter lover and find that helps almost everything taste better - so I also throw maybe a little extra butter in there.

Coat your cooked pasta with this mixture and then garnish with parmesan cheese.

I know it sounds kind of weird - but we all love it - (my kids call it tuna spaghetti).
You can make it with what most people keep on hand - and it takes about ten minutes to throw together.

If you don't like or have spinach - you can use peas or any green vegetable you do like - or no green vegetable at all if that's your preference.

*Sorry I can't give you exact amounts - I don't measure when I cook- I just taste as I go along.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 08:42 am
Have you got a shop where you can get very bone-y cuts of meat cheaply?

I find that roasting the heck out of those meats, and then making my own faux-stock out of them makes many things taste much richer than using prepared stocks/broth (and at much less cost).

A few of my favourites for this (both from a Chinese butcher) are pig tails, rib ends and turkey wings.

I don't salt meats during the cooking process - I find it drying (not sure if the science holds true on it, but it's what they taught me 40 years ago).

Eggs, pasta, rice - are they in the house?
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 08:45 am

Frankly, you're better off getting a smaller but good cut of beef to make a stew from and just 'beef' it up with barley, potatoes, and whatever veggies you like. You could cook stewing beef on low for a long time and it would be okay. Do you like Lee & Perrins? I usually marinate cheaper cuts of beef in something for several hours (or overnight) before cooking it, and you don't have to dredge them - just saute really quick and throw into the pot. When you marinate, make sure you use a vinegar (I use basalmic but red wine is good) or lemon juice - you could also marinate with pop - really, it breaks down the toughness. So I use olive oil, basalmic vinegar, some herbs and GARLIC. Smile Overnight. Saute quickly, throw in pot. Add some beef stock. Veggies, whatever to your taste. I never Salt until the end. Salt dries out the meat. Other people disagree - it's up to you.

If you don't like chicken, why are you eating it? What about other cuts of meat, like pork tenderloin or chops? I've got a great pork chop recipe involving beef stock, sour cream and vinegar. It makes the chops very tender. You can get fat-free sour cream, too.

Yes, let us know what you like, and we can help. I also have lots of 4 or 5 ingredient recipes that are a snap to make. I have sisters and friends who hate cooking, so I always look for them.

What veggies can you tolerate?
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 09:56 am
Ummmm... pork shoulder, slow cooked.

I have a hard time finding pork shoulder at the uppity stores in my neighborhood but it's worth the travel time to get it. You might have to look around to find it. They're big but the meat freezes well.

I buy the bone in kind. Don't be discouraged that it looks fatty -- this is one of the reasons you can't find it in the uppity markets.

Heat your oven to 250 degrees. Put the shoulder into a heavy pot (I use a cast iron dutch oven). Close the lid. Got to bed. Get up in the morning and eat. The fat on the meat carmelizes and keeps everything really juicy and sweet.

I don't really season it when cooking because you can fix it in so many ways. I roll it up into tortillas, make soup, serve it with a side of soba noodles, make sandwiches, the list goes on and on.

Pork shoulder is really inexpensive and amazingly versatile.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 10:05 am
Mame has brought up a great technique: marination. With an inexpensive marinade, you can, overnight, turn tougher cuts of meat tender and full-flavored. There are a zillion recipes for marinades; try out some that sound tasty to you.

Marinades can be used on vegetables, also--and to great advantage. Potatoes are not truly a great veggie; they are nutritious but very high in starch. All kinds of veggies are out there; try some new ones to see if you like them.

Your beef stew may have turned dry because you used too good a grade of beef. There are opposing opinions on this, I know. The long cooking seems to work best for us on lower-quality cuts of beef, which we cut up ourselves.

Egg dishes are also nutritious and inexpensive. How about learning to make a really good cheese omelette? You won't want much else with that filling dish, except maybe a little salad.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 02:22 pm
I rarely buy whole beef anymore. It has gotten way too expensive. Even chicken is getting expensive. I usually buy the value pack of boneless pork chops and repackage them into meal-sized portions for the freezer. I then have the option of frying the whole chop or cutting them into chunks for soups, stews and stir frys. When hams are on sale, I'll buy a large ham, cook and thick slice it. Then package portions for the freezer and use as needed for sandwiches, beans and soups.

I also buy ground pork and ground turkey rather than the usually more expensive 90% ground beef and use that for pasta sauces, tacos, burritos, and bean dishes.

If I buy ground beef, I buy the largest value pack of 80% ground beef and use a patty maker to make 4 oz patties from it. I then repackage the patties in batches of 2 patties and freeze them. This usually yields 18 to 20 patties. If I have a craving for a burger, I cook up a frozen patty. Sometimes I'll thaw out 4 patties and use it to make a small meatloaf for sandwiches.

I buy very strong-tasting sauces to use as seasoning in my soups, stews and stir fries. One of my favorites is Lawry's Jerk marinade. It is way too spicy for me full strength. But is just right when used to season soups and stews. Another good, all-purpose sauce for seasoning other dishes is a strong itallian dressing.

I get bored with tomato sauces for pasta now and then and switch over to white sauces and flavor those with chicken soup base, cheese and garlic.

One of my favorite dishes to make when I need a break from pasta and tomato sauces is with white rice, a couple ground beef patties, some diced onions, some orange juice concentrate and a couple handfuls of raisins. I fry up the beef and onions then add the rice, orange juice and raisins. Then add enough water and a tablespoon of the jerk marinade to cover the rice with a couple inches of water and simmer until done. Sometimes I'll make burritos with it. Usually I just eat it as is.

I buy large quantities of onions, carrots and celery. I'll shred them and use them as filler in dishes when the meat is scarce. Now and then I'll buy a few bell peppers to spice things up a bit.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 02:35 pm
Good idea on the value packs of ground beef, Butrflynet. I do best at Sam's Club, which is an option here. I hand press it into roughly 5 oz patties and freeze them individually in sandwich bags.

I get a lot of mileage out of spaghetti. The basic sauce is pretty cheap, too. Fry up some ground beef and add it to a can of Hunt's spaghetti sauce. You can get more elaborate, but this works real well.

If you like eggs and don't have problems with cholesterol, they're a good source of protein and generally don't leave you feeling hungry for awhile.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 02:52 pm
Last night Hubby was hungry for a dish we call "Shepherd's pie". It is one of our fondest memories of the starvation days of our youth.

For two, peel, slice, salt, pepper, cover with water 4 or 5 medium to large potatoes and simmer until tender (15-20 minutes usually). Add a tablespoon or so of margerine or butter, a splash of milk and mash. You'll want these to be moderately firm--not soupy.

While the potatoes are cooking, fry a pound of cheap hamburger until well done, salt and pepper to taste, drain thoroughly. Add worchestershire sauce to the drained meat to taste.

Using about 2/3rds of the mashed potatoes, line the bottom and sides of a small casserole dish and fill with the meat mixture. Cover the meat with the rest of the mashed potatoes and smooth out evenly.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until the potatoes are lightly browned.

Serve along with a few baby carrots and celery sticks and maybe a piece of fruit. Good, filling, and cheap.

Our other staple was cooked and seasoned pinto beans mixed with cooked, seasoned, and drained ground beef and again garnished with raw veggies. You can feed a small army on little or nothing.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 03:45 pm
I'm limited by what I can find in my supermarket. The nearest butcher isn't that near and is very expensive.

Aidan, Yes, I like tunafish, spinach (more or less) and pasta. But the thing that made me gag had canned tuna cooked. May have been the recipe.

Beth, Re bony cuts of meat, I make braised short ribs with horseradish sauce. Yes, I have eggs, pasta, and rice in the house.

Mame, Sure I like Lee & Perrins. I bought a leg of lamb (expensive), but I managed to get six meals out of it. Two roast lambs (love it) and lamb stew (didn't come out good) and shish kebab, also not great. I'd love to hear the recipe for pork chops. I like them. I want to have recipes for chicken because it's cheap and sometimes my supermarket doesn't have much else. I ate chicken once in a while even when I wasn't on a tight budget. I tolerate most veggies, but there's a whole range of them I know little about--things like turnips. Never bought one. Don't like eggplant! Don't like beets! Otherwise I'm open.

boomer, Pork shoulder sounds good--if my supermarket has it. Don't remember seeing it there.

Miklos, I've been marinating like crazy recently. Marinated tenderloin of pork and ate it two nights ago. Fair, not great. Got the recipe online. Looking for others. Never made pork tenderloin before.

Butreflynet, I've stared at the value pack of pork chops. Don't know how long it would take me to get through it. I can't eat Mexican food (or Indian). There's something in it that makes me sick (why I avoid chili). If I knew which ingredient was doing it to me, I'd avoid it. Since I can't seem to narrow down the specific, I avoid the whole thing.

Roger, I usually have spaghetti or other pasta once a week. Yeah, I eat eggs, but I have high cholesterol, so I can't overdo there. When I'm feeling wild, I might make a cheese omelet.

Foxfyre, I'm gonna try that Shepherd's pie. Sounds good. I don't dislike beans, but the only kind I've ever bought and eaten is the Heinz variety in a can. I need to know more about beans.

Thanks, you guys. I'm gonna finish the stew tonight, tough meat and all.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 03:48 pm
I wasn't going to post at all since you seem to be pretty meat oriented (not a cheap way to eat) and I don't know diddly about meat in general. But, since roger brought up beans........

Black beans are the beans that most kids tolerate first. They're easy on the system, not too tough or flavorful. They are a good all-around bean. Navy beans are a close second in my opinion. Pintos come in third.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 04:38 pm
Roberta - value packs are the best... just divide them into one portion lots and freeze.

Pork Chops:

Dredge 4 pork chops.
Brown lightly.
Put in a baking dish.
Combine and pour over meat:

1/2 water or beef stock
1/2 bay leave
2 T. vinegar
1 T. sugar
1/2 sour cream
1/4 tsp. savory (optional)

Cover and bake at 350 deg. for 1 hour (if chops are thick); 30 min. or less if fast fry.

For one person, make two, divide sauce in half. You can leave the other chop in the fridge for several days before eating.


1. Chicken Dijon:

6 chicken breasts

Mix Sauce:
1/3 c. butter or margarine (I use less)
1/3 c. honey
4 tsp. yellow curry powder
1/4 c. Dijon

Oven to 350 deg. Chicken on rack on pan.
Cook for 20 minutes on one side, basting frequently.
Turn chicken over and repeat.

Or, put in baking dish and pour sauce over.

2. Chipotle Chicken

Chipotle sauce
Mushroom quarters
Equal parts half-and-half and sour cream (depends on how much sauce you want - for 1 breast, try 1/4 cup of each)
Chicken pieces

Saute chicken pieces and mushroom till brown in a wok-like pan or pot.
Remove from pan/pot.
Add half and half and sour cream to pan/pot. Add a tsp of chipotle sauce.
Stir. When hot, add chicken/mushrooms back in and reduce to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Do you like fish?

MAPLE SALMON, serves 4

• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 pound salmon

In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper. Place salmon in a shallow glass baking dish, and coat with the maple syrup mixture. Cover the dish, and marinate salmon in the refrigerator no more than 30 minutes, turning once. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Place the baking dish in the preheated oven, and bake salmon uncovered 20 minutes, or until easily flaked with a fork.

For one person, I would just make the sauce, use 1/4 of it and freeze the other 3/4 in 3 portions.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 05:15 pm
Well, cheapo cook here..

I talk about meat a lot, but I don't cook with serious meat all the time, at all. By serious, I mean meat in big hunks. I too like pork shoulder, that's what I prefer for the romanoli's porchetta recipe I put here on a2k at some point. Here's the porchetta recipe -

I like many many many braised meat recipes.

Mad fan of Meatloaf du jour or Meatloaf ala Refrigerator & Cupboard.

(which reminds me, breadcrumbs - I make my own from some hearty bread like La Brea bakery's italian loaf - LB bakery is much cheaper now for whatever reason than it used to be, and worth it - one loaf makes a lot of crumbs, which I then freeze). Um, with those fresh loaves sans preservatives, if you have a cotish bakery, they can slice it for you. Noone seems to have heard of that here... Anyway, given it isn't sliced, I slice it when I get home, otherwise you shortly have a bread doorstop.
I put the slices in, say, a few plastic bags, that is, a bag within a bag, and whack them with my kitchen hammer. Given you don't have a kitchen hammer, hmmm, a regular hammer? sturdy clobbering object.... voila! crumbs! ai, caramba!

Mostly I stock up on sausages. My local, well not that damn local dagnabbit, butcher has a selection of something like 18 varieties of made-there sausages. I use one sausage, for example, in a pot of soup, or sometimes two, and sometimes none, like in onion soup, still a favorite.

I make a fair amount of onion soup at a time, since I can store it and turn it into other soups...
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 05:23 pm
More on sausage...

tonight I'm making the biscuits Mame posted on her Pictures of Camp thread, now that I have some sour cream, and I'm going to try to replicate the gravy of the biscuits and gravy I had at the Flying Star Cafe. That involved pearl onions, turkey sausage bits (or else spiced ground turkey) and parsley, I assume added at the last minute or two. Probably the most delicious gravy for biscuits I've tried and I'm a major biscuits and gravy tester in coffeeshops and cafes throughout the land.

Will link to Mame's biscuits when I find it (bunch of us have tried them so far and all rave, to date. Me, I'll probably burn them.)
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 05:36 pm
I don't suppose you like anchovies or canned clams?

I mean anchovies used as a salt provider along with whatever fish bennies happen with a crushed anchovy or two. Canned clams vary, some are yucko, and some are fine for a toss with linguine. If that doesn't repel you, I've a recipe for it from Craig Claiborner here on a2k.

And probably another recipe for Farfalle with spinach sauteed in butter, tossed with a few tablespoons of ricotta, perhaps a toss of parmigiano, and served piping hot with squeezes of lemon at the last minute.

I could go on, but await more what you like and don't.

I'll second Beth on roasting. I'm still learning about roasting meat bones, mostly from her, but have a whole new take on veggies, even after I got to like them over the years and eat a lot of them, since I learned about roasting. Roast (but not too long) broccoli with a sprinkle of olive oil, amazing. I'm working up to trying roasted cauliflower (in my case I think of some olive oil with chile and garlic, but that's me).
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 05:54 pm
Back to meat..

I went out to lunch a while ago with Dys and Diane and we went to a mixed Asian place. Don't get me started, I love vietnamese, japanese, chinese, and other asian food from various countries and regions but so far they do asian here like they do fish. Harrumph.

But I lucked out this time in that the restaurant does Chinese better than Japanese, both dishes of which I hated on the first visit, one right away and one with the aftertaste. This time I had a simple stir fried beef with green beans in black bean sauce. I meant to take the leftovers home (at least two more meals from it) but walked away without it. Slaps self.

So I tried to replicate it. Bought flank steak. Not cheap, as it comes at my market packaged in what must be family sized aliquots. Got a pound of nice green beans. Already had the fermented black bean sauce. Probably added even more garlic. Made some rice...

Damn if mine wasn't as good as theirs, and that's nothing against theirs.
Point is, that to-me expensive batch I made lasted a bunch of meals after I froze some containers.

Next time I'm going to hammer the flank steak, which I remember doing back when I learned, pardon me, oriental cooking back in the seventies... thus perhaps getting more out of a given cut.

But, a lot of dishes are meated up for western tastes. Many cultures use meat as a flavorer most days, if then, saving the roast pig, goat, whatever, for major celebration. (Never mind, y'all know that.)
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 05:57 pm
And Mame, salmon? cheap? A tin of sardines, ok.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 06:00 pm
Another thing to do with that kitchen hammer, be it a wine bottle, heavy pot, a kitchen mallet or a foil-wrapped brick, rock or 2x4:

Take some of those valu-packed boneless pork chops and pound them out flat until they are very thin. Make up some stuffing using bread crumbs or rice or potatos and roll it up inside the flattened chop. Stick a toothpick in it to keep it in place or use kitchen twine to tie it up. Then cook using the method of your choice, pan fry or oven broil. Either cook as is or dip in egg and flour/breading before cooking. Make a gravy from the drippings.

Not getting through the big value pack quickly is the whole idea. Break the pack up into serving sizes and freeze them until you need them.
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