Tag Archives: under $3

Mahogany chicken with chipotle-lime sweet potatoes & cilantro chimichurri: $2.16/serving

If you’re thinking this looks awfully fancy and composed for something I’d come up with on my own, your suspicions would be founded. It’s an oldie but goodie from the Food Network—a recipe I’ve had in the rotation for quite a few years now when I happen to have some chicken thighs to spare (in this case, Costco: $1.69/lb.) and the weather calls for sweet potatoes. Not only are the colors fantastic, but it’s relatively quick to make and is an excellent vehicle for an ending-its-lifespan bunch of cilantro. (If you haven’t yet been enlightened with my tip for making bunches of herbs last for weeks past when they’d normally die a sad, slimy death in the crisper, check it out.)

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Harissa rigatoni with kale, sausage & pine nuts: $2.10/serving

Harissa, a North African spice paste made with dried peppers, seems to be having a moment. I hadn’t even heard of it five years ago, and all of a sudden it seems to be everywhere—on TV shows like Top Chef, on restaurant menus…even on the shelf at Williams-Sonoma. In fact, any gourmet store likely to carry a jar of the stuff is probably going to charge anywhere from $9 to $13 for it. Which is too bad, because it’s quite versatile as a condiment—spread on sandwiches, stirred into soups, added to pizza, and tossed with pasta, such as in this quick-‘n’-healthy weeknight dish. Making your own harissa from scratch only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish (most of it passive time soaking the peppers) and is less than half the cost of the store-bought stuff, so it’s easy to make up a batch on a weekend and freeze it in little bags for future use.

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Peruvian chicken chili with peanuts (aji de gallina): $2.60/serving

It’s been hot lately. Like, triple-digit hot. Which, for someone who’s almost seven months pregnant and doesn’t have air conditioning, means suddenly entering a special circle of hell. A place where every appendage on your body feels like it weighs 3,000 pounds and sweat comes out of places you didn’t even know had sweat glands. Some nights I admit I didn’t cook at all; others I simply threw a banana, some ice and frozen berries, and some yogurt into a blender and called it a day. This is also one of the only meals I’ve made lately that isn’t something I’ve already posted on the blog. It’s quite similar to one of my favorite weeknight dishes of all time, pozole verde, but with a sweet-and-umami kick from peanuts and Parmesan cheese. It’s a great way to use up inexpensive cuts of chicken—just grind them up in the food processor.

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Korean fried chicken: $2.12/serving

Fried chicken can be expensive. Not only is there the cost of the chicken itself, there’s also the copious amount of oil used to fry it in. But did you know you can re-use fryer oil several times, even if it was used to cook meat? Just strain it when you’re done and store it in the fridge or freezer. This way $4 worth of oil (provided you’re already buying it inexpensively in bulk) becomes $2 or even $1 worth. Also, while it’s cheapest to just buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself, it’s often possible to find packages of drumsticks on markdown—not a lot of people seem to buy them, especially the big packages of 16 or more, so be on the lookout. When you see them, take them home, package them into manageable portions, and freeze them. This particular version of fried chicken was born of just that: a package of drumsticks on major markdown, plus a bounty of garlic harvested from my neighbor’s yard. (The pineapple was not on sale, but I’m going to invoke the pregnancy pass for that one.)

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Bacon and tomato cream sauce for pasta: $2.70

Back when I used to coupon, jarred tomato sauce was pretty much always on my radar. There was usually a coupon for some brand or another, and it was pretty easy to find what I considered at the time “the good stuff” (Newman’s, Classico) for around $2. Never mind that my beloved “good stuff” was nothing more than processed, over-sweetened, homogenous-tasting tomato purée; it was only $2! If only I knew at the time I could make almost two jars’ worth of restaurant-quality tomato sauce myself—WITH BACON!—for under $3. Seriously, if you’re beholden to the jarred stuff, you need to try this. It can be whipped up in the time it takes to boil a pot of pasta, and might just make you repent your addiction to processed food* once and for all.

*(Yes, I know bacon, wine and cream are all technically processed foods. Just let me have this one.)

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Caramelized pear & gorgonzola risotto: $2.47/serving

I never get tired of risotto. It’s the ultimate starchy comfort food, it’s cheap (provided you buy your arborio rice in bulk), and it can be made in infinite varieties. This particular recipe, adapted from Closet Cooking, is an old favorite. Something about the sweet pear, sharp cheese, and creamy rice really pushes some sort of primitive pleasure-reward button in my brain, and I’m ashamed to admit I once ate an entire pot of this all by myself. I was physically unable to stop myself, so I recommend having at least one or two other people around to assist.  (B. is not quite as fond of risotto as I am, but I caught him actually scraping individual grains of rice out of the bottom of the pot after we were done eating, so be forewarned I’m not kidding about how addictive it is.)

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Chicken taco stuffed shells: $2.04/serving

Astute readers recall there have been a couple meals on this blog that veer (in my mind, anyway) dangerously into “Semi-Homemade” territory. Thankfully it’s literally been only a couple—the mini-meatloaves that use prepackaged onion soup mix, and the honey-lime chicken enchiladas for which store-bought flour tortillas are absolutely mandatory. As ashamed as I am of posting those (which I did because, as much as it pains me to admit it, they’re too good not to share), this recipe absolutely takes the cake. I practically had to put a paper bag over my head when it came time to buy prepackaged taco seasoning and taco sauce. The worst part is that I’ve tried quite a few times to make this using my own taco seasoning and taco sauce, and it’s never the same. I will never feel comfortable putting in the amounts of salt, sugar and MSG the big companies do, and it’s all necessary in this dish. This is certainly not something you’d serve at a dinner party, or even admit in public to making, but it’s a quintessential crowd pleaser—perfect for potlucks, parties, kids, bringing to someone who’s sick or has a new baby at home, and so on. A word of warning: They are addictive.

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Guest Post: BBQ chicken pizza: $2.30 each

Note: Welcome to another biannual “weekly” installment of my husband, B.’s, guest posting and helping out in the kitchen. He notes below, in his defense, that he does do quite a bit of laundry and other cleaning-related chores. I have to concede this is true, because I don’t think I’ve done a load of laundry since 2010, and yet somehow I’m still employed and wearing clean socks.
By my estimation, it’s been…oh…about a week since I last cooked and helped out, so I guess it’s high time I do what I do best: Poach remnants of stuff K. cooked and make a stab at something close to edible. In truth, I’m a little intimidated by the actual cooking that occurs on this blog, so I try to overcompensate around the house to pick up my end of the bargain—do dishes, laundry, and clean up. During one of these chores (I wish I could remember which), I found two leftover balls of pizza dough in the freezer and told K. I’d like to make something with them.

Steak with pepper cream sauce & garlic roasted potatoes: $2.70/serving

This is, I admit, a flagrant violation of my stated “don’t make meat the center of the meal” rule. Not only is meat the center of this meal, it’s steak, the most expensive meat. But as you’ll notice, the entire meal is still under $3, and the plate is equally balanced with inexpensive salad and potatoes. This makes a terrific company dish, as well as a great introduction to eating on a budget for those with steakhouse tastes. (It’s not true steak au poivre because I didn’t use cognac, but if you have some on hand, feel free to make it authentic.)

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Beet gratin with goat cheese and greens: $2.03/serving

Do you grow beets? Do you like beets? Are you not a flag-waving fan of beets but still think they’re just OK, like Old Navy or the Golden State Warriors? If any of the aforementioned apply to you, you must drop everything right now and make this. (Unless you, like me, meal plan weeks in advance. In which case, add it to the queue as soon as possible.) Because aside from their discovery, this is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the history of beets. B. and I both were in the non-flag-waving camp, and we could’ve eaten two 9×13 dishes’ worth of this stuff, which consists of little more than caramelized beets, their greens sautéed in garlic and olive oil, goat cheese, bread crumbs and some herbs.

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