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Archive for July, 2009

Ginger Chicken

Ginger Chicken with Shimeji Mushrooms, Hericot Verts, and Onions with Rice, Potatoes, a Fish Cake, and Seaweed Salad. Healthy, organic, well-balance, and delicious…..as usual. All done for $5.45 per person.

I think in the future I’ll refrain from giving you minute details or full-on recipes. If you want to know anything, leave me a comment and I’ll respond. Until then, support your local grocers and farmers.

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salmon

The other night I made another finance-efficient dinner that tasted outstanding; Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon with Soba Noodles, Roasted Orange Pepper, Pea Pods, and Shitake-Green Onion Salsa. Simple, well-balanced, healthy, organic, and delish!

I got the salmon at Isaacson & Stein Fish Company. It was wild caught at $9.95 per pound. Between my wife and I we only needed 3/4 of a pound, so the fish cost $6 even for both of us. I’ll take fresh wild caught over farmed any day of the week! Grilling it on a Cedar Plank, cost of $1.00, really adds a nice smoky wood flavor to salmon. The beauty of cedar plank grilling is that because the wood needs to be soaked in water for a couple of hours prior to grilling, the fish gets steamed while it’s grilled keeping it nice and moist.

The pepper cost me 37 cents at Stanley’s. Roasting peppers let’s the sugars come out resulting in a sweeter, softer pepper flavor. Since I roasted it on my grill I also got a bit of smokiness to it as well. While at Stanley’s I also got 4 bunches of green onions for $1.00. I only used a half bunch for this dish. The pea pods were also from Stanley’s and cost me 57 cents. You can buy soba noodles from almost any grocery store and shouldn’t cost more than a couple of bucks for 3 servings.

Shitakes can be expensive when purchased fresh, up to $5-6 a container. I do sometimes use fresh shitakes, but for this dish I used some dried ones we had in our pantry that cost $1.o0 for dozen. I only used 4, soaking them in hot water for a couple of hours. Save the water afterwords. It absorbs some of the shitake flavor and makes a great stock for later use.

When you add it all up the entire dish for 2 people only cost $10.34, or $5.17 per person. OK, I also added some Thai Basil to the Salmon when grilling, but I got that from my back porch garden. I also probably used a few pennies worth of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt, and pepper. Still, it’s less than five and a half bucks per person. What restaurant can give you a dish of this quality for that price? NONE! Cook at home, cook fresh, cook organic!

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Kawabata Family Lunch

So, someone talked me about yesterday’s post.  “Lasagna, what’s the big deal?” I know, it’s a very basic dish. I really just wanted to show that good, well-rounded, organic meals can be whipped up on a budget. I’m going to continue showing different ideas in the future as well.

At any rate, there is a reason that lasagna holds a special place inside my duodenum. You see, my wife is Japanese. I met her when bumming around Tokyo before grey hairs started popping out of my scalp. While I ended up hanging out with her quite a bit on that journey, it wasn’t until my next trip to Japan that I met her parents.

In Japan, it’s typical for parents to meet the “boyfriend” (I use quotes because I think I was married from the first time I talked with her, or at least it feels like I was) for the first time out at a restaurant or a public place. Parents typically do not invite them into their home until after they’ve met. However, my situation was different. Here I am, a hairy Jewish gaijin from Chicago who’s travelled to Belize, Italy, and Kyoto with their daughter. They also know of my love of food and the Iron Chef. Being quite the home gourmets that they are they decided to invite me over for a home cooked meal.

I was expecting some weird Japanese dishes that I’ve never heard of or seen before using ingredients that don’t look like food. Much to my surprise her dad made his special lasagna. Actually, two special lasagnas, one with and one without meat. I have to say, the man can cook Italian! If he had big boozims I’d think he was an Italian grandmother.

Because of how her parents let me into their family, and because her family may very well be the best damn people in the world, I will always have a deep and profound love for homemade lasagna. Oh, and her mom bought a bottle of Coke because all Americans drink Coke. (I prefer sake)

Seriously, let’s be honest here. Isn’t this the cutest man in the world?

Uichiro's Mustache

He thinks the mustache makes him look like Sean Connery.

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IMG_0585

One thing that being unemployed is teaching me is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to eat right. To me, eating right doesn’t mean counting carbs, or taking supplements, or any of that nutritionist crap (I’m a believer in Michael Pollan). There’s nothing wrong with eating animal fat, or bread, or dessert. There is everything wrong with eating too much and eating processed foods brought to you by the Big Food Industry.

At any rate, last night I made some of the best Lasagna you could ever pass through your tracts (and pass it through my tracts I did!). I did it using only fresh, high quality, organic ingredients, and I did it on the cheap.

I don’t buy much at Whole Foods since their prices are sometimes ridiculously high. However, I won’t buy meats from normal chain grocers because they sell meat from sick, hormone and antibiotic pumped animals. In order to save a few shekels The Big Farm Industry feeds livestock unnatural diets causing them to get ill. In turn they need to inject large amounts of antibiotics because the feed is unhealthy to them, not to mention the extremely unsanitary living-quarters. On top of all of that the animals are fed hormones to speed up growth, this causes even more health issues. Basically, if you’re not eating organic naturally fed, humanely raised animals, you’re eating sick animals. Would you eat a moldy tomato? So why eat a moldy cow?

But I digress. I headed over to Whole Foods and got some really nice, fresh ground chicken thigh meat. I opted for chicken instead of the usual beef because I grilled skirt steak (from Olympic Meat Market) the previous night. Variety is the spice of life. I went for thigh meat for a few reasons. One, it’s cheaper. Two, even though it’s higher fat it’s actually healthier for you since it’s heart-healthy unsaturated fat. Three, it has more flavor. 

While there, I noticed that organic zucchini was on sale. A perfect match for lasagna. They also had high quality parmigiano on sale. I had a jar of organic pasta sauce that I got for $2.19 from my last trip to Whole Foods sitting in my pantry. Otherwise I would have made my own sauce that would have cost me roughly the same amount, maybe another dollar or two.

Back home, I also had some lasagna noodles in the cupboard already. One thing when you have no income is that you try to eat what you’ve already bought and stocked. I picked some basil from my back porch garden. I also had some mushrooms that I bought at Stanley’s, where I buy most of my fruits and veggies.

So, I whipped up a bechemel sauce. I, for one, do not think that putting butter, flour, and milk together is too much fat. As long as the dairy comes from good cows and the flour isn’t processed or enhanced or anything unnatural. Then I cooked the ground chicken with onions, garlic, and some of the tomato sauce. I thinly sliced the zucchini and mushrooms. Then I put it all together.

Turned out to be enough for 4 full servings (I try to cook for 4 even though it’s just my wife and I, that way we have a good lunch the next day as well)when paired with a simple mixed green salad with sliced tomatoes. When I add up the costs of everything and divide by the 4 meals I got out of it I ended up making delicious healthy food for about $4 per person. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather eat that than a $5 foot-long.

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Back porch garden

I wish more people would utilize their outdoor spaces more efficiently. I know that outdoor space is precious in cities like Chicago, but look here at what my wife and I did. Our space is only 3.5 feet by 5.5 feet. Since it’s also one of two exits there must be a clear path according to fire code. That didn’t stop us from planting a few veggies and a few herbs to enjoy throughout the summer (come winter we can move the herbs onto our window sills). We have three types of basil; Thai, Spicy Globe, and Sweet. We also have Juliette Tomatoes, Japanese Eggplant, and Rutgers Tomatoes.

So far we’ve enjoyed basil almost every day. I swear those things grow like weeds! It’s just too bad we can’t grow any “weeds” in our makeshift garden. We already have one eggplant that’s almost mature and a dozen little eggplants on the way.

Eggplant

The Rutgers Tomatoes are growing better than the Juliettes, but we’ll get a nice yield from both. It shouldn’t be too much longer before we’re enjoying our tomatoes.

Tomatoes

The best part about all of this is that we used all-natural organic soil free of pesticides and chemicals. We keep them watered accordingly and the fruits should taste much better than anything storebought. There’s also some satisfaction in eating something that you grew yourself. I just wish everyone took advantage of little opportunities like this. You’ll end up helping the environment in numerous ways; less produce bought from Big Ag, a notorious pollution machine. It also saves money as purchasing seeds or sprouting plants along with soil costs a lot less than produce at the supermarket. Using organic soil also ensures that your plants will obtain full nutrient capacity. It just makes sense people!

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