baked oats green chile chicken enchiladas chow mein bakery-style butter cookies

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put the freebie down

NaBloWriMo day #12.

Eat on $30 day #2

How are all of my Eat on $30 buds doing? Hanging in there? Good! I don’t mean to snark because I snark a lot and this time I’m really not meaning to. I want to point out that it’s not possible to buy an arbitrary quantity of most foods like soy sauce or diced tomatoes. I guess I’m trying to keep it as realistic as possible. Otherwise, as I said in yesterday’s post, it’d be easy peasy for me prorate and charge myself for 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 tsp of vanilla extract so I can go make oatmeal cookies. That’s not how it works, yo.

I do want everyone to know that I am loving the thoughtful discussion in the comments and encourage you to keep sharing tips and observations! You guys are GREAT!

This morning, Mr. FedEx brought me a big box with a dog treat on top. All of the delivery people in my town carry heaps of dog treats – it’s a dog town. I had to sign for the package and promise that I am over 21 years of age. You know what that means…

booze! lovely wines from st. supΓ©ry

Rick Bakas (follow on Twitter @RickBakas) graciously sent me bottles of the wines we were served at the infamous lunch at BlogHer Food 09 in San Francisco. I’m so excited to try these wines (and Jeremy is even more excited)! But they will have to wait until after the Eat on $30 challenge is over. I just don’t think most people on food assistance get complimentary wine FedEx’d to their homes. I had to put them away because just looking at the bottles made my mouth water.

what i did with some of the veggies

salt and pepper on the beef chuck

Breakfast got a little screwy today. I was up late and Jeremy woke up at 5 am to head down to the office and start remote observing on a telescope. My intention was to prepare breakfast for him each morning, but I just mumbled, “Bagel. Eat a bagel,” and I quickly fell back to sleep. I discovered that he only ate half a bagel, leaving the other half for my brekkie which I toasted with a little butter. For lunch, Jeremy took some of the huge pot of beef stew I made yesterday.

beef stew with rice

For the beef stew, I used about 1.25 pounds of beef chuck (after trimming off the fat) and then doubled most of the vegetables and the beef broth to extend the stew. I finished my noodle soup from the previous night and had a delightful soy sauce egg and scallion pancake to round out my lunch.

So I used 6 drumsticks to make the soy sauce chicken on day 1 of the challenge. I cooked the remaining drumsticks (5) in water for 2.5 hours. When I make chicken broth, I don’t add anything other than a touch of salt. Chicken broth flavored with celery, onion, spices doesn’t jive with Chinese cooking. I ended up with 2 quarts of homemade chicken broth (which I refrigerate and de-fat) and 8 ounces of tender chicken meat (I strip it off the bone and toss out the skin and cartilege).

the rest of the chicken

Dinner tonight was stacked chicken enchiladas using most of that extra chicken. It was a lot more work, but considerably cheaper than buying canned chicken. There’s that trade off again – time versus money.

shredded cheddar

assembling the enchiladas

I used a lot less chicken than usual – 6 ounces instead of 12 ounces. The corn tortillas were used up as was most of the cheese (I reserved a little for topping the beans), and then there was the sauce.

the enchilada sauce

I “splurged” on the sauce. One of the standard 14 ounce cans isn’t enough and we always buy the 19 or 20 ounce cans (yeah, I calculated making enchilada sauce from scratch and it blew my budget out the backend). Here in Colorado, I have one hell of a time finding enchilada sauce that isn’t mild. I’ve talked about this Craziness before – that Colorado is utterly disappointing and lame when it comes to any sort of real Mexican or New Mexican foods. Once you cross the border to New Mexico (Land of Enchantment, but really, it’s the Land of Food You Can Taste) you can pray at the Altar of Hot Condiments and Sauces in any grocery store. The best I could do was Medium enchilada sauce and I think it cost $.50 more – but it was definitely worth it.

corn on the cob


I’m insistent about vegetables and I have my dear mom to thank for that. She always set at least two vegetable dishes on the dinner table every night. Vegetables and fruits make me soooo happy. I boiled up some corn on the cob, sautéed the zucchini with garlic in a little oil and salt, and heated a can of refritos. Let me just say that a quick sauté of many vegetables with garlic, salt, and a little oil is a great and inexpensive way to enjoy them.

day 2: dinner

I had a dollop of plain yogurt on my enchiladas. Sour cream gives me a horrid tummy ache and it’s super duper fattening (double trouble!), so I took a shine to plain non-fat yogurt 20 years ago as a healthy and non-offensive substitute. Jeremy doesn’t like white condiments touching his food, so it’s all mine. We’ll squeeze another two meals (lunch or dinner… or breakfast) from the leftovers. Okay, that’s a wrap!

20 nibbles at “put the freebie down”

  1. Hsin says:

    Goodness, that looks good. I would love to get a hold of some fresh corn. I used to buy half a dozen ears for myself to eat the same day when it was in season back east.
    Oddly, there’s a corn crop growing just at the end of my street, but it’s the kind that is destined to end up in the mouths of livestock. Boo hoo.
    And I like enchiladas for using up leftovers, like Thanksgiving turkey or leftover ground beef or pork, or rotisserie chicken, or just beans and cheese. And it’s all good.

  2. Kristina says:

    Jen – you’ve got me craving Mexican food now and I don’t have any wriggle room in my budget. You’re a temptress! I hear you on not ever being able to find hot stuff. It’s the same here in Tennessee. That’s why I started growing my own hot peppers. Now I can spice things up to my heart’s content.

  3. Emmy says:

    Go Jen! I like this meal because last month corn at the farmer’s market was like 4 for $1, and we ate so. much. corn. It never got old. But I feel for you with your grocery store selections in Boulder. When I was in AmeriCorps our food budget was $5 per day per person, for a 10-ish person team, and though the money goes a lot farther with ten people we’d often be in rural areas like Montana or North Dakota and the groceries (produce especially) would be much more expensive, for a small selection. And I appreciate that you’re not just costing the recipes you usually make, but actually counting the whole unit price into your budget. I can’t wait to see what you make next!

  4. Ruth Ann says:

    Looks really yummy Jen! Impressive day 2.
    I can’t wait to see tomorrow’s meals. BTW, the soy sauce, egg, scallion pancake sounds really good too.

  5. Cate says:

    I love the things you’re doing on such a limited budget! I’m also a huge fan of nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream.

  6. Mrs ErgΓΌl says:

    You are so darn right about keeping the freebies away!! haha

    Sadly, I have still not tried enchiladas!! keep it up babe!

  7. The Italian Dish says:

    My delivery guys all leave biscuits for my doggie, too! She loves them. Great job on the meals – I have to have at least one veggie on the table, too, or it just doesn’t feel like a proper meal.

  8. Kim says:

    That St. Supery Sauve Blanc is my very favorite wine. Enjoy!!

  9. Crystal says:

    Keep it up — you’re doing great! :)

    Mmmm, great idea with the chicken broth. I used to save all my veggie and bone scraps to make broth, but it’s hard to fit the simmering around my work schedule now.

    And that’s my best trick for cutting cost *and* sneaking more veggies into my husband’s meals: I double the veggies and broth and halve the meat in any one-dish meals, then I try to extend them with bread, rice, pasta, etc. :)

  10. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Jen, you are such a good girl! I KNEW you weren’t gonna crack open that free wine this week! Unlike me, who would’ve had that corkscrew out in 1.5 seconds!

    I hear you about the *&^% MILD enchilada sauce!!! Makes me barmy!

    You’re doing great, kid!

  11. Kate says:

    Enchiladas look yummmy! I am making them tonight…my absolute favorite are duck enchiladas, but unless I shoot one myself – that probably wouldn’t fit in a $30 challenge! I did my shopping & planning for this week on Friday – but plan to do & post the $30 challenge next week.

  12. Rosa says:

    I could eat Mexican food all the time! That plate looks so appetizing!



  13. Joyce says:

    Jen – I can’t imagine how you survived those years on campus living on board food :)

    One thing about your $30 challenge – don’t know if the comment has been made – but another HUGE advantage you have is the know-how to cook. And the time. Very often you can have quick, or you can have cheap, or you can have nutritious, but it’s really difficult to have all three.

    Now I’m thinking of making soy sauce chicken. I haven’t found a soy sauce that I like. Do you have a favorite?

  14. Georgia says:

    Ooooh that looks so good! I’m loving your take on the $30 challenge, keep up the good work!

  15. Hailey says:

    Good luck not opening that wine :) Too tempting! It will be a nice reward at the end of the week. I am noticing that many of us participating in the challenge have similar recipes. I have beef stew on the menu for this week, too!

  16. Manggy says:

    Guess what- since I wrote you that post on stacked chicken enchiladas (which look just as beautiful as the first time I laid eyes on them, by the way), we now have canned enchilada sauce in the Philippines! I’m not sure if it’s that mild silliness, though. Maybe a Thai chili will remedy that ;)
    You’re doing a great job sticking to the challenge. I will have to check if food here is inexpensive enough to cost $30 per person, but then again I tend to spend a lot extra by buying non-essentials like stuff for desserts (yes, I said it- it’s not essential :).

  17. Kristin says:

    I’m impressed with how well you are eating this week, but find myself wondering about Jeremy. Do they have a free pot of coffee at the U? Is he going completely caffeine free? I only have 2 caf drinks/day, but would miss them!

  18. Margie says:

    I took one look and quickly invited myself to dinner.


  19. Kim says:

    Your husband sounds like a wonderful man for participating alongside you. I do believe I would have a hard time convincing my meat eating husband to go along with me on this one. Looks like a wonderful meal. Squash is a great and economic vegetable, as is corn. Great choices.

  20. jenyu says:

    Hey guys – that wine was staring me in the face, taunting me! I had to put it away… ;)

    Kristina – sorry about that! I wish I could grow some peppers. I need to research growing vegetables in pots at elevation. A friend recently suggested a greenhouse, except… the winds here in winter are ferocious and the greenhouse would quickly end up down in Boulder… 18 miles away.

    Kate – can’t wait to see your challenge for next week!

    Joyce – that is SUCH a great point. (Board food – that was a memory I didn’t need to recall – ha ha ha! Oh Gary…) I don’t have a favorite soy sauce, but I have a reliable one that I can actually get here… It’s kikkoman’s low sodium.

    Hailey – yup, I think the large pot meals are the winners for this challenge :)

    Kristin – ha ha ha! When I asked Jeremy if they had free coffee at the U, he looked at me and said, “We don’t even have a sink.” Actually, this is why I bought a little coffee maker for Jeremy’s office when he started his job. Not because he’s a coffee snob (but he is!), but because there was NO COFFEE in the building. He wasn’t allowed to make any coffee for himself during the challenge week and I know he didn’t, because he was a frazzled mess ;)

    Kim – aww, you’re so sweet! He is a wonderful fella. I kinda like him :) xxoo

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