Cooking In the Trenches: Episode 1 by joec3
September 22, 2012, 8:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I love food.  I love to talk about food.  I love to talk about the food I make.  Sometimes folks respond to talking about cooking by saying, “I’d love to cook, but I just don’t have the time.”  I think folks overestimate the amount of time it takes to cook, so this series is dedicated to showing that you do have the time to cook and you can make cheap, tasty, and healthy dishes quickly.

Week 1: Chili for Lunch, Roasted Chicken with Baked Beets and Sauteed String Beans for Dinner

Meal 1: Chili

Last week, I got into the mood for chili, which happens like once a month.  It’s a great dish to make for the week because it dirties up all of one pot and it’s chock full of vegetables and meat without the need for grains (which I generally avoid when cooking).  My new favorite grocery store, Good Foods, carries cheap grass-fed beef (tastier and healthier than the normal grain-fed alternative, at a higher cost) and makes great in-house sausage.

Ingredient List:

  • 1.56lb of Marksbury Farms Market Ground Beef ($3.99/lb = $6.22)
  • 0.60lb of Garlic-Rosemary Good Foods Chicken Sausage ($5.99/lb = $3.59)
  • 2 Local, Organic Green Bell Peppers ($2.90)
  • 2 Organic Yellow Onions (~$2.00)
  • 4 Local, Organic Jalapeno Peppers (~$1.00)
  • 2 28oz. Cans of Muir Glen Organic Diced Tomatoes ($4.98 w/ coupon)
  • 1tsp. each of cumin, cinnamon, granulated garlic, rosemary, and cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste


In a large pot over medium heat, brown the sausage and ground beef together.  I use a spatula to stab the meat into smaller chunks and to mix it around.  While the meat is browning, chop the onions and green peppers roughly.  Slice the jalapeno peppers thinly.  Stir the meat every few minutes or so.

The seasonings above are basically just suggestions.  If you hate any of those or love some other seasoning that aren’t in here, add them!  After the meat has browned, add the seasonings and stir to mix.  Next, add all the onions and peppers and mix well.  Continue stirring every few minutes until the onions just begin to turn translucent.  While the vegetables are cooking, use some time to do dishes or, what I did, snap off the ends of the string beans for dinner.  Once the onions look a little translucent, add the tomatoes and stir around.  It’s going to look very liquid-y, but that’s normal.  We’ve got a long simmer ahead.

Reduce the heat to medium low and stir every fifteen minutes.  Once the consistency begins to resemble more of a chili and less of a soup, you’re done.  At the end, add salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.

I recommend garnishing with green onions and serving with avocado, mostly because I love avocado.

The Numbers:

  • Active Time: 34 minutes (I timed myself, seriously)
  • Simmer Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Cleanup Time: 10 minutes
  • Number of servings: 5
  • Cost per serving: $4.14 (add an avocado, it goes up to $5.14)

Meal 2: Roasted Chicken with Baked Beets and Sauteed String Beans

Roasting a whole chicken is so easy I can do it.  Roasted chicken with “Um, I dunno, some vegetables?” is a staple of mine.  Today I saw some local string beans in the store that looked pretty good and decided it was also time to break my beetless streak.

Ingredient List:

  • 1 3.73lb Whole Bell & Evans Chicken (@ $2.49/lb = $9.29)
  • 3 Large Red Beets (@ $1.99/lb = $4.30)
  • 3 Big Handfuls of Local Organic Green Beans (@$2.99/lb = $3.02)
  • 1 bunch of Local Organic Green Onions ($1.79)
  • 1 Organic Lemon ($0.99)


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wrap the beets in aluminum foil.  Put them in the oven.  Forget about them for like an hour.  No, seriously, they’ll be fine.  After an hour, unpackage the chicken and stick it in a small roasting pan, breast up.  Take all the giblets out (organs that are sometimes housed in the place where stuffing goes), then stab the lemon a bunch of times with a fork.  Place the lemon inside the chicken and put the chicken in the oven, where it can join its friends the beets.

When roasting a chicken, I generally stick with the rule of thumb of 20 minutes per pound at 350, but sometimes it’s a little longer.  I take the chicken out every twenty minutes, baste with a silicone brush, and return the bird to the oven.  Basting is crucial for keeping the bird moist and making for some delicious skin-eating later.  Since I’m dealing with a 3.73lb chicken, I’ll estimate around 1 hour and 15 minutes for this.  After an hour, remove the beets from the oven and heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Your string beans should already have their ends snapped off.  Toss them in the oil and saute.  While these are cooking, slice up the white portions of the green onions (I like to think of them as micro-leeks) and reserve the green parts for garnishing your chili.  Add the green onions and saute until the green beans are looking very green and the onions are beginning to turn translucent.  Remove from heat, add some white balsamic vinegar.  Remove your chicken from the oven and allow it to rest for about 10-15 minutes, basting one last time.  After the beets have cooled, remove the skins and dice them into cubes.

The Numbers:

  • Active Time: 1 hour
  • Roast Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Cleanup Time: 15 minutes
  • Number of servings: 5
  • Cost per serving: $3.88


At the end of this, you will have a bunch of meals.  While in a perfect world we would eat whatever’s good for us and close to hand, I know I personally get bored of eating the same thing over and over again.  So, I generally will eat three of each of these meals this week, then put two into the freezer.  I can then pull them out in the middle of another week or I can build up a buffer of frozen good, real food to keep me out of Wendy’s drive-thru during exam weeks.  I have a fleet of GladWare for this reason precisely.  And there’s less than the servings I listed above in this picture because, well, I ate some.

Thanks for reading!  I’ll be back soon with some more meal ideas.  Maybe something even more highfaluting than chili and roasted chicken.


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