Cooking In the Trenches: Episode 3 by joec3
December 4, 2012, 5:44 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

 Black Forest Ham with Butternut Squash and Chard & Chicken Tikka Masala

We are back again with the fastest, cheapest, healthiest meals I can think of on short notice.  I ended up in Good Foods with no idea what to make for food this week and after some blank stares at meat and produce sections, this is what I did.  All in all, these two meals took me less than 100 minutes to prepare, even sneaking in some photos along the way.  Not bad.  Quick note: I generally cook without sugar or grains, so if you want to slap a brown sugar glaze on the ham or make some rice or naan to go with your chicken tikka masala, that’s on you.  I’ll try to add in some notes along the way that might help.

Meal 1: Black Forest Ham with Butternut Squash and Chard


  • 28 oz. Uncured, All-Natural Black Forest Ham ($12.99, or about $7.42/lb)
  • 2.38 lb. Kentucky, Organic Butternut Squash ($1.49/lb = $3.55)
  • 2 bunches Organic Rainbow Chard ($2.19/bunch = $4.38)
  • Garlic, Salt, Pepper
Let's cook this stuff.

Let’s cook this stuff.


Preheat your oven to 375F.  Peel and remove the seeds and pith from the squash.  I generally cut off the cylindrical neck from the round base, then cut off the stem end.  This gives me two flat ends to work with and I peel this part by running my knife vertically down the sides.  The round part is more difficult: I halve it, scoop out the seeds and then whittle away at the skin piece by piece.  You do not want to roast this with the skin on, it is so much of a pain to deal with later.  After peeling, I slice the squash into small chunks, coat them with olive oil, then roast around 40 minutes, or until tender.  I generally set the timer for halfway and rotate the pan 180 degrees to ensure even cooking.

While the squash is cooking, start prepping the chicken below.  After that gets going, start some olive oil on the stove-top and roughly chop one of your chard bunches.  I usually start by cutting horizontally, then add vertical slices to break each long horizontal piece into three or four chunks.  Add chard until it starts to overflow with pan with the oil.  Stirring regularly, as the chard cooks down, add more until you’ve added it all.

While this is going on, break out your meat-only cutting board (newly cleansed from its chicken ordeal earlier) and slice the ham.  I cut down the center and then add horizontal slices to finish things off.  If you’d like to add a bunch of sugar to this meal, get glazin’.  Finally, after the chard has finished cooking, add in three crushed cloves of garlic, stir briefly and then remove from heat.  This liberates the garlic’s flavor while preventing it from burning.

And the day after, and the day after...

That’s gonna taste good tomorrow.

The Numbers:

  • Active Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Cleanup Time: 20 minutes
  • Number of Servings: 5
  • Cost per Serving: $4.18

Meal 2: Chicken Tikka Masala

Adapted roughly from this post over at Mark’s Daily Apple, a good resource if you’re not into cooking with grains, sugars and all that.  This basic dish is one I make often, generally as a stew.  If you would like to make rice, you’ll need at least two cups of dry rice (will cook up to twice that at least) and here’s a bunch of semi-easy recipes.  Another alternative is to shred cauliflower into the dish, making “cauliflower rice,” but there were no cauliflowers to be had and I just don’t care that much about it.  Also, if this isn’t the legit real deal to everyone, I am sorry, but it’s tasty, so there’s that.


  • 2.41lbs. Boneless Chicken Thighs, Bell & Evans ($3.99/lb = $9.62)
  • 1lb. Local, Organic Carrots ($1.75)
  • 2 Medium Organic Yellow Onions ($1.00)
  • 14oz. Can Organic Coconut Milk ($2.79)
  • 28oz. Can Organic Fire-Roasted Crushed Tomatoes ($3.39)
  • 6oz. Can Organic Tomato Paste ($1.39)
  • 1tsp: Cumin, Cinnamon, Garam Masala, Turmeric
  • 1/2tsp: Paprika, Cayenne Pepper
  • 1Tsp Lemon Juice
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil
That's a lot of thighs.

The beginnings of a tasty meal.


Whew.  You still there?  Don’t be daunted, this is going to be nice and easy.  If you don’t have all those spices go. to. Good. Foods.  The bulk spice section is on the wall between the health supplies and the cafe.  Go nuts.  Have I made clear how much I love that place yet?  Next: chicken thighs.  They are delicious and cheaper than boneless, skinless, soulless chicken breasts.  Use them.  Use the extra money you save to buy something else awesome and never regret this decision.

Alright.  Your squash is in the oven.  You have some chicken thighs to cut up.  Better get out your meat-only cutting board (mine is an old plastic POS that I wouldn’t want to use for anything else) and your chef’s knife.  Cut the chicken up into chunks about 1-1.5in. on each side.  This isn’t a beauty contest.  Get this stuff cut up.  Throw the cut-up thighs into a large pot with a whole heap of olive oil (3T at least), crank the heat up a little above medium.  Things should be sizzling shortly.

Now, get on the veggies.  Cut the ends off and peel your two onions.  Slice them into 0.5inch-thick slices, then cut down the middle of the onion to give two hemispheres.  Now, the carrots!  Seriously, unless they’re huge, just slice them.  If they’re huge, slice them and then cut down the middle.  If your chicken is now mostly not translucent any more, dump the onions and carrots in on top.  Go back to doing other stuff, but don’t forget to stir regularly.  Cook until the onions begin to turn translucent.  Add the garlic and spices, stir and let it cook for five minutes.  Add the tomato paste and tomatoes, stir and reduce heat to medium-low and let it simmer for five more minutes.  Add the coconut milk, stir, then add the lemon juice.  Let it simmer for a little while (15 minutes), then kill the heat and serve with salt and pepper.

I didn’t take any pictures of this in the bowl because I was too busy chowing down.  Apologies.  You’ll understand my haste once you make it and you are very hungry.

The Numbers:

  • Active Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Cleanup Time: 5 minutes (one pot, two cutting boards, 1 knife, 1 ladle)
  • Number of Servings: 7
  • Cost per Serving: $2.85 (cheaper than a Starbucks latte)

NEXT TIME: Prepare your CrockPots, it’s stew season.


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