Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Orecchiette & Zucchini in Meat Sauce

Tonight I was craving beef for dinner, which is crazy because I hardly ever eat red meat these days. So I walked into Trader Joe's to grab the ingredients for a meat sauce when I saw the most beautiful yellow local zucchini. I knew then and there that I must have it! But how to eat it?...

Why with pasta of course! I love adding zucchini into my pasta dishes. They help bulk up the nutrition, plus, since they have such a light flavor, they don't really alter the flavor of the sauce. Win win! Although, I actually like to eat zucchini raw, so I may be a bit biased....

What do I love about this dish?
1.) I made it with local fresh ingredients.
2.) I spent less than $4 (see my calculations below).
3.) It took me less than 30 minutes to make.
4.) I got to use my fun-shaped orecchiette pasta (aren't they the cutest?!)

Orecchiette & Zucchini in Meat Sauce
Servings: 2 larger dinner servings, 3 medium lunch servings

  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 1/4 cup (or a heaping cup) dry orecchiette pasta
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into quarter moons
  • 1/2 jar marinara sauce
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt & pasta, then cook according to the directions. I like my pasta very al dente so I cooked mine for 9 minutes instead of the recommended 12. Drain and set aside.
    • TIP: orecchiette pasta likes to stick together due to the shape of the pasta. To try to avoid that, stir continuously for 30 seconds after adding the pasta to the water. 
  • While the water is coming to a boil, chop the garlic and toss it into a large skillet with the olive oil. Heat on medium high heat until fragrant then add the meat. Separate the beef with the back of a wooden spoon and cook until there is no red color to the meat.
  • Add zucchini and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes or until softened. If you like your veggies more well done, cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Stir in the marinara sauce and the drained pasta, then cook until heated. Check the seasoning and you're good to go! I sprinkled a little parmesan cheese on top of mine to finish it off.

Cost of my Dinner
When I do my calculations I don't include pantry items. This includes things like seasonings (salt, pepper, herbs, etc), garlic, oil (olive, coconut, sesame), soy sauce, dry pasta, rice, flour, etc. This is because all of these items are minimal cost in the total of the recipe, especially cooking for one.

$1.845, ground beef - $3.69 per pound; I used half a pound and put the rest in the freezer
$0.645, marinara sauce - $1.29 per jar; I used half in the recipe and put the rest in my fridge for later
$0.79, zucchini
$0.25, orecchiette pasta - $0.99 per bag; I used approximately 1/4 of a bag

Total cost of tonight's pasta dish - $3.58
Price per serving (3) - $1.18

That's cheaper than fast food! Isn't being a Graduate Gourmet fun??

This recipe may seem too simple to be gourmet, but some of the best dishes simply enhance the ingredients so that they can shine. I really wanted beef tonight, and this recipe let the meat take the lead. Plus I get to enjoy it for two more meals...how yummy will this be tomorrow?!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tip: Juicing Citrus


Hate it when you squeeze lemons or oranges into a sauce and get the seeds in the pan? Well, just squeeze the fruit with the cut side up. This allows the juices to run over the sides of the fruit, while keeping the seeds within the peel.

You may think this is a silly tip, but I suggested this to my friend once and she exclaimed "why hadn't I thought of this?" Plus, why dirty another bowl by squeezing the fruit there first, then picking out the seeds. This way you save hassle and dirty dishes!

Monday, June 10, 2013

I'm back!

I've been without a personal computer for almost a year. Can you believe that I survived that long?!  Although, to put things into context, I've had my iPad/iPhone at home and can do anything I need a keyboard for while I'm at work. It hasn't been terrible, but I am SO glad to be back online!

Why have I been without a laptop? Well, I woke up one morning to find my latptop on the floor...which isn't odd except that I hadn't put it on the floor but on my side table the night before. When I opened the laptop I saw that my screen was broken. I went to Apple to see if I still had AppleCare (because all that info was on my laptop of course), and of course it had expired. The cost of a new laptop screen?? $350-400. Oy. So instead of putting money into a laptop that I was hoping to last another 6 months before buying a new one, I just decided to go laptop-less until I saved enough for a new one.

My saving strategy started off with a monthly saving plan. I wanted a laptop that would be at least $1000 plus taxes & AppleCare, so I budgeted $1200. If I saved $200 a month, I could have a laptop in 6 months, easy! I already was saving about $100 a month, so I knew I could save another $100 by reducing my "dining out" budget.

Well, as happens most times in life, I wasn't able to execute my plan as I had hoped. I was without a roommate for 2 months and had to pay both halves of the rent/utilities until I found one! I also had to dip into savings to pay for one of the months rent, so the 6 month plan stretched to a year or more plan.

Thanks to a little creative saving (and buying a refurbished laptop instead of a new one) I finally have my new laptop! Be on the lookout for more posts on saving money as well as recipes!