Friday, April 29, 2016

Spinach and Artichoke Burger

This was the burger recipe that prompted me to buy burger buns going into carb overload two weeks in a row.  In theory this burger sounded great as I anticipated spinach artichoke dip meats burger.  However, in my opinion, it did not elevate it to another level to make it worthwhile in doing the extra work.  I barely tasted the artichoke in the burger itself that I ended up just layering chopped artichokes on top of the burger the second day trying to achieve it.  In my opinion, it is best to just make a regular burger and top it with the relevant ingredients.   Since I had so much arugula left from the other two recipes, I topped it with that instead of spinach leaves. 

Notes:  I love avocados on my burgers so since the burger was relatively plain tasting IMHO, I added avocados to these. 

Price:  $6 for 4 burgers = $1.50 per burger

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mahi Mahi Burger

Last week I had tried dishes that were new and completely out of my comfort zone and this week the theme seems to be assembly only or minimal cooking dishes so far.

I picked up a pack of frozen mahi mahi burgers to try from Trader Joe’s with the intention of future use.  However, since I had another burger recipe planned for the week, I decided it was a good use of the other half of the hamburger buns so it hit the oven quicker than expected.  With Mau`i always on my mind, a spear of the Maui Preserved Sweet and Spicy Pineapple is a perfect pickle substitute for this burger, making this frozen Mahi Burger taste gourmet! 


4 Frozen Trader Joe’s Mahi Mahi Burgers
Avocado sliced
Maui Preserved Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Spears -
Handful of arugula tossed with a splash of the pineapple syrup from the spears
4 Hamburger Buns


1.      Prepare the mahi burgers per package direction.  (I went with the conventional oven method but found that 4 minutes on each side was not enough so I had ended up flipping it twice for a total of 8 min on each side)

2.      Toast the burger buns

3.      Place cooked mahi burgers on bottom bun, top with sliced avocado, arugula, top with bun and serve with a spear of Sweet and Spicy Pineapple alongside

Price:  $10 for 4 Burgers = $2.50 per burger


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Breakfast Torta Sandwich

If you have been following along and doing the math, you would know I have 1 more unused torta roll from that Costco pack.  In anticipation of that, I saved myself 2 slices of the fresh mozzarella to go with whatever I end up creating.  Since I stocked up on eggs at $1.29/dozen (love Trader Joe’s!), I decided on a breakfast torta sandwich.  With most ingredients being leftovers, it was a steal at under a buck.  Beat that Mickey D’s! 

Ingredients for Sandwich

Torta Sandwich Rolls
2 Eggs beaten
Fresh Mozzarella Slices
1 Slice of Prosciutto


1.      Make an omelet with the eggs - melting your mozzarella on top of the cooked side after you flipped the omelet

2.      Toast your bread

3.      Layer a slice of prosciutto and top with the omelet in the roll and enjoy!!   

Price:  75 cents for 1 sammie

Monday, April 25, 2016

Steak Pizzaiola

Although my life often feels like one big Murphy’s Law, once in awhile I find things falling into place with my cooking.  Last week I had purchased a Costco pack of torta rolls to make chicken pesto melts after having a sample but thought the packaged grilled chicken breast was too salty to be making it more than once.  So even though I gave my cousin 3, made garlic bread with 3, and used 3 for the chicken pesto, I still had 3 rolls left.  Perishable Costco products are not ideal when cooking for 2.  Although the La Brea Torta Rolls were technically freezable, I rarely freeze bread so was trying to figure out how to use the remaining rolls. 

When I saw Rachael making Tournedo Pizzaiola last week that used both ciabatta breads and fresh mozzarella, I knew I found the perfect way to use up both leftover ingredients and some of the leftover wine and onions from my oxtail.  Not wanting to drop money on buying filets, I defrosted a choice New York steak to substitute, cooked it like I did my steakhouse dinner but with just salt and pepper and sliced it vs. serving whole in the roll. 

Although not the most budget friendly meal since you are using steaks/filets, but it was oh so tasty and worth every penny!


  1. The only things I had to buy to make this recipe was cherry tomatoes and arugula.  I didn’t see any at TJ’s so ended up getting a lb of mini heirlooms instead for $3. 
Price:  $12 for 2 sandwiches = $6 per serving


Friday, April 22, 2016

Chicken Pesto Melt

I have a love hate relationship with Costco.  I love getting a great bargain buying in bulk, but I hate how I never leave there without dropping over a hundred dollars each time.  Their smart on their part but frustrating on our part strategy of moving items around forcing you to go up and down aisles you otherwise wouldn’t, greatly increases our chances of not sticking to the list we went in with like I normally do with regular supermarkets shopping mainly along the perimeter. 

Those samples that they freely dole out, is the other way they often get me to overspend.  With my most recent trip, all it took was a sample of the chicken pesto melt to make me drop $6 on a dozen torta sandwich breads, $10 on a duo pack of grilled chicken, and $8 on fresh mozzarella cheese.  If I did not already have flash frozen pesto sauce I made last summer, I would have to drop another $8 on a Costco sized jar of pesto.  $32 is not what I would spend on chicken sandwiches, even if you can make 12 of them, making me hate you Costco!  But getting the cooked grilled chicken for less than the price of raw chicken breast I would have to cook myself, and a 2 pack of fresh mozzarella for about a buck more than 1 at Trader Joe's, I love you Costco!!  UGH!!!!!

Ingredients for Sandwich

Torta Sandwich Rolls or Ciabatta Rolls
Grilled Chicken (pre-cooked or you can make your own)
Pesto Sauce
Fresh Mozzarella Slices


1.      Spread pesto sauce on both sides of the torta sandwich rolls

2.      Place grilled chicken and fresh mozzarella slices

3.      Put in George Forman Grill for about 3 minutes until cheese is melted

Ingredients for chicken if grilling your own

2 Whole Chicken Breast butterflied
Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Preparation for chicken

  1. Place butterflied chicken into a “marinade” of lemon zest and lemon juice for about 5-10 minutes
  2. Cook in George Forman Grill for about 4-5 minutes until meat is no longer pink in the middle and juices run clear

Pesto Recipe


2 cups of basil leaves
1/3 cup of pine nuts
Handful of parmesan cheese
2 cloves of garlic
Olive oil

Price:  $24 for 12 sandwiches = $2 per sando

Note:  The grilled chicken breast strips were a bit too salty for my taste as I was really thirsty after, so if you are watching your salt, you may want to just grill your own per my method above. 


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Oxtail Stew

To continue my week of cooking dishes out of my comfort zone, I made my first attempt at oxtail stew.  I watched my dad last year and wrote down a “rough recipe” based on my observations but never got around to actually trying it out.  So when I was at Costco this week, I saw they had one solo pack (normally it is a duo pack) of oxtail for $12 so jumped at the chance to experiment on a smaller portion.  Of course once I pulled out the recipe to make it, I realized I did not have most of the ingredients that my dad uses like the dried fruit peel and fresh ginger so I had to change preparation style and went with the flavors that I normally braise lamb shanks with, red wine, chicken stock, and garlic.  Total braising time for the oxtail is 3 hours total to make it fork tender but I broke up the times in the preparation with where ingredients were added throughout the 3 hours. 


2-3 lbs of oxtail already pre-cut
Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp Olive Oil
½ chopped onion
4 red potatos cut into quarters
2-3 carrots cut in chunks (I had baby carrots in the fridge so just used ½ bag)
½ cup of frozen peas
1 ½ cups red wine
1 ½ cups chicken or beef broth
3 crushed garlic cloves
Bay leaf

1.      Rinse and pat dry the oxtail pieces
2.      Salt and Pepper the oxtails
3.      Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven over medium high heat
4.      Sear the oxtail in batches, browning all sides, then remove and set aside
5.      Add the onions into the pot and cook for a few minutes picking up all the drippings
6.      Add the oxtails back in (except the really small pieces)
7.      Add garlic, wine, broth, bay leaf, and a little more salt
8.      Bring to a simmer, lower heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes
9.      After 30 minutes, add the small pieces of oxtail back in and simmer for an additional 2 hours (make sure to skim the fat after each hour)
10.   Then add potato and carrots and simmer for additional 30 minutes
11.  10 minutes before it is done, add your frozen peas in to heat through

  1. Normally my dad gets his oxtail from Asian markets so he has to take extra care in rinsing them since they tend to have lots of bone fragments from cutting it.  I did not have any problems with the Costco pack so a quick rinse was more than sufficient. 
  2. Since the small pieces are pre-seared, you do not have to put back in the fridge for the ½ an hour
  3. Just like lamb shanks, there is quite a bit of fat that needs to be skimmed off.  If you have leftovers, it is much easier to remove the white fat layer after it has solidified and cooled. 
Price:  $15 for 3 servings = $5 per serving

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Matzah Ball Soup

Years ago before I was cooking regularly, I made what I considered at that time quite labor intensive potato latkes from scratch.  Since subconsciously I was probably a little traumatized, I had yet to try my hand at further Jewish dishes, but with Passover beginning sundown this Friday, I am finally going to jump in and try making a dish that you may find at seder, the Matzah Ball Soup. 

My best friend since middle school is Jewish so I have some general knowledge of Jewish holidays and traditions but admittedly, we never shared her family’s traditional food staples together.  With that said, I cannot even say with certainty whether this recipe ended up being a success or not in terms of density and taste but I am trying this as a homage to her and in celebration of the freeing of the Jewish people from slavery. 

Not wanting to be too discouraged with this that it would end up being another 15+ years before I try another Jewish dish, I decided to take tips from different recipes and make it my own using what I got.  So instead of making my own chicken stock and whole chicken from scratch, I took a short cut and used Trader Joe’s chicken broth and a rotisserie chicken from Farmer Joe’s.  


1 cup Matzah Meal
3 Eggs slightly beaten
6 tbsp water or chicken broth
2 tbsp chicken drippings/fat (make sure to warm if it is gelatinous from being in the fridge)
½ tsp Salt
3 Carrots cut on a bias (1/2 in thickness)
2 tbsp chopped onions
1 Rotisserie Chicken
1-2 Quarts Chicken Broth
Fresh dill


1.      Combine slightly beaten eggs, 6 tbsp of water or chicken broth, warmed chicken fat, salt, and matzah meal and mix with a rubber spatula. 

2.      Cover with saran wrap and place in fridge for about an hour (minimum 30 minutes)

3.      When you are ready to make matzah balls, bring a large pot of water to boil and lower heat to a soft boil

4.      Wet your hands and a ½ tbsp measuring spoon and roll the pre-chilled matzah mixture into small golf ball sized balls (they will expand when cooking). 

5.      Drop the balls into the soft boiling water and cook covered for about 25 minutes

6.      In a separate pot, bring the 1-2 quarts chicken stock to a boil, lower the heat and simmer with the carrots and onions for about 15 minutes

7.      Drain the matzah balls from the water, add the balls with 2 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken and finish cooking them in the chicken broth mixture for another 15-20 minutes

8.      Ladle the soup into a bowl and garnish with fresh dill

Note:  I never got a chance to go to TJ’s this past weekend so served it without the dill

Price:  $14 for 4 servings = $3.50 per serving