Category Archives: The Challenge

The Challenge: Day One

Grilling and barbequeing are not the same thing. Not here in the South, at least. Grilling is cooking foods directly over heat. Barbeque is done over indirect heat (with or without smoke) – the “low and slow” you hear so often, especially during Food Network’s annual grilling week when the phrase is repeated ad nauseum.

Tonight, we grilled. The thought occurred to me a couple of hours before grill time that Mother Nature was not going to cooperate, as a huge storm blew through. But, the skies cleared somewhat and the rain stopped, so I got to play with fire after all.

What was on the menu? I’m so happy you asked.

Tonight’s dinner was grilled chicken with a hot and sweet dipping sauce, corn on the cob, basmati rice, fresh green beans and fingerling potatoes, and salad. The corn was the last four ears from the bushel or so we purchased at the farmer’s market, as the rest was shaved, baked, and frozen. Another bag is in order, I believe.

The chicken was marinated in a very simple paste. To start, some black peppercorns, garlic, a touch of salt, and coriander were pounded together.

Having suitably bashed about those things – a mortar and pestle is wonderful for excising stress – I added the paste to some olive oil and honey.

The chicken (five thighs, two boneless, skinless breasts) went into the marinade for about an hour and then on the grill.

A quite nice char on the outside and wonderfully moist meat on the inside was the result of this effort. To go with the chicken, a dipping sauce made with cider vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic, and red pepper flakes. This was doled out in individual bowls to those eating, and would be just as great with pork. My mom, sister, and her boyfriend all tasted the sauce with their fingers but without food, and all made the same face that said, “I’m not eating that!” After tasting it with the chicken, however, they changed their tune.

The aforementioned beans, snapped and ready for cooking.

Yes, there is a lot of salad dressing in a lot of bottles in this house. I’d like to make some for the salad eaters to get them weaned away from the bottles. As I am not currently eating salads, I’m leaving them to their devices (for now), and then will slowly start replacing the bottles one by one. A delightfully insidious plan, don’t you think?

This entry only covers dinner, because – I’m ashamed to say – that’s all I ate (besides a small bowl of grits earlier today), and not much of it. To forestall the nagging that will no doubt ensue, let me say that I will be having some formula directly after I finish this entry, and then another in a few hours.

However, let’s get back to The Challenge. As you can see from the photos, we had quite a spread tonight. There were four of us, as our fifth was being hermit-like and elected not to join us to partake of some nourishment. Even with all this food, though, the price per diner was quite small.

Chicken thighs – .4033 each x 5 = 2.0165
Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless) – 1.325 each x 2 = 2.65
Rice, basmati, 1 cup uncooked (assuming 2 cups/pound) = 1.00*
Corn on the cob – .324 each x 4 = 1.30
Beans, one basket = 1.00
Fingerling potatoes = 1.00
Salad (three servings) = 1.20**

Total for the meal: 10.1665
Total per person: 2.54

* The rice was purchased in a 10 pound sack from Costco some time ago, and the pricing is lost to history (or until the next time I go out there). Since that is the case, I did the next best thing and looked up a 10 pound sack of the same rice at Amazon.
** The makings for the salad came from various places, but both the tomato and the cucumber were from our farmer’s market excursion.

There were leftovers as well, so some was packed for my sister’s lunch tomorrow at work and some sent home with her boyfriend. A very satisfying, tasty (and nutritious!) meal for four. I’ll have to work on nutrition breakdowns, I suppose.

A word about breakfast and lunch: I’m working on this. I’m not a big three-squares-a-day kind of person myself, and my mother doesn’t like to eat when she first gets up. My sister has Food Issues, but will take leftovers for lunches and likes turkey sandwiches. So I’m trying to get something together that will address all these things. The first step? Making some real whole grain bread tomorrow, suitable for slapping some lunch meat on, surrounded by lettuce, condiments, fresh tomatoes…mmmm. Baby steps, right?

Taking the plunge

After some discussion with myself – I talk to myself quite a bit, and it’s probably the reason I don’t speak as much to other people as they might like, something my very dear friend has chastised me for in the past day or so – I’ve decided to take The Challenge. This is also after some back and forth with the person who proposed it, with the ground rules previously discussed in this very space.

We will kick things off on Sunday the 18th. This will give me a few more days to get some planning in. Last week, I did some comparison between Publix and Costco, and of course, buying in bulk really does save quite a bit in the wallet area. If you’re really serious about saving a few bucks, a membership to one of those warehouse places like Costco, Sam’s, or BJ’s will pay for itself in no time.

Before I get started on some of the comparisons I made, though, an observation about “popular” cuts of meat. Flank steak, in particular. It’s amazing how much this cut costs these days now that everyone and their brother has decided it’s the latest in thing. Last year, pre-cancer, we did a cookout at my mom’s place. One of the things I made was a rubbed flank steak with several different sauces. I can’t recall how much that cut cost at the time, but I’m sure it was not the 5.69/lb I saw at Costco. Publix had no flank steak that was not already wrapped around something the day I went. By the way, one of those sauces – which got great reviews from the guests, including my (now) ex’s parents – was a peach-bourbon sauce. I’ll have to see if I can dig that one out of my brain again, because that was quite good. The blueberry wasn’t bad, either.

As usual, I digress, and will do so a little more. The ex before last and I actually got the Costco membership and used it mostly for paper products, laundry stuff, and so on, and not so much for food – at least not frozen/refrigerated items, as the fridge in the apartment where we lived was not as large as it could have been. We also ate out quite a bit because we both worked quite a lot, and the things we cooked tended to be rather uninspired. Not bad, but nothing to write home about. Certainly nothing worth blogging about.

When I found myself alone again, I found myself in an apartment with a single person’s fridge: small. Once again, not suited to storage of the bulk-type packs of food that required freezing or refrigeration. When the cancer diagnosis and all the assorted treatment came – surgery, healing, radiation and chemo, more healing – and I landed in my mom’s house so she could care for me, I really couldn’t have cared less about what the fridge could hold, as I was in no condition to wonder about it, shop for anything, or eat anything.

But now…these days, with two fridges and a freezer available, and a FoodSaver at my disposal, it makes it easier to be able to pick up those bulk packs of frozen or refrigerated items and not have to worry about how they will be stored. Your mileage may vary, as you may not have the luxury of the storage space I have available to me. Do what you can with the space you have, though. In the end, it will be worth it.

Now, on to our little excursion to compare some prices that I’d never really paid attention to before.

Continue reading Taking the plunge

Thoughts on The Challenge

Before I get into those thoughts, something amusing from earlier this evening. I took my sisters to dinner before they went shopping (dresses for a wedding, or something). During the course of dinner, one conversation went something like this as they were talking about the MTV Movie Awards – or was it music? In any case…

Sister 2: You know, the guy with the voice.
Sister 1: Like James…James Earl Grey?
Me: Splorf.
Sister 2: (Gales of laughter)
Sister 1: Jones! James Earl Jones!
Sister 2: James Earl Grey Morning Blend. (More laughter)

It was probably something you had to be there for in order to appreciate the true hilarity of mixing James Earl Jones and a tea.

But on to the more serious issue: food.

Continue reading Thoughts on The Challenge