Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chinese Chicken Noodle Pouch

Stick with me on this one, okay? I know that the title sounds kinda like "What the --?" but I promise you -- Once you get this technique and realize how unbelievably cheap and easy this is, it will become a REGULAR in your single-serving repertoire!

Ok, so remember how a while back I mentioned that little voice in my head that once or twice a week talks me into ordering sushi? Well, a few weeks ago I was eating said sushi and had a thought...

I wonder what I could do with this extra ginger and wasabi....

I know neither of those are things that everyone uses. So you may immediately dismiss this recipe as just being "not your thing". Just trust me on this one -- It's pretty fierce.

So last week I saved my wasabi and pickled ginger that came alongside my spicy tuna roll. I put them in their own little plastic containers and sealed them up. The great thing about both of these ingredients is that they keep for quite a while! Ginger is pickled. It ain't going anywhere. And wasabi is just a powder that most don't recognize because it's always moistened when served. So don't worry if your reserved wasabi is a little dry or grainy when you take it back out for use -- it's natural for that moisture to want to evaporate!

I knew I had those in my refrigerator and was dead-set on using them... and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

About a month ago, I caught an old episode of "Good Eats" on FN -- Alton's theme escapes me, but he did feature this technique: Pouch Cooking.

I was immediately drawn to the simplicity and cleanliness of it, so logged it for future experimentation. Thus was born the following recipe for Chinese Chicken Noodle Pouches!


1 buckwheat soba ramen noodle pack***
1 tsp wasabi
1 tbs pickled ginger
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic
4 medium shitake mushrooms
1 small handful snow peas
1 small handful wax beans
1 small red bell pepper
1 6-8 oz chicken breast
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Tear 2 sheets of foil, about 14 inches long. Place on a cookie sheet, stacked so they run perpendicular to each other. Place uncooked noodles in the center. Lightly sprinkle with a very small amount of the seasoning from the packet in the ramen. Break up the wasabi into three small (pea sized) chunks and place on top of the noodles. Spread the ginger on top, followed by the red pepper flakes. Pull up the sides of the foil to create a bowl of sorts.

Mince the garlic next and add. Finely slice the mushrooms (caps only -- shitake stems are usually too tough and not that tasty) and the bell pepper. Add to the packet. Trim the wax beans and add next, along with the snow peas. Lightly season the chicken breast with the ramen seasoning packet, then chop into good sized chunks and add. Close up the foil, leaving just a small opening.

In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce and stock. Pour into the pouch through the small opening you left. Don't seal the packet all the way -- a small opening will allow steam to escape. Place in oven and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Remove from oven and open pouch. Let cool for a moment before emptying into a bowl and devouring!

Clean up -- It's not all that hard to throw foil away, right?

Cost -- about $6. The Soba Noodles were the most costly -- coming in at a whopping $1.19! Shitake mushrooms might make you a little frightened, but they are another thing that you can find loose and buy by the pound. I think they were selling at $4.99 per pound. Four shitake's cost me $1.02 - so don't be frightened! The chicken was in my freezer and my wasabi and ginger were free and on hand.

I mentioned before that this is a technique that you can use for all sorts of recipes. Vegetarian? Throw whatever veggies you want in and use vegetable broth -- vwah lah! Bored with the chicken? Use raw shrimp instead!

The point is: Don't be afraid to get creative. Surprise yourself! You'll be happy you did :-)

***Buckwheat Soba Ramen is something that I stumbled on in the Asian section of Whole Foods, right by the rice noodles and pre-made microwavable pad thai bowls (ick). It really is taking that collegiate classic to a whole new level! Look for it!***

Monday, August 25, 2008

Spinach Mushroom Chicken - a basic!

Alright ya'll.... I'm completely aware that at times these recipes seem to get a little "out there". Deconstructed Guac? Alright, not so basic. (Actually, it is. That's the whole point. But I don't want to fight anymore...)

So the other night I was overwhelmed with exhaustion, and could hear that voice in the back of my head starting in on the "just order sushi!" bit that I'm such a sucker for. Did you know a Spicy Tuna roll has like 600 Calories?! No bueno.

But what could I make? I absolutely didn't want to subject myself to Whole Foods for a prolonged period of time. I had chicken breasts.... so that was a start. Here's what I came up with!


1 6-8 ounce chicken breast
1 tsp butter
1 clove garlic
1/2 yellow onion
5 cremini mushrooms
1 cup frozen spinach
1 vine tomato (optional)

Heat a half tablespoon of EVOO over medium-high heat in a skillet. While that's heating, salt and pepper both sides of your chicken breast. Cook the chicken in the hot skillet, 6-8 minutes per side, until juices run clear and there's not more pink inside.

In a small pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Finely chop the garlic, and add to the butter. While that begins to cook, mince the 1/2 onion. Add to the butter. Let the onion and garlic work together for a few minutes while you slice the mushrooms and thaw the spinach. Add mushrooms to the mix; cook for another two to three minutes. Add thawed spinach, and stir until heated through, about one minute.

Spoon the spinach mushroom mixture over the chicken breast and serve alongside a fresh sliced tomato (if using). Enjoy!

Seriously folks, this can't be any more simple. And the taste is pretty freaking great! Basic earthy wholesome goodness. And is it healthy? I'd say so. You're only taking in about 200 Calories on this one. Maybe 220, tops! That's right - even with the butter!

And how'd our wallet do? Well, it's about $1 for chicken. A cup of frozen spinach is around 40 cents. An onion is about 70 cents. And cremini's? Those you can find in the produce section. There's usually a box where they're loose, so you can take as many (or few!) as you want and buy by the pound! So five mushrooms cost me... about 20 cents.

So you do the math. A frakkin' cheap meal? Absolutely :-)

It's nice to be nice to your wallet AND your tastebuds, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Italian Grilled Chicken and Zucchini Boats

Yesterday was laundry day. 

But then of course mid-day I remember that it's also dodgeball night...

Dodgeball? Or Laundry?

Guess what won?

Dodgeball. And going to Geoffrey Beene and buying a new outfit for work :)

So TONIGHT became laundry night at Casa di Spence. And what was on the menu? I had no idea... but I was totally craving zucchini... wierd, right?

Eating Well Magazine had done a stuffed zucchini a few months ago (I don't remember the exact issue...) and I remember thinking it looked appetizing. So while standing in the produce section of Whole Foods at Colombus Circle, I decided that whatever I came up with would be based on my memory of that...

...and thus was born my recipe for Italian Grilled Chicken and Zucchini Boats!


2 small red potatoes
1 zucchini
1 tsp EVOO, plus some for brushing
1 garlic clove, cracked
2 cremini mushrooms
1 tbs skim milk
1 4 oz chicken breast
Italian Seasoning
--Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, and Oregano
1 vine tomato, seeded and chopped
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and simmer until fork tender (about 10-15 minutes). Drain the pot, and set potatoes aside. Return the pot to the heat. Let any remaining water evaporate, about 30 seconds. 

Add 1 tsp EVOO to the pan with the cracked garlic clove. While oil is warming, roughly chop the mushrooms. Add them to the oil and let them cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. While mushrooms are working, quarter the potatoes. Remove garlic from the mushrooms, and then add the potatoes and milk. Give it a rough mash until it's reached the consistency you want (I like it kinda lumpy) Season with a little of the Italian Seasoning and add a little parmesan cheese (if using).

Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat. Half the zucchini and lightly brush with EVOO. Grill, flesh side down, for about 3 minutes. Rotate 90 degrees, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside. 

Lightly oil the chicken breast, and season with Italian Seasonings. Grill, 4-5 minutes per side.

While chicken grills, use a spoon to hollow out the zucchini (like a canoe!) Roughly chop the removed flesh, and stir into the potato mash. Spoon the potato zucchini mixture back into the zucchini boats. Top with chopped tomato, and extra cheese (if using) Serve with chicken alongside.

My guesstimated budget for tonight? This cost me about $8.00

And here's the other thing! I was too full to eat one of my zucchini halves, so it's now in a ziploc tupperware container in my fridge. So if I eat that another night, with another grilled chicken breast... that would make each meal about $5!

Five Dollars, ya'll. 

You can barely get a Venti Non-fat Soy Latte for that.

For the record -- I would never order a Venti Non-Fat Soy Latte. I'm a Sugar-Free Vanilla Red-Eye kind of guy. But I thought the other things just sounded better :)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lime-Garlic Grilled Shrimp and Deconstructed Mango Guac

It was definitely one of those days today... it was like one thing after another -- and it totally kicked my butt! After coming off of a fabulous weekend at a friend's beach house I was completely exhausted.

So I knew that I was going to want something tasty, to reward myself working my butt off today...

And also something easy, cuz HomeBoy is too tired to get too fancy...

There's nothing easier than grilled shrimp. And this Deconstructed Guac is also SUPER simple! Chop, Grill, and Eat -- it's that easy!


1 Garlic clove
1 lime
7 mid-size raw shrimp
1 tbs olive oil
1 mango, quartered and peeled
1 avocado, quartered and peeled
1/2 red onion, cut into four wedges
1 jalepeno, halved and seeded (optional)

Pre-heat Grill pan over medium-high heat.

Grate the garlic over a cutting board. Use a small grater to get a fine garlic paste. Zest the lime on top of the garlic, and mix together with your fingers.

Skewer the shrimp, and lightly brush with oil. Rub the lime-garlic mixture into the shrimp, and set aside.

Lightly brush the mango, avocado, onion, and jalepeno (if using) and grill each until there are visible grill marks. Set aside, and grill the shrimp skewers, about 2 minutes on each side. Shrimp will be opaque and pink when done (you'll recognize it, I'm sure)

Plate the grilled mango, avocado, onion, and jalepeno, and place shrimp skewers on top. Serve with a few lime wedges for squeezing on top.

To eat, cut up the grilled components into bite-size pieces, and get each part into every bite. The sweet of the mango with the smoothness in the avocado -- all of which have an amazing smokiness because we grilled them -- will leave you wanting more!

Oh, and for all my budgetors out there -- This cost me less than $9.00 :)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Adding Photos!

So now that I've got my new toy I'm going to try to photograph my dinners so you can see what the finished products look like. I had one from the Tangy Spinach Chicken recipe, so I already added that to the actual post.

Now, I'm not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination -- so I'll do my best to make it all look pretty and styled, like what you see in a Bobby Flay book.

But I make no promises... ;)