Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sunny Side Up: Vol 2

Well hello there! Are you givin' me a little once over as you check out my new design? I figured it's a New Year and it's time for a fresher, crisper, cooler look.  It still need's a bit of tweaking, but I like where things are going. Do you like? What think we?

New templates aside, I also felt it was time to unveil some new ideas I have for this little blog of mine, so I present to you the first one:

Sunny Side Up: Flavorful, Healthy Meals to Sustain You, and Your Wallet Throughout the Week.

(missed the first volume, which didn't have this clever title at the time? you can read it here)

It goes without saying that in times of financial challenge or strain one of the easiest ways to cut back on your daily spending, and perhaps even a few calories in the process, is to cook at home.  I know it is so tempting in this day in age when you can order food from an app on your iPhone, while you are sitting at your desk at work, or from the Chinese takeout place around the corner, to avoid the kitchen at all costs. Or to try to save a little bit of time by stocking up on a bunch of frozen, perservative packed, pre-cooked meals from the freezer section.  I used to be guilty of all of the above.  However those little choices add up throughout the week and at the end of the month can leave you with a heavy feeling in your stomach when you open up your bank statement. Cooking at home can not only be a lot of fun (particularly when you drink wine in the process, I encourage this), but a great way to keep track of what you are actually consuming.  When you order out you have no idea what was added to your food by way of salt, fat, or where the food came from.  When you make your meals with you own hands you are the one driving the ship and you have the control. It's very liberating, I assure you. Let's be real, it's way cheaper to be healthy than to be sick...I'm just sayin'.

However, I totally understand the not so pretty side of cooking at home: the clean up. And let's not forget coming home from work at 10:30pm and not having any energy to whip up a whole new meal. I totally get it, and that's why I am here to help!  In this new blog-series I will share with you some recipes tested and tasted from my very own kitchen, which are not only affordable to make but will feed you for days on end.  I will calculate how much the recipe cost to make, and how much mileage you get out of your investment each day.  So without further adieu, here we go!

                                            (photo source:

Chili With Corn Muffins: Adapted from the website Colombe du Jour.

I realize there are a bagillion chili recipes floating out there in the ether, so why this one? I picked it because Colombe is a co-worker of mine, and a super lovely lady.  She has a passion for creating healthy, accesible food, and she informed me that this recipe, unlike many of it counterparts, didn't call for any crazy, hard to find peppers to create heat.  Every ingredient on this list can easily be found at your local grocery of choice, which earns double points in my book.

You can read the full recipe here, but below is the list of ingredients, how much we paid for each, and any adaptations we made in the process.

Vegetarian Chili (ours was not Vegetarian...more on that in a moment)

Serves about 15
3 tablespoons olive oil (we already had this on hand)
1 large onion, (1 ½ cups) chopped (cost $1.29)
3 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced (cost for a bag $1.69)
2 bell peppers, seeded, chopped (cost $1.47)
1 head of garlic, peeled and minced (already had this on hand)
1-teaspoon sea salt (had)
1/4-teaspoon chili powder (had) 
2 teaspoons ground cumin (had)
2 teaspoons ground coriander (had)
3/4-teaspoon ground cinnamon (had) 
1-½ teaspoons dried oregano (had) 
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (cost $1.99)
1 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed, drained (cost 0.99 cents)
1 15-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed, drained (cost 0.99 cents)
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed, drained (cost 0.99 cents) 
3 cups water
¼ cup limejuice, juice of 2 limes (we bought a small container of lime juice cost $1.29)
For garnish:
Grated Cheese (we used Sargento Authentic Mexican blend which cost $3.49)
Pickled Jalapenos (we didn't use these)
1 bunch cilantro, cleaned and chopped (we didn't use these)

We also had about 2lbs of ground beef on hand, which had been sitting patiently in the freezer, so we decided to throw it in. The meat ran us about $7.50, which is totally optional.  However, due to the addition of meat we did decide to DOUBLE the amounts of spice required for the recipe, and in the end we still added a little bit more seasoning, because we are totally wild and crazy! I would encourage you to do the same if you add any sort of meat.

A word on the spices: Jürgen and I have acquired a fairly nicely stocked spice cabinet, so no extra money needed to be spent for the seasoning portion of the recipe.  None of these spices are super fancy, and I imagine most folks who have any kind of spice collection would have some, if not all of these. However, if you don't, you will have to spend a little bit more to make this dish, but it's a worthy investment. Spices last a long time, so you get a whole lotta bang for your buck.

Also, I wish I could say I made some corn muffins from scratch, but I don't want to lie, we bought two boxes of my childhood favorite Jiffy Corn Bread mix.  Really how can you go wrong? It's two for $1.00 takes no time to make and yields the most delicious results every time.  It's warm, cripsy on the bottom, sweet with a hint of corn flavor.  Yes I realize this makes me a tad hypocritical in terms of my "knowing what exactly is in your food" soapbox, but I was raised on this stuff and simply cannot give it up.  However, I can tell you in full confidence that should you choose to make Colombe's corn muffins I have no doubt you will be pleased.

We made this dish on a Tuesday night, and it fed us through to the following Friday. That's a grand total of 11 DAYS worth of Chili goodness!  Yes, I will admit towards the end of the eleven days I did start to get a little tired of chili, but it retained it's flavor swimmingly and honestly it was nice not having to think about what to pack for lunch.  The cornbread didn't last as long, as I am not one to let a cornbread muffin pass me by, plus 11 day old cornbread doesn't sound good to me, but that's just my opinion.

 Here's how things break down in terms of cost:

If we made this dish without the meat the dish would have cost us $15.29 to make, and breaks down to $1.40 a day for 11 days.

With the meat it cost us $22.79 to make, breaking down to $2.07 a day for 11 days.

Incredible! That's a complete meal for less than $3.00 a day.  Imagine all the things you can do with the money you will be saving.  I might suggest throwing in a few extra bucks for a nice, but cheap, bottle of an Argentinean Malbec, I think it would pair wonderfully with the chili.  But you know about  my affinity for inexpensive South American wines already....

So there you have it my friends, a perfect recipe for a cold winter's night, and many days and nights thereafter.  If you make it please report back! I would love to hear how it turns out for you!

Also, do you have any recipes you would like for me to try? If so please email me at blairbrobertson at gmail dot com!


  1. This series might be my new best friend! BRILLZ.

  2. My stomach is growling....well done, little chef!!! Jurgen has been a good influence on you in the cooking department!!! Might I suggest you freeze some so you don't have to eat the same thing every night???I will send you some wonderful recipes- Pasta e fagoli- Guinness Stew- White chili...they all freeze well and are perfect to ward off the winter chills!!! Bon Appetit!! Love you! Momma

  3. My mouth is watering! Can't wait to try the new recipes, and I look forward to future editions :-)
    And I love the blog's new look for 2010!

  4. my husband is ga-ga over chili. he's gonna love yours.

  5. sounds delicious! Just because you are pinching pennies doesn't mean you can't be an epicure

  6. Blair, I was inspired to make my own chili last night. Ground Turkey and beans. I think I needed a bigger pot, because it was very dense, almost no broth.

    Unfortunately people came over and shared with us, so none is left. But I am so full I may not eat for 11 days.

    Miss you.