Sunday, March 3, 2013

$20 Challenge...Here we go! I know that I've always been the kind who loves to splurge on certain things...cookbooks, fresh cut flowers, and! But my dearest husband has decided that it's time we put in place a...I can barely type just hurts me so...a....a...BUDGET! There...I said it, PLEASE don't make me say it again. I beg of you!
Now I know that I've been rather spoiled the last couple of years, being able to go through a cookbook or a website and find a recipe I like, go out and get the ingredients and make the meal.'s happened, I knew that one day it *could*...but I never really thought it would this soon. Yes sir...I've been restricted! Now I could do one of two things: 1) Boycott the budget and never cook again. 2) Turn this into a challenge of sorts and make the best of it. Well if you want honesty...I wanted to choose the first option. BUT, I knew that I'd never be happy if I didn't cook again! Plus, what would I write about?!? So clearly I chose option two.

In one of my housewife videos I talked about streamlining my kitchen, but I didn't really get into talking about my pantry. My pantry is my life saver for this $20/day challenge. I am a firm believer in a well stocked pantry for several reasons. But the main reason is, when you want to cook a meal, you really should only have to go to the store to get fresh ingredients and possibly some special ingredients that the recipe calls for. But on any given day if I don't feel like preparing a meal I always have dried, boxed pasta and store bought (as well as home made) pasta sauce ready to go. So in the spirit of showing how much I value a well stocked pantry I created a page on my site called "Housewife's Pantry Essentials." On this page I lay out what I feel are the most important things to have stocked in your pantry at all times. Now I realize that we are each different, and some of the things I use on a regular basis you might never use. So every one's pantry should be well stocked, but with products you use, not what people think you should use.

Today was Day 2 of my challenge and I was quite proud of the meal I put on the table! I spent about $11 at the store today and I made the following meal:

Grilled New York Strip steak, grilled potatoes w/rosemary, red onions and garlic, sauteed red chard with onions and garlic, and Nigella Lawson's "Sunshine Soup." Not bad for dropping less than $15, eh? This is only possible because I have a well stocked pantry, and rosemary in my garden! We are also lucky enough to have a deep freeze in our garage so we always have steak in there. And I always keep onions and garlic on hand as well. When I've showed my pantry to people in the past, some have looked at me like I was some crazy person who was stock piling for the end of the world. But let me tell you, if you showed up at my door, I'd be able to whip you up a meal in no time at all. Granted it may not be a gourmet meal, but I'd get you fed! And I pride myself on that fact!

During my culinary experience as a home cook, I've also learned several tricks that make meal preparation easier and less stressful. I know that I have most days "free" to do some of these things, but I also choose recipes that can be made ahead and then reheated. The soup we had for dinner was made early this afternoon and stored in a tupperware container and reheated while the steaks were on the grill. Not everything has to be cooked at meal time, some things like your protein have to otherwise they may not taste like they should...but I digress.

Now I'm going to do something that I don't normally do, I'm going to divulge some of my prized culinary secrets...I'm going to tell you how to make the best damn potatoes and steak you've ever had! My husband was never a big red meat eater, but he has said on more than one occasion, "I've never liked a steak until I ate one of your's!" And tonight, he apologized by saying, "I'm sorry for eating so slow...but this meal is so good I don't want it to end!" Best. Compliment. EVER! So...are you ready for this???

First thing you are going to do is get a good cut of steak, I prefer New York Strip. I love their flavor, they have a good amount of meat and a nice cap of fat on one side and they seem to grill up the best for me. I tend to get a cut that is about an inch to an inch and a half thick. I don't like thicker cuts because they are really hard to cook perfectly, so I found my sweet spot and I've stuck to it! Then you are going to season it with Emeril's Essence Seasoning (find this recipe on my "Favorite Recipes" Page!). And let that sit at room temperature for up to two hours. The longer this rub sits on the meat the better, so if you are going to leave it on longer than two hours, put the steak in the fridge.

Steak rubbed with Essence, and covered with plastic wrap to rest on counter.
When it's time to grill, get your grill nice and hot. I crank all the burners up high for about 10 minutes, then I brush the crud off with a wire brush and oil the grates with a cloth soaked in Canola Oil. Also, I brush each side of the steak with a little bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. And then you are ready to go. Now here is the secret to grilling the steak...DON'T TURN IT MORE THAN ONCE! Now you always see people flipping steaks and burgers twenty times on the grill, don't do this. For a steak the thickness I told you about, cook it for about 3 minutes on the first side and 2 1/2 minutes on the second side. If you like the cross hatch lines on your steak rotate the steak about 40 seconds before its done on that side. But only flip the steak ONCE! And while it's cooking I put the lid of the grill down. I use a propane grill, and while grilling the steaks the burners are up about medium high. Then, remove the steaks from the grill and cover them with foil and let them rest for 10 minutes to let the juices in the steak redistribute. **Note: the times I gave you are for a steak that is cooked about Medium, adjust the cooking times if you like you steak more or less done**

Look at that yummy goodness! I'm telling you, the steak is seared perfectly and juicy! No steak sauce needed! And the Essence spice rub gives it the perfect kick!!!

Now lets back up and talk about my potatoes! These potatoes are something that I threw together a long time ago, and slowly improved upon them. So here is what I do...I start with Yukon Gold Potatoes that I cut into about 1 inch chunks. I slice up some red onions (or yellow if that's what you have), finely chop fresh rosemary, crush and mince a a couple cloves of garlic, toss all of this together in a bowl with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Now realize that we each have a different palate, if you don't like spicy, don't add the crushed red pepper flakes. If you like super spicy, add some sliced fresh jalapenos! Make this your own! Also, you can make as little or as much of these as you want! Play with it!

Now I get two pieces of tinfoil, make sure the are big enough to hold the potatoes!! I usually make two "pouches." I'll post pictures below. I then put a couple of dabs of butter on the bottom and some black pepper, then pile the potatoes, onions, garlic on top.

Then seal the pouch but pulling the two long sides up and rolling them together, and gathering the two ends. Then I take another piece of foil and wrap this pouch up into the 2nd piece. (Double protection, hehehe)

Your pouch of potatoey goodness!
Now the potatoes need to be on the grill for about 30 minutes, or the time may vary depending on how big you cut up the potatoes. After the grill is hot, and I've scraped the crud, I throw the pouches on the grill and shut the lid, when it comes time to cook the steaks, move the pouches to the sides, and while the steaks are off resting, close the lid again and let the potatoes continue to cook. Are you understanding the timing of this? The potatoes need to go on about 15 minutes before the steaks go on the grill...and stay on for about 10 minutes after. Don't be afraid to pull a pouch off, open it and fork test a potato or two(the fork must slide in and out easily). If they aren't done, close the pouch and put it back on the grill.

And there you have it...AMAZING potatoes and an even better steak! Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is, and I just finished dinner about 1/2 hour ago!

Okay, so there you have it...I've given myself a new challenge by turning what could be a pretty annoying situation into something that really makes me think about the meals I prepare! I hope that you find my "Housewife's Pantry Essentials" page to be helpful! And remember, what works well in my pantry may not work well in your's.

Well, I have some dishes to do, and I need to get Michael's lunch ready to go for tomorrow. A housewife's work is NEVER done! Take care!!!


  1. This month I'm trying to do $20 a day for a family of four and it is really hard. Normally I spend closer to $40 a day.

    Your tin foil idea looks really good. I'm going to try that!

    1. I can't imagine only spending 40 dollars a day on a family of four! How well stocked is your pantry? LOL So far I've adhered to my budget, and most days I'm well under the 20 dollar amount, so some days I'll be able to splurge! :)

      By the way, it's nice to hear from you...haven't seen you on here in a while! :)