The Discount Chef

The Discount Chef
Save, cook and eat well!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I've moved!

Hello everyone, if you're still listening... I've decided to change things up and have moved to Cooking in a Barn. 

I hope you will all join me there for more delicious recipes!

kittens and puppies,


Saturday, October 23, 2010

In honor of hard work - crock pot jambalaya

Living in a converted barn really leaves a lot of room for improvement. There is always something that can been updated, fixed or remodeled. Always.

Unfortunately, my husband and I don't exactly have the motivation to bust all of the projects out in a timely manner. Both of us have been struck by a terrible case of project ADHD, easily distracted by more exciting endeavors, for him beach volleyball usually and for me cooking or baking. On rare occasions we get crazy and start working on the barn again. This time around we were lucky enough to get a helping hand from a good friend who is the ideal project cheerleader and hard, intelligent worker. Let the fire pit and paver project begin.

It's busy days like this that scream for an easy crock pot recipe. Jambalaya is an easy to make, delicious and hearty meal, a perfect way to full empty hungry bellies after working outside all day.

Jambalaya is a Louisiana Creole dish consisting of essentially, meat, veggies, rice, seasonings and stock. For this jambalaya, I used some key Creole ingredients including the holy trinity of celery, peppers and onions, andouille sausage, rice, tomatoes, shrimp and chicken. And the best part is that it takes about 10 minutes to throw it all together at the beginning of the day and ready by dinner time with no fuss. Love it! Oh and did I mention that your house will smell fabulous?!

Crock Pot Jambalaya
Serves 4 generous portions

Adapted from Robin Miller, Food Network

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
8 ounces andouille sausages, diced
1 28-ounce can tomatoes
1 medium to large onion diced
1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper seeded and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced
6 gloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
Several shakes of hot sauce
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp (here's a video on how to devein shrimp)
2 cups brown rice, cooked

In a crock pot, combine chicken, sausage, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, celery and chicken broth. Stir in hot sauce, spices and seasonings, cover and cook on low for eight hours. At the eight hour mark, stir in the shrimp and cook until pink and cooked through, about five minutes. Discard bay leaves and ladle mixture over cooked rice. Enjoy!

Sorry, no finished product picture, we were too hungry and the jambalaya smelled way too good to stop for a photo session!

Friday, October 22, 2010


When I was a kid I went on a school field trip to a marshmallow factory. My memory is a little fuzzy but I do remember we drove a long way in a big yellow bus and we got to eat fresh marshmallows in many colors. Who knew marshmallows came in that many pretty pastel colors? At five, I sure didn't. The fluffy fabulousness that came from that factory had me on cloud nine and started a life long marshmallow obsession.

A few tools are essential to marshmallow making including a candy thermometer and stand mixer. I have needed a reason to get a candy thermometer for a while now. What have I been thinking parading around the kitchen without one for so long? Thank you marshmallows for again exposing me to cool stuff.

Marshmallow making seemed like it should be such a complicated endeavor. Maybe because my only experience in making them involved an industrial factory. Fortunately, it's not scary or difficult at all. In fact, it's quite easy. So easy I wondered why I don't make them all of the time. The fresh marshmallows are heads and shoulders above the store-bought variety. Try it out, you'll be hooked too.


1 cup confectioners sugar
3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar (plus extra for optional dusting)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water (about 115 F)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla (click here to see my favorite vanilla)

Oil bottom and sides of a 13x9x2 inch rectangular baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners sugar.

Preping the dish.

In a bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large mixing bowl sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.

In a large, heavy saucepan with a candy thermometer attached, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture without stirring until the candy thermometer hits 240 F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing or a hand-held mixer, beat mixture on high speed until white and thick and nearly three times in volume, about six minutes. The mixture will start looking like marshmallow fluff.


In a large bowl using clean beaters (I used my hand held) beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mix until just combined. Don't over mix here. Pour mix into baking pan and sift 1/4 confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallows uncovered until firm at least three hours and up to one day. For me, the marshmallows were plenty firm at the three hour mark.

Egg whites and vanilla mixture

Take a butter knife to the sides of the baking pan to loosen the marshmallows, they should easily come out of the pan. Slice with a knife or cookie cutter into the desired size and shape. For extra sparkle the marshmallows can be rolled in granulated sugar. For fun, I put a few on a candy sticks to make marshmallow pops.

Ready for the fridge

Let your imagination run wild and have fun! I'm thinking some orange pumpkin marshmallows are in order next.

Marshmallows, pillowy, dreamy goodness!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm baaacckkk! Gringo-style crock pot pozole

It's been way too long. For those of you wondering what rock I was hiding under it's called "10 year high school reunion." Oy vey, just hurts thinking about it doesn't it? Now that it's over and went better than I thought, (never mind those extremely low expectations I had) it is about darn time I get back into the swing of things. The recipes are stacking up next to me so look for more to come real soon.

Here in San Diego fall is in the air. Shocking to hear there is a season other than perfect here, right? It's been raining here (okay misting too) for a few days now. The gloominess really put me in a soup mood. This week pork butt roast was on sale at Stater Bros. for $1.29 per pound making dreams of pork pozole dance through my head.

Pozole is a Mexican soup, which comes in many forms - this is a recipe for red pozole. Essentially, pozole is a soup consisting of hominy, a meat, chili peppers and seasonings. Learn more about the history of pozole here - kinda interesting. Hominy, one of the main ingredients in pozole is corn minus the germ and hull. Here in the U.S. you can find hominy hiding amongst the canned veggies. It's a pretty cheap item, I paid $.99 for a 30 ounce can. My favorite part about pozole are the garnishes, cilantro, radishes, cabbage and lime. Yum!

In researching how to make red pozole, almost every recipe looked a little different. One person even said that it's impossible to mess up a pozole. Things like that only stress me out more, I mean, what if I mess up? I'd never be able to show my face at Sur La Table again. To make things even more stressful, I decided to try it out in the crock pot. Leaving all of those ingredients with no cook-supervision all day, who knows what could happen. The onions could have easily got into a fight with the hominy and I wouldn't know it until I got home.

Paranoia aside, the dish turned out great. Here's what I did:

Gringo-Style Crock Pot Pork Pozole
Serves 4 generous entree sized portions

2 lbs. pork butt cut into 1-inch cubes
6 cups homemade chicken stock (you can use canned, I'll let you.)
1 small can diced green chilies
12.5 ounces of enchilada sauce (this is where the gringo comes into play)
1 diced onion
1 teaspoon New Mexican chili powder
1 teaspoon pasilla chili powder
6-8 cloves garlic smashed and chopped
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano (yes it's different from other oregano)
1 teaspoon cumin
30 ounce can of hominy

1/2 head of shredded cabbage
1 sliced avocado
2 limes quartered
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
4-5 sliced radishes

Plate of garnishes - pre avocado. My husband doesn't like radishes, those are all mine!


In a crock pot combine all ingredients and mix together so they get to know each other better. I promise, the onions and hominy won't get into a fight, they're friends. Cook on low in crock pot for 8 hours. Skim the top of the soup to remove some of the fat and prepare garnishes. Ladle into bowls and top with garnishes. If your crock pot is anything like mine, the soup will be really, really hot so be careful and then dig in! The soup works great as an entree, no starter soup here!

The finished product. A bowl full of yum.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Roasted Chicken

Tonight I cut my finger. I thought I could have all of the dishes done before it was time to eat. The food processor was broken down into several pieces, my chef’s knife laid out next to the items with beads of water still dripping off. The kitchen towel was underneath doing it’s best to keep up but failing miserably. The bamboo cutting board, still dripping sat in waiting, carefully balanced over the sink.
I started to wipe down the counter to make space for the cutting board and that’s when it happened. My finger caught the edge of the brand large food processor blade. It’s quite sharp. I could feel the blade opening my skin and inviting the blood to rush out. Usually when you cut yourself on something sharp you don’t notice it right that second. For whatever reason tonight it happened in slow-mo and I noticed every part of it.
It was especially a bummer because Rees is sick today. I was making this dinner to encourage him to feel better. Suddenly I was bleeding all over the place, which was of course the same time the oven timer was annoyingly beeping at me. Frustration!
I have lovely visions of me being Suzy Homemaker, wearing pearls 24/7, a fluffy skirt and heels and pulling beautifully cooked birds and roasts out of the oven. All awhile, the dishes are already done and sparkling and the house is cleaner than a hospital. Oh and, there is a photographer in my tiny kitchen taking gorgeous photos of my food throughout the entire cooking process. And he uploads them for me too. (Not sure why he’s a he but I can say that he definitely doesn’t talk or throw in any unnecessary feedback.)

In reality I wear stained sweats with Crocs (the Balarina Crocs of course!), I live and cook in what used to be a horse barn and my kitchen is extremely tiny. Like really tiny. Somehow I manage to cook in that same small space every night - quite well if I do say so myself. And my husband is one happy man, pearls and perfect chicken or not. I may be shooting for an unattainable goal but I have no plans on stopping, it gives me something to work towards.

Tonight my chicken turned out perfectly, even if it took two rounds of having sick Rees pull it out so I could stick the thermometer in to check the temperature. And no one cared that I microwaved Trader Joe’s three minute rice because in the process of focusing on the dishes and slicing open my finger, I forgot to make rice or any other side dish to accompany our lonely chicken. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, not all the time at least. The best compliment I could have received was Rees looking for more. Despite being sick, he still wanted seconds.

This recipe is a take on a chimichurri sauce. This happened by accident so I really can’t say it’s a chimichurri recipe but it does have a lot of the same elements.

Roasted Chicken

5 lb. whole chicken (insides removed)

8 garlic cloves

half an onion, quartered

several sprigs of fresh thyme, oregano and rosemary

2/3 of one bunch of flat leaf parsley

lemon zest from one small lemon

a few clugs of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

a pinch of red pepper flakes

a splash of red wine vinegar

20 cherry tomatoes, halved

20 baby carrots

2 tbl. butter

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 F

Prep the chicken. Remove the insides. (Warning! This will require you to stick your hand into the cavity of the chicken.) Place the gutted chicken into a baking dish and pat it dry with a paper towel. With your fingers, separate the skin from the meat, leaving the skin still attached.

In a food processor combine the garlic, onion, parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary, lemon zest, EVOO, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and red wine vinegar and crank it on. After about 45 seconds stop the processor and take a look at the mixture. It should look like a bright green runny paste and not be too watery or oily. Taste it to make sure you like it. This is important. It’s always important.

Rub the chicken with the green paste and tuck some in between the skin and meat. Season with salt and pepper. Add the carrots and tomatoes to the baking dish, scattering them around the chicken. Dot the chicken with butter. Bake for 1 hour, 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 F. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Roasted Tomatoes

Seriously? Three pounds of Roma tomatoes for $1? If you know me, you know my love for tomatoes. This is my time of year. Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Henry's Market ran a great sale on you guessed it, TOMATOES! I loaded up on few pounds with big plans to make a ton of things when I returned from my weekend getaway. The excitement continued this evening when I back to Henry's post sale and discovered that through Wednesday, the tomatoes are two pounds for a $1. Not too shabby.
I was shorter on time than I anticipated so I went with roasting all of my tomato bounty. I figure I can use them maybe for a marinara sauce, on a panini, as a pizza topping, on a toasted baguette with cheese, in a salad and many more ways...

Here's what I did:

5 - 6 pounds of Roma tomatoes

A few clugs of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

a few pinches of rosemary, thyme and oregano

7 garlic cloves minced (optional)

Preheat oven to 225 F. Slice the tomatoes long ways in half. Arrange on a lipped pan with the tomato guts facing up. Cover the tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and the herbs. Roast for 4 hours. Let the tomatoes cool. From here you can refrigerate them for up to two weeks or freeze them for up to four months.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

50% off at Vons in Encinitas!

Discount chef alert! Vons on Santa Fe Drive in Encinitas is closing for a remodel and marked the entire store to 50% off. Everything, seriously! As I type I'm waiting in a 75-person deep line with two carts. If you're planning on getting in on this discount bonanza, you'd better hurry!

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