Tag Archives: oregano

Light Chicken Ragu with Shells (serves 6) And a Word on Economy!

Here is a great pasta dish that feeds a crowd without spending a ton of money! Even if you are very well off and budgeting for food is not high on your list, I think there is always room for economy. When it comes to food, I am mindful of every scrap I decide to put into my shopping basket. Someone, somewhere in the world is hungry so buying food is a privilege that shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone, regardless of their income.

Chicken Ragu with Shells

Light Chicken Ragu with Shells

With a little bit of though, the most lowly ingredients can be made to taste delicious, and this recipe is a prime example of Deliciousness and Economy.

When I sit around with my family over dinner we sometimes play the game of “how much did this dinner cost?” I really think it is important for my kids to have an understanding of how money plays a part in their lives but that it is certainly not the thing that defines their ultimate happiness. And this is not a big philosophical commentary on how money can’t buy you love etc etc. It is a very practical matter to me when it comes to equating quality food with money: I just don’t. 

My CSA Crop share this week!

Fresh Veggies from a local Farmer

My two children love that something can be made from so little and it excites them to think that as a very general rule, most people can afford to choose something good to eat over something mediocre.  How many times have we gone to restaurants and my kids leave saying that they could have had something better at home and not wasted money. To me, buying a nice bottle of wine and eating at home is far more satisfying than eating out.

That’s not to say that when the opportunity arises to eat some place fantastic that we don’t jump at the chance. What I am trying to say is that there is a difference between eating crap (whether bought ready-made crap, or from a crappy restaurant) or making it a rule to eat at home prepared with decent ingredients and eating out when you have chosen some place wonderful (this could be a crab shack on a beach or a fancy place in a city somewhere).

lots of peppers from my garden & from next door!

lots of peppers from my garden & from next door!

There are so many places to find good ingredients for very little. Besides shopping for bargains in the supermarket, there are all sorts of people in the summer and autumn selling produce from their own gardens: vegetables, fresh eggs, even meat. I have the puny-est garden myself but I grow as much as I can in the summer (especially herbs) to add to my meals. I’m not even that good at it but I get no end of pleasure out of whatever appears, however sad it may look!

The savior of last night's dinner (oregano & parsley)

Oregano from my garden (and a modest bit of parsley)

So maybe you might consider cooking a couple of times this week and be smug over how good it tastes and how much you saved!

This dinner cost (not including the fuel cost)

Meat – $4.99

Veggies – (garlic, carrot, onion., spinach – $2.25

Pasta – $0.99

Tomato puree  – $0.75

Broth (I used a bouillon cube & Water) $0.50

Milk – $0.44

Total $9.92 (that’s $1.65 per person)

Rosemary bush in the back garden

My mother’s rosemary Bush in Ireland

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You will need:

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1lb Chicken sausage, removed from casing (I found a sausage seasoned with apple and onion, but there are lots of other ones out there, like a take on an Italian sausage or one with garlic & herbs)

1 med/lrg sweet onion

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped celery, including leaves

1 tbs mixed chopped fresh herbs (use whatever you have on hand)

OR 1 tsp dried herbs (again whatever you have on hand)

1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)

1/2 tsp sea-salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup tomato puree

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

5 cups chopped spinach or baby spinach leaves

1lb medium pasta shells (I use Barilla brand)

Method:

1 – Put big saute pan or saucepan on medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions, garlic, and celery and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat up slightly and add the sausage and as it cook, break it up into smaller pieces with your wooden spoon. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Cook veggies, add meat

Cook veggies, add meat

2 – Add the tomato puree, broth, herbs, pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and carrots to the pot and bring everything to a simmer. Cover with lid and simmer for about 25 minutes (the sauce should always have a slight bubble to it while it is cooking). Stir occasionally.

*In the meantime put water on for pasta and cook according to instructions. time the shells to be ready at the same time the sauce is cooked. Scoop out about a 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining and do not rinse shells in cold water.

add liquids

Add liquids

3 – Add the spinach and cover with lid. Cook for another 3 minutes. Turn off heat and stir sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Cook sauce, then add spinach

Cook sauce, then add spinach

4 – When pasta is ready pour the drained pasta directly into the cooked sauce, adding the pasta water if you want a looser consistency.

Serve

Serve

Divide between 6 warmed plates or bowls and pass some Parmigiano Reggiano to anyone who wants it!

Pork Chops in Seriously Good Red Sauce (serves 6)

Pork Chops in Seriously Good Red Sauce

My day was so busy I didn’t think too much about dinner until it was time to make it. I would have to make do with whatever was available in my kitchen, as I wasn’t in the mood to go grocery shopping. The only protein I had was pork chops, and after that, the fridge looked a little like old Mother Hubbard’s pantry:bare!

important flavor ingredients

What saves me at moments like this is the fact that I always have onions on hand, and a supply of herbs in the backyard. That would have been enough to work with, but I also discovered a big can of crushed tomatoes and so settled on a rich red sauce. What made it rich was the cup of red wine I added to the mix. I had some red wine and was looking for an excuse to use it for something other than drinking it (too fruity for my plate). It worked perfectly.

The sauce is something that could easily stand alone, (without the meat) and would work great for a lasagna or a nice alternative for a marinara sauce.

So you see, you can make something seriously good without too many ingredients. All you need are the basics, and winging the rest can be fun.

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You will need:

6 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

6 Rib-end pork loin chops

2 large sweet onions, large dice

2 celery ribs, diced (including leaves)

6 fresh oregano sprigs

28 oz canned crushed tomatoes (I used San Marzano)

1 cup red wine

1 cup water

2 tsp sea-salt (I used Maldon sea-salt flakes)

several grinds black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven 450*

1 – Prep all veggies. Season chops with salt and several grinds of pepper. Place big saute pan on high heat and add about 3 tbs of the oil. When it is hot add pork chops in single layer, and sear on both side until golden brown. Add oil as necessary and continue to cook meat until everything is seared, transferring to a plate as you go.

Sear chops on high heat

2 – Turn heat down to medium and add the onions, and celery. Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Saute onions & celery

3 – Add oregano and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.

add herbs

4 – Add wine and turn heat to high. Let the liquid bubble for about 3 minutes (the wine will reduce and intensify).

then wine

5 – Add the crushed tomatoes and water, and bring mixture to a bubble. Turn off heat and add pork chops to the sauce in an even a layer as possible (there will be some overlapping, which is fine)

add crushed tomatoes & water

6 – Cover with lid and place in oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes to rest and cool down.

Serve

Serve with whatever you have on hand: it is good with rice, pasta, potatoes, romaine leaves or even by itself.

Slow-Cooked Chicken with Capers, Oregano & Onions (serves 4)

It is extremely hot here and that might beg the question: why use my oven to cook dinner? Well, I was going to barbecue this chicken in the backyard, but the thoughts of standing out in the sun grilling meat (as well as grilling my delicate skin!) was enough to give me a heat rash, so I took a different tack.

Slow-Cooked chicken with Capers, Oregano & Onions

There was no one here in the late afternoon, so I put the chicken in the oven, grabbed a book, went to my air-conditioned bedroom, and did not come out until the chicken was cooked and the kitchen cooled down.

This dinner took me all of 10 minutes to prep from start to finish, so I didn’t even deserve the praise bestowed upon me for “going to all that trouble” And, as long as a family member never reads this post, I will let them think what they like.

So, if you want a nice dinner, but don’t want to hang out nursing it, make this, and escape to another room, or for a meditative walk (or run). Dinner will ready by the time you return.

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You will need:

1 cut-up chicken or a variety of chicken, such as chicken breast, thighs, legs (bone-in, skin on) This can be for 6 people if you add more chicken.

8 medium garlic cloves, peeled & left whole

4 medium onions, peeled & cut into 6 wedges

3 skinny carrots, cut into thick match sticks

3 tbs capers, rinsed (omit for blood type A)

4 sprigs fresh oregano

1 cup white wine

2 cups chicken or veggie broth (or 3 cups broth, OR 1 bouillon cube & 3 cups water)

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp course sea-salt flakes (or kosher salt)

several grinds black pepper (optional)

*If you want this to be a Blood Type A Dish, Omit the Capers & Black Pepper*

Preheat oven 375*

Put veggies & liquids into bottom of pan

1 – Prep all veggies as instructed above and scatter into the bottom of a heavy casserole, along with the capers and herbs. Add the wine and broth (or broth only, OR, bouillon cube and water).

Place chicken on top

2 – Place chicken on top of vegetables and drizzle chicken with oil and salt (and pepper if using). Cover with lid. Place in preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off oven and leave the pot in oven for another 10 to 15 minutes to rest.

oven for 1 1/2 hours

Serve as is or with some sort of carbohydrate (potatoes, pasta, bread, rice…)

I had this alone, but the rest of the family had their chicken with egg noodles (tagliatelle)

Lamb Stew with Eggplant and Oregano (serves 6)

 Last night it rained, which cooled everything down, and, wouldn’t you know it; after begging for rain for my garden, I complained about feeling a little chilly! We humans are so affected by the weather, and consequently, so is our food. I decided to make something wintery with my hoard of summer produce. Last night’s dinner, I am proud to announce was made with all local veggies! The eggplant, tomatoes and carrots came from Good Work Farm, the garlic from Rambler Farm, and the oregano from my humble patch of dirt! I would like to tell you that if you attempt to make this from vegetables you buy from an aisle in your supermarket, it will taste just as good, but, I would be telling a fat lie. I get excited about giving these recipes because I think you will swoon with every bit like I do. But, if you buy dull, tasteless tomatoes for example, you may not swoon.

bushel of oregano from my garden!

It is impossible to eat fresh produce all year round in certain parts of the world (like where I live) and compromises have to be made during these lean times. But, when there is an opportunity to buy fresh locally grown foods, you should make the effort to seek these places out, and buy your week’s supply of vegetables. I have never found the vegetables sold at stands in Farmer’s Markets or stalls on country roads to be more expensive than the regular shops. They make a world of difference to the taste of my food, and yes, there is a satisfaction that comes from supporting local growers. I am not as steadfast as I could be, and do buy foods without thinking about their source, but I am trying to get better. I can say that my gardening skills are a little above “less than zero’ and even I manage to produce great herbs and some grand-looking vegetables in the growing season. My theory is that it is hard to go wrong when you have dirt and a decent looking plant!

Lamb Stew with Eggplant & Oregano

The wintery element of this dish was the lamb (from Australia, oops!), and using a slow-cooked method. I would usually cook something like this in the oven, but I didn’t want to heat up the kitchen and so cooked it at a low simmer on the stove-top instead.

The eggplant, tomatoes and oregano gave it a little Italian feel and turned the liquid into a syrupy sweetness. On a funny note, I asked my man Dave to snip some oregano for my dish and he came in asking “is this good?” with enough to make 10 such dinners! So, you might find oregano included in the next few dishes to use it up!

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You will need: 3 lbs stewing lamb (any part of the lamb is good, for this stew make sure it is boneless), 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, sliced, 3 tomatoes, cut into big chunks ( when in season use fresh, otherwise use 4 good quality plum tomatoes from a can), 2 carrots, sliced, 5 sprigs fresh oregano, left whole, 2 tbs all-purpose flour, 2 Asian eggplants, sliced into 3/4 ” pieces, (the skinny eggplants), 2 cups chicken broth, 1 cup water, (more if needed), coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper.

1 – After you have sliced the eggplant, lay on a plate in a single layer and sprinkle with coarse salt. Set aside. The salt will remove any bitterness from your eggplant. After about a 1/2 hour remove the eggplant to paper towels to drain and dry.

2 – Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Put heavy casserole pot on high heat and after 2 minutes add 2 tbs of oil. When it is hot, sear the meat in batches until browned, (about 2 minutes per side should do it). As you cook the meat transfer to a plate  (or lid of the pot, as I did!) and continue to add a little more oil as you need it, and cook until all lamb is browned nicely.

sear lamb

3 – Turn heat down to medium, adding a little oil if you need to, and toss in the carrots and eggplant. Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently, before adding the garlic, tomatoes and oregano sprigs. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir gently into the vegetables.

next, saute veggies.

4 – Add 1 cup of broth to the pan and stir until the flour is incorporated. Add lamb and the rest of the liquids and bring everything to a gentle simmer. Place heavy lid on pot (if your lid is not a tight fit, put some tin-foil on pot first, and press tightly to edge. Then, put lid on top of this), and turn down to lowest heat. Simmer very gently for 1 1/2 hours.

* If you are going to serve this with rice, put it on to cook about a 1/2 hour before stew is done (for 6 people, use 2 1/2 cups of rice for stove-top method and 3 cups using rice-cooker measure if using a rice-cooker)

add liquids and lamb.

5 – Remove lid and stir. Make sure to taste for addition of salt and pepper. If it is too thick for your taste, add a little more water until it is the consistency you like. Cover and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

*This dish can be made the day before or hours earlier in the day and reheated at lowest setting on stove-top.

This is delicious with a side of basmati rice.

Serve as is, or with rice, boiled potatoes or fresh crusty bread.