Ever feel like you’re on the losing end of time? Trying to find time in our under-pressure-lives sometimes feels like trying to find your way out of a hole. And feeding your peeps a good home-cooked meal seems like a stretch when there are so many other things to be done. Well, today, we’re going to haul you AND your laptop into the kitchen and have you plug your headphones into your Pandora, and fix all that.
All this running around with no time to spare and looking for a family meal on the cheap is a losing proposition for three reasons. One, you CAN find the time with some different prioritization (I know it can seem difficult to imagine at times). Two, you KNOW your family will benefit from coming together for a lovely home cooked meal. Three, we’re proving here that a home-cooked meal with quality ingredients can be incredibly inexpensive. Actually FINDING the time to feed the fam and feed them well, well THAT makes a home cooked meal even more special. Join them together, even if it seems like trying to herd goats on a hillside. Just do it. Sit them down. Sit yourself down. You with your loved ones. You’re going to feel the love in every sit-down bite. Just scroll down on your laptop (in the kitchen please) and follow these step-by-step directions for an elegant homemade pasta dish from scratch for a next-to-nothing cost.
As a proud member of Slow Food USA, I was pleased to participate in The $5 Challenge. Being from the country (but living in the city), you put a chicken carcass (or even a bunch of corn cobs) in front of me and I could feed multitudes with very little of nothing. But this meal, with whole wheat flour, eggs, extra virgin olive oil, shallots, lemon, garlic. I mean, this is no chicken feed.
The task: To create a fresh, healthy, homemade meal spending no more than $5 per person — the same amount a fast-food meal might cost. Easy peazy piece o’ pie.
I took the Slow Food $5 Pledge but kicked it up a notch and decided to feed a family of five on five bucks! I don’t actually have a family of five, being a solo mom with 3 teens (that’s 4), and some of them are away at college, but we do have teens in and about the house at seemingly all times of the day and night. So, yeah, cooking for large crowds is always the norm here. Plus, the five and five numbers go together better. 🙂
The Five Dollar Plan:
1. Re-purpose a refrigerated chicken carcass from a slow roasted-chicken dinner we enjoyed a couple of days ago. Bones are always good for stock. Right? Throw in some (free) water, minced shallots and minced garlic, and slow simmer the goodness from it. Check! (I admit I left out my normal celery stalk and carrot stick, though I see I could have splurged on a number of other items.)
2. Use a combination of whole wheat and unbleached flour, some fresh eggs and local olive oil (with some chicken stock instead of water) for a pasta dough and run it through the ever-ready pasta machine (though I’ve rolled thousands of pounds of pasta by hand over the years, so you could do it too, I know). Check!
3. Pick the chicken bones CLEAN, real clean, cause it doesn’t seem we left too much on the bone. Check!
4. Throw in a little chopped fresh sautéed spinach, enhanced with a wee bit of chicken fat (from the stock), garlic, shallots and lemon. Check!
5. Make a fine pasta sauce using the chicken stock as a base and some flour from the pasta. Check!
I think this will actually make a memorable meal.
Break it down! (The cost, that is.)
Five-Buck Slow-Cooked Family Meal For FIVE Ingredients and Cost Per Item:
1 c King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour .33 cents
2 c. King Arthur Unbleached Flour .66 cents
2 Large Egglands Best Eggs .72 cents
1 Tablespoon Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt .25 cents
2 T California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil .58 cents
1 teaspoon Fresh Local Large Lemon .55 cents
1 cup Fresh Local Chopped Spinach .33 cents
2 Cloves Fresh Local Garlic .04 cents (I know, it was cheap, 50 cents a pound)
1 Tablespoon Melissa’s Fresh Shallots .27 cents
Re-purposed Chicken carcass (no cost, but kicking in $ as a good sport)
2 teaspoons chicken fat (skimmed from the cold chicken stock)
6 cups of Water (no cost, from the tap, but run through the Brita filter)
Total Actual Cost: $4.06 (with the extra $1.27 kicked in for the chicken carcass for good measure)
$5 Challenge Cost calculations (using my Kitchen Calculator PRO iPhone app):
- King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour is $6.29 for 5 pounds (or about 19 cups, give or take), dividing $6.29 by 19 = .33 per cup.
- King Arthur Unbleached Flour, same as above, doubled for 2 cups = .66 cents.
- Egglands Best Large Eggs $4.39 per dozen, or .36 cents each x 2 = .72 cents.
- Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt is $3.69 per 10 ounces, or 15 Tablespoons, give or take = .25 per Tablespoon = .25 cents.
- California Ranch Olive Oil is $9.89 for 17 ounces. (1 ounces = 2 T Tablespoons.) $9.89 divided by 17 = .58 cents.
- 1 Fresh Large Local Lemon is $1.09. I used half. So $1.09 divided by 2 = .55 cents
- Fresh Local Spinach is $1.99 a pound for 6 cups of leaves. I used 1 cup. $1.99 divided by 6 = .33 cents.
- 1 Fresh Whole Garlic is .50 cents a pound (16 ounces). Each clove from the bulb is about .2 ounces. 16 ounces divided by 16 = .04 cents x 2 = .08 cents.
- Melissa’s Fresh Shallots 3 ounce package of 3 shallots is $2.34 or .78 each. I used a half of one, so .78 divided by 2 = .39
- Subtotal: $3.89 Oh yeah!
- Chicken carcass, including fat, attributed cost: $1.11 (even though I’m being gracious). 🙂
- Grand total: (Less than) Five Bucks!
So let’s get cookin’, shall we? Break it down…the steps to the recipe, that is.
Timing notes: Although the chicken stock takes some hours to work it’s magic, it only takes a second to add water to it and throw it on the stove. So have your laptop at the kitchen table and do your computer work while the chicken soup aroma fills the house. The most time spent on this recipe was de-boning the chicken. And the pasta making (with a machine for help) with sauce took 30 minutes flat. In fact, I had the pasta ready before the water boiled. 🙂
Heavy large sauce pot (for boiling soup)
Large pot (for boiling pasta)
Large mixing bowl (for preparing pasta dough)
Pasta machine (unless you are prepared to roll and cut the dough by hand, which is do-able)
Small knife (for the garlic, shallots & spinach)
Small frying pan (for the sautéed spinach)
Medium saucepan (for the pasta sauce)
Wooden spoon (for stirring boiling pasta)
Straining tool (for draining pasta)
Recipe for the Chicken Stock (to be used for the pasta dough and the pasta sauce):
Bring to a boil over medium heat in a heavy large sauce pot:
6 cups water
1 whole chicken carcass (including all leftover bones and fat)
1-1/2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
1 clove finely minced garlic
Reduce heat and let the pot slow-food simmer for 2 hours (up to 6 hours).
When the soup has simmered for at least 2 hours, stir into the soup pot:
2 teaspoons of Kosher salt (adding 1 teaspoon at a time to be certain of your personal salt preference)
1/2 clove minced garlic (we’ll add the last half garlic clove at the end to be certain the garlic flavor “shows” a little more prominently)
Remove from heat and allow soup to come to room temperature and refrigerate.
When the soup pot is cold, skim the fat from top of soup and set it aside to use later.
Recipe for Whole Wheat Pasta (with leftover flour for the pasta sauce):
In a large bowl, whisk to incorporate:
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached flour
Make a well in the center of the flour and crack in:
2 large fresh eggs
Pour into the well:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Using a fork, stir the eggs and olive oil in the center of the bowl, pulling a little flour with your fork from the sides of the bowl as you stir until the dough becomes saturated.
Tip: Stir only the center of the bowl where the liquid is gathered. Do not stir the entire bowl of flour. There will be leftover flour for use in the pasta sauce.
When the center liquid has been saturated with flour, slowly dribble onto the wet dough in small batches as you continue to stir with the fork to gather more flour:
1/2 cup fresh cold chicken stock (from your fresh chicken soup)
Continue mixing with the fork in the center of the bowl until the dough becomes less sticky and you are able to use your hands in the dough.
Gather the center dough into a ball with your hands and catch some flour from the sides of the bowl until the dough ball is firm enough to hold a shape.
Mold the dough into a flattened ball shape.
Leave the unused flour in the bowl (to be used for the pasta sauce).
Divide the dough in half and flatten each ball into a thick oval pancake.
Cover one divided dough with a damp cloth and use one divided dough to press through the pasta machine.
Run the dough through the pasta machine in increments until a thin flat dough is achieved.
We made seven passes from Number 1 (thickest setting)…
…to Number 7 (medium thin setting out of 10) — to achieve a sturdy fairly thin dough.
Send the dough through the cutting tool to cut it into fettuccine-sized strips.
Separate all dough strips and allow them to air out by hanging or tossing intermittently on the counter while you make the sauce (or longer if you like).
Repeat Pasta Machine pressing and cutting with the second flattened oval dough ball.
Remove all of the chicken meat, every little tiny bit, from every little bone and set the meat aside. (We found about 1-1/2 to 2 cups of little chicken meat bits over the bones).
Tip: This is where your Pandora and headphones come in handy. Pull up a stool and rock out. 🙂
In a small pan, saute over medium heat for about 3 minutes:
1 teaspoon chicken fat
1-1/2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
1/2 clove finely minced garlic
Add to the sautéed shallots, cooking over medium-high heat for about 1 minute:
1 c finely chopped spinach
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Add to the saute pan, over low heat for about a minute:
the chicken meat you picked from the bones
In a medium pot, cook over medium heat whisking until thickened (about 3 to 5 minutes):
3 cups of chicken stock (and there’s extra soup stock if you want to make more sauce)
1 teaspoon chicken fat (that you skimmed from the soup stock)
1/2 cup of sifted flour (used from the leftover pasta dough)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (as desired to taste)
Tip: It is important to sift the flour for use to ensure no moist dough balls are used (since there are some moistened flour bits left from the pasta making).
Mix the chicken bits and chopped spinach into the sauce just prior to serving, stirring only enough to incorporate (too much stirring and your sauce will turn green from the spinach 🙂 ) or sprinkle the chicken and spinach on top of the sauced pasta.
Cooking the Pasta:
Boil your lovely fresh pasta for 3 to 5 minutes until it achieves your desired tenderness.
Strain the pasta in a colander (photo shows only one-half of the pasta noodles).
Serve the pasta immediately with some of your flavorful chicken-spinach sauce on top to your dear friends and family.
I absolutely love your blog! I found this post to be very entertaining.
Love your site. I learned to make noodles from my mother, who made them so they melted in your mouth. Mine never quite matched hers, but I keep trying and I plan to try yours. Thanks for sharing. I’m sure I’l be back.
Thank you, Jean, for your comment and sharing the memory of your mother’s fine kitchen skills. I hope you keep trying to perfect the recipe and then teach someone else how it goes. 🙂 Leslie
Simply wanna remark that you have a very nice web site , I enjoy the design and style it really stands out.
Like it. I do something similar with a small amount of ham, but use more spinach. I’d like to serve something green along with it. There’s some in the recipe but not a great deal (how about green beans or broccoli?) Heck, your chicken stock was practically free. I like the fact that you made your own. Beats boullion cubes, that’s for sure. I usually have several varieties of stock in the freezer as well as scraps from meat cutting and trimming (like chicken skin/bones or fattier bits of beef). Then I can add them to broth when I make it later. Costco has a 5.00 roast chicken (1.00 a pound already cooked) We get several meals out of that usually. (i do go on!)
Ruth, Your ideas on the Slow Food meal are all excellent! Thank you and here’s cheers to our next home cooked family meal.