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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Two Easy Sandwiches & Roast Chicken

Kitchen Update: The holidays are over and being well rested from our winter vacation we are now moving onto the kitchen and at least one bathroom renovations. Friday, we found the perfect border for the family room that merges into the kitchen. At the same time we bought a Mohen kitchen faucet with sprayer and Mohen shower fixtures. Saturday, my husband and I spent a wonderful day shopping yet bought little but we finally decided on the ceramic tile for the kitchen counters. We have a woodworker coming in to advise us on the kitchen cabinets since six of the twenty-five cabinet doors need refinishing and we would like two custom doors installed. I could likely do the refinishing myself but our best price may be getting him to do everything. So within the near future you will no longer have to see that horrid green laminate counter and back splash. I'll be posting a bit on our kitchen renovations here with greater detail on my homemaking blog. We are quite excited!

Good tasting and healthy meals need not cost a fortune. With rising food costs it is important to get the best value for your food dollar. That means buying organic, buying local and often making meals from scratch. One easy way to save money on lunches is to brown bag it but that doesn't mean you have to eat boring sandwiches. A home made sub can cost almost a third of the price of one bought at a sub shop. More important is a home made sub can be made using healthier choices like using organic produce, mesclun mix that has more flavour and nutrition than iceberg lettuce and low fat sauces. We aren't big sandwich eaters but I do have a few favourites for the times we decide on sandwiches. Dinners can also be healthy, inexpensive and easy to prepare as in last night's roast chicken. While this entry has a heavy dose of economics in terms of cost the nutrition value for my food dollar is always my primary concern.

Sub Sandwich

It amazes me the price that a 6 inch submarine sandwich costs and it amazes me more that folks will pay that price. Subway 6" subs range from $3.19 to $4.89. At first glance this does seem to be a reasonable price until you consider how inexpensive subs are to make at home even if you buy the bread. Ok, so let's work out the cost.

Normally I make sub loaves but with little baking time last week, I bought 2 - 18 inch loaves of the bread at Sam's Club for $2.17 (about $1.09 per loaf). That seems to be a fairly consistent price at many grocery stores for this type of bread. Toppings: 1 oz organic mesclun mix ($.06), 3 turkey and 3 ham slices ($1.68), tomato ($.31), 3 slices cheddar cheese ($.54), onion slices ($.05), and sauces (est. $.05) for a total cost of $3.78. Consider though that the cost is for an 18 inch sub so each 6 inch piece ends up costing $1.26. So the big picture is if you were to buy three 6 inch subs per week at an average price of $4.04 for a total of $12.12 you could save $8.34 per week or $433.68 per year. Also consider the time savings. It takes only a few minutes to put a sub together when you have the ingredients on hand or basically the same amount of time it takes for the counter person to put your sub together. What you end up saving is the time to commute to the sub shop, stand in line and commute back. Finally, you can make a healthier version at home. Economics aside, give the home made sub a try for an economical lunch anywhere.

Tuna Pockets

Pita bread is available in two styles, without a pocket (Greek) or with a pocket. It is rather inexpensive at about $.40 per pita and even less expensive when home made. I'll post the method for making home made pitas the next time I make them. Pitas with pockets (pocket bread) is an ideal sandwich holder. The brand I buy (Mr. Pita), one full pita is comparable in calories to 2 slices of some white bread and less than other brands. However, this brand is cholesterol free, low fat and lower in sodium making it a healthier choice than bread. I like using mesclun mix to line the pita before adding the filling. Not only does this add a lot of nutrition and taste it helps to keep the pita from getting soggy. For this sandwich, I used canned tuna that is high in Omega-3 mixed with chopped green onions a little Miracle Whip topped with tomato. While the sandwiches were low fat, omitting the Miracle Whip would make them even lower. Served with cucumber slices, these sandwiches were a healthy lunch choice.

Roasted Chicken

It has been a long time since I have been able to get reasonably priced whole chickens here. A whole roasting chicken was averaging about $8.50 uncooked whereas some grocery stores with cooked rotisserie chickens were selling them for about $5. Buying one cooked for less than buying one uncooked made little sense and since I prefer to do my own cooking, whole chickens weren't on the agenda. Recently No Frills put whole hens on for $.99 per lb. They were small averaging 3 to 4 lb. I bought four and would have bought a lot more if the beef wasn't coming this Saturday meaning I have to free up a lot of freezer space. I roasted two of the chickens for Sunday's dinner and for making wraps.

Method: My method for roasting chicken usually includes stuffing the chicken but I omitted that for these chickens. Place two chickens in a large roasting pan. Put small pats of butter on the chicken. Sprinkle on sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Cover and bake at 135ºC (275ºF) for 3 hours. Remove cover, increase temperature to 177ºC (350ºF) and continue roasting until golden brown. Transfer the chickens to a platter.

Gravy: This gives a thinner, low fat gravy. Make a slurry with corn starch and water. Bring the juices in the roasting pan to a boil. Slowly stir in enough slurry until mixture just begins to thicken, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat. Pour through strainer into gravy separator.

Roasted Marinated Potatoes

Potatoes are a family favourite here. Finding different ways to serve potatoes can be a challenge especially when a lot of toppings can be high in fat and calories. So I have been experimenting with different methods. Last night I marinated potato pieces in Kraft Sundried Tomato & Oregano dressing then roasted them. This dressing has a lovely flavour but is a little higher in sodium than I would like even though it is low fat with no trans fats and has no cholesterol. This dressing packs a lot of flavour, perfect for marinating so will be one I will make from scratch using fresh herbs. However, the store bought gave tasty results so I wouldn't hesitate to use this ready made product again. The nice thing is the potatoes gained a lot of flavour without being oily.

Method: Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut into bite size pieces. Put into a mixing bowl. Pour dressing over the potatoes. Mix well. Pour mixture into a covered baking dish. Bake at 177ºC (350ºF) until potatoes are tender. Remove and continue roasting until golden brown.

Roast Chicken Dinner

It is important when making low fat dishes to use ingredients that impart a lot of flavour punch. That means using marinades and fresh herbs. Visual appeal becomes even more important. Play the colours off of each other. Bright, fresh looking colours enhance any foods so be sure to include them.

This meal did not intentionally start out to be a low fat, healthy meal. It just sort of evolved. The wonderful flavours hid the fact that this was a very low fat meal.
I served the chicken with gravy, roasted marinated potatoes and sweet peas.


6 food lovers commented:

Ada said...

Those potatoes look so good, I'm about to push my hubby out to the store for some potatoes :)

Andy said...

That chicken/potato meal is very similar to one I've been making over the past year. I don't marinate the potatoes (I just add spices before roasting), so I'll have to give marinating a try.

utenzi said...

I applaud your sense of economy--and the pictures look scrumptious!

Garden Gnome said...

The potatoes were quite good Ada :)

Garden Gnome said...

Roast chicken and potatoes is a classic Sunday dinner. With marinating, the flavour gets a bit deeper into the potatoes. This marinade had sun dried tomatoes and olive oil both of which give a nice depth. I think you would really enjoy potatoes roasted this way.

Garden Gnome said...

Thanks utenzi! The only way to know if you are saving in the kitchen is to do the math. As you can see with this example, you save on one sandwich and you get a healthier version. Where it hits home is when you look at the big picture. Making your own is a considerable savings over a period of one year!