Seven Meals for Seven Days for Under $100
Author: David Cooks | Photographer: photography by anne
Back in college, David “Season” Stebbing thought he could do better than Ramen noodles, mac and cheese and beer for himself and his two roommates. “That lasted for about two weeks. I went home for my birthday, right at the beginning of the semester, in September, and came back with cookbooks as gifts. My mother was very shrewd,” Stebbing said.
“I showed up with these cookbooks and decided I was going to cook something. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing. We made wild mushroom fettuccini, I think. It was laden with butter and cream and gobs of cheese. Completely disgusting. I’d never make anything like that today. Of course, my roommates and I were in college, so we loved it. We sucked up all those juices loaded with fat with a couple loaves of bread. I guess a chef was born,” Stebbing recalled. The roommates did the dishes and Stebbing cooked.
Among his many activities today—real estate, construction, development—Stebbing started a catering company called, Taste of the Season. But, for a multi-discipline guy like Stebbing, it’s a bit more than “catering.” Included on his menu of services are, private dinners, romantic dinners for two, cocktail parties, family celebrations, cooking demonstrations, cooking lessons, tastings and private chef services. For this business, his card reads, “David Season, Chef,” which is a story in itself.
“David Season is a result of an audition I did for the Food Network to be on their television show, the Next Food Network Star. Friends and family had been telling me for years that I should try to get on one of the many cooking shows on television. So finally, I sent in a tape. The Food Network contacted me at the end of 2008 and informed me that they wanted me as a finalist and asked me to submit 30 original recipes as part of the application. I adopted the name Season as a sort of stage name in the hopes of being more marketable in the future,” Stebbing, or Season, explained. The Food Network people said they were going to fly him up to New York for an audition but, so far, the plane tickets haven’t arrived. Stebbing isn’t waiting around. His reputation as a gourmet chef who understands budgets is growing.
Stebbing, who has been cooking professionally for 20 years, came to Hilton Head from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to open Tavern on the Creek (now Windows on the Waterway) with friends Mike Ramey and Jeff Kruse, in 1998. “I was living in Manhattan, working in corporate sales for a paging company. The lease on my apartment was up after three years, and I was faced with the grim reality of paying $1,200 a month for a converted bedroom in a two-bedroom apartment I was sharing with two other guys. I got the living room,” Stebbing said. He opted for Hilton Head.
David, who learned the restaurant business through various positions at celebrity chef Michel Richard’s Citronelle restaurant in Washington, DC, has changed his menus a bit from his high fat, wild mushroom fettuccini of college days—though he still makes his own pasta. He now focuses on nutrition, budget and good, healthy, very tasty food. He said that being a dad (daughter Charlie is 18 months old), and not being 22 anymore, has changed his palate. “Gone are the days of all that butter and cream,” he laughed.
But, as a man for all seasons, he believes the best days are ahead.
CH2 contacted me about the possibility of creating some budget-minded and time-saving recipe ideas, so, I thought it would be a fun challenge to do Seven Meals for Seven Days for under $100, with an emphasis on quick preparations. You can, with a little planning, trim quite a bit of money from your food budget and still provide healthy, great tasting meals for your family. What follows are simple, easy to prepare dishes that don’t require a lot of preparation time. We tracked my expenses in detail for this project, and I wound up spending $97.49 on all of the groceries I purchased for all seven meals. Some things to keep in mind:
•You’ll notice that we are relying on similar proteins throughout the week; that way, we can buy one item in larger quantity for less and have it twice. Try, however, to mix things up so that you aren’t having two Mexican chicken dishes, two Italian pork dishes and so on.
•This weeklong planner assumes that you have items in your pantry like spices, oils, mustard, soy sauce, rice, pasta, flour, sugar, etc.
•Consider buying some basil, parsley, cilantro, thyme and any other herbs you use and grow in your garden or in a pot in a window. Having fresh herbs on hand vastly reduces cost, saves time and you always have fresh herbs when you need them.
Char-Grilled Flank Steak Tacos (30 minutes Total)
This is a fun family style dinner. You can plate it or allow each person to add as much or as little of each ingredient as he or she likes at the table. You can also turn it into fajitas by sautéing some onions and peppers in a little oil with some cumin, chili powder, fresh cilantro and lime juice. For a time saver, I bought a bag of shredded slaw (not dressed) which I split between this dish and the stir fry.
For the Marinade (10 minutes)
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup Soy Sauce
Juice & zest of two limes
2 Tbsp Pickapeppa sauce
1 Tbsp chili Powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ lb flank or skirt steak
Slice steak in ⅜-inch strips on the bias against the grain. Place the marinade ingredients in a 1 gallon Ziplock bag and shake to combine. Add the sliced steak, remove the air from the bag and marinate overnight. This needs to be done the night before. We want the marinade to break down and season the meat so it is tender and flavorful.
For the Rice (30 minutes)
We’re cheating here to save time, so I’m using a bag of Vigo brand Mexican Rice—add butter or oil (if you want to; don’t if you’re counting calories and fat) and cook for 22 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave covered until ready to serve. Easy.
For the Black Bean Salad (15 minutes)
1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tomato chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
½ medium red onion, chopped and soaked (see note)
1 14-ounce can of corn, drained and rinsed
Juice and zest of 1 lime
½ bunch (leaves only) of cilantro, chopped
Dash of cumin, salt and pepper
Peel and chop the red onion and soak in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes (this will reduce the pungency of the onion while retaining the onion flavor). Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine.
For the slaw (5 minutes)
¼ cup plain yogurt
Milk or cream
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp cumin
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
Dash of sugar
Salt and pepper
½ of a package of prepared slaw
Whisk the yogurt with enough milk or cream to make a nice, creamy “dressing” consistency. Add the rest of the ingredients to combine. Taste the dressing and add more lime juice, salt or sugar until it tastes right to you. Make the dressing ahead of time—up to two days, but do not combine with the cabbage until just prior to serving, otherwise the cabbage will become soggy.
To assemble: Start the rice. Assemble the black bean salad if you haven’t already and season to taste with lime juice, salt and pepper, and a little more fresh cilantro for good measure. Heat your grill on high (or prepare a hot charcoal grill) and once the grates are very hot, grill the slices of meat for about just under a minute per side so that the outsides are become slightly charred and crispy and the insides are still tender and juicy (I recommend trying one piece to start so you get the timing down before you do all of the strips).
For the tortillas: Grill six-inch flour or corn tortillas (2-3 per person) on the grill for about 10 seconds per side, just until they begin to puff and turn golden brown and wrap in a napkin; serve in a basket at the table.
Krissy’s Wine pick: I would recommend a Malbec from Argentina. The black cherry and white pepper notes will pair nicely with the chili powder and cumin, while the medium-body will stand up to the flank steak. Alamos and Trivento have Malbecs that would retail from $10-$12 and have wonderful flavor.
Grilled Spice-rubbed Cobia Filets over Panang Curry Sauce with Mixed Vegetables and Jasmine Rice
May is cobia season on Hilton Head, so take advantage of the abundant availability of this great fish while you can. I’m changing things up here and using the cobia for Thai; I love Thai food and it is quick and easy to make. If you can’t find panang curry paste, then see sources on my *Web site, or substitute red or green curry paste. Prepared curry pastes are much hotter than homemade, so less is more.
For the cobia (5 minutes)
1 lb of cobia, skinned and cut into 4 portions
Wash and dry the fish, season the fish with salt and pepper and reserve until ready to grill.
For the curry (make the curry one day ahead so the flavors have time to meld) (15 minutes)
1 can light coconut milk
1 Tbsp curry paste (Panang, red or green), or more to taste
1 bell pepper, julienned
1 small onion, julienned
1 small can bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
4 Tbsp Fish Sauce (pantry)
5 Tbsp Sugar (pantry)
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
Chopped cilantro or fresh basil from your garden for garnish
In a medium pan over medium high heat, whisk the curry paste into the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add the onion and pepper and cook three minutes until softened. Add the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice and zest and stir to combine. Add the bamboo shoots and cook one minute longer. Reserve. Cooks tip: I use an immersion blender to combine the curry and coconut milk; saves time.
To assemble: Prepare the rice (I always use the floral variety, Jasmine, when preparing Thai food) following the directions on the package, or visit my website to see how I prepare rice. Once cooked, reserve without removing the lid—the rice will hold until you are ready to serve it.
Grill the fish over medium-high heat for about five minutes per side until it begins to flake a little and is just cooked on the inside (cooking time varies depending on thickness of fillets and grill temperature).
Serve family style, or to plate, press rice into a three inch ring mold on each plate. Spoon the vegetable curry mixture around the rice and place a piece of cobia on top. Garnish with fresh basil or cilantro and serve.
Krissy’s Wine Pick – My favorite wine with spicy Thai will always be Gewürztraminer. With the lush flavors of honeysuckle and lychee, the wine cuts into the spice and gives your palate a vibrant taste sensation. Check out the French section of your retail shop and look to Alsace for great Gewürztraminers, Trimbach is one of the oldest producers and one of the most popular.
Baked Rigatoni with Mushrooms and Spring Vegetables
This is a no frills baked pasta dish. I would normally make the sauce and combine with a béchamel, but I love the quick easy preparation of this dish, coupled with the fact that you can freeze it. So, prepare this on Sunday and freeze it (write the cooking time and temp on the top). Refrigerate the day before you plan to serve it. I chopped and sautéed the leftover mushrooms, onion, zucchini and squash I had left over and added to the dish. Simple.
For the pasta
Cook the rigatoni in boiling water for 1 minute less than the packaging says. Strain and rinse with cold water to stop the pasta from cooking (*see my Web site for an easy way to do this).
For the sauce
1 jar Barilla Tomato Basil Sauce
1 small container light Alfredo sauce
8 ounces mushrooms
Other vegetables you have on hand: peppers, onions, zucchini, squash…
Parmesan cheese, grated
Chop or slice all of the vegetables and sear in a pan over medium-high heat for five minutes. Remove from heat to a plate at room temperature to cool. Combine the cool pasta, sauces and vegetables in a large bowl and stir to combine well. Butter a 13 × 9-inch baking dish and pour in the pasta mixture. Sprinkle with grated parmesan. This dish can be refrigerated for several days or frozen for up to two months.
To cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees and cook the dish uncovered for 15 minutes, until a light crust forms on the top. Serve with fresh ground pepper, grated parmesan and crusty bread.
Krissy’s Wine Pick With a tomato-cream sauce, I think Chianti is the way to go. The wine will pair nicely with the acidity of tomato, yet will hold up to the cream and the earthiness of the mushrooms. DaVinci and Cecchi have Chiantis that retail in the $10-$12 range.
Indian Chicken Tikka Masala Curry with Butternut Squash, Peas and Basmati Rice and Naan
If this is your introduction to Indian cuisine, then it couldn’t be simpler. I’m “doctoring” a jar of sauce to make it taste better while still enjoying the simplicity and time savings of not cooking the entire meal from scratch. You can skip the step of making your own Tikka paste if you choose. If you don’t want to make your own naan bread, then you can buy it at Publix in the deli section (it’s located next to the pita bread) see note below.
For the tikka curry paste (optional)
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp ginger powder
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp dried mint
½ tsp salt
½ tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp wine vinegar
2 Tbsp canola oil
Cayenne to taste
Sauté all ingredients over medium heat together for 7 minutes. If you want to heat things up, throw some Cayenne pepper into the mix. Cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
For the curry
1 Jar of Patak’s Tikka Masala Curry Cooking Sauce
Tikka Paste (optional)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed, dried and sliced on the bias
1 small package frozen peas
1 small butternut squash
Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler so that you are left only with the orange flesh. Halve the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds and pith with a spoon. Cut the squash into cubes about ¾-inch thick. Steam the squash until barely al dente, about 6 or 7 minutes. Reserve.
Brown the chicken on all sides and add the Tikka paste you have made; stir to coat well. Add the curry sauce. Add your cooked squash, peas and any other vegetables you have on hand. Simmer for 10 minutes until the flavors are infused. Reserve. Make this a day or two ahead and the flavors will infuse.
For the naan (makes 6 Naan)
Naan is easy to make and fun to serve and eat. For more detailed instructions and preparation, *see my Web site.
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup warm water
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 ½ Tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Pinch baking soda
1 tsp yeast
Mix yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and stir. Mix dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl with a dough hook. Turn the mixer on at low speed and add the oil. Mix to combine. Add the yogurt and mix to combine again. Add the yeast solution and continue to knead until a smooth dough forms. Place a small amount of oil in your hands and pick up the dough and gently cover the dough with the oil (don’t work the oil into the dough, only cover the outsides). Lightly oil the sides of the bowl, place the oiled dough back in the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 4 hours.
Once risen, punch the dough down and cut into 6 equal pieces. Dust each piece with a little flour and shape into a naan bread (I use a rolling pin and lightly work the dough until it is flat and oval in shape, about ⅜-inch thick). Freeze; or roll out. Brush palms with water prior to cooking and grill on high heat for about 1 minute per side, until the bread begins to puff. Brush with ghee or butter and serve. For garlic coriander naan, press diced garlic and chopped cilantro (our favorite) into the bread prior to grilling.
To assemble: Serve with naan bread, basmati rice and a dollop of yogurt mixed with diced cucumber, dried mint and salt.
Krissy’s Wine Pick
With all the different flavors that this dish is comprised of, I would recommend a tropical style Chardonnay from Monterey. With the butternut squash, cucumber and yogurt, Monterey Chardonnays have the flavors of mango, pineapple, and sometimes coconut to complement the dish, but also have the crisp acidity to pair with all the different spices. Jekel has a Monterey Chardonnay that is always consistent, and La Crema has a new Monterey label.
Quick Sweet and Spicy Tofu Vegetable Stir-fry
1 one-pound package extra firm tofu, prepared as above, cut into ¾-inch by 1-inch squares
1 Tbsp sesame oil
½ medium onion, thinly sliced
2 yellow squash, halved, seeds removed (with a spoon) and sliced 3/8-inch thick
1 bell pepper, julienned
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
¼ pound of carrot, ¼-inch slice
½ bag of shredded cabbage (or slaw mix)
Any vegetables you like or have on hand
Thin sliced scallion for garnish
Dash of grated lemon zest (to brighten the flavor of the dish)
For the sauce, which can be made ahead of time, combine 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp minced garlic, 1 Tbsp fresh minced ginger, 2 Tbsp mirin, 2 Tbsp hoisin, 1 Tbsp oyster sauce and a dash of fish sauce over low heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk 1 Tbsp cornstarch and ½ cup stock (I use a half a stock cube here, along with the trusty immersion blender). Whisk to incorporate cornstarch and make sure there are no lumps.
Add to the simmering ingredients. The heat will activate the cornstarch and thicken the sauce. Taste and correct with soy sauce, pepper, and add a dash of vinegar if the sauce is too sweet.
Heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat in your wok or non-stick pan until nearly smoking (this won’t be long). If you want to add some heat, add some crushed red pepper now (or you can add Cayenne to taste when you finish the dish). Make sure your ventilation fan is on and add the tofu and 1 Tbsp 5-spice powder. Sauté until golden brown on the outside. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
For the vegetables, in the same pan, add a scant amount more of sesame oil and sauté the vegetables. Once all the vegetables are almost cooked, add the tofu and sauce, a dash of grated lemon zest and heat through. Serve over warm rice.
Krissy’s Wine Pick
When sweet meets sour, I think a dry Riesling is a great match. With Chinese-5 spice powder, ginger and soy sauce, these wines are dry to cut into all these flavors. Look to New Zealand for some great dry Rieslings. Kim Crawford has a really nice one that will pair well with most Asian dishes including tofu.
Grilled Tuscan Chicken, Quick Roasted Potatoes and Pressure Cooked Broccoli
This is a simple dish that makes use of the grill on warm summer days. Traditionally, this is made using a whole butterflied chicken, but we are using the chicken we have left over, in this case, bone-in split chicken breasts.
For the chicken
4 bone-in split chicken breasts
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons, sliced
A handful of fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stems
2 garlic cloves, diced
The night before, wash and dry the chicken and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the chicken, evoo, garlic, lemons, rosemary and thyme to a Ziplock bag, fill with air and shake (yes, like shake and bake) to combine. Remove the air and refrigerate until ready to grill the next day.
Grill the chicken over low heat for one hour, making sure there are no flame-ups that will burn your chicken. Turn every 15 minutes and baste with the marinade. Alternatively, you can cook the chicken over medium-high heat on the grill until golden brown on both sides; reserve to foil-lined pan and then finish cooking in a 375-degree oven until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.
For the potatoes
1 lb baking potatoes
Peel the baking potatoes and chop into large and small pieces (the large ones will be meaty and the small ones will be crispy) and rinse and reserve. Heat your oven to 500 degrees. Place a roasting pan in the oven with 2 Tbsp canola oil to heat. Carefully remove the pan, and add the potatoes away from you so that the oil does not splatter on you when you add the potatoes. Place the pan back in the oven; after 2 minutes, remove the pan and move the potatoes with a spatula so they don’t stick. Place back in the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove and flip the potatoes to another side and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove and serve when they are golden brown and crispy on the outsides.
For the broccoli
1 head of broccoli
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
Remove the bands and cut the florets from the stems into bite-sized pieces. Peel the stems with a vegetable peeler and then slice into ⅜-inch thick “discs.” Place in a serving bowl. Heat a large stainless steel or ceramic pot with the lid on over high heat until the pot is nearly smoking. Don’t start if the pot is smoking because the broccoli will burn—remove from the heat a let cool a little. Add 1 Tbsp canola oil and then add the broccoli and cook for exactly 2 minutes (set a timer). At the sound of the first timer, add 1 Tbsp butter, 1 tsp kosher salt and fresh ground pepper (quickly—have it ready by the stove). Put the lid back on and cook for 3 minutes, again with a timer. Periodically lift the pot using a towel or oven mitts (two or three times throughout the cooking process) and shake in circles to move the broccoli around to cook more evenly. After you add the butter and salt, the pot will steam like crazy—this is normal. At the sound of the second timer, place the broccoli back in the serving bowl and serve warm with the chicken and potatoes.
Krissy’s Wine Pick
With a Tuscan chicken, how can you not go wrong with a Tuscan blend. Banfi Centine is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot, that jump starts your palate with a spicy jolt of ripe berry fruit, but finishes smooth and with medium-body. With the fresh herbs and garlic the chicken is prepared with, this little wine from Tuscany will definitely deliver.
Who doesn’t love pizza? I’m using leftover s from other meals to top them to keep the cost down and the flavor up. I highly recommend the Thai, Indian and Mexican pizzas—they’ll change the way you think about pizza.
1 large or two small frozen cheese pizzas
Topping ideas: You can stick with pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, Hawaiian, or, you can dabble with something a little more interesting, like using the leftovers you have on hand, as in the following:
• Thai BBQ chicken pie: Top with grilled leftover chicken mixed with panang sauce, grilled red onion, barbecue sauce (whatever you have in the fridge), cilantro and a little extra mozzarella.
• Steak and Mushroom: Top with leftover flank steak and sautéed mushrooms onions and peppers followed by the cheese of your choice (American for kids, provolone for adults).
• Mexican: Top with flank steak, grilled red onion, black bean salad, salsa, cilantro and queso blanco if you happen to have some, or the cheese of your choice.
• Fennel, Apple, Onion and Bacon: Lightly sear some julienned fennel, peeled julienned apple, and julienned onion until soft. Toss with cooked chopped bacon, top the pizza and add a few dollops of goat cheese or crumbled feta.
• Indian Pizza: Chicken Tikka, leftover veggies, grilled or seared first, ginger, garlic, cilantro and top with feta, mozzarella or whatever you have on hand.
• Pesto: Top the pizza with some roasted Roma tomatoes (*see my Web site), small dollops of pesto, grilled onion, sausage and a little extra mozzarella (yum).
Krissy’s Wine Pick My husband thinks I am crazy, but I love Prosecco with pizza. A sparkling wine from Italy…it’s almost like having an adult soda with one of my favorite foods. The dryness of the wine will counter nicely with all the different pizza flavors, even Thai BBQ and Fennel, Apple, Onion, and Bacon…as well as Indian pizza. I have shared many a pizza with friends and shared many a Prosecco to go along with it.
*Web site: www.DavidCooks.com