Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 2008 Kitchen Challenge - LotsofKids Entry

To read about the Kitchen Challenge, click here or here.

I did this challenge on my personal blog, but did it again as the official LOK entry (yeah, I just wanted an excuse to do it again). We were cooking for a family of 11--3 adults, 4 older children, and 4 smaller children. Note, as always, I'm fudging the numbers on some of the ingredients on the upside (usually rounding up), because I want the pricing to be more accurate to what the average family would find at their local store. I typically shop at Aldi and other low-cost grocers. As a result, my actual cost was a bit lower than the noted tally. However, unlike my personal entry, I'm doing a bit more "from scratch" in this challenge.



Pancakes and Syrup
Pancake mix: $1.25
Syrup ($1.50 bottle -- used half bottle): $.75
Total: $2.00

This one was simple. An all-in-one pancakes mix (just add water), and syrup. Yes, it's nice to have a big breakfast with meat and sides, but on average days, quick and easy rules in our house. One box more than fed our family, with a few cakes left over. We used half the bottle of syrup.

One tip I find handy when making pancakes is that I make most regular size, and then make several dollar-size cakes. First of all, the kids love eating the “tiny” pancakes, but it also helps when a kid wants seconds. I find I have less “half-eaten” plates when I give them the smaller cakes.



Creamy Tuna Macaroni
1 1lb box of elbow macaroni: $1.00
2 cans of tuna: 1.00
1 can of cream of celery soup: $.50
1 can of peas: .50
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs: .25
Total: $3.25

Simple meal, but tasty and satisfying. I cooked the macaroni as indicated, draining well. I prepare soup using regular water, and then added to noodles, mixing well. Flaked in the tuna and added peas, mixing until combined. Seasoned with simple salt and black pepper. I served on plates with a sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs.

I’ll admit this picture does not make this look very appetizing, but it was actually really good.

Toasted breadcrumbs are one of those little things that can really make a meal special. They can particularly dress up ordinarily bland and boring dishes like mac&cheese. I make them often. Simply place breadcrumbs on a cookie sheet, give them a spritz of non-stick cooking spray, and cook in the broiler for a 2-3 minutes. If you have a toaster oven, this is even easier to do--and this is the way I usually do mine.



Flauta (Taquito) Dinner with Refried Beans and Cheesy Mexican Rice
Where we live, rolled tortillas filled with meat and fried crisp are called flautas (which means flute in Spanish). However, in the mainstream they are more commonly known as taquitos. I came up with this version because my husband loves them, but it is too expensive to regularly get them at a nearby restaurant. I also came up with this variation as a healthier version, since I didn't really like all the high calories of the traditionally deep-fried ones. Flautas can be made with shredded chicken as well, but I chose beef for the challenge.

1 1/2 lbs of beef: $3.00*
1/2 can of sloppy joe mix: $.50*
1 3-dz pkg of corn tortillas: $2
1 lb of pinto beans (2lb bag for $1.50--used half): .75
11/2 cups of rice (I show 2 cups in the picture, but ended up using less): .75
1 can of diced tomatoes and chilis (equivalent to Ro-tel): $1.00
1 cup of cheddar cheese ($2.00 for 2 cup bag--used half): $1.00
1/2 carton sour cream: .50
Flour, margarine, and milk: .25
Total: $9.75

* I purchased a bulk package of ground beef which was $1.99/lb when purchased in 3lbs or more pks, and the package I bought was $5.99. The Manwich was on sale for a $1.00, but I can regularly get a generic sloppy joe mix for that price. I fried up, drained, and mixed in sloppy joe mix. The total cost for this was $7.00. I ended up using half the meat for this dish. The other half was frozen for another meal.

Warm tortillas in a hot, dry frying pan, 5-10 seconds on each side, until soft and pliable. Fry up meat, breaking up any large pieces when frying. My family actually prefers to use sloppy joe mix in our taco meat, but you could do this with a can of tomato sauce and some taco seasoning. Add sauce to meat and mix well. Take a tortilla and put a small line of beef on one end. Roll tightly. Place seam down on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat and continue until all tortillas are rolled. Spray the tops of the rolled tortillas with cooking spray. Cook in 425 degree oven 15-20 minutes until crisp. Serve with guacamole, salsa, or other topping of choice. For the challenge, we chose to serve with sour cream.

Refried beans
These are simple. Using whole pinto beans, cook according to package directions. Add a bit of oil and puree in blender (we use a hand blender).

Cheesy Mexican Rice
I prepared the white rice in my rice cooker. I then made a white sauce using a couple tablespoons of margarine, flour, 1 1/2 cups of water, and 1/2 cup of milk. When thickened, I added the cheddar cheese and cooked until smooth. I added the cheese sauce to the rice, blending well. Then I seasoned it with pantry items: salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I drained the tomatoes well and mixed into the rice. This was really good, but too spicy for some of my kids' taste.


Grand Total: $14.75

I should note that some readers have commented that even with my fudging up, they couldn't do the same meal since food in their area is more expensive. I do want to remind that we are cooking for a mega-family of 11 and this fed us well (albeit without a lot of leftovers). For a more typical large family with 4-6 kids, I think even with pricing a little higher, you could make this meal within the $15 limit.

Since some of our readers have indicated they like to see how to do certain things, I took a few pictures of the taquito-making process.

When cooking your meat, make sure you break up any large pieces. This will allow you to roll the flautas tighter. They should be skinner than a traditional enchilada.

Place a line of meat at one end of the warmed tortilla, leaving a small edge.

Fold the edge over the meat and begin rolling. This may seem easy, but it can be tricky to get the tortilla rolled tightly.

Place the tortilla, seam down on a greased cookie sheet. You want to make sure there is a little space between the taquitos so they cook evenly. As long as you make sure the pan is oiled, you will not have to turn over the flautas when cooking.


MotherToMany said...

I never thought about making my own taquito's before until now. My kids love them, but they are a tad expensive pre-made for a large family.

I may look into pre-making them and freezing them so we can just pull them out and heat them up.

We like the chicken and cheese ones the best, so I'll probably try and come up with some recipes.

Thanks for the idea.

Mirz said...

Actually, we prefer the chicken ones. Only 1 child would rather the beef ones. So, I usually make the chicken ones, but went with beef for the challenge since it was more cost-effective. I make taquitos for gatherings all the time, and they are a big hit. Mostly because they taste great at room temperature and you can “walk and eat them” which make for a good party food.

Anne said...

Someday I'm coming to Chicago so you can show me how to roll taquitos. I swear, I can NOT do it without the tortillas breaking, no matter what! Your whole day looks perfect.

Mirz said...

Anne--you may want to try heating the tortillas a little longer. They need to be very soft. Also, use fresher tortillas. Older ones don't warm well and tend to be stiff and rip. "Stale" tortillas are good for chilaquiles--but that's a whole other post!