Friday, January 8, 2010

Dinner Deals: Asian Meatball Soup & Some Thoughts on Cookbooks that Lie

This recipe is a showstopper. A light, flavorful soup filled with healthy vegetables. Perfect for a cold winter's night when you want something different and a great 'feed the freezer' recipe. It is adapted from one of the $3 Meals cookbooks, which is a cookbook series that I am conflicted about.

On the one hand, the author can cook. On the other, there is no way the title is telling the truth. For instance, the Chinese cabbage the original version of this recipe called for is $2.99 a pound alone. So right there, you've blown the $3 meal budget.

The "$3 Meals" titles are a marketing ploy which makes me mad since no one has the money in this economy to throw away on cookbooks that lie. Still there are some good cheap meals inspiration in the series. Anyway, I have 'frugalized' the recipe into something just as delicious but much more affordable.




Ingredients

-6 to 7 cups of chicken stock FREE if you use the stock from cooking the 3 meals for $3 recipes.
-Carrots shaved thin with the vegetable peeler @$0.50
-1/2 a bag of string beans from your grocer's freezer @$0.80 (try to get thin, skinny ones for this recipe)
-2 tbsp. Soy sauce @$0.25
-1/2 tbsp. Sesame oil @$0.25 (since a bottle is a $4 investment, try substituting toasted sesame seeds instead if you have those on hand)
-2-3 cloves Garlic, minced @$0.10
-1 tbsp Fresh ginger, minced @$0.25 (mince and freeze the extra for future use)
-Cilantro @$0.50 (Tip: Use the leftovers for a Mexican meal the next night)
-Green onions, chopped @$0.50
-1.5 lbs Ground turkey @$1.50
-1 egg $0.25

Optional ingredients: Chinese cabbage or Bok Choy. The original incarnation of this recipe called for these items but they can get expensive and don't add too much flavor. Further, they make freezing this soup difficult. So skip it unless they are super cheap or you happen to have a Bok Choy fetish (in which case, I bet you probably have more interesting things to do with your Bok Choy than put it in soup).

Serves: 5 assuming 3 small meatballs per person. 6 or more if you have light eaters (although I will warn you that my toddler ate the lion's share of meatballs and demanded more, she loved this soup!)

Cost: $4.90 (more if you start adding in optional ingredients)

Instructions:

1.Make meatballs by combining egg, sesame oil (or seeds), soy sauce, green onion, garlic, ginger into a bowl.

2.Pour stock into a pot and heat on med-high heat until gently boiling.

3.Prepare carrots while waiting for soup to boil. Either julienne them thinly or use the vegetable peeler to shave off thin strips.

4. Form meatballs quickly and drop into the simmering soup. Don't make them too big! Go for the size of a cherry tomato.

5. Add carrots and frozen green beans to pot.

6.Let cook for 15 to 20 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.

7. Serve garnished with cilantro. Note: Be sure to portion out the meatballs carefully or you'll end up eating all the meat and leaving the veggies behind.

Some notes: You will have leftover green onions and cilantro. As mentioned in the ingredients, a Mexican night would be a good follow up to this recipe. So adjust your meal plans accordingly.

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