Now and then, it’s hard to find any “value” protein in the store at a decent price – this week is one of those. I’d consider buying the portioned fish, 4 ounces for a dollar which works out to $4.00 a pound, except there is already quite a bit in my freezer. Even at such a low price for fish, it’s still high for a $5.00 meal - it can be done with some rice or noodles filling out the meal, but that dinner will never have the amount of vegetables I like to eat.
I’m pulling from my freezer this week. Shrimp, of all things, for a $5.00 meal. Not a lot, but it’s there in the Shrimp and Kale Packets with White Beans. I was inspired by Lucinda Scalla Quinn on Mad Hungry; the show came up on my radar early last winter and I watch it often. I did a bit of altering and tweaking to her recipe, but not much, and I have to say the flavor is AMAZING and the presentation is dramatically over the top! This is a beautiful light meal but you could add more beans if you want it heartier. Some Italian or Artisinal Bread will be wonderful to sop up the juices…
Shrimp and Kale Packets with White Beans, serves 4, cost: $4.23
- 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (cut into half-moons, if large)
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups white beans, cooked, or 15 oz can, drained
- 3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (I go light on this)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 small bunch kale (about 8 – 12 ounces), stems and center ribs discarded, leaves thinly sliced crosswise
- 12 peeled and deveined shrimp
- 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut four pieces of parchment paper to measure 12 by 13 inches each. Stir together carrot, celery, onion, beans, rosemary, lemon juice, oil, and salt in a large bowl; season with pepper. Add kale and shrimp; toss well.
Lay parchment rectangles on a work surface. Divide shrimp mixture evenly among them, mounding in center of each. Make sure each serving has the same amount of shrimp. Working with one piece at a time, gather paper around filling to form a bundle; loosely tie with kitchen twine (18-inch piece), leaving a small opening. Pour 2 tablespoons stock into opening of each bundle; tie twine in a bow tightly to seal.
Transfer bundles to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes; shrimp should be cooked through. Place packets in large serving bowls. Serve immediately, opening packets at the table.
Note: Make sure to finely chop onion so the raw taste dissipates in the short cooking time. If you don’t have parchment, you can make this with aluminum foil. If you aren’t using all your packets right away, open them so the steam dissipates and they don’t keep cooking.
Money and Time Saving Strategies:
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains.
- Carrots: Bought recently at 49 cents a pound at my grocery. Often less expensive in 2 pound bags, they often go on sale more in 1 pound bags. I always have some in my fridge. They keep well and I use them to sneak in a little nutrition in a lot of recipes as well as for a vegetable on their own. I save the ends and the parings for my stock. One carrot is about 5 cents.
- Celery: Last bought for 78 cents a sleeve, I noticed in the store it’s up to $1.29. Again, just like for carrots and onions, I’ll stock up when it’s at it’s lowest price as it keeps well. I’ll save my tips and ends for stock. Make sure you use the leaves as they have a ton of flavor. Cost for one stalk is about 8 cents.
- Red Onion: I often substitute white, yellow or green onions for the more expensive Red Onion, but I do really like to use the Red Onion when it’s reasonably priced. I often only use part of a red onion. I’ll wrap the rest in plastic wrap and place in my fridge door so I’ll be sure not to forget to use it soon. One half of a red onion (2 pounds for $1.29 divided by 5) is 12 cents.
- Kale: Cheapest in the late summer through early winter, this is one of the most power packed vegetables you can heat. Prices generally range from 89 cents a bunch to $1.29 a bunch in our area, but the bunches become smaller later in the season. I paid $1.29 for my bunch today, and it weighed 8 ounces – that’s $2.58 a pound. I’ll just cheat and use one bunch. Cost: $1.29
- Lemon: Right now, around Easter and the next few weeks is the last time to find really cheap lemons. I expect there will be some on sale right before Easter and I’ll pick up extra so I have them on hand. Watch the per bag, per pound and per lemon prices, as they vary wildly. They last a long time if you don’t let them get wet or too moist in your fridge. I use every part of a lemon, every time I get one. If the recipe doesn’t use all the rind, I’ll grate off the rest before I squeeze it and put it in small snack sized Ziplocs in the freezer for another use, brightening up a pasta sauce or a soup. To get more juice out of your lemon, press down on it and roll it on your counter, or place in the microwave for just a few seconds to barely warm. Expect about 3 tablespoons of juice in a larger, heavier lemon. Cost: 60 cents.
- Beans: I find the navy much easier to find, but any white bean, or near white bean will work in this recipe. Today I used Pintos, and even kidney beans would work and be beautiful against the kale. I buy enough for the year right after any Holiday where Ham is likely to be served. A good price is $.80 to $.89 cents a pound. When you are making some for a meal, simmer two or three packages, divide up into 1 1/2 cup bags and freeze. (The equivalent of a can of beans – that’s the standard you’ll find in most recipes.) You should get three packets out of a pound. Cost for 1 1/2 cups is 30 cents.
- Shrimp: Buy frozen around Christmas and right after. I like to buy the ones already deveined and still in the shell; thaw them carefully in the fridge on something absorbent and they don’t seem to be as water logged. I bought a pack of 42 at Christmastime for $5.99, but I often see them on sale for $6.99, too. I just pluck out small amounts for recipes – generally frugal recipes where the shrimp is more of an accent than a star! My 12 shrimp are $1.79.
- Chicken Stock: I say this almost every recipe: Make your own from bones and scraps. It simmers a long time, but at such a low heat I don’t even count the cost – Free.
- Parchment/Foil: If you’re not a regular coupon/sales shopper, this will add to the cost of the meal because it is a significant amount. I pick up parchment, generally Reynolds for free around Christmas with a coupon and stock up. Foil is generally cheaper during the summer, where again, great sales and coupons are numerous. The most I’d pay for a package of heavy duty foil is 40 cents, but I look for free. Cost: nothing.
Nutrition: Cal: 353, Cal fr Fat: 121, 34%; Tot Fat: 13g, Sat fat: 2.41g; Chol: 34mg; Sodium 560mg; Carb 42g; Fib 10g; Sug 2.5g, Prot 18g
Put Your own Spin on It: You could season your Shrimp and Kale Packets with White Beans in any manner you please, vary the seasonings or herbs, or perhaps use Broccolini or Broccoli in very small florets instead of Kale. You’ll need a vegetable that has some volume to it so the steam can pass through and cook everything properly. A bit of white wine would be nice, and a few red pepper flakes would go well.
Shrimp and Kale Packets with White Beans made March, 2012