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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Wednesday Night Dinners: Beans w/ Ham Hocks and Chicken Noodle Soup

This week’s Wednesday night Awana dinner was extremely cost effective.  We had well over 100 servings—I wasn’t able to accurately gauge just how many servings but we fed over 70 people and I still had a huge amount of food left.  And we did it all for less than $55.00.

This week I made turkey noodle soup and beans with ham hocks.  This was served with salad, biscuits and orange wedges.  Fresh veggies, noodles and dried beans are all super inexpensive.  A five pound bag of carrots, a few large yellow onions, a bunch of celery, three large cans of chicken broth and some home-style noodles from the bulk section ran under $15.00.  

This time I also bought the pinto beans from bulk, saving a few cents per pound.  I think the ham hocks ran $3.50 for a pack of six.  I also bought a couple large boxes of Jiffy baking mix.  Because I knew I was saving so much, I bought extra salad fixings to add to the iceburg mix I normally buy.  I added in a few heads of romaine and some spinach.  I also bought extra milk for serving and to make the biscuits, as I prefer that to just adding water to the mix.  

Five cans of frozen apple juice rounded out my grocery shopping trip and I had just about every thing I needed.  I think I spent a total of about $40.00 this week.  I used that turkey breast we roasted back at Christmas time and stuck in the freezer, knowing it would come in handy later.  I think those breasts ran less than $15.00 so that would bring the total for this week to less than $55.00.  Divide that by 100 and it comes out to $0.55 a serving.  I like those numbers!

I can tell you pinto beans are super easy to make, really good for you and relatively low in calories.  You can use any pork product to add flavor—we always used bacon in my family growing up.  However, I prefer cured/smoked ham hocks because they impart that same great smoky pork flavor but not nearly the same amount of fat.  There’s very little fat on a ham hock and if you don’t want to eat the meat the beans are cooked with, they’re also really easy to remove. 

To prepare the beans, rinse and soak them overnight or at least 3-4 hours.  Drain off the soaking water and you won’t have nearly problems with gas that are often associated with beans.

Add fresh water to the beans, with the level about an inch over the level of the beans.  

Add in your pork product and simmer on low for several hours until tender.  

Once the beans are cooked through, then salt them to taste; that way you can taste test them and adjust the level of salt the pork has already imparted.

As for chicken (turkey) soup, that’s also pretty easy and, of course, I don’t use a recipe.

Chop all the veggies you want in your soup.  I used carrots, onions and celery.  I even use the leafy celery tops, too.

Saute all these in a little oil in your soup pot until soft but not brown.  Add in your broth and chicken or turkey.  If you’re going to add noodles to your soup, make sure you add extra broth—the noodles will soak up a lot of it.  If this happens, you can always add more broth at the end, according to your preferences.  

This is also the time when you want to add your spices.  I like to use a bit of sage, garlic, a bay leaf or two, salt and pepper.  Bring it all to a boil and let it simmer for a few minutes.  

 Add in the noodles and cook until they’re soft.  Enjoy!

Sorry I didn’t include exact recipes this week.  Both of the entrees are really easy to make and I just don’t use recipes for either of them—I just make them to taste.   

Entrees like these are really good for honing your cooking skills because you can taste as you go, adding what you like and learning how to cook according to your tastes.  PLUS, they’re really easy on the wallet and the waistline. 

Good luck giving these a try!

Pinto Beans Calorie information: 80 calories in 1/3 cup of dry beans--that will make just under a cup, when cooked.  

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