French, Spanish, and cheap.

It’s apparently been foreign foods week here.  My last three major culinary pursuits have been unfamiliar territory in more ways than one!

Chicken Cordon Bleu, Espinacas con Garbanzos, and Empanadas are even more delicious to eat than they are to say.  Strangely, these new and exotic recipes were the result of an earnest attempt to curtail grocery spending after a month of totally random expenses.  (DEQ test and car registration?  Costco membership renewal? Coming down with a fever the same day I bought a weeks worth of groceries, which meant not only not eating some of the purchased food but having to buy more food I actually could eat? Come on.)  The challenge of making a nice but fairly simple dinner for our weeknight anniversary without purchasing expensive ingredients stressed me out until (until!) I realized that the fancy-sounding, ever-talked-about and never-eaten (at least for me) Chicken Cordon Bleu used chicken and thin sliced ham — ingredients I had in my freezer.  Thus, a lovely anniversary dinner was born and I only had to purchase two slices of swiss cheese, an 89 cent box of rice-a-roni (not ideal, but slaving over a risotto wasn’t going to happen), and a 50% off bottle of pinot noir.  [I used this recipe and made the reviewers’ recommended changes.]

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Also in my refrigerator was a box of washed baby spinach from the pre-sick grocery strip that I cannot believe was still good.  It probably had no vitamins left in it, but it wasn’t slimy, so I combined it with the can of garbanzo beans that’s been sitting in my pantry for a good year to make Espinacas con Garbanzos.  It was so. good. I toasted up a little mini french bread that was in my freezer and we spooned the mixture on top.  If I ever have the tapas party I’ve always wanted to have since I have cute tapas dishes (wedding gift), this will be a definite menu item — with the beans mashed up a little more so they stick instead of roll.

Espinacas con Garbanzos

Finally, I’ve been wanting to try my hand at empanadas for a while, and kept putting them off because they’re a hassle.  I had purchased a small acorn squash during sick week that was still good because squashes last FOREVER, so I used it to make this delicious and economical lentil squash curry as a filling.  I used Smitten Kitchen’s empanada dough because she claimed it was foolproof, and I was exceedingly happy with the result.  So happy, in fact, that I forgot to take pictures before they were eaten.  Here’s one from SK that resembles my final product (really!) only mine were round instead of half-moon sized since I made them for dinner.

Empanadas.  [Photo from Smitten Kitchen]

That picture makes one fact abundantly clear:  I need to improve my food photo-taking.

It was exciting to find so many recipes this week that cost next-to-nothing.  Most of them involved using far more legumes than meat (or didn’t use meat at all), which is something I’ve been exploring and enjoying more and more lately.  This is NOT to say our summer grill won’t be filled with steaks and kabobs or that Eric wouldn’t love to eat pulled pork sandwiches every night…. it’s just that in the middle of March when we’re tired of meat prepared indoors, these are better-than-good options.  If you (or your family) insist on meat, espinacas con garbanzos would make a great appetizer or side dish, and empanadas can be filled with anything.  I plan to try SK’s whole recipe (chicken empanadas with chorizo and olives) as soon as I have the time to mix and chill and roll and fill and seal and bake the dough….

Have a wonderful rest of your weekends!


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  • Mama

    Mmmmm. So inspiring!

  • ashley willey

    i too have a can of garbanzo beans ive had for a year or so -i’ve been waiting for a good time to bring them out, perhaps I will take your recomendation!
    and i love chicken cordon bleu -any chance to eat breaded chicken is a good one! :)