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Sara Moulton's Easy Dinner for Four, on a Budget

Sara Moulton's been a key player for the Food Network, as well as head chef for a major food magazine, and a cookbook author.

As host of host of "Cooking Live," "Cooking Live Primetime" and "Sara's Secrets," she helped shape the network during its first decade. She was also executive chef of Gourmet magazine until it closed in October.

Her latest cookbook, "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners," ((read an excerpt) is full of tasty recipes for home cooks strapped for cash and time.

She's a champion of easy-to-prepare meals.

And, in accepting "The Early Show on Saturday Morning"'s "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge, Sara sought to make a three-course dinner for four on our skimpy budget of $40.

Not only that - her chef's hat was automatically entered in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition, in which the "Shoestring" chef with the lowest ingredients cost will be asked back to whip up the feast for our year-end holiday extravaganza!

"Early Show" Recipes Galore!

Butter Lettuce Salad With Grapefruit Vinaigrette
Breaded Creole Chicken With Ranch-Dressed Coleslaw
Joanne's New and Improved Blueberry Tart


Butterhead Lettuce: One of two varieties of head lettuce (the other being crisphead). Butterhead lettuces have small, round, loosely formed heads with soft, buttery-textured leaves ranging from pale green on the outer leaves to pale yellow-green on the inner leaves. The flavor is sweet and succulent. Because the leaves are quite tender, they require gentle washing and handling. Boston and Bibb (also called limestone) lettuce are the two most well known of the butterhead family. The smaller Bibb is highly prized by gourmets. Both Boston and Bibb lettuce are sometimes referred to simply as "butterhead" or "butter" lettuce. (Source:

Shallot: The name of this onion-family member (Allium ascalonicum ) comes from Ascalon, an ancient Palestinian city where the shallot is thought to have originated. Shallots are formed more like garlic than onions, with a head composed of multiple cloves, each covered with a thin, papery skin. The skin color can vary from pale brown to pale gray to rose, and the off-white flesh is usually barely tinged with green or purple. (Source:

Creole Cooking: In the 18th century, the Spaniards governing New Orleans named all residents of European heritage Criollo. The name, which later became Creole , soon began to imply one of refined cultural background with an appreciation for an elegant lifestyle. Today, Creole cookery reflects the full-flavored combination of the best of French, Spanish and African cuisines. (Source:

Buttermilk: Buttermilk of times past was the liquid left after butter was churned. Today it is made commercially by adding special bacteria to nonfat or lowfat milk, giving it a slightly thickened texture and tangy flavor. Some manufacturers add flecks of butter to give it an authentic look.


Butter Lettuce Salad With Grapefruit Vinaigrette

1/3 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1 small shallot
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small grapefruit (preferably pink)
2 small heads butter lettuce
1 ripe Hass avocado
20 medium chives or 1 medium scallion, green part only
1/4 cup sunflower seeds


Put the grapefruit juice in a small saucepan or skillet and simmer until it has reduced to 2 tablespoons; transfer it to a small bowl. Finely chop the shallot (about 2 tablespoons); add it to the reduced grapefruit juice along with the rice vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and sugar. Whisk until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Gradually whisk in vegetable oil.

Peel and section the grapefruit; cut each section in half. Tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups). Halve, seed, peel, and slice the avocado; thinly slice the chives crosswise (about 1 tablespoon). Toss the lettuce with 1/3 cup dressing.

Mound the lettuce on each of 4 plates and top with the avocado, and grapefruit. Sprinkle with the chives and sunflower seeds and drizzle with the remaining grapefruit dressing.


Breaded Creole Chicken With Ranch-Dressed Coleslaw

1 cup buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 small cabbage
2 large carrots
1 small red bell pepper
1 large dill pickle
Ranch dressing (recipe below)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/3 cups dry bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning


Combine the buttermilk, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a resealable plastic bag. Add the chicken, seal the bag, and knead until the chicken is evenly coated with the marinade; set aside at room temperature to marinate for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Trim and shred the cabbage, preferably using the slicing disc of a food processor (about 4 cups). Coarsely grate the carrots, preferably using the shredding disc of a food processor (about 1 ½ cups). Cut the bell pepper into matchsticks (about 1 cup); chop the pickle (about 1 cup). Toss together the cabbage, carrots, bell pepper, pickle, and a hefty pinch of salt in a large bowl.

Prepare the ranch dressing (recipe below).

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Combine the bread crumbs and Creole Seasoning and spread out the mixture on a pie plate lined with wax paper or parchment; remove the chicken from the buttermilk, letting the excess drip off. Dip the pieces, one at a time, into the bread crumbs to coat well, lifting the wax paper on both sides to move them around; shake off any excess.

Add half the chicken to the skillet and cook, turning once and adding another 1 tablespoon olive oil, for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until golden and just cooked through. Remove to a plate and set aside for 10 minutes before cutting. Repeat with the remaining chicken and olive oil. Slice the chicken into 1/2-inch strips.

Just before serving, stir 1/2 cup Ranch Dressing into the cabbage mixture; add salt and pepper to taste. Divide the slaw among 4 dinner plates; top it with the chicken. Pass the remaining dressing.

Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons finely chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as tarragon, chives, and parsley)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste


Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, herbs, and lemon juice. Press in garlic clove and add kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

Joanne's New-and-Improved Blueberry Tart

For the pastry:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk

For the filling:
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon table salt
4 cups blueberries
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Cut the butter into 1/8 inch-thick slices and add to the flour mixture. Pulse 10 to 12 times, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Beat the yolk with 1 tablespoon ice water and add to the mixture; pulse 4 to 5 times, until a crumbly mixture forms. Press the mixture together to form a ball, adding more water, if necessary, to make it manageable.

You can immediately roll out the dough between lightly floured sheets of plastic wrap or, if you have the time, chill the dough for 1 hour before rolling it out. That allows the gluten in the flour to relax, ensuring a tender crust.

Roll out dough between lightly floured sheets of wax paper to make an 11-inch round. Fit the round into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, press it against the sides of the pan, and trim off any overhanging pieces. Pierce the bottom and sides of the pastry thoroughly with the tines of a fork (this will prevent the crust from puffing up). Bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes, or until it is dark golden.

Stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small saucepan. Gradually stir in 2/3 cup water. Add 3/4 cup blueberries and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a full boil, the berries have popped, and the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice.

Combine the thickened sauce with the remaining 3-1/4 cups blueberries in a medium bowl; transfer to the baked tart crust and spread the blueberries to fill the shell. Let cool to room temperature and serve, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The tart will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

So, how did Sara do in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition?

Butter Lettuce Salad With Grapefruit Vinaigrette
grapefruits $2.37
shallot $0.12
rice vinegar $2.49
butter lettuce $2.58
avocado $1.50
chives $1.29
sunflower seeds $1.99
total $12.34

Breaded Creole Chicken With Coleslaw
buttermilk $1.19
chicken $3.29
cabbage $1.86
carrots $1.98
red bell pepper $1.25
dill pickles $1.99
bread crumbs $1.99
Creole seasoning $2.29
chives $1.29
parsley $0.99
lemon $0.50
garlic $0.66
total $19.28

Blueberry Tart
cornstarch $0.99
blueberries $5.00
lemon $0.50
total $6.49

Grand total: $38.11

Our Leaders Board:

1. Amanda Freitag $37.17
The Harrison

2. Mikey Price $37.18
Market Table

3. Kelly Liken $37.20
Restaurant Kelly Liken