Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Few More Cheap & Easy Meals

Here are a few more budget friendly meals I have cooked in the past few days. For breakfast a couple of days ago, I heated up a tortilla in the oven, folded it in half, then topped it with a fried egg, cheese, cilantro, and salsa.

For dinner on Tuesday, I fixed stir fry with rice, as I have many times before. Cut up chicken breasts and put in plastic storage container. Pour Teriyaki sauce over the chicken (I use Very Teriyaki). Cover and let sit in refrigerator for a few hours. Spray wok with canola oil spray, and heat to medium high heat. Pan sear vegetables in wok for a few minutes. Remove chicken with slotted spoon and add to veggie mix in wok. This time I added about 2 teaspoons of garlic chili paste. Cook chicken completely. Pour chicken and veggies over rice. Serve with soy sauce and Huy Fong Chili Sauce for extra flavor.

The other day for lunch I wanted to use the leftover tomato sauce from the night before. So, I spread a few spoonfuls of sauce over a whole wheat tortilla, sprinkled with shredded Italian cheese blend, and topped with diced tomatoes, salt, and pepper. I baked it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes or until the cheese wass melted and the tortilla was golden and crispy. Then I topped it with oregano and crushed red pepper. This was so easy and cheap. It also could be made with a lot of different sauce and topping variations.

Been A Little Busy Lately...

Well, the last couple of weeks have been super busy for us, so I have been a little absent lately. My sister got married 2 weekends ago, we moved a week ago, and last weekend we were in Dallas. So, needless to say, life has been a little crazy! We are finally settling into our new apartment a little better, and I am getting back to cooking!

When we got back in from my sister's wedding, we were low on money, so we did not want to go out to eat, but we had very little food in the fridge. We did have some chicken, so I pulled that out and made a delicious (although not super healthy) meal, homemade chicken strips. I cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts into strips. Next I made a battering assembly line. You need 3 shallow bowls, one with flour, one with a beaten egg (season the egg with salt and pepper, and garlic powder), and the last one with whole wheat seasoned bread crumbs. Keep them in that order, with the bread crumbs closest to your frying pan. Fill your frying pan with oil (canola or olive), about 1/2 inch deep. Heat oil over medium-high heat, and wait for it to get hot. Dredge chicken through flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Drop battered strips into the oil and cook until golden brown, turning to cook all sides evenly (cut into thickest pieces to make sure they are cooked all the way through). Place on wire rack with paper towel lined plate underneath to drain remaining oil.

I made a little honey mustard dipping sauce to go with the chicken fingers. I don't have exact measurements, so I will do my best. Stir together 2 parts mayonnaise, 1 part dijon mustard (I use Annie's Naturals Dijon), 1 part honey, and salt and pepper to taste.

This chicken with the sauce was really good (especially for being a meal born out of improvisation). Josh loved it too. He told me it was like homemade Chick-fil-A, which is a huge compliment coming from him, since he loves their chicken strips and Chick-fil-A sauce!

The past couple of mornings I had Kashi Honey Sunshine cereal for breakfast. It is one of my favorites! Give it a try sometime. It is sweet and has 6g of fiber per serving.

So, as I mentioned before, we have been pretty poor since we got back from my sister's wedding, so I have been trying to think of inexpensive meals using ingredients we already have along with cheap extra ingredients. On Monday night we had this pasta. I cooked whole wheat spaghetti and topped it with tomato sauce and sauteed carrots and zucchini. Often I think I can't buy fresh ingredients when we are low on cash, but that is not true. If you are on a tight budget, you can still find some really great deals on fresh produce. The zucchini was only $.55, and I bought a one pound bag of carrots for $.69, which will last me through the week! I also bought broccoli for another meal, and it was only $.41! You just have to be a little more flexible. Some produce is expensive, such as avocados, baby spinach, and almost anything organic. But if you just take the time to look around at prices, you can find some great deals on vegetables you can buy with your spare change!

To make the sauce for this pasta, I used 1 can of tomato sauce, which I already had in my pantry, and poured it into a pan on medium heat. I then added a generous dash of oregano, 2 cloves of minced garlic, a dash of crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. After the sauce was bubbly, I reduced the heat to low, and let it simmer while I cooked the pasta and veggies. I saved the leftover sauce to make pizza the next day.

This meal was simple, healthy, and cheap!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Southwest Pizza

On Saturday night I created a new dish, a Southwest Pizza. My inspiration came from a pizza I had a few years back in Crested Butte, Colorado at the Secret Stash. My grandparents owned a home in Crested Butte for about 30 years, and I spent lots of time in that wonderful town. I even spent one summer in college living and working there. One of my favorite spots (although that is a long list, there are so many good ones), is the Secret Stash. It's a great little pizza place/restaurant/bar that is so Crested Butte (great hippie vibe). I ate a pizza there that had black beans and corn on it, and found it surprisingly delicious. Their version had more of a barbecue flair, while I took mine in a more southwest direction.

This is how to make my easy Southwest Pizza:

Spread one Pillsbury pizza crust (refrigerated kind you find in a tube) out on a 13 x 9" baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Pull out of oven and brush with olive oil. Cut a garlic clove in half, then rub on crust. Next, cover crust with shredded colby-jack cheese (leave off of edges to create a crust), then sprinkle with black beans, corn, diced cherry tomatoes, diced roasted green chiles, chopped cilantro, pepper, chili powder, and Mexican seasoning (I used Julio's). I used canned black beans and corn (about 1/2 can of each). For all the other ingredients, you can use as much as looks good to you!

Return pizza to oven and bake for another 12 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden. Cut into 8 rectangular slices for serving.

This pizza was really good! I will be making it again soon! Plus it is inexpensive and very easy!

Side note: The picture is not very good because I had to take it with my phone. Next time I make it I will do a better job!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Summer Is Almost Here!

On Tuesday night, I tried a new recipe I found in the latest issue of Southern Living. The meal felt like summer to me, and we enjoyed it out on our patio. I love summer cooking, grilled food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dining al fresco!

The recipe was for grilled chicken thighs, but I had chicken breasts in my freezer, so I used those instead. It also had a recipe for a white barbecue sauce, which sounded great, but I did not have all the ingredients for that, so I did not make the sauce. We just used our barbecue sauce we had in the fridge. The chicken was really easy to make. You just combine spices, which you should have in your spice rack already to make a rub. Then you grill the chicken, so it was very simple! You can find the recipe here. The chicken was really tasty, so we will definitely do it again. It would also be great for entertaining, because you could prepare the chicken earlier in the day, so all you have to do is throw it on the grill.

To accompany the chicken, I made green chile cheese grits. I just cooked some quick grits from the box, and once they were cooked, stirred in colby-jack cheese and chopped green chiles. It was pretty easy, but I think next time I will go easy on the green chile, I put a little too much in and it kind of overpowered the grits.

I also served a spinach strawberry salad. It was just organic baby spinach leaves with sliced strawberries and pepper, and a drizzling of basalmic vinaigrette. It is very good, healthy, and easy!

For breakfast on Monday, I had a little more time than normal, so I made a quick and healthy breakfast, similar to what I made on Saturday. This time there were no potatoes, and no bacon, but I used spinach and fresh grated parmigianno reggiano. Saute fresh spinach in a pan with olive oil, place the cooked spinach on top of a piece of whole wheat toast, then top with a fried egg, roasted cherry tomatoes, and the cheese. This was very good, and very easy. It's a great vegetarian meal too!

On Sunday night, we decided we wanted a light dinner since we had the big taco lunch. I went to Market Street and picked up sushi. We had tuna rolls, salmon rolls, and vegetable rolls. It was a nice meal for Sunday night, especially when you have eaten a big lunch.

We are moving in a couple of weeks, so we went ahead and canceled our cable and internet. So, my writing may be a little sporadic until we move into our new place! I have to write whenever I am somewhere that I can get online!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Taco Dinner & Saturday Breakfast

Today for lunch I made turkey tacos. I used ground turkey and Lawry's taco seasoning (just follow the directions on the seasoning packet). I served it with black beans, and covered the tacos with cheese, salsa, and cilantro. Tacos have always been a favorite of mine. I use to love when my mom would make us tacos for dinner! Using ground turkey is a great way to make this meal much healthier than when using ground beef. Also, this is one of the meals when using ground turkey where there is enough seasoning so that the meat is not too bland. Unlike beef, turkey does not have much flavor on its own.

I used these taco shells for the first time, and they were pretty good. They were much smaller than most taco shells, but they were very light and crispy. I think we might have them next time too!

Yesterday we had a laid-back Saturday morning, which we have not had in awhile. So, I figured it would be a good time to cook a great breakfast. So, I looked at what we had in our kitchen: bread, 2 eggs, bacon, cherry tomatoes, a couple of baking potatoes, cilantro, and a little leftover manchego cheese. So, this is the meal I came up with:

Toast 2 pieces of wheat bread in toaster. Cut cherry tomatoes in half, place in baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and pepper. Cook in oven for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Cook 4 pieces of bacon in pan. After bacon is cooked and crispy, remove bacon and place on paper towels. Drain most of grease from pan, but do not wipe clean. Add chopped up pieces of baking potatoes, a little oil, and salt. Once potatoes are soft and cooked through, remove from pan (if you get impatient like me, you can throw them in the oven for a little bit). Then clean pan and fry eggs over easy. To assemble dish, place toast on pan, cover with 2 pieces of bacon and one egg. Place potatoes and tomatoes on plate next to bread. Then top entire dish with fresh grated manchego and chopped cilantro. This will make enough for two of these dishes.

This meal was very tasty and easy to make. We will definitely do it again!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Noche de Espana

Last night we had our friends Anndee and Daren over for dinner. They visited Spain last summer, where I studied abroad in college, so we decided to have a Spanish feast. We had a Spanish tortilla, paella, Serrano ham, and Manchego cheese. It was absolutely delicioso!

I spent a summer during college studying abroad in Seville, Spain. It is a beautiful city in the southern region of Spain, also know as Andalusia. While there, I lived with a sweet Spanish woman and her young daughter, along with two other students from Texas Tech (she was our mama while we were there). Our Spanish mama would cook meals for us every day, many being authentic Spanish dishes. My favorite dish she made was a Spanish tortilla. I also loved her fresh fruit juices and paella.

Many people assume Spanish food is like Mexican or other Latin foods, with the same spiciness and flavors. But Spanish food is very different from Mexican food. It usually is not spicy, and I think it has more of a Mediterranean influence (at least in southern Spain).

A Spanish tortilla is in no way like a Mexican tortilla (other than the fact that it is round). It is similar to a quiche (without the crust), or a frittata. It is made with eggs usually mixed with some vegetables like potatoes or asparagus, or even meat. Last night my tortilla had potatoes and chives. Here is the recipe:


  • 8 eggs
  • 3 small baking potatoes sliced into about 1/4 in. pieces
  • about 1/4 c. chopped chives
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add potatoes, chives, and garlic. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (until potatoes are soft). In separate bowl, stir eggs, salt, and pepper. Pour into pan with other ingredients, making sure potatoes are spread evenly across pan. Let sit at medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. Eggs should set in bottom of the pan. Next, get a spatula and begin to loosen eggs from sides of pan. Place a plate (larger than the pan), over the pan. Flip the pan over so that the cooked side of the eggs faces up. Then return tortilla to pan, this time with the cooked side up. Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until eggs are set. Then place on dish and cut into wedges.

It can be pretty difficult to flip your tortilla (I spilled a little of the eggs when I did it). The most important thing is to have a plate larger than your pan. My plate was about the same size as my pan. Next time I think I will use a smaller pan with a large plate so that it will flip with the plate better. I have seen some recipes where instead of flipping it, they will put it in the oven for a little bit. This could be a good way to do it, but when my Spanish mama showed us how she makes hers, she did the flip, so I like to make it that way! This is a great dish, and you can make so many variations with what you put in it. It is also very inexpensive, and still filling-eggs and potatoes are cheap!

Paella is a rice dish that usually has some vegetables, seafood, and/or meat. I have yet to attempt making it from scratch, which requires much more time, and with many types of seafood, more money. So, I bought this box of paella I had tried at a friend's before. I bought it at World Marked for $4.99, and it could easily feed 6-8 people. The 4 of us each had seconds and there was still some leftover. This is a tasty and inexpensive dish as too!