Monthly Archives: September 2012

Zero Effort Tortellini Bake

That’s the good stuff.

This recipe is the epitome of lazy food. I love it.

I mean, you could try and get fancy with it and make your own tortellini, alfredo sauce, or marinara sauce. Which, could be a fun project…

ANYWAY. You probably won’t do that. And really, no one in their right mind could blame you. It takes about as much effort as making some ramen and tastes, according to my calculations, a billion times better. And after the potato soup debacle last week, I was more than down for something like this.

This is another recipe I found on Pinterest, although the real page in on busycooks.about.com by Linda Larson. She has some suggestions for adding in meatballs or veggies. I would also maybe try some ground beef, but as she points out that is so much more effort than the recipe calls for.

Downside: it’s not that healthy for you. Although, I do rationalize that you get protein and calcium from the alfredo and cheese in the tortellini. Also, marinara sauce is made with veggies, so there is that. And the noodles? Well, we all need some carbs now don’t we? In any case, disregard my promise for healthy recipes this week. And just enjoy yourself in the pasta and saucyness of it all.

Fun fact though, related to the healthiness of the recipe. I was going to get the “light” alfredo sauce since no one I know can taste the difference, but I noticed the Ragu alfredo was on sale. So, I decided to compare the nutrition facts. The Ragu had the same amount of fat as the “light” stuff! I get pumped about this kind of stuff, so just deal with it. Grocery shopping is cool. So, saved some money with the Ragu and didn’t have to feel like I was getting something worse for me. Score.

So here is your cost breakdown (this is all approximate, so it may vary by a dollar or two depending on sales and where you buy):

  • $6.50 (about) 20 oz. bag of tortellini
  • $1.20 per jar of alfredo and marinara sauce

Total: $9.90 for 4 servings

So, onto these intricate and time-consuming instructions:

The tortellini bag is empty because I was in such a state of hunger that I just started making this. Then remembered I needed to take pictures.

Ingredients:

  • 20 oz. bag of tortellini (I’ve only used cheese, but some type of meat would be delicious as well)
  • 28 oz. jar marinara/spaghetti sause (I tend to use a smaller size jar, not quite 12 oz, but buying less than 28 oz. still gives you plenty of sauce.)
  • 12 oz. jar alfredo sauce
  • 1 C. water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Put tortellini into either a 9 x 12 baking pan or a 3 quart casserole dish. Either works just fine.
  3. Pour in the marinara and water and coat the tortellini evenly with it, then top with the alfredo. Don’t mix the alfredo in.

    It looks kind of gross here. Ignore this stage.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and put in the oven for 50 minutes if using refrigerated tortellini, 1 hour and 15 minutes if using frozen.

    After you take it out of the oven. Mmmmm.
  5. Let it cool. For about a minute, then you can give up and burn your mouth.

Hope you all enjoy, comments and questions always welcome!

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Loaded Potato Soup

I made a huge mistake.

See, this recipe (from the wonderfully organized Framed Cooks) is insanely delicious, I made it once over the summer and Trusty Sidekick made it all by himself once too. So you know it is easy and good if he will put in the effort to do that. Seriously, Samwise would be proud to give this to Frodo and we all know how Sam feels about po-tat-oes.

Look at this. Don’t you want it in your mouth/stomach right now?

But, I did something horrible. I messed with it. I needed to make it again for this post, and because I wanted to add to the loaded potatoey goodness, I messed with it. Why? Well I actually had wholly innocent and well-meaning reasons.

The Trusty Sidekick’s mom is a great cook and so when we told her that Loaded Potato Soup was on the menu she was super nice and sent me her recipe so I could take a look and see how it compared to the one I already used. It was a bit more complicated but looked really good, so I decided to blend the two a bit and thought “Hey, it can’t hurt to tweak it a bit.”

WRONG.

Now sometimes this turns out fine, especially once I know how the original works and can get a feel for what will change. So don’t think you can’t go tweaking recipes. But in this one, isolated, incident it wasn’t so.

The soup tasted kind of watery and bland, no sense of the loadedness that it had the first times the original recipe was used. Please keep in mind, this was not the other recipe’s fault. I simply did not calculate out everything well enough when blending them. My bad. This was mostly due to my decision to go with adding about 3 more taters than I normally did. Guys, don’t do that. And then I just used some more milk to “compensate”. Don’t do that either. The recipe I will be giving you is the one we first used and has a wonderful ration of chunky potato to creamy soup so I highly recommend just sticking with it.

The two points in her recipe that I did like and will keep for you guys are putting the potatoes in raw (as opposed to baking them beforehand) and adding in some garlic powder at the beginning. The first change just streamlines the cooking more, and I felt that the taters absorbed some of the creaminess this way too. And I like garlic, so the garlic powder is staying. But you don’t need it if you are vehemently opposed to it. I don’t know your life.

So class, let’s go over why this is so easy on your sad, limp, sorry excuses for wallets.

  • The main ingredient is potatoes. True story guys, we bought a 10 pound bag for $5. SO MANY TATERS.
  • The second main ingredient is milk, which you use 2 cups of. That comes to maybe a dollar depending on how much you spend on milk.
  • The cheeseyness amount is up to you, so you can ration out however much you want according to what you have in the fridge.
  • Buying a little bag of Bacon Bits is about $1.50 (when I got them at least), and we didn’t even use the whole bag. If you are an amazing ‘Merican then you already have some bacon in your fridge so that works too. It can just be a little more pricey.
  • Chicken broth can be bought for about $1 a can, and maybe cheaper if you get it on sale. I also like to get a box of it, which gives you more broth and is close to the same price.

So, after hearing my tale of butchered soup try it yourself!

By the way, the light in the Trusty Sidekick’s kitchen (where I cook everything) was starting to go out, so I apologize for the lack of high-quality photos. It seriously looked like a flickering light from a haunted house, so we just had to make do with the light over the stove.

A visual checklist, minus bacon. Whoops.

Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes (Yukon Gold or Russet work well)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (I buy a bag of frozen chopped onions and just throw a handful in for this, that way you don’t worry about keeping fresh onions around and no chopping!)
  • 1 1/4 C. chicken broth
  • 3 T. flour
  • 2 C. milk (as much as I love skim, 1% or 2% are better for this recipe)
  • 1/4 C. Fat-free sour cream (Reduced-fat is ok too)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 3 bacon slices, crumbled or use however much bacon your little heart desires
  • about 1/3 C shredded cheddar cheese (I didn’t measure out the cheese really since we just used it for topping)

Directions

  1. Scrub potatoes and peel them. A veggie peeler works best in my humble opinion, but a good knife would work too if you don’t want to invest in one. If you are so inclined, you can prick the taters with a fork and throw them in the microwave for a few minutes to soften them up for cooking later on. This is not necessary though, and I have never done it.
  2. Dice potatoes into chunks. Your own preference determines the size, I do recommend having them a bit smaller than bite-sized.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat (if you have an electric stove, watch you pot carefully as those are crafty little guys when it comes to keeping a consistent heat).
  4. Add in the onion and sauté for 3 minutes then slowly add in the broth.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour with 1/2 C. of milk. Add it to the pan. Add the remaining 1 1/2 C milk. Bring pan to a boil and stir frequently. Milk can burn if you don’t watch it.

    Here is how it looked after adding in the milk and flour mixture with the remaining milk.
  6. Add in potatoes and reduce heat to a low-medium. Cook for about 15-20 minutes. Don’t be afraid to taste-test the potatoes for done-ness. When they start getting mushy, you can get a little rough with them in the pan (they like that) to mush them into the soup a bit more.

    With the potatoes.
  7. Once taters are done, remove the pan from heat. Stir in the sour cream and let the soup sit for a minute.
  8. Get your toppings ready.
  9. Dish out the soup and get your tater on.

    The finished product, all garnished up with goodies.

*NOTE: If you want a less chunky soup, simply fully cook the potatoes in the microwave for about 13 minutes and put them in as the last step. You will need to mash them up before adding them though. Also, why don’t you like chunks of ‘tato? Weirdo.

Hope the recipe produces bowls of steamy creaminess for all y’all. Comments and questions are always appreciated!

Adaptation of Roasted Lemon Garlic Herb Shrimp

So this is one of my Pinterest recipes, originally on Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice This sounds super fancy and shenanigans like that, but I assure you the name sounds like that just so other people will be impressed with you when you told them what you made for dinner last night. Your mom may also become slightly less disappointed in you. No promises on that one though. The basic idea here is very simple. Put some stuff in a pan for some time.

The finished procuct.

So why is this cheap?

The shrimp is somewhat more expensive than other meat/protein sources, but the rest of the ingredients are very inexpensive or are just a small portion of what you have on hand. Plus waiting to make this until you can grab some shrimp when it is on sale is a fan-freaking-tastic idea.
A super basic breakdown:

  • Lemon: They cost about 70 cents. You can also just use lemon juice if you are so inclined.
  • Garlic: A whole bulb is about 50 cents, and you can save some of it for later cooking.
  • Herbs: Freeze-dried or dried are about $2-$3¬† per bottle, but these keep for a long time and you don’t use a lot in a given recipe. Or, having your own plant means it is free.
  • Noodles/Rice: Seriously, if you pay a lot for noodles or rice you are doing it wrong.
  • Olive oil: Not the cheapest of oils, but you will actually only use about $1.50 worth in this recipe.
  • Butter: 2 tablespoons are like 25 cents or something like that. Margarine also works fine in this recipe.

Feel better about being fancy? Good. Let’s move on to some modifications you can make to this.

This recipe originally called for thyme as the herb, but I happen to have a lovely basil plant. His name is Barry. So, I went with some fresh basil. You could easily substitute any herb you would like (oregano, parsley, marjoram, or sage are some that could work) or even mix them up. If all you have is dried just use about half of what the recipe calls for since the flavor is stronger. Just know what kind of flavor you want before going willy-nilly.

You also have a great option for what you will serve with the shrimp. I made this with a mix of quinoa* and rice. The Trust Sidekick is not a fan of quinoa. I would actually recommend doing just rice, or maybe some orzo pasta or angel hair. Once again, use what you’ve got! Spaghetti noodles or rotini work just as fine as anything else. The oil and herbs it’s roasted in are delicious, and no sense in wasting them so make sure you use this as a sauce for whatever you serve with the shrimp. We didn’t use enough and The Trusty Sidekick and I both agreed that using more would have added a lot of flavor.

Anyway, here is the recipe I used:

Yield: about 3 servings

Total cooking time: 40 minutes

Tools you need:

  • 9×12 baking pan
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Cheese grater (optional)
  • Collander/strainer (if using frozen shrimp)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lemon (or 2 1/2 T. lemon juice)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (doesn’t need to be exact)
  • 1 T. fresh/freeze-dried herbs (about) or 1/2 T. dried
  • 2 T. butter/margarine
  • 1 lb. shrimp (no tails, deveined)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • rice/pasta

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Zest lemon with cheese grater and set aside. Cut lemon into thin slices and mince garlic.

    I also did some lemon wedges to squeeze onto the omnoms.
  2. Pour olive oil into 9×12 pan until it coats the entire bottom. Add in lemon zest and herbs. Bake for 10-12 minutes until it is browned. Make sure you check every few minutes so it doesn’t burn.
  3. Cook rice/pasta according to package directions.
  4. If shrimp is frozen, place in collander and run under warm water for a few minutes until it is unfrozen.
  5. Take pan out of oven and add the butter, shrimp, garlic, and lemon slices (or lemon juice). Toss everything to coat it evenly.

    In the oven.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes until shrimp are pink. Check on it every few minutes.
  7. Serve shrimp over rice/pasta and liberally pour on the sauce.
  8. Have a happy tummy.

Hope you all enjoy. Comments are always welcome!

*Quinoa is a somewhat rice-like grain that has a bit more protein and amino acids in it. It is more expensive than rice, but my dear mother gave me some so I used it.

Just Start Cooking.

To so many people, especially us college kids, cooking a homemade dinner sounds so daunting. Better left for you to simply enjoy on your next trip home. And if you are just fine making off-brand mac & cheese and ramen a lot, then good for you Glen Coco. But, now stay with me here people, cooking ISN’T THAT HARD. Sure it can become intense and super time consuming, but it really doesn’t have to be.

Now I started cooking little things here and there in high school. Mostly cookies and thawing out frozen meatballs for spaghetti. I was a wild child. But this past summer, I realized how much I had missed a good meal in my first two years at school. So with both my parents working and me being the oldest child, if I wanted a good, healthy meal I needed to learn how to do it myself. I also had a store of Pinterest recipes on my board and a hankerin’ to use ’em!

And thus started my love of cooking.

The recipes I held on to were ones that I knew I would be able to use back at school, which meant they needed to be cheap enough for my friends and I to buy the ingredients on a regular basis. I also took mental notes during my cooking-filled summer of what to keep on hand as well. Time and money and all that. So know all of what I will share has been approved by my very small bank account.

I also hate eating really unhealthy food (that “blah” feeling isn’t fun all the time), so the food I make tends to be fairly, if not very, healthy for you. Now don’t let this turn you off. The Trusty Sidekick has a deep-seeded hate against anything that tastes healthy and he is the one who tests all of my experiments cooking and I will include his verdict (and those of other friends). So somehow we have managed to find the best of two polar opposite worlds and you get to see the recipes that have passed the test here.

So that is just a little bit about me and this blog. I will be putting up a new recipe about every week or so, and if it is one I am trying for the first time I’ll give a little review of it as well.