Tag Archives: easy

Tortillas

The finished ones are in back. The one in front still has to be cooked.

I found this recipe after I got weirded out reading the ingredients to the package of tortillas we had in the fridge. There were a lot and that didn’t make sense to me. So, I went to Pinterest (what else is new) and lo and behold! An outstandingly easy recipe for tortillas was there from Jazibe’s Recipes. With only 3 ingredients (not including water)! The only downside to this is the process: it takes a while. Actually mixing everything only takes about 5 minutes and then they just have to sit in the little balls for 30-ish minutes. But rolling out the tortillas and cooking them takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Good news though, it is a very relaxing, repetitive process that I personally find soothing. That’s just me though.

After making these a few times, I have found that packaged tortillas just taste strange to me. They have a weird rubbery texture that is nonexistent in homemade ones. True, homemade tortillas don’t have the symmetry of store bought, but that is not something that’s a deal breaker to me. I just like knowing that my quesadillas don’t have any weird additives. That, and it is SO much cheaper to make your own. A store bought bag of 12 goes for around $2, but I estimate that a batch of homemade would only cost about $o.80. And that batch makes a lot more than 12 tortillas. The price can vary depending on what flour you use, as that is the main ingredient.

The other nice thing I have discovered about making tortillas is that I can easily switch up the size I want them to be. I’ll make about half quesadilla sized, but golly gee maybe I’ll want a taco later! No problemo, just make the ball of dough smaller. I’m a genius. Varying the size also means that each batch won’t turn out the exact same amount each time, so keep that in mind. I get roughly 20 tortillas per batch.

*Plus! You can get some serious respect from people who will be super impressed when you say you make your own tortillas. They just don’t know how easy it is!

I do have one tip for you guys that threw me off the first time I made these. I was really worried that I would tear the rolled out dough if it was too thin and the first few tortillas turned out way too thick. Make them THIN people. The dough is pretty sturdy and if you do screw up and tear one you can just pinch it back together and roll it again. You just want it to be thin enough to not overpower any toppings you throw at it and still have it be maleable.

Other than that one caution, this is wonderfully easy. You don’t even have to be super strict with the measurements, which is really nice for those of you who are with me in the super lazy club. For the pictures in this post, I didn’t want to make a full batch so I just cut out 2 C. of flour and to compensate make some “acute” measurement adjustments. I added a little less oil, water, and baking powder. That was it! But let’s move on to the actual recipe and price breakdown.
Price:

  • 8 C. flour: $0.50
  • 1 T. baking powder: $0.10 (if that)
  • 1 C. vegetable or canola oil: $0.20

Total: $0.80

Ingredients:

This is seriously all you need.
  • 8 C. flour (white or whole wheat; I usually do about 1-2 C. wheat with the rest white)
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 C. vegetable or canola oil (the original calls for vegetable, but I’ve been using canola with no problem)
  • 1 1/2 C. warm water (add more if the dough is too dry)
  • pinch of salt

Instructions:

  1. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Make a hole in the middle and add in the oil and water.

    It’s like a little oil/water lake! Now destroy it.
  3. Mix the flour and liquid into dough with your hands. I just do it in the bowl, but you can also do this on a floured surface. If it is too dry add a littlebit of water.

    Nice and doughy.
  4. Get out a large baking pan and spray with Pam or coat with parchment paper.
  5. Make golf-ball sized balls (called “tostales”) of dough and line up on the pan. Make smaller balls for taco-sized tortillas.

    Perfection is not the goal for the tostales so don’t worry about them being super smooth or anything.
  6. Cover pan with a damp dish towel and let sit for 30 mins to an hour. However long you have is fine.

    Make sure it is damp so the tostales don’t dry out.
  7. Set up your tortilla making station. Put a medium sized frying pan on the stove and have an area to put both finished tortillas and rolled out ones waiting to be cooked. You will also need a rolling pin and spatula.
  8. After the tostales have sat, start rolling one out to tortillas size. Put it into the pan.

    My edges are never perfect, but if this really bothers you you could trim each tortilla.
  9. Start rolling out the next tostale but keep an eye on the one in the pan. Once it starts bubbling, flip it over. It should be finished by the time you are finished rolling out the next tortilla.

    Bubbles!
  10. Repeat this process until all of the tortillas are made!
  11. Store them in an airtight container. I usually put half in the freezer so they won’t go bad before we eat them.

How did yours turn out? Weird shapes maybe? That happens, especially for the first one. Hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

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Red Beans and Rice

And now, I want a taco and Enrique Iglesias.

One summer in high school, I went on a mission trip to Belize. And during one of the stupid “get to know you” games we played with the teenagers there, I learned that apparently EVERYONE in the town we were in had the same favorite food: Red Beans and Rice. It was kind of funny hearing about 20 people have the same favorite food for some reason. After that trip, I tried making it a couple time on my own, just winging it. It turned out edible, but really bland. I was disappointed but still really wanted to try and make it because it is a really healthy dish.

Then I was browsing Pinterest for some really cheap recipes because of the “broke college kid” situation. And I found this one! I was really pumped because the solution to my bland problem was just cooking the rice with the beans and a liberal amount of paprika. I felt like an idiot, but it’s ok.

The reason this is such a cheap recipe is because rice and beans are two of the cheapest ingredients to include in a meal, and this one just uses those two (plus paprika) to make an awesome filling dish. Beans are also a great source of protein and are low in fat, so you are making a healthy meal too! Much better than ramen noodles or a can of soup.  Plus, this recipe makes plenty of food to save some and reheat later. It basically encourages laziness.

One of the other selling points that really lured me in? It is one of those one-pot meals. You can even make it in your rice cooker if you want to! I just did it in a pot on the stove because I don’t have a rice cooker and it worked great. This is also originally a vegetarian recipe, but I botched that a little bit because I used a chicken bouillon cube to flavor the rice a little bit. You can always use vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian, I just had bouillon cubes on hand and no vegetable stock. Convenience wins. We killed the vegetarian idea even more because Trusty Sidekick has this weird thing where he thinks nothing is a real meal unless it has meat in it. So I just cooked up some ground beef with taco seasoning and mixed in into the rice and beans once they were done. Totally unnecessary, but I was dealing with a manchild and it couldn’t be helped. I’m not going to include the ground beef in the recipe though.

And without further ado, here is the price breakdown:

  • 2 C. rice: $0.25
  • 1 can red beans: $1.00
  • chicken bouillon cube: $0.05
  • 3 cloves garlic: $0.25
  • The amount of paprika is not even $0.05 so I won’t include it.

Total: $1.55 (I know this seems impossible, but seriously, that is how much I spent! Using vegetable stock shouldn’t change this price that much either.)

Seriously guys, this is it. I don’t know why you wouldn’t make this after a long day.

Ingredients:

  • 2 C. rice (either white or brown work)
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 4 C. water

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the beans at least two times in the can and mince garlic.
  2. Put the beans and dry rice into the pot on your stove (or rice cooker) with 4 C. water, bouillon cube, paprika, and garlic.

    Everything except the water and paprika.
  3. Cover the pot and heat until the water begins boiling. Reduce the heat so the water simmers. For a rice cooker, just press start and leave for 40 mins.

    So it looks like weird soup here, but just have patience young grasshoppers.
  4. Leave for about 40 mins and DO NOT take off the lid. It releases the steam and the rice won’t cook as well.
  5. Once all the water is absorbed, it is ready to serve! Dish it out and enjoy.

    Here it is with the ground beef. Ya, I know it looks odd but Trusty Sidekick was pleased.

Hope you all enjoy!

Chicken Parmesan Bake

Don’t it look good?

Who loves some good Chicken Parmesan? Good. Everyone. Let’s continue.

Sadly, Chicken Parmesan is one of those dishes that while extremely delicious, is not that great for you. I can’t even weasel my way out here saying “Oh there’s cheese! Calcium!” or “Chicken has protein!”. It is traditionally fried and smothered in fatty cheeses. And it is so, so yummy.

But rejoice Pants! I found this wonderful recipe for a BAKED version of this delicious comfort food. All credit here goes to Chef John over at food wishes . It takes a lot of work to re-vamp a traditional recipe to be more healthy, so hard work much appreciated. My tummy thanks Chef John.

This chicken turned out amazingly well, though I did cut the recipe in half because Trusty Sidekick and I won’t eat 6 chicken breasts worth of food before it goes bad. Trusty Sidekick ate half of it by himself (aka a whole breast and a half) and if that doesn’t tell you how delicious this is then I don’t know what does. The chicken gets really tender from baking in the sauce so you barely need a knife. The cheese is bubbly (duh), and the cracker/breadcrumb/crouton topping gives just a bit thickness to the cheese so it is almost saucy. The original calls for croutons, but I had breadcrumbs and Ritz crackers and figured they would work just as well. Using the croutons in the original recipe may make it more crunchy than the breadcrumb/cracker topping I used. That decision is up to you though, lovely readers.

This definitely is on my permanent recipe list, it is so easy and delicious. Well anything that is a casserole like this tends to be super simple, so that is always a selling point with me! Plus, this recipe ranks pretty high on my cheapness scale.

I did have one of my lovely “facepalm” moments while cooking this. Pro-tip: make sure your chicken breasts are totally defrosted before you put the dish into the oven. Mine were about half-way done and my lazy brain said, “Oh no it’s fine, they will just finish defrosting while in the oven.” Incorrect, brain. Incorrect. This little lapse of judgement didn’t ruin the dish by any means, I just had to leave it in the oven for about 15 more mins. Regardless, it was inconvenient and frustrating so don’t do that.

What I will give you here is the half recipe, just because most of you aren’t feeding enough people to require the amount of food the original makes.

Moving on to your price breakdown, remember all these are simply approximations:

  • 1 T. olive oil: $0.15
  • 1 clove garlic: $0.05
  • 3 chicken breasts: $4.00
  • 1 C. marinara sauce: $0.75
  • 1/8 C. basil: $0.50 (this will especially vary depending on whether you use fresh or dried basil)
  • 4 oz. mozzarella cheese: $1.00
  • 4 oz. parmesan cheese: $0.75 (I just use the can of grated stuff)
  • 1/8 C. breadcrumbs: $0.25
  • about 10 Ritz crackers: $0.25

Total: $7.70

Your shopping list.

Ingredients:

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
  • hot red pepper flakes to taste
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (4 if you have small ones)
  • 1 C. marinara sauce
  • 1/8 C. chopped basil (or half that amount in dried)
  • 4 oz. mozzarella, shredded
  • 4 oz. parmesan, grated
  • 1/8 C. breadcrumbs
  • about 10 Ritz crackers, crumbled (more or less to cover the top of the dish)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Drizzle about 1 T. olive oil onto the bottom of an 8×8 casserole dish. Put the garlic and red pepper flakes on top.

    No exact measurements necessary, just eyeball it.
  3. Lay the chicken breasts on top, as close together as they need to be.

    They look so cozy.
  4. Coat with the marinara sauce and sprinkle the basil on top. Be as liberal as you want with the sauce, no need to be afraid of going over a cup. Get saucy people. Pun intended.

    Gah, it looks so fresh and yummy! Love it.
  5. Layer half of your cheese on top.

    Cheesy. My favorite.
  6. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on and then add the crackers to make an even coat on top of the cheese.

    Once again, approximations are your friend in this recipe.
  7. Add the rest of the cheese. If you feel so inclined, don’t shy away from adding an extra sprinkle or two of parmesan. It is chicken parmesan after all!
  8. Put the dish in the oven for 35 minutes until the sauce is nice and bubbly.

    We were so hungry that I forgot to take a “right out of the oven” picture. So here is one of the chicken on a plate.

Hope you all enjoy! Do you prefer the crouton or cracker topping? Comment back with your topping of choice!

Lazy Chicken Taco Chili

Yum. That’s it. Yum.

I almost feel bad about this post. First of all, the amount of actual cooking you do consists of shredding chicken that the crock pot has cooked for you, so the work is kept ridiculously low. Second of all, it is another one of those shady pins from Pinterest like from the meatballs last week. I feel like I cheated this week and I’m not completely sure why. Maybe it’s that I barely did any work for this post and took my recipe from the dark alley again instead of a good and proper blog.

Oh well. I don’t feel too bad because this chili is the bee’s knees and is by far one of the easiest and cheapest recipes I have given you lovely people yet. Not only that, but chili is one of the greatest comfort foods. Nice and hearty without making you feel sluggish, steamy and slightly spicy for a chilly night in. Mmmmmm…chili.

Plus, this is a GREAT recipe to mess with. Want more beans? Go buck wild, add another can. Oh, you like your chili with lots of tomato chunks? Well we aren’t friends anymore because tomato chunks are about as appetizing as finding a hair in your cookie, but I guess you can add a can of those. Is taco chili just not right without corn? Well by golly add some corn you crazy kids! Really, as long as it looks right to you, it will probably taste just fine.

Me? I’m kind of a weirdo and like my chili very basic so what I will be giving you is just that. I’m not one for a bunch of add-ons and I have a particular hatred of tomatoes, although the sauce is fine because it is seasoned wonderfully. So basically, feel free to spruce this up to your taste without fear of screwing up horribly. My only caution is to make sure your crock pot or pot isn’t too full. You definitely want about 1 or 2 inches of the top available for bubbling and gurgling.

Also, the original shady pin called for a packet of taco seasoning. I like to use my own because that way I don’t get any of the extra salt or additives. I found a great recipe over at 5 Dollar Dinners, and have a little container of it made up so I can just grab it when I need it. I’m so handy.

Another bonus with this super easy recipe? It is really healthy! Seriously, it is basically chicken, beans, and tomato sauce. And most of the things you would add in like diced tomatoes or corn are healthy. So go ahead, eat two bowls! You’ll want to, trust me.

And on to the price breakdown!

  • 1 can black beans and 1 can kidney beans: $1 each
  • 28oz. can tomato sauce: $1.50
  • 3 chicken breasts: $4.00 (a super generic approximation)
  • I don’t count the taco seasoning into this because it is such a small portion of what you buy.

Total: $6.50

Sorry about the mirrored labels. I forgot my camera and had to take the photos for this post with my computer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 T. Taco seasoning (or 1 packet)
  • 1 T. chili powder

The intensive instructions:

  1. Put all the ingredients in your crock pot. If you don’t own a crock pot (get one) just use a pot on your stove with the heat turned down low.

    Make sure the chicken is covered so it cooks everywhere.
  2. Put the crock pot on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours. For a pot, a little hotter for 6 hours or a little cooler for 10 hours. You get the idea.
  3. About 3 hours in (no need to be super punctual) take two forks and shred the chicken in the crock pot. I do this so that the flavor of the chili gets into all of the chicken.
  4. Put that goodness in a bowl and go to town. Cheese and chips make a great addition to serving.
Trusty Sidekick likes his chili with noodles.

Hope this turns out great for all of you! Try new variations for yourself and comment what you did and how it turned out 🙂

Baked Meatballs

Look at that caramelization. Tasty.

I don’t know how many of you are on Pinterest, but here is a quick breakdown for you before I tell how a super sketchy pin turned out some delicious balls of meat. On Pinterest, you basically make boards of topics that interest you and the “pins” are links to websites with a picture of whatever it is you like from that link.

Now, every once in a while, you come across a pin that is not actually a link to anything but is just a picture that has been uploaded or posted and the information you want is all in the caption underneath. This isn’t super sketchy if someone puts up a cute outfit or a cool nail polish job, but I get kind of weirded out when someone puts up a recipe or DIY project like this. It’s like a ghost did it, I have no connection to another blog or website that has a personality and a history. And when it comes to making food from a source I don’t know ANYTHING about, I get kind of twitchy.

So I pinned one of these frighteningly unreliable pins one evening. And proceeded to make the meatballs it gave me instructions for. I live on the edge guys, try to not get too jealous.

Well, they turned out delightfully good! It was super easy and insanely cheap. Plus, I got to use my beloved basil plant, Barry. Not going to lie, that was one of the main reasons I wanted to try these. Another bonus, you get to mix everything with your hands! Ya. So this pin from a dark alley in a city at midnight turned out to be delicious, but still, I mistrust pins that don’t lead anywhere as a general rule.

These meatballs turned out to be the perfect consistency to just snack on by themselves, and we all had a grand time pretending they were fancy appetizers. We also had fun experimenting with different dipping sauces. We didn’t even get to try them with pasta because they were gone too fast, but you can obviously be more civilized than we were and have spaghetti and homemade meatballs. Seriously, the baking method made the juices caramelize and the balls of deliciously seasoned meat crunched just an itty bitty bit when I bit into them and were wonderfully flavorful for a recipe that uses such basic spices.

The recipe also makes enough for about three people and the leftovers are easily put in some tupperware or plastic baggie and saved for later in the fridge or freezer. I doubled the recipe because there were about 5 of us eating and since 4 of the 5 were guys, I needed plenty of food. I highly recommend doubling it when you make it because of the ease of freezing them. Just like you would a bag you buy from the store. That way, two weeks from now when you are just too tired to do anything but heat something up in the microwave, you have delicious homemade food you can turn to. Look at you go, planning ahead. It’s almost like you could be a functioning adult.

Thus, my epic culinary adventure ended with a happy tummy and a great sense of satisfaction.

Now experience it for yourself! Here is your cost breakdown (as usual, all prices are approximations):

The Stuff.
  • 1 lb. hamburger meat: $3.00 per lb if you don’t get super nice stuff
  • 2 eggs: $0.40
  • 1/2 C. milk: $0.50
  • 1/2 C. grated parmesan: $0.75
  • 1 C. bread crumbs: $0.30
  • 2 cloves garlic: $0.15
  • 1 tsp. onion powder: $0.05
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano: $0.10 (oregano is more expensive than a spice like onion or garlic powder)
  • 1/4 C. basil: $1.25 (this really depends on what form you use, dried will be cheaper, but for this recipe I highly recommend using fresh.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. hamburger meat (we were kind of an extreme budget and bought a literal tube of ground beef, sad I know)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 C. milk
  • 1/2 C. grated parmesan (I didn’t do an exact measurement of this, just a solid handful worked fine for me)
  • 1 C. breadcrumbs (plain)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. onion powder (if you prefer using a fresh onion that works too, just make sure it is very finely diced because it is going in something so bite-sized)
  • 1 tsp. salt, also some pepper if you want to add a dash
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 C. basil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie pan with parchment paper or spray with some Pam.
  2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, herbs, salt, garlic, and milk.
  3. Add in the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Mix the meaty goodness with your hands until everything is evenly distributed.

    Mixin’ it in.
  5. Form the meatballs. The size is totally up to you, I like them a little smaller than a golf ball. Just be aware that if you any smaller than that you will have to decrease the cooking time a bit.
  6. Put the meatballs onto the cookie pan and make sure they are not touching. Close is ok, touching is bad.

    Since I doubled the recipe, there is a lot more meat action going on here.
  7. Put those suckers into the oven for 30 mins. Make sure to check on them as they get close to being done.

    Bakin up all nice and yummy. Almost done!
  8. Take them out and let them cool for about 5 minutes.

Hope you enjoy the recipe and it works out just as well for you as it did for me!

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

This recipe is impossible to eat in small quantities. Trusty Sidekick and I made it one time and I thought, “Awesome! We can eat it for dinner tonight and then have some for lunch tomorrow too. Good thinking Catherine, save yourself some time.”

OM NOM NOM NOM.

We ate the whole thing. An entire casserole. Two people. It really happened.

But I am not ashamed. Judge me if you will, but once you take a bite of this stuff, you will understand so well and feel really bad for judging me and my gluttony. I will say it is totally possible to double up and make two casseroles with hardly any more effort than making one. This way you could just refrigerate the other until the next day when you remember how happy your tummy was and get the craving for more. Trusty Sidekick also just saw me writing this post and wouldn’t stop bothering me until I promised to make this again in the next few days. THE CRAVING.

Anyway, this is one of Trusty Sidekick’s mom’s recipes. He requested I make it about a year ago and she sent along the recipe to me. I can’t count how many times I have made it since. It really is wonderful and doesn’t leave you sitting on the couch afterwards wondering what you did to yourself or what could have possessed you to eat so much food. You just kind of sit back, close your eyes, and pray for a belly rub because you literally are so content with your life. You also will not be hungry for approximately 12 hours.

Keeping this in mind, this dish is perfect to make on a sad rainy day, after a bad test, or to have waiting for you when you come back from your horrible job. It makes everything better. I know you are doubting me. Stop it. And go make this. It is almost impossible to screw up unless you can’t cook rice, or can’t cook chicken. I know it looks like there a lot of steps, but most of it occurs simultaneously so don’t feel like it is daunting.

In case you can’t tell, I’m probably more excited about this recipe than any normal human (who hasn’t eaten Poppyseed Chicken) should be. Partly because this will be my first time actually writing this down. It has been saved as a note on my phone ever since I got it from Trusty Sidekick’s mom. Also, let that be a clue as to how simple it is. I made it from a note on my phone. Admittedly, part of that was that I am too lazy to actually write it out…but whatever.

This is also one of those recipes that can add up if you don’t have some of the basic ingredients on hand that you will use in small amounts. Don’t let this discourage you. Once you make this one time, it will be much cheaper the next time you make it. Poppyseeds are also kind of expensive (I was really surprised when I saw that it was about $4.00 per bottle) and so if you don’t want to spring for them, rest assured the recipe turns out just fine. Which sounds weird since the dish is called Poppyseed Chicken. Just let it happen guys. Trusty Sidekick also points out that they get stuck in your teeth, but do look pretty. So keep that it mind.

So, the price breakdown.

  • 1 lb. chicken: somewhere around $3.00
  • 2 sticks butter: $1.50-ish (margarine is also fine and will be cheaper and healthier)
  • Ritz crackers: $2.50 for a box (you only use a sleeve)
  • 1 C. rice: $0.50? We just buy a huge bag so it may be even cheaper than that.
  • Chicken boullion cube: $0.20 This is one of those things where you buy a jar for $2.00 with 10 cubes inside.
  • Can of cream of chicken soup: $1.00 (on average)
  • 8 oz. sour cream: $1.00
  • Poppyseeds: $.50 (about what you use from the jar)

Total:$9.20

Ingredients:

The ingredients. We didn’t have any butter, so I just used margarine.
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 8 oz. fat-free sour cream
  • 2 sticks butter (or 1 1/2)
  • 1 chicken boullion cube
  • 1 sleeve ritz crackers
  • 1 1/2 tsp. poppyseeds
  • 1 C. rice (makes 2 C. cooked)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a casserole dish. The dish can either be a 9×12 nonstick pan or a glass casserole dish of about the same size. I use a 8×8 glass casserole dish. This just means that the dish is more full than if I had used a larger pan.

2.Start cooking the chicken in a nonstick pan. This is the longest step so just put them in on medium heat and flip them when they are halfway done after about 10 minutes. Do other stuff in the meantime. When it is cooked take it out of the pan to cool and shred it with your hands to make bite-sized strips. It is also ok if they are slightly pink, they will get fully baked in the oven.

Chicken and rice going together. Look at that multi-tasking.

3. Start making the rice. Boil 2 C. of water in a saucepan with the chicken boullion cube. Add 1 C. rice and re-cover until cooked, about 10 min. Make sure the heat is not up past medium or the rice boils over and makes a huge mess. When rice is done, place it in the bottom of your dish to make the bottom layer of the casserole.

The finished rice.

4. In a large bowl, mix together the soup, fat-free sour cream, 1 stick of butter (softened), and poppyseeds (if using) until it is well blended. When the chicken is done and shredded, add it to this mixture. Add this on top of the rice for the next layer.

Appetizing.


5. Mash up 1 sleeve of crackers while still in the sleeve (this is the least messy way). Put into a bowl with the other stick of softened butter. I tend to use more like a 1/2 stick and the same effect is achieved. And less fat, which is a bonus.

6. Sprinkle the crackers and butter on top of the casserole evenly.

7. Put the casserole in the oven for 20-30 mins. Keep an eye on it for the last few minutes and when it starts bubbling and the crackers look toasted, it’s done!

Nice brown crackers, super creamy chicken mix underneath. If this is wrong I don’t want to be right.

8. Take it out and just separate it into two big bowls. Don’t try and fool yourself into thinking you will just “have a normal portion”. Ha. You are funny.
Hope you enjoy this recipe! Comments and questions always welcome 🙂

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!

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.