Tag Archives: healthy

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!

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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 🙂

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.