All posts by BudgetEpicurean

Homemade Shamrock Shake

 

Can you believe that St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner already!  This year it is on March 17th.  And one of my favorite things about this time of year, though I avoid the place like the plague at all other times, is McDonald’s Shamrock Shake.

Yes, I know they are horrible for you, and probably don’t even contain dairy but “sugar infused plastic“, but damn are they delicious.  And it only happens once a year…

But, the facts remain that they are terrible for your health, so in an effort to swear them off I attempted my own homemade version.  The recipe I used is similar to this one from SparkPeople.  Now I don’t have to wait all year, or hope that the ice cream machine isn’t broken, I can have a Shamrock Shake anytime!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup frozen Greek plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • Couple drops food coloring
  • Couple drops peppermint flavoring
  • 2 tbsp honey or sugar

Step 1: In a blender, combine all ingredients.

Step 2: Blend well until smooth.  Add as much green as you want.

Step 3: Pour into a glass and enjoy!

 

Mediterranean Breakfast Sandwich

Though this sandwich does involve eggs, I hesitate to call it a “breakfast sandwich” because it would taste amazing any time of day.  Like my other recipes with Mediterranean in the title (such as my Mediterranean Meatloaf Muffins, Stuffed Mushroom Caps, Cashew Chicken, Vegetable Panini, or Chicken & Couscous), this recipe uses lots of healthy veggies, mostly bell peppers and avocado.  You could easily substitute or add in eggplants, zucchini, any type of olives, greens, or caramelized onions too.

Recipe makes 2 large sandwiches.  You can also turn these into wraps, or serve in a lettuce leaf, if you are avoiding carbs.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 jar roasted red bell peppers
  • 1 fresh avocado
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 slices wheat bread
  • 2 slices cheese
Step 1: In a frying pan, heat the olive oil to sizzling.  Crack the eggs in, and fry 2-3 minutes, until whites are cooked.

Step 2: Flip the egg once all the whites have cooked.  Take the roasted peppers and add those to the pan.  The longer you cook the egg, the more solid and less runny the yolks become.

Step 3: Once the eggs are cooked and peppers are heated through, place one egg and 1-2 pieces of pepper onto each of 2 slices of bread.

Step 4: On two other slices of bread, add the cheese slice and half of the avocado.  Press the two halves of each sandwich together.

Step 5: If you need to, add 1 more tbsp olive oil.  Put the sandwiches into the pan, and cook for 4-5 minutes on both sides, until nice and browned and the cheese is melty.

 Slice the sandwiches in half, and enjoy!

Mandarin-Cherry Tuna Salad

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For a quick, healthy lunch, tuna salad is always a go-to.  Pretty much all you need is a can or pouch of tuna and some lemon juice, but there are infinite ways you can spruce it up.
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For example:
  • Add a chopped hard boiled egg
  • Toss in diced celery
  • Shred up some carrots
  • Add chunks of apple
  • Spoon in a few tbsp of relish
  • Hot sauce!

And many more options, as creative as your mind can dream up.  This particular recipe came about because the baby oranges were on sale, and we needed to use some up before they dried out and became inedible.  Oranges go great with tuna, but I wanted just a little bit more to round out the flavor.  Dried cherries were just the thing.  Feel free to use raisins or cranberries if that is what you have.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can or pouch of tuna, drained
  • 1 small orange (or 1/2 can mandarin orange slices)
  • 1 tbsp dried cherries (or cranberries or raisins)
  • 1 tbsp mayo or miracle whip
  • 1 tsp lemon juice or cider vinegar
  • 1-2 cups chopped greens, or a wrap, or 2 slices of bread
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Step 1: Open and drain a can of tuna, mix in a bowl with the mayo and lemon juice.  Add in the cherries.

Step 2: Either wrap it up, make it into a sandwich, or serve it over a salad, topped with the orange slices.  Season to taste and enjoy!

Napa Cabbage & Roasted Beet Slaw


Happy Valentine’s Day dear readers!

Hopefully you have someone or many someones close to you to celebrate with this weekend.  Valentine’s Day of course causes some polarizing feelings, based on what your relationship status is it seems.  But there are more types of love than romantic love.  Try taking today to celebrate all your loved ones, including your family, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, and even random strangers.  Everyone could use a hug or a smile or a kind word.

For Valentine’s Day recipes to impress, try:

If you want to try impressing your loved one(s) with a home-cooked meal but feel daunted, try searching my “less than 5” section for recipes that take less than 5 minutes, less than 5 ingredients, or less than 5 dollars to make.

This recipe is a light, easy slaw using ingredients that are around in February: cabbage, carrots, and beets.  Dried cherries or cranberries and honey sweeten it up, while apple cider vinegar & lemon juice gives it pucker power.  And the beets give it a lovely pink color!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 large cabbage
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 medium beets
  • 1 tbsp dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Step 1: Cut the tops off the beets, place in an oven-safe sprayed pan and roast at 350 for 35-40 minutes, until tender when pricked with a fork.  Dice or shred the cabbage into small strips.  You will need about 3-4 cups, but can halve or double the recipe as needed.

Step 2: Julienne the carrots or shred them. (Julienne means essentially cut into very thin strips like matchsticks).  When the beets are soft, let cool enough to handle and then cut them into thin strips as well.
Step 3: In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, beets, and dried cherries or cranberries.

Step 4: In a smaller bowl, combine the oil, honey, lemon, and vinegar and whisk until well combined.

Step 5: Pour the liquid over the vegetables in the bowl.  Add some salt & pepper to taste.

Step 6: Mix everything well to coat, and refrigerator for 1 hour up to 2 weeks. 

The liquid mixed with the beets turns a nice red-pink color.  This slaw is super healthy, and tastes great on its own or slathered onto sandwiches or hot dogs.  You can also pickle it by adding slightly more vinegar to cover in a bowl or jar, and leaving it out at room temperature for 4-7 days.  Then put on a lid and put it in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

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Have a healthy, happy Valentine’s Day!

Slow Cooker Chicken with Peanut Sauce

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Peanut butter is a great source of health protein, as long as you don’t go overboard the fat content isn’t a deal-breaker.  It is also a very cheap staple to keep in the kitchen.  But even the most devoted lover of peanut butter sandwiches can get bored of them in time.  A simple peanut sauce goes great with chicken (or pork!) and when made in the slow cooker, it is a breeze to whip up something exotic in no time at all with basic staples.
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This sauce is a complex mixture of creamy, salty, spicy, and peanuts.  Obviously do not make it or eat it around people who have a severe peanut allergy, as it contains both peanuts and peanut butter.  You can control the level of spice by choosing what kinds of pepper to add, if any.  Feel free to tweak the seasonings to your preferences.
Ingredients:
  • 2-3 pounds chicken
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp peanuts, crushed
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced, or 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 4 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • Optional: 1 tsp Thai chilie

Step 1: Mix all wet ingredients in a bowl.

Step 2: Add chicken and all of the spices.  You could either mix this in an oven-safe container and bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours, or mix in a crock pot and bake on low for 5-6 hours.

And here you have the chicken and sauce in a crock pot.

The crushed peanuts are added on top, then cooked on low.

The peanut sauce thickens over time, and is delicious served over pasta or rice.

Pork with Peppermint Raspberry Sauce

 

This is a super-easy dinner you can create in less than 30 minutes, and it looks like you slaved all day.  Raspberry and peppermint naturally go together, with a sweet yet menthol cooling after taste.  Thin boneless pork chops are great to keep in the freezer for a quick last-minute dinner, because they defrost very quickly, and take to hundreds of different flavors and sauces well.

For this recipe, use either 4 small pork chops, or one larger 1-1.5 pound pork roast.  The sauce can be made while the chops cook, so that they are ready at the same time.  I made some potatoes and wilted spinach, but you could have a salad or any roasted veggie you like on the side to complete the meal.

Ingredients:

  • 4 pork chops or 1 pound roast
  • 1 tbsp butter or margerine
  • 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsp cran-cherry juice
  • 2-3 drops peppermint
  • 1/2 pint raspberries

Step 1: In a frying pan, melt the butter and fry the pork chops.  Cook 5-6 minutes, then flip and cook another 4-5 minutes.

Step 2: In a small sauce pan, mix the juice and vinegar.  Add the raspberries, and bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Step 3: After the raspberries have basically fallen apart, add the drops of peppermint, and strain it if you don’t want the seeds.  Drizzle over the cooked pork.

Simple soy sauce chicken

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This is a super simple recipe that I’ve used time and time again. It is great on its own, or as the base of a more complex sauce. Feel free to experiment with adding new ingredients as you become more sure of your own tastes and what flavors go well together. Ideas include: slices of lemon or orange, zest from citrus, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, fish sauce, thyme, parsley, oregano, tomato paste, pureed anchovies, olives, crushed nuts…
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Chicken is also a great meat for those on a budget. Especially if you buy dark meat like drumsticks or thighs, these are often on sale for 0.99/pound or less. You can also use chicken leg quarters, which includes both drumsticks & thigh meat. My sister, who is in college now, also loves this quick, easy, always-delicious chicken. Pair with a veggie or two & a carb for a filling, frugal meal in under 20 minutes.
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Ingredients:
  • 2-4 pieces of chicken (thighs, drumsticks, or breasts all work)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp diced garlic (or 3-4 cloves, chopped)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
  • Sprinkle of garlic salt or S&P
Step 1: In a frying pan, lay the chicken in a single layer. If using breasts, spray the pan or spread around 1 tbsp oil first. If using drumsticks or thighs, the chicken should release some of its own fat while it cooks so it won’t stick.
Step 2: In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, garlic, and lemon juice. Mix well, and pour over the chicken.
Step 3: Bring the heat to medium, and cook, covered, for 10-12 minutes. Flip, and cook the other side for 5-7 minutes.
Step 4: Poke with a fork or cut a small slice in the thickest part. Once you’re sure there is no pink inside, your chicken is ready!
This chicken is especially good when paired with fried rice, but it works well with any grain (white/brown rice, quinoa, barley, couscous) or potato (mashed, baked, boiled). I love fresh asparagus & boil-in-bag edamame was on sale, which rounded out this meal nicely.

Ginger-Peach Slow Cooker Chicken

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I love slow cookers any time of year, because who wants to turn on a hot stove in the summer, and who doesn’t want to come home to a ready-to-serve hot meal in the winter! And we are all on-the-go every time in between, so time savers are a life saver.
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This recipe is super simple, just combine a few ingredients with your raw or even frozen chicken, and come home to delightfully fragrant house ad a sweet and salty entree. With asian flavors like ginger and soy pairing perfectly with sweet honey, orange, and peaches, this is a simple dinner the whole family will love. You can even cook the rice a day or two before for a completely fuss-free meal.
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Ingredients:
  • 4-5 frozen or thawed chicken breasts
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup peach marmalade (or 1 whole peach)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
Step 1: Put the chicken in the bottom of a slow cooker, and pour the liquids on top. Drizzle on the honey & marmalade, and sprinkle in the spices (to taste).
Step 2: Peel the ginger, and dice into slivers. Put those on top of the chicken breasts.
Step 3: Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 2-3 hours.
Place a cup or so of rice on a plate, add the chicken, and pour on some of the extra sauce. Dinner’s done!

Other optional toppings you could use: diced fresh herbs like chives or green onion, orange slivers, almonds, crushed ramen noodles, basil, jalapeno slices….

Raspberry Yogurt Parfait

 

As spring brings fresh berries to fruit, you may find yourself with a huge bounty and need ways to eat them all up before they go bad or the season ends (tear…).

Not to worry, I love berries and love to find ways to enjoy them. First of all, snap up deals now while you can. Don’t bother thinking you’ll buy too much, that’s not possible. Freeze any you can’t eat within a week in a single layer, then put into a freezer bag.

These frozen berries will last for months, and will be great mind-winter in a smoothie, a fruit crumble, on top of oatmeal, as ice cubes/garnish in cocktails, or in a pie. Try raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries.

But while they are still fresh and at their best, my favorite way to eat them (other then just washed, by the handful) is in a yogurt parfait. The perfect start to the day, healthy snack at any time, or after-dinner treat, a parfait is just tasty.

And with fresh biotic-boosting yogurt, seasonal berries and fiber-rich granola, it is also a super healthy choice. Just steer clear of sugar-laden yogurts or granolas. Best to make it yourself, but if not choose organic, pasture-fed yogurt if you can, and granola with whole ingredients like oats.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup fresh berries
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup raw granola
  • 2 tbsp (local if possible) honey
Step 1: Add the yogurt to a bowl, and sprinkle berries on top. You could put it in a blender and pulse a few times if you want the berries incorporated.
Step 2: Sprinkle the granola on top. You can use plain raw oats too, or a healthy cereal.
Step 3: Drizzle your honey on top. You could also use agave nectar, maple syrup, or no sweetener at all.
Enjoy your bowl full of happiness!

Mediterranean Chicken

Have you tried “diets” claiming to help you lose that last ten pounds just in time for summer, or a social event, or because you’re worth it? Have you taken diet pills, done crazy exercises, or eaten just one type of food (I’m looking at you, cabbage diet and grapefruit juice cleanse) for a set amount of time in the hopes of a miracle?
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Do you know what diet means? The primary definition is: “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats”. I’ve always been of the view that a “Diet” is just that, the things that you eat. A diet is not meant to be a 3-day or 2-week affair just to get you into your wedding dress or bikini then quickly discarded and replaced with drive-through lines. Diets of that sort never last and never give lasting results.
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Any diet which is high in whole foods and grains is bound to improve your health. Any diet which is heavy in processed foods with added sugars, sweeteners, salt, fat, and preservatives is bound to harm your health. The most successful dieters long-term also do not focus solely on food alone, but rather on the entire lifestyle.
The Mediterranean way of life, specifically the way of life in Greece, Spain, and other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, is just that. It focuses on staying active, eating whole foods that your body loves, lowering stress, increasing relationship bonds, and generally living as wholly and healthily as possible.
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If you haven’t heard yet, there is some evidence claiming the Mediterranean diet is the healthiest “fad” diet to ever come along.
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According to the Mayo Clinic website, a leading source for health information, “Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease…an analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.”
 

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)

The diet also recognizes the importance of being physically active, and enjoying meals with family and friends. Go for a walk after dinner, play with your kids or dog in the yard. Walk to the store, the grocery, the restaurant. Take a long bike ride on the weekend. Go up and down the steps seven times to finish the laundry. Tell stories, share food, love, and laughter.

IMG_0835If you follow this diet and lifestyle, you are sure to experience a plethora of health benefits. Your internal organs and skin will thank you for all the wonderful vitamins and minerals you are eating. The antioxidants in the vegetables, healthy fats, and red wine will help keep your body and brain young. And unwanted fat will have a harder time finding a resting place on your hips or gut if you are always in motion.

This is a simple recipe you can try to work extra Mediterranean-inspired flavors into your weekly meals. Start-to-finish only takes about 30 minutes, and dinner for four can be on the table. Serve with a healthy whole grain side like quinoa, couscous, or rice, or a potato medley and fresh green salad.

Ingredients:
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
  • 1 whole yellow onion, slivered
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato (or 1 can diced, drained)
  • 1/2 cup diced red pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup chopped olives (try kalamata and/or pimiento)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup feta cheese, seasonings to taste
Step 1: In a frying pan on medium heat,  add the sliced onion and garlic cloves. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 7-10 minutes. Onions should become translucent and begin to caramelize and garlic becomes fragrant.
Step 2: Add the olives, sliced, and the tomato to the pan and continue to cook vegetables another 5-10 minutes, until tomatoes release their juice.
Step 3: Remove the vegetables to a separate plate and keep warm. Season the chicken, I used sea salt and white peppercorns. Cook the chicken breasts for 10-15 minutes on both sides, ensuring there is no more pink in the center.
Step 4: Add the veggies back into the skillet, and heat everything throughout.
Serve hot as is, or over your choice of grain or with a side dish. If you like, sprinkle with a tbsp or two of feta cheese or avocado. This dish could also be made with tempeh or pressed tofu instead of the chicken for a vegetarian/vegan option.
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Mediterranean Greek Chicken

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
  • 1 whole yellow onion, slivered
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato (or 1 can diced, drained)
  • 3-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup chopped olives (try kalamata and/or pimiento)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Optional: 1/4 cup feta cheese, seasonings to taste

Instructions

  1. In a frying pan on medium heat, add the sliced onion and garlic cloves. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 7-10 minutes. Onions should become translucent and begin to caramelize and garlic becomes fragrant.
  2. Add the olives, sliced, and the tomato to the pan and continue to cook vegetables another 5-10 minutes, until tomatoes release their juice.
  3. Remove the vegetables to a separate plate and keep warm. Season the chicken, I used sea salt and white peppercorns. Cook the chicken breasts for 10-15 minutes on both sides, ensuring there is no more pink in the center.
  4. Add the veggies back into the skillet, and heat everything throughout.
  5. Serve hot as is, or over your choice of grain or with a side dish. If you like, sprinkle with a tbsp or two of feta cheese or avocado
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