Category Archives: Dips and Sauces

Balsamic Brown Butter and Collard Greens Sauce

 

This particular sauce is what I made to go along with my mouth-watering Butternut Squash Gnocchi.  Something about the combination of the autumn/wintry flavors and chewy texture of the gnocchi with the buttery but tangy sauce just makes fireworks happen.

And the gnocchi have hidden vegetables in it, plus this sauce packs in a serving of your daily greens!  So much health, in one deliciously sneaky meal!  No one will ever guess.  But they will ask for seconds.  Maybe thirds.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 good-sized collard green leaves, torn
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and/or lemon juice

Collard Greens Pasta Sauce Ingredients

Step 1: Place all ingredients but the butter & vinegar in a blender and pulse until chopped into small pieces.  Alternatively you can use a knife and chop them up yourself.  (But Ninja blender. So good.)

Balsamic Brown Butter and Collard Greens

Step 2: Melt the butter in a pan, and bring to just a simmer.  Once it starts to turn brown, add all the chopped vegetables, and add in the balsamic vinegar.  Bring back to a simmer, and cook for 10-15 minutes, serve hot over fresh pasta.  Maybe a little fresh shaved Parmesan on top, if you’re feeling festive.

 

PS: You can substitute other greens in here if you don’t have or like or feel brave enough yet to try collards.  Try a nice safe spinach, or something crazy like mustard greens or beet tops.  Let me know how it tastes too!

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Rolls

 

You know how sometimes you just want to make a meal that looks really nice and impressive, but you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen?  No energy or time for that today.  Well, here’s a great recipe that can easily be customized, takes less than 5 ingredients, and in under 30 minutes you have a very nice dinner that other people will think took all day!

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For these rolls, you can use any thin cut of meat.  Try pork chops or a thin flank steak.  Even a firm white fish fillet would work.  You can then stuff it with any types of vegetables, kraut, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc.  (See my stuffed pork chops for an example).

For this particular recipe, I thawed some boneless skinless chicken breasts, and then cut them in half down the center.  Then each half I put between two sheets of wax paper, and pounded them thin with a rolling pin.  You could use a meat cleaver or heavy glass as well.  The thinner they are, the faster they cook and the better able to roll them up they will be.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 thin slices chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup spinach leaves
  • 2 slices white American cheese
  • Optional: yogurt-dill sauce

Rolling up the chicken breast

Step 1: Pound the chicken thin, or use very thin cutlets.  Lay the chicken flat, and layer on the cheese and spinach.  Wrap the chicken around itself into a roll, secure with a toothpick if needed.

Insert toothpick to hold chicken roll together

Step 2: Set the oven to 350, and place the rolls in an oven-proof baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Optional: top with *yogurt-dill sauce.

Chicken rolls covered in yogurt-dill sauce

Step 3: Bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked.

Chicken rolls and dill sauce baked

Serve your lovely rolls alone, or with whatever side dishes you like.  I made some rice and cranberry sauce, and let me tell you, chicken and cranberry sauce is an awesome combo!

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To make the dill sauce, the recipe is below.  This topping is great because it is so simple, and so versatile.  Spread it on sandwiches, add cucumbers to make tea sandwiches, use it on chicken, pork, or fish.  Try different herbs too, to change up the flavors.

*Yogurt-Dill Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Dill and yogurt sauce ingredients

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Enjoy!

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Ingredients

  • 2 thin slices chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup spinach leaves
  • 2 slices white cheese

Instructions

  1. Pound the chicken thin, or use very thin cutlets. Lay the chicken flat, and layer on the cheese and spinach. Wrap the chicken around itself into a roll, secure with a toothpick if needed.
  2. Insert toothpick to hold chicken roll together
  3. Set the oven to 350, and place the rolls in an oven-proof baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Optional: top with *yogurt-dill sauce.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked.
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Christmas Tree Appetizer Tray

 

With the holiday season come holiday parties. From friends to family reunions, cocktail hours and work gatherings, the holidays are rife with opportunity to eat things we normally wouldn’t, shouldn’t, and far more of them. You could choose to just eat yourself into a coma every week and deal with the consequences later. You could live a puritanical existence for the next few weeks, exercising iron will over all sweets and tasty delights. Or…

You could choose better options. You could nudge family, friends, and co-workers in a healthier direction. You could provide healthy yet delicious treats, so you know you will always have something healthful to enjoy at any get-together.

I know which option I choose each year.

Would you like to know the answer to one of life’s biggest questions? How can you be both happy and healthy all the time? The key to health and happiness, is moderation. Go ahead and indulge in the things that truly bring you joy, like the cookies you look forward to all year, spiral-sliced holiday ham, or your aunt’s amazing casserole. But know that means you must cut back in other areas. Don’t have every appetizer offered, three cups of eggnog, seconds and thirds at dinner, followed by an entire angel food cake roll.

And by bringing healthier options to any party or gathering, you virtually guarantee yourself at least one option that will be “safe” and you can indulge as much as you like. You are also giving everyone else at the party a healthy option they may not have considered previously.

Christmas tree healthy appetizer tray

This is an appetizer tray my mother had made for a party last year.  You will notice that it not only looks very appealing, with its holiday themed tree shape, but it also has a whole cornucopia of options from broccoli to cheeses, to olives and grape tomatoes. This would be awesome to serve with a healthful dip on the side such as Black Bean Hummus, Lean Green Guacamole, or Radish, Onion & Herb cream cheese dip.

How to create an appetizer tree:

  • 1 large head broccoli
  • 1 can black olives
  • 1 small jar green olives
  • Assorted cheese cubes
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • Handful of pretzel sticks
  • Any other dipping veggies, cut into cubes or sticks

Step 1: Dice all your veggies into bite size pieces, and cube the cheeses.  Drain the olives.

Step 2: In a large pan or on a serving platter, arrange the cheese and vegetables in layers, including at least 2 large layers of broccoli for the green color. Finish with a handful of pretzels on the bottom for the tree trunk.

You could get very creative with this, for example by including “ornaments” on the tree by using different colors of vegetables or fruits, or making different shapes.  You could use cauliflower, red bell peppers and tomatoes to create a santa hat shape, or other types of finger foods arranged to look like wrapped gifts.  Let your imagination run wild, and watch as the crowd gobbles up healthy nibbles happily!

Green Tomato Salsa

 

When you have lots of green tomatoes and are tired of fried green tomatoes, what else can you do besides wait for them to ripen?  You can turn a whole bunch of them into salsa!  Red tomatoes shouldn’t have all the fun.  Salsa is a classic condiment, and is great on tacos, eggs, in soups, or on chicken or pork.  Green tomato salsa has a unique vegetal taste that red tomato salsa can’t match.  And once you’ve made a big batch, you could can the rest and have it all year long!  Or give them as cute, thrifty, from-the-heart gifts.

This recipe includes no added sugar, you instead get some sweetness from baking apples.  If you require your salsa to be sweeter, you can add in a tablespoon or two.  I’d recommend apple cider vinegar over white, but you can also use white vinegar.  Add hot peppers to your own spice preference level too.  Same goes for sea salt, if you want some salt in your salsa.  I prefer my salsa as plain and clean as possible so I know what is in it and can adjust the meal as a whole later when I use it.

Green tomato salsa ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 10 pounds green tomatoes
  • 2-3 large green apples
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 hot pepper (serrano, jalapeno…)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Green tomato salsa ingredients chopped

Step 1: This step definitely takes the longest, but is fun.  Rinse your tomatoes and other produce, and chop everything into small bite-size pieces.  I just did them in rotating batches of lots of tomatoes, then half the onion, then one pepper, etc. until everything was chopped up.  Put it all in a big stock pot.

Green tomato salsa cooking

Step 2: Put the heat on medium-high, and add the cider vinegar.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cover, and cook for at least one hour.  You can go do something else while this is cooking down, and could probably do it in a slow cooker as well.

Filled green tomato salsa jars vertical

Step 3: If you want certain spices/flavorings (like bay leaves, cumin, sea salt, cilantro, etc) add them here.

Green tomato salsa jars no lids

Step 4: To use a pressure canner, consult the instructions for your machine.  To use water bath canning, same prep work.  Sterilize your empty jars by running through a dish washer cycle and/or boiling in plain water 20 minutes.

Green tomato salsa jars horizontal

Step 5: Fill each jar up to 1 – 1/2 inch from the rim.  Wipe the rim clean, and place a lid and ring on it, tightening it (but not too tight, you need air to escape).  Here I tried the Tattler re-useable jar lids for the first time!

Green tomato salsa jars in water bath canner

Step 6: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and place the jars inside.  Process the jars for about an hour.  Adjust for your altitude if above sea level.

Green tomato salsa jars vertical

Step 7: Remove the jars to a towel, and let them sit, undisturbed, overnight or about 8 hours, to cool.  The lids should “pop” tight and will not give or bounce when pressed.  Put any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use within 2 weeks.  Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

 

Veggie Packed Pasta Sauce

 

Pasta sauce is one of my absolute favorite things to pack extra veggies into!  Any time you have a sauce, chili, soup, or stew, is an excellent opportunity to be sneaky healthy.  By blending things in, no one knows they are there, yet you are giving the people eating the meal extra doses of fiber and vitamins.  There’s no reason not to!

The best things for blending in include beans, greens, and carrots.  Beans thicken the sauce because of their natural fiber content.  Greens may change the color a bit, so keep that in mind.  And carrots provide a slight sweetness while not affecting the overall color very much.  Keep in mind with carrots, you must cook them first so they soften before trying to blend them in, or juice them.

In this sauce, I went really bold and added some spinach as well as a half bag of frozen carrots and peas I had left from a previous meal.  To this I added a full can of stewed tomatoes, and 1/2 cup milk.  Simmering everything together makes it soften, and then if you have eaters that won’t tolerate chunks, pop half or all of it into a blender before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 can stewed diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 bag frozen carrots & peas
  • 1/2 cup milk

Sneaky healthy pasta sauce

Step 1: Thaw the spinach, and squeeze out extra water.  Put in a pan with the peas and carrots, and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes or until carrots have softened.

Rigatoni with spinach pasta sauce

Step 2: Add the tomatoes and milk, and cook another few minutes.  Puree in a blender.  You can further cook it down to thicken the sauce, or serve as is.

I added some crumbled cooked bacon and sprinkled on Parmesan cheese, but if you serve as is this is a perfect vegetarian meal.  You can see what I mean about the greens changing the color of the sauce.  If that is a problem, just start with very small amounts of greens, maybe just a handful of spinach rather than the whole package.

 

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.

Mom’s Special Cranberry Sauce

 

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I am getting ready for cooking up all the associated goodies.  If you are lucky enough to have a mom, aunt, grandmother, etc who has special family recipes that have been passed down over generations, do yourself a favor and start to learn those recipes.  Instead of watching cartoons or football, get into the kitchen and help out.  You never know when it will be your turn to feed yourself, your family, or your whole neighborhood.

This recipe is passed down from my fiancee’s mother.  It is hands-down his favorite Thanksgiving dish, so much so that his mom usually makes a double recipe just so he can have one whole batch to himself.  I also doubled the recipe, and it was still all gone within two days.  You can easily multiply this recipe to make as much as you need, this makes about 10 cups of sauce.

It is a perfect blend of tangy cranberry and sweet from the sugar.  The orange juice and orange peel gives it a nice depth of flavor, and you can adjust the other spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice, etc to your own liking.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 16 oz bag cranberries
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup grated orange peel
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon

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Step 1: Put the orange juice in a pan and bring it to a boil.  Rinse the cranberries and add them to the pot.

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Step 2: Add the sugars and the entire can of crushed pineapple.

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Step 3: Then add the spices.  You might want to make sure you use a pot that will be big enough to hold everything…

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Step 4: Grate the orange peel.  Try not to get any white pith in there. Add it to the pot,  mix well.

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Step 5: Simmer for at least 1 hour, until the cranberries begin to burst and liquefy.  It will thicken as you cook it down, and will thicken even more upon cooling.

This stuff is so good, I don’t even have a picture of the finished product! The recipe is great for doubling or tripling, and freezes well.  This can easily be made up to a month ahead of time, and simply reheated the day of, for an easy time-saver.

Spider Web Taco Dip

 

This dip is super easy, it takes less than 30 minutes to put together! And with just a little bit of creativity, it turns into a perfect Halloween party appetizer, sure to please all your spook-loving guests.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 large head romaine or 1 cup spinach
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese
  • 4-6 tbsp sour cream
  • 1/2 can olives
  • 1 zip-lock baggie
Step 1: Mix the refried beans and the taco seasoning together.  In a casserole dish, spread the refried beans into a thin layer with a spoon.  Bring the cream cheese to room temperature, or heat briefly in the microwave, until you can spread it on top of the bean layer.
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Step 2: Spread the salsa over the cream cheese layer.  Shred the lettuce or spinach, and layer that on top.  Then add the shredded cheese.  Spoon the sour cream into the zip lock baggie.  Use scissors to snip off a corner, and pipe a spider web on top.  Scatter black olives around.
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To make olive spiders: Take 2 olives and slice in half, then into thin slivers.  These will be the feet.  Take another olive and cut in half.  This is the head.  Lay one olive on its side, then the half-olive just next to it.  Add 4 thin slices on each side for legs, and your creepy-crawly treat is party-ready!
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Happy Halloween!

 

 

How to Make Infused Oils

 

Ever read a recipe that calls for a “garlic-infused oil” or  some such thing?  Thought to yourself, “That would be way too expensive to buy! I’ll just use regular“?  Have you ever tried something in a restaurant or cooked by a friend that had a little special something hiding in the other flavors?  It may have been an infused oil!  And guess what? They are so easy to make your own!

I had this idea originally because I had found some very pretty small glass jars at a garage sale. They were the perfect size for something you only use a little bit of at a time, or as gifts. This made them the perfect medium for experimenting with infusions!

Infused olive oil and vinegars

An infusion simply means that an aromatic is soaked in oil long enough that some of the aromas and/or flavors of the additions are imparted into the oil. The beauty of this method is that you can use pretty much anything you enjoy the flavor of and want to taste in your oils!

You can choose to blend herbs with the oil, or simply put some into the bottle and let it sit. This makes a lovely presentation, and since these were meant as gifts, that is what I chose to do. I also had made my own vinegars, so a nice set of one oil and one vinegar will make for a great gift in the coming months!

Ingredients:

  • Oil to fill your container
  • About 2 tbsp flavoring per 1/2 cup oil

Step 1: Whether using garlic, fresh herbs, citrus, ground spices, or citrus fruits, make sure your produce is as fresh as possible and washed and dried.

Step 2: Heat your oil and your flavorings for about 5 minutes, to just bubbling. This helps release the flavors and smells into the oil. Let cool completely

Step 3: Filter your oil, or don’t, and pour into your jars. If you do include more herbs for looks, be aware that it will likely cause the finished product to look cloudy. This is ok.

Homemade infused oils and vinegars

You can try pretty much any flavoring you can imagine, and can get creative with combinations too! Try citrus and rosemary, cilantro and lime, lemon and black pepper, or basil and garlic. For the very brave, try infusing hot pepper for a spicy oil to fry your chicken in.

These infusions can now be gifts to a foodie in your life, who will likely be very impressed with your kitchen DIY abilities. Or you can use them to cook with of course, or as dipping oils served with crusty breads. Swirl into homemade hummus, or drizzle some on top of quick vegan tomato soup.

Have fun with it, & good luck!