Category Archives: Less than 5

These recipes take less than 5 ingredients, less than $5, and/or less than 5 minutes

Frank-n-Beans Macaroni


For a cheap but filling meal, it’s hard to beat boxed macaroni & cheese. Ramen is really the only other college-type staple that comes to mind, and I’ve shown many ways you can jazz up that simple steaming bowl of chickeny salt water.

While I’m all for fancy-schmancy six-cheese homemade mac, and love health-ifying with butternut squash puree or acorn squash, sometimes you just crave that classic boxed taste. But if you’ve eaten it way too often, or just like some variety, I’ve got just the thing. Consider this recipe to be the even-more-broke cousin of my famous chili mac recipe.

If you look for a good sale, you can get store-brand mac n cheese for about 25-35 cents, hot dogs are on sale often for $1 per pack of eight, and beans, especially dried, are always affordable. It is likely you can create two servings or one huge serving for under $1. And with only three ingredients, there is just no excuse to not try it, no matter what your level of cooking knowledge (or lack thereof).


  • 1 hot dog
  • 1/2 cup beans (dry cooked, or canned)
  • 1 box macaroni & cheese
  • Optional: butter, milk (for mac n cheese)


Step 1: If using dried beans, bring 1 cup beans per 2 cups water to a boil, and simmer 2-4 hours, until tender. If using canned, simply drain and rinse. Cook the hot dog by either boiling for 10 minutes, grilling it, or microwaving for 1 minute 45 seconds.


Step 2: Boil the macaroni, following directions on the box. Cut the hot dog into slices, drain the macaroni. If using butter or milk in your mac, add those as well as the beans and hot dog. Mix together and enjoy!


Avocado Beet Wrap


As spring kicks into gear and temperatures climb, we start looking for lighter, cooling dishes. It’s tough to enjoy a beef stew or thick chili when it’s 95 and humid. Luckily spring and summer bring a rotating buffet of delicious seasonal vegetables and fruits.

One of my favorite ways to use fresh produce is in a wrap. You can only have a bowl of salad so many times before it gets old. This way you can still have all the greens and good toppings but in a portable, desk-friendly format. Wraps are easily adaptable to just about any veggie or dip (such as hummus, guacamole, or sriracha ranch).

This wrap packs the healthy fats of avocado, the anti-cancer and inflammation-fighting power of beets, the hydration of cucumber and greens in one fabulous lunch. But feel free to sub in another type of green (spinach, kale, beet greens) or other veggies you have on hand. On average, you should eat about 2 1/2 cups of veggies per day, and a wrap should contain approximately 1 cup.


  • 1 tortilla
  • 1 whole roasted beet (4-5 slices)
  • 1/2 cucumber, skin on if organic
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/4 head of romaine (or 1/2 c greens)


Step 1: Cut up your avocado, cucumber, & beets. Spread the greens on the tortilla, top with veggies. Roll up and enjoy!


*Some time saver tips:

  • Use canned beets for the slices
  • Pick up pre-cut cucumber from a salad bar
  • Use packaged guac instead of an avocado

Chicken Ranch Burgers


Spring and summer means it’s time for picnics and backyard BBQs. While the usual suspects, hot dogs and burgers, are tasty they are kind of old. (Hopefully not literally, you threw out the half-used pack from last summer right??)

I don’t know about you, but I like to experiment with “standard” foods to see if there is a way I can improve it and make it my own. With burgers there are so many options. You really just need a few fillers, spices, and something to bind it all together.

For the vegetarians and vegans, vegetable burgers are crazy easy to make and have so many customization options! My favorite way is to simply take about 1 cup of mashed beans and 1 cup of a whole grain (like couscous, quinoa, or oats) and some cooked vegetables, then bind it all with some oil and maybe flour. Kidney bean and quinoa burgers are my favorite so far.

For meat-eaters, try ground turkey, ground pork, or ground chicken for something other than beef. Or get really adventurous and try some ground elk, bison, or lamb. This recipe is one I tried for a picnic with friends, and everyone said it was an absolute winner, a great new, interesting flavor. With only four ingredients, you’ve got to try this out.


*Note: You can substitute 2-3 tbsp of a Ranch seasoning mix instead of the dressing and other seasoning, then use 1 large egg to bind


Step 1: In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients. By hand is best.


Step 2: Fire up the grill! You can also use a George Foreman style press, broil in the oven, or fry on the stove top.


Step 3: Top how you like it and enjoy!

You can see we put american cheese slices on ours, but the topping possibilities are endless. Try coleslaw, fries, avocado, hummus, salsa, hot sauce, tomatoes, grilled onions, peppers, and/or mushrooms, arugula, spinach…

This is chicken, so you need to be a little more careful about ensuring it is completely cooked. The only way to be totally sure is to use a meat thermometer, and for chicken it should read 165 F. Worst case, poke it and make sure the juice is clear, or cut a piece off to make sure it isn’t pink still. If not, then it’s chow time!

4-Ingredient Chicken Ranch Burgers


  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup quick-cook oats
  • 4 tbsp Ranch dressing
  • 2 tbsp steak seasoning
  • *Note: You can substitute 2-3 tbsp of a Ranch seasoning mix instead of the dressing and other seasoning, then use 1 large egg to bind


  1. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients. By hand is best.
  2. Fire up the grill! You can also use a George Foreman style press, broil in the oven, or fry on the stove top.
  3. Top how you like it and enjoy!
  4. You can see we put american cheese slices on ours, but the topping possibilities are endless. Try coleslaw, fries, avocado, hummus, salsa, hot sauce, tomatoes, grilled onions, peppers, and/or mushrooms, arugula, spinach....
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Flatbread Flexibility


One of my favorite things to go on sale is biscuit mix. This is because the mix is so very flexible. You can of course whip up soft, flaky biscuits in ten minutes, but you can also do so much more. I’ve used it to make pizza bites, tuna pockets (more than once actually), and as a pie crust substitute.

But the best way to use biscuit mix, other than biscuits, is as a flatbread for pizzas! These are amazing because the toppings are only as limited as your creativity.

I was having a get-together, and had to make something to feed a crowd at the last minute. This was my mom’s idea, and it turned out to be brilliant. Everyone could try something different, and everyone was happy with the results.

Feel free to get creative with whatever you have in your kitchen.

Ingredients (per pizza):

  • 1 roll biscuit dough (or pizza dough)
  • Approx. 1 cup toppings
  • 1/3 cup sauce (marinara, ranch, BBQ…)


This pizza included bacon, cooked chicken breast, spinach, shredded cheddar cheese, and ranch dressing.


As you can see, you can make pizza pockets, in many different sizes. Just press the dough together and mold it to the size you need.


The smaller the pizza pocket, the less time you need to cook. These all went in for about 12 minutes, and you can see the smaller pockets are a darker brown whereas the larger ones are slightly golden.


We had some with mozzarella and pepperoni, some with red pepper and spinach, and some bacon BBQ. These would be great for birthday parties, cookouts, picnics, a casual weeknight, and more.

Crock Pot Apple Sauce


Sure, fall is still a long time away, but now is the time to start stocking up on ideas for the bounty of apples coming our way soon! Last fall, a friend of mine had an apple tree that just went crazy. She gave me a huge bag of apples for free. I ate several as snacks, made some into apple crisp, had some on pancakes, some in oatmeal, and made some into muffins.

Now I have a half bag left… what do I do?

Once you’ve gotten all baked-out, may I recommend trying your hand at making your own applesauce? The jarred stuff at the super market is ok, if that is the only way to get fruits into your kids (or partners) diet, then I’m for it. But imagine knowing exactly what is in that stuff, no GMOs, preservatives, thickeners, emulsifiers, etc.

This is where your handy-dandy slow cooker saves the day yet again! Those things are worth their weight in gold, I swear. If you don’t have one, get on it. Try Goodwill, yard sales, or grandma’s basement if you can’t get one new.

Applesauce is super easy to make, all it takes is a little time cutting up the apples, then you set it and forget it and come home to the lovely smell of apples and cinnamon, and a batch of ready-to-go applesauce.

Apples are naturally sweet, and slow cooking makes them even sweeter. But you can add honey, sugar, brown sugar, and/or maple syrup to taste to make it your own. You can also use cinnamon sticks rather than ground, just remove them before eating.


  • ~4 cups chopped apples
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp nutmeg
  • Optional: 2-3 tbsp sugar, maple syrup, or honey


Step 1: Chop your apples, removing the seeds, stem, and core. Peel them or don’t, your call.


Step 2: Add apples to the crock pot with the spices, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. That’s it!

Mash the apples up a little once they are done cooking, or puree in a blender for super smooth sauce. You can put into jars and keep in the refrigerator, or process in a pressure canner for longer term storage.

If you really have a lot of apples, or just want a larger batch, use a larger crock pot and triple the recipe or more.


Swiss & Lox on Toast


As you may know, I am a huge fan of salmon, especially smoked salmon in the form of lox. Lox is amazing on bagels and toast, or crackers, or pasta. Salmon is known as a great source of lean protein, and omega-3 fatty acids.

This is a great, quick breakfast or snack, or even light lunch option. Look for sales especially, as I got this 4 oz pack of salmon for only $1.50, and the cheese for less than $1.  The salmon I bought was pre-seasoned with black pepper and dill and who know what other goodies, but you can use whatever kind you like. You can also use any kind of spreadable cheese here, and fresh herbs if you have em.


  • 1 ounce lox
  • 1 tbsp swiss cheese
  • 1 slice wheat bread
  • Optional: squeeze of lemon juice


Step 1: Spread 1 tbsp of your cheese on the bread, toasted or not.


Step 2: Top with a heap of lox. If desired, squirt on some lemon or lime juice, a sprinkle of sea salt, or fresh diced herbs. Enjoy!


Pear & Almond Butter Breakfast Sandwich


Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it is often the most rushed as well. Between snoozing alarms, alarms not going off, or just the fact that you hate mornings, it is often difficult to even think about nourishing yourself in the wee hours of the morning.

That is why I love planning ahead, and when push comes to shove I try to have things on hand that I know I can just grab on my way out the door and create a delicious, nutritious meal once I get where I’m going. Sometimes shoving a few things in a bag is all I have time for.

But I do try to always make or bring my own breakfast. Even a $1 coffee and $1.50 bagel adds up over time.

This is one option I have recently fallen completely in love with. I have had this for breakfast at least once a week for a month or so. Pears seem to be in season, or at least regularly on sale, so that is the fruit of choice at the moment. However, other fruits such as bananas, apples, peaches, or plums could be used as well.


Step 1: Smear one half the bread or sandwich with nut butter. If using cookie butter, spread that on the other half.


Step 2: Use a sharp knife to cut the pear or other fruit into round slices. Remove seeds. Place on the sandwich, and cover with the other slice.

One large pear makes enough for two sandwich slims, as well as a few pieces on the side. The cookie butter will make this much sweeter. For a vegan breakfast option, make sure that the butters do not contain any animal products.

Regardless of dietary preference, this is a super tasty, super quick breakfast option. You can just toss the nut butter, fruit, and bread in a bag and assemble later.

Coffee Body Scrub


Don’t you just love the feeling of soft, smooth skin? And doesn’t the smell of coffee energize you and wake you right up in the morning? It doesn’t hurt that I love finding new ways to use up things I would otherwise throw out, like used coffee grounds.

How about we combine those two things into a simple, practical body scrub!

You can make this for yourself to make mornings more tolerable, or gift it to other special people in your life. It’s sugar and coffee particles scrub skin smooth, the oil hydrates and softens, and the coffee scent just perks you up.

No one needs to know it took mere minutes to make (because there are only three ingredients), and is absurdly frugal to put together!


  • 1 tablespoon white or brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil (or coconut oil)
  • 3 tbsp fine coffee grounds


Step 1: Just mix all three ingredients! You can scale up to make gifts by combining 1 cup sugar and 1 1/2 cups grounds, then adding oil and mixing until it reached a wet sand consistency. Put in a cute clear jar and tie a little ribbon around it.


Or, if this is your own personal spa treatment, this small batch is perfect to whip up before your morning shower or for a relaxing afternoon soak. It exfoliates, has anti-inflammatory properties, and helps tighten skin. The perfect way to start a beautiful day!

Homemade Energy Drink Mix


Want to start 2015 with plenty of energy?!

As someone dating a programmer, I know that Mountain Dew can be considered a food group. It seems we have an insomnia problem in America, with a new energy drink on the market every day.

Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star, Full Throttle, Amp, Boost.

Sure they give you a huge jolt of energy to get through the next final exam study session, afternoon slump, or laundry marathon. The problem is the added acids, chemicals, preservatives, and excessive amounts of sugar.

If you are trying to slowly rid your life of these things, but still love the energy rush, you can try making your own energy mix. I decided to take matters into my own hands and mix up something that would taste great and also serve the purpose of an energy drink without all the added extras.

You will need to invest in some bulk ingredients to make your own mix, but once you have them you can make your own energy drink mix for pennies per serving. That beats $1 or more per can by a long shot!

A really great site I’ve found for bulk powders, vitamins, and supplements is Bridge City Bulk. They have all types of vitamins, supplements, caffeine, match powder, and tons of organic teas I’m dying to try! Wherever you get yours from, make sure to carefully measure it and try to use a responsibly sourced dealer.

***A Very Important Disclaimer***
Caffeine is very dangerous in powdered form. You would need to drink hundreds of espressos to overdose naturally, but in powdered form it is far too easy to ingest way more than is safe. Generally it is recommended that you don’t consume more than 400 mg per day.

If you continue with this recipe, be very careful with measurements so that you are sure to not overdose, and do not drink more than 2 per day, or a total of 400 mg.



Step 1: Measure your ingredients. I measured out 3 grams of caffeine, and calculated the percent daily value of B vitamins in the final serving to determine how many vitamins to crush up and use. This will change depending on what type of vitamins and which source of caffeine you use. Be very careful when calculating measurements.


This recipe was designed to make 15 servings, so I then added enough drink mix to the vitamins & caffeine to equal 15 tablespoons. Thus the three grams of caffeine becomes 200 mg per serving. Add 1 tbsp of the mix to 16 oz of water and mix well.

You can customize this drink mix to whatever flavor you like, but because caffeine is extremely bitter alone, I wouldn’t recommend making this without some sort of flavored mix. Again, be sure to calculate and measure your ingredients and figure out your final serving sizes before trying this at home.


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Vanilla White Russians


In anticipation of the upcoming New Year, I wanted to share this recipe for a twist on the classic White Russian.

“Common knowledge” dictates that one not ever drink milk with alcoholic beverages. That extends to pretty much any dairy product. I believe this is due to fear of it curdling in one’s stomach? Or perhaps the extra unpleasantness should it find its way back up.

Whatever the reason, the White Russian looks at that rule and laughs. Milk and alcohol dance a lively jig together on your taste buds, with sugar and coffee joining in. I highly recommend this uber-simple yet totally classy beverage for your bell-dropping soiree!

Made infamous by “the Dude” in the movie “The Big Lebowski“, this three-ingredient hard-hitting cocktail is like dessert in a glass.  Classically only three ingredients: vodka, Khalua, and heavy cream. Variations include different types of liquor, addition of chocolate, or as the Dude uses, powdered creamer (not recommending that route).

This particular variation I made because I happened to have Patron cafe rather than Khalua. Since Khalua is a coffee-flavored rum-based liquor, I figured a different coffee-flavored liquor would work just as well! And I do love the smooth taste of Patron, so I figured why not go for it?

And I also do not buy heavy cream, but did have some french vanilla coffee creamer. What a perfect cherry on top! (Speaking of, I bet something cherry, like amaretto or Disaronno, would also make a phenomenal addition!)


  • 1/2 cup creamer
  • 1 oz Patron cafe
  • 1 oz vodka
  • 3-5 ice cubes


Step 1: Fill a glass with a few ice cubes.


Step 2: Pour about half a cup of creamer (or milk, or heavy cream) into the glass.


Step 3: Add in one shot each of the Patron cafe and vodka.


Stir it and and sip! This lightly coffee, hint of vanilla, just a tingle of liquor beverage goes down smooth. Watch yourself, just like real Russians these can be dangerous!


If you do choose to indulge in adult beverages, please have a designated driver and get home safely. Happy 2015 everyone!