Category Archives: Less than 5

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

How to: Make Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars

 

Have you ever had the Greek yogurt flips? They are so delicious, and I’ve recently fallen in love with them, as a quick breakfast or anytime snack or treat. But…

  1. They can do some damage to your budget, at about $4 per 4-pack
  2. They cause a lot of plastic waste with their cute individual serving size square plastic covered to-go-ness
  3. They contain a pretty big dose of sugar

In my first Weekly Eating post, I promised that I would try to find a more frugal alternative. Turns out, making your own yogurt at home is quite easy, if tons of bloggers are to be believed! Special thanks to Mrs. Picky Pincher, whose blog finally convinced me to give it a go.

There are so many ways to do so, from fancy temperature-controlled and timer-activated yogurt making machines to crock pots to stovetop.

But who has time for that?

Not me! I’m all about the easiest, most frugal solution that satisfies a need. Therefore when I read that making yogurt in a mason jar was a thing, my eyes lit up! Conveniently, I read this on my go-to-the-store day, so I picked up a half gallon of milk to experiment with. Even if it went horribly wrong, I would only be out $1.18.

Turns out, it truly is SO SIMPLE!

I turned on a show on Netflix after dinner, and while hubby and I enjoyed bonding time the yogurt was doing its thing. We even left it overnight to do the incubation part, and I woke up to 2 fresh quarts of delicious, additive and sugar free homemade yogurt! Talk about feeling like a badass homesteader.

This recipe makes 2 quarts of yogurt from one half gallon of milk.

You can easily scale it up for a whole gallon and make 4 quarts, or even down to make as small as one pint of yogurt. Now that I know how well this works and how easy it is, I will probably make at least one gallon each week.

For starter culture, just pick a plain yogurt that you enjoy the taste of, and use about 2 tbsp per half gallon. It can be plain or Greek yogurt, organic or not, you decide. That’s the beauty of making your own homemade staples! You can also find freeze dried or powdered yogurt starter cultures online.

 

You will need:

  • 1/2 gallon whole or 2% milk
  • 2 large quart mason jars & lids
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt to start the culture
  • A big pot to boil water
  • Optional but helpful: A thermometer, a crock pot

Step 1: Make sure your jars are washed and clean. If you really are paranoid about germs (silly, since you’re about to purposefully grow jars of bacteria, but whatever…) you can boil them or run them through a dishwasher cycle first.

Fill the 2 jars with milk, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top. Place them in a pot of water that covers them at least 2/3 of the way. I added extra jars around them so they do not tip over or rattle as the water boils. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.

Step 2: Go do something else while you wait for the milk to reach about 180 degrees. If you have a thermometer, great, you can check it every half hour or so. They took about an hour to reach 180 for me. If you don’t have a thermometer, the milk will be ready when a thick “skin” forms on top of the milk. Throw this skin away, and remove the jars from the water.

Step 3: Preheat a slow cooker on high, this will be your incubator later*. You can be lazy like me and just leave the hot jars on a surface to cool, this will take about an hour also. Or you can put them in a pot of lukewarm to cold water, to cool them faster. I didn’t want to chance breaking the jars, so I just put them on the stovetop and we went for a walk.

You want the jar to reach 110-120 degrees before adding the starter culture. If you don’t have a thermometer, just go by feel. When the jars are cool enough that you can wrap your hand around it and hold on for a minute or so, they are ready. You want it cool enough that the good bacteria you are about to add don’t get immediately scorched, but to grow they like a nice cozy temp.

Step 4: Take about 2 tbsp of plain yogurt, pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk into it, and mix well. Then pour half of this mix back into each jar. Give it a nice stir to distribute the good guys all around the milk, but not too violent. Unplug your slow cooker, put the jars in the warm crock, cover, and wrap in a few towels.

That’s it! Let your jars sit, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours up to overnight. You can start this in the morning and let it go all day, or start it at night and let it cook while you sleep. This is a great hands-off activity that leaves you feeling so accomplished!

*If you do not have a crock pot, you can also use a small cooler for the incubation period. Just take a small, waterproof container and fill it with warm to hot water. Put  your mason jars with starter culture in there, cover well, and wrap it in some towels. Let it sit for at least 8 hours up to overnight.

How to: Make Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars

Yield: 2 quarts

How to: Make Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon whole or 2% milk
  • 2 large quart mason jars
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt to start the culture
  • A big pot to boil water
  • Optional but helpful: A thermometer, a crock pot

Instructions

  1. Make sure your jars are washed and clean. Fill 2 jars with milk, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top. Place them in a pot of water that covers them at least 2/3 of the way. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.
  2. Go do something else while you wait for the milk to reach about 180 degrees. If you have a thermometer, great, you can check it every half hour or so. They took about an hour to reach 180 for me. If you don't have a thermometer, the milk will be ready when a thick "skin" forms on top of the milk. Throw this skin away, and remove the jars from the water.
  3. Preheat a slow cooker on high, this will be your incubator later. You can be lazy like me and just leave the hot jars on a surface to cool, this will take about an hour also. Or you can put them in a pot of lukewarm to cold water, to cool them faster. You want the jar to reach 110-120 degrees before adding the starter culture.
  4. Take about 2 tbsp of plain yogurt, pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk into it, and mix well. Then pour half of this mix back into each jar. Give it a nice stir to distribute the good guys all around the milk, but not too violent. Unplug your slow cooker, put the jars in the warm crock, cover, and wrap in a few towels.
  5. That's it! Let your jars sit, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours up to overnight.
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Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, no content on this blog is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure and ailment or condition. I am also a member of Amazon Affiliate program, some links will lead you to products which, if you choose to buy, will give the blog a portion of profits without affecting your experience. It helps keep this great content coming for you! 

Yogurt Dipped Blueberries

 

Are you ready for the 4th of July?!?

Weird how it’s on a Tuesday this year, but Monday isn’t a holiday… maybe if we all sign a petition, the government will declare a 5 day weekend?

Hey… a girl can dream.

Speaking of dream, these little treats are a dream come true! They are tiny (a favorite for kids), chilly (great on a hot summer day), and healthy (a win for everyone!). They take some prep time, just because you need to freeze the berries ahead. But you can also buy frozen blueberries, and have these babies ready to go way faster! Try different yogurt flavors, or different berries.

yogurt berries and honey

Ingredients:

berries in yogurt

Step 1: Freeze your berries a few hours to overnight. This is so the yogurt sticks better and freezes faster. I’m not sure if this would work with fresh berries, I haven’t tried it. Or just use frozen berries.

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Step 2: In a bowl, mix the yogurt and honey. Or use an already flavored and sweetened yogurt. Mix the berries around so they are coated on all sides, then use a fork to put them on a plate lined with wax paper. Freeze for at least 2 hours.

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After they are frozen, you can put them in a bag or container. Then you can pull them out for any party, picnic, get-together, or afternoon snack attack. You can definitely feel at ease feeding these to little ones, and not at all guilty sneaking a few yourself. Go ahead and have 2 handfuls, these are super healthy for you!

 

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Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream”

 

We are always looking for ways to find balance. A healthy happy life should not be one of sacrifice and want. I cannot ever see myself being satisfied and happy on a diet of broiled chicken, raw vegetables, and salads alone. You need delicious things and things you love to keep life worth living.

But, you also know that if you enjoy 7-layer lasagna and gelato every day, this will lead to bad things. Sure, it’s tasty now, and totally fine once in a while. But when occasional indulgences become the everyday norm, it leads to weight gain, high cholesterol, hypertension, fatty liver disease, and diabetes.

What’s a health-conscious-delicious-food-lover to do?

Make this amazing, high protein, low fat treat to satisfy your cravings! A whole bowl has under 500 calories, yet more than 30 grams of protein. It has almost no fat, especially if you omit the walnuts (nuts are amazing protein sources, but they do pack a significant fat and caloric punch, so go easy on them). Yet it tastes just as thick and creamy as a decadent soft serve.

Whip up a double or triple batch to keep on hand for when the sugar monster hits hard!

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 banana, fresh
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 tbsp dark chocolate pieces
  • 1 tbsp walnuts
  • 2-3 tbsp milk

Step 1: In a strong blender, mix the frozen banana, fresh banana, and milk. You can also use water if you’re really watching calories, and use just one banana.

Step 2: Add the protein powder and a few of the chocolate pieces, to break them up. Pulse until well blended. Sprinkle nuts and chocolate on top, and enjoy!

If it’s too watery, pop it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. If the frozen banana won’t blend, add a tbsp water or milk at a time until it does blend.

 

 

Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream”

Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream”

Ingredients

  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 banana, fresh
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 tbsp dark chocolate pieces
  • 1 tbsp walnuts
  • 2-3 tbsp milk

Instructions

  1. In a strong blender, mix the frozen banana, fresh banana, and milk. You can also use water if you're really watching calories, and use just one banana.
  2. Add the protein powder and a few of the chocolate pieces, to break them up. Pulse until well blended. Sprinkle nuts and chocolate on top, and enjoy!
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Super simple lemon garlic chicken

 

You know how some days you are very excited about cooking, buy two dozen different ingredients, and spend hours in the kitchen creating the perfect culinary masterpiece? This recipe is not for that day. This recipe is for a day when you have no idea what to make, no energy to make something fancy, but still want a hot, healthy, filling dinner that also tastes great.

Oh, that’s every night? Good news, this is great for every night!

This recipe can work with fresh or frozen chicken; if using frozen just microwave for 3-4 minutes before putting it in the oven, and add about 15 minutes to the cooking time. You can also use thighs, or chicken leg quarters, but again add about 10 minutes to account for the bone. Cutting the breasts thinly into cutlets as I did means the cook time is the shortest, but you can also leave the breasts whole.

This recipe is super easy, requiring really only 3 ingredients. You can add on and be creative from there, especially with the flavorings. It is also very versatile in terms of a complete meal. It would go well with pasta, potatoes, a nice salad, steamed veggies, rice, quinoa, or couscous.

Whatever you have in the fridge to go along, they will probably be friends. I also use these easy and versatile recipes to stock up on sales on the good stuff when I see it, because I know I can always pull this recipe out when needed.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, diced
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tbsp)
  • Optional: fresh or dried herbs, I used parsley and rosemary

Step 1: Using a sharp knife, filet the breasts into thin pieces, about 1/2 – 1 inch thick. Layer in an oven-safe pan, and sprinkle on the garlic, lemon juice, and herbs, if using. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until there is no pink inside the chicken.

I used the same pan, and baked a pound of asparagus and quartered cabbage at the same time. Couscous takes just boiled water (in the microwave) and 5 minutes, so this whole meal was done and on the table in under 30 minutes!

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Jalapeno Margaritas

 

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

A sincere thank you to all our members of the armed forces, for doing what they do in order for us to do our things too.

And Memorial Day weekend also means, it is officially summer!

School is out, and so is the sun. (Maybe…we have had some ridiculous amount of thunderstorms here in NC lately! Oh well, that’s why everything here is so green and lush.)

Time to plan vacations to the beach, to the park, to the mountains, and everywhere in between. Time for picnics and cookouts and potlucks and parties.

Time for cocktails!

We all know I love margaritas. This here recipe is taking it to the next level. It is the classic combo of tangy lime, salt, sugar, and liquor, now with the delicious slow burn of jalapeno peppers.

I was introduced to these by my sister in law (I can’t believe it’s been just barely a year, and it’s still weird to use phrases like that!) and have had sporadic cravings for them ever since. I’ll be having a garden party in a few weeks, this recipe might have to make an appearance.

jalapeno margarita ingredients

This recipe makes enough for a large pitcher, about 6 glasses. Feel free to scale up or down as needed, just keep the ratio of tequila to mixer about 1:2, and you can also experiment with more or less jalapeno, depending on how much of a bite you like!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups tequila
  • 3 cups margarita mix
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • Either 4-5 fresh jalapenos sliced, or 1/2 cup pickled jalapenos

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a large pitcher full of ice and refrigerate for an hour to overnight. Dip a glass in lime juice, and then salt. Add ice, add margarita, sip… and smile. Then cough, and maybe turn red, and maybe need some ice water to wash it down. Just kidding, you will be fine! And then go back for more.

 

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Cherry Berry Fizz

 

I know I’ve talked before many times about how drinking enough water is such a crucial aspect of being healthy. I’m pretty sure I’ve also talked about how much I struggle with this! For all my good habits and self-control, drinking enough water is just. so. difficult.

It’s not that I mind the taste, or dislike it. I just forget.

I’ve begun leaving water cups with straws all over the house and at work and in my car… I find that a straw really helps! For some reason, I can drink more at once and keep drinking more water when there’s a straw involved versus just a cup. It’s funny, because hubby has the exact opposite preference, he hates straws and drinks much faster in gulps.

But I digress.

The other way I’ve found to trick myself into my 8-to-10 daily glasses is fizzy water! I used to think that seltzer was so gross, and why would anyone want fizzy water when they could just have a pop? (NOT that drinking pop regularly is ever a good idea, please don’t. But still.) I just didn’t get it.

Well, fast forward to last year, a coworker of mine had cans of fizzy water regularly. There were all kinds of different flavors, setlzer and not. (I’d recommend ones without added sugars, even the fake kinds, but beggars can’t be choosers and if it gets you into the water habit to start with, do what you must). I reluctantly tried one… and liked it. And so I bought another. And then a case.

And then I had a new habit! Which is great… ish. Fizzy water is still water and is so good for me. But it is not so great for my bank account, or my planet. All those cans and bottles, just going to waste. Even if I recycled, I still felt that twinge of guilt each time I tossed a can or bottle and heard it hit the inside of the bin.

Berry cherry fizz

Since then, I’ve also gotten hubby onto the fizzy water bandwagon. It’s a perfect beverage with dinner, while watching TV, or a great alternative to alcoholic beverages for just any random weeknight when you want something fun and different. So now we were going through twice the aluminum and plastic!

After some research and discussion with many friends, we decided it might be time for a fizzy water machine. There would be a larger up-front cost, with small ongoing fees (CO2 replacements mostly) but the perks included: cheaper overall, no more bottle/can waste, we know where the water is coming from and what flavorings are added.

We crunched the numbers, and decided on a SodaStream Fountain Jet. And then my wonderful inlaws surprised us with it for Christmas! So that saved us the initial investment as well. (THANK YOU!). The 60L tank claims to make something like 50L of fizzy water, so by the time we finish our first refill (i.e. 2 tanks) even at the cheapest I’ve ever seen a liter on sale at a store we will be ahead financially. And we intend to use this bad boy for many years to come too.

You don’t have to have a SodaStream for this recipe, you can use bottled fizzy water of course. Or even regular tap water. But if you buy it bottled, try buying a 2L at a time, for less waste. This is refreshing, light and fruity, and perfect for summertime or after a hot and sweaty run. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups fizzy water
  • 1/2 cup pure cherry juice
  • Handful frozen berries (I used blueberries)

Step 1: Pour the frozen berries into a cup, these will be your ice cubes. They won’t water down your drink, and you get a healthy snack at the end!

Step 2: Pour in the cherry juice (you can use any kind of juice here, try for no sugar added organic kinds if possible) and the bubble water.

Step 3: Hydrate!

This also looks very pretty, the bubbles lift the berries around the glass like a lava lamp. And with the red and blue colors, this would be an ideal beverage to serve for a Fourth of July party! You could even add a shot of a little somethin somethin, I won’t tell… 😉

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Chocolate Chia Pudding

 

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to jump on the chia pudding band wagon! I’d read about so many uses for chia seeds, and how they are an amazing vegan source of omega-3s and fiber along with a host of other micronutrients, added chia to salads, smoothies, crackers, and bread recipes, and have made chia fresca and enjoyed it. But it took forever to try this!

Don’t make my mistakes people. Make this tonight!

Chocolate chia pudding ingredients

Chia seeds may seem expensive, but a little goes a LONG way! They absorb water and can swell up many times their size, creating a gel-like coating around the seed. It is a strange texture at first, but give it a try. The health benefits are worth it!

Chocolate chia pudding ingredients in bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c chia seeds
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 2-3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder

Chocolate chia pudding mixing

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk, or you can put it in a mason jar with a lid and shake it like you mean it!

Chocolate chia pudding ready to eat

Step 2: Refrigerate one hour or overnight. It will thicken as it sits. If you want it thicker, add more chia, if you want it thinner add more milk. It makes about 4 1/2 cup servings and should last a week in the refrigerator.

Chocolate chia pudding with strawberries

Top with granola and fresh berries for an amazing breakfast or anytime snack! The thick gel consistency of the seeds makes it almost exactly like pudding. And if you really love chocolate, use chocolate almond milk, or double the cocoa powder. It’s the healthiest treat that tastes like dessert I’ve ever had!

 

Easiest Ever Crockpot Sweet and Sour Meatballs

 

Sometimes you need to bring a dish to a potluck or birthday party. Or there’s a big game on and you’re hosting. Or maybe you just want to try something different for dinner, but don’t have the energy or time for something complicated.

Allow me to help!

This recipe for sweet and sour meatballs is a longtime classic in my family. There are only three ingredients, though one of them may be surprising to you. Trust me, the finished product is delicious!

Using a slow cooker makes this as simple as: pour, mix, turn on. Done.

Three ingredients sweet and sour meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar cocktail sauce
  • 1 bag mini meatballs
  • 1 ~12oz jar jelly (grape or blackberry work best)

Optional: You could add some vinegar for more tang, or some cayenne or other red pepper for a bigger bite.

sweet and sour crock pot meatballs

Step 1: Pour the meatballs in the crock pot. I poured them in right from frozen and it works just fine.

Step 2: Pour in the cocktail sauce & jam, and mix well. Turn to low for at least 4 hours, up to 12 hours.

sweet & sour meatballs in a slow cooker

You could serve these on buns, or with toothpicks, or on skewers like a kebab. The flavor is surprisingly complex for just two ingredients!

 

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How to: Cook Dried Beans in a Slow Cooker

 

One of my all-time-favorite money-saving appliances is the handy dandy slow cooker. It is amazing at taking tough (cheap) cuts of meats and slow cooking them to tasty perfection. It is great for making wicked frugal soups and stews. It makes dinner a breeze on crazy weeknights, keeping me from just ordering a pizza or take out. And it allows me to make staple items, like beans, for literally pennies per serving.

Beans aren’t usually listed on “top 10s” of superfoods, but I think they should be. There are so many kinds, black, pinto, navy, chickpea, green… And they are a fantastic source of protein for a very pocketbook-friendly price, I can usually find them about $1 per pound. And since beans plump when you cook them, you get much more than one pound out of that bag. If you find a good sale or buy in bulk, that price drops even lower. You can’t beat that in a can!

However, you also can’t beat the convenience of canned beans. Just sitting on a shelf, ready and waiting for a taco Tuesday or a last-minute decision to make minestrone. All you need is a can opener and you’re in business.

But you’re paying a premium for that convenience.

Someone else took the time to soak and cook dried beans ahead of time, and stick them in that can. They also may have chemicals or preservatives or flavorings or way too much sodium in the can. When you cook your own, you are in control of all these things.

So here’s the big secret: You can cook your own dried beans at home, with just a few minutes of effort, and have delicious beans ready to toss into whatever any time! For, like, a dollar!

Enter the slow cooker.

crock pot black beans with nori

Almost every Saturday, I toss a half pound or a pound of either black, navy, chickpeas, or pintos into a slow cooker with water to cover them, and let them soak overnight. Then on Sunday, I change the water and add some spices and let it simmer all day. The finished product gets canned, separated by cup into individual bags and frozen, or put in the refrigerator for use that week.

That way I have a stock of frozen beans ready at a moment’s notice, and fresh beans for recipes whenever I want! Hello, black bean and egg burritos, white chicken chili, tortilla soup, or red beans and rice anytime.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Step 1: Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight. Drain, and cover again. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.

Slow cooker pinto beans canned

Step 2: You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.

The beautiful thing is that now you have this super-cheap base to use to make your own refried beans, hummus, (did you know you can make hummus with black beans too!), vegetarian burger patties, or you can can them for later. (By the way, do use a pressure canner, or keep them in the refrigerator. We don’t want botulism now do we?)

 

Slow cooker dried beans

Slow cooker dried beans

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Instructions

  1. Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain, and cover again.
  3. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.
  4. You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.
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