Category Archives: Main Dishes

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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Venison pot pie

 

You guys want to know a little secret about the Budget Epicurean?

I can’t believe I lived over 2 decades in Ohio, and never tried venison. It’s true.

I’ve had elk, and bison, and goat, and pheasant, and a whole bunch of other more exotic meats. But still no venison.

Until now.

I’m lucky enough to have a friend who knows a guy who hunts regularly. Turns out, excess deer population is a problem shared in North Carolina too. This seems to be a problem just about everywhere, as they now have almost no native predators to worry about. Their only concern is a too-fast passing car.

why we should eat deer

Deer will eat just about anything when they are hungry, and a rough winter or over-population means more infiltration into neighborhoods. We live between two big patches of forest, and they are well known to stroll through around dusk. They have decimated my pansies more than once, and I’ve already seen evidence of browsing on my brand new ivy and hostas as well.

So really, I’m doing us all, and myself a favor by eating deer meat!

Do us all a favor too, and make this recipe soon. If you or someone in the household doesn’t think they’ll like deer because it is “gamey”, you need to find a new supplier. Deer, when ground and spiced right, is totally delicious and almost indistinguishable from ground beef. If your store doesn’t carry venison, try a specialty meat market, or ask around. You never know who you know that might know a guy…

venison pie with biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound venison (you could use any ground meat though)
  • 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • 1 container biscuits (you could use mashed potatoes instead)
  • Garlic salt to taste

Venison pot pie

Step 1: Microwave the milk for 1 minute, whisk in the flour and let sit. Meanwhile brown the venison in a skillet. Add the frozen vegetables and let cook until just thawed.

venison pot pie with biscuits

Step 2: Spray the bottom of a round pie plate or 8×8 casserole dish. Pour in the meat mixture, and cover with the milk and flour mixture. Pop open the biscuits, and line the top with the dough.

baked biscuit venison pot pie

Step 3: Bake at 350 on the bottom rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the biscuits are nice and browned on top. Let cool for a minute, and enjoy.

 

Venison pot pie

Venison pot pie

Ingredients

  • 1 pound venison (you could use any ground meat though)
  • 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • 1 container biscuits (you could use mashed potatoes instead)
  • Garlic salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Microwave the milk for 1 minute, whisk in the flour and let sit. Meanwhile brown the venison in a skillet. Add the frozen vegetables and let cook until just thawed.
  2. Spray the bottom of a round pie plate or 8x8 casserole dish. Pour in the meat mixture, and cover with the milk and flour mixture. Pop open the biscuits, and line the top with the dough.
  3. Bake at 350 on the bottom rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the biscuits are nice and browned on top. Let cool for a minute, and enjoy.
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Pan fried chillaquiles

 

You know how sometimes (always) you have a party, and at the end of the night, there’s like, 10 chips left in the bag? Or you clean out the pantry and realize there’s a who-knows-how-old quarter bag of tostitos still sitting on the top shelf, using up your favorite chip-clip?

Turns out, there’s a way to use up leftover or old tortilla chips to make them into something new and delicious!

Chillaquiles (chee-la-kee-lays) is a home-style Mexican recipe, with tons of flavor and stick to your ribs goodness. It is in no way a healthy recipe, which is a slight deviation from my normal attempts to healthify everything. But we all need a little indulgent comfort food now and then, and I’m always a big fan of not wasting food. Even the 8 chips left in the bottom of the bag.

pan fried tortilla chips and salsa

Makes one enormous pan full! Serves about 8.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crushed tortilla chips
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 large can tomato sauce
  • 5-6 eggs, scrambled
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

eggs, whisked

Step 1: In a large frying pan, pour the chips, salsa, and tomato sauce. Cook over medium low heat, until the chips have begun to soften.

pouring the egg into the chillaquiles

Step 2: Scramble the eggs in a bowl. If you want extra fluffiness, add a splash of milk. Pour into the frying pan, add the cheddar, and mix well.

Step 3: Cook over medium-high heat, mixing occasionally, until the egg is cooked through. If you like, sprinkle with a little extra cheddar.

Optional add-ins include: diced peppers and onions, sour cream, black or pinto beans, chorizo, sausage, other types of cheese like pepper jack, jalapenos…

 

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Restaurant Review: The Cowfish, Raleigh NC

 

How often do you have the “what do you want for dinner?” conversation? Whether with friends or a significant other, it can be fraught with peril. Someone wants pizza, someone else is in the mood for burgers, I desperately want sushi, meanwhile this other guy is gluten-free and she’s vegetarian.

What to do?!

The Cowfish in Raleigh has struck a whimsical compromise: they offer not only both burgers and sushi, but also a menu full of confusing, creative fusion they call “burgooshi”. Now the fish eaters and the cow eaters can all be happy and fed together.

Obviously, as a sushi-aholic married to a die-hard beef lover, I knew as soon as I heard of this magical place that we must go there. I could literally eat sushi every other day and be happy about it, but my Mr tolerates it just often enough so that I don’t die from sushi deprivation. This seemed like a perfect compromise.

And The Cowfish did not disappoint! We went to the Raleigh location, one of four current locations (Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA, and Orlando, FL are the other two, with plans for future expansion. If you’re lucky enough to be near one do stop by and let me know what you think!). They had a nice outdoor seating space decorated with lights that I’m sure add a nice touch at night, as well as cornhole boards to occupy yourself while waiting to be seated.

We were smart, and showed up around 4pm, missing the lunch crowd and long before the Saturday dinner rush. Though as soon as we walked in, we noticed it was still pretty full with couples and groups sitting about, enjoying the wide array of music and goofy decor.

Impossible to miss, a gigantic fish tank shaped like a cocktail glass dominates the center of the spacious open dining room. All manner of brightly colored fish swim around, oblivious to their cousins being devoured nearby. And the walls are lined with cartoony paintings that riff off of many well-known pop culture icons & symbols.

You have your choice of seating, an outdoor covered patio, inside in the open floor, at the bar, or at the sushi bar. The sushi bar comes equipped with mounted in-table touch screens, which I can only assume are for ordering another round of Cheeseburgooshi. We sat elsewhere, but maybe next time.

The menu spans a wide range of tastes. They have typical Asian appetizers like gyoza and edamame, as well as classic American options like onion rings & nachos. They also have salads and sandwiches if someone in your party is not feeling very adventurous yet. There is definitely a seafood emphasis throughout.

The burgers range from lamb and bison, to mushroom and swiss, to an Elvis inspired peanut butter/banana/bacon concoction. Sushi rolls include classics like the California and Spicy Tuna roll, as well as some specialty rolls you won’t find anywhere else. And then the crowning achievement, the “Burgushi” menu, which is a unique fusion that involves bison sushi, southern style BBQshi,  the Turfin Surfer roll, and several types of sushi sandwiches.

Possibly their most famous fusion is the “All-American Bacon Double Cheeseburgooshi”. This little gem is like a bacon double cheeseburger, but with a twist: “Seasoned Certified Angus Beef, yellow cheddar cheese, white cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, and red onion, wrapped in soy paper and potato strings then flash fried. Topped with ketchup, mustard, dill pickle and Roma tomato. Served atop Cowfish sauce. Served with house seasoned fries”

But for your first culinary journey in this magical place, the staff recommends the “Fusion specialty bento box”, because it includes a little taste of it all. You get a mini slider, your choice of a 4-piece Fusion specialty roll, and sides: spicy cucumber, edamame, and the world’s most amazing sweet potato fries.

Yeah, I said it. In a place known for burgers and sushi, the sweet potato fries were the surprise sweep, both of us absolutely inhaled them. I loved the edamame, and the cucumber, though hubby pushed both my way. I wasn’t complaining one bit.

We chose the blackened tuna roll in our bento box, which was an awesome decision if I do say so myself. Crabcake and cream cheese inside, coated in tempura and topped with seared tuna, avocado salsa, and jalapeño slices, this was probably my second favorite part of the box. I could eat a dozen of these rolls!

We also got one Fusion specialty roll to split, the Doug’s Filet Roll. It boasts avocado, kani, and cream cheese filling, but the topping is what sold it. Thin slices of seared filet mignon, with spicy mayo, scallions, and masago (fish eggs).

The steak was delicious, and a very strange taste juxtaposed with the sushi to be sure. But very satisfying.

And of course, let’s not forget the restaurant’s namesake: the Cowfish. Yep, that’s an actual thing: an adorably weird fish of which each restaurant location boasts one.

Overall, I’d rate The Cowfish:

  • Taste: 10
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Value: 9

 

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Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt “KIND” Bar Recipe

 

Sometimes, you don’t have time for breakfast or lunch and need something quick and portable. Maybe you need a before- or after-workout snack with protein. Or the kids are hungry and want a snack, but you don’t want them eating sugary fatty junk or ruining their appetite for dinner.

You’re at work, at 11am or 2pm, and hunger hits, but you can’t leave to get something and your next meal feels like hours away. Or you or your partner is hungry and staring into the refrigerator like a roast chicken may magically appear, but you can’t or don’t want to cook something right now.

This sounds like a job for the granola bar.

Granola has long been a popular breakfast food, differentiated from the similar muesli because it was sweetened and usually baked. To make granola, rolled oats, nuts, spices, honey or other sweeteners, and sometimes puffed rice are mixed together and baked into clusters of wholesome cereal.

The names Granula and Granola were trademarked in the 19th century in America by the Jackson Sanitarium, a prominent health spa near Danville, and John Harvey Kellogg (yes, that Kellogg). And then someone had the bright idea to take this loose granola, which is kind of messy, and press it into a bar shape. These can then be individually wrapped, and stuck in a purse, pocket, or backpack for later consumption.

Granola bar popularity took off, and continues to rise. According to theglobeandmail.com, “Granola bars, breakfast bars and cereal bars, which are referred to collectively as “snack bars,” are part of a food category that’s grown 5 per cent a year since 2005 and is worth an estimated $720-million in Canada, according to figures provided by PepsiCo Foods Canada, which owns the Quaker brand.” All across the Americas, New Zealand and Australia, Europe and China, people love the portability and growing options snack bars offer.

One of the many reasons people love snack bars so much is their perceived healthfulness. After all, they have oats in them, which are full of fiber, beneficial to heart and digestive health. Unfortunately, today’s granola bars’ nutrition facts don’t often match their health claims.

For example, Special K chocolaty crunch bars claim that each bar only contains 90 calories and that they can help reach and maintain a healthy weight. But the bars, which themselves weigh only 22 grams, contain eight grams (nearly two teaspoons) of sugar. Sugar is also listed as the first ingredient. Another popular All-Bran bar claims to be high in fiber, yet each bar contains only 4 grams of the daily recommended 25g (for women) or 38g (for men).

So what’s a health conscious adult looking for a perfect portable food to do? Make your own of course!

It is much easier than you may think. You could get very serious about it, purchase a candy thermometer, meticulously source and weigh ingredients in the pursuit of the perfect bar. But that’s not how we roll here. Soon you will see how simple making your own healthy homemade snack bars can be!

KIND bars have become a favorite of mine lately, because they have ingredients you can see and pronounce, with no preservatives, fillers, artificial flavorings, and each bar is held to high standards for a low calorie count and sugar content. I had no idea there were so many options now though! There are KIND fruit & nut bars, KIND Plus, KIND nuts & spices, KIND & STRONG… you get the idea.

And the best part is, this is a WAY healthier bar than a typical granola bar. There are no oats, just puffed rice, whole raw or roasted nuts, and some sweeteners that also keep everything sticking together. These are inherently gluten free. Obviously, if you or someone you know is allergic to nuts, please don’t make these. But if not, then dive on in!

I based my recipe loosely off of Kelly’s recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny. I personally most love the dark chocolate sea salt bar, so that’s what this recipe mimics. But you are free to add whatever you enjoy to create your own copycat, or a brand new kind of bar!

The general rule I follow is 1 cup nuts/dry fruit : 1 cup cereal : 1/4 cup sweetener. I would use organic plain puffed rice if I had it, but when I wanted to make these and went to the store, Kashi Go Lean puffed cereal was the closest thing I could find. It works.

I’ve tried peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and cashews so far. I’m sure you could use just about any type of nuts in these, but I would recommend always including almonds. And I have not tried any with dried fruits yet, but that is the next experiment in line.

This recipe makes enough for a 9×13 pan, for approximately 30 of the delicious 1 inch x 3 inch bars.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 3 cups whole nuts (almonds + peanuts/cashews + walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 4 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla flavoring

The dark chocolate drizzle is of course optional, but highly recommended. For that you will need:

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Sea Salt

mixed nuts in a bowl

Step 1: In a large bowl, mix all your nuts, cereal, and ground flax.

Step 2: In a sauce pot, mix the brown rice syrup, honey, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes. It is a balancing act, too short and you will get a syrupy bar, but the longer you boil, the more likely you will create a crunchy bark rather than pliant bars. But regardless, it will taste great in the end, I promise.

Step 3: Pour your syrup over the nuts and cereal, and mix well to combine.

Step 4: Line a pan with foil, and press the mixture into the pan. You can use a spatula, your hand, or a cup sprayed with cooking oil if you want to make it extra flat and compact. Put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to chill and harden.

If you don’t want to add the chocolate drizzle, you can stop here and cut the bars to the desired size. I cut it into 10 strips, then cut each strip into 3 bars so they are about 1x2ish inches. I then wrapped each bar individually in wax paper.

But if you’re a chocolate lover like me, I definitely recommend continuing on to steps 5 & 6 below…

Dark chocolate drizzle for KIND bars

Step 5: In a microwave safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate chips, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted.

Step 6: Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the granola. You could dip the bottoms in chocolate too, but I found the drizzle on top was the perfect amount. Chill in the refrigerator again for about an hour to harden. Cut into desired bar size.

These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, or you can freeze for handy snacks for months. I doubt they will last that long though…

According to MyFitnessPal.com, these bars only have about 100 calories each, and 8 grams of sugar*. Not too shabby!

Recipe Nutrition Calculator

: 30

Total: 3,119 334 176 107 580 227
Per Serving: 104 11 6 4 19 8

*This calculation is for the bar without adding the chocolate.

Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt “KIND” Bars

Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt “KIND” Bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 3 cups whole nuts (almonds + peanuts/cashews + walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 4 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla flavoring
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Sea salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix all your nuts, cereal, and ground flax.
  2. In a sauce pot, mix the brown rice syrup, honey, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes.
  3. Pour your syrup over the nuts and cereal, and mix well to combine.
  4. Line a pan with foil, and press the mixture into the pan. Put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to chill and harden.
  5. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate chips, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted.
  6. Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the granola. Chill in the refrigerator again for about an hour to harden. Cut into desired bar size.
  7. These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, or you can freeze for handy snacks for months.
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Spring Green Creamy Gnocchi

 

This recipe was inspired by one I saw on Hello Fresh (look for a review coming soon!). If you haven’t heard of Hello Fresh, it is a meal kit delivery company. There are many others, like Blue Apron, Plated, Home Chef, Sun Basket, and oodles more.

The whole idea is they deliver the ingredients, perfectly portioned, with a step by step recipe page. All you have to do is pull out a box of ingredients and some cookware and enjoy the process. A friend of mine gave me one of the “free trial” 3-meal deals, so of course I tested them out.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience, but would not purchase it again because of how food and cooking works in my house. But I can definitely see the appeal for many people. One of the best things about the trial run is that I have access to their recipes now though, and there are some great ideas there!

As I was just browsing through the vegetarian section, this recipe caught my eye, because I had just bought asparagus and happened to have half a pound left. I also had some gnocchi in the pantry (from the Dollar Tree no less!). Thus, this recipe seemed perfect.

I switched up the seasonings a bit and swapped plain Greek yogurt for sour cream (one of my many sneaky healthy food swaps!) and it came out so delicious, the meat-eater loved it and even asked for seconds!

If you don’t have or don’t like a specific herb, that’s fine, try a different one. Use basil instead of rosemary, or try thyme, tarragon, or parsley. If you don’t like walnuts, what about almonds, or cashews, or pecans? Not a fan of asparagus? Well, you’re wrong, but that’s okay try bell peppers, kale, or zucchini.

Spring Green Gnocchi Ingredients

Makes 4 ~1 cup servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp olive or coconut oil
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tbsp crushed walnuts
  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • Pinch of chopped rosemary
  • 1 green onion, diced

Step 1: Boil the gnocchi for 5-7 minutes, until they begin to float in the water. Meanwhile, dice the asparagus, garlic, and herbs. Add the asparagus and peas to the boiling pot about 2 minutes before draining.

Step 2: Add the oil, garlic and onion to a pan and fry for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Drain the gnocchi and vegetables, add to the pan. Add the stock and mix 1 minute, and then turn off the heat and add the yogurt and walnuts. Mix well to form a creamy sauce.

That’s all there is to it! You don’t need much to create a creamy, tasty sauce that clings to the noodles and vegetables. The walnuts add just a bit of crunch and texture, and you can sprinkle some sea salt on top if you like. (I like).

 

Spring Green Creamy Asparagus & Peas Gnocchi

Spring Green Creamy Asparagus & Peas Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive or coconut oil
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tbsp crushed walnuts
  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • Pinch of chopped rosemary
  • 1 green onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Boil the gnocchi for 5-7 minutes, until they begin to float in the water. Meanwhile, dice the asparagus, garlic, and herbs. Add the asparagus and peas to the boiling pot about 2 minutes before draining.
  2. Add the oil, garlic and onion to a pan and fry for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Drain the gnocchi and vegetables, add to the pan.
  3. Add the stock and mix 1 minute, and then turn off the heat and add the yogurt and walnuts. Mix well to form a creamy sauce.
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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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Ahi Tuna Tacos

 

GUYS! I just found out my ALDI carries frozen Ahi Tuna steaks, 3 for $4.99.

While I love canned tuna and all it’s uses (tuna salad, tuna puffs, tuna noodle casserole…) this is a whole new level. A tuna steak is like, next-level-fancy tuna! It still has all the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, tons of protein, and trace minerals like magnesium and selenium, with the added benefit of looking like you’re at a 5-star restaurant when you serve it.

grilled ahi tuna steak

Finding these culinary gems called for some fish tacos! I adore fish tacos when they are well done. The combination of delicate fish, tangy crunchy slaw, corn salsa and spicy ranch is just unbeatable in my opinion. And yes, you have to have all those pieces to make it truly complete. But I guess, if you must, you could do something different with the toppings… we can still be friends.

Grilled ahi tuna steak

I didn’t even marinate or spice the fish, letting it’s true flavor shine and balance out the other toppings. This recipe makes enough for 3 hearty tacos, adjust as needed based on how many tuna steaks and how many servings you have.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tuna steaks
  • 1/4 cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt & black pepper
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup corn
  • 3 tbsp ranch
  • Chili powder
  • 3 tortillas

Ahi tuna taco with slaw and corn and avocado salsa

Step 1: Combine the corn and the diced avocado. Slice the cabbage thinly or shred it. Mix with the mayo and lemon juice and spices. Let sit while you cook the tuna.

Step 2: Grill the tuna steaks on an actual grill, or use a panini press/George foreman, or just cook on the stove top by frying in a greased pan 3-4 minutes per side, until just browned on the outside and still slightly pink in the middle.

ahi tuna taco with black beans and rice

Step 3: Cut or flake the tuna and place on the tortilla. Add a scoop of the corn and avocado, a spoonful of slaw, and a tbsp of ranch. Sprinkle the chili powder on top, roll up, and enjoy!

This is such a fresh, flavorful combination, I could eat these every week! And thanks to ALDI I probably can now. Just take out however many fillets you need the night before, and let it defrost in the refrigerator. You could also split up the steak into 3 smaller corn taco shells. Serve with a salad, fries, or beans and rice.

These also make a great lunch, grilled and flaked over a big green salad. That’s exactly what I did with the 3rd fillet that we didn’t use for dinner.

20170131_185623

 

Ahi Tuna Tacos

Ahi Tuna Tacos

Ingredients

  • 3 tuna steaks
  • 1/4 cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt & black pepper
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup corn
  • 3 tbsp ranch
  • Chili powder
  • 3 tortillas

Instructions

  1. Combine the corn and the diced avocado. Slice the cabbage thinly or shred it. Mix with the mayo and lemon juice and spices. Let sit while you cook the tuna.
  2. Grill on an actual grill, or use a panini press/George foreman, or just cook on the stove top by frying in a greased pan 3-4 minutes per side, until just browned on the outside and still slightly pink in the middle.
  3. Cut or flake the tuna and place on the tortilla. Add a scoop of the corn and avocado, a spoonful of slaw, and a tbsp of ranch. Sprinkle the chili powder on top, roll up, and enjoy!
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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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Make Ahead Egg Muffins

 

Usually, my morning routine looks something like this:

6:10 – hit snooze
6:17 – hit snooze
6:24 – finally get up, go make coffee
6:25-7:15 – enter a black hole in space and time
7:16 – realize I’m gonna be late if I don’t move it
7:17-7:20 – pack lunch, maybe breakfast
7:21-7:30 – run out the door and pray for light traffic

Now, I don’t know what your mornings are like. But if you’re anything like me, you like your sleep and don’t have time for a long and leisurely brekkie every day. And if you do, good for you! You can still use this quick-and-easy make ahead recipe and then have more time for you in the AM.

Make ahead egg muffins in muffin tin

These egg muffins are so simple, and you make a dozen at once. That way you can put 2-3 in baggies and refrigerate or freeze. Then breakfast all week is only a push of the microwave button away! You can scale up to feed a big family, or even make just one serving by mixing 2 eggs and desired ingredients in a coffee mug and microwaving. (Didn’t know that little trick? Oh yeah, it’s the best.)

You can also customize it to your taste preferences. Anything you would normally eat with or in scrambled eggs you can probably adapt to this recipe. Try sausage, or bacon, or ham. Vegetarians, this is a blank canvas! Add zucchini, shredded carrots, sweet potato, broccoli or cauliflower. And cheese is optional, but highly recommended!

Butter mushrooms and onion

Ingredients (makes 12 egg muffins):

  • baker’s dozen (13) eggs
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 pint mushrooms
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 cup raw spinach
  • Optional: shredded cheese, breakfast meats, other veggies

butter and onions in pan

Step 1: In a pan over medium heat, add the butter and diced onion. Cook 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion becomes soft and see-through. Pre-heat the oven to 350, and spray a muffin tin really well with cooking oil. (Stuck, baked-on egg is the worst.)

scrambled egg and greased muffin tin

Step 2: Add the diced mushrooms, and cook another 5-7 minutes, until softened. You can add a few tbsp water or chicken stock if they seem to be sticking or burning. Just before pouring into the muffin tin, add the spinach to wilt.

scrambled egg in muffin tin and eggs

Step 3: Break all the eggs into a bowl, and whisk violently for a minute or two. Mix in the cooked onion, mushroom, and spinach. Pour into the muffin tins until 2/3 full; leave a little room because the egg will puff up as it cooks.

make ahead egg muffins with cheddar cheese

Step 4: If desired, sprinkle with shredded sharp cheddar or whatever cheese you like. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until egg is fully cooked. Watch carefully at the end so that it doesn’t brown or burn.

I’d recommend letting these cool for a few minutes, then removing to a different plate or container quickly. You don’t want the egg to set and harden in the tin. It’s so easy to whip up a batch of these on the weekend, and you can even mix up the mix ins to have tons of options every day.

As for the cost? A dozen eggs is .99 – 1.29, or 4.50 for organic cage-free. Depends greatly on what you use to mix in, but the cost for an onion (~.50), mushrooms (.99 on sale), butter (maybe .50), and spinach (~.25 for 1 cup) for me comes to about 2.25. This makes 12 muffins, and I generally eat 2 for breakfast, so 6 servings. Let’s estimate high:

4.5 + 2.25 = 6.75 / 6 = basically just barely over a dollar per day, and that’s if I use the fancy eggs! For plain jane eggs, the cost drops to maybe 50 cents for an awesome breakfast that includes protein, fats, and a serving of vegetables! I can get behind that. I hope you can too!