Category Archives: Main Dishes

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken & Rice Casserole

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Slow cookers are amazing, because you just put dinner in, go off to work or class, and come home to a fresh hot meal. I had a busy day planned, so I decided to use up some freezer food and make dinner a snap: I would make chicken casserole in the Crock Pot.
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Ingredients:
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 bag frozen vegetables
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Seasonings (Nature’s, black pepper and garlic)
Step 1: Put the chicken on the bottom of the sprayed pot.
Step 2: Mix rice & water, pour in.
Step 3: Cover with cream of chicken soup.
Step 4: Add the frozen veggies.
Then just cover tightly and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Make sure the chicken is cooked all the way through before serving. Makes about 4 servings. Simple, cheap, quick. Enjoy!

Tilapia & stir fry

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So I am still in a spending hiatus where I do not spend anything. Therefore for dinner I had to take stock of my pantry, fridge and freezer, and come up with something healthy, easy and quick. In my apartment I had:
Tilapia: 5.99 for 6 fillets = $1/fillet
Wild rice: 1.29 for 1 microwave serving
Frozen stir fry veggies: $1 for 16 oz bag
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Other miscellaneous ingredients:
Red Thai curry spice = $3.50 for a bag full
Lemon juice: $1 for 12 oz. bottle
Vegetable oil: $9 for a gallon
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Step 1: In a medium frying pan, put 2 tilapia fillets straight from the freezer, with 2 tbsp. olive oil and about 4 tbsp lemon juice. Simmer on lowest heat covered for about ten minutes or until fish turns white and bottom browns.
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Step 2: Flip once, sprinkle a pinch of spice onto the bottom. Add more oil or lemon juice if needed. Simmer another 5 minutes or so to brown the top. Always keep covered and don’t burn it. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
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Step 3: Steam the rice in the microwave for 2 minutes. In the same pan, add 1 more tbsp oil and a cup of frozen veggies. Cover and steam for about 5 minutes or until veggies thaw and soften. Add in the rice, mix well. Serve 1 fillet over half the stir fried rice.
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Total: $2 (2 fish fillets) + 1.29 (rice) + 0.20 (1 cup of veggies) + ~0.10 (spices and liquids) = $3.59 for 2 servings. Not bad!

 

Balsamic glazed lamb chops with salad and steamed veggies

.Well, Spring Cleaning finally reached my fridge and freezer today. I like to go through weekly just to look and see what I have, what needs thrown out, but once every few months or so I deep clean it, digging all the way to the back to remember what’s under those 5 bags of frozen corn, and re-organizing. That’s how I found the lamb chops I had forgotten about.My family purchased a lamb whole and had it butchered a few months back, and were nice enough to give me a few chops to take to school. I put the 3 chops on defrost in the microwave while I showered, and loosely based my recipe on one from Allrecipes.com.

Total time in the kitchen, about 20 minutes. Total spent: $0 (because I had the ingredients all on hand. If I’d had to purchase them all, it would probably be ~$25). That’s the way I roll. =)

Ingredients:
  • 3 lamb chops
  • Spice mix (I used dried rosemary, dill, sage, and mint)
  • 1/4 medium onion
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • ~4 redskin potatoes
  • Handful baby carrots
  • 1 tbsp Country Crock
  • Olive oil
(Also, salad and whatever toppings you like if you want a side dish)

The veggies I wanted to steam, so I got a big pot of water boiling right away, with some salt in the water. I diced up the potatoes into chunks and the baby carrots just threw in whole. Let those steam the whole time I was cooking the lamb.

Then I put about 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan, and added the defrosted chops. Cooked a minute or two, turning once. Basically until they were nicely browned but not totally charred. I like a little bit of pink.

 This is the salad I made to go with my meal. I happened to have some cucumber, olives, a roma tomato, and 1/4 of an avocado. Threw in a handful of romaine, toppings, and some Italian dressing. YUM.

These are the chops once cooked. They were oozing juice! Tasty.

Then add the onion to the pan. Cook a minute or two, until translucent and soft. Add in the chicken broth and balsamic. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get any lamb drippings mixed in. Let this simmer until about half the liquid boils off.

Once the potatoes were soft when poked with a fork, I took the veggies out and mixed in 1 tbsp Country Crock, sprinkled with Nature’s Seasoning and some sea salt. Holy. Crap. Steamed baby carrots are like candy! And the potatoes with them were a perfect pairing.

Once the balsamic is reduced to your liking, pour it over the chops. It smells SO good!

Then dig in! Such a delish mixture of flavors and textures. I served myself on smaller plates, so the portion sizes were perfect. I also have 2 lunches put away for the week now. A very productive Monday if you ask me. =)

Thai green curry chicken

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This was my first experiment with Thai cooking. My master’s adviser is from Thailand and she brings us Thai food occasionally and it is always delicious. So I decided I wanted to give it a whirl. So I found some recipes online, and of course did it my own way anyways.
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Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cans coconut milk
1/2 cup cilantro
1 hot pepper (I used serrano)
Lemongrass
Gingerroot
Garlic
Cumin
Limes/lime juice
1-2 cups vegetables of choice
Glass noodles

I had garlic already, and all the other ingredients added up to less than $20. (The bouillon and lettuce don’t count). It also makes a LOT of food, so that’s a total steal versus going to an ethnic restaurant.

Step 1: Get all the sauce ingredients ready: 2 tbsp diced garlic, 1 diced pepper, 1/4 can coconut milk, 2 inches sliced ginger, 1/4 cup diced lemongrass, 1/2 an onion, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp lime juice, salt & pepper.  Put all the curry ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

Step 2: Put 2 tbsp oil in a large pan, and add the curry paste. Apparently this releases the oils and flavors (?) Add the rest of the can of coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.

Step 3: Dice the chicken while the curry simmers.

Step 4: Add the chicken chunks to the curry.

Step 5: Cut the vegetables you want to use into bite sized pieces. I decided to use green beans and orange bell peppers. Add those to the pan and simmer 5-10 minutes.

Step 6: Boil the noodles or rice you want to serve with the chicken. I had some oriental rice noodles I purchased earlier.

Step 7: Put rice or noodles in a bowl and add chicken curry. Enjoy!

Obviously, you can make many variations. Add whatever vegetables you like, more or less of certain spices, more peppers if you want it spicy.

Stuffed pepper casserole

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If you’ve been following along, you know I love stuffed pepper. You also know I love my crock pot. Stuffed peppers in the crock pot tend to come out a little mushy, so I decided to try making a casserole instead of leaving the peppers whole. They get cut into tiny pieces when you eat it anyways right?
Ingredients:
4 large red bell peppers
1.5 lb ground beef
1.5 cups rice
1.5 cups chicken broth
1 can tomato sauce
Garlic, italian spices, pepper, salt
Step 1: First cut the peppers into small chunks and line the crock pot.

Step 2: Then add the chicken broth to the rice and cook, following directions for the type of rice you use… the chicken broth just gives it more flavor, if you’re watching your sodium you can omit it.

Step 3: While that’s cooking, brown the ground beef.

Step 4: Then mix the rice, sauce and beef together. Pour over the peppers. I actually added 1/2 a chopped onion to the beef to give it more flavor. Season with whatever spices you like.

Step 5: Cook on low for 1 -2 hours and enjoy!

Goat cheese lasagna

 

Well, as December is chock-full of holidays and I spend half of it at home, I did not do much cooking past the 20th. It’s nice to be at home where someone else cooks for me and does the dishes. Like a restaurant, but with more love and fighting.

Anyhow, it’s 2012 now, time for some more creative kitchen adventures. I’m sure I will have plenty of old standbys like tacos and ramen noodles, but there are also some recipes on my mind I’d like to try soon. Plus, I’ve resolved to eat healthier and exercise more because the holiday weight gain really snuck up on me this year. So hopefully you will see lots of salads, soups and veggies.

Since I have not yet made anything spectacular, today I will post the last meal of 2011 that I made, goat cheese lasagna! This stuff is amazingly delicious, and terribly detrimental to the health of anyone kidney-stone-prone. But I had goat cheese and I love the stuff, so I went ahead and made it anyways as an end-of-the-year treat.

Ingredients:
Lasagna noodles
Pasta sauce
Ground beef
Goat cheese
Ricotta or cottage cheese

Step 1: Boil a large pot of water. Add the noodles once fully boiling and boil for 7-9 minutes. Once al dente, drain.

Step 2: While water is boiling, brown about 1 pound ground beef and drain excess grease. If you want, you can combine the meat and sauce in a bowl.

Step 3: Mix the cheeses together well in a separate bowl.

Step 4: In a baking pan or crock pot, layer the noodles, cheese, sauce and meat. Bake at 375 for 1 hour, or on high for 4-5 hours. You can also sprinkle some mozarella on top.

Then just sit back and enjoy! The salty tang of the goat cheese is phenomenal. I’d recommend adding a layer of spinach in there to healthify it and add extra nutrients.

Stuffed peppers

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Stuffed peppers have become known as my signature dish among certain people. I made them once, my friend fell in love and shared them with his family, who also loved them. Through trial and error, I have perfected the recipe and learned that shortcuts are usually not worth sacrificing taste!
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The typical stuffed pepper is made with a green bell pepper and stuffed with a combination of meat, rice, and spices. I like using the red ones so much better because they are sweeter. As always, there is plenty of room for experimentation, and they can easily be made vegetarian. I made some yellow ones stuffed with a combination of quinoa, carrots, brown sugar, celery and raisins that were quite delicious.
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However, this is “the” recipe for my famous peppers. Perhaps I shouldn’t share, but they are so good I feel everyone should have a chance to make and try them!
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The most recent batch I made was a dozen for myself and my friend’s family. If you are only making 2 or 4, the recipe can easily be pared down, just cut amounts by 1/4 or whatever you need.
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Ingredients:

12 red bell peppers (ok, 2 were yellow)
~1.5 pounds ground beef
~2 cups rice
2 cups chicken broth or 2 bouillon cubes
1 packet onion soup mix
1 large can (24 oz?) tomato sauce or 3-4 smaller ones
Nature’s Seasons

Step 1: Boil the rice in the chicken broth. This gives the rice extra flavor and saltiness.
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Step 2: Brown the ground beef. Put it in a pan and cook over medium heat until there is no more pink. Drain the excess grease.
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Step 3: In a large bowl, mix the cooked meat, the cooked rice, the seasonings and the sauce. (Honestly, I could just eat this mixture itself with a spoon!)
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Step 4: Cut the tops off the peppers and pull out the white rinds and seeds.
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Step 5: Stuff the mixture into the peppers.
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Step 6: Bake at 350 for at least 1 hour. Be sure to add some water to the pan so they don’t dry out or burn. You can rinse the tomato sauce can and use that for extra flavor. Depending on how tender you want your peppers to be, you can leave them in a little longer or shorter. You can also add some shredded cheese on top during the last 5-10 minutes of baking.
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You will know they are ready when the skin is soft to the touch and wrinkled, and the tops are nicely browned. You can also cook these on high in a crock pot for 1-2 hours, they will just not develop the crispy brown top. Enjoy!
They also reheat great for lunch or dinner the next day!

 

Hungarian Chicken Paprikush

 

This is in my top 5 favorite meals of all time!

A Hungarian (or maybe Slovak?) recipe handed down from my grandmother and mother. It is simple to make, just a few ingredients. It does take a bit of time and some labor-intensive steps, however the end product is so worth it!

Finished Chicken Paprikush

The noodles can of course be bought, but making your own noodles is well worth the effort. They taste so much better than any store bought noodles ever could.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken
  • Water
  • Sour cream
  • Flour
  • Paprika
  • Salt & pepper
For this I used 4 chicken leg quarters, because dark meat gives the soup a richer flavor. You can use white, dark, or a mixture of both. Put the chicken in a pot and cover it with water plus a little bit extra. Maybe a gallon and a half of water.
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Boil for at least 2 hours or until chicken is no longer pink at all. Take the chicken out and pull all the meat off the bone. Throw the bones, skin, fat, and any other non-edible parts away and return the meat to the pot. I did this step the night before and refrigerated it until the next day but you can also just continue right into the next step.
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The second step is creating what I think is called a “zapraska”.
This is how you mix in the sour cream without it curdling. The sour cream should be left out at room temperature. Mix about 1 cup sour cream with 2 tbsp. flour (omit the flour if you want watery soup) in a separate bowl. Then slowly add soup to it while mixing continuously.
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The soup will slowly warm up the sour cream. Continue adding and mixing well until it is warm. Then you add the zapraska to the main soup bowl and mix it all together. Add paprika, salt and pepper to taste.
And now for the fun part! You get to make your own noodles. Trust me, it is super duper easy. Honestly, cleaning up afterwards probably takes longer than making them.
Noodles:
  • Eggs
  • Flour
The ratio will depend on how many noodles you need to make. I only needed a small amount, so I used 6 eggs and approximately 1 cup of flour.  You will also need a noodle maker, we call it a “shusher’. I don’t know what it actually is called. If you don’t have one of those, you can always drop the dough with a spoon into the water; this will create larger dumpling like noodles.
Scramble the eggs in a large bowl. Mix the eggs and flour together a little bit at a time. Keep adding flour until it has a doughy consistency. A spoon left in it should basically be able to stand upright.
Get a big pot of water to a rolling boil. Then pour the dough into the top basket of the shusher. Push it back and forth so the dough drips through into the boiling water.
Make sure to stir a few times throughout so that the noodles don’t all stick together. Keep going until all the batter is used up. Drain the noodles completely.
These will be the sweetest, saltiest, most eggy and delicious noodles you may ever have had! Put some into a bowl, and pour the soup and chicken on top. You can add some extra paprika or salt to taste.

 

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At-home stir fry, no take out required

 

One of my favorite super-cheap, super-flexible meals is stir fry. As a lover of all things salty, soy sauce in particular, stir frys are always a staple. You can use virtually any kind of rice, veggies, and/or meats.

This is what I had left in my freezer/cabinets:

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup white rice
1 cooked steak (not sure what cut)
1 pint mushrooms
1/2 bag frozen edamame
Soy sauce
Garlic salt

While the edamame and rice were boiling (follow directions on box or bag) I put the veggies and mushrooms into a frying pan with about 4 tbsp. soy sauce.

I cut the steak into small chunks, and added that to the pan. Once the rice and edamame were done, I put all the ingredients in together with some more soy sauce and a healthy sprinkle of garlic salt.

After eating my fill, I had at least 3 meals left over to put in the fridge for the rest of the week.
A lesson I learned from this: don’t put oregano in it. I tried to get fancy with the spices, but then it tasted less chinese-inspired and more like messed-up pasta.