Category Archives: Pasta

Balsamic Brown Butter and Collard Greens Sauce


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

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


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

Collard Greens Pasta Sauce Ingredients

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

Balsamic Brown Butter and Collard Greens

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


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

Butternut Squash Gnocchi


During my whole January Freezer Month challenge (read how that went during weeks one, two, three, and four) I had used half of a decorative butternut squash to make butternut squash macaroni & cheese.  This is one of my favorite fall & winter time meals, because it has all the creamy comfort of mac n cheese with an added boost of vitamins and fiber.  It totally counts as a serving of vegetables!

But what I had discovered was that even a deceptively small-looking squash can create a ton of pulp!

Mashed Butternut Squash

This giant bowl of squash was half!  Yes indeed.  So, being the frugal epicurean chef I am, I decided this was not to go to waste.  After searching the interwebs for inspiration, I had seen several options that were contenders, but in the end the winner was butternut squash gnocchi.  It’s the sauce that sealed the deal, which I will tell you about in just a second.

For those who don’t know what gnocchi is or have never had them, go find your nearest authentic Italian restaurant and re-evaluate your life choices.  Just kidding.  Make this recipe instead!

Gnocchi are typically thick, soft dumplings that may be made from semolina, wheat flour, egg, cheese, potato, breadcrumbs, or similar ingredients.  You basically make a thick pasta dough, and create chewy pillows from it.  The most classic gnocchi shape is the oval with ridges, created in our grandmother’s day using fork tines.  (Did you know the things that make a fork a fork are called tines?  Now you know.)

Pressing Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Growing up in Youngstown Ohio, a city with some serious mafia ties (seriously, go read about it), we have some crazy good Italian restaurants.  Thus I am well-versed in gnocchi.  I’ve even taken a foray into gnocchi making previously, with acorn squash and potatoes.  So I was fairly confident that this project would turn out well.  And boy did it ever!

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Balsamic Brown Butter and Collard Greens Sauce

The process does take a little bit of time, I think it was just over an hour start-to-finish, and I had already-cooked squash to work with.  So be sure you have about 2 hours prior to tackling this.  But trust me, it is well worth it!  My fiancee, who is allergic to vegetables, told me this was delicious and amazing and asked for seconds.  He didn’t even believe me when I said there was squash in it.

The sauce is much easier, I just whipped it all up in my amazing Ninja blender (a Christmas gift from said fiancee) and simmered it on the stove to brown the butter.  But I am convinced that the two flavors and textures are the magic that elevates this from “weeknight pasta” to “so good this could be Valentine’s Day dinner at a 5-star restaurant”.  But at home.

But hey, I’m not gonna tell you what to top your gnocchi with.  If you like marinara, go for it.  If Alfredo is your thing, rock on.  Shoot, if you want to eat your gnocchi naked, that’s fine with me.  Just make sure the blinds are closed. 😉

Butternut Squash Gnocchi Ingredients


  • 3 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash
  • 4 1/2 cups flour plus extra
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasonings
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • Sprinkle of ground pepper and salt

Step 1: If you haven’t cooked your squash, do that first.  Go ahead I’ll wait.  Bake it, microwave it, steam it, whatever.  Then mash it up.

Cutting Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Step 2: Mix your cooked, mashed squash in a large bowl with the other ingredients.  Add seasoning to taste, so if you want it heavy on the spices, do it, or go nuts and add cinnamon.  Get your hands all up in that squishy dough mess and mix it up nice.  Add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time as needed, until the dough just barely still sticks to your hand.

Boiling Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Step 3: Separate out about 3 cups of dough, and turn out onto a floured surface.  Pinch off a good handful, and roll it into a log.  Cut the log into 1/2 – 1 inch squares.  Each individual piece will be one noodle/dumpling/gnocchi.  If you’re feeling fancy, go ahead and roll each gnocchi over the tines of a fork to create ridges.  (I recommend this step mostly because the ridges create a nice place for the sauce to stick to!)


Step 4: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  (Here’s a secret tip: I actually used chicken broth to boil the noodles, for extra flavor and because I like bone broth).  Boil the gnocchi for about 10 minutes, until they float to the top.  Remove with a slotted spoon.

Cooked Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Step 5: Top your gnocchi with sauce or topping of choice, and then watch whoever is eating this oooh and ahhh.  Including yourself.  Go ahead and pat yourself on the back too, that’s step 6.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sauce

And if you are just dying for the sauce recipe I used, don’t worry I won’t tease you and leave you waiting.  Oh wait.  Yup, you have to wait until Thursday’s post.  It will be worth it I promise.

Freezing Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Oh, and did I mention this makes a crap ton?  This recipe made me about 7 dozen gnocchi total, so I ended up freezing about half.  Just lay them out in one layer in the fridge for 1 hour to overnight, then pop in a freezer bag or container and they will keep for about 6 months.  So one day’s hard work equals one amazing meal now, and another amazing meal sometime later.  Jackpot.


Seafood Linguini Bonanza


If you are already a lover of seafood, oh boy do you need this recipe in your life!  If you are unsure, trying to incorporate more seafood into your diet, or have someone who does not like seafood and you want to convince them, you also need this recipe in your life!

Seafood is super for your health, mussels & clams provide some of the highest sources of zinc and certain other minerals of all protein sources, is quite high in protein yet low in calories, and a source of omega-3 fatty acids.  You should of course educate yourself as to the source of your seafood, and you can read more on the nutrition facts here or here.


Well, isn’t seafood expensive? you may ask.   I can’t afford to eat that stuff.  you may think.


Let me explain.

The components of this recipe include: mussels, shrimp, and white fish (in this case, catfish).  All of these ingredients came out of my freezer (since I am doing my January restricted budget/eat from the pantry challenge), and all together cost about $6.  Here’s the secret: always shop sales!

The catfish nuggets I grabbed when they were manager’s special, meaning they had to be sold that day, or else, for less than $2.  Just pop it in the freezer, now you have fresh fish whenever you want it.  The mussels were on sale, close to $6 for a 2 pound bag, and I used one pound.  The other pound is in the freezer waiting for the next recipe.  And the shrimp?  Also on sale, under $2 for a 12 oz bag.

Herbs and Alliums

The other ingredients include fresh onions & garlic & dill, all to be had for a buck or two.  Whole wheat pasta, 0.88 on sale.  Olive oil, salt, these I always have on hand.  And a secret ingredient, stuffed cherry peppers!  These were left in the refrigerator and I didn’t want them to spoil, so into the pasta they went!  And I must say, it was a wonderful addition, the peppers added just a touch of bite.



  • 1 pound linguine pasta
  • 1 pound mussels
  • 12 oz shrimp
  • 1.5 pound white fish, such as catfish or tilapia
  • 5-6 hot peppers
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 2-3 stems of dill (optional)
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 small white onion
  • Salt & Pepper


Step 1: Either steam the mussels by heating, covered, until they all open, or freeze them and then thaw in the frying pan, this causes them to open.  Cook mussels for 7-10 minutes.  Add 2 tbsp olive oil and the shrimp, cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add the white fish, cook until easily flaked with a fork.


Step 2: Remove the seafood to a plate and keep warm.  Add peppers, garlic, and onion, and cook until softened.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and simmer the pasta 8-10 minutes, until al dente.


Step 3: Add the cooked, drained pasta to the pan, along with the rest of the olive oil, vinegar, and the seafood.  Mix well to coat the pasta in the seafood juice and oil.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Dice up the fresh dill (or other herbs)  & sprinkle on top.


You could also use parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, or rosemary.  Feel free to substitute other types of shellfish or seafood such as cooked lobster meat, crab, clams, or scallops.  Whatever is on sale! 😉




Dried Tomato and Artichoke Pasta


Those of you who have been cooking for a long time probably know the feeling of making a dish which to you seems quite simple, yet to someone else who enjoyed the meal with you, it is fancy and magical.  I’d like to share a secret: sometimes all it takes is one to two little touches, that don’t take much time or work, to elevate a dish from plain to pizazz!

Oven-dried tomatoes in olive oil and jarred artichokes are examples of such a touch.

Simple things that only cost a few dollars can really jazz up a weeknight meal or make an occasion special.  Using pre-canned dried tomatoes and artichokes adds almost literally no prep time (ok, you have to open it…) but makes the final plate look and taste restaurant quality.  Other such items are kalamata or pimiento olives, infused oils or vinegars, capers, pine nuts, brined pepper rings, citrus zest, shaved fresh cheeses, or finishing salts.

This dish takes less than 20 minutes start to finish, with no slicing and dicing of mountains of produce or complex kitchen skills besides boiling, straining, and mixing.  If you don’t like spinach, use whatever other vegetables you have on hand, or just stick with tomatoes and artichokes alone.  I had some broccoli on hand, so I added it in for extra fiber and nutrition, plus it went with the already-there colors.

Whip this meal up to impress dinner guests, say I love you, or just to enjoy a magical moment to yourself any time.

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta ingredients on counter


  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1/2 jar artichoke hearts
  • 2 cups dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
  • 1 cup spinach, optional
  • 1 cup broccoli, optional
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, diced

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta ingredients

Step 1: In a large pot, bring 4-6 cups of water to a boil.  Add the pound of pasta.  You can use any shape here, but plain straight spaghetti is the classic choice.

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta cooked

Step 2: Boil the pasta for 5-7 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a large pan, add the garlic, chopped tomatoes in oil, and artichokes (and any other vegetables you are using, like the broccoli) and saute for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant and the vegetables soften.

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta in pot

Step 3: Strain the pasta, do not rinse, and add the hot noodles into the frying pan.  Stir it all together to coat the noodles with the oil from the tomatoes and the juice from artichoke hearts.

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta on plate

If desired, sprinkle with garlic salt or whatever herbs you enjoy, or grate some fresh hard cheese on top (like Parmesan or white cheddar).

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta ready to eat

Veggie Packed Pasta Sauce


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

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

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


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

Sneaky healthy pasta sauce

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

Rigatoni with spinach pasta sauce

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

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


Simple Sausage & Veggie Parmesan


In the warm-to-chill days of autumn, we begin to crave more hearty, filling, stick-to-your-ribs kind of foods.  Soups, stews, chilies, and pasta all sound wonderful as seasonal hibernation signals kick in.  However, you probably don’t want to already start putting on your “winter coat” do  you?  I know it is pretty socially acceptable to gain a few pounds over winter, who doesn’t?  With these filling foods, not much time outdoors, and lots of holiday treats, it is easy to succumb.

But not this time!

A lightened up parmesan pasta alfredo to the rescue!  This recipe is intensely flavorful, with lots of meat to satisfy the carnos in the family,yet packed with good-for-you veggies for vitamins and fiber.  With a homemade alfredo sauce, you get to control how much and what kinds of fats are included, and can amp up the vegetable content, to make a much healthier alternative to a frozen-bagged or restaurant meal.


This recipe takes about 20 minutes, and serves 2-3.  If you don’t have the specific vegetables mentioned, feel free to substitute any kind you like, as long as you try to keep at least 2 cups’ worth.


  • 1 pound sausage links (or loose)
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1/2 bunch kale, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 pound pasta (save 1 cup of cooking water)
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 2-4 tbsp. butter


Step 1:


Step 2:


Step 3:














How to Can Homemade Pasta Sauce


Since moving to Connecticut, we have slowly made friends with the neighbors. We are lucky enough to live in a pretty safe and quiet area, where the people are very kind and welcoming. My good fortune is knowing a guy named Tony, a few houses down the street, who gardens for his health.

Now, there are lots of well-known reasons why gardening is good for the body and soul. Being out in nature brings a sense of peace and calm, helps relieve stress and lower blood pressure, and may boost your immune system. Having home-grown fruits and vegetables enables healthier food choices and better nutrition, while keeping you active and exercising. All those hours of digging, planting, weeding, tending, picking, and preserving burns serious calories and keeps you toned and limber.

Not to mention the fact that gardening can save you serious cash! Just buy the seeds and materials once (better yet, swap seeds with other local gardeners for better-adapted produce, and save your own seeds for next year!) and you can garden for free almost forever. It is easy to find local, free sources of soil amendments like fertilizer and mulches if you ask around and get creative.

Tony takes this to a new level! His garden is literally the size of a football field, all out in his large 2-acre New England backyard. He and his wife single-handedly till, plant, weed, and tend this garden every year. His wife tells me that he has even shrunk the garden a little this year, due to time constraints and health issues, so the garden used to be even larger before I knew about it. Amazing.

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Tony says his favorite thing about the garden is the sense of community. Everyone on the block knows Tony, and knows they can come by anytime to pick a bag full of produce to take home. His garden produces far more than he and his family alone could enjoy, so he gives freely to everyone around him.

This is the beauty of gardening. You make friends, share food, recipes, and stories, and build a true community.

Needless to say, I was hooked.

By mid-August, I had my kitchen table and counter literally covered in tomatoes, and needed to finally take the time to do something with them all. A large batch I simply cut into quarters and put in gallon freezer bags. They will sit in the freezer until I need to make a soup or chili; then I will thaw them, and the skins will fall right off, and I can use them in whatever recipe is on my mind.

Another large portion goes into cans as sauce to rest in the pantry until it’s pasta night. Tony shared his “lazy Italian” way of making sauce, which saved me tons of work and hours in the kitchen!

The typical way of making sauce is to boil the tomatoes briefly, then submerge in ice water. This makes the skins easy to remove. You then separate the seeds and skin from the inner flesh, and cook down for hours until it thickens into a sauce.

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This cooking down process makes the house smell amazing, and warms it up on a chilly day. But this also takes a lot of time, and energy from the stove. I’m a fan of the new “lazy” way, and the sauce tastes just as good! So pull out your blender, and lets get started!

This recipe will make about 5 quarts of sauce.

Don’t add the spices if you want a plain tomato sauce, or change up the spices to whatever you want in the end product. This does use the water-bath canning method, read up on all possible dangers of canning or use a pressure canner if you are unsure.


  • 8-10 pounds assorted tomatoes
  • 5-6 canning jars, lids, & rings
  • Per jar:
    • 1 tbsp dried onion
    • 1/2 tbsp dried garlic
    • 2 tbsp basil
    • 2 tbsp parsley
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • Blender
  • Strainer
  • Cheesecloth or coffee filters


Step 1: Sterilize your jars by boiling for 5 minute,s or run them through the dishwasher. To each jar add the spices for the sauce. I also chose to add one whole tomato just diced to each jar, because I like a little texture in my sauce. You can skip that step and just add the pureed tomatoes.


Step 2: Wash all your tomatoes, and cut out the middle hard part & stem. Remove any brown or black spots or mushy areas. If you want to and have time, you can remove the seeds (and save them for next year!).  Cut the tomatoes into quarters.

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Step 3: Put the tomatoes into a blender, and blend in batches. My blender can handle about a dozen large tomatoes at a time. You may need to squish some juice out of them to get the blender going at first.

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Step 4: Line a strainer over a large pot with coffee filters or cheesecloth. Pour the tomato puree into the strainer and let it sit. You can wait a few hours, or leave it over night if you have a lid. This lets most of the watery juice drip out, leaving the thicker sauce on top. Saves you the hours of boiling down, and now you can keep the tomato water too!


Step 5: Pour your separated sauce and tomato juice into prepared jars. Wipe the rims and put on the lid and ring. Process in the water bath for 35 minutes (adjust for altitude). Remove the jars to a cloth and let them cool 8-10 hours.

The jars are ready if you hear the “pop” of the lids seal, or if when you press down in the middle the lid does not spring back. Any jars that do not seal, put in the refrigerator and use within a week, or process them again.

The tomato broth that filters out is like liquid gold, and will be great as a base for soups and stews, or you can freeze it in ice cube trays to cook veggies in instead of using oil. The sauce will bring back the taste of summer later on in the dead of winter.

And this is how I processed and preserved about 50 pounds of tomatoes in two days time!

And it is so easy. As long as you use vinegar or lemon to acidify the tomatoes and broth, they are perfectly safe to water bath can at home. Enjoy preserving your bounty. Do you have more tomatoes than you know what to do with?

More things you can do with tomatoes:

Do you can or preserve? Have any other ways to save tomatoes? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Chicken Piccata with Zoodles


Ask any gardener, and they will tell you that by mid-to-late summer zucchini plants are going bananas, and you can’t give the stuff away fast enough! This is an awesome time of year, when zucchini can be had cheaply at the super markets and farmers markets (or maybe your neighbor, just ask nicely).

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My striped zucchini

Be prepared, there may be lots of zucchini recipes in the near future, especially since I planted 8 plants this year! Here’s an article with a dozen recipe ideas, I’m sure at least a few will find their way to my test kitchen in the upcoming months.

photo 1
The regular and grey zucchini

This recipe was my first experience with the new food craze of “zoodles”, the cute name for noodles made from zucchini. You can try to hand-julienne them, but a mandoline slicer makes the job far easier. Bascially, the whole zucchini gets shredded into thin noodle-like strands and cooked, then treated like pasta. But way healthier! You’ll get loads of vitamins, plus fiber.

This chicken piccata recipe makes enough for 4. You could easily cut this in half, or double it and freeze some, depending on your mood. I mixed half regular pasta and half zoodles for my first taste, but you can feel free to go all-in, or even use spaghetti squash pasta instead.


  • 4 half chicken breasts
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1 huge ripe zucchini
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-6 tbsp capers
  • Sea salt to taste


Step 1: In a frying pan, heat up 1 tbsp oil. Dice the garlic into tiny pieces, and cut the ends off the zucchini. Add the garlic and chicken to the oil, and cover the pan. Cook on medium heat for 7-10 minutes, then flip and cook another 4-5 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink at all.


Step 2: Boil your pasta noodles 8-10 minutes. While pasta is boiling, take out the mandoline and slice the zucchini into thin strands*. Add the zoodles in the last 2-3 minutes of cooking with the pasta.

*See bottom of post for full instructions


Step 3: Drain the pasta and zoodles. Add to the pan with the chicken, and pour in the oil, lemon juice, and capers. Cover, and steam cook 5-7 minutes.


Once everything is heated through, place on plate, season to your liking, and serve! This is a double-portion, because my fiancee eats like a racehorse who just finished the Triple Crown.


The capers and lemon juice give this dish a nice tangy flavor, while the zoodles add a mellow vegetal taste.  You could also use shrimp here, or broil or boil the chicken instead of pan-frying. Go forth and get your servings of sneaky veggies!


To make zoodles:

1. Set your mandoline to the thinnest setting. This will make long thin sheets. Add the comb to slice into noodles.

2. Place the zucchini flat on the mandoline top-to-bottom (lengthwise) and push down the mandoline face. This will cut the first layer. Move the zoodles from  underneath the mandoline to a plate.

3. Put the zucchini back to the top of the mandoline, now flat side down, and push down again. Continue until you have a very thin layer left. Hand-slice this layer, or be very very careful to not slice off your thumb!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad


With the Fourth of July weekend coming up, I’m sure many readers will be hosting or attending picnics, barbeques, and other backyard get-togethers.  A huge fan of casual parties myself, I am always on the lookout for fast, easy to put together side dishes that aren’t too expensive to feed a crowd. A good example is my prior post on BBQ Baked Beans.

Enter the pasta salad.

Pasta salads are insanely versatile. They adapt well to just about any type of veggie, meat, or cheese, with tons of creative dressing/sauce options as well. You could try a Greek mix of feta, banana peppers, onions, and kalamata olives, or a club mix of ham chunks, cheddar cheese, and crumbled bacon, or how about an Italian combo with salami, pepperoni, pepperocini, and swiss.

For this recipe, I had a pre-mix box ranch & bacon pasta salad, and decided to jazz it up a bit with some canned chunk chicken and fresh diced veggies. You can also use a pound of any type of pasta (the small shapes work best here, like shells, elbows, or penne), spices you like, and some crumbled bacon.



Step 1: Dice your zucchini and tomatoes, and drain the chicken. Get the water boiling for the pasta, and boil 8-10 minutes.


Step 2: In a pan, cook the zucchini for 5-7 minutes, until beginning to brown. Add the tomato and chicken, and cook until heated through.


Step 3: Drain the pasta, and mix in the veggies. Add the toppings included (or spices & cooked crumbled bacon) and the Ranch dressing. Stir well. Add more or less as needed.

This cooks up a nice big batch, and can feed a hungry crowd. The Ranch flavor works great with the bacon, pasta, and chicken. You can also use dried Ranch seasonings and milk or sour cream to achieve a similar yet different taste. As a bonus, you’ve snuck in a serving of veggies per cup!

Happy partying & God bless the USA!


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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!