Category Archives: Side dishes

Spicy Green Beans

 

Ever try to get a child, or significant other, or friend, or yourself, to eat a new vegetable?  Sometimes, it is just fine. But most of the time, it does not go over well. You’re greeted with scrunched up noses, tongues sticking out, and a chorus of “ewwww!”.

Well, I have good news for you. I know of several tricks to get new vegetables to at the least be considered, if not openly adored. One involves trying it in a new texture. I’ve found that pan-frying or baking until crispy can render some normally off-putting veg nearly irresistible.

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The second trick is spice. Usually the hot kind, but also all kinds of spices. Familiarize yourself with different spices, fresh and dried, ground and whole. Peppers are a whole world of their own, from as innocuous as bells and jalapenos up through cherry peppers, poblanos, and serranos.

While they are in season, pick them up cheap at the store or farmer’s market (or better yet, grow your own, peppers are very forgiving and easy growing!) and they freeze or dehydrate beautifully for salsas and recipes all year long.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh green beans (or any pole bean)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp ground or fresh diced hot pepper
  • 1 tsp dried or fresh diced garlic
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp olive oil

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Step 1: Put the olive oil and green beans in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, until beans start to brown.

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Step 2: Add the garlic, tomatoes, soy sauce, and hot pepper. You can use any kind of tomatoes, or forget about them and just cook the beans too. I happened to have a yellow pear tomato plant that just exploded with fruit so I used those. It adds a nice juicy, fresh taste.

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Cook until tomatoes burst, and most of the liquid is evaporated. Serve hot!

These come out crunchy yet easy to chew, with a very fun texture. If you let them cool slightly, they can be great finger foods. Obviously you can adjust the level of heat to the comfort level of whoever is eating them. Add extra hot peppers to convince a doubtful male to try it (Seriously, spice works to conceal a lot of “vegetal” tastes most dudes don’t love), or dial it back for those who are new to spices.

You can even omit the hot pepper at all for children, or people who are allergic or just don’t like hot pepper. But I’d suggest giving it a try, you’ll never go back to canned beans once you’ve tried this delish dish!

 

Easy homemade corn tortillas

 

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2017, and all the adventures that await! I hope you will take some chances, try new things, and enjoy this year even more than the last one. To start off, let’s try something that sounds more intimidating that it really is, making your own homemade corn tortillas.

So, remember how I said that I had bought this thing called Maseca to make my Chorizo Tamale Pie? I read on the bag that it can make hundreds of tortillas, and of course I had to try it! The recipe is so crazy simple, I almost didn’t believe it would work. Just the flour, water, and oil? No way!

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Maseca is a kind of dehydrated corn flour, so that all you do is add water. That must be how you need a very tiny amount of it to make a very large amount of tortillas!

I would recommend trying this with a small batch at first, until you get the hang of how much water or oil you need to create the tortilla texture you want. You can make your tortillas larger, to make big ol burritos, or tiny to make hand tacos. That is the beauty of making your own.

Well, that and eating every other one hot off the griddle cause they’re so darn tasty!

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Ingredients (makes about a dozen small tortillas, or 4-5 large):

  • 1 cup maseca
  • ~1 cup warm water
  • 1 big tablespoon shortening

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Step 1: In a large bowl, mix the maseca and half the water. Mix well, using your hands is the best way. Add the shortening and mix it throughout. Add water until it reaches a doughy consistency, where it is not crumbly nor sticky.

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Step 2: Pinch off a ball about the size of a golf ball, and roll it flat using your hands or a rolling pin. Spray a pan with cooking oil, and fry over medium heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

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Step 3: Flip to make sure both sides are cooked, and remove to a plate to keep warm. You can use a wet paper towel or cloth over the tortillas to keep them soft.

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These are delicious as is, right off the hot pan. Or you can store them up to a week in the refrigerator, for use as delicious tacos or tostadas! I made some chicken tacos, and ate the rest plain right off the stove. You can add a sprinkle of salt to the dough if it is too plain for your liking.

 

 

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Easy 10 minute minestrone

 

This recipe is a super simple one!  If all you want is a hot, fresh bowl of soup that tastes great and is also quite healthy, you have come to the right place. You can easily make this in a slow cooker on low all day, or boil it on the stove to have dinner in 10 minutes, your choice.

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Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound small pasta
  • 1 potato, chopped small
  • 1 carrot, chopped small

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Step 1: Place all ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil. Boil for 8-10 minutes, and serve! It is essentially ready when the potato and carrots and pasta are soft enough to eat.

 

One Week of Meals from One Pork Roast

 

Do you ever wish you had more time?  Do you feel like you spend too much time at the grocery store, or in the kitchen, or waiting for delivery? Does you bank account look emptier because of all the ordering out you do?  Do you want an easy way to make a week’s worth of homemade meals, for less than $100, with minimal prep and cook time from one grocery trip?

I thought so. Here is your answer!

This post is created to show you how to get a week’s worth of dinners (with some leftovers for lunches too) from a single 4 pound pork roast.  All recipes easily feed 2 adults, with many recipes making much more food for leftovers and re-make meals.

By planning ahead to use one main dish all throughout the week, you can get creative and ensure that none of your food dollars get wasted by literally throwing them away. You will save time throughout the week by not having to go to the grocery store to pick up “just one or two things” and not having to worry what to make for dinner, it’s already planned out. And you can eat healthy, whole food, home cooked meals all week long!

Here is the list of recipes you will be making if you follow this plan:

As far as cooking equipment, you will need at least a frying pan, and preferably a slow cooker. You can slow cook the pork in the oven, and make the casserole in the oven as well, but that requires slightly more hands-on time from you. The full grocery list can be found at the bottom of the post, and you can go to individual recipes by clicking on the links throughout.

The first thing you’re going to need to do is assess your pantry and freezer situation.  If you have plenty of Italian dressing, some frozen mixed veggies, noodles, and plenty of spices, you’re already halfway there on this week’s grocery list. Then make your list of what you still need to make the recipes, and head to the store.

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You will need to pick up a nice pork loin roast, or other pork roast. I recommend 3-5 pounds for 2 adults for one week’s worth of meals.  You can adjust to larger or smaller sizes if feeding a larger crowd, or just one, or if you wish to double recipes or omit certain recipes this week.

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Once you have your pork roast, use a sharp knife to cut 2-4 pork chops off the end. You can also ask your butcher to do so if you go to a regular grocery store. These pork chops can be frozen for later depending on when you want to make the Italian Pork Chops.

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Once you have your chops cut, take about 1 pound off the remaining roast. This will be diced up into cubes.  You can also freeze these chunks for later, depending on when you want to make the Pork Lo Mein Stir Fry.

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As for the remainder of the roast, put that guy into your crock pot.  This is gonna become one delicious, fall-apart pot of BBQ Pulled Pork. If you’re game, add a sliced onion and a can of beer, then cook on low for 8-10 hours or high at least 4 hours.

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Shred the pork roast with two forks.  I recommend removing half of the meat to a container in the refrigerator, and adding 1 cup BBQ sauce to the rest and cooking another hour on low.

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Now you have about a pound each of plain pulled pork and BBQ pulled pork! Plus 2-4 chops, and a pound of diced pork in the freezer. And that’s after less than an hour total of hands-on prep time.

Now you can use the shredded plain or BBQ pork for:

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Pulled Pork Burritoes (above) or Quesadillas:

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And slow cooker pork and rice and broccoli casserole:

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And the diced pork chunks for a delicious homemade lo mein:

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And the best part is, you can choose when to make these recipes and in what order, because the pork chops, diced pork, and shredded cooked pork all freeze very well. You can turn these into breakfast and lunch too, pulled pork omelettes are great, as are BBQ pulled pork sandwiches on nice thick buns.  Enjoy!

 

Full Grocery List

  • 1 4-5 pound pork roast
  • 1 cup Italian dressing
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • Frozen or fresh vegetables of your choice
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce (or more, to taste)
  • 1 package tortillas
  • ~1 cup white or brown rice
  • 1 can beans (black or pinto)
  • 1 package lo mein noodles
  • Soy sauce
  • Shredded cheese
  • Fresh or frozen broccoli
  • 1 cup milk (optional)
  • Burrito toppings – sour cream, guac, salsa, etc.

And seriously, that’s it! I guarantee you can buy all of these items for under $100 (at least everywhere I’ve lived from Colorado to Connecticut).

 

Also, if you’ve read this far and you’re curious, I also have a post explaining all the cuts of a pig. So next time you go to the store, you can know the difference between a rump roast, shoulder roast, and a loin. 🙂

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Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

 

Sometimes, you just can’t. Can’t even. Can’t even think about running to the store, slaving over a hot stove, balancing a meal or a checkbook.

But your tummy is growling, your spouse is complaining, your kids are whining, your friends are coming over for dinner.

Enter the slow cooker.

It is a savior for anyone rushed for time (and who isn’t??) or tight on cash (can I get an AMEN!) or doesn’t love to cook (can’t say I feel it all the time, but there are days…) or lives alone, or feeds a family of ten, or… you get my point. I flipping love the things.

You can get a tiny 2 or 3 quart slow cooker for single or double cooking. You can get a giant 8 or 10 quart workhorse for crowds and big appetites, you can get multiple crocks in one base for buffet style hands off cooking. I kinda want one of those now… The point is, if you don’t have one you should get one!

This recipe is super simple, a classic favorite I pull out time and again.  I used pulled pork here because that is what I built into this week’s meal plan, but you could just as easily use shredded chicken, steak, tofu, etc.

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

It involves items I nearly always have around the house, including frozen veggies and brown rice.  Feel free to use white rice, or wild rice, or even crazy things like quinoa or couscous instead. You can also substitute any other frozen veggie you are partial to if broccoli just doesn’t do it for ya.  And if you’re feeling extra crazy and decadent, use milk instead of water, and toss on some shredded cheese at the end, just before serving.

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shredded cooked pork
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk / water / broth
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli (or veggie of choice)

Optional: shredded cheese

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

Step 1: Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or more, or high for at least 2 hours (to thaw the veggies).  Alternatively, you could put this in a baking pan and bake at 350 for 2 hours (1 if you use fresh and not frozen veg).

 

 

What are your favorite slow cooker meals??

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Stuffed Zucchini Boats

 

With the end of summer and onset of fall, summer fruits and vegetables begin to close down shop. The last of the tomatoes are ripening on the vine, the peppers are turning red, and the final enormous baseball bat sized zucchini are finally the last of the crop with no more flowers in sight. If you’ve exhausted the number of times you can make stir fry, or latkes, or zoodles, and have bags full of shredded zucchini in the freezer for later, here is a great recipe to make zucchini taste brand new to close out the season!

This recipe has a lovely presentation, and will make people think you’re a master chef who spent hours in the kitchen. In truth this takes about 10 minutes of prep and assembly, then you simply bake it until ready. You can easily make this vegetarian by omitting the ground turkey and using tofu or lentils or some other kind of bean / meat substitute.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 smaller zucchini, cored
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup salsa (optional but recommended)
  • Optional: spices to taste

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Step 1: Cut the zucchini in half length wise, and use a knife or spoon to scrape out the inside core. Make sure you remove all the seeds, but you can save the pulp to add to the stuffing.

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Step 2: In a bowl, mix the cooked rice and meat (or beans, tofu, etc) with the pieces of zucchini pulp and salsa. Add the eggs and bread crumbs and any spices you want and mix well.

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Step 3: Spoon the stuffing mixture back into the hollowed out zucchini boats.

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Step 4: Bake face-up on a baking sheet in an oven set to 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until zucchini is soft enough to pierce with a fork and stuffing is slightly crunchy on top.

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That’s all there is to it! You can sprinkle on a bit of Parmesan cheese or garlic salt right before serving, or add extra salsa on top. You can sneak extra veggies in there too, I added a few bites of some roasted beets I had in the refrigerator, as you can see by the lovely pink color.

 

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 smaller zucchini, cored
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup salsa (optional but recommended)
  • Optional: spices to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut the zucchini in half length wise, and use a knife or spoon to scrape out the inside core. Make sure you remove all the seeds, but you can save the pulp to add to the stuffing.
  2. In a bowl, mix the cooked rice and meat (or beans, tofu, etc) with the pieces of zucchini pulp and salsa. Add the eggs and bread crumbs and any spices you want and mix well.
  3. Spoon the stuffing mixture back into the hollowed out zucchini boats.
  4. Bake face-up on a baking sheet in an oven set to 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until zucchini is soft enough to pierce with a fork and stuffing is slightly crunchy on top.
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/vegetarian/stuffed-zucchini-boats/

 

 

 

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Refrigerator Pickles

 

Just imagine biting into the perfect pickle. It is softened, but still crunchy, with a tangy note accented with just a touch of sweetness and an after-bite of pepper. The delicious, fresh taste of summer, to be had any time you have a hankering! I have some awesome news, friends, you are capable of making your very own pickles! Yes, you!

You don’t have to buy sad, soggy pickles that were jarred in a factory months ago. And it doesn’t have to take hours of boiling water and hard work, expensive or obscure pickling spice mixes, or waiting months for the pickling process to be complete.  You can have the fresh, irresistible crunch of summer time bounty any time you want it, within hours, and using items you likely already have in the house. Well, as long as you stock your refrigerator with these pickles!

Refrigerator pickles in containers

My family always had these in spades during summer and fall, they are the perfect side dish, topping to burgers or hot dogs, or snacks eaten right out of the bowl by the handful. I have also heard them called “Dutch Pickles” by some crazy people.

They are also quite easy to customize. If you don’t like super puckery pickles, go easier on the vinegar and use more water. If you’re the sweet pickle kinda person, I will try not to judge you too much as you add up to a 1/2 cup of sugar. If you gag at the taste of black pepper, leave it out. If black pepper is for wussies, feel free to pop a jalapeno or habanero into the mix! You can also add other herbs and flavors like garlic cloves, fresh dill, sliced peppers, or mustard seed.

Whether you call them Refrigerator Pickles, or Dutch Pickles, or just pickles, you should definitely make this recipe at least once in your life! They are able to be eaten within an hour, best after 6-8 hours, and will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks. Though after you get a taste, I doubt they will last that long. 😉

Refrigerator pickles ingredients

Ingredients (1 quart):

  • 1 large cucumber or several smaller (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 – 3/4 cup vinegar (to taste)
  • Black pepper & salt to taste
  • Optional: thinly sliced radishes/ zucchini / carrot/ peppers

Quart of pickles

Step 1: Slice your cucumber and onion as thinly as humanly possible! If you are using other veggies, slice those up thin as well. Be very careful and be aware of knife safety of course, or use a mandoline if you have one. This is important to get all the lovely juices distributed as quickly as possible to pickle your veggies!

Pickles!

Step 2: Heat the water just to boiling, and dissolve the sugar. Press your cucumbers and onion in layers into a quart container, adding black pepper and salt as you go. Add the vinegar to the water and pour it all over the pickles.

Pickles fresh from the refrigerator

Step 3: Wait about 8 hours to overnight or longer. Now you have the perfect summer snack! Eat them straight from the jar, pile them onto sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, tacos, or dice them and add to potato or tuna salads. These delicious pickles are a great way to enjoy summer’s bounty, and will keep long after the cold chill of autumn rolls in.

And did I mention this recipe is fat-free, vegan, gluten-free, and barely 100 calories even if you eat the whole quart in one sitting?!? I won’t tell if you don’t…

 

Refrigerator Pickles

Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber or several smaller (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 - 3/4 cup vinegar (to taste)
  • Black pepper & salt to taste
  • Optional: thinly sliced radishes/ zucchini / carrot/ peppers

Instructions

  1. Slice your cucumber and onion as thinly as humanly possible! If you are using other veggies, slice those up thin as well. Be very careful and be aware of knife safety of course, or use a mandoline if you have one. This is important to get all the lovely juices distributed as quickly as possible to pickle your veggies!
  2. Heat the water just to boiling, and dissolve the sugar. Press your cucumbers and onion in layers into a quart container, adding black pepper and salt as you go. Add the vinegar to the water and pour it all over the pickles.
  3. Wait about 8 hours to overnight or longer.
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/vegan/refrigerator-pickles/

 

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Caprese Salad

 

Isn’t it amazing how the simplest of things can tend to be the most delicious?  Sometimes we get wrapped up in crazy new flavors, seasonings, toppings, ingredients list as long as your arm. But it truly is quality that makes all the difference.  When produce is seasonal, fresh, local, and picked in its prime, there is nothing better. And nothing says “summer” quite like a fresh Caprese salad. Soft, creamy mozzarella cheese, tangy fresh basil, and plump juicy heirloom tomatoes fresh from the vine. OPA!

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High-quality cheese is a delight, while 99 cent slices of pasteurized processed cheese like product is hardly worth wasting the calories and preserving your insides. And you can taste the difference between a true fresh pressed, high quality olive oil and a knock off lower quality oil or mixture. It should taste grassy and strong on its own, maybe tickle the back of your throat a little. That is the anti oxidants working. It is worth investing in some! A little bit goes a long way.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large fresh tomato
  • 1 large ball fresh mozarella cheese
  • Big handful fresh basil leaves
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Optional: Sea salt to taste

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Step 1: Slice the tomato and mozzarella into slices, about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Layer them alternating on a plate with fresh basil leaves. Drizzle olive oil over it all, and sprinkle on some sea salt. That’s it.

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You can also make this salad on skewers to serve as an appetizer or snack, or use the tiny mozzarella balls and grape tomatoes for an adorable itty bitty version! These flavors also lend themselves very well to bruschetta or pasta dishes.

 

What is your favorite summer dish? Do you have other recipes with the Caprese flavors you’d like to share? Comment below!

Stuffed Squash Flowers

 

If there’s one thing every gardener knows, it’s to always over-plant zucchini plants.  Just kidding. Every gardener reading this just did a facepalm I bet.

Zucchini is notorious for going from a few fan-like leaves to a gigantic jungle of non-stop baseball-bat sized squash within days. The things just can’t stop won’t stop. And every summer, we still seem surprised when we end up with so many of the dang things, we can’t even give them away anymore.

(That won’t stop me from planting it and loving it every year!)

Squash flowers in the garden

Once you have exhausted all the stir-fried zucchini, zucchini bread, and Zoodles (zucchini noodles), you may stop to wonder, where do these things keep coming from?!

The answer: flowers!

Flowers get pollinated and produce new zucchini. Flowers are also tender and delicious when stuffed and fried. Why not do yourself (and your neighbors) a favor, and eat some before they grow into a 10-pound giant you forgot under a leaf until it got too big and woody to eat?? Also they are just really, really good.

Ingredients for stuffed squash flowers

Ingredients:

  • 6-12 zucchini or any squash flower
  • 2-3 tbsp cottage cheese (any kind of cheese)
  • 2-3 tbsp ground beef
  • 1 egg, or 3-4 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup oil (coconut preferably)

Fried stuffed squash flowers

Step 1: Rinse the flowers and make sure there are no friends still inside. Not a joke, I picked some flowers and dropped one in shock when it buzzed. A bee flew right out!

Step 2: Gently peel the flowers open, and pick out the stamen. Stuff a tiny bit of beef and cheese inside. To keep these vegetarian, you could use any cooked vegetable or grain combo and forego the meats and cheese.

Fried stuffed squash flowers

Step 3: Roll the stuffed flowers in the egg or milk, and then in the breadcrumbs. Completely coat it. Heat the oil just until it start to sizzle, then add the flowers. Fry for 1 minute and flip, fry the other side. Place onto a plate, and then try to let them cool enough to scarf them down!

You could stuff these little guys with any number of things, from rice to quinoa, to shredded carrots or feta. If you want it to be totally vegan, use plain water instead of egg to make the breadcrumbs stick. I made 8, and my husband only got ahold of one of them before I demolished the whole plate! You’re lucky I even got photos…

 

Have you ever tried stuffed flowers? What do you stuff them with? Let me know below!

 

Happy Easter!

 

Happy Easter everyone!  I hope today is filled with family and food and cute woodland creatures, and maybe some chocolates too.  But don’t get too crazy.  Remember, Easter & Halloween are dentists’ favorite holidays.

I will be enjoying the day with family, having an egg hunt, dying hard boiled eggs, eating some ham, and yeah probably having more than a few pieces of candy. 🙂  (Oh, and don’t tell, but I totally want to surprise everyone with this unbelievably easy [microwave only!] carrot cake recipe and healthy cream cheese frosting!  I really hope it is as delicious as it sounds.)

Enjoy the roundup below of creative, healthy ideas to make this the best Easter ever!

 

Natural Easter Egg Dyes from Rodale’s Organic Life

natural easter egg dye

How to Make Vibrant Naturally Dyed Eggs

50 Non-Candy Egg Stuffer Ideas

40 more Non-Candy Ideas

40 Egg-cellent Non-Candy Easter Egg Fillers

No One Will Guess These Easter Brunch Recipes Are Healthy

Easter Brunch

If they're going to be on your Easter table, they should totally look pretty. Get the recipe from Delish.

And of course, we can’t forget the CANDY!

50 Homemade Easter Candy Recipes

50 Homemade Easter Candy Recipes

15 Healthy Easter Desserts

 

 

Image at the top of page from HERE.