Cracker-breaded baked pork chops & roasted vegetables

Pork chops are one of the cheaper meats these days, and I’ve previously professed my love of oven-roasted vegetables. Roasting any veggie in the oven makes it softer, sweeter, and more delicious in my opinion. You can’t go wrong with several cups of veggie chunks and olive oil at 350 for 25 minutes…

Ingredients:
1/2 cup crushed butter crackers
2 tbsp garlic salt and black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2-4 pork chops
2 cups diced onion, potato and carrot
2 tbsp olive oil

 Step 1: Coat the chops in egg on both sides. A shallow plate is best for this.

 Step 2: Butter crackers really make this crust tasty! Smash up about a cup in a plastic baggie. I then added some garlic salt and black pepper too. Coat both side of the chops and place on a sprayed baking pan.

 Step 3: Put the pork in the oven at 375 and set a timer to 45 minutes. While they bake, dice up your veggies.


 I had recently gone to a farm market and they had heirloom colored carrots, so of COURSE I had to buy some. Purple carrots, turns out on the inside they are still orange. Disappointing but ok. The white ones really were white though. I added half an onion and one large russet potato.

 Step 4: Place diced veggies in an oven-safe pan, mix in 2 tbsp vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt. When the timer reads 30 minutes, put the veggies in the oven too. Cover with foil if you want, I didn’t this time.

 Halfway through cooking (at about 15-20 mins left) flip the chops and mix the vegetables around.

Then enjoy! The cracker crust is buttery, salty and delicious. A perfect compliment to the hearty pork, sweet carmelized onions and carrots and earthy potatoes. Yum!

Faster breakfast skillet: Corned beef hash & eggs

This is the short-cut version of my breakfast skillet recipe. Because sometimes we have an extra 10 minutes in the morning, but not 30. By using canned beef & potatoes you eliminate the time needed to dice up and pre-cook the potato.

Ingredients:
1 can corned beef hash
2 eggs

sprinkle shredded cheese

 Step 1: Open the can and put it in a frying pan. Doesn’t that look tempting? Haha… but we will eat it anyways!

 Cook the beef and potatoes about 5 minutes, until the potatoes start to crisp and turn brown. Put half the mixture into a bowl and save the other half.

 Step 2: In the same pan, spray with cooking spray and crack 2 eggs. Cook a minute until the whites harden. Flip the eggs and cook on the other side. If you like runny yolks, you can cook just a minute and place on top of your beef hash. I like my yolks cooked through so I left it in the pan about 5 minutes total.

 Step 3: Slide the eggs on top of the hash and sprinkle on some cheese if you like.

I’m sure the health level of this is questionable at best, but you can’t beat it for a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast in only 10 minutes!

Picnic favorite: 9-layer Taco Dip

 

I’m going to a park to play volleyball with some friends, and we will grill and have a picnic afterwards. Everyone brings something to share. I wanted to make something different from your typical hot dogs and chips type food, and anything taco-related is always a hit, so this is what I came up with. Since I already had the majority of ingredients, only needed to buy the lettuce and tomato, this was super cheap. Even if I had to re-buy everything, for a party of 10 or so people this is a cheap side/dip. It is nearly filling enough to count as a meal!

Ingredients.
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup taco seasoning
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz sour cream
1 can refried beans
1/4 cup salsa
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/2 ripe tomato
1/4 head of lettuce, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup sliced black olives

Step 1: Brown the ground beef in a skillet. While cooking, layer the cream cheese on the bottom of an 8×8 pan with a spoon.

Step 2: Spread the sour cream on top of the cream cheese. Now you have 2 layers of cheesy goodness to build your mexi-masterpiece on top of.

Step 3: Open the refried beans and mix it up in the can. You can heat this first, I just scooped it right out of the can and layered it on.

That’s 3 if you’re counting.

Step 3: Once beef is cooked, add the taco seasoning and 1/4 cup water and cook until the water boils off. The beef should now smell tangy and reminiscent of Taco Bell. Pour that over the beans and spread evenly.

Step 4: Add as much salsa as you like on top of the beef. I just put about 1/4 cup since I’m adding real tomato as well.

Step 5: Add a healthy handful of shredded cheddar or whatever type of cheese you like. We’re up to 6 layers now…

Step 6: Cut the lettuce into small strips and cover the cheese with crunchy green goodness.

Step 7: Dice up a big fresh red tomato into small chunks and add those on top.

Step 8: Sprinkle the sliced black olives on top to complete the pretty picture.

And there you have it, 9 layers of tasty chip-ready dip! You can of course omit any layers you don’t particularly like, and it’s also an option to toss this in the oven or microwave for a few minutes after the cheese layer to warm up the meat/beans/cheeses before topping with the fresh veggies if you like it warm.

Sneaky bean & beefy pasta

In an effort to not only be healthier but also use up canned goods, I decided to take the old student standby of pasta with meat sauce and kick it up a notch. I had a half jar of Ragu from a few days ago, so I just used a small can of tomato sauce to round it out, and a can of chickpeas. (You could probably use any bean here, but chickpeas were what I had, plus they blend better than pinto or black) I didn’t just want chunks of beans in my sauce, so I blended them. Makes the sauce thicker and adds protein and fiber.

Ingredients:
1/2 jar pasta sauce
1 can tomato sauce
1 can chickpeas
1 box pasta noodles of your choice
1 pound ground beef
Handful spinach

Step 1: Open the can of beans and drain half the liquid. Pour the rest and the tomato sauce into blender and liquefy it. Add extra water if it’s too thick.

Step 2: Fill a large pot half full of water, add salt if you want. Bring to a rolling boil, and cook the pasta 5-8 minutes. While cooking, complete step 3. Drain when al dente (aka soft but not mush).

Step 3: Brown the ground beef in a frying pan. You want to make sure it’s fully cooked. Then add the handful of spinach and cover. Cook for 3 minutes to wilt the spinach. Pour the sauce on top, mix well and cook on medium, covered, until heated through.

The beans makes the sauce thick and gives it a certain depth of flavor without being too obvious. You could also blend in the spinach once cooked so you don’t even know it’s there. Mixed with the plain Ragu pasta sauce and ground beef, it isn’t too noticeable. This is a good way to sneak extra nutrition past whiny kids and picky hubbys. Those adjectives are probably also interchangeable. Just saying.

Crock pot: Creamy chicken & corn

Apparently this post is brought to you by the letter C. 
This is just something I came up with to continue using up things in the pantry and freezer, mixed with a love of Crock Pot cooking ease. If you’ve kept up on posts, you know I recently moved and have one huge box full of canned things as well as a shelf in the freezer I’m trying to eat my way through before I move to my next place in a few weeks… Anyways, so this recipe used up two cans and some chicken, as well as a box of rice. And it tasted great! (In case you’re concerned about that…)
Ingredients:
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup milk
1 cup corn (or other frozen veggie)
1 box rice side or 1 cup rice cooked
Frozen chicken – I used drumsticks because that’s what I found first. Thighs would work, as well as breasts or a whole chicken, just use another can of soup and extra milk for sauce if you use more than about 8 oz.

 Step 1: Spray the inner lining of the slow cooker. Add the soup and milk, mix together. Add the corn and chicken, cover and cook on low 6 hours or high 4+. I wouldn’t recommend less than 4 hours on high for frozen chicken, you want to make sure its cooked through and not get Salmonella poisoning. And Crock pots nearly never burn so feel free to leave it on low for a good long while.

Step 2: Before serving, cook your rice. You could use any of those $1 rice sides that go on sale regularly, or plain rice cooked. Add spices or extra veggies, soy sauce, sriracha, whatever you like to flavor the rice. Then put the chicken on top and pour on a scoop of corn cream sauce. The sauce is thick and creamy and the sweetness of the corn went perfectly with the wild rice I chose to serve it over. Delightful.

(Disclaimer: My boyfriend actually did the crock pot cooking part! So any guys reading, take note! You can use this simple recipe to impress the heck out of a new flame or long-time love with next to no effort on your part. Crock pots are culinary wonders for the cooking impaired, busy and/or lazy person.)

Peaches & Banana Cream Pie

This was inspired by what I had around the house. I bought a pie crust cheap a month ago, and we had some fruits that were getting to the mushy use-me-soon stage. All the pie recipes I found were for banana cream pie, some more complicated than others. One suggested just using banana pudding, so I thought, why not just add the peaches to it? Turns out pudding takes a long time to solidify, so maybe use less milk…

Ingredients:
1 pack vanilla pudding
1 pack banana pudding
5 cups skim milk
2 ripe bananas
2 ripe peaches
1 pie crust
Handful raspberries (because I had them)

 Step 1: Line the pie crust with sliced up banana.

Step 2: Mix the pudding and milk. Blend up the peaches (I used 1 1/2 and saved half for garnishing the pie) and add to the pudding. Since I’m lazy I just blended all of it. Also threw in a few raspberries for color.

 Step 3: Pour the fruity pudding mixture over the banana slices. Any extra pudding just refrigerate for later.

 That’s it! Refrigerate for at least an hour, or until the pudding sets. Garnish with pieces of fruit if you like.

We waited over 2 hours and it was still rather liquid, so we put it in the freezer. Bad idea, defrosting it the next day lead to total mush, plus the crust was now mush too. I’d definitely recommend using maybe half the milk suggested next time… Still tastes delicious! Use whatever fruits you like, kiwi, strawberry, blueberry, pears. You could play with pudding type, maybe try butterscotch or chocolate too.

August’s new food: Young Thai coconut pina cooladas

 

I have a friend who is Asian, and as such eats some foods I, as an American, have not yet tried. I was over her family’s house, and I was offered coconut milk. I said sure, not realizing they meant a real coconut, which her aunt promptly chopped open with a giant butcher knife, stuck in a straw and handed to me.

Fresh, raw coconut water is strange at first, but very refreshing. It has a hint of sweetness, and is supposed to be helpful in reducing inflammation and fever because of its cooling properties.

So now my friend and I had two young coconuts to take home, and I had to make something out of them. I considered coconut cream pie (not the kinda cheater version I made earlier) but it usually uses a more mature coconut because the flavor gets stronger with age.

So the other thing that naturally comes to mind (for those of age) was pina cooladas. I’d never liked them much, but hey, it’s probably better when I make it, most things are. =)

Ingredients:

  • Meat of 2 young coconuts
  • 1 can pineapple chunks with juice
  • ~1/4 cup lemon/lime juice
  • ~1/3 cup cherry rum
  • Lots of ice

Step 1: Cut at an angle around the top of the coconut. Then stick a knife point into the hull, and cut a circle out of the top. Pop the top off with the knife and enjoy the tasty juice, or use it in the drink or other smoothies.

Step 2: Scoop out all the meat with a spoon and put it into a bowl or right into the blender.

It might be difficult, so use the spoon to pry the meat from the edges first.

Step 3: Add the coconut meat, pineapple, lemon or lime juice and rum. (To taste)

Step 3: Add ice and blend well. Pour into a beverage container and enjoy!

pina coolada

This would be adorable for a party with some pineapple wedges or maraschino cherries. I read some recipes that used cherry juice or cherries too, hence the cherry rum. The coconut is smooth and cool, the pineapple acidic and bright, the cherry sweet and tart and the lemon juice adds that citrus zing.

A great summertime beverage, and quite healthy for you too (minus the booze part).

Country style breakfast skillet

Weekends are great for me, because I can both sleep in AND have lots of time for cooking awesome breakfasts. I’m not normally a ‘breakfast person’, but sometimes the mood strikes and I want something big and filling and delicious in the AM. I had plenty of potatoes, that’s usually a staple in my breakfast favorites. I also had some frozen turkey bacon (go ahead and groan, any males reading this, but it tastes delicious. As long as you don’t expect ‘real’ bacon taste) and ground beef. Kind of just making it up as I went, I came up with a restaurant-worthy breakfast skillet.

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound turkey bacon (go ahead and use real if you have it)
1/2 cup corn or other veggie (if you like that kind of thing)
2 potatoes, diced
1/2 onion, diced
4 eggs
Spray on vegetable oil or 2 tbsp oil

Step 1: Dice up the potato and onion, spray the pan with oil. Microwave the potato for 5-8 minutes to soften. Cook on medium heat for at least 10-15 minutes, until the onion and potato chunks are soft.

 Step 2: Cut up the bacon and add it and the ground beef to the pan. Cook until the ground beef is thoroughly browned. Add vegetables if you’re using any. Transfer the cooked skillet to another bowl and keep warm.

 Step 3: Spray the pan again and add 2 eggs. Let them cook a few minutes, until the whites thicken. Carefully flip them to cook the other side.

 Step 4: Put about a cup of the skillet mix into a bowl, slide the cooked sunny-side up eggs on top. Viola!

This was amazingly delicious, hearty and filling. If I had the time, I’d make breakfast like this every day! But then I’d also probably weigh 50 pounds more than I do now… Anyways, enjoy!

Fancy ramen: steak & spinach soup

This is one of my favorite ways to fancy up ramen noodles. After freshman year of college, I thought I’d left the days of ramen behind forever. Not true. Some months in grad school I feel even poorer than I did back in my dorm days, and sometimes I just crave the chemically created fake chicken taste & smell. Sure, I may be weird but don’t lie and say you never have had a ramen craving!

Anyways, since I now like to pretend I’m all grown up and ‘adult’ and all that, I feel the need to spruce up old college standbys. I can’t just be eating out of a cup-o-noodles anymore, after all. Besides the social expectations, I also have grown into great knowledge and concern for my health. As I am still on the young side of life, I’d like to take care of myself now to prevent problems later down the timeline as long as possible. So I sneak extra protein and veggies into everything I can. With that, here is the healthiest version of ramen I could come up with. If you have other ideas or something even better, feel free to comment and share!

Ingredients:
1 package ramen noodles
1 cup fresh spinach
1/2 cup meat of choice (I had some leftover steak from burritos)
1 egg
1 cup water

All you do is microwave the ramen & water for 3 minutes. Add the spinach, meat and crack the egg (yes, right into the bowl) and microwave another 3-5 minutes. Stir well and enjoy! The spinach will be slightly wilted and the egg cooks fully so no worries. If you’re vegetarian don’t add meat, put in some beans or tofu instead. Any other veggies or spices of your choice can also be added. This is an extremely easy, fast, cheap and portable lunch.

Salmon Latkes

When you have a mission to eat only (or at least mostly) food you already have for a month, it is certain that you will come up with some… interesting… combinations. That is exactly what I’ve decided to do, due to moving situations, I have 2 boxes of canned/boxed food and handfuls of frozen meat that I am determined to get through. Since pork chops and rice can only be tolerated so many days a week, I decided to get creative with tonight’s dinner. I had some frozen fish fillets and most of a 5 pound bag of potatoes, so I said, self, salmon patties are delightful, and latkes are good. What happens when I put a fish inside a baked potato patty? Turns out, something quite delicious happens.

Ingredients:
2 small potatoes
1 large salmon filet (8-10 oz)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups spinach
2 tbsp sour cream (optional)
2 slices old bread, torn up
2 inch square chunk feta (you can use whatever cheese you like, or none at all)
Garlic salt
Paprika
Parsley

Step 1: Wash the potatoes, poke holes all over with a fork. Microwave 6-8 minutes, until slightly soft. Then dice and boil another 8-10 minutes until mashably soft. (That’s a word now.)

 Step 2: Microwave the salmon 2 minutes per side and cut into small pieces.

 Step 3: Mash the potatoes in a large bowl. Add the salmon pieces.

 Step 4: Put all remaining ingredients into a bowl and mash together well. I just dug right in with my hands.

 Step 5: Get about 1/4 cup oil hot in a frying pan over medium heat. Form palm-sized patties with the salmon-potato mixture. Place into the oil and enjoy the sizzle. Cook about 5-7 minutes per side, until nicely browned and cooked through.

 These were delicious, it really is like a mashed potato with a slightly fishy flavor. You can add whatever other spices you like, take out the spinach, add other veggies if you want. If you want it vegetarian, just take out the cheese, sour cream and egg, and use some of the potato cooking water to hold it all together. I guess technically the salmon makes it pescatarian. Maybe lacto-ovo if you leave the egg and sour cream. You can also use bread crumbs, cooked old rice, or oats as a binding agent if you don’t want bread or the potatoes.

I topped these with salsa, sour cream, and sriracha and served over a bed of mixed baby greens. Yum!

The fusion of food, fun, frugality, and curiosity.