Tag Archives: easy dinner ideas

Salmon & Couscous Salad

The first time I had this salad was on a family vacation, and my sister-in-law and her friend were cooking a vegetarian dinner for everyone. She has been a vegetarian for going on 20 years now, which is an awe-inspiring lifestyle, for me. I’m not sure where the original recipe came from, but it involved corn and tomatoes, pine nuts and salmon, shaved parmesan and arugula. It sounded pretty good.

Then we sat down to eat. And it was presented beautifully, layered in a rainbow across a large serving tray.

And then I took a bite.

And I was in love.

That’s the story of my obsession with my favorite salad of all time. Since then I have made several permutations of this salad, for a dinner party, for hubs and myself, and just for me to enjoy at work. It is super simple to put together, and can be an easy thing to take to work to eat for several days. You can eat it cold or room temp, so there is no microwave fishy smell (which I’m sure my co-workers appreciate).

And it is virtually endlessly customizable. I’ve had it with pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, macademia nuts, or none. I’ve tried craisins, raisins, dates, and prunes. I’ve used couscous, quinoa, or no grains. And nearly every salad dressing on the planet will go with this well, as well as having it naked! (As in, no dressing, though do whatever makes you happy. At your house, not at work.)

If you’ve been keeping up with my Weekly Eating series, you know this is frequently a dish I make in large amounts so that I can have leftovers for several days. I’ve begun taking enough for 3-4 days’ worth to work, and just keeping it in the refrigerator and taking out one serving at a time. It is super healthy, quite filling, and pretty affordable if you choose ingredients seasonally and/or on sale.

If you’ve been looking for a recipe to impress at a dinner party, a meal that is inclusive for vegetarians (just offer extra protein options like quinoa and other toppings like beans/nuts), something light and fresh and healthy, or a make-ahead nearly-no-prep work lunch option, look no further!

Ingredients (per salad):

  • 2-3 ounces cooked salmon
  • 2-3 cups salad (spinach, romaine, mixed greens, arugula)
  • 1/2 cup cooked couscous (or barley, rice, quinoa)
  • Sprinkle of craisins or raisins or other dried fruit
  • Sprinkle of nuts (walnuts work best but any will work)
  • Sprinkle of cheese (parmesan, feta, goat…)
  • Optional other toppings: tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, peppers, carrots, beans, anything you can think of!
  • Dressing of choice

Step 1: Cook your salmon however you like, I usually pan-fry them with a spritz of coconut oil or bake them in the oven. Your choice to leave them as a fillet or shred them. You could also use canned, drained salmon here, or sub in cooked chicken, steak, or other fish.

Step 2: Cook your couscous or other grain. I like pearled couscous because it has a pleasant, sort-of-chewy texture that goes well with the overall texture of the salad. Quinoa is also good here.

Step 3: For visual effect, lay down a bed of greens and then layer each separate ingredient in a line across it. To just dig in, toss it all in a bowl, topping as you see fit. Enjoy!

 

 

Super simple lemon garlic chicken

 

You know how some days you are very excited about cooking, buy two dozen different ingredients, and spend hours in the kitchen creating the perfect culinary masterpiece? This recipe is not for that day. This recipe is for a day when you have no idea what to make, no energy to make something fancy, but still want a hot, healthy, filling dinner that also tastes great.

Oh, that’s every night? Good news, this is great for every night!

This recipe can work with fresh or frozen chicken; if using frozen just microwave for 3-4 minutes before putting it in the oven, and add about 15 minutes to the cooking time. You can also use thighs, or chicken leg quarters, but again add about 10 minutes to account for the bone. Cutting the breasts thinly into cutlets as I did means the cook time is the shortest, but you can also leave the breasts whole.

This recipe is super easy, requiring really only 3 ingredients. You can add on and be creative from there, especially with the flavorings. It is also very versatile in terms of a complete meal. It would go well with pasta, potatoes, a nice salad, steamed veggies, rice, quinoa, or couscous.

Whatever you have in the fridge to go along, they will probably be friends. I also use these easy and versatile recipes to stock up on sales on the good stuff when I see it, because I know I can always pull this recipe out when needed.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, diced
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tbsp)
  • Optional: fresh or dried herbs, I used parsley and rosemary

Step 1: Using a sharp knife, filet the breasts into thin pieces, about 1/2 – 1 inch thick. Layer in an oven-safe pan, and sprinkle on the garlic, lemon juice, and herbs, if using. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until there is no pink inside the chicken.

I used the same pan, and baked a pound of asparagus and quartered cabbage at the same time. Couscous takes just boiled water (in the microwave) and 5 minutes, so this whole meal was done and on the table in under 30 minutes!

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Pulled Pork Burritoes

 

Burritos are a staple in my house, I’d say we have them at least once a week if not more often.  They are just so simple to put together, yet always delicious and hit the spot.  You can use basically any meat you have, just add rice and beans to bulk it up, and whatever toppings you prefer.

These burritos use pulled pork, with or without BBQ sauce, of which you should have plenty if you’re doing One Week of Meals from One Pork Roast.  I would recommend the BBQ, but it is not required. And of course, always customize to your preferences.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large tortilla
  • 1/2-1/4 cup pulled pork
  • 1/4 can pinto beans
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1/4 cup cooked rice
  • Sprinkle of shredded cheddar

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Step 1: Put the pork loin in a slow cooker with about 1/2 cup of liquid. You can use beer, cola, or stock.  Cook on low for about 8 hours, it won’t hurt to go a little shorter or longer. Shred the meat with 2 forks. If you want BBQ pulled pork, add 1-2 cups sauce and cook another hour.

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Step 2: Layer all your ingredients in the tortilla. Make sure there’s a good distribution so that once you roll it up, you get a little of everything in each bite!

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Step 3: The best way to roll is to flip 2 opposing sides in just about 2 inches. Fold the corners over on both sides.  Then take one open end and roll it towards the other, scooping the fillings under. Roll it tight, and enjoy!

 

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Spinach Stuffed Chicken Rolls

 

You know how sometimes you just want to make a meal that looks really nice and impressive, but you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen?  No energy or time for that today.  Well, here’s a great recipe that can easily be customized, takes less than 5 ingredients, and in under 30 minutes you have a very nice dinner that other people will think took all day!

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For these rolls, you can use any thin cut of meat.  Try pork chops or a thin flank steak.  Even a firm white fish fillet would work.  You can then stuff it with any types of vegetables, kraut, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc.  (See my stuffed pork chops for an example).

For this particular recipe, I thawed some boneless skinless chicken breasts, and then cut them in half down the center.  Then each half I put between two sheets of wax paper, and pounded them thin with a rolling pin.  You could use a meat cleaver or heavy glass as well.  The thinner they are, the faster they cook and the better able to roll them up they will be.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 thin slices chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup spinach leaves
  • 2 slices white American cheese
  • Optional: yogurt-dill sauce

Rolling up the chicken breast

Step 1: Pound the chicken thin, or use very thin cutlets.  Lay the chicken flat, and layer on the cheese and spinach.  Wrap the chicken around itself into a roll, secure with a toothpick if needed.

Insert toothpick to hold chicken roll together

Step 2: Set the oven to 350, and place the rolls in an oven-proof baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Optional: top with *yogurt-dill sauce.

Chicken rolls covered in yogurt-dill sauce

Step 3: Bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked.

Chicken rolls and dill sauce baked

Serve your lovely rolls alone, or with whatever side dishes you like.  I made some rice and cranberry sauce, and let me tell you, chicken and cranberry sauce is an awesome combo!

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To make the dill sauce, the recipe is below.  This topping is great because it is so simple, and so versatile.  Spread it on sandwiches, add cucumbers to make tea sandwiches, use it on chicken, pork, or fish.  Try different herbs too, to change up the flavors.

*Yogurt-Dill Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Dill and yogurt sauce ingredients

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Enjoy!

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Ingredients

  • 2 thin slices chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup spinach leaves
  • 2 slices white cheese

Instructions

  1. Pound the chicken thin, or use very thin cutlets. Lay the chicken flat, and layer on the cheese and spinach. Wrap the chicken around itself into a roll, secure with a toothpick if needed.
  2. Insert toothpick to hold chicken roll together
  3. Set the oven to 350, and place the rolls in an oven-proof baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Optional: top with *yogurt-dill sauce.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked.
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Pork Shepherd’s Pie

 

This is a super simple recipe I came up with when I had made pork chops and mashed potatoes, then had copious amounts of leftovers. It is so easy, and takes only 5-6 ingredients. To save even more time, you could use raw pork chunks, and store-bought mashed potatoes. If interested in other Shepherd’s Pie recipes, read my earlier posts.

Or even one step further, use dried potato flakes in the liquid. Then you will not have  a top layer, but will cut down on steps. You  can use whatever type of veggies you like, or not use them at all. I just like to try to stuff vegetables into anything and everything. Frozen mixed vegetables are a cheap and healthy way to pack in extra vitamins & filling fiber.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 small pork chops, diced
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 can biscuit dough
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2-3 tbsp flour (or 2-3 tbsp potato flakes)

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Step 1: If cooking the mashed potatoes, simple microwave on high 8-10 minutes, or cook in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes, until you can mash them with a fork. Cook the pork chops on medium heat in a skillet for 4-5 minutes, then turn and cook other side 2-3 minutes. Cut to make sure there is no pink inside.

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Step 2: Spray an oven-safe baking pan, and layer in the veggies and the pork chops. It is best to thaw the veggies, or you will end up with extra-watery pie as they thaw.

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Step 3: In a pan, combine the milk and flour. Heat until just simmering, and ensure all flour dissolves. You could also use cornstarch, or dried potato flakes. Or cream of potato soup.

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Step 4: Pour the milk mixture over the veggies & pork.

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Step 5: Cover in a layer of mashed potato. Season with salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, paprika, anything you like. Spread out the raw biscuits on top of the potato layer.

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Step 6: Bake in the oven at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

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Vegan Tofu-Sauerkraut Lettuce Wraps

 

As I’ve been diving into the world of vegan food options, it has made me more creative with my meals, how they are cooked, what is in them, and what I can mix together.

One meal option I have fallen in love with is lettuce wraps. It is just like a taco, only completely gluten-free (depending on what you put inside), no added carbs, and very healthy. You get a dose of greens de facto because of the lettuce leaves, and skip the extra calories and added who-knows-what in the typical tortilla (refined & bleached white flour, leaveners, softeners, added sugar, GMOs, etc etc).

And, like a regular taco, you can put just about anything inside! Wraps are a great catch-all for veggies you need to use up, leftover half-batches of grains, and anything else you can think of. Here I use some of my homemade sauerkraut (which is so mind-blowingly easy to make, and delicious!), fried tofu, and mushrooms as my umami base, then load on top of it cooked rice & black beans, diced avocado & fresh salsa. Ah-maz-ing.

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And the best part is, you can’t really over-eat these! There is so much veggie goodness and nutrition packed into every wrap, you can have three or four, no problem. This recipe makes enough for 4 large wraps.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large outer leaves of romaine (plus more shredded)
  • 1/2 block firm tofu, drained
  • 4 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sauerkraut or raw cabbage
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1 large avocado
  • 4 tbsp salsa of choice

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Step 1: I made my black beans from dried (much cheaper than canned!) by taking 1 cup of beans per 2 cups water and putting them in a slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours. This makes the beans nice and tender and ready to eat. Cook the rice according to package directions.

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Step 2: Drain and press the tofu by placing it on a folded paper towel with another on top. Press firmly, or place a heavy object on top, for a few minutes. Then add the tofu, mushrooms, and sauerkraut to a medium-hot frying pan, and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are moist and browned. Add a tbsp of water or vegetable stock if it dries out at any time.

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Step 3: Assemble the lettuce wraps. Take a large leaf of Romaine or other head lettuce and hold it in the palm of one hand. Add a tbsp or two of rice and cooked beans, then a heap of the cooked tofu-mushroom-sauerkraut mixture.

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Step 4: Add optional toppings like the diced avocado and salsa, or try sliced olives, juilenned carrot, zucchini, or radish, or shredded cheese. You could add nutritional yeast, soy sauce, sriracha, refried beans, or any other taco topping your heart desires.

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Above all, make it your own and enjoy!

 

Vegan Tofu-Sauerkraut Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients

  • 4 large outer leaves of romaine (plus more shredded)
  • 1/2 block firm tofu, drained
  • 4 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sauerkraut or raw cabbage
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1 large avocado
  • 4 tbsp salsa of choice

Instructions

  1. I made my black beans from dried (much cheaper than canned!) by taking 1 cup of beans per 2 cups water and putting them in a slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours. This makes the beans nice and tender and ready to eat. Cook the rice according to package directions.
  2. Drain and press the tofu by placing it on a folded paper towel with another on top. Press firmly, or place a heavy object on top, for a few minutes. Then add the tofu, mushrooms, and sauerkraut to a medium-hot frying pan, and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are moist and browned. Add a tbsp of water or vegetable stock if it dries out at any time.
  3. Assemble the lettuce wraps. Take a large leaf of Romaine or other head lettuce and hold it in the palm of one hand. Add a tbsp or two of rice and cooked beans, then a heap of the cooked tofu-mushroom-sauerkraut mixture.
  4. Add optional toppings like the diced avocado and salsa, or try sliced olives, juilenned carrot, zucchini, or radish, shredded lettuce, or shredded cheese. You could add nutritional yeast, soy sauce, sriracha, refried beans, or any other taco topping your heart desires.
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Bean & Couscous Stuffed Peppers

 

So you might know I’ve been on a bit of a bean kick lately. I love how affordable (read: cheap!) dried beans are and so I’ve been trying to incorporate them more into my daily cooking.

I’ve already found that I can indeed can my own beans. For mere cents per jar this is a great savings over buying them at the store for 60-90 cents per can.

I had already made Red Beans & Rice, and I totally love beef & rice stuffed peppers, and couscous stuffed peppers. I figured beans are a natural option for stuffing, since they are high in fiber and protein, and are good at binding together other ingredients. This is another recipe that turned out accidentally vegan. I’m on a roll and I like it!

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Ingredients:

  • 3 bell peppers any color
  • 1 cup cooked couscous
  • 2/3 cup cooked beans, mashed
  • 1 can tomato sauce, or 1/2 cup pizza/pasta sauce
  • Handful torn kale
  • Garlic salt or other seasonings to taste

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Step 1: If you haven’t already, cook the couscous by covering with boiling water, then waiting 5-10 minutes to absorb. Fluff with a fork. I cooked the beans overnight in a crock pot, then mashed them.

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Step 2: Cut the tops off the peppers and discard seeds. In a bowl, mix the couscous, beans, sauce, seasonings, and kale. Stuff 1/3 of the mixture into each pepper. If you reserve a little sauce you can pour that on top.

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Step 3: Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until the outside of the peppers becomes soft to the touch and easily pierced with a fork.

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These are amazing hot out of the oven or reheated the next day. Recipe can easily be doubled for a big family or to make meals for the whole week.

 

 

Bean & Couscous Stuffed Peppers

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 3 stuffed peppers

1 pepper

Ingredients

  • 3 bell peppers any color
  • 1 cup cooked couscous
  • 2/3 cup cooked beans, mashed
  • 1 can tomato sauce, or 1/2 cup pizza/pasta sauce
  • Handful torn kale
  • Garlic salt or other seasonings to taste

Instructions

  1. If you haven't already, cook the couscous by covering with boiling water, then waiting 5-10 minutes to absorb. Fluff with a fork. I cooked the beans overnight in a crock pot, then mashed them.
  2. Cut the tops off the peppers and discard seeds. In a bowl, mix the couscous, beans, sauce, seasonings, and kale. Stuff 1/3 of the mixture into each pepper. If you reserve a little sauce you can pour that on top.
  3. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until the outside of the peppers becomes soft to the touch and easily pierced with a fork.
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Ten minute chili mac

 

Who doesn’t love a little comfort food now and then?I know I do! I believe in life with moderation in all things. Eat well most of the time, be active most of the time, indulge a little some of the time!

Not only is this chili mac super easy and fast, it is also ridiculously cheap. To bare-bones it, just get the store brand mac n cheese and the frugal-est can of pre-made chili and mix the two. This recipe is just one step up from there by making your own quick chilli. You can use the chili alone, or top hot dogs or baked potatoes too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box macaroni & cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar for extra oomph)
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 small can tomato sauce (6 oz)
  • 1/4 cup chili powder

Step 1: Prepare the macaroni by boiling and draining pasta. You can choose to make your own pasta and cheese sauce if you don’t want the preservatives or seasonings from the packaged version.

Step 2: While noodles boil, brown the ground meat and drain fat. In a sauce pot, combine the meat, diced tomatoes with juice, chili powder, drained kidney beans, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes to 2 hours.

Step 3: If you’re using this just as chili for a meal or topper, longer simmering is better. But basically as soon as flavors combine and it is heated through you can add into the macaroni. Just pour it all in there, and give it a good stir.

You can add in any spices you want too, hot sauce if you like that kinda thing, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, etc…

There you have it, a thick, hearty comfort food that is sure to please your palate and fill your tummy. Depending on if you hit sales and buy store brand or not, you can easily feed six-eight for under $3!

Enjoy!


What’s your favorite comfort food?

 

Slow cooker ham & corn rice casserole

This is another creation born of needing to use up items left in the pantry. You’ll notice two themes in most recipes from times where I am either very busy (being a student) or in a state of flux (like moving), I use the slow cooker a lot, and recipes get a little weird.

I prefer the term “creative” but let’s not argue semantics.

Anyhow, the best template for any meal in a rush is “meat + carb + vegetable/fruit + liquid”, and I use it a lot.

You can have literally endless variations, and in fact nearly every meal ever is based on this formula.

For this recipe, I simply checked my food box and freezer to see what was left, then followed the formula with things I thought might go well together. This is what ended up happening.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cubed ham
  • 1 box rice pilaf with seasoning packet
  • 1 can corn with liquid
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup water

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in the slow cooker. Set on low for at least 4 hours; I left it for about 9 all day.

The rice didn’t end up being overly mushy, which I worried about, and the corn gave it a nice sweet flavor. Ham paired with this well, though I think chicken would’ve been even better based on past experience with the flavor of rice pilaf and the fact that I used cream of chicken soup rather than mushroom or celery.

But overall it was tasty, couldn’t be easier, used up a box and two cans from the pantry, and lasted for about 6 servings, so I call that a success.