Recipe: Pasta e Lenticchie (Pasta with Lentils)

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Sometimes I take for granted how much my Italian heritage influences what I eat. I often forget that not everyone had a childhood where pasta made up half of the weekly dinners. Also, I didn’t even realize until recently that this was an actual Italian dish, I thought it was just something that my mom made periodically that she herself had just made up. Now, I must admit that this recipe is not the same as what you would expect from an authentic Italian kitchen, rather, it’s a shortcut version which minimizes time spent cooking and maximizes time spent eating and enjoying. Also, when researching this dish, I found it interesting that many recipes call for long spaghetti, whereas I has always thought that the most ideal pasta shape for this type of food was shells, because of how perfectly the little lentils get scooped up. Regardless, this easy, quick, healthy, tasty recipe is one of my childhood comfort foods, and I think it is the perfect simple dish for anyone who wants a warm meal they can feel good about in a hurry

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– 1/2 a box pasta (your favorite shape, I recommend little shells, also known as conchiglie)

– two cans of Progresso Lentil Soup

– Parmesan Cheese (this is totally not optional, it is what makes this recipe so good)

1. Make pasta according to instructions on the box, cook until al dente

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2. Drain the pasta and leave in the colander

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3. In the now empty pot, add two cans of lentils and bring to a simmer or gentle boil. This is to ensure that they are heated and to get rid of a little bit of the water in the soup

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4. Lower the heat and add the pasta back in the pot. Stir until everything is integrated properly.

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5. Serve with generous amount of Parmesan and enjoy!

Recipe: Super Quick and Easy Tacos

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This isn’t entirely a unique recipe, but more of an example of how to use the Mexican shredded chicken. This is a simple, delicious way to use the shredded chicken and really make it last. I like this recipe because it’s great for a week when the budget’s tight or you’re really busy. Although I made this a microwave meal, it would probably be even better in the skillet or in the oven.

***

Shredded Chicken

– Tortillas

– Cheese

– Any other toppings you like on your taco

1. Top tortilla with a small amount of chicken and cheese

2. Microwave for between 30 seconds to a minute, depending on your microwave.

Recipe: Semi-Homemade Red Beans and Rice with Sausage

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I realize that there is nothing comparable to real, homemade red beans and rice made by someone who really knows what they’re doing, but this recipe using a box mix is still pretty delicious. This is especially considering that an authentic red beans and rice recipe includes a lot of expensive and specific ingredients. For the average broke or frugal person, this box mix combined with some freshly cooked sausage will do just fine. Although the beans and rice are good on their own, the sausage definitely adds a lot (and makes it go a lot further). I would also recommend using higher quality sausage because when I tried to skip out on spending on that, the end result really suffered.
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Ingredients:
Zatarain’s red beans and rice box (the low sodium tastes just as good in my opinion)
Olive oil
Sausage

1. Follow instructions on the box by boiling water with olive oil or butter.
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2. Once water is boiling, add the red beans and rice and lower heat. Let simmer for 25 minutes.
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3. Meanwhile, chop sausage into bite-sized pieces and cook. Depending on the sausage type and your preference you can either cook it in a skillet, the microwave, or on the grill.
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4. Once the sausage is cooked and the red beans and rice are done, combine and top with sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. Serve and enjoy!
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Recipe: Cream Chipped Beef

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This is a recipe from my boyfriend. It is so simple, cheap, and easy that it’s hard to come up with a reason not to make it. At the very least, it’s the kind of meal that it is easy to be prepared for. We try to keep these ingredients on hand (which is so simple because over half are things you probably already have in the house). This is the perfect comfort food and although you can serve it with toast instead of biscuits, I feel like that really defeats the point. This is not necessarily a two person job, but it certainly makes things easier since the sauce requires a lot of attention to keep it from burning.

***

Ingredients:
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 1/4 cups milk
12 oz corned beef
Salt
Pepper
8 Biscuits

1. Preheat the oven according to the instructions for the biscuits and bake.
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2. Begin making a roux for the sauce. This means melt the butter in
a medium saucepan over medium heat. Slowly add the flour while whisking until it forms a type of paste.
3. Slowly add milk to the saucepan little by little while continuing to whisk to keep from sticking.
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4. Once the sauce is smooth, add beef
torn into small pieces little by little and add salt and pepper to taste.
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5. Allow sauce to thicken and take biscuits out of the oven.
6. Split open biscuits and top with a heaping spoonful of sauce. Serve and enjoy!
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Recipe: Hot Chocolate Mug Cake

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I got my recipe from here. I know that mug cakes are one of the recipe darlings of the Internet, but I have to admit I’ve been pretty disappointed with all of my attempts. This one was passable, but be warned that what you’re getting is solid hot chocolate. Now, in theory that seems like something that would taste the same as regular chocolate, but that is not the case at all. That may have been my biggest issue with this particular mug cake; it did not live up to my imagined/desired chocolatey flavor. Honestly, I think that I may just have an inherent problem with mug cakes which is mostly due to my own kitchen inadequacies. When I personally read about something like a mug cake, it is often advertised as something easy or that you can make with stuff already in your pantry, the implication being of course that the purpose of this snack is that it is to be eaten at 3 in the morning when you are alone. However, these recipes often call for things that are not part of my kitchen inventory, so I cannot make many of the most delicious types. This is because I am not a dessert person. At all. I can eat cheese or bread forever, but half a slice of cake and I’m sick (I have no sweet tooth — yet I still get cavities, so unfair). So when a mug cake recipe calls for baking soda or cocoa powder, I’m simply out of luck. That is why I went with the hot chocolate recipe, and why I was disappointed. However, if you are looking for a forkful of solid hot chocolate goop, this is for you.

***

Ingredients:

– 6 tablespoons hot chocolate mix (3 swiss miss packets)

– 4 tablespoons flour

– 2 tablespoons canola oil/butter

– 3 tablespoons water

– 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

– optional: chocolate chips

1. Add hot chocolate to a mug (tip: choose a microwave safe mug, apparently I didn’t…oops).

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2. Add flour

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3. Add oil

 

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4. Add water and vanilla

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5. Mix them all together

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6. Microwave for a minute to a minute and a half, depending on your microwave and how solid you want it.

7. Serve (optional: with ice cream) and enjoy!

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Recipe: Semi-Homemade Thai Red Curry

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There’s a local Asian fusion restaurant that makes a curry so delicious that it haunts my boyfriend and me (by the way, if you enjoy computer-y things, you can find his blog over at The Drunken Developer). We’ve attempted to recreate it in the past, but have been unsuccessful. I’m definitely of the opinion that certain dishes are not meant to be made by amateurs (you’ll see that later with my pho experiences). However, this kit came very close and in a pinch it is a good substitute.

I also made sure to clarify that this doesn’t entirely count as a recipe, since the majority of the ingredients were included. I would highly recommend this kit as the instructions were easy to follow and didn’t require a ton of extra ingredients.

***

Ingredients

– Red curry kit (includes coconut milk, jasmine rice, and curry sauce)

– Red bell pepper (and any other veggies you want)

– Snap Peas

– Chicken breast

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1. Make the rice according to instructions on the box.

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2. Cut up the veggies into bite-sized pieces.

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3. Cut up chicken similarly.

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4. Pour coconut milk into a skillet at bring to a boil.

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5. Add in curry paste and mix until it is consistent throughout

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6. Add in chicken and veggies.

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7. Cook until chicken is cooked through (this will take surprisingly not that long) and veggies are tender.

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8. Serve on the rice and enjoy!

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Recipe: Semi-Homemade Pho

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A month or so ago a friend of mine took me to a great, authentic Vietnamese restaurant, where I had my first real pho. I was instantly hooked. As soon as I had it I imagined myself eating it every day for a week. However, being me, I thought I could do better than just personally financing a restaurant by buying up all of their soup, and I sought a way to make it at home. Now, being a novice of Vietnamese cuisine, I was completely overwhelmed when I found recipes for the broth. It includes ingredients that I couldn’t recognize and although I always enjoy a trip to my local Super H Mart, I wasn’t looking for that big of an adventure (maybe someday in the future).

So on a much more mundane trip to my local Kroger, I found a soup starter for pho in the organic section. I had been hoping to find the vegetarian or beef version, but there was only the chicken. I have to say that I was slightly disappointed by the flavor. Now, I’m not sure if this has to do with the fact that it was chicken ho soup base and I had expectations for beef, or just that most of the time something out of a box isn’t going to taste as good as something homemade by people who know what they’re doing. Regardless, I think I may chalk this up to something to leave to the professionals.

However, I’m going to go ahead and include the recipe and talk about how I did it.

***

Ingredients:

– Soup starter

– Rice noodles

– Sriracha

– Bean Sprouts

-Lime

– Onion

– Jalapeno

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1. Chop onion and jalapeno and begin boiling water.

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2. Cook rice noodles in boiling water according to instructions on the box.

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3. Drain rice noodles.

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4. Pour soup starter into pot. It’s worth noting that I changed the broth a bit because I didn’t like how it tasted originally. I added water and some instant chicken bouillon, which definitely improved the flavor.

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5. Add the noodles and the onion to the broth and allow to simmer.

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6. Serve with jalapeno, sriracha, bean sprouts, lime, and cilantro. The add ins are what really make it good. Enjoy!

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Recipe: Stuffed Shells

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I got this recipe from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/stuffed-shells-iii/

I’ve tried making stuffed shells in the past, but this particular version tastes the best and most authentic to me. Although at first this may seem like an overly fancy dish or something that simply must be complex, it is really extremely simple. I know also that stuffed shells are sometimes also combined with veggies and/or meat, but I personally think that this overwhelms the dish and that it is much better as is. However, if you feel the need for more substance, those things could certainly add a lot. But really, anything that is made out of pounds of cheese and pasta is hard to mess up. Now, normally I don’t include too much information about ounces and pound of ingredients because I feel that being able to customize and learning to eyeball is important in cooking, but sometimes. as with this, you need  to know exactly how much of each ingredient to use, or else it can throw the whole thing off. Additionally, if you are worried about the gratuitous amount of cheese and carbs, I can attest that this is just as good  with whole wheat pasta and low fat cheeses. What really makes a difference to me is making sure you have a good pasta sauce.

***

– 12 oz  jumbo pasta shells

– 2 eggs

– 32 oz ricotta

– 1 lb mozzarella

– 8 oz grated Parmesan

 – parsley

– salt

– pepper

– pasta sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 and prepare shells as instructed on the box (boil water, add pasta, drain)

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2. Mix together 2 eggs, all the ricotta, half of the mozzarella, half of the parm, and the spices

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3. pour some of the sauce in the bottom on a 9 x 13 pan. However, it may be useful to have another pan handy, as what I had made much more than could fit in one.

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4. Fill each shell with a large spoonful of the filling mixture and place in the pan. Be sure not to over stuff. On the first go-around, I would actually go light, you can add more filling to the shells later.

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5. Cover stuffed shells with a layer of sauce, but be sure not to drown them.

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6. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and parm on top of the stuffed shells.

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7. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes, until the cheese is browned and the sauce is bubbling.

8. Serve and enjoy!

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Recipe: Mexican Chicken Soup

Mexican Chicken Soup

This was not my first time trying out a recipe for Mexican chicken soup. In the days before this blog I created a monstrosity that would be filed under kitchen failures because it was so bad. I think my biggest mistake was because of one of my cooking phobias – raw chicken. This fear has plagued many of my cooking adventures. I can’t stand touching, cutting, or handling raw chicken in any way; it completely grosses me out. However, with my new found crockpot chicken method which saves me from any raw chicken horrors, I was able to do this recipe the right way (before I tried to use precooked chicken slices-DO NOT do this).

This recipe (adapted from here– obviously I did not follow the part about the chicken) is really great, easy, healthy, and tasty. One of my parents’ favorite dishes is Mexican restaurant chicken soup, and they approved this recipe as being pretty faithful to that. One warning though, this recipe as is comes out very spicy  so I would recommend scaling back the jalapeno or the tomato w/ chiles if you’re not into that.

***

shredded chicken

– olive oil

– 1 onion, chopped

– 2 stalks celery, chopped

– 1 jalapeno, without seeds and chopped

– 4 cloves garlic, minced

– 6 cups chicken broth

– 1 can tomatoes with chiles

– oregano

– cumin

– lime

– cilantro

– avocado

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in medium pot. Chop the celery, jalapeno, and onion.

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2. Cook the veggies for 5 minutes or until they are tender.

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3. Add chicken broth, cumin, oregano, tomatoes/chiles and bring pot to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for thirty minutes.

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4. Add chicken and allow to cook for a few minutes.

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5. Before serving, add lime, cilantro, and avocado.

6. Serve and enjoy!

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Recipe: Black Beans and Rice

 

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The black beans and rice combo is a health-conscious frugal person’s best friend. As someone who cares about these things, I am quite partial to them myself. Another important note, they are very tasty (and easy). I made these at the last minute while I was making my chicken quesadillas and they paired great, although I think they could also make a good lunch on their own.

***

– vegetable or olive oil

– minced garlic

– 1 chopped onion

– 1 can of black beans

– 1 can tomatoes (use any type you like. I was out and used salsa and it worked just fine)

– oregano

– 1 cup of cooked rice (I used leftovers for this)

1. Heat oil in medium pot over medium-high heat.

2. Add onion and garlic and stir until onion is tender, not caramelized.

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3. Add beans (do not drain beforehand, just dump it all in), tomatoes, and oregano.

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4. Bring to a boil and add the rice.

5. Cover the pot and lower the heat. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes then remove from heat.

6. Serve and enjoy!

 

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