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Posts Tagged ‘cheap eats

Last chance for a Recipe Friday this year! So… here it is! I made this yesterday, and it’s wonderfully warm comfort food. Healthy, too: lots of good-for you fiber, anti-inflammatory turmeric in the curry, and the peas are a great vegetarian protein source.

Now, I grew up with grandparents who loved their split pea soup… but that was back in the day when bean soups and split pea soups were merely a bacon or ham flavor delivery mechanism. I had a container of dried split peas, but not being a bacon fan (please don’t stop reading my blog, I promise I’m still cool) I wanted something different. I didn’t have to search far to find this yummy alternative.

Curried Split Pea Soup
based on Alton Brown’s recipe

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 c chopped onion
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 c split peas, rinsed and picked through
5 c vegetable or chicken broth
1 tbsp curry powder

1. Place the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and a large pinch of salt and saute for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and continue to saute another 1-2 minutes, making sure that neither onion nor garlic brown.

2. Add curry powder and saute for an additional minute to lightly toast the spices in the oil. Then add peas and broth. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45-50 minutes or until peas are tender and no longer hold their shape.

3. Using either an immersion blender or blending in batches in a regular blender, process soup until smooth. Adjust seasoning as desired.

This is such yummy comfort food… trust me on this one! Some cultures ring in the new year with black eyed peas for good luck… why not try split peas?

Start thinking about goals for the coming year! I’ll be back in a few days to talk more on that!

It’s the weekend, y’all! How ya doin’?

I’d meant to post this yesterday, but all good intentions went out the window when my dental work took longer than usual, and our favorite frozen custard place was featuring one of our favorite flavors, so we had to stop by… 😉

Anyway, I’m here now, to share with you a two-ingredient (well, three, if you want) recipe. I’ve made homemade pasta before, but it’s been a while. I made it this past week because we have one of those “pasta makers” to help you roll out the dough, and we’re trying to figure out if it’s worth keeping in Operation Clear Out Extra Stuff. (Jury is still out on this one.)

I got the recipe and technique from a book called Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. The premise behind the book is that there are basic, simple ratios of ingredients used to make most dishes, and understanding the ratios and the cooking techniques (on which he goes into detail) simplifies a lot of the cooking world. He then gives many variations on each theme. It’s a great book for a food science geek!

So, here’s the basic recipe:

(he doesn’t give a yield, but it’s enough for 3 generous servings)
1/1 2 c all purpose flour
3 eggs
(dash salt, for flavor, if desired)

Put the flour (and salt if desired) into a large mixing bowl, and create a well. Crack the three eggs into the well.

flour + eggs

Stir the flour and eggs together using your hands (hopefully you removed any rings, first!). When it becomes a fully-mixed dough, bring it out onto a floured surface (board or countertop) and knead it, pressing it with the heel of your hand, folding it over and pressing it (repeating over and over), until velvety smooth. This will take 5-10 minutes.


When you’re finished kneading, form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 10 minutes and up to an hour. (The dough can also be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

finished kneading!

My dough above is much smoother–a little hard to tell, since it’s in plastic wrap.

Now, for the rolling! If you don’t have a fancy pasta contraption, it’s fine to use a rolling pin. (In fact, I’m going to make another batch with a rolling pin in the coming weeks, to see if it’s worth keeping the fancy machine.) Start out by cutting your dough disk into 4 equal parts–if you don’t, the size will be difficult to deal with! If you have a machine, go ahead and follow the instructions. If not, take 1/4 if your original dough ball and start rolling! Light pressure initially to get things started, and then, roll to your desired thinness. Keep in mind the shape of your final noodle when you’re rolling.

rolling through the pasta machine

The lighting was terrible in my rolling picture, but hopefully you get the idea.

Once you’ve rolled (adding additional flour along the way as needed–I needed a lot), slice your noodles! Or not, if you want to make lasagna! 🙂 (I experimented with a few batches and found slicing to be easier if I let the dough dry for about 15 minutes first.) Choose your length, choose your width! Probably won’t be getting angel hair pasta if cutting by hand, but I promise you–this stuff tastes heavenly!!!

If you’re ready to cook it up, start a big pot of boiling water (I always like to cook my pasta in a big pot, to give it room to move around). When it boils, add YOUR fresh pasta! Yes, you made it, so YOU should be proud! It only takes a few minutes to cook–mine turned lighter in color and floated somewhat.

cooking pasta, homemade tomato sauce

My homemade sauce waited in the background while my noodles cooked.

the final product!

I served my homemade noodles with a simple homemade tomato sauce (sauteed onions, crushed San Marzano tomatoes). Truly, however, the sauce may have overpowered the lovely flavor of the noodles, and I could’ve gotten away with a simple butter and herb sauce. Next time!

I encourage you to try this, the next time you’re feeling adventurous in the kitchen! It’s doable for anyone, the kneading is a great upper body workout, you know how to pronounce all of the ingredients in the dish, and best of all–it’s DELICIOUS! 🙂

Hoppy Easter Weekend! I’m not going to egg you on anymore… instead, I’m sharing one of my favorite alternative uses for bulgur.

Bulgur? Don’t we just mix that with parsley and cucumber and a bunch of other stuff, and call it tabbouli?

Ah, but it is a high-fiber, fast-cooking grain that doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own. That means that you can add whatever you want in the kitchen–savory or sweet!

You can think of cooked, topped bulgur as similar to oatmeal, but heartier. In fact, its chewiness resembles that of steel-cut oats. But, while a pot of steel-cut oats sets you back at least 30 minutes of cooking time, you can hydrate a large bowl of bulgur in 10-15 minutes–and put the rest in the fridge for second breakfast tomorrow!

Easy Bulgur Breakfast
serves at least 3 hungry people!

2-3 c bulgur
plain lowfat yogurt, or milk, if you prefer
3 sliced bananas
warmed maple syrup

1. Place bulgur in large, heat-resistant bowl. Cover with boiling water, then add another inch of water. Let sit for 10-15 minutes or until bulgur is chewy. Drain excess water.

2. You are ready to serve! Place your desired amount of (still hopefully warm) bulgur in your serving bowl. Top with yogurt (which I like, the husband prefers milk), slices of banana, enough maple syrup to sweeten the mix, and a few dashes of cinnamon. Mix. Enjoy. Mmmmmm.

Any remaining bulgur can go into a sealed container in the fridge, and microwave-reheated when you’re ready to eat. This can be a quick healthy weekday breakfast! (or, a quick snack…)

Be creative with this! You can top it with anything you like to put on oatmeal… and it works! So do tell: What’s your favorite oatmeal topping? (I’m guessing someone out there’s thinking BACON. Ick.)

Happy happy Easter!

Once again, I sing the praises of the chickpea! It is, by far, my favorite of all of the beans. Something about its creamy, nutty flavor just blends wonderfully with so many cuisines, don’t you think? And without chickpeas, we wouldn’t have hummus! (what a crime!)

This stew has a simplistic name, but when I first tried it, I was sold. It’s simple to make, and combines iron-rich spinach with the vitamin C in tomatoes, which will release the iron in the greens. Furthermore, the beans are a great protein and fiber source. And, enough with the nutrition—the garlic, rosemary, and tomatoes together just plain taste good!

Chickpea and Spinach Stew
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp fresh or dried minced rosemary
¼ c chopped parsley
1 c peeled, diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
3 c cooked chickpeas or 2 15-oz cans, rinsed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 bunches spinach, stems removed

1. In a wide sauté pan, heat the oil over high heat. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, paprika, rosemary, and half the parsley. Saute for 2 minutes, then lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft, about 12 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas, season with salt and pepper, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook the spinach in the water clinging to its leaves until tender. Add the spinach to the chickpeas, taste for salt, and season with pepper. Serve in pasta plates, top with extra virgin olive oil if desired, and garnish with the remaining parsley.

Mmmmmm! Great comfort food going into mid-October!

You like garlic? I know you’re drooling. I do. I am! This is awesome stuff, and this is one of the first vegetarian recipes where Bruce told me he didn’t miss the meat. (Usually when I cook something meatless, he tells me, “this is really good, if only it had a side of chicken sausage…”)

Just make sure you have lots of parsley or breath mints on hand before you go out.

Chickpeas and Pasta with Sizzling Sage and Garlic

from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 large onion, diced
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly-ground pepper
large pinch red pepper flakes (be as generous as you want!)
3 c cooked chickpeas or 2 15-oz cans, drained
8 oz large farfalle or other dried pasta shapes (I’ve used small shells. The beans get enrobed in the shells!)
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh sage

1. In a wide skillet over medium heat, fry the onion in two tbsp of the oil until golden, stirring frequently especially toward the end. Season with salt, plenty of pepper, and the pepper flakes.

2. Add the chickpeas and turn the heat to low. (I like to cook the chickpeas long enough so they get slightly chewy on the outside.)

3. Meanwhile, boil the pasta in salted water until al dente, then add it to the chickpeas.

4. Heat the remaining oil in a small skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and sage and fry for 20 seconds (I usually go for about a minute). Immediately pour over the dish and serve.

Sometimes I double the garlic and sage topping, even. Hey, you only live once!

Don’t let the name fool you—this is a blockbuster recipe. The caramelization of the sugars in the tomato paste and the onions provide a wonderful rich sweetness. (You’re also sneaking in whole grains from the bulgur and folate from the lentils.)

When (not if, when!) you try this, cook the lentils ahead of time. Don’t make the same mistake I did, and quickly cook them along the way! (Nothing bad happened, it just turned into one big rush.)

(slightly tweaked) Bulgur Pilaf with Lentils and Vermicelli
from How to Cook Everything

4 tbsp butter or olive oil (I cut back a little, but it needs the lubrication)
1 large onion, chopped
½ c vermicelli, broken into 2 inch long or shorter lengths (I used capellini)
1 c fine or medium grind bulgur
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 c cooked lentils
1 tsp minced garlic
2 ¼ c chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, heated to the boiling point

1. Put butter or oil in a medium skillet or saucepan with a lid over medium heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the vermicelli (or other pasta) and the bulgur and cook, stirring, until the pasta is lightly browned, less than 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the tomato paste, lentils, garlic, and the stock. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and let sit until the bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Fast, easy, and can be made vegan as well! It may not read like an exciting recipe, but this one’s a winner!!!

Is it a quiche? A frittata? Or just a big baked omelet? Whatever you call it, I’ve been making this for years, and it’s not only a great protein source, but also a way to get rid of whatever it is you have left over in your fridge. Well… almost everything. 😉 I can’t say I’d try watermelon in quiche.

Good news? It’s healthy, as well. I’ve always loved quiche, but oh, the crust and the fat… This works without a crust, and bakes up solid on the bottom. Reheats very well!

Crustless Quiche
Adapted from many recipes found on the web long ago

8 eggs, or equivalent egg substitute
½ c milk (use whatever variety you want, but I’ve had best luck with 1% and 2%)
¼ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper

Fillings: options are fairly limitless, so use your imagination, but here are some ideas to get you started: (I use about ½ cup each)
sautéed mushrooms
chopped tomato
your favorite cheese
cooked sausage (bulk or sliced links)
chopped, pre-cooked chicken
minced garlic (obviously more like a tsp!)
caramelized onions
sautéed bell peppers
Or… whatever suits you!

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Whisk eggs in a bowl. Add milk, salt, and pepper to combine. (If you want to add other seasonings which complement your fillings, you may do so now; for instance, caramelized onions, sautéed peppers, and jack cheese might go great with a dash of cumin!)

3. Grease or cooking-spray an 8 x 8 baking dish. Start layering in your filling ingredients, starting with the densest/heaviest at the bottom. They may end up stacking about halfway up the dish in the end.

4. Pour your egg mixture evenly over the filling ingredients, covering everything. Bake the quiche at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until the eggs are set.

5. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then cut into squares and enjoy!

Please let me know if you come up with any outstanding quiche filling ideas! Or… any I shouldn’t try! ☺

By the way, if you haven’t already seen my guest post at Susan’s Pilates blog today, check it out! (Thanks, Susan, for the opportunity!)

Ah, the sweet potato—a nutrition superstar, while still remarkably flavorful and versatile. I love ‘em! Of all vegetables, the sweet potato is frequently ranked as one of the most nutrient-filled, as you get a hefty dose of fiber, beta carotene, and vitamin C with each serving.

These potatoes are filling enough to be served as a main dish, or you can serve half a potato as a side dish. The mix of savory spices is delightful!

Savory Indian Sweet Potatoes
from Moosewood Restaurant Lowfat Favorites

2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup diced onions
1/3 c water, unsweetened apple juice, or orange juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ tbsp grated ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
1 minced small fresh green chile
2/3 c diced red bell pepper
3 tbsp lowfat cream cheese
1 ½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ c fresh or slightly thawed frozen green peas (I omit these, since I don’t like peas)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Bake the sweet potatoes at 400 for about 1 hour, or until tender.
2. While the potatoes bake, combine the onions and water or juice in a medium saucepan. Cover, and simmer until the onions soften, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, chile, and bell peppers, cover, and simmer until the peppers are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Cut the cream cheese into small pieces and stir it into the hot vegetable mixture to melt. Set aside.
4. When the sweet potatoes are baked, cut them in half lengthwise. Hold each potato half with a heavy towel or mitt in one hand and scoop out the central part of the flesh with a spoon. Leave about a 1/4 inch shell so that the potatoes maintain their shape.
5. Mix the potato flesh with the vegetable-cheese mixture. Add the lemon juice, peas, and salt and pepper.
6. Lower the oven temperature to 350. Stuff the potato shells with the filling, Place them in a lightly oiled baking dish. Cover and bake for 15-20 minutes, until thoroughly hot.

Tuna salad—so convenient to spread between slices of bread or spoon onto a bed of lettuce for a cool, easy lunch during the summer. But if you’re like me, you’ve grown tired of all of that thick mayo or cloyingly sweet dressing.

I recently found an alternative, and unfortunately, I can’t remember where I found the recipe. Rather than making tuna salad with a creamy dressing, this combines it with olive oil and lemon for a lighter, fresher alternative. I don’t remember exact ratios of ingredients, but the ingredient list is simple, so add and taste as you feel fit.

Lemony Tuna Salad

To two cans drained canned tuna, add:
fresh lemon juice
grated lemon zest
finely minced shallot
extra virgin olive oil
minced capers (I sometimes leave these out, since I’m not a big fan)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Stir and enjoy!

Do you have a variation of tuna salad that you prefer? I’ve also made it with Dijon mustard and chopped red bell peppers. I’d like to experiment with carrots and wasabi (sushi style)!

This recipe was a pleasant surprise. Since the ingredients are basic, I wasn’t expecting anything to write home about. But given that this is another Mark Bittman recipe, I thought I’d give it a shot, since I had all of the ingredients on hand.

Score another one for Mark. I was dead wrong. This is fantastic. Something about partially mashing the black beans into a slurry when they’ve been cooking with the tomatoes, onions, and garlic, and that all of this fantastic flavor then permeates the rice. This one’s a keeper… and extremely budget-friendly.

Black Beans and Rice, Spanish Style
from How To Cook Everything

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
¾ c dried black beans, washed, picked over, and soaked if you have time
1 ½ c long grain rice
1 c chopped tomato (canned is fine, include the juices)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ c chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

1. Put the oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low so that the mixture bubbles gently. Cover loosely and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until the beans are about half-done—softening but still tough in the middle—about 40 minutes (an hour or more if you didn’t soak the beans at all). Heat the oven to 350 F.
2. Use an immersion blender or a potato masher to semipuree the beans in the pot (leave at least half unpureed).
3. Stir in the rice, tomato, and a good amount of salt and pepper. (If you don’t want a crust to develop, cover the pot.) Bake in the oven until the rice and beans are tender, about an hour, adding a little water if needed. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days (reheat and stir in a little water and olive oil just before serving).

Happy Birthday, America! What are my fellow Americans doing this weekend to celebrate?

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