Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Dollar In My Wallet: Simple Lentil Soup

Part of this blog's purpose is to make off-campus living and eating feasible on a college budget--this can be a challenge while keeping up with classes and discovering your own skills at "survival" in terms of paying bills and rent, having food in the fridge, making sure you have the necessities, and managing cash flow.

Invariably there will be weeks you come up short. You overspent, money's gone, you miscalculated, i.e. you are living on a prayer and down to your last dollar, dime, nickel, penny.  If you have stocked your pantry, shelves, and freezer with some key items for times like these, you can still have a great meal. 

Many of these items come with coupons or go on sale. Even if you don't plan on using them that week, pick up one or two extras for the "lean weeks".

I would suggest stocking your pantry shelves with high-yield, nutritious dried goods with long shelf-lives:

Add in some canned / jarred goods:
--refried beans
--black beans
--green beans, corn
--tuna in water
--tomatoe sauce
--tomatoes, crushed, whole, diced

Add to your freezer:
--a few slices of bacon
--grated cheeses
--single serving meats

Keep in your fridge "longer-lasting" items as much as possible:

And sometimes, no matter what you do, you may have to borrow. During such times (hopefully, far and few between), making simple, high volume, protein-packed recipes like soup and stews can be a life- and money-saver. Additionally, they fit in one pot and require little skill to keep you well-fed.

I will be featuring a monthly series "A Dollar In My Wallet" to highlight such recipes when roadblocks come your way.  Simple preparation may make such moments less painful!

(Adapted from my own recipe and Martha Stewart's Fresh Food Fast cookbook)

Simple Lentil Soup

Dutch Oven or 5-quart Saucepan with lid

3 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (replace with 2 Tbls olive oil if vegetarian)
1 large onion, chopped
3 medicum carrots, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbls tomato paste
1 (28oz) can San Marzano tomatoes, diced or crushed with juices
3 1/2 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 1/2 cups of water
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
1/2 tsp thyme
1 Tbls lemon juice or red wine vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

1. Wash your hands.
2. Prep all of your ingredients, i.e. carrots, onion, garlic.

3. Sear your bacon in dutch oven over MED heat x 9-10 until crisp. Remove most of the fat.

4. Add your onions and carrots x 5 minutes.

5. Add your garlic x 30 secs.

6. Stir in tomato paste and tomatoes.
7. Add lentils, thyme, broth and water.

8. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to SIMMER and cover x 45 minutes.

9. Stir in lemon juice or vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
10. Get your bowl ready and top off with grated parmesan and parsley.

Invite your roommate. Pass the bread around the table. Never eat alone.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Salad For Supper: Iceberg Wedge

 Change your thoughts on salad by making it the star of your meal. As the year goes on, I will highlight different ways to do exactly this, because salad doesn't  have to mean green leaves and dressing.

In fact, if done correctly, and creatively, salad is a great option as a meal in and of itself. Stay away from the bagged lettuce routine--every part of eating should be awesome! And it becomes even better when everything is homemade, including the dressing.

Try this recipe tonight and see what im talking about! I adjusted the dressing to less fat and added optional items to throw on top.

(Adapted from Food Network's Magazine feature on Iceberg Lettuce a la Ree Drummond / The Pioneer Woman)

Bacon-Cheddar Wedge Salad

Mixing bowl

Iceberg lettuce, chilled, cored, and quarted

1 cup Reduced-fat mayo
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Light sour-cream
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1-2 tsp of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

4 slices thick bacon, browned and crisp
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Scalllions, chopped
Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Croutons, if you have them

1. Wash your hands.
2. Chill the iceberg lettuce after removing the bitter center and core. Quarter and set aside.
--find the base of the lettuce
--smash onto hard surface
--pull out the bitter core
3. Make the dressing in a medium mixing bowl by whisking everything into a smooth sauce.

4. Sear your bacon, cool and chop into strips.

5. Grate your cheese and prep any other items, ie scallions, tomatoes, croutons.

6. Put it all together.

Done! Let's eat!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spicy Sausage Penne

As a college student I remember being limited on equipment, time, and cash to really make all of my mom's recipes.  I was playing varsity tennis and soccer while carrying a full 16 hour load, including Organic Chemistry--but living off-campus with a reduced meal card forced me into making simple dishes with leftovers.

I hit the local Good Will to get a decent, second-hand 5-qt saucepan and I invested in a large, decent Teflon skillet at the time. Why? Because you can pretty much use them for anything--boiling water, making rice, searing hamburgers, sautéing onions, making soup or spaghetti sauce, boiling ramen--you get my drift!

What's even better is when you have a recipe that is either completely made within one piece of kitchen equipment, i.e. one-pot cooking...or, maybe two, as in this case. The idea is to keep things simple and contained with high yield in flavor, friends and leftovers!

Check this out! Really, no more than 30 - 40 minutes from the minute you walk in the door!
(Adapted from Tyler Florence's Dinner At My Place cookbook)

Spicy Sausage Penne 

5-qt saucepan
Dutch Oven or large skillet
Cookie sheet

4 Hot Italian Sausages, cut 1/4" diagonally
1 lb of dried penne
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbls olive oil
1 28 oz can San Marzano Crushed Tomatoes
1/2 - 1 tsp of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 cup peas (optional)
1/2 cup grated parmesan + extra

1. Wash your hands.
2. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. (when you walk in the door)
3. Roast your 4 sausages on the cookie sheet at 350F degrees x 15 minutes. Turn x 5 min. Cool and slice diagonally. (start heating your salted water for the pasta )

4. Fill 5-qt saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Cook your pasta. Drain your pasta as instructed.
(use the down-time while pasta boils & sausage roast to prep your other ingredients)

5. Prep your other ingredients while pasta boils, i.e. onions, garlic, grated cheese, basil, and peas.

6. Heat 2 Tbls of olive oil over MEDIUM heat and sauté onions / garlic until translucent and fragrant.
(in the time you boiled / roasted / prepped, maybe 20-25 minutes have passed. throw it together now)

7. Add tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

8. Simmer x 15 minutes on LOW heat.
9. Add cream and continue to cook until smooth and creamy.

10. Add sausage, peas, and parmesan. Stir until combined for 2-3 minutes.

11. Add your pasta and serves this up with additional basil / sprinkle of cheese.

Fantastic for left-overs and enough to go around!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chili Relleno Rice

Fall has definitely hit the Windy City this weekend--leaves are falling and changing colors, pumpkins are being carved, and everyone is drinking "Spiced"-something-Lattes. The days are getting shorter and everyone seems to be staying inside more. But, it doesn't have to be all dreary.
Make the most of your weekends.

A little prep goes a long way on a dark and cold night, or after a long day of studying / classes or mid-terms.  Plan your meals. Cook ahead for the week. And thank me later for taking my advice. Have something you can pop into the oven or microwave when you get home--nothing worse than having to walk to the store when it's rainy, damp or cold.

Rice bakes are ideal for this, and this recipe rocks the house--one of our favorites. If you already have leftover rice from another meal--ultra-simple! But, even if you do need to make the rice, so what...that'll take 20 minutes plus some cooling. And then you will throw, yes THROW, the recipe into one big bowl which will take another 20-30 minutes max.  

At Its Best.

Sear some chicken while this bakes. Add a salad.
Sit down and relax!
I suspect you will be able to charge a dinner fee for this one when your roommates come home!

(Adapted from Tyler Florence's Family Meal cookbook. Original recipe Christina Flach)

Chile Relleno Rice

Large Mixing Bowl
9" x 13" Pyrex Oven-proof dish

5 cups cooked white rice
1 1/2 cups reduced-fat sour cream
1 can condensed Cream of Chicken soup
2 (7oz) cans diced mild (or spicy) green chiles
2 cups cubed Monterey Pepper Jack cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Wash your hands. 
2. Preheat oven to 375F degrees.
3. Make the RICE if you haven't got leftovers.

4. Combine cooled rice, sour cream, soup, green chiles and cheese in a large mixing bowl.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Lightly grease pyrex dish or spray with PAM.

7. Add rice mixture.

8. Bake @ 375F degrees x 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Simplest Peanut Butter Cookies

I have been posting so many savory recipes that I thought it was time for some sweet options!

Now the problem with baking oftentimes is this:

--fussy measurements and ratios
--special equipment
--additional ingredients and spices
--extra skills and know-how

If you have been following along over the last two years, it is likely you have a few basic baking components / equipment / or gadgets. Honestly, the cookie sheet is about as special as it gets for this recipe which is about as classic as they come with all the memories of childhood, mom making cookies, Saturday afternoons, and simple living.

Should only take about 5 - 10 minutes to put together and slide into a pre-heated oven.
Can be gluten-free if you skip the flour!

Reflect today with some homemade goodness and a cold glass of milk. I promise it will be the perfect study break! Call home just to check in!

(Adapted from the Food Network website--just too simple to pass by)

Simplest Peanut Butter Cookies

Mixing bowl
Pre-heated oven to 350F degrees
Measuring cups
Ungreased cookie sheet

1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter, chunky
1 egg, lightly beaten (or not)
1 Tbls of flour (or you can go without so that it is Gluten-free)
1 tsp of vanilla

Seat salt
Chocolate chips
Reese's Cups
Peanut M & M's

1. Wash your hands.
2. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
3. Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl except for optional ingredients. Add a little flour if you feel like it.

4. Form 'golf-ball' size ball and mash with a fork in cross-hatch.
5. Sprinkle with sea salt.

6. Bake at 350F degrees x 10 minutes.
7. Remove cookies and add any extras from the above Optional List.
(Results are better when added after cookies have baked.)
8. Let cookies cool on a rack if possible.

9. Grab an ice cold glass of milk.