cheap cheap cheap eats

I’m all about cheap eats and recreating dishes I see on menus, for waaaaaaaay less.  With returning from vacation and a few inspirations I decided to make our final Lenten meal a special one. Considering my husband will be working on Easter, why not splurge on a dinner I know he’ll be able to actually enjoy fresh.  I say ‘splurge’ in the sense that it’s not a dish I’d typically cook; just a touch of fancy. It was definitely not a splurge on my budget, which I’m sure anyone would appreciate.

My inspiration: Salmon Niçoise Salad … I know it sounds fancy but it’s quite simple. I saw this on 2 different menus while in Palm Springs, CA. Now, the spinach salad alone (some versions are a dark green leaf or spinach, doesn’t matter) was $10, if you wanted to add salmon it was an extra $10. I mean, what a rip off! I can buy 3-4 bags of spinach for $10 … yes salmon can be pricey especially if it’s fresh, but I’d be more content with it only being an $8 surcharge.  Anyway, I wanted to create my own version on a smaller budget. Needless to say mine was $6 per serving … that’s $12 for the two of us. HELLO! I just saved $28 🙂 .

On to my version: I didn’t like how the salmon filets were looking on my grocery trip and then I eyed tuna steaks. They were frozen which is a great way to save and only $6 for 2!

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No it doesn’t look exactly like the Nicoise Salad but again, it’s my version! We wanted baked potatoes so instead of incorporating them into the salad, it became a side.

Tuna marinade: EVOO, honey, dijon, parsley. Let it sit for 30 min or more (S & P both sides of the steak!)
Salad dressing: red wine vinegar, EVOO, dijon, pepper
I kept similar flavors from the original but after finding so many versions of this recipe, I took ingredients from a few and combined them – it turned out quite nicely!
Baked potato: butter, cheese, S & P (really, did you need me to explain that to you?)

I grilled the tuna on my George Foreman, they only need 4 minutes to cook – no sense in heating up the grill for that.  Let them sit for 5-10 minutes OFF of the grill so it can cook all of the way through without making the center too tough.

Man this was the best idea ever and I’m so glad the salmon looked sad at the store. It’s okay to improvise if you can’t find an ingredient, find something in the same family and you’ll be just fine.

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Here are a few other creations from this week:
Lasagna – ground turkey, mushrooms, cheese, onions, DONE.
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Josh’s famous chili:
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Annnnd Feta/Spinach Chicken Sausages with spicy black bean patties

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So there you go, a few new recipes. Try them out & let me know how they go!

 

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Gotta pinch those pennies!

After splurging last week on my grocery trip I needed to pull from a colleague’s blog, all about cooking on a budget. As a fellow music teacher she knows all about making those dollars stretch.  I was inspired by 3 of her recipes and was able to come up with a remix of chicken alfredo, vegetarian quesadillas, and a polenta bake; the remaining 2 recipes for the week are basics: pork chops with new potatoes and veggies, and salmon burgers with a quinoa salad. I seriously planned this menu is record time! Sometime I’m beyond stumped on what to make and today I didn’t feel like dwelling on my grocery trip so I went to her blog, knowing I’d find something yummy! I’ve made a few of her recipes in the past and they were successful.

I’d also like to brag that last night I wrote on my menu board: “goal: leftovers” … WINNER WINNER! I cleared out the remaining containers and put together a real meal for myself! THIS NEVER HAPPENS. My human garbage disposal (aka my husband) takes care of any and all leftovers so I never have a chance to revisit my dishes.  His work schedule was in my favor – there was not enough for both of us. Anywho, with the fridge being cleared out I’m definitely ready for what this next week brings 🙂

On to the remaining of last week’s meals – gourmet grilled cheese (Wed) and blue cheese turkey burgers (Thurs)

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I used smoked provolone cheese and sauteed yellow onions, swapped out regular white bread with sour dough – so good! I brushed the bread with melted butter (you need something to keep it from turning rock hard!).  Nix the mayo (some people use it on grilled cheese).  I baked sweet potato fries; let them soak in evoo/garlic powder/smoked paprika – what a combo. This is absolutely diabetic friendly – surprised? You shouldn’t be if you actually listen to your doctor/nutritionist/dietician. And as always, we had a side salad… because who doesn’t love some greens in their life? It keeps you regular, people!!!

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Who doesn’t love a good burger? 1.5 lbs of ground turkey makes 4 perfect burgers 🙂 It’s cheap too! After I measured each patty, I flattened it out, sprinkled blue cheese in the center and mixed it. After the blue cheese looked to be evenly distributed I formed the patty, done! It was beautiful weather so Josh got to man the grill; he was off on Thursday so I took advantage of me not having to actually cook. I really do loathe cooking on Thursday’s – it’s my longest day with zero breaks, the last thing I want to do is stand for another hour prepping/cooking dinner. I was able to prep the burgers & corn in the morning before I left for work. I had 1 potato leftover from the day before – 1 large sweet potato makes enough fries for 2 people (good to know!).  I microwave-boiled them in quarter size chunks for faster cook time (12 minutes!); once they came out I sprinkled cinnamon, ground nutmeg, s/p, and topped them with hunk of butter… mashed them up in the skins and voila! A perfect side dish.  For the corn: rubbed on butter, sprinkled s/p and parsley, wrap in foil, and grill it. Top each burger with MORE blue cheese and dinner is ready!

Get your cookin’ started! Where do you get your inspiration from … a family cook book, TV shows, your favorite restaurant… tell me!

We Survived the Holidays

Sort of.

I didn’t feel like cooking the day after my family had left. We decided to try out a burger place near by … it kept popping up on my dad’s phone as a place to try; that marketing sure did work.

I’ve got to give this place credit for cooking delish burgers, perfectly seasoned with a ton of toppings to choose from.  The grease on the other hand (and face and dripping down your chin) was not gentle on our tummies.  Good grief we needed a roll of paper towels while eating! I don’t understand why so much grease is needed for a freakin’ burger!  I was in pain right away and Josh was hurting the whole next day. So while we did incredibly well over the holidays we completely face planted the day after. It goes to show once you commit to a certain way of living (see, I didn’t say “diet”) your body doesn’t want you to go back! NEVER. GOING. TO. BOBBY J’s. AGAIN.

I had to get back on track this week with some healthy meals.  I kept it simple with salsa chicken, sweet potato burritos, and today will be a slow cooker kind of day with meatball minestrone soup.  It’s darn cold enough to have a hearty soup!

Salsa chicken couldn’t get any easier … chicken breasts, taco seasoning, and salsa. DONE! I made a version of this in my slow cooker once before and it didn’t turn out so great, the chicken was really dry.  I love this oven version and will definitely make it again. I picked up some Spanish rice – of course I didn’t look at the box to see it required me to add my own tomatoes. WHAT?! Since when? Thankfully I had a can of zesty green chile and diced tomatoes in my pantry. Phew.

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We ran out of spinach, oops.  So I snacked on grape tomatoes and mini corn while I was cooking.  It didn’t spoil my dinner, don’t worry. I literally had 3 of each to get my veggies in and a yogurt thousand island by Bolthouse Farms… try it out. Yes it tastes different than what you’re used to but the calories drop from 140 per serving to 35. HELLO! Thank you Miss Chelsea.

You might be cringing at the idea of sweet potato burritos but oh man are these SO GOOD! With the combo of spices it tasted like a sweet chili. Don’t let your stomach rule how many burritos you put on your plate – 2 was plenty. Josh barely finished the 2 large burritos I served him. Success! This meal could be vegan if I omitted cheese. Tell me, how many of you would be really turned off if I started this with “I made a vegan dish last night”. It only means everything used was grown/planted… not derived from an animal! No seafood, meat, or dairy (minus my cheese). Another dish that I’ll add to my recipe rotation. **I left out the water, I didn’t make sense to me – I didn’t want soupy potatoes.**

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Yes you are seeing that right … an upside down apron, so clever! Another cute gift from my parents.  It’s your measuring chart, just look down. I love it. And I am chief of quality control … the potatoes were good on their own. I had to resist until dinner was ready.