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!

Image  Image

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.

—-

Here are a few other creations from this week:
Lasagna – ground turkey, mushrooms, cheese, onions, DONE.
Image

Josh’s famous chili:
Image

Annnnd Feta/Spinach Chicken Sausages with spicy black bean patties

IMG_6119

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

 

Advertisements

Not all copying is illegal

Copying music (MP3, sheet music, etc) : illegal
Copying during a test : detention and an automatic F
Copying someones homework : zero for the assignment
Copying someones fashion : a way of complimenting your friend but still creepy

Copying a recipe : you sure can!

This week’s new recipe was a copycat version of Panera’s broccoli cheese soup. I’ve used this blog site before for the autumn harvest squash soup, the author is on point with ingredients.  It’s really easy to make and was incredibly delish.

IMG_5868 IMG_5869

A wonderful protein to add – pork chops! Let those babies cook in caramelized onions to get some good flavors going. They seriously take maybe 6 minutes (once the onions begin to cook down, put in the pork chops).
IMG_5871

 

One more new recipe for the week, chicken cordon bleu pizza. Nom nom nom. Courtesy of Betty Crocker and a Bisquick crust. I will now make this crust any time, no more store bought junk. It’s really easy 1 1/2 C of Bisquick, 1/3 C of H2O, and shredded parm – done. That makes enough for 1 medium pizza, we of course made 2 pizzas (1 for leftovers 🙂 )

IMG_5895

Hubby has been home all week for dinner! YAY!  He helped on pizza night as we know it’s rare that I actually get to making dinner on Thursday’s.

It’s funny that these recipes are healthy & diabetic friendly, most of you would enjoy them.  You don’t have to eat like a rabbit in order to be ‘healthy’ – choose your dishes wisely and pick fresh/organic ingredients.  Also, do not indulge! See how we made 2 pizzas but kept 1 for leftovers? Take note.

food is essential to life: make it good

I actually remembered to plan a meatless meal for tonight! BOOM!

With my new cooking adventures I think it’ll be easier for me to come up with vegetarian meals each week. In years past I would buy boxed fish sticks and whip up some mac n’ cheese. Every Friday this was my dinner! I may as well have gone to McD’s and picked up their fish sandwiches (God I love those things, don’t get me wrong – there is something about them that are addicting! I would LOOOOOVE to go for one of those now but I know better). Lenten meals don’t have to consist of seafood though, not everyone likes fish or shrimp. So I’ll give you tonight’s dinner.

Grilled cheese & sweet potato fries. Simple!  We’re not talking plain old Kraft slices either. I picked up smoke provolone, an avocado, and I’ll saute red onions – stack it up on some sourdough bread. I’m making homemade fries too – 1 potato per person, slice them up, and sprinkle smoked paprika – bake and eat. That sounds DELISH!!! I’ll let you know how it turns out!

I’ll do a picture show of the last few nights of meals (in no particular order). Chicken sliders inspired by Ree Drummond, remember that you can change recipes – the recipe police will not come after you! This also shouldn’t stop you from making something that looks good; if an ingredient doesn’t seem necessary to the overall flavor then it’s okay to omit.

IMG_5677 IMG_5678

Another Pioneer Woman recipe, this one I followed to the T. There wasn’t anything you could leave out. When you open the link it will say quick and easy – so true, it was ready in under 20 minutes. The only thing that wasn’t quick and easy, opening the darn pasta box. SERIOUSLY! “Tear here” is a bunch of BS.

IMG_5672IMG_5674

I forgot to include the picture of me food processing the red peppers but that is an important step. Look at Ree’s instructions, she gives step by step pictures – love her blog!

Next in the line up braised short ribs. A bit pricey but this isn’t something we will make on a regular basis; it was actually my first time cooking short ribs. I found this on the Food Network’s website from Claire Robinson’s 5 ingredient fix. The only thing I changed was the cooking time… I did it low and slow – 300 for 6 hours! Do it and you’ll thank me later.

IMG_5679 IMG_5680

I had planned root veggies as a side however the tax office took waaaaaay longer than expected. So I didn’t have time to put them in the oven and had to bust out the insty mashed potatoes. No biggie. As I pulled the meat out of the pot, the bones fell off – yepp, I knew this was a good plan 🙂 This could easily be a slow cooker meal but you’ll still have to brown the meat before, it’s crucial to keep the juices inside the meat.

Oh yes, on the disaster that was brinner. It was a huge hit the first time around, I had to plan a second one… except it actually became a real breakfast. I didn’t feel like cooking that night and since we were both home the next day for breakfast, why not make a proper meal to start our day.

IMG_5675 IMG_5676

Seriously, Pinterest… you can really suck sometimes. My cute idea quickly changed to scrambled eggs with chopped green peppers. That is where Josh stepped in, he makes THE BEST scrambled eggs; McLane agrees.  Want to make your waffles stand out? I added cinnamon, so yummy.  We needed protein so I cooked JD’s sausage patties. There’s an easy meal!

The final dish: mahi mahi with a mango salsa. I used the root veggies that were skipped from the night before, didn’t want them going bad and having to toss. The marinade that I found for the fish was s0-s0, I think I just needed to have more liquid but the fish was covered … maybe it was the marinade. I won’t even post it. It wasn’t bad, it was just lacking flavor.

IMG_5681

That’s it! I know it’s a lot but now you have no reason to be uninspired. So many meals to choose from 🙂 Pick your weapon!

 

Lay’s Contest < Willy Wonka

I wonder if I should submit a flavor to the “Lay’s Do Us a Flavor” contest … I came up with a real good one this morning, inspired by my kitchen sink “Bacon Greasy Dishes”. What? Not a good one? Sorry, did I make you throw up a little bit in your mouth? I mean, it’s on par with some of the other submissions, ones like ‘chocolate chip cookie’ or ‘salted butter’ (Paula Deen would like that one…), oh this is the best ‘wiener schnitzel and sauerkraut’. C’mon America, how fat can we be that we need the joy of eating potato chips that taste like a complete meal. This ain’t no Willy Wonka factory, however if anyone comes up with lick-able wall paper please be kind enough to inform me first (that won’t add any calories to my diet, right?!).

My husband and I saw the contest commercial the other night and we talked about the last winners, we did like the Siracha chips but chicken and waffles was gross, I may as well just drank syrup from the squeeze bottle. I can’t remember the 3rd winner, we never found those chips which surprised me because we do live in the most obese city in America, let’s hear it for San Antonio!

Okay so you might be wondering why my sink was filled to the brim with greasy dishes – we cooked bacon last night. Even though we disposed of the grease properly, my tin foil attempt to keep the pan clean was an epic fail. I do not stove cook bacon, that splattering mess goes in the oven set to broil. Our dinner however was not a greasy mess – a pizza creation that I ‘stole’ from BJ’s Brewery. We love their pizzas but they are literally 3 inch deep dish meals; 1 slice and you’re done. This clearly doesn’t work with one who has diabetes so I purchased all of the toppings and a thin crust, there you go, a healthy alternative already.

IMG_5321 IMG_5322 IMG_5323
I used chicken tenders to make dicing easier, marinate those suckers in EVOO and garlic. The more garlic, the better 🙂
I bought a can of diced tomatoes, make sure to drain them really well or you’ll end up with a soggy crust! Pour some ranch and there you go. It wasn’t dry at all, the juicy tomatoes along with the ranch masks the fact that is no actual sauce.

How is ranch healthy? BOLTHOUSE. How many times must I tell you about this brand? JUST SWITCH ALREADY!

Oh geeze, I just got another idea for a potato chip flavor … one that could have avoided this whole greasy kitchen sink mess in the first place … ‘Garlic Chicken, Bacon, and Ranch Pizza”. No cooking required. Duh! Oh my gosh, I feel so fat just thinking about it.

And to prove my husband doesn’t read the menu board, this is what I have to do for ingredients that I know he’ll want to eat as a snack:
IMG_5305

It worked because the other morning he informed me that the cottage cheese almost fell victim to his growling stomach. After I used it I did cross out “NOT” and wrote “EAT :-)” all over it. It was gone the same day.

And here’s Sous Chef Geno keeping guard of the oven

IMG_5308

Be sure to check out my food pictures on Instagram … MRSDLH50 – #kitchentails

 

ice, ice, baby

Well, there goes my hopes of getting things done (outside of the house) today… San Antonio has pretty much shut down.  All school are closed and highways are blocked.  Listen, the weather isn’t bad but this city doesn’t have the trucks to clear icy roads; cars are stuck on overpasses (that are 4+ stories tall… no thank you!). And as I told my husband before he left for work … it’s not him I’m worried about (being from Erie, PA – he knows ice and snow), it’s the other idiot drivers out there.  Of course he called when he got to work to A) let me know he arrived safely and B) inform me about the dummy who tried to be cool and pass everyone, slammed on his brakes at a red light, and swerved sideways into the median, all in front of a cop. See what I mean?

So with that being said, if the roads melt a bit and I get the courage to drive amongst morons then I will head to the grocery store.  The cold front is supposed to be gone by Sunday where it will be back up in the 70’s and then 3 days later, freezing temps at night. This is insane.

Anyway, I have plans on making french onion soup tonight – never made it before and it’s been something on my “you must attempt this” list.

I have not cooked a decent meal since Tuesday. It’s been leftover central up in here! I love it though because I think it’s fun to find different ways to create something by swapping out the “usual”.  For instance, I made loco moco which is a traditional Hawaiian dish but instead of using rice, I used the leftover quinoa mixture from the stuffed peppers.

IMG_5199 IMG_5200 IMG_5201

So easy: make 4 burger patties, sass up canned gravy by adding extra mushrooms, you can make rice for the bottom, cook up some eggs, and it’s done! It’s really silly how delish this meal is.  We fell in love with it a few years back while in Hawaii. It’s so filling – it’s a “every 6 months” kind of meal; not something we could eat on a regular basis.  Plus it only took 20-ish minutes from start to plate.

Last night I marinated 2 chicken breasts in green chile sauce, pan cooked them, and served over top of the quinoa mixture – Josh loved it.  No one says a certain mixture can’t be used for other dishes.  Me on the other hand whipped up some nasty frozen “fish” filets – they were in the freezer as a back up meal in case I didn’t feel like cooking.  Yeah, do yourself a favor and DO NOT BUY THEM, I will never trust Gorton’s fishermen again. Once you start eating real fish filets from the seafood counter, there’s no turning back to buying the cheap garbage.

So as of Wednesday Josh is back to his 8 week schedule of hardly being home, it’s been nice having him around to help with dinner … he was put on patty duty:

IMG_5203 and of course the sous chefs were guarding the meat, what good pups.

I will leave you with this fun piece of nutritional info on 1,000 island salad dressing, get ready to be amazed.

IMG_5202 Chelsea introduced a greek yogurt-based dressing to me not too long ago. Yes is absolutely tastes different (not yucky though) however notice the calories, 40 vs. 130 – holy cow! I don’t mind giving up its classic  flavor if it means I’m ingesting something that isn’t as bad for me.  Try it out, this company makes a variety of dressings (ranch, blue cheese, 1,000 island… ) Bolt House – got try it!

Oh lovely, it’s raining again.

Whirlwind Weekend

The Higby Hacienda Housewarming Weekend is complete and was a semi-success.  I stuck to my favorite finger foods and maybe those were a bit too successful because everyone chowed down on those instead of my dinner so needless to say I’ve got a ton of leftovers.  I don’t mind though, it means I won’t have to make a grocery run for this week (I’ve got some frozen chicken that I can bust out in a few days when the pulled pork runs out).

I was scared to use a new slow cooker recipe on the pork but I loved the root beer base – yes it was a bit sweet but I prefer sweeter BBQ. I had Stubb’s smokey BBQ sauce to mix in and for adding extra as you build a sandwich.  I guess I could have only bought 1 tenderloin but you know if I did that, everyone would have ate and then I would have ran out of food. So buy more and be prepared it’s the safest way to go.

IMG_5103IMG_5119

I totally cheated on the sides – went to Rudy’s BBQ for cole slaw and potato salad… got 2 quarts of each and only 1/2 of 1 quart was eaten.  I actually just had some to go along with my lunch, nom nom nom. More for me 😉  Josh’s sister had sent these cute glass ornaments filled with seasoning to make dip mixes with.  What an awesome and clever idea! They were tasty and everyone loved them; bowls were almost scraped clean. I put out 2 brands of crackers (1 gluten free rice / 1 rosemary & olive oil Triscuits). Always provide options!

IMG_5107 IMG_5104

Other finger foods offered: pizza balls and zucchini bites. I’ve previously blogged about those 2 recipes, feel free to search for them 🙂

Guests brought plenty of desserts and a few other apps … beer was plentiful (got some good use from the beer drawer, lol!).  After all was said and done, belly’s were happily full with food and adult beverages.

To cure any grumbling stomachs the next morning (we had a couple guests stay the night who traveled from Austin), I prepared a light brunch recipe adapting something from Giada De Laurentiis.  That girl has more time and money on her hands so I clearly changed a few things … this is a close cousin to the classic lox and bagels.  Which is actually funny because she didn’t even mention that in the TV episode she prepared this dish on. So yeah, I purchased pre-made pizza dough, whipped cream cheese, smoked salmon, and capers. It was budget friendly, simple to make, and a 10 minute dish.

IMG_5120

 

**I felt the need to add a disclaimer – I had a fabulous time (as did my husband) with our guests this weekend.  We were so excited to see our friends … being able to catch up and just chill.  I am not calling the overall party/those who attended a “semi-success”, it is only referring to my food … the reason I blog.

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.

IMG_4958[1] IMG_4959[1] IMG_4960[1]

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.**

IMG_4961[1]IMG_4962[1]IMG_4963[1]

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.