Budget Epicurean

Budget Epicurean

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Less than 5: Spanish Rice

This Less Than Five post will be the all-around qualifier: it takes less than 5 ingredients, less than $5, and less than 5 minutes (if you don't count inactive cook time). 

When I have an idea for the main dish but need a quick side, rice is always my first thought. Rice is so versatile, you can put almost anything in it and it will taste great. And since I got my new rice cooker, I eat rice at least 3 days a week because it is so easy!

Even if you don't have a rice cooker, rice is super simple to make. 

Stove top: Put 1/2 cup rice and 1 1/2 cup liquid in a pan, heat to boiling. You could use water, broth, tomato sauce, juice, whatever you want. Add any fresh or frozen vegetables too. Lower to simmer, and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and enjoy!
Microwave: Put 1/2 cup rice and 1 1/2 cup liquid in a microwave-safe bowl with plenty of room for the rice to boil. You could use water, broth, tomato sauce, juice, whatever you want. Add any fresh or frozen vegetables too. Microwave for 15-20 minutes on high, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Fluff and enjoy!

Now, for this spanish rice I cheated a little and used a boxed mix because it was on sale for $0.73. You could also use a tbsp chili powder and a small can of tomato sauce for about the same price and taste.

Rice: Bought on sale with spices included. = $0.73
Can of corn: On sale 2 for $1, one for $0.50. = $0.50
Can of diced tomatoes: Usual price is $0.69. = $0.69
Total: $1.92 for about 5 servings = $0.38 per serving!

1 box Spanish Rice mix
(Or 1 cup rice, 1 small can tomato sauce, 1 tbsp chili powder)
1 can of corn
1 can of diced tomato
1 cup water
Step 1: Spray the rice pot lining, combine all ingredients. Don't drain the corn or tomatoes, the juice adds extra flavor.
Step 2: Turn the rice cooker on and let cook for ~20 minutes. Or use one of the above cooking methods.
Step 3: Serve and enjoy. I made chicken legs to go with my rice. But this would be delightful in a taco or burrito, as a side to enchiladas, baked into a frittata, or on its own as a vegetarian meal.

What's your favorite easy side dish?

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Balsamic Marinated Portobello Mushrooms

Portobellos are definitely my favorite mushroom for grilling. They are delicious in just about anything else too. I love their thick, meaty texture that feels almost like a burger patty but for only 10 calories per ounce (NutritionData). My favorite marinade for meaty things has to include balsamic vinegar. It gives that salty, umami depth of flavor to whatever you put it on. I got some portobellos on sale and marinated them in this, and they turned out wonderful!

You could put these babies straight on the grill as a burger, or stuff them with grain/veggie combo. I sliced them and put them in a taco, you could also put them in stir fry or on a panini.

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp fish sauce
6 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp Nature's Seasons mix
Step 1: Mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl or plastic bag. The best route is likely a platic bag so you can flip it, but I just poured the marinade over the mushrooms in a shallow pie pan.
Step 2: Place in the refrigerator and marinate at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. They are like little sponges and will soak up all those tasty flavors. After a few hours they get soft, don't panic.
Step 3: Put on an oiled grill or fry in a pan. You could also roast in the oven at 400 for 15-20 minutes. I cooked mine for 5-10 minutes each side on the stove top, then sliced into strips.
With some avocado, cooked rice, roma tomatoes, and feta cheese, I had the perfect vegetarian burrito! Portobellos also have 1 gram of protein per ounce, plus the avocado and cheese. It will very filling without feeling heavy. These mushrooms will be a staple part of my summer cooking repertoire for sure.

What do you do with mushrooms?

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup Bread Bowl

Broccoli cheddar soup is definitely one of my favorite go-to soups. It is relatively easy and quick to make, and I almost always have frozen broccoli on hand. I've tried several ways, adding and taking out ingredients as I had them available, but this batch was the best by far. It was thick, smooth, and creamy, with a perfect balance of flavors. I had some large bread rolls so I hollowed them out to use as bread bowls, and it was a perfect meal. Try it yourself!

2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 cup frozen broccoli florets
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
3-4 tbsp butter/margerine
Salt & black pepper

Step 1: In a sauce pot, bring butter, chicken stock and milk to a simmer. Cook the broccoli for 5-10 minutes, until heated through and soft.
Step 2: In a blender, combine the soup, spices, cheese, and sour cream. [You can use an immersion blender if you're fancy enough to have one] Reserve 1 cup if you want broccoli chunks in the finished soup. Blend until smooth and return to the pot. Heat through, about 5 minutes.
Step 3: Hollow out a large round bread roll by cutting at an angle with a sharp knife all along the edges. Pull the middle out, and fill with hot soup. Sprinkle a little cheddar on top, and enjoy!

This soup was so good I had to have two bowls. Luckily the bread roll was big enough that I had plenty left for dipping. If you'd like to make this vegetarian soup vegan, just omit the milk and cheese, maybe use some vegan cheese product instead.

What's your favorite soup to eat in a bread bowl?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Breakfast Pancake Burger

Yeah, this one is definitely inspired by my adorable carnivore SO. Meat-man loves beef, pretty sure I only trump steak by a few points. Therefore, when we had a grill-out at a park with some friends and came home with some leftover burger patties, he was a happy camper.

As I often do on weekends, I woke up early, checked email and Twitter, blogged a bit, and decided what fancy thing I would make for breakfast. I love weekends because there is so much more time in the morning to make something other than pop-tarts or a smoothie. (Don't get me wrong, I looooooove smoothies.)

I decided on pancakes. 

About this time, meat-man comes stumbling sleepily into the kitchen, and heads straight to the fridge. Upon noticing the nicely browning pancakes, and seeing the leftover picnic food, his eyes light up. I quickly made the connection too, and though it breaks so many nutrition rules, I had to admit I was curious.

Yes, I'll let you have a pancake burger. For science.

It grosses me out personally, and makes my arteries cringe, but if the happy noises and time it took to demolish (about 15 seconds) is any evidence, it's damn good. So if you're feeling brave or want to make a man you know speechless with joy, have at this breakfast beast.

2 eggs, scrambled
1 burger patty
Maple syrup
1 slice of cheese
*Not counting this as a less than 5, because individual ingredients (pancake, burger) take several more ingredients to make.

Step 1: Scramble the eggs in a small bowl. Add to a hot, sprayed pan, and cook into a small patty themselves by pushing the sides into the middle with a spatula as it cooks.
Step 2: If you haven't yet, make pancakes, at least 2.
Step 3: Make or reheat your burger patty, and place on top of one pancake.
Step 4: Cover with egg, cheese, and some syrup.
Step 5: Top with the other pancake.

This bad boy was about the size of my face.

Then when you finish it all, you can go right back to bed in a food coma. If ever I have a restaurant (le sigh) this will totally be a food challenge on my menu.

What's your dream breakfast?

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