Budget Epicurean

Budget Epicurean: September 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Many uses for ground beef: Nachos

Recently I bought 5 pounds of ground beef to save money. It's something I tend to eat a lot of, especially because I love tacos. Therefore I cooked up half a batch with taco seasoning and turned 2 pounds of it into chili. The tacos get old after a while though, so to switch it up I  used some of it for taco salad (recipe posted earlier) and some for a great snack whenever you want something substantial but not a true meal.

Ground beef
Taco seasoning
Tortilla chips
Whatever toppings you like: cheese, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, etc.

Step 1: Brown the beef and drain off the extra grease. Add in 1/4 cup taco seasoning and 1/2 cup water. Let the beef simmer in the seasoning until all water evaporates and the beef is well seasoned. 

Step 2: Heap a handful of nachos onto a plate, and cover with a layer of beef. Then top with whatever you like. 

Nachos bel grande at home
Here I used salsa that I made and canned myself, so the beef and nachos ($1 or so at Aldi) were the only things paid for. I usually add some shredded mexican blend cheese too. Enjoy your snack!

What's your favorite nacho topping?

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Caprese Pasta

If you've never had a Caprese Salad, you're missing out. Layer toasted french bread, thick slices of fresh tomato and mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, and you have a simple and delicious summer treat. I decided to adapt that idea into a pasta dish. I have a Basil plant which is on its last leg, some cherry tomatoes from my a friend's garden, pasta in the pantry, and chicken in the freezer. All I had to buy is the mozzarella.

1 boneless skinless chicken breast (omit for vegetarian)
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup pasta (garden mix rotini)
1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Handful of basil leaves, rinsed
1/4 cup mozzarella

Boil enough water to fully cover pasta. Once at a rolling boil, add in the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, melt a few tbsp butter in a frying pan. Cut the chicken breast into chunks. Fry on low heat until the chicken is fully cooked, no pink in the center. Add in diced garlic cloves and turn off heat. Once pasta is al dente, about 8-10 minutes, drain and put back in the pan. Add the cooked chicken and garlic to the hot pasta. Use the now vacant pan and add cherry tomato halves, a little more butter, basil leaves and cheese cut in cubes. Stir until cheese melts and everything is well mixed. Pour over the pasta and chicken. Mix well and enjoy!


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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homemade Minestrone soup

Fall is finally in the air. The temperature is cooling off but the sun still shines. The best season of the year, in my opinion, not too hot but not yet cold. It makes me want apple cider, bonfires, and pumpkin pie. And my personal favorite thing about the weather cooling off is having soup and stew nearly every day! They are so easy to make, usually the cheapest recipes around, and have endless creative possibility! Look forward to plenty of soup recipes coming up. So a few days ago, I took stock of my pantry and saw I had 1/2 box of mini shell pasta, a bag of frozen mixed veggies, some potatoes that need used soon, and a can of kidney beans. Add in some garden-fresh tomatoes from my boyfriend's mother's garden, and we have inspiration for a minestrone soup!
You'll need:
1/2 bag frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup mini shells
1 can kidney beans
2 small potatoes
4-5 tomatoes
Black pepper
Chicken bouillon cubes (or veggie stock)
6 cups water
Into a large soup pot, pour the water and about 3 chicken bouillon cubes and bring to a boil. Peel the potatoes and dice them finely. Add those in. Dice up the tomatoes, add those. Pour in the can of kidney beans, juice and all, and as much of the vegetables as you want. Then add in the shells, season and simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. This made about 5 servings for me, 2 of which I ate immediately. The rest was put in the fridge in Tupperware for lunches and dinners throughout the week. It can also be made in larger batches and frozen for days when you don't feel like cooking. You can as always experiment with pasta shape, vegetables included, spices, add some tomato paste or basil. Make it your own and enjoy!

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chili dogs!

Well, now I am all moved in to a new apartment, and ready for a new semester. I will do my best to keep up with posting between teaching a different class, juggling 3 jobs and school, and as always trying my hand at anything and everything in the kitchen. Now that the weather has taken a turn for the colder, it's time to shelve the hazy days of summer and start enjoying one of the few benefits of fall/winter: chili, soups and stews! Most people gain a little weight over winter not only because it is too cold to run outside (because that IS the only reason we aren't out there training for a 5K right?) but also because winter is stick-to-your-ribs type food to warm us up. Comfort food at its best.
And what better as a comfort food than chili? There are a million ways to tweak a basic chili to make the recipe your own, and I will put my own personal version up soon. However, I will first tell you what poor college kids do with left over chili: slather hot dogs with it! The best way to fancy up an all-American winter treat:
2 hot dogs
1 cup of chili
1/4 cup (or more) shredded cheese
2 buns or pieces of bread
Cut the hot dogs long ways, but not all the way through, so it's like a hinge. Put them in a pan and cook about 4 minutes on each side, till they just turn brown where they touch the pan. Put the dogs on the bread or buns. You can also toast the bread/buns first in the pan. Pour the chili on top, and top with shredded cheese of your choice. Enjoy!

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