Budget Epicurean

Budget Epicurean: September 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

Steak & Eggs 2 ways

Men everywhere be jealous... I was moving and had 4 packs of frozen steaks I needed to use, so I had steak at every meal for 3 days straight. =) With baked potatoes and caramelized onions, in fajitas, and for breakfast, it was a very beefy few days and I loved it. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the dinners, but trust me in that they were good enough to repeat sometime, so they may show up at a later date. Here are my 2 favorite breakfasts with marinated cow muscle...

2 thin steaks
4 eggs
2 slices cheese (or 1/4 cup shredded)
2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
(optional: 1 tbsp hot sauce and/or fish sauce)

Day 2: add a tortilla
 Step 1: Marinate the steaks in worchestershire, soy sauce, fish sauce and vinegar overnight.
 Step 2: Place steaks in a sprayed frying pan over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes, until browned, then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes.
 Step 3: Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, and add the cheese. Remove the steaks from the frying pan and add the eggs. Cook the scrambled eggs, stirring often, until the consistency you like.
 Day 1: A steak separate from the eggs to enjoy one bite at a time.
Day 2: Cut the steak into slices before cooking. Wrap the steak and eggs in a tortilla and sprinkle the cheese on top. 

Both ways are delicious, the tortilla has the added benefit of being slightly portable. The marinade is simple yet delicious and compliments steak well. Both a delightful protein-packed ways to make your taste buds feel pampered at breakfast. Or any time of day really. I wouldn't be mad about this at dinner time.

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Cheeseburger Mac

This classic student-loved recipe is still delicious as an "adult", though you can fancy it up with different cheeses and noodle shapes if you want. Super simple to make yet very filling. It's like macaroni & cheese only beefier.

1 pound of macaroni
2 cups of cheese (any kind, shredded or cubed)
1 pound of ground beef
1 cup of milk

Step 1: Boil the macaroni for about 7 minutes, until al dente. Meanwhile, brown the ground beef and drain the fat.

 Step 2: Drain the pasta, add it back to the pan. Add in the cheese and milk, heat until the cheese melts, stirring often so the cheese doesn't burn to the bottom of the pan. Add the beef back in, mix well.

I used half cheddar and half pepper jack cheese, so it was a little tangy. I'd recommend trying it. You can use any kind of cheese and noodle shape you want, and even add veggies if you're feeling crazy.

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Slow cooker ham & corn rice casserole

This is another creation born of needing to use up items left in the pantry. You'll notice two themes in most recipes from times where I am either very busy (being a student) or in a state of flux (like moving), I use the slow cooker a lot, and recipes get a little weird. I prefer the term "creative" but let's not argue semantics. Anyhow, the best template for any meal in a rush is "meat + carb + vegetable/fruit + liquid", and I use it a lot. You can have literally endless variations, and in fact nearly every meal ever is based on this formula. For this recipe, I simply checked my food box and freezer to see what was left, then followed the formula with things I thought might go well together. This is what ended up happening.

1 cup cubed ham
1 box rice pilaf with seasoning packet
1 can corn with liquid
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup water

 Step 1: Mix all ingredients in the slow cooker. Set on low for at least 4 hours; I left it for about 9 all day.
The rice didn't end up being overly mushy, which I worried about, and the corn gave it a nice sweet flavor. Ham paired with this well, though I think chicken would've been even better based on past experience with the flavor of rice pilaf and the fact that I used cream of chicken soup rather than mushroom or celery. But overall it was tasty, couldn't be easier, used up a box and two cans from the pantry, and lasted for about 6 servings, so I call that a success.

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Breakfast Pitas

A friend had bought several wheat pitas and didn't want them all so she gave me a few. Being that I was moving in three days and didn't have much food left in the fridge, I used up the rest of my eggs to make breakfast pitas! So between this post, my breakfast strata, country-style skillet and short cut, you have no excuse to not be well-fed in the mornings!

1 wheat pita
2 eggs
1 tbsp sriracha
1/4 cup shredded cheese

Step 1: Break the eggs into a sprayed frying pan and cook until whites harden. Flip and cook on the other side another 2 minutes.
Step 2: Cut one half of the pita open to create a pocket. Stuff the cheese into it, and then the cooked egg on top.
Step 3: Squeeze on a little bit of sriracha (or Tabasco, or salsa, whatever). Then fold one open end over, rolling the pita into a little football-shaped taco. Enjoy!

The nice thing about pitas is that they are portable, and more spill-proof than burritos, which tend to leak out the end.

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Breakfast Strata

This breakfast strata is filling, delicious, cheap and surprisingly easy and customizable. All your typical breakfast favorites make an appearance: eggs, milk, bread, cheese. Then you add in some breakfast meats if that's your thing (bacon, sausage, ham) and/or some vegetables if you like that sorta stuff (spinach, onion, peppers, asparagus), bake it up nice and warm and gooey and enjoy! Whatever you like and have on hand can be mixed in. This turned out divine!

6-8 eggs, lightly beaten
2 slices bread
1-2 cups cheese (cubed, sliced or shredded)
1/4 cup milk
4 slices ham (or bacon or crumbled sausage)
1/2 cup chopped spinach

Step 1: Beat the eggs and add the milk, mix well. Lay the bread in a sprayed 8x8 oven safe pan.
Step 2: Layer the meat, veggies and cheese on top of the bread.
Step 3: Pour the eggs over top.
Step 4: Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, until the eggs are fully cooked. Let it cool a few minutes, cut into pieces and enjoy!
Tastes even better than it looks, which is pretty darn good!
The bread is slightly mushy but holds texture, and the flavor combination was just perfect. This can easily be vegetarian, but it's just not the same without eggs so I'm not sure if it can be vegan. Maybe a tofu egg substitute? I'll have to dabble more in vegan cooking in the future.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Crusted salmon & veggie alfredo

Still trying to use up all my freezer/pantry items, I pulled together this meal with frozen fish fillets (1 cod 1 salmon) a box of straight pasta, a can of alfredo sauce, frozen veggies, crackers, and various spices. This is a good example of what I call "kitchen improv".

2 fish fillets, ~6 oz
1 cup crushed crackers
Black pepper
Garlic salt
3 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 lb pasta
2 cups frozen veggies
1 can alfredo sauce

 Step 1: Smash the crackers in a plastic bag & add spices. Coat the fish on both sides. Spray a frying pan and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes (to thoroughly thaw) then flip and cook another 10 minutes.
 Step 2: In a large pot, boil a gallon or so of water. Once boiling, add the pasta and simmer 7-9 minutes, until al dente. Add the frozen veggies and boil another 2 minutes. Drain.
 Step 3: Put the pasta back into the pot, add the alfredo sauce and stir well.
Very filling and lots of protein & Omega-3s. This is a good way to get your fish for the week without it seeming too 'fishy', which turns some people off. Even the salmon taste & smell wasn't terribly strong thanks to the alfredo flavor and crust.

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Slow cooker soup-in-a-bag

Dinner can literally not get any easier than:
Step 1 - take bag out of freezer
Step 2 - pour in crock pot
Step 3 - hit "start"
Ok, maybe "pick up phone and dial Pizza hut" is one step shorter, but you have to order, wait, tip the delivery guy, their customer service is outsourced to Pittsburgh... it's way healthier my way. In my humble opinion.

Maybe this is partially inspired by these things you see on Pinterest all the time about a salad in a mason jar. Which is a great idea, and someday I'll try it. But anyhow, with bits and pieces from other meals, I just accumulated veggies in a bag and one day after I'd made chicken and had leftover bones and grease, I used that to create a simple soup.

Chicken bones, skin, fat from 4 drumsticks
1 tomato, diced
1 potato, diced
3 whole carrots, sliced
1/2 white onion, diced
2 tbsp chicken flavoring
Dash garlic salt and Italian seasonings

That bag can be tossed in the freezer to be pulled out whenever you want a quick meal hot and ready for you that night.

Step 1: Put bag of 'stuff' into crock pot. Add seasonings if you want, or extra chicken meat if you want.
 Step 2: Add water until crock pot is about half full. Set on low all day.
This is easily customizable to whatever veggies or meat you like. You can also add a grain like noodles, rice, or barley. If you're full vegan, don't use chicken leftovers as a base, you can make your own veggie stock.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fresh-picked raspberry and peach crumble

There is a farm near me where you can pick your own berries. They vary by season and demand from blueberries and strawberries to raspberries and even apples. There is also a small market where they sell farm-grown produce, pastured chicken eggs and meat. Needless to say I've found a little patch of heaven. So I took advantage of a beautiful Saturday morning to go berry picking with my oh so patient boyfriend, and came home with two gorgeous pints of raspberries. I had one more pie crust I'd picked up cheaply last month, so naturally I made a pie with them.

1 pint rinsed raspberries
1 can peaches
1 pie crust

1 cup flour + 2 tbsp
1 cup sugar + 1 tbsp
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup oats
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Step 1: Mix the dry ingredients - flour, sugar, oats, baking soda and powder,  and a pinch of salt.
 Step 2: Add the cold butter in chunks, mix well. I'm not cool enough to have a pastry cutter, so I just squished it all together with my hands until well mixed. It should be a crumbly, tasty mess.

Step 3: Drain the peaches, place in a bowl with the raspberries. Sprinkle on 1 tbsp vanilla, 2 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp salt, mix.
Step 4: Pour the fruit mix into the pie crust and cover with the crumble mixture.

This is what it looks like just before going in the oven. Drool.

 Step 5: Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, until crisp is browned and fruits are bubbly.

 The pie crust cover conveniently doubled as a lid. The day after, the berry juices start to pool. Anyone know how to avoid this, besides cornstarch?

This would be simply amazing served warm over french vanilla ice cream. In fact, I'll be going to the store later today...

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Cracker-breaded baked pork chops & roasted vegetables

Pork chops are one of the cheaper meats these days, and I've previously professed my love of oven-roasted vegetables. Roasting any veggie in the oven makes it softer, sweeter, and more delicious in my opinion. You can't go wrong with several cups of veggie chunks and olive oil at 350 for 25 minutes...

1/2 cup crushed butter crackers
2 tbsp garlic salt and black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2-4 pork chops
2 cups diced onion, potato and carrot
2 tbsp olive oil

 Step 1: Coat the chops in egg on both sides. A shallow plate is best for this.
 Step 2: Butter crackers really make this crust tasty! Smash up about a cup in a plastic baggie. I then added some garlic salt and black pepper too. Coat both side of the chops and place on a sprayed baking pan.
 Step 3: Put the pork in the oven at 375 and set a timer to 45 minutes. While they bake, dice up your veggies.

 I had recently gone to a farm market and they had heirloom colored carrots, so of COURSE I had to buy some. Purple carrots, turns out on the inside they are still orange. Disappointing but ok. The white ones really were white though. I added half an onion and one large russet potato.
 Step 4: Place diced veggies in an oven-safe pan, mix in 2 tbsp vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt. When the timer reads 30 minutes, put the veggies in the oven too. Cover with foil if you want, I didn't this time.

 Halfway through cooking (at about 15-20 mins left) flip the chops and mix the vegetables around.

Then enjoy! The cracker crust is buttery, salty and delicious. A perfect compliment to the hearty pork, sweet carmelized onions and carrots and earthy potatoes. Yum!

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Faster breakfast skillet: Corned beef hash & eggs

This is the short-cut version of my breakfast skillet recipe. Because sometimes we have an extra 10 minutes in the morning, but not 30. By using canned beef & potatoes you eliminate the time needed to dice up and pre-cook the potato.

1 can corned beef hash
2 eggs
sprinkle shredded cheese

 Step 1: Open the can and put it in a frying pan. Doesn't that look tempting? Haha... but we will eat it anyways!
 Cook the beef and potatoes about 5 minutes, until the potatoes start to crisp and turn brown. Put half the mixture into a bowl and save the other half.
 Step 2: In the same pan, spray with cooking spray and crack 2 eggs. Cook a minute until the whites harden. Flip the eggs and cook on the other side. If you like runny yolks, you can cook just a minute and place on top of your beef hash. I like my yolks cooked through so I left it in the pan about 5 minutes total.
 Step 3: Slide the eggs on top of the hash and sprinkle on some cheese if you like.
I'm sure the health level of this is questionable at best, but you can't beat it for a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast in only 10 minutes!

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