Black Bean Enchiladas

– johanna | October 5th, 2012

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Main Dish

Over the past year I have been taking a more vegetarian approach to cooking.  It is not that I am going vegan or anything, not yet anyway. Meat is just so darn expensive. The hurdle, when subbing meat with beans or vegetables, is getting a thumbs up from the picky eater club (aka. husband and kidlets).

The first time I made black bean enchiladas it was not my intention to make them meat free. I got sidetracked and forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer over the weekend to thaw. Come Tuesday night (Mexican cuisine night) I realized my blunder. Needless to say my black bean enchiladas were a huge hit not only with my kids but the neighbor kids as well.

1 can cuban black beans with peppers and onions
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
10 flour tortillas
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 recipe enchilada sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix the black beans (if using unseasoned black beans drain and rinse first), lime juice, and cilantro.

Make the enchilada sauce.

Cover the bottom of a 9X13 baking pan with a thin layer of enchilada sauce. Spoon some of the bean mixture onto a tortilla. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of cheese. Fold the tortilla in thirds then place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with each tortilla.

Pour the remaining enchilada sauce evenly over the bean enchiladas. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 25 minutes.

– 1 can black beans. Season with 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
– Add 1/2 cup chopped yellow and red bell peppers and 1/4 cup chopped onions.

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Creamy Mac and Cheese

– johanna | September 7th, 2012

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Sides

I have been searching for a mac and cheese recipe that does not contain canned soup or processed cheese. Better yet this recipe does not require flour and can be made completely gluten free just by substituting gluten free pasta for regular pasta. The first time I made this I was overcome with shock at how creamy the pasta came out.

Sadly my subsequent attempts were not as successful. This recipe works great with smaller pastas that cook quickly such as elbow and small shells or gluten free varieties. The larger the pasta the longer it takes to cook and more liquid is needed.

I thought the original recipe was a bit bland so I added the minced garlic and a couple tablespoons ghee or oil before adding the remaining ingredients.The original recipe says to use whole milk. This is primarily because their family drinks raw milk. I have used fat free milk and rice milk without any problems. I cut the milk down by a cup substituting water for the third cup.

Pair with grilled fish or shrimp and a side of peas or steamed broccoli.

source: Adapted from Heavenly Homemakers
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
2 1/2 cups elbow pasta (or other small pasta)
2 cups milk
1 cup water
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Saute the garlic in the melted butter until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the pasta, water and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium-high heat, STIRRING ALMOST CONSTANTLY, until the pasta is tender (10-15 minutes).

Remove from heat. Add cheese and stir until melted. Serve immediately.

– Gluten Free Pastas: rice pasta, quinoa pasta.
– Casein allergies: almond milk, rice milk.
– Cheeses: parmesan/cheddar blend, gouda/gruyere blend, ramano or vegan cheddar cheese.

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Tomato Red Bean and Barley Soup

– johanna | August 3rd, 2012

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Soup / Salad

During my search for a viable Asian foods shop I came across a tasty Vietnamese restaurant whose specialty is Pho soup and a Spicy Lemongrass Chicken. The highlight though is in the way they serve the meal. The pot of boiling soup is placed in the center of the table accompanied by several smaller bowls of condiments. It sounds silly to be excited over a pot of soup and condiment bowls but it was the one thing that perked my interest in South Korean cuisine.

Every Korean meal is pretty much the same. Each person has their own bowl of rice. There is a large bowl or pot of soup in the center of the table. The smaller bowls and plates are for sauces, meats, and vegetable dishes. There is always some form of Kimchi- a meat or vegetable fermented with red pepper paste. I thought the idea of serving soup with every meal genius. Soup can be filling and if made properly very healthy. I would definitely prefer my kids asking for another ladle of soup rather than a second helping of pasta. So now I always try to have soup on hand. It comes in handy when we come home late from Karate and I have come to enjoy a small bowl for lunch.

2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano
2 stalks celery or 1/2 teaspoon celery seed (smashed)
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
3 carrots, sliced
1/2 yellow or red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup barley
6 cups beef, vegetable or chicken broth
1-2 (15-oz) cans diced tomatoes, or three cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon Herbs from Provence or Italian Seasoning
1 (15-oz) can red kidney beans
1 (6-oz) jar marinated Artichoke hearts

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic. Saute another minute or two until fragrant. Stir in carrots, potatoes, yellow pepper, oregano and celery (or celery seed). Then pour in broth, tomatoes, barley, and herb mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Boil for 10-15 minutes. Add the artichokes with marinade and beans. Bring to a boil. Continue to boil for about 25-30 minutes until soup has thickened slightly. Taste. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender.

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Crispy Southwestern Chicken Wraps

– johanna | June 1st, 2012

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Main Dish

My friend was looking for something delicious to make for dinner and stumbled across Crispy Southwestern Chicken Wraps. We were both salivating as we stared at the picture. These wraps are super fast to make and a frugal way to use up left over chicken and rice.

Normally I have a container of plain Greek yogurt in the refrigerator. The past two week I switched to vanilla just for a change of taste. I like to use plain Greek yogurt in the place of sour cream in most recipes because Greek yogurt has more protein, and less fat than sour cream. On this particular day I resorted to using a little cream cheese in the place of the sour cream. The burritos were fine. If anything they were just really creamy. So in emergencies cream cheese is ok. But next time I will make sure I specify plain yogurt on my shopping list rather than just yogurt.

Source: Adapted fromMels Kitchen Cafe
*Makes 6 wraps*
1 cup cooked rice, warm or at room temperature
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 green onion, finely sliced (white and green parts)
1/2 red or green pepper, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded cheese (combination of monterey jack and sharp cheddar)
Sour cream (optional)
6 burrito-sized flour tortillas

Mix rice together with chili powder, cumin and garlic salt. Add remaining ingredients except for cheese and sour cream. Sprinkle cheese over tortillas, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges, then arrange chicken and rice mixture down the center of each tortilla.

**If using sour cream dot the cheese with about 1-2 tablespoons of sour cream before arranging chicken and rice mixture down the center**

Roll stuffed tortillas, leaving edges open.

Optional: brush the tortillas all over with oil.

Heat a large non-stick skillet (or griddle) over medium heat for 1 minute. Arrange 2 wraps, seam-side down, in pan and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining wraps. Serve.

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Caesar Salad Dressing

– johanna | May 20th, 2011

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Soup / Salad

Stephen loves Caesar salad. It is his all time favorite meal. Caesar salad used to be our traditional anniversary dinner. That was until we went to the Pasta Moon in, our anniversary vacation spot, Half Moon Bay and tried their Risotto Sea Scallops and tomato basil salad with whipped cheese. It is pretty pricey but well worth the experience.

Stephen was not feeling well when he returned from a week long business trip. We are not used to eating a lot of prepackaged foods or greasy fast food. I roasted a chicken the night before and decided to make his favorite feel good meal, Caesar salad.

I always prefer to make my own salad dressings. I think homemade dressings taste better. Plus you can control what goes into it eliminating some of the fat and the need for preservatives and everything else artificial. We love the flavor and the texture of this version of Caesar dressing adapted from Cooking Light. I have noted the anchovy paste as optional. We never add it simply because I rarely have it on hand.

Source: Cheap Heathly Good
1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

1) Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour on salad. That’s it.

-3 tbsp Mayo in the place of the yogurt.

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Biscuit 101- The History of…

– johanna | April 26th, 2011


In the South the term “biscuit” often refers to a light, fluffy, flaky, buttery bread usually served with breakfast. In England and other places around the world however, a biscuit is more like a hard scone or “cookie” served with tea or coffee.

The History:
The word “biscuit” derives from the Latin “panis biscoctus,” meaning “bread twice baked.” The history books tell us that the “biscuit” began as a simple paste of flour and water. The paste was baked, removed from the pan; then cooked again in a cooler oven until thoroughly dried out. The result was a hard, portable “cracker” with an extraordinary extended shelf life. “Biscuits” were very popular among the sailors and travelers because they were lite and could last for months.

Meanwhile, the more civilized areas of the world started exploring alternate baked goods. These ancient civilizations experimented with eggs, butter and cream; in addition to, sugar, fruits and honey as well as spices from the Middle East. The first shift from the unyielding biscuits were small cake like confections popular in Persia during the 7th Century AD. During the Medieval Ages the culinary techniques for making sweet and savory cake-like biscuits were introduced to the Europeans during the invasion of Muslims into Spain and the Crusades.

Biscuits World Wide:
Throughout the centuries biscuits have been called many things:
British- Ship’s Biscuit (Hardtack)
French- Gaufrettes wafers,
Jewish- Mandelbrot
South Africa- Rusk
Australian / New Zeland- ANZAC (War Biscuits), (Afghan biscuits were derived from the Australian ANZAC)
Dutch- Speculaas (ginger flavored type cookie)
Scotish- Shortbread
Italy- Biscotti
Russain / Ukraine- Tea Cakes
Egypt- millet bread called dhourra cake
Persia- cookies
Middle East- Barazek

In early America the pioneers favored the “soda biscuit” or as the Chuck Wagoners referred to them, “Cowboy biscuits”. Soda biscuits were usually cooked in iron dutch ovens.These were cast-iron pots with lids that could be used over an open fire. The biscuits were were rolled then placed in the pot. After the lid was set in place the cook would layer coals from fire on top of the lid. The heat created a small portable oven.

The “Marlyand”, “Beaten Biscuit” or “Appalachian biscuit” is thought to predate the leavened soda biscuit of the settlers. Before the 1900’s corn bread was a favored commodity in the Appalachian mountains. Corn bread was cheap to make as the corn was grown in abundance locally. The bread did not require a fancy oven or pans as did the “biscuits” eaten by those of society.

At the turn of the century the settlement movement placed women volunteers in low income areas in the South to help alleviate poverty. The Appalachians contaminated corn products or “musty corn” were thought to be the cause of pellagra. “A life-threatening disease similar in effect to leprosy.” Families were faced with a choice to eat the stores of corn and risk death or starve during the winter months. The women hoped to help the Appalachians adopt a healthier diet. They taught them cooking lessons introducing the wheat flour “Beaten Biscuit.” The beaten biscuit was not a realistic choice for the impoverished community. The biscuits required imported wheat flour in addition to a special oven to regulate temperatures; moreover, the biscuits needed to be beaten with a mallet on a marble slab 300-500 times to incorporate air into the dough.

Seeing the need for reform the Appalachains were taught how to make a simpler version called the “Cat Head”. It was basically a Southern buttermilk biscuit the size of a cat’s head. The dough was pinched off, then rolled into a ball, and placed with sides touching into an iron skillet. Today corn bread still remains the chosen bread for many in the Appalachian territory.

Other biscuits from the 1900’s include:
–The “Touch of Grace” or “Angel” biscuit. These are very light and similar to a yeast roll but still considered a biscuit. They were a fool-proof recipe for new brides because the recipe called for two leaveners in case one failed.
–The “Rolled” biscuit- dates back to the late 1800’s. The dough was rolled out then shaped with a cutter.
–The “Drop” biscuit– the dough is the consistency of a batter. The batter is dropped by spoonfuls rather than cut or pinched.
–“Refrigerator” biscuits – arrived in the 1930’s. They are tubes of prepackaged biscuit dough.

Other ways to eat biscuits:
Cream Cheese Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy
Peach Cobbler
Chicken and Dumplings
Biscuits and Gravy
Cheddar and Herb

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Honey Stir-fry Chicken with Peanuts

– johanna | November 5th, 2010

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Main Dish

The history of American stir-fry begins in the mid-1800’s when when Chinese immigrants began settling in California. In the 1920’s Asian cuisines piqued the interest of a growing group of modern socialites because it was considered exotic. It wasn’t until after World War II that Asian cuisines filtered down to mainstream America. Problem was much of what was labeled as authentic Chinese food was far from it. General Tao with broccoli, Won ton soup, chop suey, egg rolls, barbecued spareribs, sweet-and-sour pork amoung others (including this recipe for Chicken Honey Peanut Stir-Fry) were concocted purposely for the palettes of American diners. The reason being most of the ingredients that go into authentic Chinese dishes was not and still is not available here in the states. Another reason was that the average American found the spices often used in Asian cuisine too pungent. They do use sauces but they are far from the sweetened brown sauces we see here. Back home they used what they had on hand mostly spices, pastes, freshly picked vegetables and little meat.

Today Chinese restaurants still cater to the American’s love of egg rolls and fried garlic chicken yet there are more establishments available offering dishes that closely resemble the real deal. You just have to ask. The Wok however is genuine. It is said to have been around for about two thousand years. The wok is considered to be the most important piece of cooking equipment in South East Asia and China. The rounded bottom of the wok enables the chef to stir-fry, steam, and boil all in one pan.

Source: Robin Webb
2 tsp peanut oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diagonally sliced
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into strips
1 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup orange juice
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp minced fresh ginger root
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup minced green onions

Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a wok over high heat. Add the carrots and celery and stir fry for 3 minutes. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, then add the chicken and stir fry for 5 more minutes.

In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch into the orange juice. Mix in the soy sauce, honey and ginger. Add this sauce to the wok and cook over medium heat until thickened. Top with the cashews and green onions.

Serve over noodles, rice or a bed of steamed cabbage.

– Add a colorful array of your favorite vegetables such as: cabbage, bok choy, spinach, Chinese broccoli, Chinese green beans, mushrooms, red chili pepper.
– Can sub turkey, pork, tofu or mushrooms for the chicken.

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November Website Review: Living in the Woods and Making Stuff

– johanna | November 2nd, 2010


Photo: The Cabin in the Fall, Property of Living in the Woods and Making Stuff

Living in the Woods is one of my favorite websites because every time I read a post I feel like I am right there in the woods with Torrey cooking okra or roasting chestnuts. I admire most her simple down to earth rustic style. A small cabin in the woods. A fruitful harvest to make lovely scrumptious meals from. I especially enjoy the recipes she puts together using ingredients I would not readily know what to do with. It is similar to my other favorite website the Good Mood Food Blog that uses all fresh seasonal vegetables. Time seems to slow down when I am in the kitchen with Torrey. It is like reading a good book and getting lost in the adventure. Curl up in a snugly warm blanket and enjoy the flavors of Fall on Living in the Woods and Making Stuff.

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Crock Pot Pork Chops with Oranges

– johanna | October 22nd, 2010

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Main Dish

One day while I was snooping through a local thrift store I found an old paperback entitled “Slow-Crock Cookery” dated 1974. I love old cookbooks especially those produced by a local church or organization. It looked interesting enough to spend the $.25 cents on. This little book was well worth the investment. It has become one of my top 5 favorite cook books.

Pork Chops with Oranges makes for a lovely dinner on a fall evening. Pair the chops with a baked sweet potato or use it as a stuffing in Stuffed Acorn Squash. Pork Chops with Oranges can be made in the oven using a dutch oven or casserole. Bake covered at 300 degrees F for the time listed.

6 lean pork chops, 1-inch thick
1 (6-oz) can orange juice concentrate
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp pepper
1 (8-oz) can mandarin orange segments

Sear chops in a skillet over high heat. Place chops in the slow-cooker.

Combine orange juice concentrate, brown sugar, salt cinnamon, allspice and pepper. Pour over pork chops. Cover tightly and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours or on high 3 to 4 hours.

Arrange oranges over the pork chops for the last 15 minutes of cooking time. Serve over a baked sweet potato or brown rice.

Makes 4-6 servings

— Replace the orange juice with 1 cup apricot jam and add 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon cloves.

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Saucy Lemony Mushroom Chicken

– johanna | October 1st, 2010

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Main Dish

Lemony mushroom chicken is a quick 30 minute meal. You can jazz it up by adding a few tablespoons of capers or cilantro. You can even omit the mushrooms.

In this recipe you will learn a simple technique called deglazing to make the sauce. Deglazing is used a lot in cooking to create sauces/gravy or to add rich flavor to soups or meat. You know that crusty stuff on the bottom of the pan from grilling meat? The stuff you can never get off? When you add liquid to the hot pan you can easily scrape the bits of charred meat off. This is called deglazing. This broth that is formed is chocked full of amazing flavor that will transform a flavorless soup into something mouth watering. Deglazing is also the first step in preparing gravy for Thanksgiving dinner. Once you conquer deglazing feel free to play around with the flavors by adding different types of juices or cooking wines. Try butter and garlic for a garlic sauce with roasted veggies.

4 chicken breasts, purchase the thin fillets or fillet two thick chicken breasts
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock or dry white wine

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Sautée the onions until translucent about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sautée until soft about 7 minutes. Remove the onions and mushrooms.

This next step is optional. If you dredge (meaning to coat) the chicken in the flour now then you do not have to add flour when making the sauce.

Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour until they are coated well. Add oil to the pan if necessary. Place the chicken pieces in the skillet; cook over medium heat until no longer pink in the middle about 3 minutes each side. Remove from pan.

Add chicken broth or wine to the hot pan scraping up the burnt bits on the bottom of the pan. If you did not dredge the chicken in the flour add 2 tablespoons flour now, whisking until completely dissolved. Continue to cook the sauce over medium heat until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat.

Place the mushrooms, onions and chicken back in the pan and toss. Serve over noodles or other favorite grain or with roasted vegetables or squash.

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