Archive for the ‘Cheap’ Category

Refried Beans

I make these all the time, and never really though anything of it until Christina came over for pollo asado one night and was so in love with them.  I think she called them “restaurant beans”, haha.

I got the recipe from the mother of my best childhood friend.  She was a badass Mexicana who would always have some delicious Mexican food on the stove.  I loved going over there on enchilada night.  Anyway, it’s a very simple recipe that doesn’t require a lot of brain power (read: measurements) and makes a great side dish!

What you need:

  • Sun Vista pinto beans, what size can you want.  I usually use the 29 ouncer (the cheese amounts are based on this size can):
  • Cheese, shredded, about 2 cups.  Can be any of the following: cheddar, jack, mozzarella, cotija, queso fresco, anything similar.  I usually use whatever I happen to have on hand.
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated, 1/2 cup or so.  This is key.  Romano should work, too.
  • Optional:
  • Minced garlic or onion
  • Taco seasoning
  • Chili paste, crushed red peppers, or anything else to make it a bit spicy
  • Potato masher, or some other way to smash the beans up

What you need to do:

  1. Pour the contents of the pinto bean can into a large skillet.  If you are adding any of the optional ingredients, add them now.
  2. Cook over medium high heat until the beans start to bubble.
  3. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally… no worries because you can’t really over cook it.
  4. Smash a few beans with a spoon to see if they smash easily.  If they do, you are ready for step #5.
  5. Grab your potato masher (or other smashing tool, hah) and CAREFULLY smash all the little pintos up.  Seriously you gotta be careful because sometime you can create a suction when you smash the beans then pull the masher back up and then you end up with a beansplosion ALL over your kitchen… it’s VERY messy, ask Christina.  It’s not complicated, just try not to be an idiot like me.

    look at my fancy masher!

  6. Once the beans are homogenous, stir in the parmesan cheese.  And then stir in the other cheese.  Stir, stir, stir until it all melts.
  7. Enjoy 🙂


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Stuffed Mushrooms

I got this quick, cheap and easy recipe from one of my good friends, Stuph!  It’s a great to serve as an appetizer.

What you need:

  • Stuffing Mushrooms, one or two packs
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • One onion
  • Olive oil
  • Bread crumbs, about 1/2 cup
  • Parmesan cheese, about 1/2 cup, or more

What to do:

  1. Cut the stems out of the mushrooms in a circular motion and save the stem
  2. Mince the stems along with a clove or two of garlic and some onion, easiest in a food processor
  3. Put a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook the mushroom stems/garlic/onions for a few minutes
  4. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, and mix well.
  5. Put a spoonful or more in each mushroom.
  6. Bake stuffed mushrooms in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the mushroom is cooked.

Do ahead: you can prepare the mushrooms fully, and then pop in the oven right before serving

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Butternut squash was crazy on sale about a month ago at Sprouts/ Henry’s, so I did the rational thing and bought like seven of them.  Luckily I came across this recipe in Martha Stewart Living for butternut squash lasagna.  It really is perfect because Boyfriend loves lasagna (but I rarely make it because it takes about 6 hours) and I have all these squash to use!  I followed the recipe for the most part, but did make some minor changes based on laziness.

What you need:

  • One butternut squash, about 3-4 lbs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • At least one pound ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 cups of grated mozzarella
  • A tablespoon or two of nutmeg
  • minced garlic, to taste (I used about a tablespoon, maybe a bit more)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425.  Peel and cut up the squash into one inch pieces.
  2. Toss or spray with olive oil.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.
  3. Reduce oven to 375.
  4. Combine ricotta, eggs, cream, mozzarella, nutmeg, garlic and a pinch or two of salt.

    Cheesy mixture

  5. When the squash is done roasting, or has a few minutes left, melt the butter in a large sauce pan.  When the butter is fully melted, add the chopped sage.  Stirring constantly, cook the sage & butter over medium heat until the butter becomes very yellow, about 4-5 minutes.

    Not quite yellow enough yet

  6. If you have a sous-chef, like I happen to last night, have them do this step while you are working on the sage & butter.  Soak about half a pack of uncooked lasagna noodles in hot tap water in a shallow dish.  After 3-4 minutes take them out of the water.  They should still be pretty stiff.
  7. Add the squash and chicken stock to the sauce pan with the sage and butter.  Mash most of the squash and stir thoroughly.
  8. Assemble the lasagna in a 9×13 baking dish, in this order: Layer of noodles, layer of butternut squash (about 1/3 to half of the mixture depending on how many layers you want), layer of cheese mixture.  Repeat until you run out of squash and cheese.  Top the entire thing with a generous layer of Parmesan cheese.

    Bad representation of the layers

  9. Bake for 35 minutes.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving, unless you want to burn your face off. 


    The end result was very good, perfect for a chilly night.  It was WAY less time consuming that normal lasagna (if you make your own sauce, as I do), so it’s much more appropriate for a weeknight dinner.

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Spaghetti Squash

In just about every October issue of all the magazines I get, fall squashes were a feature.  I love butternut squash already, but hadn’t ever eaten spaghetti squash.  After some research I was very intrigued – squash that is just like pasta, insane!  But really, it’s awesome.  I have already made it three times.  It’s a more flavorful alternative to pasta, not to mention has tons of vitamins and less calories.  And it’s in season, and should keep for 2-3 months, so stock up now!

When figuring out how exactly to roast this sucker, I stumbled upon a great tutorial with lots of photos, which I used as a guide.  I only roast things in the oven, so I used that method.  Seriously the hardest part about this is cutting that thing in half… once you have that outta the way, you’re golden.

What you need:

  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A really sharp and sturdy knife

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400
  2. Rinse off the squash and dry it well.
  3. Get out your big knife and begin to CAREFULLY slice the squash in half, longways.  This may take some time and muscle.
  4. Once you have two halves of squash, scoop out the stringy seed goop with a spoon.
  5. Cover in olive oil and salt and pepper, then place skin side UP on the baking sheet and pop in the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes.

    Covered with OO and S&P

    Ready to roast

  6. When it’s done in the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, then grab a fork, a sturdy bowl and a pot holder.  Place one half of the squash in the bowl and hold with one hand with the potholder, so you don’t burn yourself.  Simply drag the fork through the meaty part of the squash and you will see that it begins to come out and it really does look like spaghetti!  Do it until all you have left is the shell of the squash.
  7. Continue with the other half, then season with sauce, or more olive oil, or whatever you like!

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I seriously make these ALL the time.  I almost always have some in the freezer ready to bake with dinner.  I find that when you are cooking for two (or maybe you have a hectic life cooking for many!), it’s easier to just make a double or triple batch, throw em in the freezer and bake as needed.  This way you only have to make a mess once!

I got the recipe from smitten kitchen, her bleu cheese and scallion biscuits.  I have made these babies many times, with bleu cheese, gorgonzola, feta and cheddar – good ol’ cheddar is far away the favorite of all my taste testers.

What you need:

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut up into cubes (make sure it’s cold!)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded or crumbled cheddar (or whatever cheese you want to try)
  • 4 – 6 scallions finely chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk

What you need to do

  1. Preheat oven to 450
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and soda, salt, sugar)
  3. Blend in butter cubes with a dough blender.  If you don’t have a dough blender, get one!  But you can use your fingers, or a whisk, or even a large fork
  4. Stir in cheese and buttermilk
  5. Drop 12 biscuits onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes
  6. OR if you are going to freeze them, just put them in a freezer safe container and freeze!  When you bake them, you can either bake them straight from the freezer for 20+ minutes (keep an eye on them after about 25), or let them defrost a bit on the prepared cookie sheet while the oven preheats, etc (preferred)

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I have been exploring the blog-o-sphere a lot lately, and have found some great new food blogs!  Today’s post comes from my favorite new food blog, Lottie + Doof.  I was inspired by and adapted his recipe for asparagus with butter and soy.

This is a really simple recipe.  All you need is asparagus, olive oil, S&P, soy sauce and fresh eggs.

I already had the oven on making some baked red potatoes in preparation for this wonderful side dish:

red smashed potatoes with butter and bleu cheese

So I thought, why not save a few pots and just roast all this asparagus while I am at it.  Another contributing factor is that I had way too much asparagus to be sauteing in a pan, even my biggest wok (read: haven’t eaten my fresh asparagus for two weeks now…).  So I roasted these suckers the way I always do – sprayed with TJ’s olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  This time I added a very generous amount of soy sauce, sprinkled all over the top.  It was at least 4 tablespoons (but also keep in mind that I had two large bunches of asparagus).  Then I baked at 400 (only because that’s what I had the oven on for the red potatoes) for 15 minutes.

Then I began my very first egg poaching experience.  While I deemed it successful, I am considering buying an egg poacher, simply due to the fact that I would like to be able to make more than one at a time.  Or maybe I will just use a shallow, wide pan instead.  At any rate, I was researching methods and came across two tips that I employed.

  1. Add rice wine vinegar to the boiling water
  2. Use a mason jar ring to contain the egg while it is poaching (put the ring in the pot first, then pour egg on top)

Look at me, poaching eggs!

After successfully poaching 4 eggs and roasting more asparagus than I could ever imagine eating, I plated this dish, and added a teeny, tiny bit more of freshly ground pepper.


Except as soon as I tried to cut mine up I realize I forgot to snap the ends off the asparagus!  Don’t forget to do this — it really sucks if you do.  Otherwise, it was fantastic.  Much like the commenters on the original recipe at L+D, I would have never put these flavors together, but am SO GLAD that I decided to try it out.  As mentioned, I served it with also-really-needed-to-be-used red potatoes, but I think you could get really creative with what to serve with this dish.  It can be breakfast-y or brunch/lunch, or dinner, as we enjoyed it.

OH – and did I mention that I finally got a new camera?  Look at all the (mostly ridiculous) crazy settings it has:

Fisheye – LOL

Miniature (for photographing quaint things?)

Toy camera (or hipstamatic rip-off)

BRIGHT colors!

Hope you enjoy!

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Hope you all had a great Independence day and three day weekend!  I was inspired by Smitten Kitchen and a log of fig goat cheese that I thought I would love, but kind of hated, to make this DELICIOUS cornbread for our holiday BBQ.  This recipe was awesome, not only because it was yummy and a huge crowd pleaser, but also because I didn’t have to go out and buy a single thing for it.  I had it all already in my kitchen.

Here is the link to the original recipe.  I basically followed it, except I added more corn and more goat cheese (had to get rid of it!).  I did use polenta, mostly because I already had it.  Oh I also didn’t soak the polenta in buttermilk overnight, but for about 2 hours.  Another tip – the goat cheese needs to sit out for quite awhile to soften up, well over an hour.  But I just whipped it in the kitchenaid and it turned out fine.

I did use a large, very deep (6 inches maybe?) cast iron skillet to bake it in.  Next time I will definitely just put it in two skillets, or a skillet and a dutch oven/ pyrex.  It took about an hour to cook, and the edges got totally burned because it was so tall.  So if you improvise and add more ingredients, just keep this in mind…. or use a really big rectangle pan/ dish, so it is more shallow.  Once I got over the burned edges, I realized this is probably the best cornbread I have ever had… which was a really cool thought because I made it!

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