Friday, November 2, 2012

Delicious (and Easy!) Chicken Pasta

One day recently I was super upset and I invited my one gal pal over to talk things out over dinner. Of course I had absolutely nothing planned, so I googled "chicken pasta recipe" and this is the fourth recipe that popped up. I made a few alterations, but all-in-all it turned out pretty excellent.

Stuff you should obtain:
16 oz penne
1 package chicken tenderloin
Salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp olive oil
5 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Notes about ingredients:
I made quite a few alterations to the recipe due to me just being kind of lazy and only skimming the recipe once before running to the store. First, the recipe calls for "2 chicken cutlets, cut into fingers", so I just bought .75lb of chicken tenderloin and sliced that smaller. With the amount of pasta you could easily put in more chicken, but the store didn't have any larger packets. Second, I used crushed red pepper instead of pepper flakes - I'm not really sure of the difference. Finally, the recipe also calls for the juice of two lemons, but I didn't feel like doing that so I got a bottle of lemon juice and used Yahoo answers to determine that there are 2.5 Tbsp of juice per lemon. I'm very scientific while cooking.

What you should do:
1) Cook the pasta!
Boil water. Insert pasta. When done, drain water.

2)Prepare oil!
After I had already gone to the store, I realized that the chicken was supposed to be grilled. Considering I am sans grill, I decided to cook the chicken in the oil that the pasta was supposed to be coated in. So, heat the oil with the garlic and red pepper for a few minutes.

3)Cook the chicken!
Sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken and put it in the oil and cook until no longer pink.

4) Add pasta!
Add the pasta (hopefully you remembered to cook it in step 1) and stir, coating the pasta in the oil and mixing the chicken.

5) Add lemon juice!
Put the pasta and chicken mix into a bowl (or the same pot you cooked the pasta in). Add the lemon juice.

6) Eat!
Put some Parmesan cheese on top and enjoy a very tasty pasta dish!

Leftover Capability:
I believe I had two helpings, as did my friend, and I was able to get at least two lunches out of this meal. Definitely a lot of pasta for leftovers!

But What About My Money?:
Chicken Tenderloin$1.47
Penne Pasta$1.00
Crushed Red Pepper$2.95
Lemon Juice$1.99
Parmesan Cheese$2.64

$10.64 split among four meals comes out to $2.66 - definitely a steal for something this delicious.

Final Grade: A+
The only issues I had with this recipe were implementation issues - I didn't slice the garlic small enough, and I didn't buy enough chicken. The taste was amazing, though, and it's a recipe that is so easy to make. I'd even recommend cooking the chicken in the oil because it turned out so tender. This will definitely become a go-to in the recipe box.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fantastic Strawberry Pie

This is an excellent family recipe of mine - I remember my dad making two of these after a day of picking our own strawberries at the local farm. I only made one this time - with store bought strawberries - but it was still delicious!

Stuff you should obtain:
1 graham cracker pie crust
4 cups strawberries
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 ounce package strawberry Jello

Notes about ingredients: I have no idea what 4 cups of strawberries actually is. Generally I just put in enough strawberries to fill up the pie crust - this time that was all the berries from one of the plastic cartons from the grocery store. The graham cracker crust was just one of the pre-prepared ones from the store, although you can make your own if you're so inclined.

What you should do:
1) Prepare the strawberries!
Obviously cut the green leaves off the strawberries. The recipe calls for the whole berries to be placed in the pie, but if you have larger berries I suggest cutting them in half (or quarters) so that they lay better in the plate.

2) Boil the mixture!
Place the water, sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan and cook over low heat. Wait until the mixture begins to boil, stirring often, and then boil for 2 more minutes. In case your stovetop is lame like mine is, yes it does boil eventually, and you will be able to tell by the small bubbles popping on top of the liquid. When it's ready the mixture will be thick and clear.

3) Add the Jello!
After boiling the mixture, add the packet of Jello mix. Stir until all of the Jello mix is dissolved, and then pour the syrup-like mixture over the strawberries.

4) Refrigerate and enjoy!
Even though it looks delicious now, you have to put it in the refrigerator for a few hours for the pie to set. After it's set, enjoy the delicious sweet pie! (Add some whipped cream on top to make it super awesome.)

Artsy strawberry pie picture.

Leftover Capability:
Can you have leftovers of a pie? Depending on how big you like your slices, you can get 6-8 slices out of it.

But What About My Money?:
Graham Cracker Crust$1.37
Strawberry Jello$0.99
I didn't include the sugar price as I mooched off my roommate, but it wouldn't add that much to the total. Cheaper than a store-made pie and so much better!

Final Grade: A+
I love this recipe and it is so easy to make - there's definitely a reason why it's a passed-down family recipe.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tasty Jambalaya

My boyfriend, quite randomly, requested that I make jambalaya when he visited me this past weekend. It's not my favorite dish, but I decided to step out of my comfort zone and do something different. A quick Google search landed me this recipe, which ended up being a solid meal, despite being the first time I ever prepared shrimp.

Stuff you should obtain:
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Onion
1 Green Bell Pepper
1 Yellow Bell Pepper
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup water
1 8 ounce box of Zatarain's Jambalaya Mix
1 pound shrimp
1 package andouille sausage

Notes about ingredients: For the shrimp I purchased a 2-lb bag of frozen raw shrimp labeled 16-20 shrimp per pound, which ended up being a good size for the dish. The andouille sausage was also of the "medium" heat variety, as I'm not really one for lots of heat.

What you should do:
1) Prepare the vegetables!
Chop the bell pepper and onion into nice medium sized pieces. Wait until after you're done to heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat (I used my all-purpose pasta pot). I put the oil on before cutting the vegetables and quickly had to take it off before I set off the smoke detector in yet another building. After the oil is heated, put the vegetables in and cook for about 7 minutes.

2) Prepare the meat!
Chop the sausage into thin slices. To prepare the shrimp I had to take the shells off - depending on what kind you buy you may need to devein them as well. To defrost the shrimp I put them in a colander and ran them under cold water for a few minutes. To take the shells off... well I pretty much just ripped off the tail and accompanying shell. My boyfriend was a lot better at ensuring that most of the meat stayed on the shrimp and didn't come off with the tail.

3) More ingredients!
After 7 minutes of cooking the vegetables in step one, add the tomatoes, water, and jambalaya mix (don't do anything on the back of the mix box, just dump the contents in). Bring that to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes.

4) Add the meat!
After the mixture has boiled for about 15 minutes, add the shrimp and sausage and cook for 10 minutes more. I ended up messing up a bit here, as the liquid boiled away quicker than 15 minutes. So I put the meat in earlier and then added about a cup of water more so that things wouldn't begin to burn in the pot. Turns out I added too much water, so my jambalaya had a little bit too much liquid when the meat was finished cooking. Luckily, it did thicken up a bit after sitting.

5) Enjoy!
You've created a tasty jambalaya!

Leftover Capability:
So much leftover food! Two people had two servings each, and I have at least 4 more plates worth in the refrigerator. Definitely something that's good to eat for the week after you cook it.

But What About My Money?:
Green Bell Pepper$0.89
Yellow Bell Pepper$1.85
Canned Tomatoes$0.69
Jambalaya Mix$1.89
2 lb bag frozen shrimp$15.98
1 package sausage$3.59
Oof. That's a little bit more expensive than normal. It still comes out to about $3.25 per serving, and that's with a leftover pound of shrimp in your freezer. Obviously, if you can get a better deal on shrimp (fresh shrimp perhaps?), the cost for this meal would go down significantly.

Final Grade: A-
I'm not a huge fan of spice, and this did have a little bit of a kick to it. It got docked a few points for that from me, but it wasn't that spicy and it was very tasty. Probably a good dish to make in the winter to warm up with and I'd make it again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Delicious Mediterranean Chicken with Orzo

I had a few chicken breasts chillin (literally) in my freezer, so I searched through my Betty Crocker cookbook to find something to cook with them. The Mediterranean Chicken with Rosemary Orzo recipe was the one that looked the tastiest and didn't require a thousand ingredients to make.

Stuff you should obtain:
1 lb chicken breast tenders
1 14oz can chicken broth
8oz orzo
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 zucchini
3 roma tomatoes
1 bell pepper
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt

Notes about ingredients: To create the "breast tenders" you can just slice chicken breasts into 1-inch strips. I probably ended up making far more than I was supposed to for this recipe - I used 1.5 lbs of chicken, and all of my vegetables were really large. Still turned out fine though. Also, orzo is pasta that resembles rice - it's not rice, despite what it looks like. I found it in the international food aisle at my crappy grocery (in the Kosher section of all places).

What you should do:
1) Chop all the veggies!
This took forever for me, so you definitely want to start this before you start cooking the chicken. The zucchini and tomatoes should be cut lengthwise into fourths and then cut into slices. Think bigger chunks of vegetables, not fine slices.

2) Cook the chicken!
Nobody likes salmonella. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and cook the chicken over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken is brown. I used a regular 10" frying pan, but had to switch to a larger pan once I added everything else for this recipe - bigger is better!

3) Add stuff!
Add the chicken broth, orzo, and garlic. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 8 minutes or until most of the liquid is gone. I mistakenly added the water in this step, although I don't think it really changed anything.

4) Add more stuff!
After simmering for 8 minutes, add all of the other ingredients. This is the point where you realize if your pan is large enough for this meal or not. If not, just dump it all into a bigger saucepan and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.

5) Enjoy!
Congrats! You have created a delicious chicken dish!

Leftover Capability:
I made this for two people - we both ate multiple servings and there was definitely two meals left over after that. So probably a solid 5-6 plates out of this dish.

But What About My Money?:
Chicken breasts (2 lb package)$4.06
Chicken broth$0.75
2 Zucchini$2.17
3 Tomatoes$0.57
Bell Pepper$0.50
The total price is a little misleading for this dish, as I didn't use one of the three chicken breasts in the package (they were huge), and I definitely didn't use the whole thing of rosemary. However, if you assume that you get 5 plates out of this meal, that's about $2.83 per plate. So still extremely cheap, and you get to eat a vegetable-laden meal, something I know I don't cook that often.

Final Grade: A
I thought the taste for this dish was great, and it was pretty easy to make - just cut everything up and cook it in a pan. I definitely liked that it had a lot of veggies and it was a type of meal that I don't normally eat, so it was a nice change. Definitely recommended and I'm definitely going to make this again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Super easy parfaits!

Here's a quick way to make a really tasty dessert - that's also kind of healthy for you!

Stuff you should obtain:
3 containers of vanilla yogurt
Several strawberries
Graham crackers

Notes about ingredients: This was originally a dessert for two, so the three containers (of 6oz yogurt) reflects. About 1.5 containers went into each parfait, so if you're only making one you can probably get two containers or a larger ~9oz container. Yay math!

Also, strawberries happened to be what was on sale that day. Any kind of fruit will work, so get your own personal favorite!

What you should do:
1) Cut up the strawberries!
We cut the strawberries into very thin slices. If you have one of those egg slicer things, it will definitely cut down on the work for you. We probably used about 6 huge strawberries, but it kind of depends on the size of berry and the size of the glass you're trying to put this in.

2) Dump out the yogurt!
Just as the step says, put the yogurt in your vessel of choice. We used tall drinking glasses, but any tall shaped thing would probably work. Make sure to leave enough room for all of your fruit!

3) Layer!
Put the strawberries on top of the yogurt in the glass. Finally, crumble a graham cracker (I used the cinnamon sugar coated kind) on top.

4) Mix and Enjoy!

Leftover Capability:
There were quite a few strawberries left and almost the entire box of graham crackers left. So no yogurt to make another parfait, but definitely enough left for snacks!

But What About My Money?:
3 yogurt containers$1.20
Graham Crackers$4.19

It comes out to approximately $4.19 per parfait, but that's including the huge box of graham crackers and a lot of leftover strawberries. Still worth the cost to get a different dessert though.

Final Grade: A
Easy and tasty. The college student's dream!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Cheese-Stuffed Tater Tots

I got this recipe out of my campus newspaper. Obviously I was attracted to absolutely everything about this recipe - bacon and cheese together? How could I not attempt to make this?

Stuff you should obtain:
24 Tater tots
12 strips of bacon
Cheddar cheese

Notes about ingredients: The recipe gives exact numbers, but what happened was I just used up all of the bacon in the pack, which was 15 pieces I think. You will have tater tots left over.

What you should do:
1) Preheat the oven!
Whaddaya know, I actually managed to remember this time! 450 degrees, do it! Also, spray a baking sheet with Pam, although that didn't really help me in the end. And make sure the baking sheet has sides! This became apparent to me after I took the tots out of the oven. But more about that later.

2) Prepare the tater tots!
You're supposed to cut a slit into partially defrosted tater tots and put a "chunk" of cheddar cheese inside. I put the bag of tater tots in the fridge to defrost, but that didn't really help until the tater tots had been left out for a good 10 minutes. So for the first few, I was hacking into the tater tot and ended up slicing them in half. As for the "chunk"s of cheese, I just grabbed some shredded cheese and shoved it in the slit, or between the tater tot halves. Shredded cheese got everywhere, so there was also cheese on top of the tater tot as well.

3) Prepare the bacon!
Take the strip of bacon and slice it in half. Take the half of bacon and wrap it around the stuffed tater tot. Stab a toothpick through it and place on the baking sheet.

4) Cook the deliciousness!
Place the baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes or until the bacon is crispy. For me, this was until the bacon was crispy, which was probably more like 20-25 minutes than 15.

5) Take out the tater tots!
Remember when I told you to make sure the baking sheet had sides to it? Well, if it doesn't, the grease from the bacon will begin to drip off the sides of the sheet onto the bottom of the oven. This will then cause smoke, which will then cause the smoke alarm to go off, which will then cause your apartment to smoke up and smell like bacon grease for the next three days. Then you'll need your friend with ninja skills to get the pan out of the oven without smoking up your apartment more and in the process he'll drip grease all over your kitchen and you'll end up serving the tater tots over your sink. So, yeah, make sure that doesn't happen.

6) Eat!
If you like bacon and cheese, you will like this recipe. If you don't like bacon and cheese, you'll still like this recipe, or at least that's what my bacon-hating friend told me.

Leftover Capability:
There were some tater tots leftover from the party, but I don't think this recipe will reheat very well. So no leftovers for you!

But What About My Money?:
Bag of tater tots$2.59
Shredded cheese$2.50
This recipe made about 30 bacon-wrapped cheese-stuffed tater tots, so it comes out to about $0.30 per tot. Maybe not the cheapest thing, but definitely worth it for a cool party food.

Final Grade: A-
This recipe loses points for being really messy to create and for making my apartment smell like bacon grease for days. But it does make a delicious party snack and will earn you lots of points with your bacon loving friends.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Delicious Easy Chili

Last week I had a Super Bowl party for several of my friends. With food being the most important part of a football-related party, I was determined to make a good dish for everyone who showed up. This chili, taken from one of my mom's random cookbooks, was low maintenance and, more importantly, wonderfully tasty!

Stuff you should obtain:
2 lbs ground beef
2 16-oz cans kidney beans, drained
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 minced garlic cloves
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
shredded cheese
3 cups uncooked rice

Notes about ingredients: The recipe called for an optional 2 teaspoons of salt so I added the mean amount. Also, make sure to remember the can of tomato sauce, as you don't want to have to run out the morning of the party to buy a 37 cent can of tomato sauce. My mother reminded me multiple times to drain the kidney beans thoroughly. I don't know what happens if you don't do that, but I wasn't willing to risk it. This is a very large recipe, as it has about ten servings.

What you should do:

1) Prepare the slow cooker!
What made this recipe so easy was the fact that my roommate owned an old Crock-Pot. A tip from my mother was to make sure to spray Pam on the ceramic bowl before putting all the ingredients in - it makes cleanup a lot easier, as all the food particles just slide right off.

2) Chop the vegetables!
Chop the onions and green pepper into medium sized pieces. The onions will likely make you cry, so be prepared for that. Also, for the uninitiated, "minced" means chopped really small, so this is the time to take two of the garlic cloves (or natural chunks of garlic) and cut them into really fine parts.

3) Brown the ground beef!
Just plop the beef in a large frying pan and stir it until there's no pink left. Make sure to drain off all the fat, especially if you bought a cheaper and fattier kind of ground beef.

4) Put it all in the cooker!
Just place all of the ingredients, besides the cheese and rice, inside the Crock-Pot. The recipe says to cook it on high 4 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Slower cooking will give the chili better flavor. If you happen to get up too late to start the chili 8 hours beforehand, you could do what I did and cook it for 2 hours on high and 4 on low. I did stir the chili occasionally while it was cooking, although that may or may not be necessary.

5) Steam the rice!
About 30-35 minutes before you're serving the chili, you should start to steam the rice. Essentially, just add the amount of water on the box, bring it to a boil, and then let the rice simmer until the water is boiled away. I used 3 cups of rice because I thought I would have a lot of people - it ended up being a little bit too much, so adjust the amount of rice to the people you're cooking for.

6) Eat the chili!
After the chili is done, just put some rice in the bottom of the bowl, then pour some chili over it. Add some cheese on top if you want to be super special. Congratulations, you have easily made delicious chili!

Leftover Capability:
This chili is supposed to serve ten. So if you don't have ten people - expect a lot of leftovers! The good news is that this chili tastes just as good reheated in the microwave.

But What About My Money?:
2 lbs ground beef$8.27
2 cans kidney beans$1.38
2 cans tomatoes$1.98
1 can tomato sauce$0.37
2 onions$2.24
1 bell pepper$0.50
1 bulb garlic$0.50
Box of Rice$3.79
Since this makes ten servings, each serving of chili cost $1.90 to make, plus a little bit more for the spices if you had to buy them. This means that this is an excellent choice for a cheap way to serve many people.

Final Grade: A+
I got a lot of complements on the taste of this chili recipe, and the price and simplicity make this an excellent recipe for a party, or just for making something with a lot of leftovers.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to cook omelets?

Upon realizing that there was no "real people" breakfast food in my apartment, my boyfriend decided that we should make omelets, despite not having any idea of how to do so. And instead of using the internet to look up how to make one, he decided that we should just be able to wing it. The results were pretty good, although how much they resemble omelets is debatable.

Stuff you should obtain:
3-4 eggs
Pre-diced ham
1 bell pepper
1 red onion
Shredded cheese

Notes about ingredients: Obviously, one of the best parts about an omelet is that you get to put whatever you want into it. Generally for me this would mean whatever is randomly in my refrigerator, but since I went to the store to specifically get ingredients, I ended up with a better selection.

What you should do:
1) Cut up all your ingredients!
This takes a stupidly long time to do, specifically if you only have one decent knife and one person with borderline knife skills who is scared of knives. I tend to think that smaller pieces are better in this case, but if you get fed up with cutting things just dump in huge chunks of onion. I won't judge.

2) Whisk your eggs!
We made two omelets, one for both of us. I was pretty satisfied with 3 eggs and my boyfriend was good with 4. However many you use, just dump them in a bowl and whisk them around. A fork will suffice if you're not fancy enough to have a whisk.

At this point we used two different methods for each omelet, both with varied success. The first one kind of got overcooked eggs but looked like an omelet and the second one had nicely cooked eggs but only kind of looked right.

Version 1:
3) Cook the eggs!
Pour the whisked eggs into a frying pan with medium-low heat. And just sit there and watch it cook for a while until you decide you want to flip it. Mine was getting kind of cooked through on the top when I flipped it, and it resulted in a really brown-ish cooked side. Because there was no way of actually cooking the ingredients this way, we just kind of dumped the ingredients on top of the egg so they got a little warm. Once the underside was cooked, which didn't take long, the omelet was transferred to a plate.

Version 1

Version 2:
3) Cook the eggs!
In this version the eggs were poured in the pan just like the first omelet. After it cooked for a few minutes, but while the eggs were still runny, the ingredients were plopped in the middle. Once I thought the bottom of the egg was firm enough, I flipped it over the ingredients to make a half-moon shape. I flipped it a few times, trying to make sure that the inside didn't have any uncooked egg, but also trying to make sure that the outside didn't burn. Luckily, the egg didn't burn, but the omelet fell apart in places and the ingredients started to spew out.

Version 2

4) Eat the omelet!
What are you waiting for? Eat your delicious breakfast!

Leftover Capability:
An omelet is kind of a one-off meal - there's really not much to be said for leftovers. However, even after making two omelets, I had leftover ingredients of everything.

But What About My Money?:
1 dozen eggs$1.79
1 bell pepper$0.89
1 package diced ham$3.59
1 red onion$1.27
Considering I made two omelets, this comes out to $3.77 per omelet, not including the leftover ingredients. Definitely a bargain compared to eating out.

Final Grade: B+
This meal gets a B+ from me not because of taste, but primarily because of execution. It tasted really good, especially with the mix of ingredients I used. However, I think that the way I cooked the egg part of the omelet didn't really turn out the way that I'm used to getting it in a restaurant. I'm definitely going to have to experiment to see what works better in the future.