I am a newlywed on a budget, just trying to make healthy and inexpensive meals for my husband and I to enjoy. He eats a lot, so cost is a big factor. Though I work 3 jobs, I manage to find time 6 nights a week to cook a full dinner for us both. I am constantly looking for new recipes that are moderately healthy, taste great, and won't break the bank.

On the side, I also own a brownie business called Gersheybars. My passion and love for cooking started when I was just a small child, baking with my mom and grandmother. The brownie recipe has been passed down through 5 generations and I am thrilled to finally have an outlet to share them with everybody else. Friends and family have helped spread the word and made my business as successful as it is today.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thai Chicken Ramen

So delicious! This is one of the better Ramen dishes I've made. Again, budget friendly, full of vegetables, chicken and lots of flavor. I used the Creamy Chicken Ramen because I wanted to add a little extra body to the sauce. I think a regular Ramen might taste OK, but the sauce would probably be too thin.
1 Chicken breast - 50 cents
2 packs of ramen - 25 cents
1/4 onion - 20 cents
2 green onions - 20 cents
1/2 red pepper - 25 cents (2 for a dollar)
1 carrot - 20 cents
2 Tablespoons peanut butter - 50 cents
1 Tablespoon cilantro - 5 cents?
Total cost - Approximately $2.15

  • 1 chicken breast, cut into small chunks
  • 2 packages Creamy Chicken flavored Ramen
  • 1/4 onion, sliced
  • 1/2 red pepper, julienned
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon cilantro, chopped

1. In a large nonstick skillet, add 1 Tablespoon oil and heat over medium high. Add chicken and cook thoroughly. Add onion, red pepper and carrot to pan and cook 3-5 minutes until tender.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to rapid boil. Add Ramen noodles with seasoning packet and cook 3 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the noodles or they become soggy.

3. Drain noodles, reserving about 3/4 cup liquid. Add peanut butter, soy sauce and brown sugar to noodles, mixing well to combine. Add noodles to pan with chicken and vegetables and stir. If too much liquid remains, bring saute pan to a boil and simmer 3 minutes until liquid evaporates.

4. Remove pan from heat and add green onions. Stir to warm the onions. Top with chopped cilantro and hot sauce, if desired.

Oven Fried Catfish

This was a super easy way to cook the catfish that left it flakey and juicy and just darn tasty. It takes no time to prepare and only 15 minutes to cook, so it's a great meal when you don't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.

We served it with a potato/onion/string bean stir fry that was also great. The cost breakdown is as follows:
2 pieces of catfish - $1.00 (frozen bag of 10 catfish filets was $5.00)
1/2 cup cornmeal and additional spices for breading - approximately 50 cents
2 baking potatoes - 15 cents (10 lb bag was 97 cents)
1/4 onion - 20 cents
4 ounces of string beans - 25 cents (97 cents a pound)
2 green onions - 20 cents
1 Tablespoon cilantro - 5 cents, maybe?
Total cost - approximately $2.35

  • 2 catfish filets
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon each, of onion powder, garlic powder, & thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 baking potatoes, chopped into large pieces
  • 1/4 onion, sliced thickly
  • 4 ounces string beans, cut in half
  • garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine cornmeal, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, salt & pepper in a shallow dish or large plastic bag. Coat catfish on both sides with cornmeal mixture, shaking off the extra, and place in lightly greased baking dish.

2. Add 1 tablespoon oil to large nonstick skillet. Heat on medium-high. Add potatoes to pan, and sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper. When potatoes have a golden color on both sides, reduce heat to medium.

3. Put catfish in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until fish is flakey. Meanwhile, cover the potatoes, and cook for an additional 7-10 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally.

4. In last 5 minutes of potato cooking, add onions to pan. Cook until onions are softened, about 3 minutes. Add string beans and continue cooking until all vegetables are soft and tender.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pasta with Clams and Garlic

I've had quite a few comments that there's no way I'm making healthy, budget free dishes that actually taste good. Or that by using canned fruits and vegetables I'm sacrificing taste, blah blah blah.

It's now become a challenge every week to see how creative I can be for under $3.00 total.
Last night's meal was my budget version of Linguine with clams. The dish cost about $1.50 total and was actually quite tasty!
2 packages of Ramen - 24 cents
1 can of whole clams - 88 cents
1 Tablespoon of garlic - a nickel, maybe?
1 Tablespoon minced onion - another nickel?
1/2 a pat of butter - another nickel?

  • 2 packages of Ramen noodles, without the seasoning packet (save it for later when you need a quick broth, or want some extra zing in plain white rice)
  • 1 can of whole clams
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon minced onion
  • 1/2 a pat of butter
  • fresh ground pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.

2. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic in a small amount of butter, until onions are soft, about 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and add can of clams to saute pan, and add Ramen to large pot.

3. Simmer the clam sauce while the Ramen is cooking, approximately 3 minutes. Drain noodles and combine with clams. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and enjoy!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chicken Ramen w/veggies

Trying to plan meals for $3 each (that's $1.50 per person) has proven to be a challenge, but not an impossible one. Due to some inexpensive markets out here, we've been able to stock up on frozen veggies (just as many nutrients as fresh), pasta, ramen, chicken, and even catfish! This is one of our staples though, because it's cheap, quick, easy and definitely doesn't taste like ramen.

This meal cost about $3 total. Here's the breakdown:

2 chicken breasts - about $1
2 packs of ramen - 25 cents
1 bag frozen veggies - $1
Various spices, brown sugar, stalk of green onions, etc - 75 cents

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 packages of Ramen (any flavor, though we usually do 1 chicken, and 1 Oriental flavor)
  • 1 bag frozen veggies (we use a 3 pepper and onion mix)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1. Brown chicken in large saute pan, or wok, until cooked through.

2. Add water, noodles with seasoning packets (use 1/2 of each packet to avoid over-saltiness), soy sauce, ginger and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer about 5-8 minutes.

3. Stir mixture and add frozen veggies. Cover and simmer another 8-10 minutes until heated through and veggies are tender.

4. After placing noodles in bowls, top with freshly sliced green onions.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Old Bay Catfish & Couscous

Tonight's dinner was just an "on-the-fly" thing. We shopped at a new grocery store today and they had some wicked cheap bags of frozen catfish, so we picked one up. All our menus this week are trying to use up what we have in the cabinets. I did my best to use up canned goods, frozen foods, etc to help keep us on budget.

I had some couscous in the cabinet, and some fresh cilantro from last week, so I threw it together in a pot with some chicken stock and salt. The end result was quite tasty! As was the catfish, I must say. It comes out much flakier when cooked on the Foreman grill, versus pan frying in a cast iron skillet. The grill eliminates the need to flip the fish, which only causes it to break and turn to fish mush.

  • catfish filets (about 4oz per person)
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup couscous

1. Sprinkle catfish filets with Old Bay seasoning on both sides. Heat up your George Foreman grill and spray it liberally with nonstick spray.

2. Meanwhile, add chicken stock and cilantro to a pot with a tight fitting lid. Heat on high until boiling. Remove from heat and stir in couscous. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

3. While couscous is cooking, place catfish on the grill for 5 minutes, or until the fish is flakey and tender. Use two forks to remove fish from grill so it doesn't break.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Slow-cooked Mexican Style Chicken

This seems to be a popular recipe among our friends, and everyone seems to make it just a tad bit differently. Some add more veggies, some serve it in tortillas, some shred the chicken, etc. Here's our version of the Slow-Cooked Mexican Chicken.

  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 1/2 jar mild salsa
  • 1 cup canned, or frozen, corn
  • 1/4 onion, sliced thick
  • 1 red pepper, cut in thick strips
  • 1 Tablespoon taco seasoning
  • Green onions, sliced
  • cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups rice, cooked

1. Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch chunks. Add all ingredients through taco seasoning, into slow cooker. Cook for approximately 5-6 hours.

2. Turn slow cooker off and uncover. Prepare the rice. Serve chicken over rice, topped with green onions and cheese. If the remaining sauce is too thin, stir in a tablespoon of flour to thicken it up.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Peanut Ginger Beef & Veggies

This is a Weight Watchers recipe from, "Cook it Quick!" The beef definitely takes on a Thai-inspired taste, but next time I'd double the peanut butter. It was good, but I was hoping for more peanut flavor. Be sure not to overcook the beef either -- the strips cook really fast, so I had to keep a close eye on them to make sure they didn't get too tough. We served this over white rice and it was a nice change from our typical stir-fry meal.

  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 tsp oil
  • 3/4 pound top round steak, cut into strips
  • 2 T grated fresh gingerroot or 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cups baby carrots, halved lentghwise, or precut carrot sticks (I used bell pepper instead)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/4 onion, sliced thick
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2 green onions, sliced

1. In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, peanut butter, pepper flakes and 1/4 cup water; set aside.

2. Place a very large nonstick skillet or work with a lid over high heat until a drop of water skitters. Heat 2 tsp of the oil until it shimmers. Stir-fry the steak until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add gingerroot and cook, stirring, 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

3. In the skillet, heat the remaining tsp of oil. Stir-fry the carrots 1 minute; add broccoli and garlic; stir-fry 1 minute longer. Add 1-2 tbsp water; simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender-crisp, about 1 minute. Return the steak and gingerroot to the skillet; add the peanut butter mixture and stir-fry until heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat; stir in cilantro and green onions, and serve over rice.

Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1.5 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1.5 teaspoons butter flavored extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and flavorings and mix well. Stir flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to batter and mix well.

2. Chill 3-4 hours or overnight before using.

3. Roll cookies out approximately 1/4 inch thick and cut out with cookie cutters of choice. Re-roll any scraps and continue cutting out shapes.

4. Place cookies on cookie sheet, and freeze for 20 minutes. This helps the cookies keep their shape while baking. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. The dough keeps well in a covered container in the fridge for a couple of weeks, if desired.

Royal Icing - used to outline cookies, and Pourable Icing - to fill in the cookies

  • 1.5Tablespoons Meringue Powder
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons warm water

1. Beat all ingredients until icing forms stiff peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty stand mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer). Recipe makes 1.5 cups.

2. Pour icing into plastic piping bag, fitted with a #2 or #3 tip. Carefully outline each cookie, and leave out to try for 12 hours.

3. For pourable icing, mix 1 teaspoon warm water with royal icing. Stir until thick, pourable consistency is achieved. Tint with desired color.

4. Pour into a paper cone and barely cut tip off, leaving a pin-head size hole for icing to come out of. Starting at the top of the cookie, trace inside of outline and, in a back-and-forth motion, fill in cookie. Stop periodically and use cone tip to push icing around, otherwise you will end up with too much icing on the cookie. Let dry for at least 24 hours before packaging.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pork Chops with Yams and Peaches

This is a very Fall-esque dish, but it sounded tasty, so we made it anyway! Justin LOVES sweet potatoes, and anything having to do with them, so I knew this would be right up his alley. And we had a can of peaches in the cabinet from a prior roommate, so it was just a good way to use them up and make something new and different. I loved the flavor of the dish. The sweet potatoes and peaches go well together and made for a sweet, but not sticky sweet, sauce.

However, we are not fans of pork chops. The cut is just too tough for our liking. So next time, I'd probably make it with a tenderloin chop or something a little more tender. It was still juicy and flavorful, but just too tough.

The recipe is from WW, Cook It Quick and was super easy to prepare. The original recipe called for pears, but also said you can substitute pineapple or apricots in place of the pear, so I used that can of peaches we had laying around.

  • Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pork loin chops
  • 1 15oz can yams in light syrup, drained
  • 1 15oz can peach slices in peach juice, drained (reserve 1/2 cup of juice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. In a large sealable plastic bag, mix the flour, curry powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Add the pork and shake to coat.

2. Transfer the pork to the skillet; saute until cooked through, about 4 minutes on each side.

3. Meanwhile, cut the yams into bite-size chunks; add to the pork with the peaches, reserved peach juice, thyme, pepper and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, about 5 minutes; uncover and simmer until the pork is cooked through, about 2 minutes longer.

Best Bread Machine Bread

After working in a commercial bread bakery, I learned quite a few techniques to make a perfect loaf of bread. I can knead bread like it's nobody's business, form roll shapes, etc. But for loaf bread, I just don't want to take the time to proof it on the counter, punch it down, knead it, etc. Too much work for a loaf of sandwich bread. I much prefer the "set it and forget it" way of baking a loaf of bread for sandwiches.

So Justin got a bread machine a few years ago for his birthday, and we've been experimenting for a while to find the
perfect loaf of white bread. This one is the winner! It's soft on the inside, crusty on the outside, but not too crusty, slightly sweet, and just smells delicious. We make a loaf of this every week for sandwiches, and then we toast the ends to make bread crumbs. Yum!

We usually make white bread, but I posted the whole wheat variation too. Both are good, we just prefer the white to whole wheat. Though if we do make a whole wheat loaf, I always add some cornmeal, cracked wheat and bulgar to add flavor and texture.

  • 1 1/3 cups warm water, about 110 degrees
  • 2 Tablespoons and 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil (it's not nearly as good with vegetable oil)
  • 4 cups flour (or 1.5 cups whole wheat flour and 2.5 cups bread flour)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

1. In a bread machine, place water, oil and salt.

2. Add flour on top of liquids. Pour sugar into one corner of the bread machine basket. Then make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast. Set your bread machine for "basic" loaf, and let it do the work for you!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Homemade Spinach Gnocchi

This fabulous WW recipe was passed along to me by my fabulous college roommate, Peggy. She raved about it, so I figured I'd give it a shot tonight. I found some Classico pasta sauce in Spinach Florentine that paired really well with it. And my Two-Buck Chuck, of course.

The gnocchi came out much softer and larger than traditional ones, but they were damn tasty nonetheless. They're creamy and rich and quite filling. The recipe says to use a tablespoon of dough for each gnocchi, but I found that to be a bit larger than I like, so I used about 1.5 teaspoons (or 1/1 Tablespoon, same thing).

  • 1 bunch spinach, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, extra
  • 1 cup canned tomato sauce (I used jarred, as mentioned above)

1. Microwave or steam spinach until just wilted. Squeeze to remove excess water and chop finely.

2. Combine spinach, 1/2 cup of flour, cheeses and bread crumbs in a bowl. Toss a tablespoon of mixture in extra flour and form into an oval. Repeat with remaining mixture to make 36 gnocchi.

3. Add gnocchi to a pot of simmering water and simmer, uncovered for 2 minutes. Gnocchi is cooked when it floats to surface. Remove gnocchi from pan using a slotted spoon. Drain and keep warm.

4. Heat sauce in microwave. Serve drizzled over gnocchi.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Baked Orzo with Beef

This is another WW friendly dish, from WW, "Take-Out Tonight." The original recipe uses ground lamb, but it wasn't in the budget for this week so I used ground beef instead. It came out really well. Lots of flavor from the fennel and onion, and sort of like a Greek lasagna, I guess. The prep time is about 40 minutes though, then it bakes for 25, so it's not a quick and easy dish. Just an easy dish. Well worth it though, and the leftovers are even better!

  • 1/2 pound orzo
  • 6 ounces lean ground lamb (or beef)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fennel bulb (save the leafy top part for garnish!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 ounces reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8-inch baking dish with nonstick spray; set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook about 6-8 minutes until tender (do not overcook). Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until browned, 3-4 minutes. Remove from skillet with a slotted spoon and transfer to bowl with orzo.

4. Add onion, fennel, garlic, mint and oregano to the same skillet. Cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and cinnamon; cook until mixture thickens, 6-8 minutes.

5. Combine the tomato mixture with the orzo and lamb. Stir in the feta and mix well. Pour mixture into the baking pan. Sprinkle top with Parmesan. Bake until hot, 25 minutes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Chicken Fajita Salad

This is a WW recipe from "Take-Out Tonight." What caught my eye was all the fresh veggies, plus chicken, and a sassy new vinaigrette that I hadn't tried before. This dish really could not be easier to make. It's packed full of flavor -- tangy, sweet, and spicy all in the same bite. One of the best salads I've made in a while, for sure.

  • 1/2 cup jarred salsa
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 4 cups mixed salad greens (I used 1 bag of salad)
  • 1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled and chopped
  • a few slices of red onion

1. To make the vinaigrette, puree the salsa, onion, cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, mustard, and salt in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.

2. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with Cajun seasoning. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, then the chicken and cook until brown, about 4-6 minutes on each side. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes. Then slice into 1/2 inch thick strips.

3. Place the salad greens and bell peppers in a large bowl. Top with chicken strips, tomato and avocado. Pour vinaigrette over everything and toss to combine.