Tag Archives: budget-friendly recipes

White-Bean, Zucchini, Tomato & Parmesan Salad for Grilling

Just in time for your Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, or Labor Day celebration! This quick, easy salad is packed full of flavor, healthy ingredients, and versatility. This will serve four as a side dish, and goes well with a simple grilled steak, salmon, or even chicken.  Originally inspired Martha Stewart’s  White-Bean Salad with Zucchini and Parmesan, I felt that adding one simple ingredient and a little more oil sent an already-delicious recipe over the top.  Perfect for people on South Beach Diet, or for anyone trying to eat healthier.

Admittedly, when I first read Martha’s version, I wasn’t sure how I’d like raw green beans and zucchini in a salad.  But, as the Iron Chef says: “with an open mind and empty stomach”, I recalled that I once had the pleasure of attending a cooking class offered by Chef Charlie Trotter, now known for his involvement in the raw food movement just before his book was published, Raw, (co-authored by Tim Turner). I’d also had the pleasure of dining at Trotter’s restaurant in Chicago  – and despite the big-ticket it came with – my socks were knocked off.

All of my doubts disappeared the first time I made Martha’s recipe, and as often is the case, I was inspired to make it even better.  This easy yet impressive recipe serves 4 as a side dish. I double-dog dare you to eat raw!

GATHER THIS:

  • 1 can (15 1/2 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2  pound zucchini (1 large), trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • about 3 ounces green beans, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal (2/3 cup)
  • 2 good, ripe plum tomatoes, seeded & diced
  • 2 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

DO THIS:

In a medium bowl, place cannellini beans, zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, Parmesan, basil, lemon zest and juice, and oil; season generously with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.  I love this with grilled salmon or steak and a crusty Italian bread to soak up the extra dressing.

Note: The texture of the Parmesan in this dish makes all the difference.  I used Stella Parmesan, and crumbled it in my Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus for perfect tiny bites of cheese flavor.  Shavings or grates just aren’t the same – and, at the risk of sounding like a foodie snob, if you are the canned Parmesan type… this recipe probably isn’t for you 😉

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Filed under All Other Recipes, Budget Friendly, Grilling, Healthy Recipes, Italian-inspired, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

BLT in a Bowl: Salad for South Beach Cravers

I’ve been on South Beach Diet Phase One now for 2 weeks.  Having gone through the phases before, I get bored quickly with the recipes in the book.  Today, I was craving a BLT sandwich.  As the man says, “pork fat rules” (Emeril).  So, I concocted this simple salad to satisfy my craving.  Not only did it come together in five minutes – but it completely satisfied my desire for that delicious bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich that mom used to make – sans the bread.  The recipe that follows makes one serving.

GATHER THIS:

  • 4-5 thin slices good quality Canadian bacon
  • 2 Tablespoons reduced-fat Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons 2% milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of coarse salt and fresh black pepper
  • 2 plum tomatoes, large dice
  • 2 cups greens, washed and dried, a choice of mesclun mix, romaine, or Boston lettuce

DO THIS:

Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray (or, alternatively, brush the bottom with a little vegetable oil).  Over medium heat, cook the bacon in the pan until just browned a bit, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a paper plate or paper towel to cool slightly, then chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, milk, lemon juice, salt, and pepper for your dressing.

Arrange greens in a serving bowl.  Spoon dressing over greens.  Top with chopped tomatoes and Canadian bacon.

Variations: add diced avocado, chopped hard boiled eggs, or cubed cheese (remember though, this adds more fat content and, in my opinion, is not necessary).   I may try a few slices of cucumber or red onion next time; but for a true craving, I wouldn’t want to interfere too much with the integrity of the original BLT.

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Filed under All Other Recipes, From My Own Kitchen, Healthy Recipes, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

Spaghetti Bolognese (Bolognaise) for the Busy Mom

A classic dish, Spaghetti Bolognese was difficult to categorize in this article, because its origin is arguable.  While the concept of this meat sauce originated in Northern Italy in the “Bologna” region, the French would often take food influences from bordering countries and adopt their own recipes, still naming the dish by its inspirational region.  While it’s not exactly “quick”, it’s definitely easy, and much of the time is simmering.

Clearly, the idea of saturating food in wine is French.  I could spend more time and research to ascertain which came first – Bolognaise, the French spelling, or Bolognese, the Italian spelling – but this is a cooking site and not a history blog.  So, to make everyone happy, I’ve put it both categories. And now, on with our favorite family recipe!

This version of a classic recipe began with my mom-in-law, a French native and a fabulous cook.  Made traditionally, it simply was not palatable for my American kids.   I don’t give up easily, and want them to be exposed to all tastes – so they can grow up to be foodie aficionados. 🙂  Here, I’ve reduced the amount of wine and chopped up the veggies finely enough to appeal to the kids, but have not lost the integrity of the sauce.

The most important element of this recipe is that the meat is added AFTER the sauce is almost done – this is the family secret I am sharing with you – and the results are over the top.  Don’t be afraid of not browning the meat first – it will be completely cooked in the sauce.  You will note by the photo, there is no problem getting those kiddos to eat this company-worthy spaghetti recipe.  And if you own an awesome Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus that you can get at my store,  (I use it almost every day!) you can have all your veggies chopped in a minute and have this sauce prepped in no time.  After you have poured yourself a glass of wine to begin cooking, do the following to serve 4-6 people:

GATHER THIS:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, finely chopped
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (plus more for thinning, if needed)
  • 1 cup medium-bodied quality red wine, such as a Cabernet sauvignon
  • 1 15-oz can tomato puree, or diced tomatoes run through the processor
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • 1-1/2 pounds good-quality ground beef (preferably organic, but at least sirloin)
  • coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
  • White shredded cheese of your choice to serve: French like Swiss for this dish, Italians like Parm – you decide!

DO THIS:

In a large sauce pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the pot; saute for a few minutes until softened.  Add the mushrooms; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, about 4-5 minutes.  Add a little salt and pepper.  Stir in the tomato paste.  Add the stock, wine, tomato puree, seasoning, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, follow the directions on the pasta package for cooking the noodles.   I prefer my noodles a minute or two after al dente, as usually recommended – just do them how you like – people are funny about texture.

While the pasta is cooking, begin crumbling tiny pieces of the ground beef into the sauce with your fingers.  Don’t worry about making anything symmetrical; the pieces of beef will shrink with cooking and just be tiny bits of meaty goodness.  Avoid large chunks of meat. This will take a couple of minutes, and will be done about the same time as your pasta, so it works out well.  Stir all the meat into the sauce until it’s incorporated.  Cover the pot; simmer another 10 minutes.  Longer is not necessary and will toughen the meat; thereby defeating the purpose of adding it at the end.

Drain your pasta, and return it to its pan.  Spoon one ladleful of sauce into the noodles. Toss to coat.  To serve, pile noodles into bowls.  Top with additional ladles-full of sauce; top with shredded cheese and minced parsley.  I like it with crusty bread and olive oil for dipping, a green salad, and an abundance of red wine!

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Filed under Budget Friendly, French Recipes, From My Own Kitchen, Italian-inspired, Kids Favorites

5-Minute Broccoli Slaw for Grilling

It’s grilling season! I’m always looking for new side dishes that interest me more than the usual cole slaw and potato salad.  When you’re in a hurry, throw this great 5-minute broccoli slaw together and wait for friends and family to ask  for the recipe!  Kid-friendly, and healthy too. Great with grilled burgers, fish, and pork,  or alongside Mexican-inspired main courses.

GATHER THIS:

  • 1/3 cup Hellman’s light mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup Daisy light sour cream
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 green onions, tops pulled off, trimmed, and sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • juice of 1 medium lime, freshly squeezed
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar, to taste
  • coarse salt and fresh black pepper to taste
  • 10 oz. package of broccoli slaw mix (I like confetti slaw: red and green cabbage, broccoli, carrots)

DO THIS:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients.  Toss in the broccoli slaw mix.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately, or chill for up to 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

What I like best: quick, easy, delicious – and not too sweet – though you can use more sugar or some honey for a little more sweetness if desired.  For South Beach Diet Phase I, substitute Splenda for sugar.

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Filed under Budget Friendly, From My Own Kitchen, Grilling, Healthy Recipes, Mexican-inspired, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1