Young, broke and hungry

Recipes, tricks, and tips on healthy eating for the frugal foodie

Grilled Salad

I have a confession to make.  When I don’t feel well, all of my good eating and budget friendly habits go out the window.  And they go out the window fast.  You’d think it would be the opposite, right?  That I’d realize I need lots of good things to get me healthy again, but not a chance – my appetite screams for comfort and chicken soup does not cut it…I need cheesy, doughy, creamy, heavy – the food equivalent of a heating pad and a cold compress to heal me up.  And that’s exactly what happened this weekend.  The good news?  I feel better!  The bad news?  I need a takeout detox.

This salad does the trick.  It does the trick AND it’s tricky.  With the help of balsamic vinegar in the grilling step, this salad is chock full of good stuff and it tastes good to boot.  Grilling the ingredients is a great way to jazz up a dinner salad, and it helps quell the dissatisfaction a cold salad on a cold night can bring.  Quell – that feels like a word of the day word…anyway, like always, you can substitute any ingredient in here for a comparable one. 

Grilled Salad  serves 2

8 oz (1/2 package) extra firm tofu, sliced and dried off with a paper towel

1/2 bunch asparagus

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes

6 – 8 leaves romaine lettuce, chopped

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 oz goat cheese, crumbled

4 tablespoons Annie’s Green Goddess Dressing, or dressing of your choosing

Step 1: Heat grill pan to high and spray with cooking spray.  Place tofu slices on one side and vegetables on another. Sprinkle salt and pepper over all ingredients and drizzle balsamic over veggies.

Step 2: Chop the romaine, crumble goat cheese over lettuce, toss (and flip) ingredients on the grill.  Grill for 8 to 10 minutes or until the tofu has good grill marks and the balsamic forms a nice glaze on the veggies. 

Step 3:  Assemble your salad, dress it and eat it. 

Can you even imagine how delicious and cheap a salad like this will be in the summer when the famers markets open again?!  And it’s so easy!  And a one “pot” wonder!  That’s all I can say for now.  If I keep singing its praises, I make it more and more unacceptable to eat this instead of piles of pizza and pasta and thai food (oh my!) next time I’m under the weather…stop judging.


Beer-Braised Collard Greens

I didn’t grow up eating tons of collards like some others in super southern households, but I love them nonetheless.  I’ve never cooked them before myself, but I had the pleasure of watching a friend make some this weekend and sampled from her recipe to create this one.  These are fresh picked (by me!!) from a farm in North Carolina.  You can’t get any fresher, healthier, or cheaper than that.  We also had some fresh eggs from said farm that were so creamy, bright yellow, just-laid fresh and all around awesome.  Farm life – I can totally dig it.

The beer in this recipe can be omitted if you have an allergy or aversion.  Though if I’m being honest with myself, I’m not sure I’d like to keep you as a reader if you have an aversion to beer…just kidding!  Kind of.  I used a Sweetwater 420 in this recipe for no other reason than that I like them and I had one in the fridge.  The bitterness of the beer compliments the slight bitterness of the greens and adds to the earthiness of the dish – only further complemented by the tangy apple cider vineger.

Beer-Braised Collard Greens – serves 4

1/2 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

6 collard green leaves torn or chopped (about 6 or 7 cups chopped)

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

12 oz beer of your choice – chicken or vegetable stock can be subbed for the beer

1 ham hock

1 tbls butter, unsalted

Pinch of salt

Step 1: In a large pot, heat butter until melted and add onion and garlic, cooking until fragrant, and stirring frequently – about 2 minutes.

Step 2: Add collards and saute another 2 minutes.  Add ham hock, liquids and pinch of salt and bring to a boil.

Step 3: Turn down heat, cover, and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until greens are soft.  Strain and serve, with vinegar on the side for those looking for a little extra tang.

The ham hock can also be left out if you’re doing the vegetarian thing.  Love meat, but don’t have a ham hock handy (who are you?!) – buy a slice of the good bacon from the fresh meat counter at the grocery.  It’ll cost you next to nothing and really add to the depth of flavor.  Follow the same recipe, but leave out the butter – chop bacon as the first step, saute in the pot until starting to crisp, add onions and garlic and follow the instructions from there.

You might be thinking that beer and bacon/ham hocks aren’t the healthiest things in the world, but I believe in everything in moderation, especially if that moderation combines them with a dark leafy green.  An excellent equilizer if I’ve ever seen one. 

And it’s not often you have the chance to enjoy beer and pork AND cancel it out in the same sitting.  You can thank me later.  Or with a farm of my own.  What can I say?  I’m easy to please…

Pasta with Vegetables in Garlic Parmesan Cream Sauce

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus.  Sometimes life just gets in the way of cooking fabulous healthy food, uploading pictures, and writing witty and educational posts about said fabulous food.  I’m not apologizing though (just explaining).  After all, I have a full-time job.  Of people who blog AS their full-time job?  I’m jealous.  Of people who have a full-time job and keep a full-time blog?  I’m suspicious.  We all know what you’re really doing in that cubicle…  My suspicions aside, as my first post back in action, I bring you a delicious pasta dish!

I’ll be the first to admit – there’s nothing terribly inspired about pasta with vegetables.  But you know what?  Sometimes, I’m just not inspired.  So shoot me.  However, it’s my opinion that nothing makes a better comfort meal especially when you coat it in a creamy, tangy, garlicky sauce.  And before you point out that anything with “cream” in the description is bound to be bad for you, this one is not so!  And it involves ingredients you most likely already have in your fridge and pantry.  So next time it’s raining out, you’re too lazy to put on a pair of real pants, or you’re still hungover at dinnertime – all extremely valid reasons for not leaving the house – let this be your go-to meal! 

Pasta with Vegetables in Garlic Parmesan Cream Sauce   (serves 4)

2 cups uncooked whole-wheat pasta

3/4 cup butternut squash, diced

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes

1 cup broccoli heads, chopped

3/4 cup sliced mushrooms

4 kale leaves, torn into pieces

1 garlic clove, minced or crushed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

1 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup low-fat milk

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350.  Place tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes.

Step 2: Pre-heat saute pan to medium, drizzle in olive oil, and saute vegetables.  Whatever vegetables you’re using, add those that will take slightly longer first.  If you’re using the exact vegetables here, saute squash and broccoli for 5 minutes.  Add kale and mushrooms, saute for 5 more minutes.  Turn heat down to low.

Step 3:  While your veggies are cooking, bring a big pot of water to a boil, add pasta, and cook according to package directions.

Step 4: While the pasta boils, heat butter in a small saucepan on the stove on medium/medium-high.  Add garlic to melted butter and let simmer until fragrant – about 1 minute.  Whisk flour into the butter and garlic and let cook for 1 minute, whisking frequently.  I used whole wheat flour – if you use white, your mixture will be a little lighter.

Step 5: Whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil, boiling for about 4 minutes, whisking frequently.  Once your sauce has started to thicken, add milk and cheese, and let boil for a minute or two more – continuing to whisk frequently.  Add salt and pepper to the sauce.

Step 6:  Strain cooked pasta and place into a bowl.  Add sauteed vegetables and roasted tomatoes.  Pour sauce over the top and mix together, topping off with a little more salt and pepper and sprinkle of parmesan.  Serve and enjoy!

This recipe, like every other recipe on here, can be fully manipulated to suite your particular tastes (or whatever you have on hand).  Feel free to swap the wheat flour for white, any of the vegetables for any others, the low-fat milk for something a little richer or add some chicken, sausage or shrimp if you’re feeling particularly carnivorous. 

This recipe is just about as whatever’s-in-your-kitchen friendly as you can get.  Friendly just like me.  Unless you pretend to have a full-time blog and full-time job.  Whatever.

Save or Splurge: Organic Produce

It’s hard to escape the organic craze.  Nearly ever item at the grocery store has an organic counterpart that boasts itself as the better choice…more all-natural (is that possible?), more healthy and certainly more expensive.  While the choice to go organic is a personal one, it may help to know which foods are really worth the switch.  And the answer may shock you!  Okay fine, that was more for dramatic effect, but what I’ve learned about organic produce really has been enlightening.

The Environmental Working Group releases a list every year of the 12 foods with the highest traces of pesticides – the Dirty Dozen, if you will.  The 2011 list can be found here, but for those of you too busy (lazy) to click, I’ll recap the list for you:

1. Apples – frequently at the top of the list of most pesticide-laden foods

2. Celery

3. Strawberries

4. Peaches

5. Spinach

6. Imported Nectarines

7. Imported grapes

8. Bell peppers

9. Potatoes

10. Domestic blueberries

11. Lettuce

12. Kale

All of these foods tested higher in pesticide traces in 2011 than their superfood brethren.  The fruits and veggies that tested clean?  Onions, sweet corn, pineapple, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangos, eggplant, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, mushrooms.  If you’ll notice, with the exception of a few, most of the fruits and veggies on this list involve some type of inedible peel.  A good rule of thumb when you’re shopping and don’t have this list handy (WHAT??  My blog isn’t the homepage on your phone’s browser?!), is that if it has a peel that you don’t eat, it’s safer than a fruit that you eat whole – apples and grapes for instance.  So plan ahead, check the weekly specials, and decide which organic fruits and veggies to splurge on and which to save on, using that simple rule.

Don’t have the budget to accomodate any organic produce?  Personal belief disclaimer: I’m no nutritionist, but I think it’s safe to say that the good you’ll do yourself by continuing to load up on fruits and vegetables will outweigh any potential harm from pesticide traces.  So continue to buy your produce, and stick as closely as possible to those on the “clean” list.

Bonus tip: Go for fruits and vegetables that are in season and save even more. 

Extra bonus tip (I’m feeling generous tonight): Many local farmers’ markets have stands with organic produce at a much lower cost than what you’ll find at the local supermarket, so hit up the world wide web to see if there are any winter farmers’ markets in your area, or just look forward to that in the spring!


Stuffed Portabellas

One of my strengths – just one, mind you, there are many – is developing recipes that are ultra-versatile.  I almost never post a recipe whose main ingredients can’t be substituted by at least one other option.  Being so flexible is what really helps to keep my grocery bills down.  By buying a limited number of proteins and lots of vegetables, I can follow some of the same basic recipes with different ingredients and have the option of substituting an ingredient on the fly if I have something about to be past its prime or lounging in the freezer.  The best example of this?  Stuffed veggies.  I’ve already posted my zucchini boats, so allow me to introduce you to…stuffed portabellas!

I saw these “stuffing portabellas” at Trader Joe’s and knew they’d be great choice –  any time you can make vegetables the bulk of a dish instead of meat or grains, it’s an instant health-booster.  And because you’re stuffing something, you’re using less filling by default.  I also grabbed a pack of the TJ’s spicy chicken sausage.  Want a glimpse into my mind while grocery shopping?  I see the chicken sausage and this happens: “there are 4 of these in this pack that costs right around 4 dollars that’s 1 dollar a sausage I’m going to use them in stuffed portabellas and quinoa with vegetables and in some pasta if I have any left over they’re going to be my main meat for the week that’s only 4 dollars!”  Then they go in my cart.  That’s really what happens.  Exhausting, right? 

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms (serves 2 for dinner, but can be made as appetizers or party food!)

6 small portabella mushroom caps

2 stems from the mushrooms, chopped

1 spicy chicken sausage (sub with literally any other sausage or ground meat, or leave it out entirely)

1/3 cup zucchini, diced

1/4 cup shredded parmesan

1/4 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Remove stems from portabellas, and line mushrooms on a baking sheet.  Drizzle mushrooms with olive oil and roast 10 minutes.

Step 2: While the mushrooms roast, chop the two stems, zucchini and chicken sausage. 

Step 3: Saute sausage, zucchini and stems about 7 minutes or until tender, remove from heat and stir in parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. 

Step 4: Remove mushrooms from oven.  Water from the mushrooms may have gathered in the top – just flip over and dump out!  Stuff the mushrooms with the sausage mixture, top with mozzarella, and pop back in the oven for about 5 minutes – just long enough for the cheese to melt.  Serve, and enjoy!

I had these for dinner with some oven roasted tomatoes (just put them on the other end of the baking sheet that’s holding your mushrooms!) and some pan-roasted broccoli.  The real trick to eating healthily on a budget is to use few and fresh ingredients – when you’re eating fresh, whole foods there’s enough flavor in that alone that you don’t need any extras.  Plus, using fewer ingredients means buying fewer groceries, and spending less money.  You were wondering what my other great strengths were?  We’ll start with reiterating the obvious…