Young, broke and hungry

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

Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza

Happy Super Bowl day!  First things first…is Madonna really singing?  But more importantly, how much delectable junk are you stuffing your face with tonight?  The Super Bowl, and other various sporting events, are such good excuses to blow out your budget and your New Years resolutions on all things grease and delicious.  I’m here to give you another option!

I can almost hear your eyes rolling…but really, this BBQ chicken pizza recipe is good enough for any non-epic-American-event night of the year, and is both budget friendly and a great alternative to delivery or take-out pizza.  Let me preface the rest of this post by saying I adore pizza.  I could eat it every day, but I would be as round as one of those large pies I so covet.  So, this recipe, with grilled whole wheat dough and simple, fresh ingredients really does the trick (without doing that neat trick of making my thighs double in size).

I make these pizzas on an indoor electric grill, but you can use an outdoor grill, or a grill pan that goes over the burners on your stove.  It makes the crust puff up in a wonderful pillow of dough, and because I put the toppings on after I grill the crust, there’s a great crisp to it.  I also use shredded BBQ chicken from a recipe on my favorite blog, How Sweet It Is.  The recipe makes a ton, so I freeze it in batches and use it for pizza, tacos, sandwhiches…a great make now, freeze for later recipe with ingredients that will make your wallet and your waistline happy…sold.

Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza (makes 2 pizzas)

2/3 ball fresh whole-wheat pizza dough (many grocery stores have started selling them in the deli sections – Harris Teeter puts them on VIC special often at .99!) – split in two equal parts

1 1/2 cup crockpot BBQ chicken

4 tbls Bone Suckin’ Sauce (in my opinion, the healthiest BBQ sauce readily available)

1 1/2 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese

1/4 red onion, sliced

Handful fresh cilantro

Salt, pepper, and garlic powder

2 tbls olive oil

Step 1:  Let your dough rest on the counter until it comes to room temp and spread 1/2 tablespoon olive oil onto each of two pieces of aluminum foil, sprinkling salt, pepper, and garlic powder onto the oiled foil.  Using your fingers, spread the dough out from the center into a circular shape on the foil.  Let rest about 10 minutes, and spread out again.  Seeing the picture above, it’s rare you’ll get it to a perfect circle!  Spread another 1/2 tablespoon olive oil on top of the dough and sprinkle on salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Step 2:  Heat up grill pan and drizzle of olive oil in a pan and cook red onion slices until they start to brown around the edges.

Step 3: Once your grill is hot, put the dough on it by placing the foil on the grill, dough side down, and peeling off (the importance of oiling the foil before spreading out the dough comes in here).  Let cook until dough starts to puff up, crust is crispy, and has good grill marks then flip.

Step 4: As soon as you flip, spread 1 tablespoon of BBQ sauce on each pizza, spread on chicken, sprinkle on red onions and mozzarella and cover with a cookie sheet if you’re using an indoor grill or grill pan.  If you’re using an outdoor grill, well…close the lid.

Step 5: After cheese is melted and bottom side of dough is crispy, transfer to a cutting board, cut pizzas into fours and add fresh cilantro.

Come even LOOKS ten times healthier than any pizza you’d get delivered in a box.  Plus, you can use this process as a base for any kind of pizza, so it’s a great garbage meal option (freeze your leftover dough).  So, enjoy, and your thighs can thank me later.


Quinoa and Shrimp Bowl

Thanks to a speeding ticket (ugh) and veterinary emergency (I would say “ugh” to this, also, but I love her too much to be rude…but really…ugh), and an oh-so-worth-it weekend in NYC (definitely not ugh), I’m on a food-spending freeze.  But, such is life, right?  For the record, my dad would disagree – speeding tickets are not such is life, and could be easily avoided by abiding by the law.  Details, details…despite all of that, I’m in good shape!  I have diligently followed my own advice to you all, and have a well-stocked kitchen for just these kinds of “I’m so hungry and really want a good dinner and so broke but so hungry” emergencies.  And from the ashes rose…quinoa bowls!

Quinoa (say it like kinwa) is really fantastic.  It’s an ancient grain originating in South America, some 3 to 4 thousand years ago.  It’s gluten-free, a great source of fiber, magnesium, and iron and is a complete protein source because of its essential amino acids.  Oh, and Costco sells giant bags of it for 10 bucks.  If you don’t have a Costco membership, or are not able to piggyback on your mom’s like I do, definitely buy a box at your local grocery store and consider it money well spent- one box will last you a long time, it’s great in a pinch, and its health benefits far outweigh its cost (not to mention, it’s not even that expensive at the grocery store).

Another huge benefit of quinoa is that it soaks up whatever spices and flavors you serve with it, so it’s perfect for adding nutritional bulk without being limiting in what ingredients you mix with it.  In this case, frozen wild-caught shrimp (buy 2 bags, get 3 free at Harris Teeter…really?  I don’t know anything about investments, but I’d go out on a limb to say this is one!), some vegetables leftover from my tilapia pouches earlier in the week, a splash from a half-drinken (drank? drunk?) bottle of white wine, and a tiny bit of butter.  Heaven.  Not a dime to spend on dinner, not about to compromise on healthiness, heaven.

Quinoa and Shrimp Bowls (serves 2)

12 shrimp, fresh or frozen (defrost frozen by running cool water over them)

1/2 cup zucchini, diced

1/2 cup onion, diced

1/2 cup summer squash, diced

1 tomato, diced

2 cups spinach or arugula (I used a mixture of both)

2 garlic cloves

Splash of white wine (can be subbed for chicken stock)

1/4 tablespoon butter ( don’t like it?  Leave it out.  I don’t take much issue with a tiny bit of butter, as long as it’s the real thing)

1 1/2 cups quinoa (uncooked)

3 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Bring the water to a boil and stir in quinoa.  Turn down heat, cover with lid, and simmer 15 minutes.

Step 2:  While the quinoa is cooking, heat up a large saute pan and spray with a light coating of cooking spray.  Add onions and garlic and cook until fragrant – about 1 minute.  Add diced zucchini, squash and tomatoes and cook 3 minutes. 

Step 3:  Throw in arugula and spinach and cook until wilted.  Add shrimp and let saute about 2 minutes on one side, then flip.  Add splash of white wine.

Step 4: Stir in butter until melted, salt and pepper to taste and serve over quinoa.

This is very filling without being heavy, so flavorful, and SO healthy.  And really, really delicious – despite what the mediocre image of the finished product looks like. 

I know – it’s not a great picture…but I’ve been having a rough couple of weeks (see paragraph 1).

Tilapia and Vegetable Pouches

Baking fish in individual parchment paper pouches – or said more fancily, fish en papillote – is certainly not a new concept.  It is, however, incredibly easy and a nice change up from the seared in oil or breaded and fried varieties.  Baking fish is a super healthy way to prepare it, but I am hardly ever succecsful at it without drying out my fish.  Not to mention, baked fish reminds me of the dish that’s on every cheap buffet that involves a mystery fish, leathery lemon slices, and an oily butter-colored sauce.  You know exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s gross looking.

Baking each filet in its own little pouch seals in the moisture for a flaky, not dry, finish.  The veggies and splash of white wine – which can be substituted for chicken stock or a drizzle of olive oil – combined with fresh lemon slices and juices from the fish, make for a light and creamy sauce that really pulls this pouch together.

I used tilapia here and before you fish snobs roll your eyes, I’ll stand in defense of tilapia.  I like it.  It lends itself well to other flavors and is a perfectly economical substitute for a more expensive fish when used in a dish like this where the fish doesn’t have to be the star.  If you can find it wild-caught, that’s best, and the tilapia in this recipe can be substituted with any other wild-caught white fish you can find on special at your grocery store. 

Tilapia and Vegetable Pouches (serves 2)

2 filets of wild-caught tilapia

1 zucchini

1 summer squash

1 lemon

Splash of white wine (can be subbed for chicken stock or a drizzle of olice oil)

Salt and pepper

Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

2 squares of parchment paper


Step 1:  Preheat your oven to 350.

Step 2:  Slice your lemon – you’ll need 4 thin slices for two servings.

Step 3: Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini and squash into ribbons, stopping when you hit the seeds.  Side note: zucchini and squash peeled this way can be a great substitute for pasta when served with a hearty meat sauce.

Step 4: In the middle of each square of parchment paper, start with the fish (salt and peppered), sprinkle on the parsley and add the veggie ribbons, topping with two slices of lemon.  Pull up the edges of the parchment paper square and drizzle the white wine over the top.

Step 5:  Pull the two edges running parallel to the length of the fish together and fold at the top, and fold over the edges of the remaining sides to form your pouch.

Step 6: Bake for 12 minutes at 350.  Cooking times may vary based on the thickness of your filets.  When done, the fish should be solid white – no longer opaque – and easily flaked with a fork.  Squeeze the lemon slices over everything, serve and enjoy!

This would be really great paired with oven roasted tomatoes and brown rice, but is perfect on its own for a light meal.  Not to mention, the limited ingredient list makes this incredibly affordable, and even more so when zucchini and squash are available again at local farmers’ markets.

I also love that there are so many different directions you could take this dish – make it with olives, spinach and tomatoes for some Greek flair, or add shredded carrots and stems of fresh thyme to the original recipe to venture into French territory.  You could even put the fish on top of steamed lentils with some diced sweet potato, fresh ginger, garlic, curry powder and lemon slices to make a U-turn toward the Middle East. 

Any way you fold it (lame cooking pun intended), this pouch is simple, easy, delicious and nutritious.




Asian Tofu and Veggies

I feel pretty badly about my attitude toward tofu this last couple of years.  It hasn’t been very nice.  Whenever I think about eating tofu, I feel like I need to wear Birkenstocks and not shave my legs for a week before I’m even allowed to buy it.  Turns out – neither of those are required to be able to cook it at home!  Who knew?  Whenever I’ve tried tofu at restaurants, I’ve really enjoyed it, so I finally decided to give it a go on my own.  In doing so, I learned that one – you don’t have to be a dirty hippie to enjoy it, and two – you DO have to be a tortoise for it to taste restaurant quality without deep frying it.  Pan-fried tofu is not conducive to a hare mentality…

I started with some toasted sesame oil, let it get nice and hot in the pan, then let my tofu sizzle in it, turning to brown on all sides until it was nice and toasty, and finished by de-glazing the pan with some Bragg’s Amino Acids.  Slow and steady wins the race…slow and steady, now stuff your face?

The toasted sesame oil can be substituted with vegetable oil, but I’ll recommend it as a kitchen staple.  It lends a subtle, but deep and nutty taste to dishes with other Asian flavors.  And if you keep it in the fridge, it will last for quite a while.  The Bragg’s can be substituted with soy sauce , but I would recommend it as another staple.  If I may take you back to high school chemistry, you’ll remember that amino acids are “the building blocks of protein.”  Bragg’s Amino Acids are loaded with protein, heart-healthy, and contain less sodium than regular soy sauce. In fact, it has just under 1/4th the amount of sodium as a low-sodium soy sauce…and zero calories.  Again – keep it in the fridge and it will last a while.   

I used some vegetables that I had left over from a stir fry earlier in the week, but leftover bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli and green beans would all be great in this dish.

Asian Tofu and Veggies (serves 2)

1 14oz package of tofu (I used extra firm for pan frying), chopped

1 tbls Bragg’s Amino Acids

1 tbls toasted sesame oil

2 cups fresh spinach

1/2 zucchini, chopped

1/2 summer squash, chopped

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

Step 1:  Heat your pan to medium-high and add half of the sesame oil.  Let it heat up – you can test to see if it’s ready by adding a drop of water.  If the water sizzles, you’re ready to fry!  Add the tofu and let brown, turning to brown on all sides.  This takes about 15 minutes (remember – tortoise) – but it’s worth it to get a nice crisp all around.

Step 2: Add half of the amino acids and toss the tofu around the pan.  Remove the tofu so it doesn’t get soggy when you cook your veggies.

Step 3:  Add the rest of the sesame oil, the vegetables, and the rest of the amino acids and let saute about 5 minutes.  I like my veggies to be just cooked through, but still with a bite.  Add the tofu back to the pan to heat up.

Step 4: Serve and enjoy!

This dish is flavorful and filling on it’s own, but can be served over brown rice for an extra punch of whole grains.  If you’re feeling especially ambitious, add in some fresh ginger and garlic to take the Asian theme to the next level.  Go ahead – the world is your oyster!  Or your recycled, empty tofu container if you happen to fit my above description of a dirty hippie…Bon Apetit!



Garbage Meal: Veggie Stir-fry

More than one person has pointed out to me that “garbage meal” does not sound like something you would want to eat.  I get that.  But I can’t figure out a better way to describe them, and “Last-Stop-Before-The-Garbage Meal” takes too long to say.  So you’re stuck with garbage meal.  And stuck is an appropriate word here, because judging by the number of you who have mentioned this, I think it’s safe to say that this term is stuck in your heads, meaning you are more likely to implement this philosophy into your weekly meal planning.  Ellery:1, “Garbage meal” haters: 0.

In order to help you embrace the garbage meal, I’ve decided to add recurring garbage meal posts, like my ‘save or splurge’ articles.  This first recipe ended up being a very happy surprise – Merritt and I cleaned out the refrigerator and realized that we had TONS of vegetables considering taking to their death beds.  We rescued them by transforming them into a delicious stir fry, and Merritt really deserves the win here because her suggestion to add a can of black beans resulted in a black blean sauce with an almost creamy consistently.  I feel like a proud mom…watching her child not put all of her food in the pan and then turn it on for the first time (we’re still working on that).

Vegetable Stir Fry (made 2 dinners and 1 lunch portion)

1/2 cup green beans

1/2 zucchini, chopped

1/2 summer squash, chopped

1 cup shittake mushrooms, stems removed and chopped

2 baby bok choy, sliced

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed

1 tblsp sesame oil (vegetable oil can be substituted)

1 – 2 tblsp Bragg’s Amino Acids (soy sauce can be substituted)

Step 1: Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high, or in an electric wok (I used a wok, but I honestly couldn’t tell you how I acquired it, so I don’t expect you to have one).  Add ginger and garlic, saute for a couple of seconds and add in all of the chopped vegetables.  Saute for 10 minutes.

Step 2: Drain and rinse the beans and add them to the pan with the amino acids (or soy sauce).  Cook mixture for a couple more minutes, sprinkle with some red pepper flakes if you like some heat, and serve.

That’s it.  Fast, easy, delicious, super healthy…and it all went into a garbage meal instead of a garbage can.

Garbage meals are meant to be guides for you – jumping off places to start creating your own garbage meals, because chances are, your left-behind ingredients won’t match mine exactly.  But once you get the hang of a recipe, you can start to train yourself to open the fridge and say, “I could make a stir fry!” instead of “Bloody hell, there’s no food in this house!” 

And just in case you were wondering, I did decide to make you British in that last part because who hasn’t dreamt of having a British accent at one point in time?  Young, Broke and Hungry…making all your dreams come true.