Two Keepers

The past two evenings we’ve enjoyed quick and comforting meals for dinner – beef stroganoff and chicken paprikash. They definitely weren’t the most exotic dishes I’ve ever created, but they were really simple, came together quickly, and required a minimum of ingredients. Budget-wise, they were fairly frugal, especially since the little meat I used in them went pretty far and I felt satisfied for hours after eating them. Each recipe made enough for three full servings – I would have had a lot more leftovers, too, if I had served some side dishes with them. Although I probably won’t be craving these dishes anytime soon, they were yummy. Yummy, quick, cheap and filling? I’d say they’re keepers!

Beef Stroganoff

1/4 kilo ground beef (17kn)
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped (.50 kn)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1 packet (3 servings) cream of mushroom soup (8 kn)
1 cup sour cream (3 kn)
1/2 bag of bowtie pasta (3.50 kn)
Salt to taste

Set a pot of water on to boil, salting the water with about a teaspoon of salt, and cook pasta.
Brown ground beef; remove meat from pan but retain juices. Saute onions in butter and meat juices until translucent; add garlic clove and saute for another minute. Return meat to the pan. Prepare cream of mushroom soup with boiling water and add to meat and onion mixture. Add Worchestershire sauce and salt to taste and simmer for several minutes. Temper sour cream with pan juices and then add sour cream to pan. Adjust seasonings to taste. If necessary, add a tablespoon of flour (mixed in a little water to prevent lumps) to mixture and simmer until thickened.
Total cost: 32 kn / $6.40 / $2.13 per serving

Chicken Paprikash with Gnocchi

1 b/s chicken breast (6 kn), cut into strips
1 onion, chopped (.50 kn)
1 large red pepper, cut into strips (2 kn)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
1/4+ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can (14 oz) tomatoes, broken up into chunks (4 kn)
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sour cream (.50 kn)
300-400 grams frozen or fresh gnocchi (5 kn)

Set a pot of water (with 1/2 teaspoon salt) on to boil.
Salt and cook chicken in oil on high-ish heat until starting to become golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside. In same pan on medium heat, saute the onion and pepper (with a little more oil) for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic cloves, paprika, and cayenne and saute for another minute. Return chicken to pan and stir to coat with paprika. Add tomatoes and salt and reduce heat to simmer until mixture becomes thickened but peppers are still on the crunchy, rather than mushy, side. Temper sour cream with pan juices and add to pan. Adjust seasonings to taste. Reduce heat to lowest setting while gnocchi cooks.
Cook gnocchi in boiling water just until all gnocchi float to the surface. Do not overcook gnocchi, as it will become mushy and fall apart if overcooked.
Serve paprikash over gnocchi.
Total: 18 kn / $3.60 / $1.20 per serving

BBQ-Ranch Chicken Wraps

YUM, YUM, YUM!!! I concocted the idea for these wraps while sitting on the beach yesterday, and couldn’t wait to try them once I had the idea in my head. And I wasn’t disappointed! They were delicious, although I couldn’t help but think while making the wraps and bbq sauce how much quicker they’d be to make if I lived in the States and could just buy the ingredients already prepared. But we were blessed to have received some Ranch dressing in a package from the States, so at least I didn’t worry about having to create my own dressing!

Adapted from Homesick Texan’s Flour Tortillas

1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp veg oil
3/4 cup warm milk

Stir together all dry ingredients. Add milk and oil and stir to combine. Knead until just mixed, adding water a teaspoon at a time as needed for a supple dough. Divide into six piece, roll each into a ball, and let rest for a few minutes. Heat up a griddle on medium-high heat, and roll each ball into as thin a wrap as possible. Cook on the griddle until just forming golden spots on each side. Keep covered until ready to use.

*I really dislike these “tortillas” in Mexican food – they taste more like a pancake than a tortilla to me. However, because they’re a little thicker and chewier than tortillas, I think they work great as wraps. They take a little effort to roll out – try to get them as thin as possible, because they will puff up a bit when being cooked.

Barbeque Sauce
from Serious Eats’ Basic Barbeque Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/8 cup cider vinegar
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoons molasses
1/2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1/4 – 1/2 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a pan and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

*A half of a tablespoon of Tabasco makes for a pretty spicy sauce. Yum!

BBQ-Ranch Chicken Wraps

1 b/s chicken breast
4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Tomato, sliced into half moons
Whole lettuce leaves
Few tablespoons of chopped onion
Ranch Dressing
BBQ Sauce

Coat chicken breast with bbq sauce, sprinkle with salt, and bake in 200C oven until done. Slice into 1/8 inch thick slices and let cool.

Spread bbq sauce on wrap. Lay down large leaf of lettuce and top with chicken, bacon, tomato, onion, and ranch dressing. Add more bbq sauce as needed, roll into wrap, and slice in half. Enjoy!

The last time I lived in Croatia, stir-fry was one of the only meals I knew how to make. Needless to say, I ended up eating a lot of stir-fry. A lot. Like, way, way too much. Especially considering I hated the way I made it, and that I’m not a big fan of white rice. So once I returned to the States and decided to learn how to cook more than just stir-fry and plain chicken breasts, this dish fell out of my cooking repertoire, and since then I’ve never looked back.

Until now.

Last night we were getting hungry and it was getting late, and although these aren’t usually the best circumstances in which to try a new recipe, I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather have than something with a peanut sauce. Weird, considering the fact that I’ve never actually eaten anything with peanut sauce. Thankfully, we had to go to the store anyways, so I was able to pick up all of the ingredients for the meal that I ended up creating. At least, I thought I had all of the ingredients.

Upon returning from the store, I threw on a pot of water to boil, chopped the chicken into small cubes and sauteed in olive oil, and set about to cut up the veggies. While those were sauteeing, I began to tackle my peanut sauce…until I looked in the fridge and realized that I had about a tablespoon of peanut butter. Peanut butter is a precious commodity in Croatia – I found out a few weeks ago that the health food store next door to my house carries a relatively yummy peanut butter for a reasonable price, but apparently I was so excited by this discovery that I ate nearly the whole jar. Oops. Thankfully, however, David had bought a huge bag of peanuts for a snack, so we quickly set to work shelling about a quarter of a cup of the peanuts. While the sauce wasn’t as creamy as it would have been with peanut butter, it still tasted delicious. The whole meal was finished in less than a half an hour, was inexpensive and filling, and most importantly, was delicious! My faith in stir-fries has been renewed, with the realization that they don’t have to contain rice (the whole wheat spaghetti was delicious and didn’t require nearly as much sauce as rice), the predominant flavor doesn’t have to be soy sauce, and the veggies don’t have to be overcooked and soggy.

Peanut Sauce
adapted from Cooking With Amy

1/4 cup natural (unsweetened) peanut butter, or shelled peanuts
2 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
dash of ground ginger
1/4 cup water

Puree ingredients through water in mini food processor, gradually adding water until mixture is smooth. Add remaining water, place in a saucepan on medium heat, and cook, stirring often, until sauce is bubbling, adding up to 1/4 cup water as needed.

1 chicken breast, cubed
1 carrot, shaved into ribbons
1 zucchini, cut in to 1/2 inch thick half-moons
1/2 onion, cut into small strips
1 red pepper, cut into 1/4 inch wide strips
Whole wheat spaghetti
Spicy Peanut Sauce

Cook spaghetti. On medium-high heat, cook chicken in a little olive oil until they begin to brown. Remove to a plate and saute the veggies until just softened but still al dente. Add the chicken and spaghetti to the pan, add the peanut sauce, and stir to combine all ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve!

Depression Week Menu

In order to curb eating costs and to see how inexpensively one can eat, while still enjoying healthy, delicious, filling, and varied food, a fellow missionary and I decided to have a “Depression Week,” inspired by the fact that according to a quiz on Facebook, he should have lived during the Depression, due to his frugality and overcoming attitude :-). We had planned to carefully plan out meals and shop ahead, but this didn’t really happen as much as we had hoped. However, our experiment was very successful, and I think the flexibility was good, as we ended up having lots more leftovers than I had anticipated and therefore prepared fewer meals than I had planned.

The outcome of the week was surprising and encouraging. Altogether, I think we spent about 192 kunas on food for the week, which comes out to about $19 each. Not bad! We thoroughly enjoyed every meal, and weren’t hungry at all, despite the fact that we had meat in only two of the dishes. We decided later that the quiche could have used an accompaniment such as muffins or a salad, so next time I’ll probably round out that meal a little more. The oatmeal, which I’ve been eating almost every morning for the past year, was the roughest part of the week. I’m pretty sick of it by now, and warm cereal on warm mornings isn’t really all that appealing to me in the first place. David decided he’d rather just break down and eat real cereal this week, but I’m still eating oatmeal. Not sure what I’ll decide to do about that…

Here’s a breakdown of our menu and our prices for each meal (most of them don’t include every pantry item, but I think for the most part it’s pretty accurate) for two people. Also, a few of the ingredients were free from the village (some of the salad fixings, plums, etc.), but they would have been inexpensive to buy regardless because they’re in season right now. (I calculated them on kunas, of course. Right now the exchange rate is, unfortunately, about 4.9kn = 1 USD.

Breakfast: Oatmeal, 1 kn/day total

Monday: Lunch – leftover enchiladas from Sunday
Dinner – Spinach / Gouda Quiche (increased original recipe by 50% because my only
round pan is too large for just one recipe).
Snack – plum upside-down cake
Tuesday: Lunch – leftover quiche, watermelon
Snack – yogurt
Dinner – pizza with ham, onions, and peppers; salad
Wednesday: Lunch – baked potato with cheese, caramelized onion, sour cream
Snack – peaches
Dinner – Coconut Chicken Curry with rice
Thursday: Lunch – leftover quiche and baked potato
Dinner – ate at Warholics
Friday: Lunch – team lunch at the cafe (10kn each)
Dinner – leftover curry, pizza
Saturday: Breakfast – eggs, muffins
Lunch – pb&j, chips, peaches
Dinner – roast chicken, mashed potatoes, salad

Recipes *might* follow soon, if I get my act together… 🙂

What are your favorite budget meals that are filling and healthy?

Very quick. Very cheap.  Very yummy.

Adapted from 101cookbooks.com

1-2 chicken breasts, cut into tiny cubes
1 apple, cut into small chunks
4 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped, or 3 green onions
1 cup couscous
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
dash of cayenne pepper
dash of cinnamon

In pan, melt 3 tbsp butter. Add curry powder and stir for a minute until mixture gets fragrant. Add the apples and stir to coat, cooking for about a minute. Add the chicken chunks, a couple of pinches of salt, and stir to mix well with the apples. Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Sprinkle with cayenne and cinnamon to taste, and remove to a plate, cover, and keep warm. In the same pan, add the remaining tbsp butter and the onions, and cook until soft. Add 1 3/4 cups water and salt, bring to a boil, and add the couscous. Cover and remove from heat. After about 5 minutes, fluff with a fork and then scoop into a bowl, topping with the apple and chicken mixture. Season to taste with cinnamon and cayenne.

Optional: top with toasted walnuts, mint leaves, or fresh cilantro.

Red Lentil Soup

The last lentil soup I made tasted like….well, like lentils. Not my favorite flavor. But the lentil’s cheapness and healthiness was alluring, so I decided to give them another try. But this time, it would be the pretty little red lentils that would be utilized, and that would win me over.

This soup is delicious. I threw it together in about 10 minutes, and then let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes while I was getting ready for the day. I reheated it for lunch, and it was fabulous. Altogether, it probably cost about $1.50, and I’ll eat it again for lunches the rest of the week. I can’t wait to make it again, perhaps next time with curry instead of or in addition to the cumin.

Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from Epicurious.com

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 carrots, chopped (1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh or canned tomato
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried red lentils
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
few good sprinkles of ground cinnamon
juice of one lemon wedge

Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, carrots, tomato, cumin, cayenne, and salt and sauté, stirring, 2 minutes. Add lentils, broth, and cinnamon, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
Squeeze in lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper.

Recipe Dump

I’m so behind on posting…partly I don’t even care, but I’m going to make myself dump several recipes on here before I forget what I made, how I made the recipes, and where I got the original recipes from. So here goes…
These yummmmmy muffins were just sweet enough to satisfy a sweet tooth, but also hefty enough to serve as breakfast or an afternoon snack. I’d like to try them with honey instead of white sugar next time. And some chopped walnuts also sound good. I forgot to include the cinnamon, but I’m sure it just makes them even yummier. They keep really well – I ate one today (Tuesday) that I made on Saturday, and it’s still delicious.

Whole Wheat, Oatmeal, and Dried Fruit Muffins
Adapted from Cooking Light via My Recipes
12 servings (serving size: 1 muffin)
1 cup whole wheat flour (about 4 3/4 ounces)
4 tablespoons white flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup boiling water

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in oats, dates, apricots, and cranberries. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in boiling water. Let batter stand 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°.
Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 17 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; place on a wire rack.

Granola Bars
YUM, YUM, YUM! These were really quick to put together, and turned out simply divine. I carried them around with me all day in Budapest, and snuck covert bites of them (which had crumbled into bite-sized pieces as a result of being jostled around in my purse for a few days) as we trekked all around the city. Since I can’t buy granola bars here, this recipe will become a go-to for me in the months to come. I can’t wait to try different variations of it: with dried apricot and flaked coconut; with peanuts; with sesame seeds; with tiny pieces of crystallized ginger. The first batch were a little on the sweet side for my taste (I used 1/2 cup of honey and 1 cup dried cranberries, which are sweetened) so the second time I used dried apricots instead and subbed out 1/4 of a cup of honey with molasses. Perfect!
Golden Granola Bars
2 c. rolled oats
1 c. chopped almonds, walnuts, or a mixture of the two
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c. pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
1 cup dried apricots, chopped


Preheat oven to 350-ish F, and line a 9×9 cake pan with a sheet of parchment paper. On a cookie sheet, spread out the oats and nuts and toast for about 7 minutes or until starting to smell fragrant and become golden (stir once or twice to ensure even toasting). In a saucepan heat up remaining ingredients (sans pepitas and apricot) and melt, cooking until all of the sugar is dissolved and the mixture bubbles for a minute or two. Dump the toasted ingredients into a big bowl, add the liquid mixture and the pepitas and cranberries, and stir to coat evenly. Press into the pan and press firmly all around the pan. Now bake for about 10 minutes, or until the bars begin to become a deep golden color. Remove from the oven, cool completely, and cut into 8 bars. Store in an airtight container.

So I guess the “several” recipes turned into…two. Sigh. Oh well…up next time: the fish Rachel and I finally got around to making (heavenly!), spicy greens and bulgur, white chili, and tortilla soup. There, now maybe at least I won’t forget what I’ve cooked…Stay tuned!