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Greek yogurt gets all the glory for being a versatile concentrated source of protein that can be used in either sweet or savory dishes, but it comes at a price. We’ve all been so enamored by Greek yogurt that we’re overlooking its humble cousin, cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is far less expensive than Greek yogurt, has just as much protein, and can also be used in both savory and sweet dishes. It’s a powerhouse ingredient! My rediscovery of cottage cheese combined with a killer sale on pineapple led to this tropical Pineapple Protein Smoothie. It may seem a little strange, but stick with me, I promise it’s good!

I recently rediscovered my love for cottage cheese, thanks to Sarah Bond’s new book, For the Love of Popsicles (you can also catch Sarah’s amazing work over at her blog Live Eat Learn). In her book she has a protein popsicle that utilizes cottage cheese, which totally blew my mind.

The popsicle tasted like blueberry cheesecake and I immediately knew that I needed to make them in several more flavors. But since the popsicles were a little difficult for me to eat with braces on my teeth, I decided to just make smoothies instead. And since pineapples were on sale for $1.49 each this week, pineapple smoothies it is! (I have also made a strawberry flavor, which was awesome.) 

Check out my tutorial on how to cut and freeze fresh pineapple, so you can take advantage of those sales, too.

Why Cottage Cheese?

Like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese is super high in protein (about 12 grams per half cup). Unlike Greek yogurt, cottage cheese is not very trendy, so the demand and price are much lower. Like half the price: $2.99 for Greek yogurt vs. $1.59 for cottage cheese at my local Aldi. So if you love to use Greek yogurt as a source of protein, but are finding it hard to make it work with your budget, give cottage cheese a try! While they can’t always be swapped in the same recipes, they’re both very versatile ingredients.

Cottage cheese does have a bit more salt than Greek yogurt, so if you’re watching your salt you should be aware of that. But it does go just as well with fruit and sweet recipes as it does in savory dishes. In this smoothie the cottage cheese gets blended up until smooth, so there is no noticeable curd or texture. It just taste creamy and tangy, just like Greek yogurt!

Of course if you’re still a bit freaked out by this or already have Greek yogurt in your fridge, you can totally substitute it for the cottage cheese. ;)

What Kind of Cottage Cheese is Best?

Cottage cheese comes with different fat content levels, like milk and yogurt. The higher fat content cottage cheese always tastes better, but I used a 1% fat cottage cheese for my smoothie and it was delish! Mine was also small curd, although I don’t think that matters much for this recipe since it’s getting blended until the curd is undetectable.

What Kind of Blender Should I Use?

I broke down and bought a fancy blender a couple of years ago (thanks Instagram influences 😅), but I still use my super cheap Hamilton Beach single serving blender for most things, including this smoothie. My point is, you don’t need a powerful blender to make this smoothie. Any old $15 blender will work.

 

Pineapple Protein Smoothie

Cottage cheese is a surprisingly delicious and inexpensive source of protein in this sweet, tangy, and tropical Pineapple Protein Smoothie.

  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese ($0.27)
  • 1/2 frozen banana ($0.10)
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks ($0.19)
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar (optional)* ($0.01)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract ($0.07)
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed (optional) ($0.03)
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk) ($0.31)
  1. Place all of the ingredients into a blender, then blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

*You can substitute with the sweetener of your choice, or leave out all together. I find that if your pineapple is a bit on the tart side, a little extra sugar is helpful.

I like to add flax to my smoothies because a little extra fiber never hurts, especially with higher protein foods. Plus, flax gives it an almost graham-like flavor and texture, which reminds me of pie crust. :)

Step by Step Photos

The protein base for this smoothie is cottage cheese! Creamy, tangy, and full of protein. I used a 1% fat cottage cheese, but you can go higher if you prefer. Add 1/2 cup cottage cheese to your blender first.

On top of the cottage cheese add 1/2 of a frozen banana, 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks, 1/2 tsp brown sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, and 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed. Lastly, pour 1 cup of the milk of your choice over top. I used unsweetened almond milk because it’s neutral in flavor and not too heavy.

Then simply blend until smooth. You may need to stop and stir with a spoon on occasion to loosen any frozen chunks, but it shouldn’t take any more than a minute or two to blend. 

Serve your Pineapple Protein Smoothie immediately while it’s still icy cold!

The post Pineapple Protein Smoothie appeared first on Budget Bytes.

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There’s nothing quite like fresh pineapple. It’s tangy, sweet, and goes equally as well with savory dishes as it does desserts. And while canned pineapple can work in a pinch for some recipes, fresh pineapple has a far superior flavor and texture. I’ve gotten into the habit of buying up as many pineapple as possible when they’re in season and on sale, and freezing them for later. So, I wanted to teach you how to cut and freeze pineapple, too, so you can take advantage of this amazing fruit, without breaking your budget.

What is a Good Price for Pineapple?

Pineapple has been on sale at Aldi for the past couple of weeks for only $1.49 each, so I’m am taking FULL advantage of it! How do you know if you’re getting a good deal on pineapple? Well, prices do vary from region to region and it will likely always be more expensive in norther regions because it has further to travel, but I consider anything below $2/pineapple to be an exceptional deal.

And make sure you’re always paying attention to whether the pricing is per pound or per item. Pineapples are often 3-4 pounds each, so $1.49/lb. would be quite pricey!

When is Pineapple in Season?

There are several varieties of pineapple grown around the world and they all have different growing seasons, making pineapple available pretty much year round. The most common variety sold in the United States is called the “cayenne” and is in season from late spring through mid-summer, and that’s when I tend to find the best deals. 

How Do I Know When Pineapple is Ripe?

Look for pineapples that smell sweet, but not fermented. They should give a little when squeezed, but not be squishy soft. Cayenne pineapples, the most common variety sold in the U.S., start out green and begin to turn golden yellow from the bottom up as they ripen. Like bananas, people prefer different levels of ripeness. I like mine a little on the tart side, when they’re mostly still green with just the bottom 1/4 to 1/2 turning yellow. The spiky leaves of the pineapple should always be green and firm. If they are brown and dried out, the pineapple is probably past its prime.

How to Use Fresh Pineapple

I could go on for days about all the yummy ways to use fresh pineapple! Obviously, it’s great on its own as a snack, but here are a few of my other favorite ways to use pineapple:

How to Cut a Pineapple:

There are several methods for cutting pineapple, but I’ve included step by step instructions for my preferred method. This method can be used to make pineapple chunks or spears, is fast, and easy. I can cut a whole pineapple with this method in about 5 minutes.

Note: Pineapple juice is quite slippery, so please be very mindful of your finger placement at all times while cutting your pineapple.

STEP 1: Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple. This not only removes the stem end and leaves, but it gives you a stable, flat base to keep the pineapple stable as you make the rest of the cuts.

STEP 2: Stand the pineapple on its widest end, and slice off the spiny skin from top down, following the curvature of the pineapple. You’ll need to slice off 1/4 to 1/2-inch deep to get rid of the spines. And don’t worry, if some spines still remain, you can trim them by hand. Avoid cutting too deeply or else you’ll lose too much of the precious pineapple!

STEP 3: Once the skin has been removed, keep the pineapple standing on end and cut it into quarters lengthwise. Take note of the visible core in the center. You’ll be slicing that off each piece in the next step, so make note of how deep the core extends.

STEP 4: The core of the pineapple is very tough and fibrous, so you’ll want to slice that off of each piece. Either keep the pineapple quarter standing on end and slice downward to remove the center point, or lay the pineapple quarter on its side for more stability, and cut the center point off that way. You’ll only need to remove the last 1/2-inch or so.

STEP 5: You now how have four peeled and cored pineapple quarters. You can either slice them lengthwise into spears, or cut them into chunks. To cut them into chunks, slice the pieces lengthwise into 3-4 strips, then cut crosswise into chunks. Use the pineapple chunks fresh, or freeze for later.

How to Freeze Pineapple:

When I cut a fresh pineapple, I often keep half in the fridge for snacking and freeze the other half for later. Here is my super simple method for freezing fresh pineapple.

Line a baking sheet with parchment to keep the pineapple from sticking, then spread the fresh pineapple chunks out over the parchment, making sure they’re not touching one another. Freezing the pineapple spread out on the baking sheet first helps each piece freeze individually, instead of the pineapple freezing into one big ice chunk that you can not use. 

Once the pineapple is frozen solid, transfer them to a large air-tight storage container. Make sure to label and date your frozen pineapple so you don’t forget what it is and when it was frozen! I like to use zip-top freezer bags, but you can freeze in any freezer-safe container. Reusable silicone food storage bags are a great low-waste option.

How Much Does One Pineapple Yield

Pineapples will obviously vary in size, but from my one medium pineapple I got probably about 4-5 cups of pineapple chunks. This is about equal to two store-bought bags of frozen pineapple. All for $1.49! Totally worth the 5 minutes of chopping.

How Long Can You Keep Frozen Pineapple?

I usually try to use up my frozen goods within three months for the best quality, but pineapple in particular holds up extremely well. I just used some pineapple today that I froze ELEVEN MONTHS ago and it was still awesome. It had developed a few ice crystals, but the flavor and texture were still great! If the pineapple begins to look white, dry, or shriveled, that’s when it’s been frozen too long.

The post How to Cut and Freeze Pineapple appeared first on Budget Bytes.

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Budget Bytes by Beth M - 6d ago

You know how some people carry around a gallon jug of water with them all day to remind themselves to drink water and so they can always see how close they are to hitting their one gallon per day goal? Well, I’ve been doing that with vegetables. I pack up these easy and convenient Veggie Snack Packs at the beginning of the week and challenge myself to eat one per day. They’re always there, ready to go, and staring at me every single time I open the fridge. 👀

This idea is nothing new, but since I’m guessing most of you don’t live with your parents anymore and don’t have your mom nagging you to eat your veggies every day, consider this post as me doing it for her. EAT YOUR VEGETABLES! ;)

And no, I usually don’t just sit down and eat the entire bowl in one sitting. I eat a little before each meal to offset my appetite, and a little more any other time I’m feelin’ snacky! 

DIY Vegetable Trays

I’m always tempted to buy those pre-made vegetable trays at the grocery so I can have some healthy snacks on hand. But I never actually pull the trigger because when I flip them over to look a the price it makes me just about faint right there in the produce aisle. Even the smallest trays are like, eight bucks. Excuse me? No ma’am. 

So the other reason I wanted to post about these veggie snack packs is to highlight just how much you’re being upcharged for someone to simply put vegetables in a container for you. These four large veggie snack packs (I have ambitious vegetable goals) are probably close in total size to one of the party-sized vegetable trays at the store, and they only cost me about $6 and maybe 10 minutes of my time, including making my own dressing.

Options for Veggie Snack Packs

In my veggie snack packs this week I included fresh broccoli, grape tomatoes, baby carrots, and my Homemade Ranch Dressing. I switch up my vegetables and dressings each week to make sure I get variety in nutrients and don’t burn out. Here are some other ideas for your veggie snack packs:

What Containers are Best for Veggie Snack Packs?

Don’t let containers be a barrier between you and your veggie snack packs. Use whatever you have as long as it gets you to actually try pre-packing your vegetable snacks. You don’t have to have the “perfect” or special containers, just use anything that works. I will say that having the dressing pre-portioned into little cups just makes it that much easier and removes one more barrier between me and eating my vegetables, so I encourage you to portion out your dip or dressing as well.

The containers I use are my 4-cup Pyrex bowls (affiliate link), and these little 2.5 oz. metal dipping cups (affiliate link), which fit nicely in the bowls and have their own little lids. And just as a reminder, you can always find the meal prep containers, kitchen equipment, appliances, and gadgets that I use in my Amazon shop.

 

Veggie Snack Packs

Make healthy snacking fast, easy, and hard to ignore with pre-packed veggie snack packs! Change up the vegetables and dressing each week for variety.

  • 1 lb. baby carrots ($1.49)
  • 2 crowns fresh broccoli, cut into florets ($1.69)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes ($1.69)
  • 1 cup homemade ranch dressing ($1.02)
  1. Place the dressing cups in the center of your meal prep containers and fill each with about 1/4 cup dressing.

  2. Divide the vegetables between the four containers, packing them in around the dressing cups.

  3. Refrigerate the veggie snack packs up to 5 days.

So tell me, do you pre-pack your vegetable snacks? What is your favorite combo? Have you found any other tricks that make it easier for you to get your vegetables in every day? Share your tips and techniques with the rest of us in the comments below!

The post Veggie Snack Packs appeared first on Budget Bytes.

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I’ve never really been a ranch dressing person. And definitely not one of those “ranch dressing on everything” people. But then, last January while I was doing my Vegetarian Challenge, I got hooked. I was eating vegetable snack plates just about every day and the Ken’s Steakhouse buttermilk ranch dressing that I dipped my veggies in was my savior. After that I wanted to dip everything in ranch. I got addicted.

…Until I took a peek at the nutrition label, that is. One glance at the label and I just about choked on my carrot stick. How on earth were they packing so many calories and fat into two tiny little tablespoons?? No wonder it was so freaking good.

This stuff was so calorie dense that it was clear that I would either need to cut back or find another option. So I found another option. I made this Homemade Ranch Dressing that I like every bit as much (or dare I say more?) than my cherished Ken’s, and it has much more reasonable nutrition stats.

While crafting this recipe I kept a spoonful of the Ken’s Steakhouse ranch dressing right next to my mixing bowl so I could taste back and forth between the two, in attempt to make them as close as possible. After a while the Ken’s started to taste too salty and almost cloyingly sweet, and I no longer wanted my dressing to match. My final version of homemade ranch dressing is lighter, fresher, less salty/sweet, and definitely my preferred ranch going forward.

Full Fat, Low Fat, or No Fat?

You have a lot of flexibility with this recipe to make it as rich or as light as you like. You can use regular or light mayo, and with the yogurt you can choose either non-fat, 1%, 2%, or whole milk versions. It probably goes without saying, but the higher fat option the better the dressing will taste. That being said, I made my dressing with some of the lowest fat options (light mayo, non-fat yogurt) and it was still AH-MA-ZING. So I know it’s good, even at it’s “worst.”

Fresh or Dried Herbs?

I used fresh parsley and green onion in my dressing because I almost always have those in my refrigerator and I like to use them up, but they also give spectacular flavor and texture. If you prefer not to use fresh herbs, you can substitute 1/4 tsp dried parsley and 1/4 tsp dried chives for the green onion.

Ranch Dressing or Ranch Dip?

This recipe works great as either a salad dressing or a vegetable and chip dip. Make it without milk for a nice thick and rich ranch dip, or add a little milk to thin it out and make a more pourable ranch dressing. 

Small Batch

This is a small batch recipe. It makes approximately 1/2 cup ranch dressing. I purposely made this recipe small, since you don’t want to store it for longer than about 5 days. If you need to make a larger batch, simply adjust the number in the “servings” box below and all of the ingredient quantities will auto-adjust.

Can I Leave Out the Sugar?

Look, I’m not going to make you add the sugar to this recipe, but I will say that it does make the dressing better. The sugar mellows the acidity from the yogurt and lemon just enough to make the dressing really smooth, and it gives a hint of sweetness that is decidedly ranch-like. It is better with the sugar, but if you are opposed to any added sugars you can leave it out and still have a tasty dressing.

 

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Homemade ranch dressing is creamy, tangy, and fully of savory herbs and spices. Drizzle on your favorite salad, or use as a dip for vegetables and chips!

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise ($0.13)
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt* ($0.11)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice ($0.04)
  • 3/16 tsp garlic powder** ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder ($0.01)
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley, loosely packed ($0.05)
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped ($0.011)
  • freshly cracked pepper ($0.01)
  • 1/8 tsp sugar (optional) ($0.01)
  • 1 Tbsp milk (optional)*** ($0.02)
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

  2. Use the dressing immediately, or for the best flavor refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

  3. Store the ranch dressing in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

*You can use Greek style yogurt if needed, just use more milk to thin out the dressing.

**3/16 is a weird measurement, I know. Just use a 1/8 tsp measuring spoon and fill it 1.5 times.

***Make this recipe without milk for a thicker dip, or add the milk to thin it out to a pourable dressing.

Other Ranch Dressing Variations

Like a lot of my recipes, this homemade ranch dressing recipe can be used as a template for a number of variations. Here are some fun variations to try:

  • Cilantro Lime: sub lime juice for the lemon juice, add chopped cilantro and lime zest
  • Chipotle Ranch: add chipotle powder
  • Avocado Ranch: mash one avocado into the dressing, can also add cilantro and lime.
  • Blue Cheese: add crumbled blue cheese

Love homemade dressings? Try my Honey Mustard Sauce, Lime Crema, Teriyaki Sauce, or Chimichurri.

Yes please!

Step by Step Photos

Combine 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tsp lemon juice, 3/16 tsp garlic powder (that’s just a little more than 1/8 tsp), 1/8 tsp onion powder, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp sugar, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 10 cranks of a pepper mill). 

Finely chop about 1 Tbsp fresh parsley and one green onion. Stir them into the dressing.

You can use the dressing as-is, but the flavor gets better with at least 30 minutes of refrigeration. In this form it is a really thick ranch dip, but if you prefer a pourable dressing, stir in about 1 Tbsp milk.

Dip away, my friend! Get those veggies in!

The post Homemade Ranch Dressing appeared first on Budget Bytes.

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This Spicy Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage and Kale is a variation on one of my favorite fast weeknight dinners, pasta + parmesan + vegetable. If you’re a Budget Bytes veteran you probably have this formula memorized, but for all my new friends, this one will change your dinner game! I’ll list some variations and link to some of my favorites in the past, so you can see how this easy formula will help you make weeknight dinner effortless.

What Kind of Sausage is Best?

For this recipe I used an Italian style chicken sausage from Aldi, but this recipe is so flexible that you can use just about any flavor chicken sausage, regular pork Italian sausage, or even a vegetarian sausage (Aldi makes a great vegetarian sausage, too). If you want your dish extra spicy, choose a sausage that contains red pepper.

Can I Make This Non-Spicy Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage and Kale?

Yes, absolutely. I love the extra spicy kick, but this recipe is definitely delicious enough to hold its own without any heat. To make this recipe not spicy, make sure your sausage does not contain red pepper, skip the red pepper flakes below, and reduce the amount of freshly cracked black pepper.

Can I Use a Different Pasta Shape?

Definitely. Orecchiette can sometimes be hard to find and is definitely a bit more expensive than some other pasta shapes, so feel free to swap it out with whatever you have available. My second choice would be either thin spaghetti, whole wheat spaghetti (that nutty flavor goes great with Parmesan), or even wide egg noodles. Penne is also an easy and convenient choice.

What Can I Use in Place of Kale?

Fresh spinach is great, as is other green vegetables like broccoli florets or asparagus. I’m not against throwing a few grape tomatoes in there as well!

 

Spicy Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage and Kale

Spicy Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage and Kale is a fast, easy, and filling weeknight dinner that will always satisfy. Plus, leftovers reheat beautifully!

  • 8 oz. orecchiette ($1.33)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.32)
  • 12 oz. chicken sausage ($2.99)
  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.27)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
  • 8 oz. chopped kale* ($2.14)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.44)
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper ($0.02)
  • 1 pinch salt ($0.02)
  • freshly cracked pepper to taste ($0.05)
  1. Cook the orecchiette according to the package directions. Before draining the orecchiette in a colander, reserve about 1/3 cup of the starchy pasta water.

  2. While the orecchiette is cooking, begin preparing the rest of the recipe. Slice the chicken sausage into medallions.

  3. Add the olive oil and chicken sausage to a large pot and sauté over medium until the chicken sausage begins to brown (about 5 minutes).

  4. Add the minced garlic and butter to the pot with the sausage and continue to sauté for one more minute.

  5. Next, add the chopped kale and reserved pasta water. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to cook and stir until the kale has wilted (about 2-3 minutes). Use your spoon to dissolve any browned bits off the bottom of the pot as you stir.

  6. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cooked and drained orecchiette. If the pasta and kale are still steaming heavily, let the contents of the pot cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release steam. You want the Parmesan to coat the pasta, but not melt.

  7. Once the pasta and kale is hot, but not steaming, add the grated Parmesan, crushed red pepper, salt, and about 15-20 cranks of a pepper mill. Stir to combine, then taste and add more salt if needed. Serve warm.

*I use pre-chopped bagged kale because it is extremely convenient and usually still very inexpensive. The brand I used for this recipe was organic and still very affordable.

Make This Recipe Vegetarian

This Spicy Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage and Kale is actually pretty easy to make vegetarian! As mentioned above, Aldi makes a great vegetarian sausage that is very similar to chicken sausage. I also make this recipe quite often without any sausage at all, and still love it. For the Parmesan you can either use some nutritional yeast flakes straight, or whip up a batch of vegan parmesan. Here are a couple recipes for vegan parm from a couple of bloggers that I trust: How to Make Vegan Parmesan Cheese—Minimalist Baker, Easy Vegan Parmesan Cheese Recipe—Cookie+Kate.

Want More Recipes with this Quick Dinner Formula? Check out Bacon and Spinach Pasta with Parmesan, Bowties and Broccoli, One Pot Sausage and Sun Dried Tomato Pasta, or Simple Portobella Pasta.

Step by Step Photos

First, cook 8 oz. orecchiette according to the package directions. Before draining the pasta, reserve about 1/3 cup of the starchy pasta water.

Slice 12 oz. chicken sausage into medallions. Add the chicken sausage to a large pot along with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sauté the sausage over medium until it begins to brown (about 5 min), then add 2 minced cloves of garlic and 2 Tbsp butter. Continue to sauté for one minute more.

Add 8 oz, chopped kale to the pot along with the reserved pasta water. 

Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to stir and cook until the kale has wilted. Use your spoon to dissolve any browned bits off the bottom of the pot as you stir. 

Remove the pot from the heat and stir the cooked and drained orecchiette into the kale and sausage. If the pasta and kale are still steaming hot, let it cool for about five minutes because you don’t want the Parmesan to melt when added, you just want it to stick to the pasta. Once it has cooled a bit, add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, a pinch of salt, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 15-20 cranks of a pepper mill). 

Stir until everything is combined and coated in Parmesan, then taste and add another pinch of salt if needed. 

Serve warm and enjoy!!

The post Spicy Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage and Kale appeared first on Budget Bytes.

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If you want to take your Taco Tuesday to the next level, try baking your tacos! Yes, I said baking them. These Baked Beef and Black Bean Tacos are one of my favorite fast and easy weeknight meals. Their crunchy, toasty shells, melted cheese, and liberally seasoned beef and black bean filling always have me coming back for more. …And more. 😅

Originally posted 6-6-2016, updated 5-11-2019

Why Should I Bake my Tacos?

Baking your tacos toasts the corn shells, makes sure the filling is nice and hot, and the cheese perfectly melted. Toasting hard taco shells is an often overlooked step in the taco making process, but makes a huge difference in the flavor of the taco shell. 

I have to admit, I was well into my 20’s before I realized that you’re supposed to bake hard taco shells for a few minutes to toast the corn before filling and eating them. I guess I just never bothered to read the package before then, but I’m glad I finally did. So don’t feel bad if you’ve never done this before! 

But baking the whole taco really takes these beef and black bean tacos to the next level. 

Do the Baked Beef and Black Bean Tacos Stay Crunchy?

Yes, the taco shells stay crunchy! That is, if you use a lean ground beef, or make sure to drain the fat well when using a higher fat content beef. If the beef and bean mixture has too much oil, the oil will saturate the shells and make them soften. Also make sure to drain the beans well.

Can I Use Store Bought Taco Seasoning?

Yes. I used my own homemade taco seasoning for these baked beef and black bean tacos, but if you don’t have a well stocked spice cabinet you can just pick up one packet of store bought taco seasoning.

Can I Make These Baked Tacos Vegetarian?

Sure! try using an extra can of black beans in place of the ground beef, or try the filling from my Lentil Tacos or Quinoa and Black Bean Tacos!

 

Baked Beef and Black Bean Tacos

Baked Beef and Black Bean Tacos are a fast and easy way to take Taco Tuesday to the next level and is the perfect fast and easy weeknight meal.

TACO SEASONING
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder ($0.30)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika ($0.10)
  • 1 tsp cumin ($0.10)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne ($0.03)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • Freshly cracked pepper ($0.03)
TACOS
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.04)
  • 1 yellow onion ($0.37)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef (93% lean or higher)* ($3.90)
  • 15 oz can black beans ($0.79)
  • 1 box 10 hard taco shells ($1.00)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar (4oz.) ($1.20)
OPTIONAL TOPPINGS
  • 1 tomato ($0.49)
  • 1 jalapeño ($0.06)
  • Handful fresh cilantro ($0.13)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream ($0.11)
  1. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the taco seasoning, then set the seasoning aside (or use one envelope of store-bought taco seasoning). Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

  2. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add the onion, garlic, and cooking oil to a large skillet. Sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the ground beef and prepared taco seasoning and continue to sauté until the beef is cooked through (another 5 minutes).

  3. Arrange the taco shells in a casserole dish so they are all standing upright. If you do not have a dish that fits them snuggly enough to hold them up, use balled up aluminum foil to act as "book ends" to help hold the line of tacos upright.

  4. Drain the can of black beans well, but do not rinse them. A little sauciness helps keep the beef mixture moist.Stir the beans into the seasoned beef and allow them to heat through.

  5. Fill the tacos with the beef and bean mixture. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over top. Bake the tacos in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the taco shells are golden brown on the edges.
  6. While the tacos are baking, dice the tomato, slice the jalapeño, and roughly chop the cilantro leaves. Sprinkle the diced tomato, jalapeño, and cilantro over the tacos, and add a dollop of sour cream just before serving.

*If using a higher fat beef, brown the beef without the taco seasoning first, then drain the excess fat. After draining, add the taco seasoning and sauté for about one minute more before moving onto the next step.

“I’ll just take one of those tacos, k thx.”

Step by Step Photos

Start by mixing up your homemade taco seasoning (or use a store bought blend instead). Stir together 1 Tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper. Set the taco seasoning aside. Begin to preheat your oven to 400ºF.

Dice one onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Add them to a large skillet along with 1 Tbsp cooking oil. Sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add a 1/2 lb. lean ground beef and the prepared taco seasoning to the skillet. Continue to sauté until the beef is cooked through (about 5 minutes). If you are using a higher fat content beef, add the beef alone first and cook until browned, then drain the excess fat. Add the taco seasoning after draining and cook for one minute more.

Drain a 15oz. can of black beans well, then stir them into the skillet. I did not rinse the beans because the little bit of starchy coating they had helps keep the beef mixture moist. 

Line up the taco shells in a baking dish so that they are all standing upright. My box of taco shells had 10 shells, but I think I had enough filling for 12. I used a smallish 8×12″ glass baking dish, which allowed them to sit in the dish snuggly enough to hold them upright. If you don’t have a dish that this works well with, you can use balls of aluminum foil to act as book ends and help hold the shells up.

Divide the beef and bean mixture between the taco shells, then top the tacos with 1 cup (or 4oz.) shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake the tacos in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges of the tacos become slightly golden brown. See those browned edges? That’s the FLAVOR. The total cooking time will depend on the type of shell you have, your oven, and other factors, so just keep an eye on them. The important part is that after baking they are all hot and toasty with melted cheese allll over ’em. 

Finally, add your favorite cold toppings to your baked beef and black bean tacos. I used one diced tomato, one sliced jalapeño, a handful of chopped cilantro, and a little sour cream. Avocados, taco sauce, pineapple, and pico de gallo, would also be awesome!

Seriously, though. Tacos should not be confined to just Tuesdays. Tacos EVERY DAY. #teamtaco

The post Baked Beef and Black Bean Tacos appeared first on Budget Bytes.

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Budget Bytes by Beth M - 2w ago

While I was rummaging through my fridge for sauces to dunk my homemade baked chicken nuggets in, I realized the one sauce I really wanted was one that I didn’t have—Honey Mustard Sauce. Luckily, honey mustard sauce takes only a few minutes to whip up and only requires simple pantry staples. This quick Honey Mustard Sauce was so tangy, creamy, sweet, and delicious that I couldn’t stop licking my spoon! Luckily I saved some for my chicken nuggets. :)

Honey Mustard Sauce

What is in Honey Mustard Sauce?

Honey mustard sauce is the most incredible sweet, tangy, and creamy sauce made from simple ingredients like honey, mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar, and a couple spices. It takes only a few minutes to make and can be used several ways. Once you make a batch you’ll likely want to smear a little sauce on just about everything!

How to Serve Honey Mustard Sauce

This week I used it as a dip for my Homemade Baked Chicken Nuggets, but it also works great as:

  • a dip for fresh vegetables
  • a spread for wraps and sandwiches
  • dressing for chicken salad
  • dressing for green salads
  • a glaze or sauce for grilled or roasted meats
How to Store Honey Mustard Sauce

This tasty sauce should definitely be stored in the refrigerator. I don’t suggest keeping the sauce for more than 4-5 days, so make sure you adjust your batch size to the amount you plan on using. This recipe yields about 3/4 cup honey mustard sauce, but the quantity can be adjusted in the “servings” box in the recipe below. All of the ingredients will auto adjust with the change in servings.

 

Honey Mustard Sauce

This sweet, tangy, and creamy homemade honey mustard sauce only takes a few minutes to make and is great for sandwiches, salads, dipping, and more!

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise ($0.80)
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard ($0.09)
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard ($0.09)
  • 3 Tbsp honey ($0.36)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp paprika ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • freshly cracked pepper (about 5 cranks of a pepper mill) ($0.02)
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.

Love honey mustard? Check out my 20 Minute Honey Mustard Chicken, Honey Mustard Pork Chops, and Honey Mustard Chicken Salad.

Step by Step Photos

There is only one step to this honey mustard sauce! Just combine all of the ingredients (1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp yellow mustard, 3 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1/8 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp paprika, 1/8 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper) in a bowl and whisk or stir until smooth.

Seriously, though. It’s just as delicious and tangy as that looks. Time to start dipping!! …Or drizzling over everything and anything.

The post Honey Mustard Sauce appeared first on Budget Bytes.

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I didn’t grow up eating fast food, so I’ve never really been a chicken nugget person, but the other day, out of the blue, I got a massive craving for them. So I thought, “Challenge accepted! I’m going to make some homemade chicken nuggets.” Well, let me just say, I might be a chicken nugget person now because these Homemade Baked Chicken Nuggets are so flavorful and so juicy, that I just couldn’t stop. And the best part is, they’re actually quite easy to make! I made three batches this week and I’m not sick of them yet.

Homemade Baked Chicken Nuggets

How Many Homemade Baked Chicken Nuggets Does This Recipe Make?

I used one (yes, one) boneless skinless chicken breast for this recipe, which made around 24 nuggets. My chicken breast weighed approximately 2/3 lb., so your yield may vary depending on the size of the breast. I’ve set the serving size at six nuggets per serving, assuming you’ll be eating something on the side (like the fresh vegetables in my photos).

Why is There YOGURT in Your Chicken Nuggets??

Weird, right? But it works. Buttermilk is a common ingredient used in baked and fried chicken, but I didn’t have any buttermilk, nor did I want to buy any just for this recipe (even though you can freeze extra buttermilk for use later). Instead, I chose to use an ingredient that is already in my refrigerator: plain Greek yogurt. Like buttermilk it is a cultured milk product that gives the nuggets extra flavor and helps keep them tender and moist. Trust me!

If you have plain regular-style yogurt (not Greek style), that can be used too. You’ll just need to add less water when thinning it out. 

Can I Make These Homemade Baked Chicken Nuggets Gluten Free?

If you can get gluten-free breadcrumbs, those should work fine in this recipe. That being said, I haven’t tested this with gluten-free breadcrumbs, but I don’t think the lack of gluten should affect the texture in this application.

How do Leftovers Hold Up?

I ate my leftover nuggets the day after I made them and enjoyed them quite a bit, but I will say that they are no longer crispy. They are every bit as tender, juicy, and flavorful though!

What is a “Neutral Oil”

A neutral oil is any cooking oil that does not carry a heavy flavor. You have the flexibility here to use the oil that best fits your diet or budget. I used Grapeseed oil today, but you could use canola, light olive oil, safflower, sesame, or any other light oil.

 

Homemade Baked Chicken Nuggets

Homemade baked chicken nuggets are crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, easy to make, and make a delicious meal or snack. 

Breading
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs ($0.25)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder ($0.05)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • freshly cracked pepper ($0.02)
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil ($0.08)
Yogurt Slurry
  • 1/3 cup Greek Yogurt ($0.29)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • 3 Tbsp water ($0.00)
Chicken
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2/3 lb.) ($2.79)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place a wire cooling rack, or two, over a baking sheet to hold the nuggets as they bake.

  2. In a wide shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 5 cranks of a pepper mill). Stir these ingredients together until evenly combined. Drizzle the oil over the breadcrumb mixture, then stir until the breadcrumbs are coated in oil. The breadcrumbs should look like damp sand.

  3. In a separate small bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt, salt, and water until smooth. You want the yogurt to be a similar consistency to buttermilk or heavy cream. It should be thick enough to coat the chicken.

  4. Trim any excess fat from the chicken breast, then cut it into small, 3/4 to one-inch pieces. For a 2/3 lb. chicken breast you should get about 22-24 pieces. 

  5. Dip each piece of chicken into the yogurt slurry, then roll it in the seasoned breadcrumb mixture until the chicken piece is fully coated. Place each coated nugget onto the wire cooling rack on the baking sheet.

  6. Once all of the chicken pieces are fully coated, transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 23-25 minutes, or until the breading is browned on the edges. 

  7. Remove the chicken nuggets from the oven and let cool for 3-5 minutes, then serve with your favorite dip.

The recipe for that totally DELISH honey mustard dip is coming soon, so stay tuned!!

Step by Step Photos

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. To make the breading for the chicken nuggets, combine 1 cup plain breadcrumbs, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 5 cranks of a pepper mill) in a bowl. Stir these together well.

Then drizzle 2 Tbsp of any neutral oil over the breadcrumb mixture and stir until all the breadcrumbs are coated. It should look like damp sand.

In a separate bowl, combine 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt with 3 Tbsp water and 1/8 tsp salt. Stir until smooth. It should be about the consistency of buttermilk or heavy cream. You can use plain “regular” yogurt here, you’ll just add less water to thin it out just a tad.

Trim any excess fat from one boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2/3 lb.). Cut the chicken breast into small 3/4 to one-inch pieces. You should get about 22-24 pieces.

Dip each piece of chicken into the yogurt slurry until it’s coated…

Then right after you dip it in the yogurt, roll it in the breading mixture until it’s completely coated. Once each piece is coated, place it onto a wire cooling rack that is sitting on top of a baking sheet.

Once they’re all coated and on the wire rack, they’re ready to bake! Throw away any leftover breading and yogurt because they are contaminated with raw chicken.

Bake the chicken nuggets in the preheated 425ºF oven for 23-25 minutes, or until the edges have turned golden brown. Let them cool for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Here’s a close up of the baked nuggets so you can see their color. They don’t change a LOT, they just get slightly darker and a little more brown on the edges.

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a “one pot” recipe, but I’m really excited about this one. This One Pot Teriyaki Chicken and Rice is incredibly easy, requires very little chopping, and is one of those super satisfying meals that I look forward to every time I make it. Oh, and did I mention that it meal preps really well, too? I mean, what doesn’t this Teriyaki Chicken and Rice do? (Answer: the dishes. But since it’s one pot there aren’t many to do anyway!)

One Pot Teriyaki Chicken and Rice

Can I Make This Teriyaki Chicken and Rice in a Rice Cooker?

This recipe is essentially a chicken version of my Rice Cooker Teriyaki Shrimp and Rice, but cooked in a skillet instead of a rice cooker. Could you cook this recipe in a rice cooker as well? Probably so! But I haven’t tested it yet myself. If cooking this in a rice cooker, I would sauté the chicken, garlic, and ginger first, then add the rice and water, and cook until the rice is finished. Add the frozen vegetables, cook five minutes more, then pour on the sauce and fold until combined. 

Do I Have to Use Jasmine Rice?

No, but jasmine rice does give it a LOT more flavor. Luckily, jasmine rice is becoming more and more common in the U.S. and I’ve been able to find 5lb. bags of jasmine rice for very good prices at most grocery stores. They’re usually hiding on the bottom shelf in the rice aisle. If you can’t find jasmine rice, use long grain white rice instead. I don’t suggest short or medium grained rice for this recipe.

Tips for One Pot Rice Recipes:

One pot recipes can be tricky because every stove top and every piece of cookware transmits heat a little differently. I suggest mastering the skill of cooking rice in a pot on the stove top before attempting a one pot rice recipe. Here are a few other tips that will help you get perfectly cooked rice without burning and scorching:

  • Use heavy or thick bottomed cookware. This will evenly cook the rice instead of scorching the bottom or leaving pockets of rice partially cooked.
  • Make sure the pot/skillet comes up to a FULL boil before turning it down to low. This will help make sure it stays at a simmer when it continues to cook on low.
  • Don’t skip the last step of letting the rice rest with the lid on and heat turned off for at least five minutes. This allows the steam to redistribute throughout and loosen any rice that may be stuck to the bottom.

But other than that, it’s super easy. I swear. ;)

What Kind of Skillet Should I Use?

You want something that is thick, heavy, has a wide bottom, and is about 3 quarts in volume. I am using a 3 quart deep sauté pan made by OXO. A good Dutch oven would also work well. 

 

One Pot Teriyaki Chicken and Rice

This One Pot Teriyaki Chicken and Rice is an easy and satisfying meal that the whole family will love. It also meal preps well for lunches all week! 

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2/3 lb.) ($2.81)
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.04)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger ($0.10)
  • 1.5 cups uncooked jasmine rice ($0.99)
  • 2.5 cups water ($0.00)
  • 12 oz. frozen stir fry vegetables ($1.59)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce ($0.24)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.08)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil ($0.10)
  • 2 green onions, sliced ($0.15)
  1. Cut the chicken breast into very small pieces, about 1/2 to 3/4-inch in size.

  2. Add the cooking oil, garlic, and ginger to a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium heat for about 1 minute, then add the chicken pieces and continue to sauté just until the outside of the chicken is no longer pink. Do not over cook the chicken here, it will finish cooking with the rice.

  3. Add the uncooked rice to the skillet and continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes more. You should hear the rice popping. Finally, add the water and give everything a brief stir to make sure there is no rice stuck to the bottom of the skillet.

  4. Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and allow the water to come to a full boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

  5. While the skillet is simmering over low, prepare the teriyaki sauce. In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, brown sugar, and toasted sesame oil. The brown sugar may not fully dissolve, but that’s okay. Set the sauce aside.

  6. After the rice has simmered for 10 minutes, lift the lid briefly to sprinkle the frozen vegetables on top, then replace the lid immediately. Make sure the vegetables are spread evenly over the surface. Let the skillet continue to heat over low for an additional five minute.

  7. After steaming the rice and vegetables together for 5 minutes, turn the heat off and let the skillet rest with the lid in place for an additional five minutes.

  8. Give the teriyaki sauce another brief stir, lift the lid on the skillet, and drizzle the sauce over the vegetables. Make sure to scrape out all the sugar from the bottom of the bowl. Using a spatula or large spoon, gently fold the rice and vegetables together until everything is mostly coated in the sauce. Make sure to scoop all the way to the bottom of the skillet when folding, as the sauce will sink to the bottom.

  9. Place the lid back on top and let the skillet rest for a final 5 minutes to let the flavor soak in (heat turned off). Sprinkle sliced green onions over top just before serving.

Tip: I keep a knob of ginger in my freezer so I always have fresh ginger on hand. Plus it grates super easy when frozen!

Step by Step Photos

Start by cutting one boneless, skinless chicken breast into small pieces, about 1/2 to 3/4-inch in size. This one chicken breast weighed about 2/3 lb.

Add 1 Tbsp cooking oil, 2 cloves of garlic (minced), and about 1 tsp minced fresh ginger in a large deep skillet. Sauté over medium for about one minute, then add the chicken and continue to sauté just until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside. Don’t over cook the chicken at this point because it will continue to cook with the rice.

Add 1.5 cups jasmine rice to the skillet and continue to sauté for a minute more. You’ll hear the rice popping. Then add 2.5 cups water and stir briefly to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Place a lid on top, turn the heat up to medium-high, and let it come to a full boil. As soon as it reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer over low for 10 minutes (lid on). 

While the rice is simmering over low, prepare the teriyaki sauce. Stir together 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, and 1 tsp toasted sesame oil in a small bowl. The brown sugar won’t fully dissolve, but that’s okay. Set the sauce aside. It will be added at the end.

After the rice has simmered over low for 10 minutes, lift the lid only long enough to pour on one 12 oz. bag of frozen stir fry vegetables (not thawed). Make sure the vegetables are spread fairly evenly across the rice, and replace the lid immediately. Let them continue to steam with the rice over low heat for another 5 minutes. Then, turn the heat off and let everything rest with the lid on, no heat, for another five minutes.

After the vegetables have been in the skillet with the rice (five minutes over low, five minutes no heat), remove the lid and drizzle the teriyaki sauce over top. Make sure to scrape out any sugar that is left in the bowl.

Use a spatula or a large spoon to gently fold the rice and vegetables together until everything is mostly coated in the sauce. Make sure you’re scooping all the way down to the bottom of the skillet because that’s where all the sauce will pool. Don’t vigorously stir or your rice will get gummy. Put the lid back on the skillet and let it rest for about 5 minutes more to let all the flavors soak in.

Top it off with sliced green onions just before serving!

The post One Pot Teriyaki Chicken and Rice appeared first on Budget Bytes.

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