I can’t seem to get off of my Food and Wine kick lately. Someone left a recent travel issue in the office that had an intriguing looking tostada dish on the front. There’s nothing more interesting to me than adding differently worldly flavors to the dinner plate, which is why I picked up the magazine and thumbed through it. Quite a few recipes caught my eye, but one in particular seemed super-easy but also combined quite a few unique flavors. Sausage always adds a lot of flavors to dishes and when layering in pasta, I kind of knew it would be a win.
Our latest cheap dinner recipe comes on a Friday night with the bare bones left from the last grocery shop. We had andouille sausage, a bag of potatoes and a yellow onion. I contemplated mashed potatoes, which is always a solid go-to side dish. We use a potato ricer to mash and it makes some of the smoothest mashed taters I’ve known. But, this post isn’t about mashed potatoes.
One of our latest outings to the St Pete Saturday Morning Market resulted in a purchase of habañero jelly, something I never thought I would like, let alone, love. We were plucked from the passers-by after being enticed by free samples (duh, who doesn’t love free samples of food!) and tried almost all the gourmet jellies this guy had to offer. We jumped from pineapple to berry to jalapeño before finally landing on the habañero flavor. The salesmen called the sample we had an adult PBJ since it was on a pretzel square with peanut butter and the spicy habañero jelly to top it off. We loved it. There was a great kick to my favorite classic peanut butter pretzel and did taste like a PBJ. We were sold.
We are just a few days after Halloween and haven’t gotten around to carving our pumpkin. It’s tough in Florida because once you carve the pumpkin, you might have two or three days of a jack-o-lantern before it turns black and rots. So, waiting until the last few days before Halloween is crucial. This year, we let the holiday pass us by without carving the thing so I made sure to have a back up plan for it.
It just so happens that I was invited to a girls night at a friends house with an all-pumpkin theme. At the ladies-only shindig there was pumpkin turkey chili, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin spiced sangria, and we made pumpkin biscuits to go with the chili and roasted pumpkin seeds as a snack. We needed 1 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree for the biscuits, so onward with the home made kind! We ended up with 10 cups of pumpkin puree using a medium-large pumpkin. There are smaller pumpkins that might work better, but this is what we had already.
We’re a regular taco night family. It’s an easy meal that we often turn into taco salad night which just means our taco ingredients go over top of crunched up tortilla chips. This time we decided to give taco night an Asian flair.
Take away the tortilla chips and swap out a few ingredients to change up the flavor profile and you’ve got yourself a brand new salad that requires the same amount of prep and cooking time. This meal takes a total of 20 minutes from heating up the first pan to putting the fork in your mouth. Easy peasy.
The Search for the Best Black Bean Burger Concludes
Cheap Food Here has been on the hunt for the perfect black bean burger recipe ever since eating at the Original Penguin restaurant in Charlotte, NC (I say ‘Original’ because there was an issue with the original owners of the brand who were leasing it to the ones running the restaurant and to make a long story short, management changed, the charm and delicious food was downgraded to less than mediocre and thus, I wouldn’t guarantee the new Penguin black bean burger is the same as it was. See newer reviews here.) who could tout the most fabulous bean burger on the planet. Having eaten it a few times and trying to dissect it before inhaling it, I decided it probably had black beans (duh!), mushrooms, beets (this was an educated guess because of the color) and some kind of chili pepper in it because they packed some heat. Plus, I have a suspicion that the patties were deep fried because they were crispy on the outside and no matter what I’ve tried in the past, they just never get crispy in the pan, on the grill or in the broiler.
I’ve tried plenty of recipes, some with eggs, some with bread crumbs some with Portobello mushrooms; the list goes on and on. They’ve all been edible, but nothing was even coming close to the coveted Penguin black bean burger. The black bean burgers that I was making were mostly mushy and couldn’t be flipped without them falling completely apart, which I tried to remedy in every way I knew how. Nothing seemed to work and now I’m convinced it was two things: the lack of a filler like rice and leaving the black beans course rather than completely mashed. This speculation was confirmed after finding BrownEyedBaker’s black bean veggie burger recipe.
I do believe the best part about a meal is having leftovers that taste as good, if not better, than the original meal and these black bean burgers have that exact promise (hello freezer meal!). After I pattied them all out, we only cooked two for each of us so that left us with four more leftover (this recipe makes a total of 8 black bean burgers). With the extra patties, before cooking them, I placed them on a plate with parchment paper and froze them. Once they were frozen (2-3 hours) I transferred them to a freezer storage bag and we just thawed them out and cooked them the next time we were ready for them (only a few days later because we just absolutely loved them).
These hearty, full, nutritious black bean veggie burgers are one-of-a-kind and this recipe has me thinking about a ton of other bean burgers we can create off of this base. I’m thinking lentil patties and garbanzo burgers just off the top of my head. I think it’s time for a bean burger series. Okay, so here is our rendition of the famed recipe:
Black Bean Burger Recipe Ingredients
- 2 tsp grapeseed oil (or other saute oil)
- 1 cup roughly chopped yellow onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup coarsely grated carrots
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 3 C. cooked black beans, rinse and drained (we used dried bean to cut down on cost, but canned works also)
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
- 1½ cups cooked brown rice
- 1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper (adjust to desired heat level)
- 1 Tbsp additional grapeseed oil
Black Bean Burger Recipe Directions
- In a large skillet heated to medium-high heat, add the grapeseed oil and allow to heat up for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes until translucent, but not brown. Turn the burner off.
- Add the grated carrots, chili powder and cumin and cook for 5 minutes on risidual heat, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the black beans, mustard, soy sauce, and parsley.
- Mash together with a potato masher or your hands, making sure not to over work the mixture. Lumpy is good.
- Stir in the cooled onion and carrot mixture. Add the cooked brown rice and chopped mushrooms, stirring to combine. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
- Form 8 patties and make sure to press the edges to make a clean edge so the form holds during cooking.
- Heat the remaining grapeseed oil in a large, nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add the burgers and cook for 5 to 8 minutes per side turning only once, very carefully (reshaping them after the flip if needed).
- Remove from heat and enjoy on a bun or simply by itself with a fork!
Homemade Shepherd’s Pie: An English Tradition
Shepherd’s pie is often the topic of debate by those who argue whether it was originally made using lamb (mutton) or beef. It would make sense that it started as a lamb dish since that’s the basis of the name, but I don’t believe I trust any web source to know the absolute truth. Certainly not Wikipedia, however, according to them, the name ‘shepherd’ didn’t come into the mix until about 80 years after the name ‘Cottage Pie’ was used. Whatever origin or name you want to give it, you can put ‘delicious’ in front of it and be safe, because that’s what it is.
Cherry Tomato Salad with Homemade Croutons: A New Summer Favorite
I don’t recall how I came across this recipe, but I believe it was from the Smitten Kitchen Facebook page since they are a regular in my feed. This tomato salad recipe stuck out because we had a bag of cherry tomatoes in the fridge for about a week or so and some home made bread in the freezer waiting to be used for breadcrumbs or croutons. With basil growing in the back yard and all but one ingredient already in the house, it was the perfect cheap side dish for us.
We varied the recipe ever-so-slightly since we recently ran out of shallots (which we bought SUPER-cheap at the neighborhood Asian food store – $2.50/lb), used all red cherry tomatoes, added some olives and we made the crouton topping from a left over homemade loaf of rye bread. But, it’s a really simple recipe and uses a pretty standard base, so, you can’t really mess too much up. What I love about cheap recipes using ingredients already on hand and not bought for the specific purpose of a recipe, is that they seem free. Not that I wouldn’t use those ingredients up on something else, it just seems overly convenient.
I do love a good salad recipe and when it has fresh, in-season tomatoes, it’s bound to be a keeper. If you’ve never done it before, you can find some really nice guides on how to grow tomatoes so don’t be afraid! Combine the acidic flavor of tomatoes with olives and red wine vinegar, and it really puts a summery zip into a meal. Salads also tend to be quick to assemble since there’s hardly any cooking time required but prep-time can be a little daunting depending on how many ingredients there are. But, this is also another reason to love this recipe: it has very few ingredients and very little prep time. Hooray!
Alright, let’s get on with it then. First, a photo preview:
Cheap Cherry Tomato Salad Recipe
- 1 extra thick slice of stale, homemade rye bread
- 1/2 of a small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped kalamata olives
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp ground Black pepper
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Lb of cherry tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- Pinch of sugar
- 7-8 Large basil leaves finely slivered
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and coarsely chop the slice of bread
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place the bread crumbs, onion, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, 2 Tbsp of olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Toss to evenly coat the crumbs.
- Spread crumbs onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12-16 minutes, flipping the crumbs over once.
- Once they are golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet.
- Meanwhile, slice all of the cherry tomatoes in half and place on a large plate, cut side up. Sprinkle with chopped olives.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of sugar. Drizzle mixture over the tomatoes and olives.
- Sprinkle the cooled bread crumbs over the tomato-olive mixture, top with basil and serve immediately.
Here’s a quick recipe based on a great recipe post for the best buttermilk biscuits from a fellow foodie, Pinch My Salt. I wanted to whip up a batch of my famous biscuits with chives and cheddar that I usually make, but this time I had buttermilk (powder). It’s actually not that difficult to make your own buttermilk from scratch and there’s a great article here that can show you the way. All the better my biscuits have become with the addition of buttermilk.
French Toast made with homemade bread, granola, peanut butter and bananas
One of the many ways to save money on food is to bake your own bread. This is something I haven’t explored much with in the past, but since moving back to the States, breadmakers are a dime a dozen. It didn’t take us two weeks to find a yard sale with a $1 breadmaker. Holla! Now, I know that it’s not crucial to have a breadmaker in order to bake your own bread, but wow it takes the mess and manual labor out of it. I’m still learning the quirky differences in the various types of flours and yeasts but I love the smell and texture of freshly baked bread right out of the oven. My husband has been doing his pizza dough in there now too, cheater.
After the first few loaves of bread in the new-used breadmaker, I decided to revert back to a simple, no-fail, white bread recipe. It turned out amazing, with a beautiful crisp crust and soft, fluffy and warm inside. I was pretty proud of my bread machine at this point.
One thing to remember about homemade bread is that it really doesn’t last more than 3 days, and even that 3rd day leaves you wanting it fresh out of the oven instead. Yes, it’s true, you become a bread snob shortly after learning to make your own bread, but why shouldn’t you? Your bread is better than the bagged crap at the store selling for too much money. So, if you don’t eat all of the loaf by the third day and it starts to get hard, use it for French Toast.
French Toast is much better when you use thick slices of somewhat dry bread, so that it doesn’t become soggy when you dip it in the batter. My homemade white bread was at the perfect texture when I needed it most. I had been jonesing for some French Toast for a few days and this particular morning seemed to be the perfect one. So, I set out and remembered a recipe I did a few years ago that included peanut butter, bananas and granola. This batch came together slightly different. Here’s how I made it:
French Toast with Peanut Butter, Granola and Bananas
- 1 Cup almond milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 thick slices of homemade white bread (2-3 days old)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 Cup rolled oats
- 1/2 Cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 Tbsp raw honey
- 8 tsp natural peanut butter
- 16 thin slices of banana
- 2 fresh strawberries (for garnish)
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix up eggs with almond milk and cinnamon
- On a medium-sized plate, combine the oats, flax, and walnuts. Mix together with your hand until well-combined.
- Heat up 1 Tbsp butter in a small/medium frying pan on medium heat
- Cut the two bread slices into 4 equal squares
- Dip the first 4 squares into the egg mixture and drag the sides through the granola mixture.
- Place them into the frying pan and let cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Flip with tongs and brown the other side. Remove from the pan and set on a clean plate.
- With the remaining 4 pieces of bread, repeat steps 3-6.
- While the 2nd set of French Toast squares are cooking, spread a teaspoon of peanut butter and two slices of banana on each of the finished squares and stack them on top of each other.
- Slice the strawberry thinly and place on top of the stack.
- Pour honey over the top and add a dash of extra cinnamon. Repeat with the 2nd set of French Toast squares.
- Serve hot.