Making Meals with 5 Ingredients (or Less!)

5 ingredients or less

One of the easiest ways to cut back on meal costs is to simplify your ingredients. If you can make a tasty recipe with fewer ingredients, you will probably spend less money. Often this involves slow-cooking, which intensifies flavor and tenderizes less costly cuts of meat.

Here are some great recipe links to get you started. All the recipes have 5 ingredients or fewer, not counting salt and pepper. Add an easy side dish, like a frozen vegetable and rice, and you’ll be able to save (or give!) more money and spend less on food.

*If you don’t use alcohol in your cooking, you should skip these recipes.

And here are a few fun recipes from our friends on Facebook.

Cabbage skillet: brown 1lb. hamburger with chopped onion, then add 2 cans drained Rotel and one small green cabbage sliced into ribbons. Add salt & pepper, cover, and cook until cabbage is tender. Serve over rice, with or without a slice of American cheese melted between. – from Nicole H.

Caramel Apple salad: Core and chop 4-5 Granny Smith apples, add 1 medium can of crushed pineapple with the juice & mix together. Sprinkle 1 box of butterscotch instant pudding (regular or sugar free), stir together. Stir in one 8 – 12 oz tub of cool whip. Chill before serving. (I don’t peel the apples but you can if you need to do so.). – from Becky M.

Have a favorite 5-ingredient-or-less recipe? Leave it for us in the comments! I’d love to have a few more in my arsenal for dinners.

Eat for Cheap: Black Bean Nachos

If you have a hungry family (that’s all of us!), you probably spend time searching for low-cost, high-nutrition recipes like I do. Beans are a great cheap protein, but it can be difficult to find new ways to cook them that your family will enjoy. Recently I made these delicious black beans and served them over tortilla chips with toppings – cheese, cilantro, raw onion, guacamole, and sour cream. The meal was absolutely delicious, and it was a great change from our norm.

 

Black Beans in Pot
source: muyyum via Flickr Creative Commons

Smoky Black Beans

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped carrot
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ham hock, ham bone, or 1/2 c. diced ham
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 lb. dried black beans, rinsed

In a large skillet with a lid or a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery and saute 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds or so. Add ham hock, cilantro and beans to the pot. Cover with water (about one inch above beans). Bring to a boil; then cover, turn heat to medium-low, and cook until beans are very tender. This will take about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. Check often after an hour and stir occasionally during cooking time.

To serve, strain beans out with a slotted spoon. Serve over tortilla chips with Mexican toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, more cilantro, and chopped onion. You could also serve beans over steamed rice with cheese.

Freeze leftover beans and use them at another time to make Crunchy Black Bean Tacos.

 

Weelicious Lunches & Healthy Apple Muffins

IMG_4121

 

I’m always looking for a way to sneak some more nutrition into my kiddos. I’ve been a fan of Catherine McCord’s site Weelicious for quite some time for this reason! Recently I bought her cookbook Weelicious Lunches, hoping to find some lunchbox-packing inspiration.

At first glance, I was pretty sure it was a bust. No way were my kids going to eat things like Roasted Carrot Hummus or Avocado Honey Dip. And yes, those are some of the recipes. But as I looked farther into the book and started making recipes, I found that I love this cookbook more and more! Even standard recipes, like berry muffins and pizza, are adapted into healthier versions – using whole grains, less sweeteners, more vegetables.

Here are my reviews of some of the recipes I’ve made.

  • Apple, Honey, and Cheese Quesadillas – Everyone thought these were delicious, except my Extremely Picky Eater, who picked the apples out. She has a hard time trying new things, even if the new thing consists of ingredients she likes separately.
  • I think we’ve made everything from the pizza chapter. The White Wheat Pizza Dough is great, and I LOVE how healthy the Veggie-Heavy Pizza Sauce is. It’s easy to freeze, too.
  • Chicken Satay Bites – I think the garlic flavor might have been a tiny bit strong for Extremely Picky Eater, but she tried these. Baby Man enjoyed them greatly.
  • Roasted Carrot Coins – I thought these were a nice change from raw carrots.
  • Roasted Honey Cinnamon Chickpeas – Mine burned to a crisp. Just like every other time I’ve tried to make toasted chickpeas. What’s up with that?
  • Whole Grain Fruit-Filled Bars – My kids all love bars. But Extremely Picky Eater didn’t like how these were kind of crumbly. My other two kids chomped down, and I thought they were divine!
  • Polenta Berry Muffins – I made these for Extremely Picky Eater’s preschool class and they ate them all happily.
  • Whole Wheat Lemon Blueberry Muffins – yum!

And then we have the Apple Cinnamon Muffins. The first time I made these, I sent them to my husband’s student group at school. He said the boys demolished them in minutes. I’ve made a few adaptations, so I’m sharing my slightly different version of the recipe here.

IMG_4124

 

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Makes 12-16 small muffins

  • 1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup milk soured with a squeeze of lemon juice (or buttermilk)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped (something tart is best, like Granny Smith, Gala, or Golden Delicious)
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon-sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400F and spray muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a larger bowl, whisk honey, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and oil.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir together. Fold in apples.
  4. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Sprinkle each with a pinch of cinnamon-sugar.
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool.

Do you have a great go-to cookbook? Share the title with us in the comments!

{This is a completely unsponsored review. I bought this with my own money and was not asked to review it.}

Slow Cooker Stew

 

While this stew may not be the most beautiful dish on the planet (you can blame the photographer), it makes a perfect supper for a chilly night served with biscuits hot from the oven. And since I know you are all very enthusiastic about slow cooking, I hope you’ll try it out!

 

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. stew beef, cut into small pieces
  • 4 potatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (11 oz.) condensed cream of celery soup
  • 1/2 c. red wine or tomato juice or sauce
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

Peel potatoes (if desired) and dice potatoes, carrots, and onions. {You can sear the beef if you wish to add some good flavor.} Mix all ingredients together. Either cook in a slow cooker on low for 8-10 hours or in a 300 degree oven for 4 hours.

Cooking With Kids: Stovetop Popcorn

Popcorn
source: rilmara

The art of homemade popcorn is one that has fled with the simplicity of microwave popcorn. I remember fondly my mom popping kernels on the stovetop, then turning them into wonderful caramel corn in the oven. But from about middle school onward (and that was, oh, 20 years ago now), I don’t remember even having popcorn that wasn’t from a microwaved bag or the movie theater.

When I started being a little more aware of what we were putting into our bodies, however, I decided to bring stovetop popcorn back into my life. (Did you know there are PFCs in the lining of a microwaved popcorn bag, and one of the chemicals in the butter flavoring has been linked to Alzheimer’s?) This way you can control your own ingredients, not to mention change the toppings to your liking! And it’s a great snack to make with kids. Popcorn is a whole grain and has a lot of fiber, making it a healthy snack that seems indulgent.

Here’s the recipe and then we’ll talk about how your kids can help!

Stovetop Popcorn

  • 1/2 c. popcorn kernels
  • 1 T oil (I like to use coconut oil)
  • optional toppings: salt, melted butter, Parmesan cheese, cinnamon, etc.
  • equipment: a large stockpot, aluminum foil
  1. Put oil in stockpot and heat over medium on the stove. When the oil is melted (if it’s a solid like coconut oil) or warm, add popcorn kernels.
  2. Cover stockpot with a layer of aluminum foil. Use a sharp knife to cut a few slits in the foil to let steam escape.
  3. Shake the pot every few minutes until kernels start to pop. While it’s popping, shake continuously. When pops are 4-5 seconds apart, remove from heat.
  4. Season to taste and enjoy.

We like to sprinkle our popcorn with salt and then drizzle with a couple tablespoons of melted butter. For an even healthier snack, try a pinch of salt and a good sprinkle of nutritional yeast, which is full of B vitamins. (If you’re nursing, it’s also a galactagogue, increasing milk production!) Parmesan cheese is also tasty and is salty enough by itself usually.

My 4-year-old daughter will pour kernels into the pot and then help with toppings once the popcorn is cooked. An older child can do pretty much all of this by him or herself depending on his skill with the stove.

So pop some corn, pop in a movie, and your kids will think you’re pretty much the best parent ever.

(Psst: you can also make chemical-free popcorn in the microwave with just a brown paper lunchbag, too!)

Do you make popcorn at home?

25 Great Slow Cooker Recipes

slowcookersoup

original photo source: Breville via Flickr

It was obvious from the enthusiasm about our 25 Make-Ahead Breakfasts post that we all need some easy, go-to recipes! For busy families on-the-go, prepping beforehand is crucial. So I thought today I’d share 25 great slow cooker meals.

You can toss these in the slow cooker in the morning and have dinner waiting when you are ready for it. Better yet, prep as much as you can on a Saturday and freeze your meals in gallon-sized plastic zipper bags. Then you can just dump one in the slow cooker (defrosting it the night before is best, but usually not a deal-breaker) on your way out the door.

Do you have a favorite slow cooker recipe? Please share it in the comments!

  1. Chicken Tikka Masala
  2. Curried Vegetable and Chickpea Stew (vegan)
  3. Cream Cheese Chicken
  4. Stuffed Pepper Soup
  5. Pasta Fagioli Soup (vegetarian if you sub vegetable broth for chicken broth)
  6. French Dips
  7. Sesame Chicken
  8. Greek Chicken Pitas
  9. Balsamic Onion Pot Roast
  10. Bolognese Sauce
  11. Curried Pork Chops
  12. BBQ Chicken
  13. Cajun Stew
  14. Chicken and Cornmeal Dumplings
  15. Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Lasagna Soup
  16. Korean Ribs
  17. Country Style Pork and White Beans
  18. Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
  19. Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers
  20. Texas Two-Step Stew
  21. Shrimp and Corn Chowder
  22. Cheesy Cowboy Casserole
  23. Paella
  24. Cranberry Chicken
  25. Chili

 

Make-Ahead Breakfasts for Back to School

makeaheadbreakfast

Whether we’re homeschooling or sending our kids off to a private or public school – or anything in between – we all have one thing in common: we have a lot to get done in the morning and need to eat something, too!

Even though I don’t have kids in grade school yet, this year my daughter will be going to preschool three days a week, plus I have an active 2-year-old boy and a needy baby. On days when we just stay home, I still feel like it’s mania around here until about 9 a.m.

One thing that works for me is having breakfast made before the morning. I like making big batches and having options in the freezer; but I’ve also been known to make coffee cake or baked oatmeal the night before. Whatever works for you is what works!

So just for you, here are 25 make-ahead breakfast ideas to keep you from reaching for the cereal boxes every morning.

1. French Breakfast Muffins

2. Heart Healthy Apple Oat Bran Muffins

3. Broccoli Quiche Muffins

4. Basic, Easy Granola with Variations

5. Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal

6. Giant Brown Butter Granola Breakfast Cookies

7. Pancake and Sausage Muffins

8. Breakfast Muffins

9. French Toast Sticks

10. Freezer Breakfast Burritos

11. McMom’s Breakfast Sandwiches

12. Zucchini Spice Muffins

13. Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

14. Slow Cooker Oatmeal with Apricots and Buttermilk

15. Pumpkin Pie Waffles

16. No Sugar Oat Drops

17. Mini Cinnamon Rolls

18. Ham, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Cups

19. Grain-Free Berry Breakfast Cobbler

20. Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

21. Apricot Breakfast Bars

22. Bacon Cheddar Scones

23. Cranberry, Nutmeg, and Vanilla Breakfast Cake

24. Lemon-Lime Breakfast Rolls

25. Banana and Blueberry Pancakes

Bon Appetit, friends! What’s your favorite breakfast?

 

 

photo source: Jeremy Kunz

Cold Treats for Hot Days

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Tennessee it is HOT. After an on-and-off Spring (is it Summer? is it Winter?) it’s finally dived into true, humid summer in the South.

Licking popsicle drips on a hot Summer afternoon is a happy memory every child should have! Here are some ideas for easy to treats to make at home. Popsicle molds are very inexpensive and a worthwhile purchase for parents.

Popsicles are also a great way to get some extra nutrients into your kids. Mine will happily suck on popsicles made only with fresh fruit and fruit juices. You can even stick in a handful of spinach when they’re not looking. Dark berries like raspberry, blackberry, or strawberries will usually cover the green color from the leafy greens.

Homemade popsicles are so much more healthy than store-bought ones made with food coloring and corn syrup. Here are a few recipes to inspire you! (Subscribers will need to click through to see Pinterest embeds.)

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Popsicles from Carrots & Chocolate


Honeydew-Raspberry Popsicles at Kitchen Simplicity


Raspberry Cheesecake Popsicles at The Novice Chef


Healthy Strawberry Popsicles at Vanderbilt Wife

What’s your favorite kind of popsicle or frozen treat?

Make It With Your Kids: Lemon Cupcakes

Lemon Drop Cupcakes

Let’s be upfront about this: these cupcakes have no redeeming qualities when it comes to nutrition. They are made with boxed cake mix, boxed pudding mix, soda, and whipped topping. Just so you’re warned!

But every once in awhile I think it’s OK to slide on my “real foods” morals and make something because it’s easy. These are great to make with kids for a few reasons:

  • Only two ingredients in the cupcakes and four in the icing.
  • Cupcakes are fun to eat and easier than slices of cake.
  • Because there are no eggs in the batter, you can let your child lick the bowl without guilt. Or do it yourself.
  • Lemon is yummy.
  • This makes 24 cupcakes without a giant mess, huge ingredient list, or time-consuming steps.

So gather your little ones in the kitchen and bake!

Lemon Cupcakes

  • 1 lemon cake mix
  • 12 oz. lemon-lime soda
  • 8 oz. whipped topping (Cool Whip)
  • one box instant lemon pudding mix
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • 1/2 c. milk
  1. Line muffin tins with muffin papers. Preheat over to 350F.
  2. Mix together cake mix and soda until batter is smooth. Fill muffin papers about halfway with batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until done.
  3. Meanwhile, fold together whipped topping, pudding mix, and lemon juice until uniform. Add milk and stir for 1-2 minutes. Scoop frosting into a large ziploc bag and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  4. When cupcakes are completely cool, push frosting down and to one side of the baggy. Snip corner off the baggy to make a pastry bag. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Decorate with lemon zest or sprinkles – or anything you can find in the fridge!

Basically any recipe where kids can dump and mix are great for cooking together. Here are some other recipes I like to bake with my kids:

 

icanteach

Friday Links 11/16

I’m bypassing good parenting and going straight to Thanksgiving this week for links. So, please share! What’s your favorite Thanksgiving recipe?

Did you read or write something you’d like our readers to see? Leave a link in the comments, on our Facebook page, or send us a Tweet!

Added to Saturday Linky Love at Vanderbilt Wife.