I don’t know about your family, but eaters at my house have very specific tastes. One is suspicious of food containing “weird stuff.” One doesn’t like things new to her. Some are vegetarians, others are not. This makes mealtime complicated, especially when frugality is an absolute necessity for us.
For those reasons and more, I follow Beth Moncel’s blog Budget Bytes. Her emphasis is on healthy, low cost, reasonably quick recipes. Many have become favorites in our house—like No Knead Pan Pizza, African Peanut Stew, and Homemade Naan. These you have to try!
I’m thrilled that her book is finally out. Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half is packed with great food and plenty of money-saving tips. Everything we’ve tried has been family pleasing and low-fuss. As many of us do, I modify recipes to meet my family’s tastes as I cook. When I make Budget Bytes Pad Thai I keep the cilantro and green onions on the side so my family can add as they please, plus I put Siracha sauce and chili paste on the table for those of us who appreciate extra heat. When I make Beef Taquitos I fill and roll another pan of taquitos with black beans, peppers, and cheese as a meatless option. No problem, because Budget Bytes recipes are simple, making them simple to modify too.
Beth graciously agreed to share some recipes (and tempting photos) with GeekMom readers.
Beef & Bean Taquitos
Makes 12 taquitos
These little taquitos are so much fun to eat. They make a great main dish or party appetizer and are a welcome change to chicken wings or takeout pizza for game day get-togethers. You can dip these taquitos in sour cream and salsa, or be the star of the show and make your own Creamy Cilantro-Lime Dressing (page 000). Show up to a party with homemade taquitos and creamy cilantro dipping sauce, and I guarantee you’ll be invited back to every party in the future.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 (6-inch) yellow corn tortillas
Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the garlic begins to soften. Add the ground beef and continue to cook until the beef is thoroughly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the beans, chili powder, cornstarch, cayenne pepper, salt, and ½ cup of water to the skillet and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and bubbly. Mash the beans slightly while the mixture simmers, as this will help hold the taquito filling together.
Stack the tortillas on a large plate and microwave for about 45 seconds, or until they are hot, steamy, and very pliable. This will prevent the tortillas from splitting open as you roll the taquitos.
Place about 1/4 cup of the filling in each tortilla and roll the tortilla tightly into a cigar-shaped taquito. Place the rolled taquitos, seam side down, on the lined baking sheet.
Brush the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over the rolled taquitos, making sure to coat them well on all sides.
Bake the taquitos for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Serve hot with salsa, sour cream, or Creamy Cilantro-Lime Dressing for dipping.
Budget Byte: Because ground beef is not usually sold in ½-pound packages, I simply divide a 1-pound package in half and freeze the rest for use in another recipe. Just remember to label and date your freezer bags!
I try so hard to be good, so hard. But sometimes I just need something sweet to nosh on. The subtle sweetness of the dried apricots, bananas, and a touch of brown sugar is just enough to quiet my sweet tooth, while oats and walnuts leave my belly full and my hunger squashed. Whether it’s an after-dinner treat or a mid-morning snack, these granola-like Apricot-Walnut Bars work double-duty as a dessert or mini meal. You can customize these bars to use whatever dried fruit or nuts you have on hand, but I’m partial to golden apricots and rich walnuts!
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium bananas)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line an 8-by-8-inch casserole dish with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the bananas, vanilla, brown sugar, and salt and stir to evenly combine.
Stir the apricots and walnuts into the banana mixture. Finally, stir in the oats.
Press the oat mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared dish. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the baking dish and set on a wire rack to cool, then cut into 9 equal bars, and enjoy.
Easy Pad Thai
I’m probably not supposed to play favorites, but this recipe is definitely my favorite. Pad thai is the epitome of simple ingredients creating dazzling flavor. It’s fresh, light, exotic, and faster than any takeout (unless, of course, you happen to live above a restaurant that delivers). Fresh lime is key to creating the unique flavor, but one lime should be enough for a single or even double batch of this noodle dish. Fish sauce, which you can find in the Asian section of most major grocery stores or at Asian markets, gives this pasta a more authentic flavor, but if you can’t find any, skip it; this dish will still rock your world.
8 ounces pad thai or lo mein noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of 1 medium lime
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped, unsalted peanuts
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain the noodles and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until tender.
Whisk the eggs lightly with a fork. Pour them into the skillet and cook just until they solidify, but are still moist, moving the eggs around the skillet slightly as they cook so that they lightly scramble. When the eggs are cooked, remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes. Pour the sauce into the skillet with the scrambled eggs. Add the noodles and toss to coat in the sauce.
Sprinkle the green onions, cilantro, and peanuts over the noodles. Toss lightly to combine. Serve warm.
Budget Byte: Pad thai noodles have a unique flavor and texture, but if you can’t find them in your area, try substituting another flat pasta like linguine.
Chef’s Tip: To get the most juice from your lime, roll it on your countertop while applying pressure before cutting it open. This causes the juice capsules to burst and release more juice.
Hot oatmeal is fantastic, but in the dead of summer, a cold breakfast is more appealing. I like to prepare four or five of these on Sunday night and then have breakfast ready and waiting for me in the fridge every morning. As these parfaits refrigerate, the oats absorb moisture from the yogurt and fruit, giving them a unique, chewy texture. In turn, the yogurt thickens up to a creamy Greek yogurt-like consistency. You can customize these parfaits to include just about any fruit or nut you like, but the combination of blueberry, pineapple, almond, and flaxseed is my favorite!
2 1/2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
1 2/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons ground flaxseed
5 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 1/4 cups frozen blueberries
1 (15-ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice, drained, juice reserved (see Budget Byte, below)
In each of 5 12-ounce lidded mason jars, layer 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/3 cup oats, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon flaxseed, and 1 tablespoon sliced almonds.
Add 1/4 cup of the blueberries to each jar. Divide the pineapple chunks evenly among the jars.
Refrigerate the jars overnight before serving to allow the oats to absorb moisture and soften. Stir just before eating.
Chef’s Tip: Mason jars are perfect for these parfaits because they’re portable and reusable, and the chilled glass will keep the parfait cold as you eat.
Budget Byte: The leftover pineapple juice is excellent for making smoothies. Store the juice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Disclaimer: GeekMom received this item for review purposes.