Pea & Parmesan Risotto

I had a dish similar to this one on a vacation about five years ago, and I absolutely loved it. The dish was delicious, so of course I attempted to recreate it! I have tried a number of variations (including topping with fresh pea sprouts, omitting the additional peas, and experimenting with dried basil), but the recipe I am including in this post is the one I make the most often.

Concerning modifications, I don’t think the pea sprouts are worth the extra cost, but are a lovely topping if you are serving to dinner guests. I also prefer the dish with fresh basil, but have made it a number of times with dried basil. I use frozen peas, but it is good (if not better) with fresh peas. The great thing about cooking is that there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. So, use what you have and enjoy!

Side note: I love bread. I almost always serve rosemary focaccia bread (click here for recipe) with this risotto. I think it is a stellar combination!

From a cost perspective, the dish cost us about $1.50 per serving to make. An obvious way to make the dish cheaper is to either make your own vegetable stock or use a stock cube. I usually pay for pre-made broth, which makes the dish a lot more expensive than it needs to be.

Frugal Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Pea and Parmesan Risotto for $1.50 per serving

  • Difficulty: Easy
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This easy and delicious risotto combines frozen peas, fresh basil, and Parmesan cheese, which results in a delicious vegetarian meal.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 32 ounces vegetable broth + hot water, if needed
  • 10 ounces frozen peas (you don’t need exactly 10 ounces. Less is fine. If you love peas, more is fine!)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat vegetable broth in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat.
  2. Heat frozen peas following bag instructions. Note: Steam in the bag frozen vegetables are more expensive, but quite convenient for this recipe.
  3. Add butter to a large saucepan and and heat using medium-low heat. After it is heated, add diced onion. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until onion is softened. Stir the onions occasionally, and do not allow them to burn.
  4. Increase heat to medium and add arborio rice. Cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. While the rice is cooking, add 1/2 cup of vegetable broth and 1/2 cup of peas to a blender. Also add 4 fresh basil leaves (or a pinch of dried basil). Blend until smooth. Set aside for use later.
  6. Reduce heat of the large saucepan to medium-low. Add a ladleful of broth to the rice. Stir (you will need to stir frequently throughout the entire broth process). Once the broth is absorbed, add another ladleful of broth. Continue this process until the rice is tender. (I generally taste the rice to confirm it isn’t still crunchy). This process will likely take 20-25 minutes. If you use up all of the broth, continue with hot water.
  7. Remove from heat. Add pea puree and stir. Add shredded Parmesan cheese and stir. Add remaining peas and stir. Allow to set for about 3-5 minutes.
  8. Top with additional Parmesan cheese, pepper, and salt (if desired). Enjoy!

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Fresh Tomato Risotto – Wine Not Required!

If you are a risotto connoisseur, you may be surprised to see one major ingredient missing from this recipe: wine!

Wine may add a bit of flavor, but I find the risotto to be just as delicious without the wine. Plus you cut down on the overall expense of the dish! However, if you would like, you can add a 1/4 cup of dry white wine to the dish prior to adding the vegetable stock. 🙂

I make a few different risotto dishes, including a pea risotto and a pumpkin risotto. This is perhaps the most deluxe and expensive at $1.73 a plate, but it is absolutely delicious. We had it for dinner last night with a few slices of rosemary focaccia bread, and again leftover for lunch. I regret nothing!

Continue reading “Fresh Tomato Risotto – Wine Not Required!”

Tortilla Pizza: A Frugal Use of Leftovers?

James and I had a craving for thin crust pizza. We also had leftover homemade tomato sauce, leftover fresh mozzarella, a less than fresh tomato, and a bag of tortillas. What resulted? Crispy margherita-style pizzas. Not super filling, but a delicious and light meal.

The question is, is it a frugal meal?

After completing a cost analysis, the results show a cost of $1.37 per pizza. As the portion was small, this is perhaps not the most cost-effective meal. However, the majority of our ingredients were close to expiration, so it was a good opportunity to reduce our household waste. The cost could also be reduced by changing the type of cheese (but for me, fresh mozzarella cheese is a luxury I am willing to splurge on!)

We could have used the leftovers to make more caprese sandwiches (which were more filling and cheaper to make), but it wouldn’t have satisfied our thin crust pizza craving!

Cost Analysis:

IngredientIngredient Cost per UnitUnits Required for RecipeRecipe Cost
Flour Tortilla$0.23 per tortilla2 tortillas$0.46
Fresh Mozzarella$ 0.37 per ounce3 ounces$1.11
Tomato$ 0.30 per tomato1 tomato$0.30
Leftover Tomato Sauce$2.64 for full batch1/6 of sauce$0.44
Fresh Basil$ 0.06 per leaf4 leaves$0.24
Olive Oil0.23 per tablespoon1/3 tablespoon$0.08
Balsamic Glaze$ 0.10 per tsp1 teaspoon$0.10
Total cost for TWO pizzas:$2.73
Total cost for ONE pizza:$1.37
Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Tortilla Pizza: A Frugal Use of Leftovers?

  • Difficulty: Easy
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This crispy margherita-style pizza is delicious and light meal

Ingredients

  • 2 Flour tortillas (we used the “taco” size)
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (feel free to substitute)
  • 1 small roma tomato, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3-5 tablespoons leftover tomato sauce depending on your love of sauce! (you can use any pizza sauce/tomato based sauce that you have)
  • 4 leaves fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic glaze
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Rub a a little bit of olive oil on a baking sheet, add tortillas to baking sheet (do not stack), and rub a little bit of olive oil all over the tortillas (this will make them super crispy!)
  3. Spread tomato sauce on the tortillas .
  4. Add fresh mozzarella (1.5 ounce per pizza) on top of the sauce.
  5. Add fresh tomato to the top of the pizza.
  6. DO NOT ADD THE FRESH BASIL UNTIL AFTER THE PIZZA IS COOKED. It will turn BLACK if you do this which is a terrible waste!
  7. Bake pizzas for 7-9 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and add basil and balsamic vinegar glaze (optional).
  9. Satisfy your pizza craving and use up those leftovers!

Toastie Caprese Sandwich

If you have some leftover artisan bread (or any bread for that matter), this recipe is for you! When I made this recipe today, I used 2 day old artisan crusty bread, but any bread should work! Splurge on fresh mozzarella for this sandwich. Fresh mozzarella makes up half of the cost of the sandwich, but it makes the sandwich much more luxurious!

Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe

Toasty Caprese Sandwich

  • Difficulty: Easy
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An easy gourmet grilled cheese sandwich.


Ingredients

  • 4 slices of bread (see artisan bread recipe)
  • 3 ounces of mozzarella cheese (preferably fresh mozzarella)
  • 4 basil leaves (I keep a basil plant for economical fresh herbs)
  • 1 small tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon softened butter
  • balsamic vinegar glaze (or a little balsamic vinegar)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions


Heat a frying pan on medium heat
Butter one side of all 4 pieces of bread and place one piece of bread in the frying pan.
Top the bread with 1.5 ounces mozzarella cheese, half of the sliced tomato, a few leaves of basil, salt, pepper, and the balsamic vinegar glaze. Note: If you bread is very dry, you may want to butter both sides of the bread prior to cooking it in the frying pan!
Cook the sandwich until browned on the bottom and flip. Repeat the process until both sides of the sandwich are browned.
Serve with a salad, soup, or chips! Enjoy!

Homemade White Cheddar Popcorn – Super Easy!

We love white cheddar popcorn, but don’t like to pay for the bagged version at the grocery store. The King Arthur Flour Vermont Cheddar Cheese powder is a splurge at about $9 a canister, but results in a more economical popcorn treat! After analyzing the cost, you will pay approximately $0.22 for a nice hot bowl of cheese popcorn (see below for analysis).

Frugal Cost Analysis:

ItemIngredient Cost per UnitUnits Required for RecipeTotal Cost
Popcorn$ 0.47 per cup1/4 cup$0.12
Canola Oil$ 0.02 per tablespoon1.5 tablespoons$0.03
Cheese Powder$ 0.28 per tablespoon1 tablespoon$0.28
Total cost for 2 large bowls$0.43
Total cost for 1 large bowl$0.22
Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Homemade White Cheddar Popcorn - Super Easy!

  • Servings: 2-4 depending on your appetite!
  • Difficulty: easy
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A stove-top version of white cheddar popcorn!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels
  • 1.5 tablespoon of oil (we use Canola oil)
  • 1 tablespoon of cheese powder (we use King Arthur Flour Vermont Cheddar Cheese powder)
  • Note: You may choose to add an addition 1/4 to 1/2 of a tablespoon of cheese powder
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Add oil AND five popcorn kernels to a medium or large saucepan. You don’t want to add all of the kernels until after the oil is HOT!
  2. Heat the saucepan on medium heat.
  3. Once the five popcorn kernels pop, add the remaining 1/4 cup of kernels.
  4. Allow the kernels to pop until you the popping slows and you don’t hear a pop every 2-3 seconds. (usually about 5 minutes on medium heat)
  5. Pour the popcorn in a bowl (do not add the cheese powder to the saucepan, as it will burn!)
  6. Shake 1 tablespoon of cheese powder over the popcorn.
  7. Stir the popcorn, add salt to taste, and serve!

Easy Cheesy & Cheap Vegetarian Quesadillas!

Black bean quesadillas are one of our staple frugal lunches! We sometimes add sauteed onion or fajita style peppers to spice up the dish. Overall, it results in an affordable, hot, and delicious meal! This is great with our homemade easy guacamole!

Frugal Cost Analysis:

ItemIngredient Cost per UnitUnits Required for RecipeTotal Cost
Tortillas$0.23 per tortilla2 tortillas$0.46
Black Beans$0.48 per cup1/2 cup$0.24
Shredded Cheese$0.17 per tablespoon6 tablespoons$1.02
Olive Oil0.23 per tablespoon1/2 teaspoon$0.04
Total cost for 2 quesadillas$1.76
Total cost for 1 quesadilla$0.88
Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Easy Cheesy & Cheap Vegetarian Quesadillas

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A quick and delicious lunch with a crunch.


Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 flour tortillas (taco size)
  • 6 tablespoons of shredded Mexican cheese (we use Kraft four cheese)
  • a few drops of olive oil (or other oil if preferred)
  • you may want to add onion (saute first with olive oil and kosher salt!)

Directions

  1. Heat a medium or large frying pan (medium heat)
  2. Add a few DROPS of olive oil to the frying pan and heat the oil
  3. Once the oil is warmed, put one tortilla in the frying pan
  4. Add three tablespoons of shredded cheese to one half of the tortilla
  5. Add a quarter cup of black beans to the same half of the tortilla
  6. Fold tortilla in half and warm until tortilla begins to brown on the bottom
  7. Flip tortilla and continue cooking
  8. Slice tortilla into four pieces (I use a pizza cutter)
  9. Repeat steps 3 through 8 for your second quesadilla
  10. Serve with salsa and guacamole!