Basil Lemonade

I like fresh lemonade, and we are currently having hot, sunny weather. Unfortunately, we don’t have any lemons in the house. Thankfully, you can make lemonade from lemon juice concentrate that tastes deceptively like the real thing!

I made my lemonade with fresh basil leaves. You can omit the basil, or use a different fresh herb.

Also keep in mind that you can easily tweak this recipe to your liking. If you like really tart lemonade, cut the sugar or add more lemon juice concentrate.

Cost Analysis:

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020. Your actual costs may differ.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Basil Lemonade

  • Difficulty: Easy
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This fresh basil lemonade is easy to make and can be made with lemon juice concentrate.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of ice cold water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice concentrate (or fresh lemon juice)
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 2 basil leaves, optional
  • Ice, optional

Directions

  1. Combine water, lemon juice, sugar, and basil leaves in a small blender.
  2. Blend ingredients until you can no longer see the basil leaves. Note – the lemonade will be frothy from the blending process.
  3. Add a few ice cubes to a glass. Then, pour the lemonade into a glass. If you do not like the froth, pour carefully or strain. Or, refrigerate the mixture to allow the frothiness to decrease.
  4. Garnish with a basil leaf if you are feeling festive, and enjoy!

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Easy Overnight Oats with Raspberries

For many years, I commuted an hour each way to work, and left very early in the morning. In an effort to maximize my sleep, I started making overnight oats every evening so I had access to a convenient breakfast the next day.

The base recipe of oats, milk, and peanut butter has remained the same, although I have used both powdered and regular peanut butter. Powdered peanut butter mixes well, but is more expensive than regular peanut butter. The base recipe has a cost of approximately $0.52, but the toppings can add up quickly.

The recipe I enjoy the most includes whole flax seed, almonds, and raspberries. I found that this keeps me full until lunch, and adds some much needed fiber to my diet. However, cheaper combinations I have used include using dried fruit (like cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc.), nearly any sliced or chopped nut is pleasant, and other fresh berries (such as strawberries and blueberries).

I used to add all of the toppings prior to refrigeration, but the meal ended up too soggy for me. I also used to make multiple servings ahead of time, but the quality becomes marginal by the third day. So, I would recommend making it nightly and adding the toppings just before eating.

The cost of the raspberry overnight oats is a pricey $1.39. Consider alternate toppings to significantly reduce your daily cost. See below for the cost breakdown.

Cost Analysis:

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020. Your total cost may differ.

Night Before:

In the Morning:

Recipe:

Easy Raspberry Overnight Oats

  • Difficulty: easy
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An easy and tasty breakfast with a nutty flavor and a mixture of texture.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter or peanut butter powder
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup raspberries

Directions

  1. Combine oats, milk, and peanut butter in a bowl with a tight fitting lid (or use a mason jar).
  2. Seal bowl and refrigerate mixture for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
  3. Before consuming, mix in toppings of your choice. This recipe includes flax seed, almonds, and raspberries, which results in a pleasant nutty taste and a mix of textures.
  4. Enjoy!

-James

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Fast, Easy, & Delicious Pasta

My college cafeteria served made-to-order pasta. It was great. Perhaps it was a little too great, as I gained 10 pounds during my first year of college…

In the cafeteria, a cook would allow you to select your garlic, oil, sauce, vegetables, meat, and pasta noodle shape. As a frequenter of the pasta station, I sampled a variety of made-to-order dishes. Now, easy pasta dishes are my go-to lazy meal. You can use up the produce you have in your home, and make the pasta dish to your taste.

For me, a great lazy pasta dish only requires:

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Some form of tomato (grape, diced, or even canned)
  • Pasta

Other add-ins I like include:

  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh herbs
  • Other vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, peppers, etc.

The olive oil and tomatoes form a light sauce. The addition of garlic, cheese and fresh herbs makes it a great light dish for summer. If you want something heavier, consider adding butter, additional cheese, and meat.

The pasta we had last night incorporated fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, and two types of cheese. The cost was $1.71 per person (see below for cost analysis).

Cost Analysis:

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020. Your total cost may differ.

Recipe:

Quick & Easy Pasta Dish

  • Difficulty: easy
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An easy and versatile pasta dish.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
  • 1 1/4 cups grape tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 4 ounces pasta (I used fettuccine, but any shape will do)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (or balsamic vinegar)
  • Additional add-ins: mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil or other herbs, other vegetables!

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil on medium heat. Separately, boil water in a saucepan and prepare pasta noodles per box instructions.
  2. Add finely chopped onion and a pinch of salt to the olive oil and allow the onion to cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and 1 cup of grape tomatoes, and any additional vegetables. Allow mixture to cook for a few minutes in the oil. Add lemon juice.
  3. Allow this mixture to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until onion and tomato are softened.
  4. Mix pasta noodles into the tomato sauce.
  5. Top with 1/4 cup of uncooked tomatoes (if desired). I like this for the texture, but you could choose to cook all of the tomatoes.
  6. Top with cheese, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, if desired.
  7. Enjoy!

What are your go-to lazy meals?

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Small Batch Peanut Butter Oat Breakfast Bites

James’ previous job required an hour long commute. He often left early in the morning, and he did not have time to sit down for a lengthy breakfast. During this time period, I started making these breakfast muffins on a weekly.

The muffins have just about everything. You get a little maple syrup, oats, cinnamon, peanut butter, and chocolate in every bite. They are quick to make and easy to transport. Win win!

I prefer to make a small batch (about 6 muffins) because they are really only good for a few days. However, this batch can easily be doubled or tripled.

Despite the amount of flavor in these bites, they are relatively inexpensive. My cost analysis (see below) comes out to about $0.28 per muffin. You could always ditch the chocolate chips to save a few cents, but where is the fun in that?

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:

Small Batch Peanut Butter Oat Bites

  • Difficulty: easy
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These delicious breakfast muffins pack a lot of flavor into every bite. Peanut butter, oats, cinnamon, chocolate...need I say more?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (uncooked)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Add egg and oil to the dry ingredients and mix.
  4. Mix peanut butter, maple syrup, and vanilla into the mixture.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Line a muffin/cupcake tin with liners or light grease.
  7. Fill muffin tin cups about 3/4 of the way full.
  8. Bake for 14-18 minutes. The muffins should be lightly browned.
  9. Allow to cool and enjoy!

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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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15 Minute Dangerously Delicious Lava Cakes

Before making these lava cakes, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I like chocolate?
  2. Do I have 15 minutes?
  3. Do I have $2?

If you answered yes to all of the above, you should proceed!

These lava cakes are one of my default recipes for entertaining. They are delicious and can be ready in just 15 minutes! My recipe is a modified version of a recipe I saw on Kraft’s website a few years ago (click here for original recipe).

The cost computation revealed that the lava cakes cost about $0.50 per person (without any whipped cream). See below for details:

Cost Analysis:

Please note, costs are based on what I paid for my ingredients. You costs may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

15 Minute Dangerously Delicious Lava Cakes

  • Difficulty: easy
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Gooey and delicious lava cakes that are easy, quick, and relatively frugal at $0.50 a piece!

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces of baker’s chocolate (I use semi-sweet)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • a few sprays of cooking spray
  • chocolate syrup and whipped cream, if desired

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut butter and chocolate into pieces, place in a large microwave-save bowl (I use a large glass measuring cup), and microwave until the butter is melted. It usually take about a minute in my microwave on HIGH.
  3. Stir the butter and chocolate mixture until the chocolate is fully melted.
  4. Add powdered sugar and stir. Add egg and egg yolk and stir. Add flour and stir.
  5. Spray a cupcake tin (or small ramekins) lightly with cooking spray.
  6. Pour batter (about 3/4 of the way full) into cupcake tins.
  7. Bake 8 to 9 min. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  8. Use a butter knife to gently remove lava cakes from cupcake tin.
  9. Garnish with chocolate syrup and whipped cream!

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Easy Vegetarian Refried Beans

When we were newly married, we lived near an excellent Mexican restaurant. We didn’t eat there often, but when we did, I always got a dish that included refried beans. We no longer live near the Mexican restaurant, so I make them at home instead!

This recipe is delicious (and reheats reasonably well). It is a great side dish, but we often eat them as part of an entree. I use the refried beans as a filling in my tacos (in lieu of meat). I combine the beans with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and guacamole. It is absolutely delicious.

The beans are also relatively inexpensive. It costs about $1.65 to make a batch of the beans, and you should be able to get two entree-sized servings out of the batch. If you are serving as a side dish, you should be able to get four servings out of the batch. Enjoy! – Kristin

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:

Easy Vegetarian Refried Beans

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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These homemade refried beans are easy, delicious, and cost $0.83 per serving. You'll never go back to the can…

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (more if you like them spicy)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice, optional
  • 1 can (14.5-15.5 ounces) pinto beans, NOT drained

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat.
  2. Add diced onion and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add garlic and chili powder and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Mix in the pinto beans (with liquid from can), the vegetable broth, and lime juice.
  5. Continue to cook the mixture on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to stir and mash (or mush if you prefer the term) the mixture periodically. The beans are ready when they thicken.
  6. Serve in tacos, as part of a taco salad, or as a side dish to any Mexican fare.
  7. Enjoy!

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Easy Summer Caprese Appetizer

It is a gorgeous summer day, and James and I wanted something light for lunch. We had some leftover crusty artisan bread (click here for recipe) and decided to make a lunch out of one of our favorite appetizers: easy summer caprese!

We had some fresh mozzarella, a few tomatoes that had seen better days, our trusty basil plant, and the leftover homemade bread. On a colder day, I would make make a toasty caprese sandwich (click here for recipe), but some days are just too warm for a grilled cheese!

A few notes: If you don’t have fresh mozzarella, you can use part of a block of mozzarella cheese (or even mozzarella cheese sticks). If you don’t have fresh basil, a pinch of dried basil will still be tasty! If you don’t have or want bread, this is delicious as a salad.

If you serve this as an appetizer, it will cost you approximately $0.60 per person (assuming you 4 servings). If you eat as a light meal, only plan on 2 servings. See the cost analysis below:

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:

Easy Summer Caprese Appetizer

  • Difficulty: Easy
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An quick and easy appetizer perfect for a warm summer day.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf of bread (see artisan bread recipe)
  • 3 ounces of mozzarella cheese (fresh mozzarella if you have it)
  • 4 basil leaves, sliced (I keep a basil plant for economical fresh herbs)
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil + more for bread if desired
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Combine chopped tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil in a bowl.
  2. Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar to bowl.
  3. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Mix ingredients.
  5. Serve with slices of bread (cut into half or quarters) or as a salad. If you would like, you can toast the bread and serve this as bruschetta! Advise your guests to put the mixture on top of the bread for optimal deliciousness!

-Kristin

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5 Minute Salad with Easy Homemade Dressing

If you don’t have much time on your hands to prepare lunch or dinner, this easy and nutritious salad might be the recipe for you! It is a quick and easy southwest style salad that we frequently make in the summer.

The salad itself is relatively inexpensive to make. Note, the recipe uses one half of an avocado. Read how to keep the other half fresh here.

Based on what I paid for my own ingredients, it costs about $1 per salad (see below for a cost analysis).

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:

5 Minute Salad with Easy Homemade Dressing

  • Difficulty: easy
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This easy and delicious green salad is fresh and hearty, and perfect on a warm summer day.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 2 ounces canned corn, drained
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Olive oil, 1 tablespoon
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon lime juice
  • Potential Add-Ins: You may want to add crushed tortilla chips (maybe the crumbs from the bottom of the bag), salsa, salt and pepper. You can also add shredded cheese. 🙂

Directions

  1. Combine olive oil, lime juice and dried cilantro to make a quick dressing. (plus salt and pepper, to taste)
  2. Mix lettuce, tomato, black beans, corn, and avocado together.
  3. Cover with dressing.
  4. Add tortilla chips, cheese, and/or salsa, if desired.
  5. 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!”