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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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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The Humble Egg Sandwich: Fast, Cheap, & Hearty

The humble egg sandwich is a fast, convenient, and relatively nutritious meal. Although this is usually something that I would consume for breakfast, I have eaten a lot of egg sandwiches for quick lunches or lazy dinners. At only 250 calories, with 11 grams of protein, the egg sandwich is also pretty nutritious and very cheap!


For many years, I had an hour-long commute to and from work every day. I often made one of these sandwiches, wrapped it in waxed paper, and ate it on the way to work.


If you want to make your egg sandwich even cheaper, use a slice of bread (or two) instead of an English muffin. (If you opt for 2 slices of bread, use a slightly larger bowl – at least 4 inches in diameter.) Although I usually top my egg sandwiches with nothing more than salt and pepper, feel free to experiment. Cheddar or pepper jack cheese, hot sauce, bacon, ham, fresh tomato, or even ketchup or mustard can liven up your sandwich.

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:

The Humble Egg Sandwich: Fast, Cheap, & Hearty

  • Difficulty: easy
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Kick start your day with this hearty and convenient sandwich (or eat it for lunch, or dinner, or whenever…)

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 spray of cooking spray, or any oil to prevent sticking
  • 1 English muffin, bagel, or sliced bread
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Slice English muffin in half and place in toaster (or toaster oven).
  2. Spray a small bowl (about 3″ in diameter) with cooking spray or wipe with oil.
  3. Crack egg into bowl and scramble with a fork.
  4. Microwave egg on high for 1 minute, stopping every 15 seconds to allow the egg to “rest” for 10 second intervals. This will prevent the egg from exploding.
  5. Butter insides of toasted English muffin.
  6. Place egg “disc” inside the English muffin. Top with salt and pepper, to taste.
  7. Enjoy!

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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!”

Irresistible Rosemary Focaccia Bread for $1.20

I am a lover of bread, and rosemary focaccia bread is one of my absolute favorites. This bread is relatively easy and ALWAYS impresses dinner guests. It turns out perfectly every time I make it, and it is unbelievably delicious.

While searching for a great focaccia bread recipe, I stumbled upon a recipe posted by Gimme Some Oven. The bread I prepare is an adaptation of her amazing rosemary focaccia bread. My version uses dried rosemary (as I do not generally have fresh rosemary on hand) and divides the recipe in half.

Another great thing about this bread is that it is relatively inexpensive to make, especially considering the luxurious end result.

Cost Analysis:

This analysis excludes the cost of toppings. For more on the cost of toppings, click here!
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:

Irresistible Rosemary Focaccia Bread for $1.20

  • Difficulty: relatively easy
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A luxurious and salty loaf of focaccia bread elevated with the addition of rosemary.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.25 teaspoons active-dry yeast (1/2 package)
  • 1.75 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + additional tablespoon for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt + additional for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Directions

  1. Combine yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add warm water to mixture.
  2. Let yeast proof for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and one tablespoon olive oil to the yeast mixture. I use a stand mixer with a dough hook, and I use it to mix the dough on low in the stand mixer for about a minute. If you do not have a stand mixer, mix and knead the dough by hand.
  4. Add additional flour, kosher salt, and one tablespoon of olive oil. Mix on medium-low for another 4-5 minutes.
  5. Form dough into a ball and put it in a greased mixing bowl. Put a little oil on top of the dough ball and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Allow dough to rise for about 45-60 minutes (I tend to wait 60 minutes) in a warm area.
  6. Take dough out of the bowl and roll it into a circle. You can use a rolling pin, but I sometimes just push the dough down with my hands. Put the flattened dough on a baking sheet, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and allow to rise for another 20 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Poke holes all over the dough, drizzle it with a tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt and dried rosemary, to taste.
  8. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes and enjoy! Note: This bread is best on its first day. If you are not planning to eat all of the bread on its first day, I would recommend drizzling with olive oil and reheating it in the oven prior to eating.

Avocado Salad with Roasted Potatoes

A few years ago, James and I took a (frugal) vacation to York, England. We had a very enjoyable lunch in an elegant tea room, located on a busy street corner. I ordered a salad similar to this one, and we spent a lovely hour talking, watching the street through the tall windows, and soaking up the atmosphere.

When our vacation was over, and we returned home, I tried to recreate the salad from the tea room. It has become one of our favorite fresh and frugal meals. We had this avocado salad for lunch today. It was delicious and cost about $1.40 per person. The only thing missing was the beautiful tea room and a fabulous cup of English Breakfast Tea. Enjoy!

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:

Avocado Salad with Roasted Potatoes

  • Difficulty: easy
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This fresh and hearty salad has a great blend of flavors and textures.

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled, sliced, and halved
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, peeled and sliced
  • 2 potatoes (I used russet), peeled and diced
  • Lettuce (either romaine or a spring mix)
  • Olive oil, 1 tablespoon + more for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, if desired

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Peel and dice potatoes. Mix in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread potatoes on baking sheet. Season with kosher salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Bake potatoes for 25-30 minutes in oven. Check halfway through and flip. Season with more salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Peel the celery (I do this to remove some of the strings) and cut up the avocado.
  6. Mix lettuce, cucumber, celery and avocado together. Dress with olive oil and a little bit of balsamic vinegar. Top with roasted potatoes and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Hearty Southwest Black Beans & Rice

This recipe is a staple in our house. It is cheap, delicious and makes for great leftovers!

I usually eat mine taco-style in tortilla shells with shredded cheese, tomato, lettuce, and guacamole. James prefers to load his up with taco fixings and eat with chips. Either way is great!

This is a relatively cheap recipe at $0.80 per generous serving. Happy eating!

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:

Southwest Black Beans & Rice

  • Difficulty: easy
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Rice, Black Beans, Corn and some basic spices make for a hearty vegetarian main dish or a great side dish!

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice (I usually use long grain)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or salted water if you don’t have broth)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 can of black beans (about 15 ounces), drained
  • 1 small can of whole kernel corn (8-9 ounces), drained

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium size saucepan on medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add rice and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes (until slightly toasted).
  3. Add vegetable broth and bring mixtures to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low for about 20 minutes.
  4. Add cumin and chili powder and stir into rice mixture.
  5. Stir black beans and corn into the mixture.
  6. Serve with all the standard taco fixings inside of tortillas, with tortilla chips, or just enjoy plain!