Red Beans and Rice... Guilt-Free!

I really need to start taking pictures before I devour the meals I make!  Today I decided to be creative and try for my own brand of red beans and rice.  What I ended up with was delicious, easy, cheap, and HEALTHY!  This recipe also allows for dozens of variations, depending on what you have on hand.  All the ingredients were bought at Aldi (and therefore cheap... like I think this dinner cost about $6 total).  This meal would feed 3-4 people.

Whole grain rice (2 cups)
1 can diced tomatoes with chiles
1 can red kidney beans in chili sauce (2 cans may be preferred for bulk)
1/2 can corn
corn tortillas
feta or low-fat jack cheese

Set oven to 350.  Cut tortillas into quarters and place in a single layer on cookie sheets.  Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.  Those will go in for about 20 minutes, but keep an eye on them.  When they've browned around the edges and look crisp, remove them from the oven.  Now you have homemade tortilla chips!

Make rice with about a 1/2 cup water and then use the liquid from the can of tomatoes and chiles for the rest of the water.  Boil water, then add rice and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes.  Before you cover it, however, add tomatoes and chiles and corn... then cover.

Heat beans in a small saucepan.  When rice is done, add beans, stirring together.  Serve with a bit of feta on top or low-fat jack cheese.

You've now got a bulky meal full of fiber (very filling and very healthy) and quite delicious!  Serve with the tortilla chips for a fantastic crunch!  You can add other veggies (peppers, perhaps) and meat, if you wish (Cajun seasoned sausage would be delicious).  I couldn't believe how easy, delicious, cheap, and HEALTHY this dish ended up!  Enjoy!


Healthy Chipotle Pasta

No picture for this one, folks... sorry.  It was so good that we devoured it without even thinking of taking a picture.  I had a friend over, and we wanted to experiment (as we usually do).  We could only use what was in the pantry, and we wanted to be healthy.  Here's the fantastic meal we came up with:

1 cup pre-cooked chicken strips
3/4 box whole wheat pasta
brocolli florets
sweet red pepper, chopped
green beans
olive oil
garlic (2 cloves)
chipotle seasoning
liquid smoke (just a bit)
lemon juice (just a bit)

The amounts of the above ingredients are up to you-- add as much as you want, and whatever looks good.  And the great things about this is you can use whatever vegetables are on hand. 

I warmed the chicken in the microwave while I cooked the pasta.  In a cast-iron skillet, I cooked the peppers and green beans on medium with just a spray of Pam and one clove of garlic, with chipotle seasoning.  Let it blacken just a bit.  In a big skillet I put the other clove of garlic, a bit of lemon juice, a bit of liquid smoke, pepper, salt, and broccoli on medium with the olive oil.  When the chicken and pasta are done, add them to the broccoli.  Add the peppers and green beans.  Stir and add more chipotle seasoning to taste. 

When you're done, you'll have a delicious, peppery, HEALTHY meal!  Most of the ingredients (save for the lemon juice, liquid smoke, and chipotle seasoning) can be found at Aldi.  Give it a try-- don't measure anything and just see what looks and tastes good!


Bake Me Some Pasta!

I love me some garlic. Which means I love me some Italian. Tonight I had TONS to do-- clean my apartment, do the laundry, watch some "Bones," and I had some veggies that were about to turn South in my fridge. So I made some baked pasta, quick and HEALTHY style:

Depending on the size of the pan, you'll want to vary how much you put in. I used a round glass covered bowl, since it's just me, so the following are measurements I used for that (approximately... I don't really measure. Yeah, I'm one of those annoying ones. Just be brave and eyeball it, people! Trust yourself. And when yourself fails, now you know for next time! :) ).

1/2 box whole wheat rotini
1/2 bottle of pasta sauce
1/2 small container of reduced-fat ricotta cheese
2 small zucchini, sliced and quartered
1 large tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic
Assorted spices to taste
Handfuls of shredded Parmesan cheese

I preheated the oven to 350 and tossed the zucchini and tomatoes (guilt-free!) with the pressed garlic into a big pan on medium heat, while I added the pasta to boiling water. While the pasta cooked, I put the sauce and ricotta in with the vegetables and stirred until it was all combined. Letting that simmer and the pasta cook, I waited until the pasta was tender and then drained it. I then put it in the glass bowl and when the sauce mixture began to get a bit bubbly, I added it to the pasta and stirred it all up evenly. I put a few handfuls of Parmesan on top, covered it, and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes. After that, I uncovered the pasta and let it cook for another 5 minutes or so. It smelled and tasted delicious!!

I was able to get some work done while it baked, and enjoyed it afterward, with minimal guilt-- the veggies, sauce, and garlic are good for you, the whole-wheat pasta is undetectable and fiber-full, and the Parmesan is a low-fat cheese option. The low-fat ricotta is the only real indulgence. In addition, as always, the ingredients can be bought at Aldi to keep the meal super cheap! This bowlful of baked pasta will feed me for a few days!


Crowd-Pleasing, Pantry-Cleaning Chowder

OK, let me start off by saying that this is one of my absolute FAVORITE meals. It's easy on the stomach and taste buds, waistline, and wallet!

There are as many varieties to this soup as there are ingredients, so feel free to be creative and make it your own! Tonight I had few ingredients and more than just me to feed, so I pulled out these random ingredients from my pantry:

1 can chunky chicken soup
2 cans chicken stock
1/2 a red pepper
1 can of corn
4 small baked potatoes that I had frozen
1 small bag Uncle Ben's quick brown rice
1 packet of instant mashed potatoes (bacon and Swiss flavored)

I chopped the pepper and sauteed it in a bit of olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. I poured the soup, stock, and drained corn into a pot on medium heat. I thawed and chopped the potatoes and added those, then the packet of mashed potato mix. I let it get to just about boiling, then added the peppers. I then made the rice (90 seconds in the microwave)and added that. I let it stew for about 5 minutes to get thick. Add spices to taste (I like garlic powder, paprika, pepper, salt, and onion powder). All together it couldn't have taken more than 15 minutes to make, and I had used random items in my pantry and fridge! I served the soup with biscuits, and it was a hit!

I got all these items at Aldi, which made them super cheap. You could vary the mashed potato flavor, add white beans, add more veggies and chicken, or whatever... it's pretty hard to mess this soup up. And if you need to feed a lot, just add more stock and mashed potatoes-- the beauty of this is you can watch it take shape and can tell what it needs.

Quick , easy, delicious, cheap, and HEALTHY! Can't beat that. Use whatever is in your pantry and store leftover soup in the freezer. It keeps well and heats up perfectly for later lunches and dinners. Give it a try!



I love Mexican-flavored food. Who doesn't? The following is a recipe I put together one night when I was simply craving Mexican. You can put it together the way I did or try another option... the flavors are always a win! Oh, and by the way, these are HEALTHY options-- fairly low-fat and full of fiber!

You will need (most can be picked up at Aldi for super-cheap!):
Small corn tortillas
1 can fat-free refried beans
1 package low-fat neufchatel cheese
1 package fat-free cheddar cheese
1 can chili, with or without meat
1 can enchilada sauce (I chose medium spice)

Preheat oven to 400. Combine refried beans, neufchatel cheese, and chili. Warm the tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds (they'll need to be warm to roll or they'll rip). Spoon the mixture into the warm tortilla and roll; place side-by-side in a pan. When the pan is full, cover with enchilada sauce and top with cheddar cheese. Cover with foil. Bake for about 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for about 10, until cheese and sauce are bubbly.

You can add green onions for added flavor if you so choose, avacado for healthy fat, and black beans for fiber.

Another option with same ingredients is Mexican lasagna (you may want to double ingredients):

Layer corn tortillas into the bottom of a pan. Cover with mixture, then sauce, then cheese. Add another layer of tortillas, and repeat. Continue to layer until you have about 4 layers of tortillas, and bake just as the enchiladas are baked.