As you know, I am a University student. I have a busy schedule of class, part-time jobs and various other projects, and a budget concious wallet. Despite this, Rowan and I try to remain creative and have fun in the kitchen while keeping mindful of our budget and our time constraints. Luckily, both of us enjoy cooking, which actually makes cooking meals together not only fun, but a good way to turn an everyday event, into a ‘special’ date night.
The following photos are of meals we’ve made recently, and are actually quite proud of! Some of these do take a little bit of time to prepare, but like I said, by turning it into ‘date’ night, we actually had a lot of fun doing these together. If you don’t have a partner to create dinner with, try these recipes out for your next friends night in. You’ll have a lot of fun playing with the flavours and getting hands on in the kitchen.
This is actually fairly simple to make if you don’t want to make your own guacamole or re-fried beans, specifically if you want to make this and you don’t have a potato masher (oops!)
The guacamole would probably have been easier to make if I had used a more ripe avacado. Making your own guac is actually super easy. We bought 6 avacados from the farmer’s market earlier that day, so we definitely wanted to make our own guac since we had all of the ingredients on hand. Cut your avacado into small pieces, then in a bowl mash together with lemon juice, and your favourite spices. I just used a bit of pepper and garlic. If, like me, your avacados aren’t quite ripe, soak them in water to get them to loosen up a bit.
The re-fried beans were in the end also quite easy. I tried to follow a recipe but they wanted me to soak the beans overnight and then cook for two hours. Not with our time restraints. Instead, I soaked the beans in hot water for about 20 minutes, then cooked them in a pot of water (covering the beans with an added half inch of water on top) for about 20 minutes, or until they’ve expanded significantly. Pour the beans (with the water from the pot) into a frying pan on medium heat and mash up the beans with a potato masher (or fork). The bean mixture should soak up the water. If it gets too dry, add some more water, and if they are too soupy, just keep cooking them.
We then wrapped them in whole wheat wraps, with sour cream, medium salsa, red peppers, lettuce and brown rice (cooked as per instructions on the box). Then we toasted them in the frying pan. They are still missing a little something, maybe a special ‘burrito sauce’ but otherwise they were just as good as what we could have gotten at a Burrito joint in town!
Cost to make (yielded four): approx. $7.00
Salsa Sauce Gnocchi
We had leftover gnocchi, but no pasta sauce. We didn’t have time to run out to the grocery store, but we did have salsa on hand. Could we make pasta sauce out of salsa? The easy answer was yes. They both have tomatoes, they both have seasoning, how hard could it be? Not hard at all. I cooked the gnocchi (store bought, super cheap at No Frills!) in a pot of water (you know it is done when they rise to the top of the water, gnocchi also cooks very quickly!) while I cooked our sausages in a frying pan. We used pre-cooked sausages so they didn’t take long at all, then tossed in some green pepper. We turned down the heat and added the salsa to the pan. As it was a bit chunky and we didn’t think it would cover all of the pasta, we added some milk and cheese to create more of a ‘rose’ sauce. We tossed the gnochhi in and covered to cook all of the flavours together. It was delicious!
Cost to make (yieled three meals): approx. $5.00
For Rowan’s birthday this past summer, my mom bought him the tools to make sushi! She also got him a grocery store gift card so he could buy the ingredients. This was a super fun date night, but took a long time and is the most expensive out of these dishes, so be prepared! The sticky rice was the most compliacated and long part of the meal, because after cooking it you have to let it cool and sit for a while. The recipe we used suggested you lay it out on a cookie sheet and lay a towel over top to cool it down. While the sticky rice was cooking/cooling, we made an appetizer! It was very simple, and we just wrapped bacon and cheese (feta) around shrimp and baked them. Super tasty and an easy thing to settle us in while we waiting for the rice.
We bought pre-cooked rice for the sushi as well, so we got to work cutting those into shape, and then cutting our veggies. We decided to go with cucumber, and at the last minute, yellow pepper. We weren’t sure how the yellow pepper would work, but it was AMAZING! Definitely added something to the overall flavour of the sushi. We love spicy mayo, but unfortunately we had no mayo on hand. I tried to whip up something weird and similar by mixing ceasar dressing and Frank’s Red Hot, and it wasn’t that bad! It was definitely good enough for our standards.
Rolling the sushi wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be either, but as Rowan pointed out, I’m crafty and used to working with my hands a lot so that wasn’t too surprising. He had a bit more of a hard time, but overall he did well too! We are going to making sushi again soon, and I’ll post again with some tips on how we made ours better the second time around!
Cost to make (yielded 35 pieces): approx. $9.00
Let me know your tricks to remaining on your budget and cooking in your time frame! Also, how do you keep your quick, tasty meals healthy too?