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I love apples! Not just during the fall and winter, but all year long, apples are my favorite fruit. So, naturally, I love applesauce, but I do not love what applesauce does to my waistline, thanks to all of the sugar.

Well, one day I was looking around some blogs and found a great recipe for skinny-ish applesauce!

I made it while staying with my parents, and I had my dad try it. His first question was, “how much sugar did you add?” I was happy to report NONE… sort of.

All of the sugar comes from the honey and the dried fruits. This also makes it extremely affordable to make, and it’s easy too!

applesauce 2

SKINNY APPLESAUCE

(adapted recipe from HERE)

What You Need:

3 apples (peeled, chopped)

honey

cinnamon

raisins, or whatever dried fruit you have

What You Do:

Preheat the over to 350 degrees

Add chopped apples to a glass baking pan

Lightly coat them in a sprinkling of cinnamon (use your judgement based on how much you like cinnamon)

Add your dried fruit

Drizzle honey all over it

Cover with foil, and bake for 35-45 minutes, or longer if you like your apples softer. Mix them up every 15 minutes or so while they’re cooking.

Mush with a fork and enjoy!

applesauce 1

 



applesauce 3

 

Messiness – Surprisingly, this isn’t that messy. I made it on my lunch break while I was working and the cook time gives you the opportunity to clean off all of the tools you used.

Simplicity – This may be the easiest recipe for applesauce I’ve found, in addition to being one of the healthiest.

Budget – All of these ingredients can be found at the 99cent store, and if not, they’re still pretty cheap. In fact, my parents happened to have everything I needed, which was why this was a perfect chance to try it.

Delicious Factor – 5/5. Easy! And while I’m not a big fan of ice cream, I can see that making this even better. Who doesn’t want a warm dessert fresh out of the over to go with some ice cream?!

I love Greek food! It always tastes so healthy and fresh, and of course a lot of it is vegetarian. But for some reason when I was growing up, I always thought it was sooo gross when my mom would get Greek salads. I’m not sure why I couldn’t get onboard with that concept, but I couldn’t… until now.

I’m not sure what possessed me to make a Greek salad one day, but I did, and I’ve been in love ever since.

The original recipe I used has since been lost, so I found a different one and adapted it!

The last time I made it was for my Nana, so you know it’s good, because I only make the best of my recipes for the family!

This recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa, who I love, but her recipes end up being pretty pricey. However, this one stuck with almost all of the original ingredients I used, especially when it comes to the dressing, which is amazing!

What You Need:

1 cucumber (sliced and quartered)

1 red bell pepper(diced)

1 yellow bell pepper (diced)

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, or a cup of your favorite chopped tomatoes

1/2 red onion (diced)

4oz (one container) feta cheese

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives

1 head romaine lettuce (roughly chopped)

1 bunch kale (roughly chopped, optional)

 

For the vinaigrette:

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup good red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup good olive oil

What You Do:

Combine all of the ingredients for the salad in one bowl

Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar or something else you can shake… then shake it up!

Mix the two and serve!

 

Messiness – There’s a lot of chopping and mixing, so as far as salads go, this isn’t the most low maintenance, but its totally worth it!

Simplicity – It’s salad, not rocket science, so that’s the good news. The bad news is that you need a lot of different ingredients. But you may already have a lot of them in your home. To make this vegan-friendly, just don’t add the feta!

Budget – When in season, you can find the majority of these ingredients on sale. The only thing you’ll need to budget in are the olives and feta. But those shouldn’t be too much, and the olives will last for awhile.

Delicious Factor – I could eat this every single day of my life, and I basically hate salad.

P.S. You can find my lettuce-free Greek salad recipe HERE, for a slightly less healthy, but no less delicious option.

black beans spanish brown rice

Whenever I’m trying to eat healthy, I have a few staples that help me stay on track. Eggs and apples are obvious ones, but I recently came up with this recipe for black beans and Spanish brown rice.

Now, if you’re looking for the most authentic tasting Spanish rice, this isn’t it. But, I can say that everyone who has tried it has loved it! It can also be a versatile base for other vegetarian things like tacos and burgers (see the Simplicity section below).

Also, I used dried black beans for my recipe, but you can just as easily use a can of black beans, and since that’s what most people use, I’ll write the recipe using a can.

That said, I’m a big fan of buying bags of dried beans and legumes, soaking them while I’m at work, then cooking them when I get home. Also, it’s extremely cost effective since a bag of black beans is about $1 and will make 3-4 cans worth. Also, then I just always have food on-hand since I try not to stock my cupboard too much ahead of time.

 

 

 

black beans spanish brown rice 2

What You Need:

One can black beans

3 roma tomatoes (chopped)/can of diced tomatoes

Small handful copped cilantro (optional)

1 can tomato sauce (not paste, not pasta sauce, just tomato sauce)

1/2 diced yellow onion (optional)

1/2 cup brown rice

1/2 TBSP chili powder

1 TBSP garlic salt (or 1/2 salt and 1/2 garlic powder)

1/2 TBSP oregano

1 tsp black pepper

1 cup vegetable broth (optional – I didn’t use it in the photo above, and it still tasted fine)

 

What You Do:

Cook your brown rice according to the instructions (I just cooked my beans for 2 hours, then when they were near tender, I added the brown rice and cooked for another 30 minutes, which is why mine have a darker color than usual)

While it’s cooking (before the rice is done), add the tomatoes, onions, tomato paste, chili powder, garlic salt, oregano, black pepper, and vegetable broth. Continue cooking until the rice is tender

Add the beans and cilantro and cook together for a few minutes, until the beans are warm (If you used dried beans, then just add cilantro and serve!)

 

Messiness – This is not messy at all! The measurements don’t need to be exact, so feel free to measure them over the pot to cut down on even more mess.

Simplicity – What isn’t there to love about a recipe that you can leave on the stove while you do something else and it takes care of itself? That’s exactly how easy this is. And it’s easy to make other things with it. For example, use this as the base for some veggie tacos, or shape the mixture, roll it in bread crumbs, and quickly bake for super easy veggie burger patties.

Budget – This is my favorite part of this recipe! Like I mentioned, I use a bag of dried beans, and have a bag of brown rice, so the only things I needed to buy were tomato paste and tomatoes, both of which totaled under $2 (I found 6 fresh roma tomatoes for $1 at Fresh and Easy). Not only is it cheap to make, but it makes a lot! This recipe is enough to feed 2-4 people, or to have that many premade meals for your week.

Delicious Factor – It’s great! Of course, true Spanish rice is made with white rice, so this definitely tastes healthier, but it doesn’t take away from the final product at all.

I made a great photo by PhotoEditor Pro!(3) I made a great photo by PhotoEditor Pro!

I love Summer! I love so many things about it, but there’s nothing quite like Autumn.

Mostly because it’s cool enough for me to cook some of my favorite foods again! The other day, I went to Trader Joe’s, and saw a beautiful spaghetti squash that was just waiting to be stuffed and roasted… so that’s what I did.

Now, it’s still pretty hot in the city, so I decided to combine one of my favorite refreshing dishes, a southwest salad, and stuff the spaghetti squash with it!

If you haven’t tried spaghetti squash yet, I can’t encourage you enough to give it a go! Not only is it amazing because it takes on whatever flavors you want, but it’s also pretty filling, and you will feel like you’re eating pasta!

Healthy and cheap! We all win!

However, this time there’s a little twist… I made two different recipes. Here’s what happened:

My friend and I do a podcast every Wednesday night. And again, we decided it was too hot to make the squash, so we just made the salad. Today, I only had enough left to stuff one half of the squash, so I improvised on the other half!

(CLICK HERE for the southwest salad recipe)

I made a great photo by PhotoEditor Pro!(2)

What You Need (for southwest stuffed):

1 recipe of southwest salad

1 TBSP olive oil

1/2 TBSP garlic salt

What You Do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (to be honest, I just used my toaster oven. It creates so much less heat! But either will work)

Lightly coat exposed inner sides of the squash with olive oil (you may not need the entire 1 TBSP)

Put the unstuffed squash halves in the oven for 20 minutes

Add the southwest salad, along with some pepperjack, mozarella, or any other cheese you want, and cook for another 20-30 minutes

Using a fork, pull the spaghetti squash flesh out in spaghetti-like strings

Enjoy!

I made a great photo by PhotoEditor Pro!(1)

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What You Need (spicy cheesy spaghetti squash):

shredded pepperjack cheese

shredded mozarella cheese

1 TBSP chili pepper

1 TBSP dried basil (you can use fresh if you want)

1 TBSP dried oregano

1 tsp crushed dried red peppers

1 TBSP garlic salt (or salt and garlic powder… or just fresh minced garlic if you have it!)

1 TBSP olive oil

What You Do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Lightly coat exposed inner sides of the squash with olive oil (you may not need the entire 1 TBSP)

Sprinkle all of your spices on the exposed inner sides of the squash

Put the squash halves in the oven for 40-50 minutes

Using a fork, pull the spaghetti squash flesh out in spaghetti-like strings

Messiness – If you don’t have a good knife, then dealing with any squash is difficult. That said, I have a knife so dull that it fell right onto my foot, blade-down, and it didn’t even draw blood. And I still make spaghetti squash as often as I can.

Simplicity – SUPER simple. If you choose the southwest stuffed version, then that entire salad requires almost only canned ingredients, and the squash is just cutting, cleaning out, and baking. The other version only requires spices you probably already have. Easy peasy.

Budget – This time of year, you can find a good sized squash for anywhere between $1-3. Which is as much as a box of pasta, only way better for you. Also, the rest is just canned stuff that you may already have in your home.

Delicious Factor – I love this so much! It combines the flavors of summer with my favorite fall/winter vegetable. Also, who doesn’t love a healthier version of spaghetti?!

When I became a vegetarian over four years ago, there were certain foods that I never stopped missing, and pot pies was one of them. I’ve never been a good enough cook to even fathom making a pot pie from scratch (I had no idea they’re so easy!), and besides, a vegetarian one wouldn’t taste nearly as good as a regular chicken pot pie.

But then I found the semi-perfect recipe! I say semi-perfect because their recipe called for mushrooms and a puff pastry crust, but since I’m not a fan of fungi and am too lazy for the puff pastry + ramekin combo, some alterations were needed.

So, without further adieu…

Lazy Vegetarian Pot Pies (makes 2)

vegetarian pot pie

*** I made the poptarts out of extra pie crust dough. Frosting was whipped up out of almond milk and powdered sugar. You can find my recipe for poptarts HERE.

What You Need:
olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves (diced)
1 large shallot (diced)
1 carrot  (diced)
1 celery stalk (diced)
1 cup potatoes (small cubes)
2 rounded tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp almond milk (or whatever kind of cream/milk you have on-hand)
2 teaspoons fresh parsley (chopped)
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper, to taste
2 pre-made regular sized pie crusts (I used Pillsbury)
2 small pie tins

*** You can swap out any of the non-vegan, non-gluten-free ingredients for ones that are as well.

What You Do:
Preheat oven according to the pie crust package’s instructions

Sautee your veggies (minus the peas) in the oil until the shallot begin to look clear (about three minutes)

Add the potatoes, along with salt and pepper and cook for five more minutes, making sure to stir the potatoes so they don’t burn

Add the flour and make sure all the veggies are coated. Cook for a few minutes.

Add the vegetable broth and almond milk. Stir together and let simmer for five minutes until it thickens a bit.

Add the parsley and peas.

In your pie tins, line the bottom with the pre-made pie crusts. Then fashion a top from the remaining pie crust.

Add spoonfuls of your veggies and broth into the pie crust-lined tins, then cover with the pastry top.

Bake according to the pie crust package instructions.

Enjoy!

Messiness: Honestly, this is a lot less messy than you think it is. Aside from the chopping, you only need one pot to sautee + simmer. The pie tins are self-contained.

Simplicity: I remember watching my Grandma make pot pies when we’d come visit her. She’d shown me countless times how to do it, but I always lost attention because at some point, it seemed too advanced. Grandma was making this super tough thing look easy. Well, it turns out that it actually is just that easy!

Everything thickens up on it’s own, you really are just chopping and mixing, but you look like a pro!

Budget: The more people you make this for, the more economical it is. Sort of. Celery, carrots, peas, potatoes, parsley; these things are cheap and you get lots of them, which is nice. What gets pricey is the pre-made pie crust. Personally, my kitchen is TINY and there’s no room to roll out and prepare pie crust. However, if you do have room, pie crust is fairly inexpensive to make on your own, which would further cut down on the cost.

Delicious Factor: This is another one of those “A ha!” recipes that taste like home and you can’t believe they took you so long to discover. I live for summer, but these pot pies are making me anxious for fall!

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You know those times when eating healthy tastes so good that you think, why don’t I just always eat this way? That’s been where I’m at since trying this whole pseudo-Mediterranean diet.

I’ve made spaghetti squash a lot throughout the years, but this has been my favorite yet!

If you’re looking for a light substitute for spaghetti, I’d highly recommend trying this!

ROASTED SPAGHETTI SQUASH

What You Need:

1 spaghetti squash

1/\3 C grape (or any small tomatoes) + 1/3 C grape (or any small tomatoes)

1 zucchini (sliced, cut into quarters)

1/2 TBSP olive oli + 2 TBSP olive oil

1 garlic clove, diced

1/2 TBSP fresh basil, chopped

2 TBSP fresh spinach

1/3 C onions, diced

1/3 C kalamata olives, halved

Feta (optional)

Salt and pepper

What You Do:

Cut and clean the spaghetti squash

Add the tomatoes, zucchini in the hollowed area and drizzle with with 1/2 TBSP olive oil

Cook at 400 degrees for 45ish min (until it starts browning)

While it’s cooking, heat up the oil, adding the onions and garlic

Once the onions are translucent, add the spinach, basil, and the rest of the tomatoes

Cook all ingredients in the oil over low-med head for about 7 min

Using a fork, scrape the “Spaghetti” out of the squash and put in a bowl; toss to get the zucchini and tomatoes mixed in

Pour the pan sauce over the squash and toss again

Add feta, salt, and pepper to taste

Messiness: I somehow find a way to make squashes the messiest, most complicated thing ever. So, for me, anything involving a squash is a mess, but if you’re normal, it’s not that bad!

Simplicity: This is actually something I dreamed up since I had all of the ingredients, minus the spaghetti squash on hand. Also, I find pan sauces to be one of the simplest ways to make yourself feel like you’re a cook!

Budget: Spaghetti squash are sort of in season, and if you already have the stuff in your house, then it’s cheap! Heck, even if you don’t, it’s still not terrible. AND once you have some of these ingredients, like the olive oil and olives, you’ll have them for awhile.

Delicious Factor: I love that it’s light and filling. The sauce has a lot of flavor to it, ,and the squash gets some of the juices from the zucchini and tomatoes that were cooked in it. In fact, you can halve your tomatoes before cooking them in the squash to give it a slightly more tomato-y flavor.

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I’ve been admittedly on a bit of a Mediterranean kick lately. It’s like everywhere I turn, people are lauding praise on the food from this region. So, why not try it for awhile.

Also, it always takes me awhile to work through a bunch of basil.

It’s been over a week, and with few exceptions, I’ve been able to stick to the Mediterranean foods, even when eating out or ordering in at the office.

All of this to say, expect several new recipes, all with virtually the same ingredients, cooked lots of different, yummy ways.

First up, Mediterranean couscous and kale salad!

 

KALE SALAD

 

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What You Need:

1 bunch kale

1 cup cherry, grape, sugar plum tomatoes (basically, just small tomatoes, though larger ones will work too, jut chop them up)

1/4 C shelled sunflower seeds (I use salted)

1 small scallion, diced (about 1 TBSP)

Feta (optional)

2 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP lemon juice

Salt and pepper

What You Do:

Clean and dry the kale; tear into bite-sized pieces

Add the tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and scallions

Toss with lemon juice, oil, and feta

Add salt and pepper to taste

 

MEDITERRANEAN COUSCOUS

wpid-IMAG0235_1.jpgWhat You Need:

1 C cooked couscous

1 C cherry tomatoes; halved  (see the same note about the tomatoes above)

1/3 C kalamata olives; halved

1/4 C fresh basil; chopped + 1/2 TBSP fresh basil; chopped

1/3 C fresh spinach; chopped

1/4 C olive oil

1/4 C lemon juice

2 garlic cloves; minced

Feta (optional)

Salt and pepper

What You Do:

Cook the couscous according to the directions on the box

Let cool and add the tomatoes, olives, 1/4 C basil, and spinach; mix together

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients: olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, 1/2 TBSP chopped basil; mix

Pour the dressing into couscous and mix up

Add feta, salt, and pepper to taste.

 

Messiness: Honestly, this isn’t messy at all. Drying the kale and chopping things will be the messiest part. As for the cleanup and dishes, just one pot for the couscous, and everything else is kind of “clean up while you go.”

Simplicity: SUPER easy! Actually, this ended up being the product of a few different recipes I found for Mediterranean couscous. That is to say, you basically can’t go wrong.

Budget: I can’t lie, these ingredients aren’t the cheapest, but if you buy them, and cook with them for a few days, it’s not that bad. Kale, couscous, basil, olives, and feta will run about $3 each, olive oil about $6 at Trader Joe’s, and everything else you should be able to find at the 99 Cent store, or somewhere not too expensive.

Delicious Factor: Really good! The best part is that all of these ingredients taste really fresh together. The kale is super filling so you’re not tempted to chow down on too much couscous. It’ll still be hard though.

 

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