Spinach and Feta Grilled Cheese

Take your grilled cheese sandwich to the next level with this gourmet Spinach Feta Grilled Cheese! An easy and flavorful lunch idea.

The post Spinach and Feta Grilled Cheese appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Because I add spinach to everything. I keep frozen spinach on hand so I can toss a handful into whatever I’m cooking and spinach felt like such a natural addition to my usual grilled cheese. I also added a little feta cheese for a tangy punch, a few spicy flakes of red pepper, and toasted it up on some good bread. The result was something truly spectacular. This Spinach Feta Grilled Cheese only takes a few minutes more than regular grilled cheese, and it’s SO worth the extra effort. No joke, you’ll pay about $8 for something like this at your local cafe, but not at home!

Originally posted 8/31/13, updated 1/19/2022.

A stack of spinach and feta grilled cheese sandwich halves

Is This a Melt or a Grilled Cheese?

Okay, so technically this type of sandwich is called a “melt.” A melt is a grilled cheese that has other ingredients added, like vegetables or meat, whereas a grilled cheese is a cheese-only grilled sandwich. While the difference between a melt and a grilled cheese often sparks heated debates, I want people to be able to find this recipe on the internet and the data shows that people are searching for “spinach and feta grilled cheese,” not “spinach and feta melt”. The English language is fluid, and the use of the term “melt” is declining. So here we are! 

What Kind of Bread is Best for Grilled Cheese

I originally used ciabatta bread for this recipe, but it wasn’t available this time around so I chose a nice sourdough bread instead. Homemade focaccia would also be nice. Because the ingredients in this recipe are a little more hearty than your everyday grilled cheese sandwich, I would suggest using any sturdy bread that can hold up to the filling ingredients. Skip the soft white bread for this one. ;)

What Kind of Spinach to Use

I used frozen spinach for this recipe because it’s easy to keep on hand without worrying about it spoiling, but you could absolutely use fresh spinach if you have it. Just sauté it down until most of the moisture is gone, just as I did below with the frozen spinach.

As far as frozen spinach goes, you’ll want to buy the kind that comes loose in a bag rather than the type that is frozen into a block. That will allow you to thaw just enough for this recipe while leaving the rest in the freezer for your next cooking adventure.

What to Serve with Spinach and Feta Grilled Cheese

As with any grilled cheese sandwich, this spinach and feta version goes great with a cup of tomato soup. But you could also serve it with a little dish of pasta sauce or pizza sauce for dipping!

What Else Can I Add?

Oh, there are so many delicious possibilities for add-ins here: olives, artichokes, red onion, parmesan cheese… I’d not be against putting an egg on there, too. ;)

Overhead view of spinach and feta grilled cheese on a cutting board with a bowl of sauce


A stack of spinach and feta grilled cheese sandwiches

Spinach and Feta Grilled Cheese

Take your grilled cheese sandwich to the next level with this gourmet Spinach Feta Grilled Cheese! An easy and flavorful lunch idea.
Course Lunch, Sandwich
Cuisine American
Total Cost $3.62 recipe / $1.81 serving
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 2 1 sandwich each
Calories 507kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil $0.08
  • 1 clove garlic, minced $0.08
  • 1/4 lb. frozen chopped spinach $0.42
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper $0.05
  • 4 slices bread $1.00
  • 2 Tbsp butter $0.20
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella $1.15
  • 1 oz. feta $0.62
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper $0.02

Instructions

  • Add the olive oil and minced garlic to a skillet. Sauté over medium heat for about one minute, then add the frozen spinach (no need to thaw), and a pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to sauté over medium until most of the moisture has evaporated from the skillet.
  • Spread butter over one side of each of the slices of bread. Flip the bread over so the buttered side is facing down as you build the sandwiches.
  • Divide half of the shredded mozzarella between two slices of bread. Top the mozzarella with the crumbled feta.
  • Divide the cooked spinach between the two sandwiches, then top with the remaining shredded mozzarella and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Top each sandwich with the second slice of bread, buttered side facing out.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-low. Once hot, add the sandwiches and cook on each side until golden brown and crispy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside.
  • Cut the sandwiches in half and serve!

Nutrition

Serving: 1sandwich | Calories: 507kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 33g | Sodium: 962mg | Fiber: 4g
Half of a spinach and feta grilled cheese dipping into pizza sauce

How to Make Spinach and Feta Grilled Cheese – Step by Step Photos

cooked spinach in a skillet

Add a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and one minced clove of garlic to a small skillet. Cook the garlic for about a minute, then add ¼ lb. froen spinach (you can just estimate ¼ of a one pound bag, or ⅓ of a 12oz. bag). Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and continue to sauté over medium until most of the moisture has evaporated.

four slices of buttered bread

Spread about ½ Tbsp butter over one side of each slice of bread (four slices).

shredded mozzarella added to the bread

Flip the bread over so the unbuttered sides are facing up. Add about ¼ cup shredded mozzarella to two of the slices. Top each with a little crumbled feta.

cooked spinach added to the sandwiches

Add the cooked spinach on top of the mozzarella and feta.

more mozzarella added to the sandwiches

Add another ¼ cup shredded mozzarella to each along with a pinch of crushedred pepper. Top with the second piece of bread, butter side facing out.

Cooked sandwiches in the skillet

Heat a large skillet over medium-low. Once hot, add the sandwiches. Cook for about five minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crispy on the outside and melty and hot on the inside.

sliced sandwiches on a cutting board

Slice the sandwiches in half and serve!

A stack of spinach and feta grilled cheese sandwiches

Ooohhhh yesssssss.

Love Cheesy Melts? Try These Other Recipes:

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Easy Baked Brie with Apples

Baked Brie is an easy appetizer that is deliciously decadent and perfect for a holiday party or a special night in at home.

The post Easy Baked Brie with Apples appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Okay, I’ve got one more delicious drop for you before I take a few days off for Christmas. If there is one special thing you make for yourself this holiday season, let it be baked brie. There’s no appetizer or delicious treat that is easier than baked brie. It’s basically pure heaven. I topped my baked brie with caramelized apples and pecans, but I’ve got some other topping ideas for you below!

Baked brie surrounded by crackers and apples

What is Brie?

Brie is a soft, ultra-creamy cow’s milk cheese that has a pillowy white outer rind and a soft and creamy beige-colored center. The cheese is soft and spreadable when room temperature, and it gets ultra melty and creamy when briefly baked. Brie is so ultra rich and creamy, that I definitely consider it a treat and perfect for special occasions, like Christmas.

You’ll usually find brie sold in small wheels or in wedge-shaped portions. For this recipe, you’ll want a whole 8oz. wheel so the melty cheese can stay contained in the rind as it melts into a near-liquid state.

Can You Eat the Rind?

Yes, the soft white rind on the wheel of brie is 100% edible. Some people don’t like the slightly musky flavor, but I love the contrast between the earthy outer layer and the creamy interior. If you don’t like the flavor of the rind or you’re just not sure yet, go ahead and slice the rind off the top of the wheel before topping and baking. That will allow you to scoop the cheese out of the center without getting any rind in your bite. Leave the sides and bottom rind intact to hold the melted cheese inside.

Buying Brie on a Budget

Brie can range in price quite a bit, but honestly, even lower level brie is just so creamy and delicious that I wouldn’t worry about buying a less expensive cheese. I was able to find one at Aldi for $2.99, and another on sale at Kroger for $3.49 (other brands can easily be 2-3 times this much). I usually see the more expensive brie cheese at the specialty cheese counter, while less expensive wheels are near the other pre-packaged refrigerated cheeses.

A good way to shop around without having to drive around from store to store is to check your local grocery stores’ websites. Search for “brie” on each one to see what their selection and prices look like before heading out the door.

What Kind of Baking Dish to Use

For baked brie, you’ll want to use an oven-safe dish that is close in size to your wheel of brie. If you’re adding something like the caramelized apples that I added below, you’ll want the dish to be slightly larger (maybe 1-inch wider in diameter) to allow room for the toppings to overflow.

Topping Ideas for Baked Brie

I topped my baked brie with caramelized apples and pecans (instructions included in the recipe below), but there are so many other options, some of which require nothing more than opening up a jar. Here are some other ways you can top your baked brie:

Side view of baked brie with apples surrounded by crackers and apples
close up of a cracker dipping into the baked brie with cheese pull

Easy Baked Brie with Apples

Baked Brie is an easy appetizer that is deliciously decadent and perfect for a holiday party or a special night in at home.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American, French
Total Cost $4.52 recipe / $0.75 serving
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 230kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1 apple $0.70
  • 2 Tbsp butter $0.20
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar $0.09
  • 1 pinch cinnamon $0.02
  • 8 oz. wheel of brie $2.99
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans $0.52

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Peel and chop the apple into ½-inch pieces.
  • Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the chopped apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Sauté the apples in the butter and brown sugar until they're softened and the brown sugar has reduced into a sticky caramel (about 10 minutes).
  • Score the top of the wheel of brie in a hatch pattern (you can also remove the top layer of rind, or leave it whole). Place the brie in a small baking dish, then pour the caramelized apples over top. Sprinkle the chopped pecans on top.
  • Bake the brie in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Enjoy the brie hot with crackers, bread, or apple slices.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 230kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 18g | Sodium: 273mg | Fiber: 1g
A hand dipping a cracker into the baked brie

How to Make Baked Brie with Apples – Step by Step Photos

Chopped Apple on a cutting board

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Peel and chop one apple.

Chopped apples in a skillet with brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon

Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Once melted add the chopped apples, 3 Tbsp brown sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon.

Caramelized apples in the skillet

Cook the apples in the butter and brown sugar over medium heat until the apples are softened and the brown sugar has turned into a thick caramel sauce (about 10 minutes). You can stir in the chopped pecans now (¼ cup) if you want them more like candied pecans, or add them later if you want them to have a more toasty flavor.

Scored wheel of cheese

Place your wheel of brie in an oven-safe dish that is close in size to the wheel of cheese. If you don’t like the flavor of the rind, slice the rind off the top of the wheel. I like to simply score the top in a hatch pattern, which makes it easier to dip the crackers in without breaking. You can also leave the rind intact if you prefer.

Caramelized apples poured over brie, topped with nuts

Pour the caramelized apples over the wheel of brie and top with 1/4 cup chopped pecans. Bake in the preheated 350ºF oven for 15 minutes.

close up of a cracker dipping into the baked brie with cheese pull

Dig in while it’s still hot! 🤤

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Baked Barley with Mushrooms

Baked Barley with Mushrooms is a hearty side dish perfect for chilly fall and winter nights and pairs perfectly with roasted meat or stew.

The post Baked Barley with Mushrooms appeared first on Budget Bytes.

I grew up eating this Baked Barley with Mushrooms and I always looked forward to it on chilly winter nights. It’s a simple dish made with pearled barley cooked in a flavorful mix of vegetable broth, butter, and mushrooms for an extra umami kick. Plus, it cooks mostly in the oven, leaving your hands and attention available to tend to other things. It’s a nice alternative to plain rice for meals like pot roast, brisket, baked pork chops, or any roasted or braised meat. Those hearty little grains are perfect for soaking up every last drop of your pan drippings!

Originally posted 9/3/2013, updated 12/15/2021.

Overhead view of a bowl full of baked barley with mushrooms

What Kind of Baking Dish to Use

You’ll need some sort of baking dish with a tight-fitting lid, like a Dutch oven, because if the steam from the broth is not held inside as it bakes, the barley will not cook through. I used an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven that was probably a little too big for the scale of this recipe, but it still turned out great. The recipe makes about four cups, so something in the 2-3 quart size range is probably ideal. Glass, ceramic, or cast iron will all work as long as it has a tight-fitting lid.

If your baking dish is not safe for use on the stovetop, simply use a skillet for the first couple of steps (sautéing the mushrooms), then transfer to the baking dish when adding the barley and broth.

What is Pearled Barley?

It’s very important that you use pearled barley for this recipe. Pearled barley is whole barley grains that have had the outer husk removed and are then are polished to remove some or all of the outer bran. The resulting grain is tender and chewy once cooked, and doesn’t take quite as long to cook as hulled barley. You can usually find pearled barley near the dry rice and beans in the grocery store, or near other specialty grains. 

I used the Bob’s Redmill brand, which is slightly less polished than other brands that I’ve used and it resulted in a slightly more firm grain. 

Add More Vegetables

This recipe is pretty flexible and you can experiment with adding more hearty vegetables, like carrot, celery, onion, turnip, or rutabega. I suggest dicing the vegetables and sautéing them briefly with the mushrooms before adding the remaining ingredients. 

What to Serve with Baked Barley

This baked barley would go awesome with something like Creamy Mushroom Chicken with Crispy Onions, Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Slow Cooker Rosemary Garlic Beef Stew, or pot roast.

Side view of a serving dish full of baked barley with mushrooms

overhead view of baked barley with mushrooms in a serving bowl with a spoon

Baked Barley with Mushrooms

Baked Barley with Mushrooms is a hearty side dish perfect for chilly fall and winter nights that pairs perfectly with roasted meat or stew.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Total Cost $3.03 recipe / $0.76 serving
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4 1 cup each
Calories 298kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic $0.16
  • 8 oz. mushrooms $1.49
  • 4 Tbsp butter $0.40
  • 1 cup pearled barley $0.57
  • 2 cups vegetable broth $0.26
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme $0.05
  • 1/8 tsp freshly cracked black pepper $0.02
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional) $0.10

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Mince the garlic and slice the mushrooms
  • Add the garlic, mushrooms, and butter to a Dutch oven. Sauté over medium heat until the mushrooms have softened.
  • Add the barley, vegetable broth, thyme and freshly cracked pepper to the dutch oven. Stir to combine, place the lid on top, and transfer to the oven. Bake the barley for one hour.
  • After baking for one hour, stir the barley to fluff it up. Give the barley a taste and adjust the salt or pepper to your liking. Top with chopped fresh parsley just before serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 298kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 12g | Sodium: 578mg | Fiber: 8g

How to Make Baked Barley with Mushrooms – Step by Step Photos

Butter, garlic, and mushrooms in the pot

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Add 4 Tbsp butter, 2 cloves of minced garlic, and 8oz. sliced mushrooms to a pot. Sauté over medium heat until the mushrooms have softened.

close up of pearled barley in a measuring cup

This is what the pearled barley looks like. As mentioned above, this is Bob’s Redmill brand, which appears to be less polished than other generic brands I’ve used in the past. Pearled barley often looks very white, so this barley still has a considerable amount of bran left intact. Because of that, the grains were a little more firm this time around. Either way, it still tasted great!

broth being poured into the pot with barley and thyme

Add one cup pearled barley, ½ tsp dried thyme, a little freshly cracked black pepper (⅛ tsp), and 2 cups vegetable broth to the pot. Stir briefly to combine.

lid being placed on the pot

Place a lid on the pot and transfer it to the oven. Bake the barley in the 350ºF oven for one hour.

baked barley before stirring

After baking it will look like this–the mushrooms will have risen to the top, fully covering the barley.

Stirred barley in the pot

Give the barley a good stir. Taste the barley and add salt or pepper if desired.

overhead view of baked barley with mushrooms in a serving bowl with a spoon

Top with chopped parsley just before serving.

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The Ultimate Homemade Hot Chocolate

This homemade hot chocolate is extra rich and delicious, has two types of chocolate, and you can add other flavor add-ins for fun!

The post The Ultimate Homemade Hot Chocolate appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Fun fact: the number of times people searched the internet for hot chocolate in December 2020 was twice that of previous years. Why? Probably because we all needed that extra comfort after a hard year. I don’t know about you, but I still need the creamy, cozy comfort of a mug full of hot chocolate. 😅 Thankfully, homemade hot cocoa is super fast to make, you can make one mug at a time or in a big batch, and I’ve got a bunch of fun ideas for add-ins so you can make a new flavor every time. :) Keep scrolling for delicious, chocolatey goodness!

overhead view of four mugs of hot chocolate with different toppings

What Makes this Hot Chocolate Extra Good

I went all out with this hot chocolate. To make it extra creamy and extra chocolatey I used a 50/50 mix of milk and half and half, semi-sweet chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa powder for a one-two chocolate punch. I added just enough sugar to keep it sweet, but not so much that it’s hard to finish your mug (you can always add more to taste). The result is a perfectly balanced rich, sweet, and chocolatey mug that will give you all the warm and fuzzy cozy winter vibes.

What Type of Chocolate to Use

I used Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate because that’s what I had on hand, but you can definitely use semi-sweet chocolate chips to make this hot chocolate more affordable. You can also experiment with using either milk chocolate or dark chocolate depending on how sweet or bitter you like your hot cocoa. Semi-sweet is right in the middle, which fits my flavor preferences.

Can I Use a Different Type of Milk?

Technically, you can use different types of milk or non-dairy milk substitutes for your hot chocolate, just keep in mind that the type of milk you use will directly impact the creaminess and sweetness of your hot chocolate. The recipe below is designed for a combination of whole milk and half and half, which I found to be rich and creamy without being too heavy.

Half and half is a 50/50 mix of whole milk and heavy cream, so if you don’t have half and half you can change the ingredients below to be 3 cups whole milk and one cup heavy cream for the same result.

What Else Can I Add to Hot Chocolate?

This is where homemade hot chocolate gets fun. There are so many extra ingredients that you can add to make new flavors. Here are a few things you can add to hot chocolate to give it more flavor:

  • Instant coffee or espresso powder
  • Almond extract
  • Peppermint extract
  • Crushed candy canes or peppermint candies
  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • Cayenne pepper (see my Spicy Hot Cocoa)
  • Nutella
  • Caramel sauce
  • Malted milk powder
  • Maple syrup
  • Almond butter
  • White chocolate
  • Bailey’s Irish cream ;)
Side view of four mugs of hot chocolate with different toppings
close up overhead view of a single mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows and chocolate syrup

The Ultimate Homemade Hot Chocolate

This homemade hot chocolate is extra rich and delicious, has two types of chocolate, and you can add other flavor add-ins for fun!
Course Beverage, Drinks
Cuisine General
Total Cost $3.96 recipe / $0.99 serving
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 1 cup each
Calories 377kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder $0.14
  • 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate $1.75
  • 1/4 cup sugar $0.04
  • 1/8 tsp salt $0.01
  • 2 cups whole milk $0.84
  • 2 cups half and half $0.90
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract $0.28

Instructions

  • Add the cocoa powder, semi-sweet chocolate, sugar, and salt to a medium saucepot. Pour the milk and half and half over top.
  • Place the saucepot over medium heat. Heat the ingredients over medium while whisking until the chocolate has fully melted into the milk and the milk is beginning to steam (but not simmering).
  • Once the chocolate is fully melted into the milk and the milk is has begun to steam, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Taste and adjust the sugar or chocolate to your liking.
  • Serve hot with your favorite toppings.

Notes

This recipe scales up or down easily. Just change the number in the box next to “servings” at the top of the recipe and the ingredient amounts will adjust for you.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 377kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 24g | Sodium: 178mg | Fiber: 3g
close up overhead view of a single mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows and chocolate syrup

How to Make Homemade Hot Chocolate – Step by Step Photos

Milk being poured into a sauce pot with chocolate sugar and salt

Add ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, ¼ cup sugar, and ⅛ tsp salt to a saucepot. Pour 2 cups whole milk and 2 cups half and half over top.

Finished hot chocolate

Heat the mixture over medium while whisking. The cocoa powder will sit on top at first while the milk is cold, but will begin to incorporate as the milk heats up. The semi-sweet chocolate will begin to melt as you heat, but will not fully incorporate into the milk until the milk gets so hot that it begins to steam. Once steaming, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

four mugs of hot chocolate with different toppings

Taste the hot chocolate and adjust the sweetness or other ingredients before serving and adding your favorite toppings! If you want it to be extra, EXTRA special, try topping it with some homemade whipped cream!

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Spiced Lentils with Carrots

These warm, sweet, and savory spiced lentils hold up well as leftovers and make the perfect cozy vegetarian meal prep.

The post Spiced Lentils with Carrots appeared first on Budget Bytes.

If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while, then you know how much I love lentils. They’re cheap, easy to cook, and are a blank slate for flavor. This week I decided to take one of my favorite spice combos and add it to some lentils. Warm cumin, garlic, and ginger pair with the subtle sweetness of ginger, cinnamon, and carrots to create a complex flavor that is simply out of this world. Spoon these saucy spiced lentils over something starchy like polenta, rice, or mashed sweet potatoes and you’ll be in lentil heaven.

Overhead view of spiced lentils with carrots in a skillet

Spiced but not Spicy

These lentils are seasoned with a slew of warm, sweet, and savory spices, but they are not hot or spicy. I did add a ¼ tsp crushed red pepper to the mix which gives the back end just a slight kick, but I still wouldn’t consider it spicy by any means. If you do happen to be sensitive to spicy flavors, you can reduce or eliminate the crushed red pepper.

What Kind of Lentils to Use

This recipe is designed for brown or green lentils (not French green lentils, which take much longer to cook). This type of lentil cooks in about 20-30 minutes of simmering, does not require soaking, and they hold their shape when softened. I do not recommend red, orange, or yellow lentils for this recipe because they break down quickly when cooked and will leave you with something more like a mush or porridge.

How to Serve Spiced Lentils

You can serve these lentils in a bowl on their own with some crusty bread for dipping, or spoon them over just about any type of starch. I served mine over a cornmeal mush (like polenta or grits), but you could also serve them over rice, mashed white potatoes or sweet potatoes, farro, or any other grain that you might like.

Meal Prep It!

I think these spiced lentils would make a fabulous vegetarian or vegan meal prep. They’ll keep well in the fridge for four to five days and should reheat quickly in the microwave. They’ll also freeze well, so you can stock a few extra portions in your freezer!

Overhead view of spiced lentils over a bed of polenta
side view of spiced lentils on a bed of polenta

Spiced Lentils with Carrots

These warm, sweet, and savory spiced lentils hold up well as leftovers and make the perfect cozy vegetarian meal prep.
Total Cost $3.91 recipe / $0.98 serving
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 about 1.25 cups each
Calories 314kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion $0.32
  • 4 cloves garlic $0.32
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger $0.10
  • 4 carrots (about 2 cups chopped) $0.56
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil $0.32
  • 1 tsp ground cumin $0.10
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon $0.05
  • 1/2 tsp allspice $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper $0.02
  • 1 cup brown lentils $0.67
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste $0.15
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots or raisins* $0.75
  • 3 cups vegetable broth $0.40
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley (optional) $0.10

Instructions

  • Dice the onion, mince the garlic, grate the ginger, and peel and dice the carrots.
  • Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and olive oil to a deep skillet. Sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent (about five minutes).
  • Add the diced carrots, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and crushed red pepper to the skillet. Continue to sauté for about two minutes more.
  • Next, add the uncooked lentils, tomato paste, and broth to the skillet. Stir until the tomato paste has dissolved into the broth. Place a lid on the skillet and turn the heat up to high.
  • Allow the broth to come to a full boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the lentils simmer in the broth with the lid on for 30 minutes, stirring only occasionally.
  • After 30 minutes the lentils and carrots should be very tender. Give the lentils a taste and add salt or pepper if needed (this will depend on the salt content of your broth, I did not add any).
  • Serve the spiced lentils with crusty bread for dipping, or over a bed of polenta or mashed potatoes. Top with chopped fresh parsley if desired.

Notes

*Raisins are the more economical choice here (golden or purple raisins), but I happened to have dried apricots on hand so I used those instead of buying raisins specifically for this recipe.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.25cup | Calories: 314kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 8g | Sodium: 851mg | Fiber: 18g
close up side view of spiced lentils in the skillet

How to Make Spiced Lentils with Carrots – Step by Step Photos

onion, garlic, and ginger in a skillet

Dice one yellow onion, mince four cloves of garlic, grate about one teaspoon fresh ginger, and peel and dice four carrots. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger to a deep skillet along with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.

Carrots and spices added to the skillet

Add the chopped carrots to the skillet along with 1 tsp cumin, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp allspice, and ¼ tsp crushed red pepper. Continue to sauté for about two minutes more.

lentils, tomato paste, and broth being added to the skillet

Add one cup uncooked brown lentils, 3 Tbsp tomato paste, and 3 cups vegetable broth to the skillet.

chopped apricots

Also, add ¼ cup chopped dried apricots or raisins to the skillet. If using dried apricots, chop them to about the same size as raisins.

Lid being placed on the skillet

Stir everything together until the tomato paste is mixed into the broth. Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to high, and let the broth come up to a full boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the lentils continue to simmer, with the lid in place, for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Finished spiced lentils in the skillet

After 30 minutes the lentils and carrots should be tender. Give them a taste and add salt if needed. I did not add any, but depending on the salt content of your broth, you may need a bit to make the flavors pop.

Overhead view of spiced lentils over a bed of polenta

Serve the spiced lentils with crusty bread for dipping or over a bed of polenta or mashed potatoes. Top with chopped fresh parsley if desired.

spiced lentils in the skillet with a wooden spoon

Try These Other Delicious Lentil Recipes:

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Extra Cheesy Homemade Mac and Cheese

This incredibly creamy and cheesy homemade mac and cheese is great on its own or a jumping off point for your own customization.

The post Extra Cheesy Homemade Mac and Cheese appeared first on Budget Bytes.

I have several flavored macaroni and cheese recipes on Budget Bytes already, but I realized I didn’t have one single plain, classic homemade mac and cheese recipe. Like, nothing fancy or unique, just straight up creamy, comforting, cheesy goodness! So that’s what I have for you today. It’s a classic stovetop macaroni and cheese recipe made with a classic roux-based cheese sauce that will satisfy all of your cheesy pasta cravings. It’s amazingly delicious on its own, but I’ve also included a list of fun add-ins and other ways you can customize your mac and cheese and make it unique.

Overhead view of a bowl of mac and cheese with a fork

What Makes it Extra Cheesy?

For this extra cheesy homemade mac and cheese, I did use slightly more roux and added about 30% more cheese than I generally do to my simple stovetop mac and cheese recipes. And I’m not even sorry about it. The thicker sauce and extra cheese made this mac and cheese so lusciously creamy and cheesy that I couldn’t stop sneaking forkfuls between photographs. AND the best part is that it even stays smooth and creamy when reheated in the microwave. Mac and cheese heaven! 🙌

What is a Roux?

This classic stovetop mac and cheese recipe starts with a roux, which is a cooked mixture of flour and fat (in this case, butter). The roux thickens the sauce and helps the cheese melt smoothly into the sauce instead of clumping up as it melts. While there are ways to make a cheese sauce without a roux, taking this extra step definitely creates the creamiest, dreamiest cheese sauce for your mac and cheese.

What Kind of Cheese is Best for Mac and Cheese?

Cheddar is probably the most popular cheese for macaroni and cheese and sharp cheddar provides the most pronounced flavor. But if you want to experiment outside of the confines of cheddar, there are a ton of other cheeses that are great in macaroni and cheese! You can use one or a combination of cheeses to make your mac and cheese your own.

Here are some other cheeses that work great with macaroni and cheese:

  • Parmesan
  • Gruyere
  • Smoked Gouda
  • Parmesan
  • Chevre
  • Cream Cheese
  • Brie
  • Monterey jack or pepper jack

Avoid Pre-Shredded Cheese

I know it’s convenient, but the anti-caking agents used in pre-shredded cheese will, without a doubt, affect the creaminess of your homemade mac and cheese. Or in a worst-case scenario, it will leave your sauce super grainy and chalky in flavor. Buy cheese in block form and take a few moments to grate it yourself. The cheese will not be as dried out and it will create a truly smooth and creamy sauce.

Side view of mac and cheese in a pot

What Else Can I Add to Mac and Cheese?

Here’s where mac and cheese can get really fun. In addition to changing the cheeses, you can switch up the herbs and spices, add in some veggies, or your favorite protein to make your own homemade mac and cheese creation. Here are some other fun ingredients to add to your mac and cheese:

  • Cooked chicken
  • Broccoli
  • Bacon
  • Spinach
  • Kimchi
  • Pesto
  • Sausage
  • Taco meat or taco seasoning
  • Smoked paprika
  • Sriracha
  • Peas
  • Tuna
  • Salsa
  • Rotel
  • Jalapeños
  • Sour cream
  • Cauliflower
  • Ham

Need Some Inspiration?

If the list of add-ins was a little too much to choose from, here are some other Macaroni and Cheese Recipes that I’ve already created that might help get you started:

Overhead view of homemade mac and cheese in the pot
Overhead view of homemade mac and cheese in the pot

Homemade Mac and Cheese

This incredibly creamy and cheesy homemade mac and cheese is great on its own or as a jumping off point for your own creation.
Total Cost $4.19 recipe / $1.05 serving
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 about 1.25 cups each
Calories 610kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. macaroni $0.67
  • 3 Tbsp butter $0.30
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour $0.03
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder $0.05
  • 2 cups whole milk $0.84
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce* $0.02
  • 1/2 tsp salt $0.03
  • 8 oz. block sharp cheddar, shredded $2.25

Instructions

  • Cook the macaroni according to the package directions (boil for 7-8 minutes, or until tender). Drain the macaroni in a colander.
  • Place the butter, flour, and onion powder in a medium pot. Whisk and heat over medium until the butter is melted and the mixture begins to bubble. Once bubbling, continue to whisk and cook for one minute.
  • After cooking the butter and flour roux, whisk in the milk. Continue to cook and whisk over medium heat until the milk begins to gently simmer, at which point it will thicken to the consistency of heavy cream or gravy.
  • Turn the burner off. Season the white sauce with the salt and hot sauce.
  • Begin to add the shredded cheddar, one handful at a time, whisking it in until completely melted before adding more. Continue until all of the cheese has been melted into the sauce. If the sauce becomes too cold to melt the cheese, place it back over low heat only briefly to continue melting the cheese. Overheating the sauce can cause it to break and become grainy.
  • Add the cooked and drained pasta to the pot with the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Serve the mac and cheese hot and enjoy!

Notes

*This amount of hot sauce does not make the macaroni and cheese spicy. It just  brightens the flavor a bit. You can also accomplish this with Dijon mustard (same amount).

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 610kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 32g | Sodium: 787mg | Fiber: 2g
side view of macaroni and cheese in a bowl with a fork

How to Make Homemade Mac and Cheese – Step by Step Photos

Shredded cheddar in a bowl

Start by shredding an 8oz. block of sharp cheddar. It’s very important to shred the cheese yourself instead of using pre-shredded cheese. For more information on that, see the section above the recipe titled “Avoid Pre-Shredded Cheese.”

boiled macaroni held above the pot with a pasta spoon

Next, boil 8oz. of macaroni according to the box directions (boil for 7-8 minutes, or just until tender). Drain the macaroni in a colander. (This is the Barilla elbow macaroni, which has a slightly unconventional elbow shape and texture.)

Butter flour and onion powder in the pot

You can start the cheese sauce either while the macaroni is boiling, or wait until it’s draining and just make it in the same pot to save on dishes. Add 3 Tbsp butter, 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour, and ½ tsp onion powder to the pot.

Roux being whisked in the pot

Place the pot over medium heat and allow the butter to melt. Whisk the butter, flour, and onion powder together as the mixture begins to get bubbly and frothy. Cook and whisk for about one minute after it becomes bubbly.

Milk being poured into the pot

Whisk 2 cups of milk into the butter and flour roux. Continue whisking as the milk begins to heat (keep the pot over medium heat).

Thickened white sauce on the back of a spoon

Allow the milk to come up to a gentle simmer, at which point it will thicken to the consistency of heavy cream or gravy. Turn the burner off at this point.

salt and hot sauce added to the white sauce

Season the sauce with ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp hot sauce, or the seasonings of your choice (other great options are dry mustard, pepper, smoked paprika, pesto, etc.).

shredded cheddar added to the pot

Begin adding 8oz. shredded cheddar to the pot, one handful at a time, whisking until it is completely melted before adding more. If the sauce cools down too much to continue melting the cheese, you can put it over low heat briefly, but avoid allowing the sauce to simmer again. Overheating cheese sauces will cause them to break and become grainy and oily.

Finished cheese sauce dripping off the whisk

When all of the cheese is melted into the sauce, the cheese sauce is complete. You can give it a taste at this point and adjust the seasonings if you’d like. Remember, you want the sauce to be seasoned well because the flavor intensity will be diluted a bit once the macaroni is added.

Cooked macaroni being stirred into the cheese sauce

Add the cooked and drained macaroni back to the pot and stir to combine with the cheese sauce.

Finished mac and cheese in the pot

And that’s it! Your homemade mac and cheese is done. Don’t tell me you don’t want to dive right into that pot of mac and cheese and swim around a bit. 😂

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Chocolate Molasses Cookies

Growing up we called these cookies “chocolate gingersnaps” but they’re not like a crunchy gingersnap at all, they’re actually a classic soft and chewy molasses cookie full of warm spices and chunks of melty chocolate. These Chocolate Molasses Cookies are the perfect cozy cookie for cold winter days and they pair perfectly with a hot […]

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Growing up we called these cookies “chocolate gingersnaps” but they’re not like a crunchy gingersnap at all, they’re actually a classic soft and chewy molasses cookie full of warm spices and chunks of melty chocolate. These Chocolate Molasses Cookies are the perfect cozy cookie for cold winter days and they pair perfectly with a hot cup of cocoa or coffee (especially with my gingerbread creamer). And the best part? They freeze beautifully, so you can keep a batch in your freezer and just take one or two out at a time to enjoy with your afternoon cup of tea or coffee. :)

Originally posed 12/11/2011, updated 11/29/2021.

Close up of chocolate molasses cookies on a cooling rack

Why You’ll Love these Molasses Cookies

Molasses creates an incredible chewy texture when added to cookies, as well as a slight sweetness with a rich and earthy flavor. If regular cookies tend to be a bit too sweet for you, I bet you’ll be a fan of these chocolate molasses cookies. Not only is the sweetness not super over the top, but the warm spices and semi-sweet chocolate give the cookie a little kick that helps counteract the sweetness. The flavor combination is absolute heaven!

What Kind of Molasses to Use

I used Grandma’s Original Molasses for these cookies. While you can use blackstrap molasses, keep in mind that it has a much more intense, slightly bitter flavor and the ingredients in these cookies were not formulated using that type of molasses. Will it still be good? Maybe! At the end of the day, that’s going to be a matter of personal preference.

How to Store Chocolate Molasses Cookies

Once the cookies have cooled completely to room temperature, store them in an air-tight container to keep them from going stale. The cookies will keep at room temperature for about a week, or you can freeze them for about three months. I absolutely love keeping these in the freezer so I can take just one or two out at a time. I like to microwave the frozen cookie for a few seconds to make it extra soft and gooey.

Can I Substitute the Fresh Ginger?

While I do think the fresh ginger is what makes these cookies extra special, you can substitute it for more ground dried ginger if needed. If you don’t have fresh ginger on hand, use two teaspoons of dried ginger instead of the 1 ¼ tsp listed in the recipe below.

Chocolate molasses cookies stacked on a cooling rack

 

Chocolate molasses cookies stacked on a cooling rack

Chocolate Molasses Cookies

These unique molasses cookies are sweet, chewy, full of warm spices, and big chunks of melty chocolate inside.
Total Cost $6.50 recipe / $0.27 each
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 24 minutes
Refrigerate Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 54 minutes
Servings 24 cookies
Calories 136kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour $0.23
  • 1.25 tsp ground ginger $0.12
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg $0.02
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder $0.04
  • 1 tsp baking powder $0.02
  • 8 Tbsp butter, room temperature $0.80
  • 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger $0.30
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar $0.24
  • 1/2 cup molasses $1.18
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate $3.49
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar $0.04

Instructions

  • Add the flour, ground ginger, cloves, nutmeg, coocoa powder, and baking powder to a bowl and stir until well combined.
  • To a separate bowl, add the butter, fresh ginger, brown sugar, and molasses. use a mixer to beat these ingredients together until light and creamy.
  • Begin adding the flour mixture into the molasses mixture, ½ cup at a time, beating at low speed, until all of the flour mixture has been incorporated.
  • Roughly chop the chocolate, then stir it into the cookie dough. Wrap the cookie dough in plastic, then refrigerate for at least one hour.
  • When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325ºF. Place the granulated sugar in a small bowl. Divide the cookie dough into four equal-sized pieces, then divide each of the quarters into six small pieces to make 24 total cookies.
  • Roll each piece of cookie dough into a ball, then roll the dough ball in the granulated sugar to coat. Place the shaped cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, 12 per baking sheet.
  • Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes in the 325ºF oven, or until they're slightly cracked on top. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 136kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Sodium: 56mg | Fiber: 1g

A hand holding a chocolate molasses cookie broken in half

How to Make Chocolate Molasses Cookies – Step By Step Photos

dry ingredients in the bowl

Add 1.5 cups all-purpose flour, 1.25 tsp ground ginger, ¼ tsp ground cloves, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, 1 Tbsp cocoa powder, and 1 tsp baking powder in a bowl and stir until well combined.

Wet ingredients for cookies in a bowl

Add 8 Tbsp room temperature butter, 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger, ½ cup brown sugar, and ½ cup molasses to a separate bowl.

Whipped whet ingredients in the bowl

Use a mixer to beat the wet ingredients together until they are light and creamy.

Flour added to the cookie dough

Begin mixing in the flour mixture at low speed, adding about ½ cup at a time, until all of it is incorporated.

Chopped choclate

Roughly chop the semi-sweet chocolate. You definitely want it to be fairly chunky.

Chocolate stirring into cookie dough

Stir the chopped chocolate into the cookie dough.

Cookie dough wrapped in plastic

Wrap the cookie dough in plastic, then refrigerate for about an hour to help firm it up. You can refrigerate overnight if needed.

Cookie dough being shaped and rolled in sugar

When you’re ready to make the cookies, preheat the oven to 325ºF. Place ¼ granulated sugar in a small bowl. Divide the cookie dough into four equal-sized pieces, then divide each quarter into six small pieces (24 total pieces). Roll each piece into a ball, then roll the ball in the granulated sugar to coat. 

molasses cookies on a baking sheet ready to bake

Place twelve of the shaped cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Baked molasses cookies on a baking sheet

Bake the cookies in the preheated 325ºF oven for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly cracked on top. Repeat with the second 12 cookies.

Chocolate molasses cookies on a plate with the cooling rack and glass of milk in the background

Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool for a few minutes, or serve warm. Allow the cookies to cool completely to room temperature before storing in an air-tight container.

Chocolate Gingersnaps - BudgetBytes.com

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Mini Pumpkin Pies

Make your Thanksgiving dollar go further by using simple pantry staples to make these adorable and affordable Mini Pumpkin Pies!

The post Mini Pumpkin Pies appeared first on Budget Bytes.

This post is sponsored by ALDI. Ingredient prices and availability may vary. Visit ALDI on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or Instagram.

Everyone loves Thanksgiving, but let’s be honest, it can get expensive, especially when you have several guests to feed. But I’ve got a great little Thanksgiving hack for you. Well okay, maybe two. Thanksgiving hack number one: make these Mini Pumpkin Pies. You get twelve servings with half the amount of ingredients used for a regular-sized pumpkin pie. So instead of trying to slice one pie into razor-thin slices so that everyone gets a bite, be the star of the show with these adorable little Mini Pumpkin Pies. Everyone will die over their cuteness and you’ll be smiling with satisfaction because you just fed more people with fewer ingredients.

Thanksgiving hack number two: get your ingredients at ALDI! I got everything I needed to make these Mini Pumpkin Pies, plus everything else for my Thanksgiving Dinner at ALDI in one quick trip. Grocery stores can be an absolute zoo around Thanksgiving time, but ALDI is strategically laid out with four to six aisles, is well organized, and has exactly what I need so I can get in, get out, and stay on budget.

close up image of mini pumpkin pies with whipped cream

ALDI carries all of the holiday baking essentials, like what I used in these pumpkin pies, as well as lots of fun specialty items for the holiday season. Customers can get everything they need for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, including the Butterball turkey, sides and pumpkin pie, all from ALDI and all for less than $30.*

*Based on the items and quantities included in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Survey for dinner for up to 10 with a 12lb Butterball turkey and additional miscellaneous items (e.g. coffee, butter, flour, sugar, eggs) not included in the survey. Available in-store and online. Tax and online fees not included.

I actually look forward to grocery shopping at ALDI because I can’t wait to see what cool seasonal items they have that week and I know whatever it is, I’ll actually be able to afford it. I’m totally getting one of their Emporium Selection Baking Brie wheels again this year! …and maybe that wine and cheese Advent Calendar. ;) 

What about you? Have you checked out the awesome selection of holiday goods available at ALDI? If so, what’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments below. If you haven’t been to ALDI yet, make sure to click here to see where your nearest ALDI store is and get over there ASAP! :)

No-Fuss Crust

Another reason these mini pumpkin pies are so great is that they don’t use a traditional pie crust. Pie crust can be tricky to work with, especially for new cooks, but these pies use a really unique dough made with butter, flour, and cream cheese. It has a soft moldable texture that is super forgiving and easy to work with. …Because the last thing you need to worry about on Thanksgiving is cracked pie dough.

A mini pumpkin pie cut open held close to the camera

Make A Double Batch of Mini Pumpkin Pies

As I mentioned above, this recipe basically uses half of the “filling” for a regular-sized pumpkin pie. So you can use your favorite pumpkin pie filling recipe, or even the pumpkin pie recipe on the label of your can of pumpkin purée and just divide it by two to fill 12 of these mini pumpkin pies. Or use the whole recipe and make 24 mini pumpkin pies!

Can I Make them Ahead?

Yes, you can make these mini pumpkin pies one day ahead of time. When preparing them in advance, allow the pies to cool completely to room temperature before covering and refrigerating. You can also freeze the pumpkin pies, but the quality is much better when fresh or refrigerated. So freezing is a great way to enjoy the leftovers for longer, but I wouldn’t freeze before serving to guests.

Pumpkin Pie Topping Options

You can leave the pumpkin pies bare (I love the color they add to a Thanksgiving spread), or you can top them with whipped cream and a little sprinkle of cinnamon. The Friendly Farms Pumpkin Spice Whipped Dairy Topping from ALDI would also be fun! If you plan to let the pumpkin pies sit out for a while, like as part of a Friendsgiving buffet, you may want to use a stabilized whipped cream to make sure the whipped cream doesn’t collapse as it sits (whip 1 Tbsp cornstarch into every cup of homemade whipped cream to stabilize). And, of course, you can get all the ingredients you need to make a stabilized whipped cream at ALDI. ;)

Mini pumpkin pies on a cooling rack with ingredients in the background
close up of mini pumpkin pies with whipped cream

Mini Pumpkin Pies

Make your Thanksgiving dollar go further by using simple pantry staples to make these adorable and affordable Mini Pumpkin Pies!
Total Cost $2.78 recipe / $0.23 each
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 12 mini pies
Calories 202kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

Crust

  • 8 Tbsp Countryside Creamery Salted Butter, room temperature $0.80
  • 4 oz. Happy Farms Cream Cheese, room temperature $0.58
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp Baker's Corner All Purpose Flour $0.07
  • 1 Tbsp Baker's Corner Granulated Sugar $0.01

Filling

  • 1/2 15oz. can Baker’s Corner 100% Pure Canned Pumpkin (⅞ cup) $0.48
  • 3/4 cup Baker's Corner Evaporated Milk $0.40
  • 1 large Simply Nature Grade A Organic Cage Free Brown Eggs $0.29
  • 1/4 cup Baker's Corner Granulated Sugar $0.04
  • 2 Tbsp Baker's Corner Brown Sugar $0.08
  • 1/2 tsp Stonemill Ground Cinnamon $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp Stonemill Ground Ginger $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp Stonemill Ground Nutmeg $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp Stonemill Salt $0.02

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Make the pie crust first. Add the butter and cream cheese to a bowl and use a mixer to beat them together until light and fluffy.
  • Beat 1 Tbsp sugar into the butter and cream cheese, then begin to beat in the flour, about ¼ cup at a time, until all of it has been incorporated. The result will be a very soft dough.
  • Divide the dough into four equal pieces, then divide each piece into three so you have 12 equal-sized pieces total. Roll each piece of dough into a ball, then drop each one into the well of a muffin tin. Use your fingers to press the dough down into the center and up the sides of the wells (see step by step photos below for more help).
  • Next, make the pie filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin purée, evaporated milk, egg, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
  • Divide the filling between the twelve pie shells (about 3 Tbsp each).
  • Bake the pies for 35 minutes, or until the edges of the pie crusts are golden and the filling is slightly cracked on top.
  • Remove the muffin tin from the oven and allow the pies to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes. After about 10 minutes they should be solid enough to safely remove. Slide a knife around the outer edge of each one until they pop out. Finish cooling the pies on a wire rack.
  • Serve the pies at room temperature, or transfer them to the refrigerator once cooled for longer storage (up to four days).

Notes

Ingredient prices and availability may vary.

Nutrition

Serving: 1mini pie | Calories: 202kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 13g | Sodium: 170mg | Fiber: 1g
Mini Pumpkin Pies in the muffin tin and on the cooling rack

How to Make Mini Pumpkin Pies – Step by Step Photos

pumpkin pie ingredients

Here are all of the ingredients you’ll need for these mini pumpkin pies. The ingredients are all super simple pantry staples (flour, sugar, eggs, butter, cream cheese, evaporated milk, brown sugar, salt, pumpkin purée, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg) and you can get ALL of them at ALDI. :)

Cream cheese and butter

Start by preheating the oven to 350ºF. Next, add 8 Tbsp room temperature butter and 4 oz. room temperature cream cheese to a bowl.

Fluffy butter and cream cheese

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until they’re evenly combined and fluffy.

pie dough in the bowl

Beat 1 Tbsp sugar into the butter and cream cheese, then start adding the flour, about ¼ cup at a time, beating until it is incorporated (1 cup + 2 Tbsp flour total). The end result will be a very soft dough. No dry flour should remain on the bottom of the bowl.

Dough being pressed into the muffin tin

Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized pieces. To do this, divide the dough into four equal-sized pieces. From there, divide each piece into three equal-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place them into the wells of a muffin tin. Use your fingers to press the dough down and up the sides of the muffin tin wells. Make sure to get down into the corners of the well where a lot of the dough can accumulate and get too thick.

Pumpkin pie filling ingredients

Next, it’s time to make the pumpkin pie filling. Whisk together ½ of a 15oz. can of pumpkin purée (about ⅞ of a cup), 1 large egg, ¾ cup evaporated milk, ¼ cup sugar, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground ginger, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, and ¼ tsp salt.

Mini pumpkin pies being filled

Divide the pumpkin filling among the 12 pie shells. The easiest way to do this is to use a 2 Tbsp scoop or measuring cup and add 2 Tbsp to each one first, then go back and add a bit more to each one until the filling is used up. It ends up being about 3 Tbsp filling per pie.

Baked pumpkin pies in the muffin tin

Bake the pumpkin pies in the fully preheated 350ºF oven for 35 minutes or until the crusts are golden brown and the filling is slightly cracked on top. Allow the pies to cool in the muffin tin for about 10 minutes so they can solidify a bit before attempting removal. Once they’re slightly cooled, run a knife around the edge of each one and they will pop right out!

Mini Pumpkin Pies on a cooling rack next to pumpkins and leaves

Allow the pies to finish cooling on a cooling rack. Remember, make sure they are fully cooled to room temperature before refrigeration to prevent condensation. Refrigerated pumpkin pies will stay good in the refrigerator for four days.

Side view of whipped cream topped mini pumpkin pies on a cooling rack

I hope these mini pumpkin pies help make your holiday gathering affordable and delicious. And don’t forget, you can take advantage of the great prices and selection at ALDI, online, with curbside pickup, or through Instacart!

The post Mini Pumpkin Pies appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Vegan Split Pea Soup

This vegan split pea soup is fast, easy, and comforting. It’s the perfect cozy meal for chilly fall and winter days.

The post Vegan Split Pea Soup appeared first on Budget Bytes.

You know how I love my legumes (beans, peas, and lentils). They’re shelf-stable, versatile, filling, and always inexpensive. And split peas are definitely an underrated legume, IMHO. They cook super fast, they make deliciously rich and comforting soups, and they’re just packed with both fiber and protein. While I’ve made multiple versions of split pea soup in the past, this vegan split pea soup is probably the easiest one yet. It’s a simple, basic recipe that is easy enough to make even on those days when you feel overloaded, mentally or physically. Just the smell of it simmering away on your stove top is in itself restorative. :)

Overhead view of a bowl of split pea soup with saltine crackers

What are Split Peas?

Split peas are just what they sound like, green peas that have been dried and split in half. You’ll find them in the dry bean aisle, right next to bags of other types of dry beans. You may find both green split peas and yellow split peas, either of which will work fine for this recipe.

Split peas are great to cook with because they cook quickly with no soaking, and because they’re already split open, they break down and thicken soups really quickly. They’re probably the easiest way to get your daily dose of legumes!

No Ham??

As mentioned above, this isn’t my first go at split pea soup. There are a lot of different ways you can make a delicious split pea soup and most contain some sort of pork for flavor. To keep a lot of flavor in this vegan split pea soup, I made sure to use a good dose of herbs and spices, including smoked paprika, which gives a similar smoky flavor to bacon or ham. If you want your soup to be extra rich, you can also add a dollop of coconut oil.

This soup creates its own flavorful broth with a medley of vegetables and a handful of herbs and spices, but if you want to ramp it up even more you can replace the water in the recipe below with vegetable broth. Just keep in mind that broth usually contains salt, so you’ll want to add less salt at the end. Vegetable broth is often pretty dark as well, so your soup will likely not be as vibrant in color.

What to Serve with Split Pea Soup

This thick and flavorful soup is so cozy, you’ll definitely want some crackers or crusty bread to scoop up all that goodness! Saltines or oyster crackers are great, but so are homemade croutons or some homemade bread for dunking, like Homemade Focaccia.

Other Split Pea Soup Variations

Here are some other variations on delicious split pea soup:

Thick split pea soup on a spoon in the soup bowl
Thick split pea soup on a spoon in the soup bowl

Vegan Split Pea Soup

This vegan split pea soup is easy and comforting. It's the perfect cozy meal for chilly fall and winter days.
Total Cost $3.16 recipe / $0.63 serving
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 5 1.5 cups each
Calories 390kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic $0.16
  • 1 yellow onion $0.28
  • 3 ribs celery $0.36
  • 3 carrots $0.24
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil $0.32
  • 1 lb. split peas (dry) $1.49
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika $0.05
  • 1 tsp dried parsley $0.10
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper $0.02
  • 6 cups water $0.00
  • 1.5 tsp salt (or to taste) $0.07

Instructions

  • Mince two cloves of garlic. Dice the onion, celery, and carrots. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots to a large pot with olive oil and sauté over medium heat for about five minutes, or until the onions are soft.
  • Add the dry split peas, smoked paprika, parsley, oregano, thyme, pepper, and water to the pot. Stir to combine.
  • Place a lid on top, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the water up to a boil. When it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to let the soup simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, or until the peas have completely broken down and the soup is thick.
  • Add salt to the soup by taste, starting with ½ teaspoon. I added about 1.5 tsp. Serve hot with crackers or crusty bread for dipping!

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 390kcal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 7g | Sodium: 771mg | Fiber: 25g
Close up of a ladle full of split pea soup held over the pot

How to Make Vegan Split Pea Soup – Step by Step Photos

chopped vegetables in the soup pot

Start by dicing one yellow onion, three ribs of celery, and three carrots, and mincing two cloves of garlic. Add them to a large soup pot along with 2 Tbsp olive oil.

sautéed vegetables in the pot

Sauté the vegetables over medium heat until the onions are soft.

peas, herbs, and water added to the pot

Add one pound of split peas to the pot along with ¼ tsp dried thyme, ½ tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried parsley, ¼ tsp freshly cracked pepper, and six cups of water.

stirred soup ingredients in the pot

Stir everything to combine, place a lid on top, then turn the heat up to medium-high to bring the soup up to a boil.

Thickened split pea soup being stirred

Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the soup simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes or until the peas have completely broken down and the soup has thickened.

Finished split pea soup in the pot with a ladle

Finish the soup by salting to taste. Start with ½ tsp salt and continue to taste and add more until the soup taste bright and vibrant. I added 1.5 tsp and then it was just right! You can garnish with fresh parsley, if desired, but it’s not needed for flavor.

A bowl full of split pea soup with saltine crackers, a spoon in the side

Serve hot with crackers, croutons, or crusty bread for dipping!

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Spicy Chex Mix

Spicy Chex Mix is an easy homemade snack mix with just the right combination of salty, crunchy, and spicy flavors.

The post Spicy Chex Mix appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Most of us will be sitting at home next weekend passing out candy to little goblins and ghouls, so I thought you might need a little spicy-salty-crunchy snack to keep you company as you wait for that doorbell to ring. This Spicy Chex Mix is the classic snack mix but with a spicy kick! It’s super easy to make and the cost is just so much less to make at home compared to buying it pre-packaged. You might find yourself making a batch every week or so instead of buying your regular chips and pretzels!

Spicy chex mix on a baking sheet with fall ornaments on the sides

Smaller Batch Size

I made a slightly smaller batch size compared to most chex mix recipes you’ll see on the internet because we have a smaller household and I didn’t want to be drowning in the stuff. It’s so easy to make that I’d rather make smaller batches more often and have fresh chex mix, rather than making a ton and trying to eat it before it goes stale. If you’re making this for a party, I would double the recipe.

How to Store Chex Mix

If you don’t end up eating the entire batch in one night (I won’t judge), make sure to store your leftover chex mix in an air-tight container like a ziptop bag or a resealable food container. As long as it stays sealed, it should stay fresh for a few weeks. You can also freeze the chex mix for about 3 months (again, make sure it’s sealed air-tight).

What Kind of Hot Sauce to Use

This recipe is really flexible and you can use just about any vinegar based hot sauce. I’ve used a cayenne flavored hot sauce, like Tabasco, and even a thicker hot sauce like sriracha. The flavors are slightly different, but great none the less!

Other Add-Ins and Substitutions

Chex mix and snack mixes like this are fun because you can get creative with the ingredients. You can choose any pretzel shape you like, you can substitute in a different nut or even a flavored nut. Bagel chips are a pretty common add-in (I couldn’t find any at the store) or you could do little breadsticks or rice crackers. Just make sure that whatever you’re adding is fairly neutral in flavor so it can soak up all of that spicy, buttery goodness!

Three bowls of chex mix next to bowls of candy and pumpkins
spicy chex mix on a baking sheet

Spicy Chex Mix

Spicy Chex Mix is an easy homemade snack mix with just the right combination of salty, crunchy, and spicy flavors.
Total Cost $3.31 recipe / $0.55 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 8 1 cup each
Calories 388kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups rice chex $0.23
  • 1.5 cups corn chex $0.23
  • 1.5 cups wheat chex $1.05
  • 1 cup cheese crackers $0.39
  • 1 cup pretzels $0.24
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts $0.24
  • 6 Tbsp butter $0.66
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce $0.04
  • 1.5 Tbsp hot sauce $0.14
  • 3/4 tsp seasoning salt* $0.08
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder $0.05
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika $0.05

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 250ºF. Combine the rice chex, corn chex, wheat chex, cheese crackers, pretzels, and peanuts. Stir the dry ingredients together.
  • Melt the butter in a separate bowl, then stir in the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, seasoning salt, garlic powder, and smoked paprika.
  • Pour about a third of the seasoned butter over the dry ingredients, then stir well. Repeat two more times until all of the butter has been added. Continue to stir the chex mix until everything is very well coated.
  • Spread the seasoned mix over a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  • After baking for one hour, the snack mix will be dry, toasty, and delicious. Serve warm or let cool before serving.

Notes

*Seasoning salt like Lawry’s or a similar generic brand. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 388kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 19g | Sodium: 908mg | Fiber: 4g
Close up of spicy chex mix on the baking sheet

How to Make Spicy Chex Mix – Step by Step Photos

seasoned butter in a bowl with a spoon

Preheat the oven to 250ºF. Melt 6 Tbsp butter in a bowl, then stir in 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1.5 Tbsp hot sauce, ¾ tsp seasoning salt (like Lawry’s), ½ tsp garlic powder, and ½ tsp smoked paprika.

chex mix dry ingredients in a bowl

In a large bowl, combine 1.5 cups corn chex, 1.5 cups rice chex, 1.5 cups wheat chex, 1 cup cheese crackers, 1 cup pretzels, and ½ cup unsalted peanuts. Stir the ingredients together.

seasoned butter being poured over the snack mix

Pour about ⅓ of the seasoned butter over the snack mix, then give it a good stir. Repeat two more times until all of the butter has been added.

Seasoned snack mix in the bowl, unbaked

Continue stirring the snack mix until it is very evenly covered in seasoned butter.

snack mix on baking sheet not baked

Spread the snack mix out onto a large baking sheet. I covered my baking sheet with parchment for easy cleanup.

Baked snack mix on the baking sheet

Bake the chex mix for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, or until it is very dry and slightly toasty. Let the mix cool completely, then serve.

Three bowls of spicy chex mix with pumpkins on the sides

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