BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken

Forget boring or bland baked chicken breasts, this BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken is going to be the star of your dinner plate.

The post BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken appeared first on Budget Bytes.

I used to think chicken breasts were bland and boring, but then I changed how I approached them. Instead of seeing chicken breast as the main feature of a recipe, now I see them simply as the vehicle for the flavor in a recipe. In this BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken, the chicken breast is a filling base that carries the tangy BBQ sauce, creamy cheddar, zesty red onion, and fresh cilantro straight to your taste buds. When chicken breast is used like this, I’m ALL ABOUT IT.

Overhead view of BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken in a baking dish

Tips for Baking Chicken Breast

Successfully baking chicken breast can take a little know-how. If you want to avoid overcooked or dry chicken breast, here are a few tips:

  • Adjust baking time for the size of your chicken breast. Larger or thicker chicken breasts will take longer to cook (20-25 minutes), while thinner or smaller chicken breasts will take less time (15-18 minutes).
  • Use a mallet or rolling pin to gently pound the thick end of your chicken breasts to make the breast a more even thickness. This helps them cook quickly and evenly.
  • Use a meat thermometer for best results. Chicken breasts should be cooked until they reach an internal temperature of 165ºF. The more it cooks beyond that point the more it will begin to dry out and become tough.
  • Let the chicken breast rest after baking. Make sure to let the chicken breast sit for 5-10 minutes after baking to reduce the steam pressure within the meat. This helps the juices stay in the meat once it’s cut, rather than escaping and leaving behind dry, tough meat.

Can I Use Bone-In Chicken?

This recipe is best suited to boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Bone-in chicken takes much longer to cook through and you may find that the BBQ sauce begins to burn with those longer cook times.

What Kind of BBQ Sauce is Best?

For an inexpensive yet flavorful BBQ sauce, I usually go with Sweet Baby Ray’s, but I highly suggest using whatever brand BBQ sauce you like the best. And while just about any flavor BBQ sauce would work for this dish, I would lean toward something more on the savory or smoky side rather than a sweeter BBQ sauce.

What to Serve with BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken

I served my BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken with some potato salad and a colorful bean salad (recipes coming next week), but I think it would also go great with Cowboy Caviar, Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potato Cornbread, Summer Sweet Corn Salad, Spicy Sweet Potato Fries, or Green Chile Mac and Cheese.

BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken on a plate with potato salad and bean salad, a fork grabbing a slice of chicken
close up of a fork taking a piece of bbq cheddar baked chicken off a plate

BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken

Forget boring or bland baked chicken breasts, this BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken is going to be the star of your dinner plate.
Total Cost $8.89 recipe / $2.22 serving
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 23 minutes
Total Time 33 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 320kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.3 pounds total) $7.58
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika $0.10
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper $0.02
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce $0.13
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar $0.85
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion $0.05
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro $0.09

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF. If your chicken breasts are very thick or uneven in thickness, use a mallet or rolling pin to first pound them out to a more even thickness. Slice the chicken breasts in half, so you have four pieces.
  • Combine the smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel, then sprinkle the seasoning mix over both sides of each piece of chicken.
  • Place the seasoned chicken pieces in a baking dish, then spoon 1 Tbsp BBQ sauce over top of each piece, spreading it from edge to edge to cover the chicken.
  • Bake the chicken in the preheated 400ºF oven for about 18 minutes (less for smaller or thinner pieces).
  • Remove the chicken from the oven and top each piece with shredded cheddar. Return the chicken to the oven and continue baking for five minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF.
  • After baking the chicken, let the chicken rest for five minutes, then top with diced red onion and chopped cilantro just before serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 320kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 13g | Sodium: 677mg | Fiber: 1g
bbq cheddar baked chicken being lifted out of the baking dish, viewed from the side

How to Make BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken – Step by Step Photos

Pounded Chicken Breast

You’ll need two boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe, about 1.3 lbs. total. If your chicken breasts are very thick or a very uneven thickness, use a mallet or rolling pin to gently pound them to a more even thickness. This helps them cook more quickly and evenly. (Covering them with plastic helps keep everything clean as you pound.

Seasoned chicken breast

Pat the chicken breast dry, then cut each one in half so that you have four pieces. Combine 1 tsp smoked paprika, ½ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper. Sprinkle the seasoning over all sides of the chicken pieces.

BBQ sauce being spread over chicken in a baking dish

Place 1 Tbsp BBQ sauce over each piece of chicken and spread it to cover the surface. Transfer the chicken to the preheated 400ºF oven and bake for about 18 minutes (a few minutes less for smaller or thinner chicken pieces).

Prepared toppings: red onion, cilantro, and cheddar

While the chicken is baking, prepare the toppings. Shred about 1 cup cheddar cheese, finely dice about ¼ cup red onion, and roughly chop ¼ cup cilantro.

Shredded cheese being added to the baked chicken

After baking for about 18 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and top the chicken with about 1 cup shredded cheese (about ¼ cup per piece of chicken). Return the chicken to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165ºF.

Baked bbq chicken topped with red onion and cilantro

After baking, let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes, then top with the diced red onion and chopped cilantro.

close up of a fork taking a piece of bbq cheddar baked chicken off a plate

Serve and enjoy!!

The post BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Beef and Cauliflower Taco Skillet

This beef and cauliflower taco skillet has layers of flavor, color, and texture, and all of your favorite taco flavors in one hearty bowl.

The post Beef and Cauliflower Taco Skillet appeared first on Budget Bytes.

A couple of months ago I posted a side dish, Southwest Cauliflower Rice, and ever since I’ve been dying to flesh it out into a main dish. This week I finally got around to it, and OMG, so good! I added some ground beef, black beans, and a bunch of fresh ingredients on top, so you get this wonderful mix of hot and cold flavors and textures, kind of like when you eat a taco, but in bowl form.

Overhead view of beef and cauliflower taco skillet with vegetables on the side and a spatula in the side

Is it Spicy?

The heat level in this recipe depends on the spiciness of two ingredients: the canned diced tomatoes with green chiles (like Ro-tel) and your chili powder. Unfortunately, with both of these ingredients, some brands are spicy and some are not. So you may need to do some experimenting to find the brands that match the heat level that you prefer.

Fresh or Frozen Cauliflower Rice?

You can use either fresh homemade cauliflower rice or frozen store-bought cauliflower rice for this recipe. Both types of riced cauliflower cook very quickly and you shouldn’t need to make any changes to the recipe based on the type of cauliflower rice used.

Take the Taco Seasoning Short Cut

The recipe below includes all the herbs and spices in my homemade taco seasoning. If you don’t have a well stocked spice cabinet, you can use a packet of store-bought taco seasoning in place of the chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper listed in the recipe below.

Other Topping Ideas

This recipe is so flexible! If you don’t like some of the toppings that I used, here are some other ideas:

Make it Low Carb or Vegetarian

If you want to make this tasty skillet low-carb, you can skip the black beans and use a full pound of ground beef instead.

If you want to make this taco skillet vegetarian, add an extra can of beans in place of the ground beef. You can use an extra can of black beans, or add a can of pinto or kidney beans.

Close up side view of beef and cauliflower taco skillet being scooped out of the skillet
overhead view of beef and cauliflower taco skillet with vegetables on the sides

Beef and Cauliflower Taco Skillet

This beef and cauliflower taco skillet has layers of flavor, color, and texture, and all of your favorite taco flavors in one hearty bowl.
Total Cost $7.74 recipe . /$1.94 serving
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 1.5 cups each
Calories 467kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic $0.16
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.16
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef $2.50
  • 3 cups riced cauliflower $1.25
  • 1 10oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles $0.55
  • 1 15oz. can black beans $0.50
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder $0.30
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika $0.10
  • 1 tsp ground cumin $0.10
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.02
  • 1/8 tsp pepper $0.02
  • 2 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded $0.38
  • 1 avocado $0.99
  • 1 tomato $0.46
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion $0.10
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro $0.10

Instructions

  • Mince the garlic. Add the garlic, olive oil, and ground beef to a large skillet and cook over medium heat until the ground beef is browned. If you're using a high fat content beef, you may want to drain off the excess fat before the next step.
  • Drain the can of black beans and add them to the skillet along with the diced tomatoes with green chiles (not drained), chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook until the skillet is simmering.
  • Add the riced cauliflower to the skillet (no need to thaw, if frozen). Continue to stir and cook over medium heat until the cauliflower is tender (about five minutes).
  • While the beef and cauliflower are heating, dice the tomato, avocado, and red onion. Roughly chop the cilantro.
  • Top the beef and cauliflower mixture with the shredded cheddar. Place a lid on the skillet, and let it heat over medium for a few minutes, or until the cheddar has melted.
  • Once the cheese is melted, top the skillet with the tomato, avocado, red onion, and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 467kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 28g | Sodium: 360mg | Fiber: 14g
beef and cauliflower taco skillet in a bowl with a fork on the side

How to Make Beef and Cauliflower Taco Skillet – Step by Step Photos

browned ground beef in a skillet

Mince two cloves of garlic. Add the garlic to a large skillet with 1 Tbsp olive oil and ½ lb. ground beef. Cook over medium heat until the ground beef is browned.

Tomatoes, beans, and seasoning added to the skillet

Drain one 15oz. can of black beans and add them to the skillet along with one 10oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (not drained), 1 Tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp cumin, ½ tsp oregano, ¼ tsp salt, and ⅛ tsp pepper. Continue to cook and stir until the skillet is simmering.

Frozen riced cauliflower added to the skillet.

Add 3 cups riced cauliflower to the skillet. Continue to cook and stir until the riced cauliflower is tender (about 5 minutes).

Diced tomato, avocado, and onion

While the cauliflower and beef are heating, dice one tomato and one avocado. Finely dice about ¼ cup red onion. Roughly chop one small handful of cilantro.

Shredded cheddar being added to the skillet

Top the skillet with 2 oz. (about ½ cup) shredded cheddar cheese. Place a lid on the skillet and let it heat over medium for a few minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

skillet topped with fresh tomato, avocado, red onion, and cilantro

Once the cheese is melted, top with the fresh tomato, avocado, red onion, and cilantro, then serve!

A fork lifting a bite of beef and cauliflower taco skillet out of a bowl

That’s one FLAVORFUL bowl!!

The post Beef and Cauliflower Taco Skillet appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Eggplant Mozzarella Sandwiches

These Eggplant Mozzarella Sandwiches are an easy vegetarian dish with plenty of options for customizing to fit your tastes and budget.

The post Eggplant Mozzarella Sandwiches appeared first on Budget Bytes.

I had a craving for a grilled eggplant sandwich the other day but 1) I don’t have a grill and 2) that sounded like a lot of work, so I made this quick skillet version instead. The resulting Eggplant Mozzarella Sandwiches are a “meaty” combo of sautéed eggplant drenched with marinara sauce, piled high onto a garlic butter toasted bun, then topped off with melty mozzarella cheese. YES PLEASE.

Three Eggplant Mozzarella Sandwiches on a wooden board

What to Serve with Eggplant Mozzarella Sandwiches

These eggplant sandwiches are pretty filling, so I would pair them with something super simple, like a very basic side salad (greens + vinaigrette) to kind of lighten up the plate. Or, if you want something more vegetable-packed, they would be awesome with Marinated Cauliflower Salad, Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes, Garlic Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower, or Simple Sautéed Vegetables.

Sandwich Sizes and Servings

This recipe makes about 3-4 sandwiches, depending on the size of your eggplant and the size of your rolls or buns. I used hoagie buns that were about 6 inches in length and an eggplant that was about 8-inches long and I was able to make three large sandwiches. If you were to use round rolls, you’d probably get four piled-high sandwiches.

How to Store Leftovers

These sandwiches definitely need to be consumed right when they’re assembled, so if you’re in a smaller household that won’t be eating all three or four sandwiches at once, make sure to store the components separately. Keep the sautéed eggplant with red sauce in its own container and reheat either in a skillet or in the microwave. Butter and toast your bread just before assembly, then add the eggplant and cheese, and briefly heat to melt the cheese.

Mozzarella Options

I used fresh mozzarella because it melts so beautifully and I can get it for a decent price. If fresh mozzarella is not available or not available at a reasonable price, you can use shredded mozzarella instead. Full-fat mozzarella will always melt better than part-skim, but part-skim will work in a pinch.

three eggplant mozzarella sandwiches in a line, angled away from the camera
front view of one eggplant mozzarella sandwich

Eggplant Mozzarella Sandwiches

Total Cost $6.41 recipe / $2.14 each
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 3 to 4 sandwiches
Calories 455kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant (8" length) $1.49
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided $0.32
  • 2 cloves garlic $0.16
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning $0.10
  • 1 cup marinara sauce $0.50
  • 1/2 tsp salt $0.02
  • 4 rolls $1.53
  • 1 Tbsp butter $0.11
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder $0.02
  • 4 oz. mozzarella $2.00

Instructions

  • Cube the eggplant into ½-inch cubes. Mince the garlic.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, then add the cubed eggplant and Italian seasoning. Continue to sauté until the eggplant is soft (5-7 minutes).
  • Add the marinara sauce to the skillet with the eggplant, stir to combine, then heat through (3-5 minutes). Taste and season with salt (about ½ tsp).
  • Preheat the boiler on your oven and make sure the oven rack is positioned in the middle. Combine the second 2 Tbsp olive oil with the butter and garlic powder. Microwave for 15-30 seconds to melt the butter, then stir to combine.
  • Place the buns on a baking sheet, cut sides up. Brush the butter and olive oil mixture over the cut surfaces of the rolls. Bake under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until they are just barely golden brown (watch them closely as broilers can vary).
  • After removing the rolls from the oven, switch the setting from broil to bake (350ºF). Pile the eggplant mixture onto the toasted rolls, then top with mozzarella. Return the sandwiches to the hot oven and bake for about 5 minutes more, or until the mozzarella is melted. Serve hot!

Nutrition

Serving: 1sandwich | Calories: 455kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 26g | Sodium: 1110mg | Fiber: 6g
front view of one eggplant mozzarella sandwich

How to Make Eggplant Mozzarella Sandwiches – Step by Step Photos

Cubed eggplant

Cube one eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes. Mince two cloves of garlic.

Minced garlic in oil in a skillet

Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes.

Cubed eggplant in the skillet with Italian seasoning

Add the cubed eggplant and 1 tsp Italian seasoning. Continue to sauté until the eggplant is soft (5-7 minutes).

Marinara sauce being added to sautéed eggplant in the skillet

Once the eggplant is soft, add 1 cup marinara sauce.

Finished eggplant with marinara in the skillet

Stir to combine the eggplant and sauce, then heat through. Taste and season with salt (about ½ tsp).

Garlic butter and oil being brushed onto rolls

Preheat the broiler on your oven and make sure the oven’s rack is in the middle position. Place your buns or rolls on a baking sheet, cut side up. Combine the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp butter, and ¼ tsp garlic powder. Microwave for 15-30 seconds, or until melted, then stir to combine. Brush the butter and oil mixture over the cut surface of the rolls.

Eggplant mixture being spooned onto toasted rolls

Toast the rolls under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until they are barely golden brown. Watch them closely, as broilers can vary quite a bit. Once toasted, switch the oven’s setting from broil to bake (350ºF). Spoon the eggplant mixture onto the rolls.

sandwiches topped with mozzarella

Top the eggplant mixture with mozzarella (about 1 oz. per sandwich).

Baked eggplant sandwiches on the baking sheet

Return the sandwiches to the oven and bake for a few minutes more, or until the mozzarella is melted.

Eggplant sandwiches ready to serve

Serve the eggplant mozzarella sandwiches while they’re still hot! (I added a little chopped parsley for color, but it’s not needed for flavor)

three stacked eggplant mozzarella sandwiches on a wooden board

The post Eggplant Mozzarella Sandwiches appeared first on Budget Bytes.

One Pot Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff

Guess what time it is! Comfort-food-o’clock. And what makes better comfort food than a rich creamy pasta dish, like this One Pot Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff? This is yet another “better than the box” meal. It cooks in one easy pot, just like hamburger helper stroganoff, but it’s homemade. You’re going to want to tuck […]

The post One Pot Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Guess what time it is! Comfort-food-o’clock. And what makes better comfort food than a rich creamy pasta dish, like this One Pot Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff? This is yet another “better than the box” meal. It cooks in one easy pot, just like hamburger helper stroganoff, but it’s homemade. You’re going to want to tuck this recipe into your back pocket for those nights when you’re super tired and need an extra comforting meal. :)

Originally posted 2-17-14, updated 5-20-21

overhead view of a skillet full of beef and mushroom stroganoff

Use All Beef, No Beef, or Both!

I used half ground beef and half mushrooms to stretch my pennies a bit further, but you could do all mushrooms or all beef if you prefer. If you’re doing a vegetarian version with all mushrooms, use mushroom or vegetable broth to replace the beef broth.

Tips for “One Pot” Success

One pot recipes can be a bit tricky for some, so here are some pointers:

  • Use heavy, thick cookware to help the ingredients heat evenly.
  • The broth does not need to fully cover the noodles for them to cook, so resist the urge to add extra water or broth.
  • Make sure the liquid is simmering the whole time the pasta is cooking. If the heat is too low, the pasta will just get gummy.
  • Stir the pot occasionally to prevent sticking, but not too often or your risk breaking down the pasta.
  • Use your judgment. If your pasta looks close to being cooked through, but there is too much liquid left in the skillet, let it finish simmering with the lid off. If the liquid is gone but your pasta is still not tender, add a splash more water or broth and continue to simmer.

Every piece of cookware and every range top is different, so one pot recipes are a bit like riding a bike. You have to feel it out and find the sweet spot for the equipment you’re using.

Use Good Broth

The broth brings a lot of flavor to this beef and mushroom stroganoff, so make sure you’re using a nice and flavorful broth that has adequate salt. I like to use Better than Bouillon to make broth for recipes because it’s super flavorful, I can mix up any amount I need, and the jar stays good in the refrigerator for months, so there are no leftovers to go to waste. If you still find your stroganoff to be on the bland side in the end, an extra pinch of salt can really help the flavors pop.

Side view of a bowl full of beef and mushroom stroganoff

 

Want more One Pot Recipes? Check out our One Pot Recipe Archives!

Overhead view of a bowl full of beef and mushroom stroganoff

One Pot Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff

This super easy one pot Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff is a delicious and comforting weeknight dinner that requires just a few ingredients.
Total Cost $5.54 recipe / $1.39 serving
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 about 1.5 cups each
Calories 476kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic $0.16
  • 2 Tbsp butter $0.22
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef $2.50
  • 8 oz. mushrooms $1.49
  • 1/8 tsp Freshly cracked black pepper $0.01
  • 2 cups beef broth $0.26
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce $0.03
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard $0.02
  • 8 oz. wide egg noodles $0.60
  • 1/3 cup sour cream $0.15
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley (optional) $0.10

Instructions

  • Mince the garlic. Add the garlic and butter to a large pot or skillet and sauté over medium heat for about one minute, or until the garlic is soft and fragrant.
  • Add the ground beef and continue to sauté until it is fully browned.
  • While the beef is browning, slice the mushrooms. Add the sliced mushrooms and some freshly cracked pepper to the pot with the beef. Continue to sauté until the mushrooms are soft (about five minutes).
  • Add the uncooked egg noodles to the pot along with the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard. Stir to combine. The liquid will not fully cover the noodles, but that's okay.
  • Place a lid on the pot and allow the liquid to come up to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as it reaches a boil, give the pot a stir, replace the lid, and reduce the heat to low. Allow the pot to simmer on low heat for about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and replacing the lid every couple of minutes. After 7-10 minutes the pasta should be tender and most of the liquid absorbed.
  • Once the noodles are tender, add the sour cream and fold it into the noodles until everything is rich and creamy. Give the noodles a taste and add extra salt or pepper, if needed. Roughly chop a handful of parsley leaves and sprinkle over top. Serve hot.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5Cups | Calories: 476kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 24g | Sodium: 614mg | Fiber: 3g

Overhead view of a bowl full of beef and mushroom stroganoff

How to Make Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff – Step by Step Photos

garlic sautéed in butter in the skillet

Begin by sautéing 2 cloves of minced garlic in 2 Tbsp of butter until soft (1-2 minutes). You can use a large pot or large skillet, as long as it is big enough to hold all of the pasta AND has a lid (the lid will be used later).

browned ground beef in the skillet

Next, add 1/2 lb. ground beef and continue to sauté until it is fully browned.

Sliced mushrooms on a cutting board

While the beef is browning, slice 8oz. mushrooms. White button mushrooms are fine, but if you can get these baby bella mushrooms they are even more awesome (shout out to ALDI for carrying these at an affordable price).

Mushrooms in the skillet with beef

Once the beef is browned, add the mushrooms and some freshly cracked pepper. Continue to sauté until they are soft (about five minutes).

noodles added to the skillet, beef broth being poured in

Add ½ lb. wide egg noodles to the skillet along with 2 cups beef broth, 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and ½ tsp Dijon mustard. Stir to combine. The broth will not fully cover the noodles, but that’s okay. The steam in the skillet will help cook them and they’ll be stirred to make sure even cooking.

Cooked noodles with beef in the skillet

Place a lid on the skillet and bring the broth up to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, give it a quick stir to loosen the noodles from the bottom, return the lid quickly, and turn the heat down to low. Let the skillet simmer, stirring occasionally and always replacing the lid, for 7-10 minutes or until the noodles are tender and there is only a small amount of thick sauce left in the skillet. 

Sour cream added to beef and noodles in the skillet

Finally, add ⅓ cup sour cream and fold it into the noodles until everything is creamy and delicious!

Finished one pot beef and mushroom stroganoff topped with parsley

Top off the beef and mushroom stroganoff with a little chopped parsley for color (because stroganoff is kind of boring to look at) and it’s time to dive into that skillet full of creamy goodness! You might want to give it a taste at this point to see if you want a little extra salt or pepper (again, depending on the salt content of your broth), but other than that it’s time to eat! And only one dish to clean. :)

close up side view of beef and mushroom stroganoff in the skillet

The post One Pot Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Easy Pesto Chicken and Vegetables

This Easy Pesto Chicken and Vegetables meal prep is super fast and easy, and holds up well in the fridge for tasty lunches all week!

The post Easy Pesto Chicken and Vegetables appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Are you ready for this? Because I wasn’t quite ready for how easy and delicious this meal was. When I sat down to eat my first bowl of these Pesto Chicken and Vegetables I was like, “Oh yes, I’m going to make this every single week.” It’s the perfect light, flavorful, and fast recipe for meal prep. And it’s just SO SIMPLE.

Pesto chicken and vegetables in a skillet

Vegetable Options

I used a summery mix of yellow squash, zucchini, red bell pepper, green beans, and red onion for this quick sauté, but there are a lot of options when it comes to the vegetables. Here are some other vegetables you could add:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Fresh corn
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach

The key thing to keep in mind when using different vegetables is when to add them to the skillet. For this recipe you don’t want to fully cook the vegetables. They should be just tender-crisp. So, keeping that in mind, add sturdy vegetables first and tender vegetables later to make sure they don’t get overcooked.

Can I Substitute the Chicken?

Yes, there are options for that, too! I think shrimp would be absolutely awesome in this recipe, as would tofu. If using tofu, I would do a cornstarch coating and fry it separately (see the technique used in this recipe) before tossing it together with the vegetables and pesto at the end.

How to Serve Pesto Chicken and Vegetables

I ate this dish as-is, just a bowl of flavorful chicken and vegetables. But there are more options! You could eat this over a bowl of rice, stir in some cooked orzo or quinoa, or even add them to a bed of greens. Honestly, I would probably even add them to a flat bread and top with mozzarella as a sort of vegetable pizza!

How Long Does it Stay Good?

I got about four days out of my pesto chicken and vegetables, but this can vary depending on the conditions in your refrigerator, freshness of the ingredients, and how long you cook the vegetables. As I mentioned above, you want to barely cook the vegetables for this recipe. Just make them tender-crisp so they don’t get too wilted. Not only does this give them great texture and a fresh, bright flavor, but they last a little longer in the fridge, too.

side view of a bowl full of pesto chicken and vegetables
Easy pesto chicken and vegetables in a skillet with a spatula

Easy Pesto Chicken and Vegetables

This Easy Pesto Chicken and Vegetables meal prep is super fast and easy, and holds up well in the fridge for tasty lunches all week!
Total Cost $11.07 recipe / $2.72 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 1.5 cups each
Calories 369.33kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1 red bell pepper $1.50
  • 1 zucchini $0.60
  • 1 yellow squash $0.50
  • 1/2 red onion $0.19
  • 1.3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast $6.67
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil $0.08
  • 1 cup frozen green beans $0.67
  • 1/3 cup pesto* $0.73
  • 1/8 tsp salt* $0.01
  • 1/8 tsp freshly cracked pepper* $0.01
  • 1 Tbsp grated Parmesan* $0.11

Instructions

  • Chop the bell pepper, yellow squash, and zucchini, and slice the red onion. I like to make different shapes for each vegetable, but aim to make the pieces all around the same size.
  • Cube the chicken breasts into ½-inch pieces.
  • Add the cooking oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high. Once the skillet and oil are very hot, add the chicken and sauté until the chicken pieces are opaque (3-5 minutes – the chicken will continue to cook as you add vegetables).
  • Add the green beans to the skillet and sauté for 1-2 minutes more, or just until thawed.
  • Add the bell pepper and red onion to the skillet. Sauté for 1-2 minutes more. If water is beginning to pool in the skillet, turn the heat up slightly. It should be hot enough that the water released from the vegetables evaporates quickly.
  • Add the yellow squash and zucchini to the skillet and continue to sauté 2-3 minutes more, or just until the squash softens slightly.
  • Turn the heat off, add the pesto to the skillet, and stir until everything is coated. Give the vegetables a taste and add salt, pepper, or more pesto if desired. Top with a light sprinkle of Parmesan just before serving.

Notes

*You may need more or less pesto, salt, pepper, or Parmesan depending on the volume of your vegetables and your personal taste. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 369.33kcal | Carbohydrates: 11.68g | Protein: 36.8g | Fat: 19.2g | Sodium: 423.15mg | Fiber: 3.43g
Pesto chicken and vegetables in glass meal prep containers lined up side by side

How to Make Pesto Chicken and Vegetables – Step by Step Photos

Chopped vegetables on a cutting board

Chop the vegetables first so they’re ready to go. Chop one red bell pepper, one yellow squash, one zucchini, slice ½ of one red onion and measure 1 cup frozen green beans. I like to do different shapes for the vegetables, but aim to keep them roughly the same size.

Cubed chicken breast on a cutting board

Cut 1.3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast into ½-inch pieces.

Cooked chicken in the skillet, frozen green beans being poured in

Add 2 Tbsp cooking oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high. Once very hot, add the cubed chicken and sauté just until the chicken is opaque (3-5 minutes – it will continue to cook as you add more vegetables). Next, add the frozen green beans and sauté for a couple of minutes more, or just until thawed.

Red bell pepper and red onion added to the skillet

Next add the bell pepper and red onion. Continue to sauté a couple of minutes more. If you see water pooling in the skillet, turn the heat up higher. The heat should be high enough that any moisture released by the vegetables evaporates quickly.

zucchini and yellow squash added to the skillet

Finally, add the yellow squash and zucchini to the skillet. Sauté just a couple of minutes more, or just until the raw edge is taken off the squash.

Pesto being added to the skillet

Turn the heat off. Add about ⅓ cup pesto to the skillet and stir until everything is coated.

Finished pesto chicken and vegetables

Give the vegetables a taste and add salt, pepper, or more pesto if needed (I added a pinch of each).

pesto chicken and vegetables in a bowl topped with a pinch of parmesan

Top with a light sprinkle of Parmesan just before serving.

Three glass meal prep containers full of pesto chicken and vegetables

Perfect for meal prep!!

The post Easy Pesto Chicken and Vegetables appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Coconut Chicken Strips with Sweet Chili Sauce

Talk about addictive! Once you try one of these crispy Coconut Chicken strips dipped in tangy sweet chili sauce you’re going to want to make them on a weekly basis. Because the chicken is sliced nice and thin and then cooked quickly in hot oil, the chicken stays juicy and tender on the inside, while developing […]

The post Coconut Chicken Strips with Sweet Chili Sauce appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Talk about addictive! Once you try one of these crispy Coconut Chicken strips dipped in tangy sweet chili sauce you’re going to want to make them on a weekly basis. Because the chicken is sliced nice and thin and then cooked quickly in hot oil, the chicken stays juicy and tender on the inside, while developing a perfectly golden brown and crispy exterior. Pair that with a bowl of cool, sweet, and tangy Thai sweet chili sauce for dipping and I’m in absolute heaven. So if you love chicken tenders, chicken strips, boneless wings, or anything along those lines, I think you’re going to love these Coconut Chicken Strips.

Originally posted 1-18-2010, updated 5-10-2021.

Overhead view of a plate full of coconut chicken strips with one being dipped into a bowl of sweet chili sauce

What Kind of Chicken to Use

I’ve tried this recipe with both chicken breast (boneless, skinless) and chicken tenders. Chicken tenders ended up being too large when used whole, so while they are an option you’ll probably still want to slice them into thinner pieces before breading and cooking. 

Another option would be to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into chunks, so you’ll have something more along the lines of coconut chicken “bites” than strips. I think that would be awesome! The dark meat of chicken thighs will be extra tender and juicy.

Cooking Options

Frying – I chose to shallow fry my coconut chicken strips in a skillet because I don’t have a deep fryer and I don’t deep fry often enough to warrant using as much oil as deep-frying requires. Shallow frying will still get you that great super crispy exterior without allowing the inside to dry out.

Baking – While you can bake these, the results won’t be as awesome as frying. Baking takes longer and the hot air causes more evaporation, which results in drier chicken. You also won’t get as much browning as you will with frying. To help the browning issue, you can try adding a tablespoon or two of oil into the panko and coconut breading mixture, similar to the technique used in my Homemade Chicken Nuggets. I suggest using the baking temperature and technique used for the chicken nuggets as well, but increasing the bake time by a few minutes.

Air Frying – I do not own an air fryer, so unfortunately I can’t offer suggestions for cooking times and temperature, but I suspect these chicken strips would be a good candidate for air frying. Because this appliance uses hot air, similar to an oven, I would suggest either spritzing the strips with a little spray oil or mixing a tablespoon or two of oil into the panko and coconut mixture to help with browning.

What to Serve with Coconut Chicken Strips

Don’t skip that sweet chili sauce! You can find sweet chili sauce in the international aisle of most major grocery stores, or you can try making your own with my Homemade Sweet Chili Sauce recipe. For side dishes, you can pair this with something like Crunchy Cabbage Salad with Sesame Dressing, Cucumber Mango Salad, or Savory Coconut Rice

What Oil is Good For Frying?

It’s really important to use the right kind of cooking oil for frying. Every type of cooking oil has a different “smoke point,” which is the temperature that the oil begins to smoke and burn. And obviously, we want to avoid that because burned oil does not taste good (and it’s a fire hazard!). So, you’ll want to choose an oil that can withstand the high temperature of frying and an oil that doesn’t have a strong flavor of its own. Some good oils to choose from are canola oil, vegetable oil, safflower oil, refined coconut oil, corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, refined olive oil, or refined avocado oil.

Close up of a coconut chicken strip being dipped into sweet chili sauce

A plate of coconut chicken strips with a bowl of sweet chili sauce in the center, a hand dipping one chicken strip into the sauce

Coconut Chicken Strips with Sweet Chili Sauce

These tender and crispy homemade Coconut Chicken Strips are perfect for dipping in a tangy and sweet chili sauce.
Total Cost $10.95 recipe / $2.73 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 4 strips each
Calories 873.13kcal

Ingredients

  • 1.3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts $7.70
  • ¼ tsp salt $0.01
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour $0.02
  • 2 large eggs $0.42
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk $0.25
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs $0.22
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut $0.56
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil, divided* $0.32
  • 1 cup sweet chili sauce $1.43

Instructions

  • Slice the chicken breasts into ½-inch wide strips, slicing diagonally to maintain a more even length among the strips.
  • Sprinkle the salt and flour over top of the sliced chicken. Toss the chicken until they're evenly coated.
  • Whisk together the eggs and coconut milk in a bowl. In a separate wide shallow bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and flaked coconut.
  • To bread the chicken, dip each chicken strip into the egg wash, allow the excess to drip off, then dip it into the breadcrumb mixture until it's fully coated. Place the breaded chicken strips on a clean plate or tray until they're all breaded.
  • Once they're all breaded, it's time to fry. Heat ¼ cup cooking oil in a skillet over medium heat. To test the heat of the oil, drop a breadcrumb into the oil. It should begin to sizzle immediately. If the oil begins to smoke at anytime, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool down.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the chicken strips, several at a time, leaving a little space between each one. Cook the chicken strips for about three minutes on on each side, or until they're deeply golden brown. Transfer the cooked chicken to a paper towel lined plate to drain, then repeat with another batch of chicken. Remove any burned pieces of coconut before beginning the next batch, and add more oil as needed, making sure to wait until it is hot before adding more chicken.
  • After frying all of the chicken, it's time to serve! Serve hot with a bowl of sweet chili sauce for dipping.

Notes

*Use a high heat cooking oil. Good options include: canola oil, vegetable oil, safflower oil, refined coconut oil, corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, refined olive oil, or refined avocado oil. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1Serving | Calories: 873.13kcal | Carbohydrates: 82.7g | Protein: 39.45g | Fat: 42.1g | Sodium: 1313.3mg | Fiber: 3.15g

Close up of coconut chicken strips on a plate with a bowl of thai sweet chili sauce

How to Make Coconut Chicken Strips – Step by Step Photos

Sliced chicken breasts

Start with about 1.3 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken breast. Cut them into ½-inch wide strips. I like to do this sort of on a diagonal to keep them more even in length. If your chicken breasts are very large, you might want to cut the length of the strip in half as well. Cutting the chicken strips thin enough is important because this allows it to cook through quickly. 

Chicken strips coated in flour and salt

Sprinkle ¼ tsp salt and 2 Tbsp flour over the chicken strips, then toss until they’re evenly coated.

Egg and coconut milk mixed in a bowl

Whisk together two large eggs and ¼ cup full-fat coconut milk in a bowl. Make sure to use the type of coconut milk that is in a can, not the type in a carton that is meant to be a dairy milk substitute.

Coconut and panko breadcrumbs mixed together in a bowl

Combine 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes and 1 cup panko breadcrumbs in a wide, shallow bowl.

Breading station with chicken, egg wash, coconut and breadcrumbs

Set up your breading station with the bowl of coconut egg wash, the bowl with coconut and breadcrumbs, and a plate or tray for the breaded chicken. I’m using a parchment lined baking sheet to hold the breaded chicken just for easy cleanup. Dip each chicken strip first into the eggwash (let excess drip off), then into the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure the breadcrumbs and coconut fully coat all sides, then place the chicken strip on your holding tray.

Breaded chicken strips on a baking tray

Once all of the chicken strips are breaded, it’s time to start cooking. Add ¼ cup cooking oil to a skillet and heat over medium. Wait until the oil is very hot, but not smoking. If you drop one of the panko breadcrumbs into the hot oil, it should immediately begin sizzling. If it doesn’t sizzle right away, the oil is not hot enough. If at any point during the cooking process the oil begins to smoke, remove it from the heat immediately and wait for it to cool down. 

Browned chicken strips in the skillet

Once the oil is good and hot, add several of the chicken strips, leaving a little space between each. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or until they are deeply golden brown on each side. Transfer the cooked chicken to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Scoop out any loose pieces of coconut, add a little more oil if needed, wait for it to get hot again, and then cook a second batch of chicken strips. You should be able to cook them all in 2-3 batches. 

Finished Coconut Chicken Strips on a paper towel lined plate

Once they’re all cooked, it’s time to serve! 

Overhead view of a plate full of coconut chicken strips with a bowl of sweet chili sauce in the center

Pour about one cup of sweet chili sauce into a bowl and place that in the center of the coconut chicken strips. I sprinkled the chicken strips with a little cilantro for color, but that’s not needed for flavor. Sliced green onions are another optional garnish idea. Enjoy!

The post Coconut Chicken Strips with Sweet Chili Sauce appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Curry Roasted Vegetable Bowls

These curry roasted vegetable bowls are colorful, full of vibrant flavors, and the leftovers pack up well for your weekly meal prep!

The post Curry Roasted Vegetable Bowls appeared first on Budget Bytes.

My absolute favorite meal “formula” is roasted vegetables (with or without meat) over a bowl of grains, with a delicious drizzle of sauce. I come back to this type of meal over and over again because the formula is easy to prepare, meal preps well, and there are endless flavor possibilities. This week’s version was Curry Roasted Vegetable Bowls with a Lemon Tahini Dressing drizzle. It’s simple, colorful, flavorful, filling, and will leave you looking forward to the leftovers. :)

Overhead view of curry roasted vegetable bowls with a dish of dressing on the side

What is Curry Powder?

Since curry powder is responsible for all of the seasoning in the bowls, let’s take a minute to chat about it. If you’ve never had curry powder, it’s a warm blend of spices that are pre-ground and blended to mimic the fresh spices used in Indian cuisine. This blend usually includes cumin, turmeric, coriander, and other spices. Every curry powder blend is unique, so you may need to experiment with different brands or recipes to find one that suits your palate. If you’d like to try making your own curry powder, try this recipe for homemade curry powder from Spice it Upp.

Add More to Your Curry Roasted Vegetable Bowls

I kept my curry roasted vegetable bowls simple because I like simplicity, but you can add more to make them a little more fancy, if you’d like. I think a light sprinkle of raisins would add an incredible pop of sweetness to contrast the savory curry powder and tahini dressing.

Slivered almonds would offer an amazing crunch to these bowls without competing with the already strong flavors.

If you want to add some meat, rotisserie chicken would be great, as would some Yogurt Marinated Chicken.

Swap Out the Vegetables or Grains

This recipe is super flexible. You can swap out the vegetables for anything you like. Try broccoli, sweet potatoes, asparagus, sweet bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, or whatever vegetable you like.

The same goes for the “bed” for these bowls. If you don’t like brown rice you can swap it out with white rice, couscous, quinoa, your favorite grain, or even salad greens.

How Long Do The Leftovers Last?

Simple bowl meals like this hold up in the refrigerator for about four days, with the dressing kept on the side. Your mileage may vary depending on the freshness of your ingredients and the conditions within your fridge. I’ll link my favorite meal prep containers for meals like this in the recipe below.

Side view of a fork lifting a bite out of the curry roasted vegetable bowls
Overview of curry roasted vegetable bowls with lemon tahini dressing on the side

Curry Roasted Vegetable Bowls

These curry roasted vegetable bowls are colorful, full of vibrant flavors, and the leftovers pack up well for your weekly meal prep!
Total Cost $6.10 recipe / $1.53 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 480.38kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup long grain brown rice (uncooked) $0.40
  • 1 head cauliflower $2.29
  • 3 carrots $0.24
  • 1 red onion $0.37
  • 1 cup frozen peas $0.60
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil $0.32
  • 2 Tbsp curry powder $0.30
  • 1/2 tsp salt $0.02

Lemon Tahini Dressing

  • 1/3 cup tahini $1.13
  • 1/3 cup water $0.00
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice $0.18
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced $0.16
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.02

Instructions

  • Begin the rice first because it takes the longest to cook. Combine the uncooked rice in a pot with 2 cups water. Place a lid on top, turn the heat onto high, and allow the water to come up to a full boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and let the rice simmer for 45 minutes (no stirring). After 45 minutes, turn the heat off and let it rest with the lid in place for an additional five minutes.
  • Once the rice is started, move on to the curry roasted vegetables. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Peel and slice the carrots. Slice the red onion into ¼-inch wide slices.
  • Place the cauliflower, carrots, and red onion on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over top, then add the curry powder and salt. Toss the vegetables until everything is evenly coated in oil and spices. Spread the vegetables out over the baking sheet in a single layer.
  • Transfer the seasoned vegetables to the oven and roast for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes give them a good stir, then roast for another 15 minutes. Next, add the frozen peas and toss together with the roasted vegetables, then return the baking sheet to the oven for the an additional 5 minutes. Taste the vegetables and add additional salt, if needed.
  • While the rice is simmering and the vegetables are roasting, make the lemon tahini dressing. Place the tahini, water, lemon juice, minced garlic, cumin, cayenne, and salt in a blender then blend until smooth. Set the dressing aside.
  • When the rice has finished cooking, fluff with a fork. Place about ¾ cup rice into each bowl or meal prep container. Top with ¼ of the roasted vegetables. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of dressing just before serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 480.38kcal | Carbohydrates: 66.68g | Protein: 14.18g | Fat: 20.38g | Sodium: 579.93mg | Fiber: 12.85g

How to Make Curry Roasted Vegetable Bowls – Step by Step Photos

Cooked rice being fluffed with a fork in a saucepot

Start the brown rice first, since it takes the longest to cook. Add 1 cup brown rice to a sauce pot with 2 cups water. Place a lid on top and turn the heat onto high. Bring the water up to a full boil, then reduce the heat to low and let the rice simmer for 45 minutes (no stirring). After 45 minutes, turn the heat off and let the rice rest with the lid on for five more minutes.

Chopped vegetables on a baking sheet

While the rice is cooking, start on the roasted vegetables. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Chop one head of cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Peel and slice three carrots. Slice one red onion into ¼-inch wide slices. Place all of the vegetables onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

Olive oil and curry powder added to the chopped vegetables

Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp curry powder, and ½ tsp salt to the prepared vegetables. Toss the vegetables until they are evenly coated in oil and spices.

Seasoned unroasted vegetables

Transfer the prepared vegetables to the preheated 400ºF oven. Roast for 20 minutes then give them a good stir. Return the stirred vegetables to the oven and roast for another 15 minutes.

Frozen peas added to the roasted vegetables

After roasting for 35 minutes total, add 1 cup frozen peas (no need to thaw). Toss them together with the roasted vegetables and return them to the oven for an additional 5 minutes.

lemon juice being poured into a blender containing the rest of the dressing ingredients

While the vegetables are in the oven, prepare the lemon tahini dressing. Combine ⅓ cup tahini, ⅓ cup water, ¼ cup lemon juice, 2 cloves of minced garlic, ½ tsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp cayenne, and ¼ tsp salt in a blender.

Blended lemon tahini dressing in the blender

Blend the ingredients until smooth, then set the dressing aside.

Finished roasted vegetables on the baking sheet

Give the final roasted vegetables a taste and adjust the salt, if needed.

Overview of curry roasted vegetable bowls with lemon tahini dressing on the side

To build your curry roasted vegetable bowls, add about ¾ cup brown rice to each bowl or container then top with ¼ of the roasted vegetable mix. Drizzle with the lemon tahini dressing just before serving!

The post Curry Roasted Vegetable Bowls appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Spaghetti with Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce

This week I had a killer craving for some classic spaghetti and meat sauce. But, as you may know, I like to add vegetables whenever and wherever I can to recipes. So I shredded a couple of handfuls of vegetables, tossed them into the sauce, and added some extra herbs and spices to make this […]

The post Spaghetti with Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce appeared first on Budget Bytes.

This week I had a killer craving for some classic spaghetti and meat sauce. But, as you may know, I like to add vegetables whenever and wherever I can to recipes. So I shredded a couple of handfuls of vegetables, tossed them into the sauce, and added some extra herbs and spices to make this absolutely incredible “hidden vegetable” pasta sauce. It has more flavor, more color, and more texture (read: fiber). It’s a win-win-win!

 Originally posted 11-21-2015, updated 4-17-2021.

Overhead view of a bowl of spaghetti with hidden vegetable pasta sauce and garlic bread on the side

Shown with Homemade Garlic Bread

Balance Your Costs with Vegetables

My favorite trick for stretching ground meat in recipes is to use vegetables or beans to replace half of the ground meat. This time I shredded vegetables, which mimicked the texture of the ground meat, but added a subtle sweetness and a whole lot of extra flavor, texture, and nutrition to the sauce. This sauce is so delicious that I couldn’t stop sneaking spoonfuls while I took photos!

Can I Make This Sauce Vegetarian?

If you want to make a vegetarian version of this hidden vegetable pasta sauce, I suggest mincing an 8oz. container of mushrooms and sautéing them with the onions and garlic. The minced texture will mimic the ground meat and mushrooms have that umami flavor that is similar to ground meat.

Is Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce Freezer Friendly?

This sauce freezes great if you want to make a double batch and have it on hand in your freezer for busy nights. Just make sure to cool the sauce completely in the refrigerator first, then transfer to the freezer. The sauce will stay good in the freezer for months. To reheat, empty the freezer container into a sauce pot and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Side view of hidden vegetable pasta sauce in a skillet with a spatula

Overhead view of a bowl of spaghetti with hidden vegetable pasta sauce

Spaghetti with Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce

Give your spaghetti an upgrade with this hidden vegetable pasta sauce that contains a medley of vegetables plus extra herbs and spices for maximum flavor.
Total Cost $6.21 recipe / $1.55 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 366.78kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1 small zucchini $0.57
  • 2 carrots $0.16
  • 1 yellow onion $0.25
  • 2 cloves garlic $0.16
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.16
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef $2.50
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil $0.05
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp Freshly cracked black pepper $0.03
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper (optional) $0.02
  • 1 24oz. jar pasta sauce* $1.49
  • 12 oz. spaghetti $0.75

Instructions

  • Use a cheese grater to grate the zucchini and carrots. You'll want about 1.5 cups of each, but the amount is flexible. Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
  • Add the olive oil and ground beef to a large, deep skillet. Cook the ground beef over medium heat until it is fully browned. Add the diced onion and garlic and continue to sauté a few minutes more, or until the onions are soft and translucent.
  • Add the shredded zucchini and carrots to the skillet along with the basil, oregano, salt, freshly cracked pepper, and a pinch of red pepper. Continue to sauté until the vegetables are wilted (about five minutes).
  • Add the pasta sauce to the skillet and stir to combine. Allow the contents of the skillet to come up to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low and simmer the sauce as you prepare the spaghetti. Stir the sauce occasionally as it simmers.
  • Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain in a colander. Return the drained spaghetti to the pot with the heat turned off. Add one cup of the prepared sauce to the pasta and stir to coat. Divide the pasta into serving bowls and top with additional sauce.

Notes

*Use your favorite brand or flavor of red pasta sauce.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Serving | Calories: 366.78kcal | Carbohydrates: 46.73g | Protein: 25.98g | Fat: 13.53g | Sodium: 979.83mg | Fiber: 7.78g

Close up of a fork twirling spaghetti with hidden vegetable pasta sauce

How to Make Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce – Step by Step Photos

Shredded zucchini and carrot on a cutting board

Start by preparing your vegetables. Use a cheese grater to grate one small zucchini and two carrots. You’ll want about 1.5 cups each, but this is flexible so don’t sweat it if you have a little more or less. Also dice one yellow onion and mince two cloves of garlic.

Browned ground beef with onions and garlic

Add 1/2 lb. ground beef in a large deep skillet with 1 Tbsp olive oil and cook over medium heat until the beef has browned. Once browned, add the diced onion and minced garlic. Sauté for a few minutes more, or until the onions are soft and translucent.

Shredded vegetables added to the skillet with the meat

Add the shredded zucchini and carrots to the skillet along with 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp salt, about ¼ tsp freshly cracked pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional). Continue to sauté the vegetables until they soften, or about five minutes. 

Pasta sauce being poured into the skillet with the meat and vegetables

Finally, add one 24oz. jar of your favorite pasta sauce and stir to combine. Allow the sauce to come back up to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low and continue to let the contents of the skillet simmer as you begin to prepare your spaghetti.

Simmered hidden vegetable pasta sauce in the skillet

Stir the sauce occasionally as it simmers. The vegetables will continue to soften as the sauce simmers, further “hiding” them in the sauce.

Spaghetti and sauce in the stock pot

Cook 12oz. of spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain in a colander. Return the pasta to the cooking pot with the heat turned off and add about 1 cup of the sauce. Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Overhead view of a bowl of spaghetti with hidden vegetable pasta sauce

Divide the pasta into serving bowls, then top each bowl with additional sauce. This stuff is seriously so good, my mouth is watering just looking at that bowl!

Pasta sauce in a freezer bag

And don’t forget, this sauce is freezer-friendly! Just make sure to cool it completely in the refrigerator first, then place in a freezer-safe container (I used freezer bags), label, date, and freeze for later! It can be thawed in a saucepot over low, stirring occasionally.

The post Spaghetti with Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Secret Ingredient Cherry Almond Smoothie

This rich and creamy smoothie has a natural and subtle sweetness, a creamy texture, and tons of protein and plant fiber to keep you full.

The post Secret Ingredient Cherry Almond Smoothie appeared first on Budget Bytes.

I’ve been playing around with riced cauliflower over the past week, and one of the fun and unexpected ways to use it is in fruit smoothies, like this Cherry Almond Smoothie. This rich and creamy smoothie has a natural and subtle sweetness, a creamy texture, and tons of protein and plant fiber to keep you full. So if hiding cauliflower in a fruit smoothie has you curious, keep on reading!

Cherry almond smoothie in a short glass with bananas and a bowl of frozen cherries behind it

Why Add Cauliflower to a Smoothie?

Cauliflower is a really great neutral ingredient that adds fiber and body to the smoothie, which helps give it a lighter, more creamy texture. Plus, it’s a really simple way to add an extra dose of vegetables to your day.

I used frozen riced cauliflower to my smoothie, but if you have a really good blender you can use frozen cauliflower florets as well.

How Does it Taste?

You can’t taste the cauliflower in this smoothie. Not only is cauliflower mild in flavor already, but I find that ingredients that have a bit of fat (like the almond butter in this recipe) help mask that cruciferous vegetable flavor.

This smoothie has a subtle, natural sweetness, thanks to the banana and cherries. If you prefer a sweeter smoothie, you can add some honey, brown sugar, another sweet fruit like blueberries, or use sweetened almond milk.

Can I Sub the Almond Butter or Almond Milk?

If you can’t eat almonds, another good option is to make this a cherry coconut smoothie. In place of using almond butter and almond milk, you can use some full-fat coconut milk. The creamy coconut flavor will offer that same richness as the almond butter and help hide that cruciferous flavor.

A glass filled with a cherry almond smoothie with bananas and a bowl of frozen cherries in the back
A glass filled with a cherry almond smoothie, with bananas and a bowl of frozen cherries in the back

Cherry Almond Smoothie

This rich and creamy smoothie has a natural and subtle sweetness, a creamy texture, and tons of protein and plant fiber to keep you full.
Total Cost $1.69 each
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 (12 oz.)
Calories 254.7kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Adjust the liquid as needed to make it blend smoothly. Serve immediately.

Notes

*I used plain, unsweetened almond milk, but you can use sweetened if you prefer a sweeter smoothie. Vanilla flavored almond milk will also work well. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1smoothie | Calories: 254.7kcal | Carbohydrates: 35.8g | Protein: 6.7g | Fat: 11.6g | Sodium: 229.5mg | Fiber: 6.8g

How to Make a Cherry Almond Smoothie – Step by Step Photos

smoothie ingredients in a blender, almond milk being poured in

Add ½ cup frozen riced cauliflower, ½ of a frozen banana, ½ cup frozen sweet cherries, 1 Tbsp almond butter, ⅛ tsp cinnamon, and 1 cup almond milk to a blender.

Looking down into a blender with a blended cherry almond smoothie

Blend the ingredients until smooth. Sometimes with smoothies you may need to adjust the liquid up or down to make it blend smoothly. Taste the smoothie and adjust the sweetness (honey, sugar, more fruit) to your liking. Serve immediately.

A glass filled with a cherry almond smoothie, with bananas and a bowl of frozen cherries in the back

The post Secret Ingredient Cherry Almond Smoothie appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

Ground turkey can be kind of, well, boring if you don’t dress it up right. That’s why for these Mediterranean Turkey Burgers I added fun add-ins to the burger patty for maximum flavor and color. And instead of the ketchup and mustard treatment, these juicy burgers get a homemade lemon dill yogurt sauce, crunchy slices […]

The post Mediterranean Turkey Burgers appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Ground turkey can be kind of, well, boring if you don’t dress it up right. That’s why for these Mediterranean Turkey Burgers I added fun add-ins to the burger patty for maximum flavor and color. And instead of the ketchup and mustard treatment, these juicy burgers get a homemade lemon dill yogurt sauce, crunchy slices of cucumber, and a few slivers of red onion. If you’re looking to change up your burger game, these Mediterranean Turkey Burgers are it!

Originally posted 3-26-2011, updated 4-9-2021.

Overhead view of a mediterranean turkey burger, top bun off, on a paper lined plate next to cucumber salad

Can the Turkey Burgers be Grilled?

Yes, you can definitely grill these burgers instead of cooking them in a skillet. An outdoor grill or even an indoor countertop grill, like a George Foreman grill, will work great.

Why 19 oz. of Ground Turkey?

I’ll never understand why, but some brands sell ground turkey in 19 oz. packages instead of one-pound packages (if you work in that industry and know why, please let me know). If you can only find a one-pound package of ground turkey, you can still make this recipe. I wouldn’t adjust any other ingredients, just make four patties instead of five and they’ll be a little extra flavorful. 

What to Serve with Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

Since I had a half cucumber and red onion leftover from the recipe, I used them to make a small batch of my Super Fresh Cucumber Salad. It’s the perfect light side to these burgers. You could also serve them with something like Steak Fries, Mediterranean White Bean Salad, Quinoa Tabbouleh, or a simple green salad (mixed greens, tomatoes, and a vinaigrette). 

Can I Use Fresh Spinach?

Yes, you can use fresh spinach in this recipe instead of frozen, if you prefer. I suggest chopping the spinach until it’s in small pieces so it’s easier to mix into the meat. You may also want to sauté it briefly in a skillet to get some of the water out. You’ll want about ¼ cup once sautéed.

Side view of a closed Mediterranean Turkey Burger on a paper lined plate

 

Overhead view of an open faced Mediterranean Turkey Burger on a paper lined plate with cucumber salad on the side

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

Spinach, sun dried tomatoes, feta, and a dilly yogurt sauce make these Mediterranean Turkey Burgers full of flavor and color.
Total Cost $10.18 recipe / $2.04 serving
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 5
Calories 396.62kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

Lemon Dill Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt $0.50
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice $0.03
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder $0.02
  • 1/8 tsp dried dill $0.02
  • 1/8 tsp salt $0.02

Turkey Burgers

  • 19 oz. ground turkey* $3.89
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes $0.83
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion $0.08
  • 2 oz. frozen spinach (1 cup when frozen) $0.25
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta $0.57
  • 1 tsp dried oregano $0.10
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.02
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil $0.04

For Serving

  • 5 hamburger buns $3.04
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced $0.75

Instructions

  • Make the lemon dill yogurt sauce first. Stir together the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic powder, dried dill, and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Prepare the add-ins for the turkey burgers. Finely chop the sun dried tomatoes, mince or finely dice the red onion, crumble the feta, and then thaw and squeeze all the moisture out of the frozen spinach (2 oz. will be about 1 cup when frozen, ¼ cup when thawed and squeezed dry).
  • Add the ground turkey, sun dried tomatoes, red onion, feta, spinach, dried oregano, garlic powder, and salt to a bowl. Mix the ingredients together until evenly combined.
  • Divide and shape the turkey mixture into five burger patties. Make them flatter and wider than usual because they will shrink up and in as they cook.
  • Heat ½ Tbsp cooking oil in a skillet over medium. Once hot, add three of the turkey burgers and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining cooking oil and the rest of the burger patties.
  • To serve, smear some of the lemon dill yogurt sauce on a bun. Add a turkey burger, some sliced cucumber, and sliced red onion, then enjoy.

Notes

*I used 93% lean ground turkey

Nutrition

Serving: 1burger | Calories: 396.62kcal | Carbohydrates: 32.58g | Protein: 30.8g | Fat: 16.16g | Sodium: 602.96mg | Fiber: 2.32g

Close up side view of a mediterranean turkey burger, open-faced

How to Make Mediterranean Turkey Burgers – Step By Step Photos

lemon, garlic powder, and dried dill being stirred into yogurt

Make the lemon dill yogurt sauce first, so the flavors have a little time to blend. Stir together ½ cup Greek yogurt, ½ Tbsp lemon juice, ⅛ tsp garlic powder, ⅛ tsp dried dill, and ⅛ tsp salt. Refrigerate the sauce until ready to use. And yes, you can use plain non-Greek yogurt if needed, it just makes a less thick sauce. :)

Chopped burger add-ins on a cutting board

Prepare the burger add-ins. Chop about ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes (I use the dry pack, not the kind packed in oil), mince or finely dice ¼ cup red onion (save the rest to slice and place on the burgers), crumble 1 oz. feta (about ¼ cup), and thaw then squeeze all the moisture out of 2 oz. frozen spinach. The spinach is about 1 cup when frozen, ¼ cup after it has been thawed and squezed dry.

Ground turkey and burger add-ins in a bowl

Place 19 oz. ground turkey, sun dried tomatoes, red onion, feta, spinach, 1 tsp dried oregano, ¼ tsp garlic powder, and ¼ tsp salt in a bowl (sorry, I forgot the oregano, garlic powder, and salt until after the photo was taken).

Turkey burger mixture in the bowl

Mix the ingredients into the ground turkey until it’s all evenly mixed.

Shaped Turkey Burgers on an orange cutting board

Divide and shape the meat mixture into five burger patties. Make the patties thinner and wider than you’d expect because they do shrink up and inward as you cook them.

Three cooked turkey burgers in a skillet

To cook the burgers in a skillet, add ½ Tbsp cooking oil to a skillet and heat over medium. Once hot, add a few of the burger patties and cook on each side for 5-7 minutes, or until well browned and cooked through. Repeat with the second half of the oil and the remaining burger patties.

Overhead view of an open faced Mediterranean Turkey Burger on a paper lined plate with cucumber salad on the side

To serve, spread some of the lemon dill yogurt sauce on a bun, add a cooked burger patty and a few slices of cucumber and red onion. Enjoy!

Greek Turkey Burgers are a healthy mix of ground turkey and Mediterranean flavors. BudgetBytes.com

The post Mediterranean Turkey Burgers appeared first on Budget Bytes.