Jun 8, 2011

Some of my Favorite Summer Recipes!

I'd like to start a little recipe exchange, but haven't quite figured out how I want to do it - so more on that later. To go ahead and kind of get things rolling, I wanted to share with you 3 of some of my favorite and simplest recipes - that are fantastic for summer!

Vegetable Soup
I know what you're thinking - vegetable soup is normally a wintery type of food. There is something wonderful about a hearty soup when it is cold and dreary outside. But, what about those summer days where the rain is pouring down, and the air conditioning is cranked up (because it is hot) - but you almost have a sense of being cold! This is the perfect time for a summer vegetable soup. Benefits: 1) It is all cooked on the stove and doesn't require you to heat up the oven (ie house). 2) You can use fresh vegetables from your garden (if you're lucky enough to have one)! 3) It's cheap and feeds a lot of people - that's good any time of the year! :) So, how do I make this vegetable soup? Well, it's my Mom's recipe, which is actually her Mom's recipe, and now my recipe...with a little bit of tweaking. So here it is: 
Stew Meat - 1 lb 
Frozen Mixed Vegetables - 4 cups 
Diced Tomatoes - 2 cans 
Water - 2 cans

Heat a thin layer of oil in the bottom of a stock pot; add stew meat and season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper (I just eye-ball it). Once the outer layer has browned, cover the pot and let it cook until it starts to stick to the bottom of the pot - almost like the grease in the bottom is caramelizing. You're going to think it is burning, but it's not. This is one of the most important steps in the process and gives the soup the best flavor: you've got to brown the meat really well! Then dump in all the rest of the ingredients and add more salt and garlic to taste. Let it simmer on the stove for several hours to really pull out all the flavors. This will give you about 8 hearty servings for a total of about $8! I made this soup about a month ago and gave some to a friend who had been sick a while; she said it was the best soup she had ever tasted and that I should sell it! :) So simple, yet so easy! To make it even cheaper, I buy diced tomatoes and mixed veggies at Sam's Club. I can get 8 cans of the tomatoes for about $4.00 (so only 50¢ a can) and 5 lb (80 oz) of the vegetables for about $5. Large bags of veggies used to be 16 oz, but a lot of them are now only 12 oz. - so just watch out for that when you buy them at your store and are doing your price comparisons!  So that's it! Super easy! Super yummy! Super cheap!

Corn-Avocado-Tomato Salad
This is my absolute favorite thing to eat in the summer. It's originally a Paula Dean recipe, but I think the version I have has been altered here and there. It is so easy and fresh. May not be the cheapest thing ever if you're having to buy your veggies (like me) - but very worth it in my opinion!
2 cups cooked corn, fresh or frozen
1 avocado, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine the corn, avocado, tomatoes and onion. In a large glass bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients in a glass bowl. Pour over the salad and toss gently to mix.
Yield: 4-6 servings; Prep time: 10 minutes; Ease of preparation: easy
PD and Friends, pg. 114

 So, for my notes on this recipe: I normally skip the onion. It's not because I don't like the taste of onion, I just can't seem to chop an onion (whether it is with a knife, Tupperware chopper, or food processor) without blubbering like my dog just died! I've tried all the old-wives tales from putting matches in my mouth, to keeping the onions in the refrigerator, to wearing sunglasses; nothing works! It's awful - so I rarely cook with anything other than onion flakes. I always add more lime juice than called for - as in about 3-4 times the amount!
Use a not-so-ripe avocado and add it last, or else it gets really mushy in the salad. I've added black beans to this to make it more protein-rich and more of a complete meal; very tasty. The original recipe calls for an entire pint of tomatoes, which I think is just too many for the normal salad. However, I do add more tomato sometimes and dice them in quarters - and use this as a dip with pita chips!
I don't have a zester, so I just use the small grate part of my cheese grater and it works really well. Just make sure to zest the lime before you cut it; much easier!
I just did some quick calculations and without calculating for things like the olive oil, salt, pepper, and cilantro - this recipe costs about $5.50 to make. More than I'd normally spend for something that is not the main dish - but like I said, you can spend another 50¢ and add a can of black beans and make it a complete meal (nutrition-wise).

Bell-Pepper Bake
I keep thinking that I made up this recipe (at least the version that I use), but in the back of my mind - I'm thinking that someone gave it to me; just not sure who. If you're that person - please feel free to take credit! :) This is a great item for newly-weds, or people like us - who have small babies that are not eating the same things that the adults are yet. I'm not sure how cost-effective it would be if trying to make it for a large group. 
1 large bell pepper 
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/4 packet of taco seasoning
grated cheese
This is just about the quickest, easiest, and fairly healthy thing I make for us on a regular basis. Cut the bell pepper in half and de-seed (I normally use green peppers because they are the cheapest, but you could use any color). Place in a small baking dish (one that could fit in your toaster oven) - like the one pictured below: 
Brown the meat (can be whatever grade of meat you prefer) and add taco seasoning. If you're not into seasoning packets, just use cumin, cayenne, garlic, salt, and pepper to season. Stuff the bell pepper halves with the cooked meat: 
 Cover with foil and bake for one hour on 400 degrees (if cooking in your toaster oven). If you're baking this in the oven, then I would bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Make sure to cover with foil, otherwise it will dry out. Add however much cheese you like (we obviously like cheese)! 
 Let it bake, uncovered, just long enough to let the cheese melt. If you leave it in too long, the cheese will just melt into the meat and you can't really taste it very well (especially if you use something other than a sharp cheese). 
That's it! Sometimes I'll make rice or a salad to go along with it - but it is really pretty filling, so sometimes we eat it by itself! To make this recipe for just the two of us it cost about $2.50. When you bake it in the toaster oven, it doesn't heat up the house. Also, it only takes about 10 minutes to put this together! The only thing that gets me sometimes is that it takes a while to bake! Super yummy! 

Now I want some of your favorite, simple, cheap summer meals! 
Please email them to me at: savesimplyblog@gmail.com and I'll post them for everyone to share!

1 comment:

Jean said...

I have been a grateful recipient of Lisa's soup and I can attest that it is the best I have ever had! Thanks so much for sharing!!!