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Easy Pasta With Beans

Easy Pasta With Beans:

We cook up 1 lb. of our favorite “big” pasta noodles–rotini or penne.  My current fave is the Ronzoni Smart Taste brand.  It has extra fiber, but it doesn’t taste gritty or as heavy as whole wheat pasta.  You can buy it at Walmart for $1.25 or at Kroger for $1.50.

While the pasta is cooking in well-salted water, I open up a can of kidney beans, rinse and drain.

Meanwhile, I borrow a fabulous little trick from Alice Waters and mince up a couple cloves of garlic–and a couple of stems of parsley if I am lucky enough to have it.  I measure out 1/3 c. olive oil.

As soon as the pasta is cooked to our liking, I drain it and pour it into a bowl.  Meanwhile, I pour my 1/3 c. olive oil into the pasta pot and heat it up a bit–then I add the garlic and parsley to the pan.  If the kiddos can handle it, it is so nice to add a few flakes of red pepper as well.  I will cook the garlic just long enough so that it starts to get soft and mellow out, but I don’t want to brown the garlic because it will taste bitter.  A very few minutes will do.  When all that is just right, I pour it over the pasta, add the can drained beans, and grate fresh parmesan cheese all over the top. The Butter Girl in the house is delighted when I supplement with a little butter.  Season with pepper.

The cost:  $1.25 for pasta, pennies for garlic and the seasonings, a couple quarters for olive oil, .80 for a can of beans, not more than $1 for the parmesan.  Add another couple $ for your veggie of choice.  TOTAL:  $5

If you have never used freshly grated parmesan, I beg of you to try it.  It may change how you cook.

Enjoy!

Tuna and Noodles

He’s smiling AND he’s eating tuna noodles!  (And some pretty wonderful glazed carrots.)

These noodles are pretty quick and easy.  Here’s the shopping list:

$1.60   1 pkg. of egg noodles 12 to 16 oz.  “Noodle style” pasta also works well–they are just made with same ingredients as regular pasta (wheat and water).  Egg noodles from the store also have dried egg as an ingredient.  Eggs add protein, fat, and cholesterol, and of course, flavor.

$1    1 can of your favorite “cream of ______” soup

$1.40 to $2.25 for 2 to 3 cans of tuna (I used three for 16 oz. of egg noodles).

$1 for about a half package of american cheese slices

.20 for about 1 cup of milk

If the budget allows, I love to splurge for 1 8 oz. pkg. of FRESH MUSHROOMS.  To me they are expensive–about $2.60.  I just love the flavor, taste and texture of beautifully sauteed mushrooms.  If we can afford it, I really like to add them.  However, it does save time and money to skip the mushrooms.

For a side, I cooked up a 2 lb. bag of carrots (with a little butter).  The carrots are running about $1.50 it seems.    So, the total for mushrooms and all is about $7.50.  OK, so let’s overestimate and tack on fifty cents for the butter.  It’s an $8 meal, which will feed my 8 person family and still have a generous serving of noodles leftover for lunch tomorrow.  If it is $1 a person, I count that as a BUDGET MEAL, especially since I can stretch it to lunch.

Here is the how-to:

Cook the egg noodles according to package directions.  While you are prepping the noodles, slice and saute your mushrooms.  The basic premise is to heat a large skillet, add butter and toss in about half of the package of sliced mushrooms.  Don’t crowd the pan.  (Did you watch “Julie and Julia”?) They will brown, stir them up a bit and then when they look beautiful and done remove them from the pan and start the second batch.  Yes, this takes a bit of time.  I recommend getting some mushroom advice from the good folks at COOKS ILLUSTRATED or any other great teaching cook–Julia Child, for example.  One thing I learned from Cooks Illustrated is that mushrooms really don’t “need” to be washed.  Just wipe them off.  When you wash them, it just adds water to the pan and that is what you are trying to avoid.  Sauteed mushrooms are wonderful.  Boiled mushrooms, not so much.

After your noodles are cooked to perfection, drain and return to the big pot.  Add a bit of milk and keep the heat on medium.  Add in the can of condensed cream of ______ soup.  Add in the american cheese.  Stir and add more milk until your noodles achieve the perfect creamy consistency.  Add in your tuna and mushrooms.  Stir and serve!  You may ask why I have not written out exact measurements.  Well, it’s because this recipe is based on how many slices of cheese I can manage to find in the fridge, how many noodles in the pantry, etc.  Just start adding and adjust until it tastes great and has a creamy texture.  Of course, I have also used whatever cheeses I find available at the time.

Meanwhile (if you can juggle one more thing) cook up a veggie. We made glazed carrots.  I think chopping carrots and babysitting the glaze was  a little much for me on top of sauteeing mushrooms. Next time I will stick to frozen veggies on mushroom night.  This typically 30 minute meal took longer tonight, but even so, the divine carrots were worth the wait.   Wash, peel, and slice your carrots.  I just learned that carrot peel is bitter–how could I have not figured this out after 13 years of cooking?  Thank you, Alice Waters.  Steam cook with the lid on using just enough water (don’t cover them with water!)  and some butter.  When the carrots are tender, take off the lid and let the “juice”–the steamed carrot water and butter–reduce.  This reducing trick took me quite a while because I initially used too much water.  But eventually the juices did reduce down to a lovely glaze.  Can I just say that the carrots were SO SWEET.  Carrots, butter, and salt.  Even Ed commented, “Wow, these are good!”  I only wish I had made more than 2 pounds!  The recipe I used was from Alice Waters’ cookbook-“The Art of Simple Food.”  Again, THANK YOU Alice!  Thanks to Gretchen for telling me about this book and thank you Fletcher library–you are my favorite cookbook source!  I think, though, that you could find glazed carrots in most any good teaching cookbook.  Sternly ignore, however, any recipe that calls for sugars.  You don’t need it!  If you cook the carrots right, they will be as sweet as honey!

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