I recently celebrated my birthday, and that can only mean one thing: I’m in desperate need of lots and lots of vegetables to counteract the chocolate cake and ice cream I’ve had every day for the past week.  Eek!  Luckily I came across this recipe from Rachael Ray, which has tomatoes, peas, and asparagus to make me feel healthy, but still loads of pasta and three kinds of cheese to make it edible.  The flavors are subtle but the whole dish is very light and spring-like, which I am in such need of after eating heavy meals all winter.  This would be a great dish to entertain with since it makes a whole 9×13 casserole, or if you live by yourself like me you can have leftovers for a week and still freeze some!

I made garlic bread to go along with this meal.  This is one of my favorite tricks: buy a regular baguette from the store and slather it up with your own garlic butter.  For mine, I use half a stick of softened butter, 3-4 cloves garlic, and a few tablespoons of fresh basil.  Mix the ingredients together, spread it on the baguette sliced in half lengthwise, cover in foil, and put in the oven for the last 5-6 minutes that the casserole is baking.  Delectable! (more…)


When I’m trying to save money on food, I look toward recipes that heavily rely on pantry ingredients.  An added bonus for many recipes of this kind is that they’re also good comfort foods for chilly winter days, just like the beans and cornbread I made this week.  The cornbread is a childhood favorite that my mom always used to make with her famous chili.  The oatmeal and the wheat germ give the cornbread a little extra bite that I absolutely love, and all of the ingredients I keep in my pantry. 

For the baked beans recipe, I wanted to try something a little different from the usual sickeningly sweet cookout fare.  I found these oven-baked Italian-style beans which intrigued me because of the tangy ingredients like tomato sauce, Dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar.  Again, the ingredients were mostly in my pantry; I only had to buy bacon, beans, and an onion.  (I suspect many people might have all of the ingredients in their pantry.)  If you decide to make both of these dishes together, I would recommend mixing up the cornbread first and putting it in the oven, and then start on the beans.  This way, if both of your pots don’t fit in the oven at the same time (like mine) you’ll be taking the cornbread out around the time you want to put the beans in.  Plus, you can snack on the cornbread while you wait for the beans to finish in the oven 🙂 


1 ½ c. ground cornmeal
½ c. flour or whole wheat flour
½ c. oatmeal
¼ c. wheat germ
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda  
½ tsp. salt    
¼ c. sugar    
1 egg    
½ c. oil    
2 c. lowfat milk  


Preheat oven to 400°F.  Beat egg, oil, and milk in a medium bowl.  Add dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.  Pour into a greased 9×9 pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. 


Italian-Style Baked Beans (Giada de Laurentiis)

Ingredients   Cost
6 oz. bacon, chopped $1.35
2 onions, chopped $0.30
4 garlic cloves, minced pantry
1 1/2 c. tomato sauce pantry
1/3 c. brown sugar pantry
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar   pantry
3 T. molasses   pantry
6 tsp. Dijon mustard   pantry
3/4 tsp. salt   pantry
1/2 tsp. pepper   pantry
4 (15-oz) cans cannelini beans, drained   $3.12
  Total cost for 6 servings $4.77
  Cost per serving $0.80

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Cook the bacon in an oven-safe pot over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Mix in the tomato sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, molasses, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Stir in the beans and bring to a simmer.  Transfer to the oven and bake uncovered until the beans bubble and thicken, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.