Whenever I’m feeling in a bit of a rush, my favorite thing to do is to pop a bowl of mac and cheese into the microwave. It’s super fast and easy, and best of all, it’s cheap.
Of course, this isn’t the healthiest or tastiest meal in the world so I’ve found ways to be creative and make it a perfect quick lunch or dinner. This recipe is versatile, so feel free to try what works for you.
You will need:
- Velveeta Microwavable Shell Pasta and Cheese Sauce (I actually recommend the generic Publix brand because it is cheaper and tastes better. You can also use Easy Mac but I find Velveeta tends to have more flavor and texture.)
- Kale or Spinach
- Garlic powder, pepper
- Olive oil
- Feta cheese
1. Follow the directions listed on the back of the microwave bowl. Typically, you want to fill the bowl with water until it reaches the line, stir, and microwave for about 1:30. Then add the cheese sauce, stir again, and wala!
2. Set the bowl to the side for the sauce to thicken and then pour about a tablespoon of olive oil into a pan. Then, at medium-high heat, add about a handful or two of your green of choice. (These leafy greens tend to shrink once cooked, so if it looks like a lot, it’s not.)
3. Sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper. I recommend being a little generous with the garlic powder if you want more flavor. If desired, feel free to experiment and add in other spices.
3. Stir occasionally, until the greens looks wilted. Then remove from heat, and mix into your bowl of mac and cheese.
4. Add as much feta cheese as you desire.
This combination is one of the tastiest I’ve invented but I also suggest using leftover veggies or canned tuna. The possibilities are endless!
I don’t know about some of you, but I am a master snacker. I bored snack, I happy snack, I sad snack, I anxiety snack, and then when it’s all said and done, I guilt snack because now I’ve eaten like $10 in snacks in an hour and have consumed a ton of unnecessary calories. It’s a bit of a cycle. But I’ve found ways to cut down on calories and cost (even simple things like not letting myself go down the snack aisle in the store!), and I’ve made a lifelong snacking friend in the process.
Now, I’m a salty/crunchy person, so this won’t be much use for those of you with a major sweet tooth, but if you are like me, then carry on friend, because I want to tell you all about a great low-calorie, low-fat, high-fiber snack. Yes, it exists, and you probably already know it, and its name is…
Now, we’re not talking about commercial microwavable popcorn here, because that stuff is loaded with oil and butter and salt and artificial flavorings and also, it’s expensive. What we’re looking for here are the bags of unpopped popcorn kernels that you can usually find on the bottom shelf in the grocery store for about half the price of a box of microwaveable bags, with way more popcorn in them.
There are actually four “colors” of popcorn, each with a slightly different flavor and texture. The most common is yellow (what you find in movie theaters and microwave bags; this is also the sturdiest variety so it’s generally what you’ll see being covered with candy and flavors), and next comes white, which pops a big smaller and softer (I personally find the flavor a little nicer than yellow, and its hull isn’t as annoying once popped). The other two kinds are red and blue, and while lovely, you’re generally only going to find these at farmer’s markets or specialty stores (if you get a chance, try them and see how they taste! I find blue to be the sweetest flavor). Personally, I always buy white popcorn.
From the top left, clockwise: blue, yellow, red, white, and the center is mixed. You can see the what they look like popped, too—blue and red are really pretty!
There are several different ways to pop popcorn, and I’m going to go from simplest to hardest.
1. With a paper bag and a microwave
Yes, it is just that simple. This website here takes you through the steps, but it’s pretty self explanatory. Put about a quarter cup of unpopped kernels into a paper bag, fold over, and microwave. Listen until the pops stop and enjoy!
The problem with this method for me is that air popped popcorn tends to be very dry, and seasonings don’t stick to it very well. You can buy popcorn salt, which is salt ground into a fine powder, and that sticks pretty well, but tastes too salty for me. You can also spray a little with some oil and toss to help salt stick, but I like to eat this version plain. Satisfies the crunchy munchies!
2. With an air popper.
You have to buy an air popper for this method, but it does make more at a time than the paper bag version. Also, you can melt butter onto this version (adds fat and makes it not vegan), which helps salt stick.
3. With an oil popper
This is what I have, and while the oil does add a bit of fat, it’s still way less than what you’ll get from a commercial bag. I also find the oil flavor barely noticeable (unlike butter), and it really helps the seasoning stick. My go-to is seasoning salt, sprinkled lightly and then tossed, but you can go wild with the ideas! A salt-free and tasty version is to toss the popcorn with cumin for a smoky flavor. Garlic powder, onion powder, whatever you’d like! Most look something like this, and the lid can be flipped over to be used as a bowl (there’s a lid to snap on so salt/butter doesn’t come out the bottom, because there need to be holes for steam to escape while popping).
4. On the stove with oil
This is the trickiest version, and doesn’t work terribly well with stainless steel pans. I’ve found that cast aluminum pans are the best, but those are kind of hard to find, or expensive. However, it can be done, and here are really good instructions for it!
Fun with flavoring!
Personally, I love the flavor of unseasoned popcorn. It’s mild and a little sweet and very crunchy. But a lot of people find it too bland, so here are some ideas to get you started:
- Seasoned salt
- Cayenne powder
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Ranch dressing powder
- Ramen flavoring
- Hot sauce
And basically anything that you can think of! It’s a great blank slate food, filling without having tons of calories, adds a bunch of fiber, and is generally pretty great. Get popping!
A great way to spice up simple pasta when you are eating alone. You can add more or less of the ingredient depending on how much you like them.
What you will need :
1 cup of pasta
About 2 tablespoon of pesto or
2 1/1 tablespoon of cottage cheese
1 tablespoon of hot sauce
Step 1 - Boil up some water and add the noodle. Cook for about 15 minute depending on what time you are using
Step 2- Drain the noodle and place back in you pan or in a bowl.
Step 3 - Add the pesto, hot sauce and cottage cheese and stire well
Step 4 - Eat and enjoy
- 1 banana
- 1 egg
- 1 tbs nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter, ect)
- 1 tsp cinnamon optional
You seriously just mix these in a bowl and cook them like you would any other pancake, flipping them when small bubbles start to form on the top. If you have one, you can use a blender to make the batter really smooth, but I kind of like having little nibbles of banana left. Chocolate chips are a great addition!
This is a great way to use those over-ripe bananas you have no idea what to do with.
One tip I have is to cook them thoroughly, otherwise they can be a little mushy.
You can also replace the banana with half a baked sweet potato!
This is a little more expensive, because of the chicken and butter, but I usually wait until the butter is on sale really cheap (think around Christmas, Easter, anything with baking involved) and buy a bunch and freeze it. Same with the chicken; you can buy a supervalue pack for really cheap. This recipe makes 10+ servings, stretched farther if you add the optional ingredients and the sauce freezes well so its worth it.
Super Easy Butter Chicken
- About a pound and a half of chicken thighs, skin and bones removed and cut into bit-sized pieces (about 8-10)
- One container “Balkin-style” Yogurt (Any kind of really thick yogurt will do)
- One bottle Passata (Tomato puree)
- One cup butter
- Cayenne pepper
- Garam Masala
- Garlic (minced)
- Mixed Veg
You can also use chicken breast for this recipe if you prefer, but thighs are cheaper and hold the flavour better.
- Arrange your cut chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with cayenne and masala to taste and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through (about 20 minutes)
- While your chicken is cooking, in a large pot medium-high heat, melt your butter down until it starts to separate (clarify) just slightly. Make sure to stir, so that it doesn’t burn.
- Add your Passata, and stir until they are well mixed
- Fold in your yogurt and place a lid on your pot. Turn down heat and let simmer for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, cayenne and Masala (remember that you have put both cayenne and masala on the chicken already). Add minced garlic to taste (I prefer mine very garlicy, about five cloves, but the average is two)
- Add your cooked chicken and allow to simmer for an additional ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice
When my roommate and I want to stretch it, we add frozen veg and make a casserole with noodles and cheese that taste really great and lasts for ages. If you want to make it a rounder, healthier meal, add about half a cooking onion chopped and a package of frozen spinach.
This might not actually be hash, but if you make the recipe you get to call it whatever you want!
- 1 green apple
- 1 medium potato or sweet potato (or a few small red or white ones)
- about 2 cups green cabbage
- Some onion or onion powder
- Salt and garlic
- some crumbled tofu or an egg or other protein
Cut your stuff up! The cabbage in thick strips, the potato and apple in small chunks.
Cook your potatoes and onion in a frying pan with some oil or non-stick spray until the onions are done.
Add your seasonings. Add the cabbage and apple. If using tofu add that too. (if using an egg, wait a minute for the cabbage to cook a bit and make some space for the egg before adding, then scramble it up a bit) cook for a couple of minutes until the cabbage is slightly soft.
Eat your meal!
So this is stuff is technically called lemon posset, but you know what all that that means is that it’s a super fancy pudding! If you’re really low on energy but you need something delicious, or maybe you even need to impress someone — this stuff is killer.
You will need JUST THREE THINGS:
- Heavy cream (1 and 1/4th cup)
- Sugar (1/3 cup)
- Lemon juice (3 tablespoons, it’ll be about one large lemon or one and a half small lemons, if you use the real kind!)
What you gotta do is:
- Stick that cream in a pot and dump all the sugar in with it!
- Put that pot with the sugar and the cream on your stove and turn the heat on
- Stir it around a little bit and wait for the sugar to dissolve
- You’re almost there!
- While that cream gets warm and the sugar dissolves, you can juice your lemons
- If you haven’t got a lemon juicing thing just squeeze them into a bowl and pick out the seeds, it’s no big deal!
- As soon as that sugar is dissolved, dumpall your lemon juice into your cream + sugar mixture
- Stir some more! It’ll get thick! It’ll be like magic!
- Put that shit in some bowls and stick it in the fridge!
- Come back after a couple of hours and you will have the most velvety, satiny, punchy sweet lemonade pudding in the world
Tips for impressing people:
- If you’ve got it in you, and you need to be a little showy, spoon this into small little cups (or glasses!) and serve that to people
- Stick a dollop of jam or jelly on the top before you give it to them
- They’ll be super impressed
Or, you know, eat it all yourself. This makes enough for two big portions or four really respectable ones. Have at it!
A good generic blend of spices to add to soups or tomato sauces for a more savoury or “full” flavour is Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, and Parsley flakes, at the ratio 2:1:1