Healthy Cheap Eats Part I: Parmesan Fish Sticks
After much interest shown, I've decided to proceed with my series about eating healthy on a limited budget. Now before I get started, a few disclaimers. These recipes with neither be the most healthy nor the cheapest foods you can make. My goal is not to stretch the dollar into submission nor to live off of lettuce. My goal is to strike a middle path between what kinds of foods I want to put into my body and what kinds of foods our budget can afford. Sometimes I splurge for the more healthy foods, especially when it's on something that is personally important to be. But sometimes, I'll go with the full-fat version just because the funds aren't there for something more healthful. The truth is, I'm sure my recipes can be both healthier and cheaper. I'm just not 100% sure they can be both. But, as always, suggestions are welcome! Also, many of my recipes are adapted from other sources, but I have a hard time remembering where I originally snagged them from. If you see a recipe you recognize, please show it to me so I can credit the original source. I'm not trying to rip anyone off here! :) I figure I'll do these installments once a month. The nutritional information is calculated through SparkRecipes.com and any price info is calculated based on what I see while shopping at Aldi, Walmart, and Kroger in the Midwest. Prices, obviously, will vary with market and season. So, without further babble, onto this month's menu. These recipes are formulated to be made for two people, but are all easily multiplied. Tomato Salad Parmesan fish sticks with a yogurt dill dipping sauce Steamed green beans (no recipe included) Brown rice (no recipe included) Tomato Salad This salad came to light because we had 30,000 tomatoes coming off our garden. I had to figure out a way to use lots of tomatoes, which was notably difficult because my husband doesn't like tomatoes on their own (silly boy). So voila, an easy, bright salad. For a "printable version" (just copy and paste the recipe) see below the photo tutorial. First of all, your ingredients: Tomatoes, red onion, feta, basil (we use fresh), oregano, salt and pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. For two people, you want about 1/2 lb. of tomatoes. Ooops. I picked too many. :) For larger tomatoes, just dice them. For smaller tomatoes (cherry, grape, plum, etc.) just quarter them. Cherry tomatoes are coming off in droves from our garden. So voila! First layer... Next, onto the red onion. For those of you that don't know the easy way to dice an onion. Watch! First, you slice off the "stem" part of the onion. Then place it on that flat end, and slice in half. You can store the other half since we are only using one for this recipe. Peel away the paper layers and then slice the onion into strips, being careful not to slice through the root area. Turn the onion 90° and slice through until you hit the root. Voila, you have a diced onion. Discard the root. We divide and layer the onions onto the tomatoes. And then add the feta. Next, I chiffonade my basil. Ignore this step if you are using dried. Again, we have a TON of this in our garden. Stack your washed leaves. Roll them tightly and then slice off thin ribbons of basil. Add them to the salad. Along with the oregano and salt and pepper. Look how pretty it is from the side! Next, drizzle on the olive oil... And the balsamic vinegar... Voila, you are finished. Pop 'em in the fridge while you finish the rest of the meal. Tomato Salad Recipe Yield: 2 servings 1/2 lb. tomatoes, diced 1/2 medium red onion, diced 1/4 c. feta cheese 1 tbsp. dried basil (can substitute fresh, I do!) 1 tbsp. dried oregano (also can substitute fresh) Salt and pepper to taste 1 tbsp. olive oil 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar. Mix all ingredients together. Or, if you prefer, layer ingredients in order listed. Can also separate and layer in individual serving bowls (what we do). Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes for flavors to meld together. Nutrition Facts per serving: Calories 159; Total Fat 11.4 g ( Saturated Fat 3.8 g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g, Monounsaturated Fat 5.9 g); Cholesterol 16.7 mg; Sodium 303.2 mg; Total Carbohydrate 12.0 g (Dietary Fiber 2.8 g, Sugars 0.1 g); Protein 4.3 g Parmesan Fish Sticks with Yogurt Dill Dipping Sauce This was originally adapted from a Cooking Light recipe (I think). It originally called for salmon, and while we LOVE salmon, it can be a bit pricey. So we go with the cheapest frozen white fish available, which is quite often Whiting. I get Whiting for $3.99 for 1 1/2 pounds at Aldi. Also, this dish makes enough for two adults, plus a few fish sticks left over for lunch the next day. It would probably be enough for two adults, plus a small child. First off, our ingredients: whole grain bread, eggs, salt and pepper, flour, parmesan, and whiting filets. Next up, preheat that oven. Please ignore my dirty oven. Actually, just as a precursor for the entire series..ignore my dirty kitchen. It gets used A LOT and neither my husband nor I are particularly clean people. Now we're going to make some whole grain bread crumbs. Let's toast that bread. Toast it into submission. I put it on the darkest setting. We don't want any moisture still in it. While that's toasting, pat dry your whiting filets. They won't get completely dry. And start cutting them into fish stick-like strips. I'd say about 1" wide by 4"-5" long. Now the toast should be done. Tear up the pieces and put them into your hand-dandy food processor. Pulse until it looks like...well breadcrumbs! Throw those breadcrumbs into a bowl. And mix in the parmesan. Next, seperate your eggs out into a bowl. We want three egg WHITES only. You can save the yolks, if you particularly want to be frugal. Or you can just toss 'em. In a third bowl, mix together the flour with salt and pepper. Line the bowls up in this order. Voila, an assembly line! Before we get started, spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and have it waiting at the ready to accept our breaded fish sticks. All ready to go? Okay, let's get started! First, into the flour. Shake off the excess. Then into the egg whites. And then press into the parmesan/breadcrumb mixture. And then onto your cookie sheet. Once you get them all finished. Give 'em a coating of cooking spray, for crispiness! Pop 'em into the oven for around 15 minutes, or until they look like this... And more specifically, the bottoms look like this... While that's baking, let's make our dill dipping sauce. You'll need, reduced fat mayo, nonfat plain yogurt, dijon mustard, and dill. Mix 'em all together. And voila. Pop it in the fridge to marinate. All done! Parmesan Fish Sticks with Yogurt Dill Dipping Sauce Yield: 3 servings (serving equals 1/3 of the fish sticks, plus 2 tbsp. dipping sauce) Fish Sticks: 16 oz. whiting fish filets, patted dry, cut into 1" x 4"-5" strips 1/2 c. white flour Salt and pepper 3 eggs (for whites) 1/2 c. grated parmesan 2 slices whole grain bread Cooking spray Dipping Sauce: 1/4 c. reduced fat mayonnaise 1/4 c. nonfat plain yogurt 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard 1 tbsp. dried dill Preheat oven to 450°. Toast bread until dark. Tear into food processor and pulse until consistency of bread crumbs. In one bowl, mix breadcrumbs and parmesan. In second bowl, mix flour, salt and pepper. In third bowl, place egg whites. Dredge fish sticks in flour, tapping off excess. Then coat in egg whites. Finally, press into breadcrumb/parmesan mixture. Place on a cooking spray coated cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes until brown and crispy. For sauce, mix all ingredients together and chill for 10-15 minutes before serving. Nutrition Facts per serving for fish: Calories 405; Total Fat 8.9 g ( Saturated Fat 4.0 g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1.7 g, Monounsaturated Fat 2.4 g); Cholesterol 140 mg; Sodium 638 mg; Total Carbohydrate 28.3 g (Dietary Fiber 1.9 g, Sugars 0.1 g); Protein 49.4 g Nutrition Facts per serving for dipping sauce: Calories 69; Total Fat 5.0 g ( Saturated Fat 0.8 g, Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g, Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g); Cholesterol 6 mg; Sodium 231 mg; Total Carbohydrate 3.7 g (Dietary Fiber 0.1 g, Sugars 2.6 g); Protein 1.7 g Steamed Green Beans and Brown Rice Not much of a recipes for these. The green beans are just frozen beans, steamed in a steamer basket over salted water for 10-12 minutes. Once done, drizzle with olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. The brown rice is just instant rice cooked according to the directions. I add a little bit of butter in the end. And voila. The whole meal is finished!