Enchilada Casserole


I have to apologize for the long time between posts. My increasingly busy schedule combined with the decreasing amount of sunlight in each day makes it difficult for me to find time and appropriate lighting to take photos of my food endeavors. Never-the-less, my blog must go on! And so tonight I present you with Enchilada Casserole, a simple, delicious, and healthy dinner (perfect for an extremely busy college student).

Once again, I have to give Cooking Light props for this recipe, although I did add my own little flair by spicing it up with some Renfro’s.




  • 1 lb ground sirloin
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup fat free, low sodium beef broth
  • 1 Tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 (8 oz can) no salt added tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Mrs. Renfro’s green salsa (optional)
  • 4 (8 inch) whole wheat tortillas
  • 1/3 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and onion to pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring to crumble. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Sprinkle with flour; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add broth, taco seasoning, and tomato sauce to pan. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 1/2 cups tomato mixture to beef mixture; reserve 1/2 cup tomato mixture. Add Renfro’s salsa to beef mixture if desired.
  3. Place 1 tortilla in a 9-inch pie plate. Top with 1 cup beef mixture. Repeat layers, ending with tortilla. Spread reserved tomato mixture over tortilla. Top with cheese. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Cool slightly. Cut into 4 wedges.

The Frugality

Not only is this recipe easy to make and gentle on your waistline (especially for Mexican food), but it’s also easy on your wallet. The total cost of this recipe comes to about $10.00 or only about $3.00 per serving! You could easily spend $10.00 on just one Mexican dish at a restaurant. Even fast food Mexican restaurants like Chipotle or Qudoba cost around $7.00 for just one serving. Not to mention the fact that you would be eating at least twice as much fat, calories, and sodium if you ordered a similar dish at a restaurant.

Nutrition Breakdown

Being the health nut that I am I’ve decided to start including the nutritional values of my recipes…or at least those that I speak of as being healthy. I feel it necessary to prove that I am not lying to you when I say a recipe is good for your wallet and your waistline. In this case, one serving of Enchilada Casserole is only 459 calories and with only 193 of those calories from fat! I challenge you to find a main dish at a Mexican restaurant that even comes remotely close to that. Good luck.

Calories 459 (193 from Fat), Total Fat 21g (saturated 9g, polyunsaturated 1.5g, monounsaturated 6.1g, trans 0.6), Cholesterol 99mg, Sodium 790, Total Carbohydrates 30g (Fiber 4.2g, sugars 4.6g), Protein 33g, Vitamin A 10%, Vitamin C 15%, Calcium 46%, Iron 24%


Light Shrimp Fried Rice


This was my first try at homemade fried rice and it was a success! This recipe is super simple, and it’s easy to adjust the size of the recipe to make the correct number of portions. The measurements that I am providing makes two dinner servings.




  • 1 bag of boil-in-bag brown rice
  • 5 oz frozen peas
  • 2 large eggs
  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 Tbsp Canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 Tbsp bottled fresh ginger
  • 6 oz medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Dash of crushed red pepper


  1. Cook rice according to package directions. Drain. Remove rice from bag and return to pan. Add peas to pan, stirring well. Cover and keep warm.
  2. Coat a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add eggs and cook 1 minute or until set. Remove eggs from pan and coarsely chop.
  3. Return pan to heat. Add canola oil and swirl to coat. Add onions and ginger, sauté 1 minute. Add shrimp to pan, and sauté 2 minutes or until shrimp are done.
  4. Add shrimp mixture and eggs to rice mixture; stir well.
  5. Combine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and crushed pepper; stirring well. Drizzle vinegar mixture over rice mixture; stir well. (makes 2 servings)


The Frugality

This two serving recipe only costs about $9.00, or only $4.50 a serving! Order shrimp fried rice at a Chinese restaurant and you’ll pay anywhere between $5.00 to $12.00 for a plate.

Pesto Pita Pizza


After making gyros last week I was left with one piece of pita bread that needed to be eaten, so I came up with this delicious and simple Pesto Pita Pizza. When I say delicious I mean DELICIOUS. I am wishing I had more pita bread so I could make this again tomorrow night.



  • Pita Bread
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp Basil Pesto
  • Dash of dried oregano
  • Dash of Italian seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 heirloom tomato, sliced
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F
  2. To build the pizza, lightly drizzle olive oil on one side of pita. Sprinkle with oregano and Italian seasoning, then evenly spoon pesto across top of pita. Arrange tomato slices on pita, then top with both feta and mozzarella cheese.
  3. Bake for 8 minutes or until edges of pita turn a golden brown.
  4. Let cool, garnish with fresh basil, then slice and serve! (makes one pizza: one dinner serving or two appetizer servings)

The Frugality

In my particular situation I would say this meal cost me absolutely nothing since all of the ingredients were left over from previous recipes. In reality I still paid for the ingredients that I used. Even so, this is a very frugal way to have an amazing pizza. For starters, I used to make homemade pizzas with Boboli crust, which costs a whopping $6.00 for two small crusts! For the same sized pizza I can use pita bread, which I purchased for $4.00 for 6 pitas! When I include the cost of the rest of the ingredients I figure I can make 6 pizzas for around $12.00! Most people spend that much on a carry out pizza that only serves four people. When can you say you’ve ever seen an individual pizza for only $3.00?

Greek Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce


I love gyros, but they can be very fattening and expensive. My solution? Make my own healthy version! Now I will admit these aren’t as satisfying as an authentic lamb gyro from Wally’s in Dinkytown, Minnesota, but they are still very good.




Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Chicken

  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2-3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (one lemon)
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/4 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts

For Assembly

  • Pita bread (4 pieces)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Red onion, sliced very thin


  1. Shred cucumber or chop it in a food processor. Wrap in a towel and squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Mix together, the yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until ready to serve.
  2. To prepare the chicken, combine the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk together until well mixed. Add the chicken to the bowl and mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Heat a grill and set to medium-high. Grill the chicken 4 minutes per side or until fully cooked. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into strips.
  4. Heat pitas according to package directions. Top with Tzatziki sauce, chicken, tomatoes, and onions and enjoy!

The Frugality

If you were to purchase a chicken gyro at Dino’s Gyros it would cost you $6.50. How much did it cost me to make this entire recipe? $6.42! That means if I were to walk down the street to Dino’s Gyros to purchase one gyro I would be spending more than what it costs me to make 4 of my own gyros. That, my friends, is a frugal dinner.

Light ‘n Creamy Mac ‘n Cheese


It’s back to school, and that means back to fending for myself! And no access to a grill (sad face). But that won’t stop me from eating delicious food! I take it as a wonderful opportunity to try making new things that my family would otherwise avoid. The first on my list of new meals for the new school year: Light and Creamy Mac ‘n Cheese. My mom would never choose to make mac ‘n cheese for dinner because it’s too heavy and there isn’t enough protein or veggies. I would usually agree with her, however, I found this delicious and light version of a creamy homemade mac ‘n cheese. A side of vegetables that have been roasted with garlic, salt and pepper adds color to the plate and completes the meal.




  • 10 ounces rotini pasta
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup 2% reduced fat milk
  • 8 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz Neufchatel cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside
  2. Preheat broiler to high
  3. Heat a sauce pan over medium heat. Add oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add garlic to pan and cook 3 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently. Stir in one cup chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Combine remaining 1 1/4 cups stock, milk, and flour. Stir with a whisk until flour dissolves.
  5. Add milk mixture to garlic mixture, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil and then cook for 5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Remove mixture from heat and add cream cheese, stirring until smooth. Stir in salt and pepper.
  6. Add cooked pasta to milk mixture, tossing to coat. Let stand 5 minutes. Pour pasta into a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle cheddar evenly over pasta mixture. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. (makes 6 servings)


The Frugality

I have to warn you, this recipe makes A LOT of food. The plus side is that it keeps well in the fridge, so it’s perfect to have as a lunch the next day or to save for a night you don’t feel like cooking. Usually I am not a fan of left over mac ‘n cheese, but this mac ‘n cheese tastes almost as good reheated as it does fresh out of the oven.

So here is the break down of the cost:

The recipe cost me about $6.23. I’ve gotten six meals out of it, making each meal only $1.04! That’s about the same, if not less than, a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese. And, might I add, this tastes way better than that processed powdered cheese. If you decide to complete the meal by adding roasted vegetables (i.e. broccoli and red bell pepper) it only adds about $1.33 to the cost of each serving.

A quick side note; all of the groceries for this meal were purchased at a Walmart Superstore. If you have not tried shopping at one yet, I highly recommend it. The prices are amazing and the food is of the same quality as a generic grocery store. Believe me when I say, it will save you a lot of money.

Beef Pops with Pineapple and Parsley Sauce


I have to give credit to Food Network’s Giada for this amazing, melt in your mouth recipe. Giada suggests making the beef pops for an appetizer, but I like them so much that I just make them for a main dish. They are perfect with a side of wild rice or fingerling potatoes and a green salad.



For the Marinade

  • 3 cups fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For the Beef Pops

  • 1 1/2 lbs beef fillet, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 pineapple, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • Salt and pepper to taste


For the Marinade

  1. In a food processor, blend together parsley, garlic, red wine vinegar, chili flakes, sugar, salt, and pepper until smooth. Keep the machine running and gradually add the olive oil.
  2. Place half the mixture into a medium bowl. Place the remaining mixture into a small bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Beef Pops

  1. Place the beef into the medium bowl with the parsley marinade. Toss well until the beef is evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours.
  2. Preheat the grill. Skewer beef and pineapple onto grill skewers, alternating beef with pineapple. Grill skewers for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Beef pops can be served on plates with the skewers or they can be removed from skewers. Drizzle with the remaining parsley marinade and enjoy! (This recipe makes about 20 skewers, or about 6 servings)


Cookie Dough Truffles


These little morsels are so good. I’ve made them several times to bring to gatherings and they are always a huge hit. And if you don’t have a party to bring them to, don’t worry, they keep well in the fridge for a couple weeks! And an added little bonus, there isn’t any raw egg, which means you don’t have to feel AS guilty eating the dough while you make them.




  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • 3 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp oil


  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugars together, then add vanilla and water and beat well. Add flour mixture and mix well. Add mini chips and mix well.
  3. Use a small spoon or melon baller to scoop the dough and roll it into 3/4 to 1 inch balls. Place the balls on wax paper and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm.
  4. Microwave milk chocolate chips and oil in a microwave safe container for 30 second intervals until melted; stirring in between intervals. Use a toothpick to dip each ball of dough into the melted chocolate. Allow excess chocolate to drain off before placing on a wax paper lined sheet. Remove toothpick and fill the hole with melted chocolate. Place if refrigerator to set. This makes about 60-70 truffles (depending on how much dough you eat while making it)

The Frugality

These cost about as much as it does to make chocolate chip cookies, but it makes twice as many morsels as a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

Grilled Fish Tacos with Chipolte Dressing & Coconut Rice


It may be a surprise, but I used to be one of the pickiest eaters I’ve ever known. My parents would have to feed me Nutter-butters just so I could get some protein, and the closest thing to fish that I would eat was frozen fish sticks. Now I’ll try just about anything, and I love sea food (besides oysters, I have yet to develop a taste for those slimy things). The first dish that really got my to love sea food was these amazing fish tacos from a restaurant in Pewaukee, WI called Kahuna’s. Sadly, Kahuna’s ran out of business about three years ago, leaving us fish taco-less. We have yet to find a restaurant that makes fish tacos as well as they did. In the meantime we have been on a search for our own recipe that can stand up to Kahuna’s. After many trial and errors, we came up with this recipe for Grilled Fish Tacos, which has become one of my favorite meals. It is ALWAYS on my food list when I come home since I don’t have access to a grill at school (believe me, it tastes way better grilled than baked). Serve these tacos with a side of coconut rice and you’ll feel like you’re eating at a beach-side dive in the Caribbean.





  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (juice of 1 lime)
  • 2 tsp lime zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp seafood seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp hot pepper sauce, such as Tobasco
  • 1 lb tilapia fillets


  • 1 (8 oz) container light sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp adobo sauce from chipotle peppers
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (juice of 1 lime)
  • 2 tsp lime zest
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp seafood seasoning
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  • Corn Tortillas (8-12, depending on how much you stuff your tacos)
  • 3 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 cups cabbage slaw

Coconut Rice

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp coconut flakes, toasted


Fish Tacos

  1. To make the marinade, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, lime zest, honey, garlic, cumin, chili powder, seafood seasoning,  black pepper, and hot sauce in a bowl. Place the tilapia in a shallow dish or zip-lock bag. Pour the marinade over the fish and refrigerate 2-3 hours.
  2. To make the dressing, combine the sour cream and adobo sauce in a bowl. Stir in lime juice, lime zest, cumin, chili powder, and seafood seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until it’s needed. (This makes a lot of dressing and we always have leftovers. We use the left overs on quesadillas and sandwiches, otherwise you can just cut the recipe in half if you don’t want leftovers.)
  3. Preheat the grill to high heat and lightly oil a grilling grate. Set the grate 4 inches from the heat.
  4. Remove fish from marinade, drain off excess marinade and discard. Grill the fish about 9 minutes, turning once. The fish should easily flake with a fork.
  5. Grill the tortillas for about 1 minute on each side or until they are lightly toasted. (This just prevents them from falling apart when you eat them)
  6. Assemble the tacos! I like to spread the chilpotle dressing on the tortilla first, then add the fish, then the tomatoes, cabbage, and cilantro. Sometimes I’ll put a spoonful of coconut rice inside my tacos as well. This recipe makes about 4 servings (two tacos each, depending on how full you stuff the tacos).

Coconut Rice

  1. Start the rice at least 15 minutes before grilling the fish to be sure it’s ready when you want to assemble tacos. If you leave the rice covered it will stay warm for a long time.
  2. To toast coconut, cook coconut in a non-stick pan, over medium-high heat until it starts to lightly brown. Be sure to stir constantly, as it cooks very quickly. Once it starts to turn a golden brown, remove pan from the heat and set aside. You may need to remove the coconut from the pan completely if it continues to cook too much.
  3. To make the rice, combine rice, water, and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to the lowest setting. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Cover and let stand for at least 10 minutes or until ready to serve.
  4. Before serving, stir in toasted coconut.

The Frugality

Fish is often thought of as an expensive meal, however, it is possible to eat fish and not spend a ton of money. Tilapia is a very inexpensive fish, especially if it’s purchased frozen and in bulk. If you freeze fish, especially tilapia, it will keep for several months. Just be sure to thaw it completely, either in the fridge or under cold water, before cooking it!

This recipe costs around $14.60, or only $3.65 per serving! If you ordered fish tacos at a restaurant it would cost you somewhere between $10 and $20 for a plate. I can attest that these fish tacos are just as good as, if not better than any restaurant’s tacos.

Roasted Vegetables & Chickpea Salad


The other night we made grilled corn to have along side our baby back ribs, and I must say they were some of the best ribs I’ve ever had. My brother, who decided not to attend dinner that night, missed out big time! Not to mention his nonattendance left us with an extra ear of delicious grilled corn. I couldn’t let the corn go to waste, so the next day I decided to use in a lunch, resulting in this very fresh and healthy salad. This Roasted Vegetable and Chickpea Salad is an excellent and hearty vegetarian lunch that has a hint of sweetness from the honey dressing and roasted tomatoes.

The recipe I am showing is for one lunch serving or two side dishes, however, it is easy to make a larger amount in order to accommodate for more people. Simply add more vegetables and chickpeas and mix a little more dressing. Exact measurements aren’t very important in recipe, and I’ll admit I really just threw things together; this is my closest guestimate to how much I used of everything!




(yields 1 lunch or 2 side dishes)

For the Salad

  • 1/2 cup Grape Tomatoes; halved (about 8 tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup Red Onion; chopped
  • Corn kernels cut from one ear of cooked corn (preferably grilled)
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup canned Chickpeas
  • 1 Tbsp Crumbled Feta
  • 1/2 Tbsp Fresh Basil; chopped
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

For the Dressing

  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Red-wine Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Honey


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Add the grape tomatoes, red onion, corn, and garlic. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss well and spread the veggies evenly over the lined baking sheet. Roast for about 15 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened and are fragrant (you may need to add more roasting time if you are increasing the recipe size). Remove from oven and let cool.
  2. While veggies are cooling, mix together the olive oil, vinegar, and honey in a small bowl. Exact measurements for the dressing aren’t necessary, simply mix a ratio of 1/2 olive oil, 1/4 vinegar, and 1/4 honey.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the chickpeas, feta, and roasted vegetables. Pour the desired amount of dressing over the mixture and toss. Top with fresh basil and serve!


The Frugality

I actually had all of the ingredients for this salad in my house already, making this lunch cost me exactly $0.00! However, if you don’t happen to have a bunch a vegetables and chickpeas left over from previous recipes, one serving would still only cost you around $2.20. Now that’s assuming that you would find another use for the extra chickpeas, feta, red onion, etc. rather than just throwing them away. If you don’t use an entire onion in a recipe (which happens to me more often than not) the best way to keep it is to tightly wrap the left overs in saran wrap and keep it in your fridge. If you do this, the onion should keep for at least a week, if not more. Also, if you have the ability to grow any of your own vegetables, I highly recommend growing your own basil; it requires very little maintenance and it tastes so much better than store bought! And, if I might add, it is WAY cheaper than buying fresh basil, only for it to spoil in your fridge two days later.

Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Bread


After some miscommunication over who was going to stop at the store, we wound up with two very large boxes of blueberries. Of course that meant we needed to find a way to utilize all the blueberries before they went bad. What better way to do that than bake them into a delicious dessert? I made this bread one other time last summer and it was amazing! The fresh blueberries and the citrus from the lemon makes it a perfect summer dessert.





  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed

Lemon Syrup

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour bottom and sides of a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with the remaining Tbsp of flour. Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. Let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Then remove the loaf to a wire rack that is on top of wax paper or a baking sheet.
  6. While the loaf cools, make the lemon syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  7. Using a toothpick, poke holes in the top and sides of the warm bread loaf. Brush the top and sides of the loaf with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush it with the syrup again. Let the bread cool completely before cutting. This recipe makes about 14 slices of bread or 12 muffins (adjust the baking time for the muffins).