Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Broke Student Kitchen: Tuna Burgers, Mac & Cheese, Slow Cookers

This week on Broke Student Kitchen, we will discover the amazing world of tuna burgers, mac & cheese, and slow cookers. That last one isn't a recipe, technically, but it's pretty awesome and involves food, so just go with it.  Anyway: first up, Tuna Burgers!

Tuna Burgers
Ever had a crab cake? This is like that, except mad cheap and super easy to make! These burgers are flaky and delicious, and DON'T taste like a tuna fish sandwich. (Which was weird, since the ingredients are super similar, but they just don't.)  Here's what you'll need to make 3 little burger patties or 2 medium patties (or one GIANT patty). Note: the prices are based on average prices I've seen in the past month or so.

1 can tuna: $0.80
1 egg: $0.10
3 tablespoons bread crumbs*: $0.25
1 tablespooon Mayonnaise or plain yogurt: $0.10
Spices: mustard, salt/pepper, paprika, parsley, dill, lemon, garlic, onion. Choose a few or use them all! $.25

Total estimated cost: $1.50

Drain your tuna and add it to a bowl. Mix in egg, bread crumbs, mayo, and spices. Heat your skillet (or George Foreman or whatever) to medium. Use some nonstick spray. Form your tuna mixture into patties (or just get a big spoonful and splat it on the skillet and smush it out some, close enough). Cook until lightly browned on one side, then turn patties over. When the other side is browned (about 5 minutes or so) they're done! Eat them plain or dress them up like you would eat a burger. They're yummy with ketchup or mustard, or make some sort of fancy sauce by mixing mayo with cajun spices or something crazy like that.  Yum!

Mac & Cheese (The Healthy Way)
Every college student loves Mac & Cheese. Probably because it comes in a box and all you have to do is add water, right? Well, making baked mac & cheese REALLY doesn't take a heck of a lot more effort than that, and this version is SO much healthier. Plus, it tastes a lot better - none of that artificial cheez-whiz taste. Yuck.  Here's what you'll need and how to do it:

1 Box Macaroni: $1.00
1 cup (or more) Shredded Cheddar Cheese: $1.00
1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek): $0.60
1 cup frozen spinach: $0.35
2 eggs: $0.20
Spices: Salt, pepper, Italian Seasoning, onion, garlic, paprika, oregano, onion. Use some or all! $.10
OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup Ground Beef $1.00, veggies, 3 Tablespoons breadcrumbs*: $0.25 (I used cereal)

Total Estimated Cost (with meat): $4.50 
Servings: at least 4

Preheat your oven to 350.

1. Cook your pasta al dente: boil water, add a tiny bit of olive oil and some salt, add pasta, turn heat down, remove when pasta is tender.

2. Drain pasta and add frozen spinach. This way thee spinach will dethaw when mixed with the pasta and get distributed better.

3. Cook meat (if you're using meat): heat skillet to medium. Add crumbled up pieces of meat. Cook until browned. (Pro tip: do this while the pasta is cooking).

4. Add pasta to a large baking dish, casserole-sized. I got my aluminum baking tins from the Dollar Tree, 2/$1.

5. Mix together yogurt, cheese, egg, and spices. This is the "cheese sauce" for your pasta. The more yogurt and cheese you use, the more gooey and cheesy the pasta will be!

6. Add cheese sauce, meat, and any veggies you have available to your baking dish. I had some cherry tomatoes as you can see. (They freeze well! I stock up when they're on sale and keep them in the freezer to throw into things like this.) Mix everything around so it's distributed evenly.

7.  Add a layer of cheese and a layer of bread crumbs, to give it that yummy crust on top.

 8. Pop your casserole dish in the oven (you preheated it at 350, right?) And bake it for 20 minutes or until cheese on top is bubbly and beginning to brown.

9. Dig in and enjoy your healthy/cheap mac & cheese!! It should sort of look like this:

* For breadcrumbs, you can use anything crumby that you have on hand, like bottom-of-the-bag chip leftovers, smushed pretzel pieces, cereal crumbs, croutons, or just tear up some stale bread. I have a stale loaf in my fridge that is rock hard but gets used for bread crumbs all the time! Or, of course, you can buy some.

Slow Cookers

So I got a slow cooker for Christmas, and I'm obsessed with it. Cooking with a slow cooker is so simple that simple doesn't even cover it. You literally just throw some stuff in there, turn it on, go to class and come back 4-8 hours later to dinner. It's AWESOME. Cooking food slowly makes it SUPER tender, so meat just falls off the bone and veggies are perfectly soft. You don't even need recipes to cook in a slow cooker. Here is something I did last week: put some chicken in slow cooker. Add a couple spices on top. Turn on high. Wait 4 hours. Done. THAT'S IT.

 Basically you just throw in everything you have on hand and wait. You can make soups or stews, cook chicken and/or veggies, even pasta (though I haven't tried it yet) and other grains without having to prep anything in advance. Just throw it in and go!! Sound good? It gets better - you can pick up a slow cooker for less than $20! I found a few that are right around the $10 range. If you find yourself never having the time to prepare a cheap, healthy home cooked meal, get yourself a slow cooker. It's a huge time saver and so, so simple to use.

Coming up next time on Broke Student Kitchen: meatballs and burgers on the cheap.

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