My favorite Thai restaurant has a dish that a friend turned me on to several years ago. It’s quite possible that without her recommendation, I’d never have tried it and experienced the magic. It’s a pumpkin red curry, and up to that point I was a staunch yellow curry fan. And I only liked squash in one thing: pumpkin pie (which isn’t even close to my favorite pie).
But I instantly fell in love with the pumpkin red curry (made with kabocha squash). It became my go-to dish at Thai Spices and it’s not something I’ve seen at other Thai restaurants for some reason. Eventually I tried other things as well (because if this was so good, might not other menu items be as delicious? Yes, yes they are. They make a special shiitake mushroom and basil dish that knocks my socks off.)
I’ve been wanting to try the pumpkin red curry for several years but never quite found the right red curry paste, and the kabocha squash intimidated me. But at a recent trip to the Asian market — which happens to be adjacent to Thai Spices — I picked up 1/2 of a kabocha squash and a jar of red curry paste. It’s Malaysian curry paste, not the Thai red curry paste I was hoping for, but I took a gamble. Which paid off well!
Adapted from Thai Red Curry with Kabocha Squash
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 medium white onion, medium dice
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 orange bell peppers, large dice
- 1 tbsp pureed fresh ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 kabocha squash, seeded and peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 tbsp Malaysian curry paste
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2 c water
- 1/2 c frozen peas
- 3/4 c frozen thin green beans
- 1 tsp lime zest (didn’t have lime juice)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
Saute the onion in oil over medium heat until it’s softened, then add the peppers, garlic, and ginger. Cook for a minute.
Add curry paste, cook for a minute, then add coconut milk, water, soy sauce, and salt. Bring to a simmer.
Stir in the squash, and simmer on low for about 20 min. Add the frozen veggies and lime zest, heat through, and serve over steamed rice.
I feel like I’ve finally discovered the secret to good Thai curry at home: the combination of the jarred curry paste and coconut milk is heavenly. And the kabocha, while a major pain to peel, turned out perfectly. The dish was so similar to the restaurant’s version that I was in disbelief.
Curry is one of my favorite comfort foods, and this one is a wonderful blend of sweet, hot, and rich. Can’t wait to make again! I may try baking the squash before peeling and cutting because I’ve read that it makes it easier to get the skin off. But then I’d want to add it to the sauce later, and it may not have such a great, deep flavor. I think buying the already-cut-in-half squash would be smart to do again — for safety’s sake.
Adapted from Gingersnap Granola from budgetbytes.com
- omitted oat bran, almonds, and raisins
- baked at 350° for 30 min, stirring once
This granola has a deep, sweet flavor. There’s something about adding milk to it that kicks it up to the next level. Next time I’d shorten the baking time a few minutes so it’s not so hard and crunchy.
I so enjoyed the Creamy Vegetable Pasta Bake I made recently, both because it was delicious and because I could pull a serving out of the freezer and have an instant warm meal. When it was gone, I didn’t imagine making it again so soon, but it’s a great way to use 4 cups of milk, zucchini and onion that I picked up without a real plan, and frozen broccoli and spinach for a dose of green veggies.
I followed the same basic recipe from budgetbytes.com, with a few adjustments.
- used 2 1/2 tsp granulated garlic instead of fresh garlic
- left out the carrots
- used 1/2 lb frozen broccoli and 1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach
- used 32 freshly milled soft white wheat flour instead of all purpose flour
- reduced noodles to 3/4 lb dried elbow pasta
- sprinkled 6 oz shredded low moisture part skim mozzarella
- used 9×12 baking dish
- once it was assembled, I covered it with plastic and refrigerated overnight (I was using the oven for homemade yogurt)
- the next morning, baked at 375° for about 55 min.
Baking the casserole after letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight worked out just fine. After it cooled, I divided it into smaller containers and popped in the freezer.
The texture is really good, although a tiny bit watery. The amount of creamy sauce is great, and I love having all of the vegetables. The flavor is on the bland side, and definitely needs some salt and pepper. I think it would be improved by using fresh garlic instead of the granulated. And I missed the carrots that were in the last batch.
It’s not an exciting dish, but it’s filling and comforting, and having frozen meals at the ready is always appreciated.
On a whim, I cooked up some dried black beans because I wanted to try out the Lazy Cook’s Black Beans technique described on Serious Eats. I didn’t use the fresh garlic, onion, or orange, just some granulated garlic and onion powder from my spice rack. Even without the aromatics, I have to say I really loved how the beans tasted after cooking, especially with the “gravy” that’s left. They’re much more flavorful than when I soak them overnight and simmer, then drain. I was so impressed that I’d like to actually try their full recipe at some point!
I also made brown rice using my favorite technique: in the oven. I had a vague sense of wanting to make a plate of simple rice and beans, but my mind wandered from that thought. I made up a bowl of beans, rice (made with cilantro and lime), corn, cheese, and taco sauce…a makeshift Chipotle-style burrito bowl. And it was OK, but I was looking for something more interesting.
So I explored the idea of making a soup. I love to have broth-based soups around because they’re filling but not heavy. I wanted to include black beans, rice, onion, cilantro, and lime for sure. And, oh yeah, chipotle powder! I found a recipe that got me in the ballpark, then adapted it for my kitchen from there.
And my expectations were completely blown away. I think it’s the fresh lime juice that puts this soup over the top. It looks very unassuming in the bowl, but tastes incredible. I’ve been having it with a baked potato on the side, but it would be really good with corn bread.
Spicy Vegan Black Bean and Rice Soup
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1/2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp chipotle powder
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 c water
- 1-2 tsp Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base
- 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, lightly pureed
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 10 oz cooked black beans (or a bit more or less is fine)
- 1/2 c cooked brown rice
- juice from 1/2 lime
- 1/4 c chopped cilantro
- Mix granulated garlic, cumin, oregano, chipotle powder, and paprika in a small bowl and set aside. Make a broth by heating the water a couple of minutes in the microwave, then stirring in the vegetable base until it dissolves. Set aside.
- In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, saute the onion in oil over medium heat until softened. Stir in the spice mixture.
- Stir in broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, and beans. Add salt to taste. Simmer for 15 min.
- Add cooked rice, simmer 10 min.
- Stir in lime juice and cilantro, and simmer 5 min.
The soup is delicious as is, but is also good with some shredded cheese on top.
Good cabbage prices means it was my go-to green veggie recently. Most of what I bought went into Asian-style dishes. But with a remaining half sitting in the produce bin, I wanted to make a veggie-packed stew with it as a change of pace. Having a hearty vegetarian stew in the freezer is awesome for those days when I haven’t gotten enough veggies with my meals. It’s an easy way to get a bunch at once.
Bean and Cabbage Stew
Makes 6-8 bowls
- 1/2 cabbage, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 1 medium brown onion, diced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2/3 c leftover red wine (I used cabernet sauvignon)
- 14.5 oz can tomatoes, pureed
- 2 c vegetable broth OR 2 c water, heated to boiling + 2 tsp vegetable bouillon base (I used Better Than Bouillon)
- 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- caraway seeds
- In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat and saute carrots and onion for about 15 minutes, until they’re softened.
- In a separate chef’s or frying pan, saute cabbage in canola oil over medium-high heat. Stir often to prevent sticking, but letting it get browned helps develop good flavor. Add a splash of water if needed.
- Once the carrots and onions are ready, add wine and reduce until thick. Add garlic, paprika, thyme, freshly ground pepper and salt (to taste). Stir in tomatoes, broth, and beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
- Stir in cabbage and heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar.
- Sprinkle in caraway seeds if desired.
This month I’ve been doing a version of a pantry challenge, where I’m focusing on using what’s in my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry instead of going to the grocery store constantly. There are lots of recipes on Budget Bytes that are good for this sort of thing, sometimes just requiring a fresh produce item or two.
Dragon Noodles sounded like a great fit for a quick and easy meal, with a few adjustments to work better with what I have. And that’s one of the things I love about the recipes on this site — they’re quite flexible, and Beth encourages adapting a recipe to what works best for you.
Adapted from Dragon Noodles
- used 4 oz of spaghetti noodles instead of lo mein (broken in half)
- added 6 oz of frozen peas (thawed)
- added leftover stir fried cabbage (about a cup)
- added 1/2 tsp granulated garlic to sauce
- omitted cilantro and green onion
Delicious! I loved this way of cooking the egg — the high fat to egg ratio (well, high for me) gave the egg a really nice pool to cook in, keeping it softer and moister than normal. And the sauce couldn’t have been easier. I enjoyed this right after cooking it and two more times as leftovers as well. This one is a keeper, and I can imagine adapting it for all kinds of veggies.
St. Patrick’s day brought great sale prices on green cabbage, so I’ve had a couple to use for new things this month.
One new thing was a stir fried cabbage that I absolutely loved, and was able to use both as a regular side dish and as an ingredient in my customized version of Dragon Noodles. My husband found this recipe too sweet for his taste, but I couldn’t get enough.
Stir Fried Cabbage
This makes a small batch, enough for 2-3 sides.
- 1/4 of a small cabbage, chopped into roughly 1-inch pieces
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1/4 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 1/2 tsp Sriracha
- 2 tsp rice wine
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- Mix granulated garlic, Sriracha, rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, and water in a small bowl.
- Heat oil in saute pan over high heat, until it’s hot and shimmery.
- Add cabbage and soy sauce mixture, and stir fry for a couple of minutes, until the cabbage softens.
- Stir in the rice vinegar and onion powder, and continue cooking over high heat until the cabbage browns and caramelizes in some spots, then remove from heat and serve.
These days I’m on the lookout for new, delicious ways to prepare a bunch of russet potatoes. This recipe for Oven Potato Wedges from onceamonthmeals.com was a big hit. Most of them went in the freezer for future meals, and I don’t know how well they’ll reheat yet, but I’m optimistic. The fresh ones were delicious, mostly thanks to the seasoning blend. It’s called Best Burger Seasoning and it adds a lot of flavor and a little spice to basic roasted potatoes.
- used 12 potatoes (which were on the small side)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp Best Burger Seasoning blend (I adapted the seasoning recipe to get about 2 tbsp of seasoning):
- 1 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 3/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground cayenne chili powder
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp dried basil
- pinch celery salt
Lately I’ve become rather hooked on maximizing grocery store savings. It’s like a game, seeing how I can get the most for my money, and it helps that I focus on stocking my pantry with staples that help me cook from scratch. When the grocery store had 1-lb bags of pasta on sale for $.49 each, I stocked up on a variety of shapes and have been brainstorming all the fun ways I can use them.
BudgetBytes.com has loads of doable, healthy, and frugal recipes (my Mealtime board is now loaded with pins from this site). It was really hard to choose which to make first! I started with one that aligned best with my freezer and pantry items and adapted it with my ingredients.
Vegetable Alfredo Pasta Bake from BudgetBytes.com
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 6 oz frozen peas, cooked and drained
- 12 oz frozen broccoli, cooked and drained
- 6 oz frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained
- salt and pepper
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 c hard white wheat flour
- 4 c whole milk
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Pasta and topping:
- 1 lb shell pasta
- 3 oz shredded gouda
I don’t like adding frozen vegetables to a hot, oily pan because of the sizzle and splatter, so I opted to cook my veggies first in a small Micro-Cooker vegetable steamer that goes in the microwave. Except for the carrots, which I sauteed in the oil.
Oh, yum. This is a great balance of flavor and textures. Not too cheesy, not too saucy, plenty of vegetables. The gouda on top is really special. And after a few years of only eating homemade pasta at home, it’s a treat to have the convenience of dried pasta on hand.
I actually think I could skip adding the cheese to the sauce next time, and just go with the cheese on top. Increasing the spices and seasonings in the sauce would be good, perhaps adding dried minced onion and garlic (or fresh, if I have some).
I love the way this casserole turned out — and perhaps even more I love that there are seven more servings of it in the freezer, ready to be pulled out for an easy meal here and there.
Often when returning from a trip somewhere, I go a little nuts stocking up on produce at the grocery store. Traveling is often light on fruits and veggies, and being back in control of my kitchen gets me excited to cook up a storm.
So this week when I started to feel like I was pressing my luck with the zucchini and kale in the veggie drawer, I pulled together this Bean and Kale Vegetable Stew, adapted from Smitten Kitchen recipe I like quite a bit. Actually one of my favorite things about that recipe is how adaptable it is to whatever I have on hand. The first time I made it was the first time I had added wine to soup or stew, and it was a revelation.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Chard and White Bean Stew
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, pureed
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 medium brown onion, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 c red wine
- 2 c vegetable broth (made from Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base) + 1 c water
- 1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced about 1/2 in. thick
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed and coarsely chopped
- 3/4 tsp dried thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Cook kale in a pot of salted boiling water for 1 min., then drain and set aside.
Saute carrots, onion, and garlic in olive oil for about 15 min. Add wine and cook until it’s reduced by 3/4. Add beans, broth, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 min. Add kale and zucchini and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in vinegar and season to taste.
I don’t typically get excited about non-cream-based soups or stews, but this one really hits the spot. The darker take on the original recipe (the red wine, kidney beans, kale) is hearty and complex. I especially like it with a little grated parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil on top.
This stew is perfect on days that I haven’t eaten enough veggies, because it’s a whole bunch packed into one bowl.
And now I have an open bottle of red wine in the refrigerator, ready for another dish…perhaps a tomato pasta sauce of some kind.
When we visited Costa Rica earlier this month, I didn’t experience the region’s favorite salsa, Lizano, until the second-to-last day there. After a sea kayaking excursion, we were treated to a wonderful lunch of casado as part of the package, and a mysterious brown sauce was on the table next to regular red salsa. I tried a dab of it on my rice and beans, and it was so delicious I basically drained the little bottle by half. The guide explained that it was Lizano, and I immediately started thinking about how I could enjoy this sauce at home.
I could have bought some before leaving the airport, but my luggage was stuffed to the brim (I do one carry on and one personal item only) and I didn’t want to risk a broken glass mess in my stuff. Plus, they were checking for liquids on the jetway so I probably would have had to leave it anyway.
I could have ordered it online, but was more interested in making it myself. This is preferable to me because then I know exactly what’s inside (no preservatives or question marks). And living in the Southwest, finding the right peppers poses no problem.
- added 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp ground mustard, and 1/4 tsp turmeric
While I don’t think this tasted the same as Lizano, it’s very good and we’ve been enjoying it on gallo pinto with eggs and tortillas. It’s a good reminder of a fun trip. This sauce has a nice smokey flavor from the dried guajillo chiles, but is sweeter than we’d like.
If I make it again, I’d reduce the sugar, use a smaller amount of dried chiles, and play with the turmeric and mustard amounts.