Budget Bytes https://www.budgetbytes.com Delicious Recipes Designed for Small Budgets Wed, 17 Jul 2019 20:15:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 Soy Glazed Eggplant https://www.budgetbytes.com/soy-glazed-eggplant/ https://www.budgetbytes.com/soy-glazed-eggplant/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2019 20:15:45 +0000 https://www.budgetbytes.com/?p=44679 I love taking advantage of all the fresh produce in summer and all the color and texture it brings to my plate! This week I played around with eggplant, which has a unique almost meaty texture. I gave it a quick soy glaze treatment that I’ve previously used for chicken thighs (see Sticky Ginger Soy […]

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I love taking advantage of all the fresh produce in summer and all the color and texture it brings to my plate! This week I played around with eggplant, which has a unique almost meaty texture. I gave it a quick soy glaze treatment that I’ve previously used for chicken thighs (see Sticky Ginger Soy Glazed Chicken) and it worked perfectly. This Soy Glazed Eggplant makes for a super fast and easy vegetarian weeknight dinner, which also meal preps well for the week. As with most stir fries, this recipe is quite versatile, so I’ll list some options for you below!

Overhead view of three bowls of Soy Glazed Eggplant served with rice, peanuts, and green onion

Make it Spicy or Mild

This recipe for Soy Glazed Eggplant as written is below NOT spicy (without optional sriracha mayo topping), but you could easily make it a spicy stir fry, if you prefer. Simply add a tablespoon or two of sriracha or chili garlic sauce to the soy glaze mixture and you’re good to go. Or, add a few crushed red pepper flakes to the finished dish.

Make it Vegan

The Soy Glazed Eggplant by itself is vegan, but I topped mine with sriracha mayo. If you want to avoid the mayo to make the whole bowl vegan, I suggest adding a few slices of avocado to your bowl or using vegan mayo if you have it. The addition of a creamy topping does a wonderful job of balancing the sweet and salty flavors of the Soy Glazed Eggplant, and really takes the bowls to the next level.

Fresh or Dried Ginger?

I almost always use fresh ginger in my recipes because it tastes completely different than dried ground ginger. If you keep a knob of ginger in your freezer you’ll always have fresh on hand and it’s super easy to grate on a cheese grater when frozen. If you must use dried ground ginger, I suggest using 1/2 to 1 tsp, adjusting it to your tastebuds. 

How to Serve Soy Glazed Eggplant

I served mine on top of brown rice and topped with chopped peanuts, sliced green onions, and a drizzle of sriracha mayo. You could also serve this with noodles (add cooked noodles to the skillet and toss with the soy glazed eggplant), and add something green on the side, like broccoli or snow peas. 

Close up side view of Soy Glazed Eggplant in the skillet, topped with peanuts and green onion

 

Soy Glazed Eggplant

This Soy Glazed Eggplant stir fry is a super fast and easy vegetarian weeknight dinner, which also meal preps well for the week.

Soy Glazed Eggplant

  • 1 eggplant (5-6 cups cubed) ($1.29)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.24)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce ($0.48)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar ($0.16)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger ($0.30)

Optional for Serving

  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts ($0.12)
  • 2 green onions, sliced ($0.23)
  • 4 cups cooked rice ($0.60)
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise* ($0.17)
  • 1 Tbsp sriracha* ($0.11)
  1. Cut the eggplant into 3/4-inch cubes. The easiest way to do this is to first slice the eggplant into 3/4-inch slices, then lay each slice flat and slice into 3/4-inch squares.

  2. Add the olive oil to a large skillet at head over medium. Once hot, swirl the oil to coat the surface of the skillet, then add the eggplant cubes. Cook the eggplant cubes, stirring occasionally, until they are softened (about ten minutes). If the eggplant begins to stick, add a couple tablespoons of water to the skillet to help loosen the eggplant.

  3. While the eggplant is cooking, prepare the soy ginger glaze. Stir together the soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, and ginger in a bowl.

  4. Once the eggplant is soft, pour in the soy ginger glaze, making sure to scrape out all the sugar that may have settled to the bottom of the bowl. Continue to stir and cook the eggplant in the skillet, dissolving any browned bits off the bottom, for about 5 more minutes.

  5. Top the eggplant with chopped peanuts and sliced green onion before serving. Serve over warm rice with a drizzle of sriracha mayo, if desired.

*Mix together the mayonnaise and sriracha to make sriracha mayo.

Soy Glazed Eggplant being served from the skillet into three bowls

Step by Step Photos

Eggplant in hand for size

Grab yourself one medium eggplant for this recipe. They were priced per item at the store today, so I didn’t get the scale weight from the register, but this recipe is pretty flexible. I had about 5-6 cups once it was cubed. The size of this explant was about 1.5x the length of my hand.

Cube eggplant

Cut the eggplant into 3/4-inch cubes. To do this, first slice the eggplant into 3/4-inch slices, then lay each slice flat and cut into squares.

Sautéed Eggplant in the skillet

Add 2 Tbsp olive oil (or your favorite cooking oil) to a large skillet and heat over medium. Once hot, give it a swirl to coat the skillet, then add the cubed eggplant. Cook the eggplant, stirring occasionally, until it has softened (about 10 minutes). If the eggplant begins to stick too much, add a couple tablespoons of water to the skillet to help loosen it up.

Soy Ginger Glaze in a bowl with a spoon, ginger root on the side.

While the eggplant is cooking, make the soy ginger glaze. In a bowl combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 cloves of garlic (minced), and about 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger. Stir them together. The brown sugar probably won’t fully dissolve, but that’s okay.

Add Soy Ginger Glaze to Eggplant in skillet

Once the eggplant has softened, add the glaze, making sure to scrape all the sugar out of the bowl.

Soy glazed eggplant in the skillet just after cooking.

Continue to stir and cook the eggplant with the glaze over medium heat for about 5 minutes more. The glaze should be bubbling.

Soy Glazed Eggplant topped with green onion and peanuts in the skillet.

Top the Soy Glazed Eggplant with sliced green onion and about 1/4 cup chopped peanuts (optional).

Sriracha Mayo drizzled over three bowls Soy Glazed Eggplant

I served my Soy Glazed Eggplant over brown rice and with sriracha mayo drizzled on top. To make the sriracha mayo, simply stir together 2 Tbsp mayonnaise with 1 Tbsp sriracha.

A piece of Soy Glazed Eggplant being picked up out of the bowl with chopsticks.

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Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils with Spinach https://www.budgetbytes.com/creamy-coconut-curry-lentils-with-spinach/ https://www.budgetbytes.com/creamy-coconut-curry-lentils-with-spinach/#comments Sun, 14 Jul 2019 00:00:50 +0000 https://www.budgetbytes.com/?p=44653 I’ve been trying to brain storm up some easy plant-based meals lately, and this week’s creation was these Creamy Coconut Curried Lentils with Spinach, which are kind of like the creamy cousin of my Curried Chickpeas with Spinach. I swapped out the canned chickpeas for quick cooking lentils, and instead of a tomato-based curry sauce, […]

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I’ve been trying to brain storm up some easy plant-based meals lately, and this week’s creation was these Creamy Coconut Curried Lentils with Spinach, which are kind of like the creamy cousin of my Curried Chickpeas with Spinach. I swapped out the canned chickpeas for quick cooking lentils, and instead of a tomato-based curry sauce, I went with a super rich creamy coconut sauce, that pairs oh so well with the earthy lentils and heady curry spices.

As you can see in the photos, I paired these Creamy Coconut Curried Lentils with my Curry Roasted Carrots. The sweetness of the carrots balances perfectly with the earthy lentils. If you’re not up for making an entirely separate side dish, you can even just slice up a few carrots and let them simmer along with the lentils in the skillet!

Close up overhead view of Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils with Spinach on a plate with curry roasted carrots, rice, and naan.

Make it Spicy or Mild

This recipe is really easy to make either spicy or mild and tastes fantastic either way. Curry powder can be either hot or mild, so make sure you know which type you’re buying. If you have a mild curry powder and want your coconut curry lentils to be spicy, simply add a little cayenne pepper, or top the cooked dish with a few red pepper flakes.

What Type of Lentils Should I Use?

Brown lentils are the best for this dish because they hold their shape through simmering, unlike red or yellow lentils, but still cook really quickly, unlike green lentils. Brown lentils are sometimes just labeled “lentils” in the U.S., so just check the recommended cooking time on the package. If it says simmer for about 20 minutes, you’ve got the right type of lentil! 

Close up of Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils and Spinach being stirred in the skillet

Is There a Substitute for Coconut Milk?

Heavy cream or half and half can be used in place of the coconut milk in this recipe, although you probably won’t need quite as much as the coconut milk used. Stick to about 1/2 cup for the heavy cream or 3/4 cup for half and half.

 

Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils with Spinach

These rich, creamy, and earthy Coconut Curry Lentils are an easy and delicious vegan option for dinner or weekly meal prep!

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.24)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger ($0.10)
  • 1 small yellow onion ($0.21)
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder* ($0.30)
  • 1 cup brown lentils (dry) ($0.67)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth** ($0.26)
  • 1 13oz. can coconut milk ($1.99)
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach ($1.61)

For Serving (optional)

  • 4 cups cooked rice ($0.60)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro ($0.15)
  1. Mince the garlic, grate the ginger, and dice the onion. Add the olive oil, garlic, and ginger to a deep skillet, Dutch oven, or soup pot. Sauté the garlic and ginger over medium heat for 1 minute, or just until the garlic becomes soft and fragrant.

  2. Add the diced onion to the skillet and continue to sauté over medium until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the curry powder and continue to sauté for about one minute more to toast the spices.

  3. Add the dry lentils and vegetable broth to the skillet. Stir to dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Place a lid on top, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the broth to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low, and let it simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  4. After simmering for 20 minutes the lentils should be tender and most of the broth absorbed. Add the can of coconut milk and stir to combine. Turn the heat back up to medium and allow the skillet to come back up to a simmer. Let it simmer without a lid for an additional 10 minutes, stirring often, to thicken the mixture.

  5. Once thickened, turn the heat off. Add the fresh spinach and stir gently until the spinach has wilted. Taste the mixture and adjust the salt or curry powder to your liking, if needed.

  6. Serve over a bowl of rice, and top with chopped cilantro if desired.

*The potency of curry powder can vary quite a bit from brand to brand and with freshness, so you may need to add more to your liking. 

**If your vegetable broth does not contain a lot of salt, you may need to add salt at the end to really make the flavors pop.

A hand dipping a piece of naan into the Creamy Coconut Curried Lentils with Spinach on a plate with curry roasted carrots

Step by Step Photos

Minced garlic and grated ginger being sautéed in a skillet with a wooden spatula

Mince two cloves of garlic, grate about 1 tsp fresh ginger, and dice one small onion. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, the minced garlic, and grated ginger to a deep skillet (a Dutch oven or soup pot will also work). Sauté for about one minute, or just until the garlic is soft and fragrant.

Sautéed onion and curry powder in the skillet

Add the diced onion and continue to sauté until the onion is soft and translucent. Once the onion is softened, add 1 Tbsp curry powder. Continue to sauté for one minute more to toast the spices.

Dry lentils being poured into the skillet

Add 1 cup dry brown lentils to the skillet…

Vegetable broth being poured into the skillet

Along with 2 cups vegetable broth. I use Better Than Bouillon, which contains a fair amount of salt. If your broth doesn’t have a lot of salt, you may need to add some to the dish at the end to help the flavors pop.

Lentils after being simmered.

Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and let it come up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 20 minutes (with the lid on). After 20 minutes the lentils should be tender and most of the broth absorbed.

Coconut milk being stirred into the skillet

Stir in one 13oz. can of coconut milk. 

Simmered coconut curry lentils with a wooden spatula

Turn the heat back up to medium and let it come back up to a simmer. Let it simmer for 10 more minutes, without a lid, stirring often. This will break down the lentils a little more and reduce the coconut milk a little, making it thicker.

Fresh spinach added to the skillet

Turn the heat off and add about 3 cups (or three handfuls) of fresh spinach to the skillet.

Spinach wilted into the coconut curry lentils

Gently stir and allow the residual heat to wilt the spinach. Once wilted, give it a taste and adjust the curry powder or salt if needed.

Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils with spinach on a plate with rice, naan, and curry roasted carrots.

And then it’s ready to serve! I like to serve my Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils over rice to soak up all that delicious creamy curry, but it’s also great with Naan and Curry Roasted Carrots

Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils in a glass meal prep container with rice and curry roasted carrots

And of course I meal prepped this. :)

A forkful of Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils being lifted from the plate

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Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad https://www.budgetbytes.com/charred-corn-and-zucchini-salad/ https://www.budgetbytes.com/charred-corn-and-zucchini-salad/#comments Tue, 09 Jul 2019 17:35:34 +0000 https://www.budgetbytes.com/?p=44601 Fresh corn is one of the highlights of summer. When it’s in season it’s sweet, juicy, and super affordable, so I love to take advantage! For this salad I paired fresh sweet corn with another summer staple, zucchini, and charred them both over high heat to bring a smoky grill-like flavor. This Charred Corn and […]

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Fresh corn is one of the highlights of summer. When it’s in season it’s sweet, juicy, and super affordable, so I love to take advantage! For this salad I paired fresh sweet corn with another summer staple, zucchini, and charred them both over high heat to bring a smoky grill-like flavor. This Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad is so simple and delicious, and perfectly captures the beauty of fresh summer produce. I know this is going to become my new go-to summer side dish. ☀️😎

Overhead view of a large white bowl full of Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad.

Cooking Methods

I used a super hot 10″ cast iron skillet to char my vegetables for this salad, but you actually have a couple of options. If you have an outdoor grill and love cooking outside, you can char your vegetables over an open flame. A grill pan on your stove top will also work.

OR, if you live near a Trader Joe’s store, they have sell frozen corn that is already “fire roasted” with that nice smoky flavor, which makes for a nice short cut. You can then do the zucchini and onion in a hot pan like I did, or even roast them in the oven until caramelized on the edges.

No Dressing??

I had actually planned to make a chipotle ranch to go with this salad, but when I tasted the salad pre-dressing I thought it was absolutely perfect as-is and adding the dressing would mask the beautifully fresh flavors of the in-season vegetables, so I left it off. The little pops of saltiness from the feta and the sweet juices from the vegetables provided all the flavor I needed.

If you’re still interested in doing a chipotle ranch, I basically just made my Homemade Ranch Dressing without the parsley and with a 1/2 tsp chipotle powder added. Lime Crema would also be really good dressing for this Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad.

How to Serve Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad

As mentioned above, I think this is like, the perfect side dish for summer. It would go great with Cilantro Lime Chicken, grilled chicken slathered with Homemade BBQ Sauce, Blackened Shrimp Tacos, or Green Chile Turkey Burgers. Or, make it part of a vegetarian platter with some Quick Seasoned Black Beans and rice, like I did in the photos below.

In addition to being served as a side dish, salads like this also work great as a taco filling or topper! You could even spoon it onto a pile of nachos!

A plate filled with Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad, black beans, and rice, next to a bowl of the corn and zucchini salad.

 

Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad

This Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad perfectly captures the flavor of summer with fresh sweet corn, salty feta, and a smoky grill-like flavor. 

  • 2 Tbsp high heat oil* ($0.47)
  • 3 ears fresh sweet corn ($1.20)
  • 2 zucchini ($1.13)
  • 1/2 red onion ($0.22)
  • 2 pinches salt and pepper ($0.05)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro** ($0.10)
  • 2 oz. feta ($0.75)
  1. Remove the husks and silk from the corn cobs, and cut the stems off. Brush the surface of the corn with oil.

  2. Heat a cast iron skillet or gill pan over medium heat for at least five minutes, giving it plenty of time to build up a lot of heat. Once very hot, add the corn cobs. Allow the corn to cook, turning occasionally, until the kernels have become bright in color and some have developed deep char marks. This should take about 15 minutes total.

  3. While the corn is cooking, slice the zucchini in half lengthwise and the red onion into thick rings. Brush all sides of the zucchini and onion with oil.

  4. When the corn is finished cooking, remove it to a cutting board to cool slightly, and add the zucchini in its place. Cook the zucchini on each side until well charred (about 10 minutes total), then remove to the cutting board. Lastly, cook the onion slices until charred on each side (about 5 minutes total).

  5. Slice or chop the zucchini into half-rounds or quarter-rounds. Chop the onion into small pieces. Roughly chop about 1/4 cup of cilantro. Place the zucchini, onion, and cilantro in a large bow.

  6. Stand the corn cobs on end and use a sharp knife to carefully slice down each side to remove the kernels. Place the kernels in the bowl with the zucchini, onion, and cilantro.

  7. Season the vegetables with a couple generous pinches of salt and pepper, then toss to combine. Finally, crumble the feta over top and gently toss one more time to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later. This salad can be served slightly warm or cold.

*Use a high heat oil like peanut oil, safflower oil, light olive oil (not extra virgin), or avocado oil.

**If you don’t like cilantro, sliced green onion is a good alternative for this salad.

Front view of a large bowl full of Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad topped with crumbled feta and cilantro

Step by Step Photos

Cleaned corn cobs with oil brushed on the surface.

Remove the husks and silk from three ears of corn. Cut the stems off as well, to make it easier to stand them on end when slicing the kernels off later. Brush the surface of the corn cobs with high heat cooking oil (I’m using avocado oil).

Charred corn cobs in a cast iron skillet

Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Give it at least five minutes to really build up some heat before adding the corn. Once really hot, add the corn and let them cook, turning occasionally, until the kernels brighten in color and some develop a nice char (about 15 minutes). You’ll notice that the raw corn has kind of a cloudy, pastel color, but as the kernels cook they turn bright in color and almost slightly translucent. Once cooked, remove them to a cutting board to cool slightly.

Oiled Zucchini Slices

While the corn is cooking, slice two zucchini in half length-wise and brush each side with oil.

Sliced Red Onion

Also slice 1/2 of a red onion into rings and brush with oil (I already had half an onion in my fridge that had been cut lengthwise, otherwise I would have cut them into full rings instead of half-moons).

Charred Zucchini and Red Onion

When the corn is finished cooking and removed from the pan, do the same with the zucchini (about 10 minutes total) and then the red onion (about 5 minutes total). The goal is to char the outside, but not completely over cook the vegetables so they are limp and lifeless.

Chopped vegetables in a large bowl

Slice the zucchini into half-rounds or quarter rounds, dice the red onion, and chop about 1/4 cup cilantro. Stand the corn cobs up on their end and use a sharp knife to carefully slice down each side to cut the kernels off. Add the corn, zucchini, red onion, and cilantro to a large bowl. Season with a couple large pinches of salt and pepper, then toss to combine.

Add crumbled feta to salad

Finally, crumble about 2 oz. feta onto the salad and gently toss once more.

Overhead view of a bowl of Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad with a black and white napkin on the side.

The salad can be served immediately (warm) or chilled for later!

Close up of Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad on a plate with black beans and rice.

Makes a great vegetarian meal prep or burrito bowl with black beans and rice!

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Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad https://www.budgetbytes.com/tomato-mozzarella-pasta-salad/ https://www.budgetbytes.com/tomato-mozzarella-pasta-salad/#comments Sat, 29 Jun 2019 21:53:30 +0000 https://www.budgetbytes.com/?p=44556 Off the record, I call this one “poor man’s Caprese salad” because it’s based on Caprese salad, but with all the budget swaps I’ve made, I don’t think I can get away with calling that anymore. 😅 Regardless of what you call it, this Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad with homemade Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette is super […]

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Off the record, I call this one “poor man’s Caprese salad” because it’s based on Caprese salad, but with all the budget swaps I’ve made, I don’t think I can get away with calling that anymore. 😅 Regardless of what you call it, this Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad with homemade Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette is super light and refreshing, and just about the only thing I want to eat in this super hot 95+ degree weather. 🥵 You feel me?

A big bowl of Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad with a jar of dressing and cubed mozzarella on the sides.

This Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad will be a hit at any potluck, but also holds up really well in the refrigerator (undressed), making it a great meal prep or refrigerator salad for the week. Plus, there’s plenty of room for customization, so read on for some ideas for making this salad your own.

Dressing Options

I went with a creamy Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette for this salad, but you can change up this dressing a few ways to make it match your dietary needs. First, you can totally skip the Parmesan if you want to keep the salad vegetarian. If you can’t have or don’t want mayo, this dressing is also super awesome when you leave the mayo out, but I do like how the mayo mellows the flavors and makes it slightly creamy. And lastly, you can make things super easy on yourself and use a store bought balsamic vinaigrette or even Italian dressing, if that’s what you have on hand.

About That Mozzarella…

Fresh mozzarella is the best for this salad, but it can also be quite pricey. I was lucky enough to find a large 16 oz. log of fresh mozzarella today for a really good price (I’ll be freezing the other half), so I used that. But if you can’t find a good deal on fresh mozzarella, whole milk mozzarella in either block or stick form will also work. And yes, by “stick form” I mean cheese sticks. I’ve totally diced up mozzarella sticks to use in this salad before! Not elegant, but it worked with my budget! 

Vegetable Options

Grape tomatoes are cute, but if you can’t find them for a good price, feel free to dice a regular tomato in their place (you’ll want about 1.5 cups diced tomatoes). This is a great place to take advantage of fresh local tomatoes that will really give the salad a big flavor punch. Red onions also work well with these flavors if you have some to use up, as do bell peppers or cucumbers.

Front view of a bowl of Tomato Mozzarella Salad with a jar of dressing in the back and cubed mozzarella on the side.

 

Tomato Mozzarella Salad

This Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad with homemade Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette is the perfect light and fresh summer meal. Perfect for potlucks!

  • 8 oz. bowtie pasta ($0.67)
  • salt for pasta water ($0.02)
  • 3 cups fresh spinach ($1.20)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes ($2.50)
  • 8 oz. mozzarella* ($2.60)

Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup olive oil ($0.55)
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar ($0.41)
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise ($0.17)
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan ($0.22)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard ($0.09)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced ($0.08)
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • freshly cracked pepper ($0.02)
  1. Fill a pot with water and add two large pinches of salt. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the pasta and continue to boil until the pasta is tender. Drain the pasta in a colander, give it a brief rinse with cool water, and let it drain well while you prepare the rest of the salad.

  2. While waiting for the pasta to cook, prepare the rest of the salad. Start with the Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar or blender. Either blend until combined or shake your jar until the ingredients are well combined. Set the dressing aside until needed.

  3. Roughly chop the spinach and slice the grape tomatoes in half. Dice the mozzarella into 1/2-inch cubes.

  4. Add the spinach, tomatoes, and mozzarella to a large bowl. Once the pasta is well drained and mostly cool, add it to the bowl with the mozzarella and vegetables. Make sure the pasta is no longer hot, so it doesn't wilt the spinach or melt the cheese.

  5. Toss the ingredients to combine. If serving the salad later, store it like this without dressing. If serving immediately, add half of the dressing and toss to coat. Add more dressing as desired.

*Fresh mozzarella is best, but block or stick mozzarella can be used in its place. Whole milk mozzarella (not part-skim), if possible.

Want more hot weather food? Check out my Hot Weather Recipe Roundup: 28 Low or No Cook Recipes!

Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette being poured onto a bowl of Tomato Mozzarella Salad from a jar.

Step by Step Photos

Cooked bowtie pasta draining in a colander.

Begin by cooking 8 oz. bowtie pasta. You can prepare everything else for the salad in the time it takes the pasta to cook. Fill a pot with water, add two large pinches of salt, place a lid on top, and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the pasta and continue to boil until the pasta is tender. Drain the pasta in a colander, rinse briefly with cool water, then let it drain very well.

Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette on a spoon over the jar full of dressing

Next, make the Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette. Add all of the ingredients for the dressing to either a blender or jar (1/3 cup olive oil, 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan, 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 clove of garlic (minced), 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/4 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper). Blend the ingredients until emulsified, or shake your jar until the ingredients are combined. 

Roughly chopped spinach

Roughly chop about 3 cups of fresh spinach.

Halved grape tomatoes

Slice one pint of grape tomatoes in half. 

Diced fresh mozzarella

Dice 8 oz. fresh mozzarella into 1/2-inch cubes. I froze the other half of the cheese (the part still in the wrapper on the left) for later.

Combine mozzarella and vegetables in a bowl

Add the spinach, tomatoes, and mozzarella to a large bowl.

Toss salad to combine ingredients

Once the pasta is well drained and mostly cool, add it to the bowl. Make sure the pasta is not hot so you don’t wilt the spinach or melt the cheese. Toss the salad to combine the ingredients. 

Store undressed salad for later in a resealable container

If you’re planning to eat the salad later, store it at this point, without dressing, in a resealable container. The salad will stay good this way for 3-4 days.

Dressing being poured onto a bowl of tomato mozzarella pasta salad.

Or, if you plan to serve it now, add about half of the dressing and toss the salad again to coat it in the dressing. Add more dressing as desired.

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Cucumber Mango Salad https://www.budgetbytes.com/cucumber-mango-salad/ https://www.budgetbytes.com/cucumber-mango-salad/#comments Thu, 27 Jun 2019 17:00:00 +0000 http://www.budgetbytes.com/2011/02/24/cucumber-mango-salad-1-71-recipe-0-57-serving/ I’m not sure there is anything more summery than this Cucumber Mango Salad. It perfectly marries sweet, sour, and spicy flavors with that whoosh of cucumber freshness, for a light and refreshing summer side dish. The salad holds up moderately well in the refrigerator, the flavors blending even further as the cucumber and mango marinate […]

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I’m not sure there is anything more summery than this Cucumber Mango Salad. It perfectly marries sweet, sour, and spicy flavors with that whoosh of cucumber freshness, for a light and refreshing summer side dish. The salad holds up moderately well in the refrigerator, the flavors blending even further as the cucumber and mango marinate in the dressing. It’ll hold up for about three days in the refrigerator, if it’s not all eaten by then!

Originally posted 2-24-2011, updated 6-27-2019

Three black ceramic bowls with Cucumber mango salad on a marble table with a bamboo mat and chopsticks.

What Kind of Cucumber Should I Use?

I’ve been partial to English cucumbers lately because they have little to no seeds and seem to have a more consistent freshness in my local grocery stores, although conventional cucumbers also work just fine and are often half the cost. If using conventional cucumbers, you may want to scoop out the seeds before slicing into half-rounds, unless the seeds aren’t an issue for you. :)

How Spicy is This Cucumber Mango Salad?

This Cucumber Mango Salad is not very spicy, IMHO, but taste buds do differ. You can control the spiciness of the salad by increasing or decreasing the amount of crushed red pepper used. If you are particularly sensitive to heat, you can leave the crushed red pepper out of the dressing and simply sprinkle some over each serving for those who want it (although it is more pronounced when allowed to marinate in the dressing).

Do I Have to Use Rice Vinegar?

I wouldn’t suggest substituting another vinegar variety. Rice vinegar has a distinctly mild and light flavor and the dressing is balanced to match this type of vinegar in particular. Rice vinegar is fairly easy to find in most major grocery stores in the U.S. and can either be found in the vinegar aisle or with the international ingredients.

Close up of a bowl of cucumber mango salad with chopsticks picking up a piece of mango

 

Cucumber Mango Salad

Fresh cucumber and tropical mango come together with a sweet and spicy dressing to make this light and refreshing Cucumber Mango Salad.

  • 1 mango ($0.59)
  • 1 cucumber ($1.29)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar ($0.48)
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar ($0.04)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes ($0.02)
  1. Wash the cucumber well to remove wax or other residues. For a decorative look, peel alternating strips of the peel (see step by step photos below). Slice the cucumber into half-rounds.

  2. Cut the mango into slices by first cutting off both rounded “cheeks.” Score flesh of the mango into strips using a sharp paring knife. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh from the skin (see photos below). Cut the mango slices in half so that they are more similar in size to the cucumber slices.

  3. Next, prepare the dressing by combining the rice vinegar, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

  4. Add the sliced cucumber and mango to a large bowl, then pour the dressing over top. Stir to combine the ingredients and coat the cucumber and mango in dressing. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat. Stir well before serving each time to redistribute the dressing.

This salad goes great with: Sticky Ginger Soy Glazed Chicken, Sesame Tempeh Bowls, Easy Sesame Chicken, or One Pot Teriyaki Chicken and Rice.

Three bowls of cucumber mango salad on a bamboo mat with chopsticks.

Step By Step Photos

Partially peeled and sliced cucumber

To give my cucumbers a decorative look, I peel alternating strips before slicing. Slice one cucumber into half rounds. If you prefer to scoop out the seeds, first slice the cucumber lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, then cut crosswise into half-rounds.

Mango with one cheek cut off.

To slice the mango, first cut off the two side “cheeks” (the fleshy round sides). The pit in the middle is like a flattened oval.

Mango with two cheeks cut off

This is what the mango looks like after I’ve cut off both cheeks.

Mango flesh scored into slices with a spoon scooping them from the skin.

Next, use a sharp paring knife to score the flesh into strips, taking care not to pierce the skin on the back. Then use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of the skin. I also cut each slice in half to make them more similar in size to the cucumber pieces.

Remaining flesh cut off mango pit.

There is usually a bit more mango flesh attached to the narrow sides of the pit, so I slice those off, remove the skin, and cut the pieces to match the size of the other mango pieces.

Cucumber and mango in a bowl

Place the sliced cucumber and mango in a large bowl.

Cucumber Mango Salad Dressing in a small bowl with a spoon

To make the dressing, simply combine 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 Tbsp white sugar, 1/8 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the dressing appears clear.

Dressing being poured over cucumber and mango in the bowl.

Pour the dressing over the cucumber and mango in the bowl.

Finished cucumber mango salad in a white bowl

Stir the salad to combine the cucumber and mango, and coat everything in dressing.

Cucumber mango salad being served into small black bowls from the large white bowl.

Serve the salad immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. Be sure to give the salad a quick stir each time before serving to redistribute the dressing.

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Homemade BBQ Sauce (no ketchup) https://www.budgetbytes.com/homemade-bbq-sauce/ https://www.budgetbytes.com/homemade-bbq-sauce/#comments Mon, 24 Jun 2019 22:20:02 +0000 https://www.budgetbytes.com/?p=44518 It’s grilling season, so it’s only natural (and about time) that I make my own homemade BBQ Sauce! This sweet, smoky, and tangy BBQ sauce takes only minutes to make and will take your summer grilling to new heights of drooly deliciousness. While making your own BBQ sauce isn’t much less expensive than buying a […]

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It’s grilling season, so it’s only natural (and about time) that I make my own homemade BBQ Sauce! This sweet, smoky, and tangy BBQ sauce takes only minutes to make and will take your summer grilling to new heights of drooly deliciousness. While making your own BBQ sauce isn’t much less expensive than buying a bottled sauce, I love it for its deep rich flavor, the fact that I can make it on demand instead of having another half-used bottle of sauce hanging out in my fridge, and because I have control over every single ingredient that goes into it.

BBQ chicken breasts in a white dish, one sliced into strips, and a bowl of homemade bbq sauce on the side.

Why Homemade?

I have a chronic condiment problem. I tend to have waaaay too many bottles of half used condiments in my fridge, so when I can make a homemade sauce with pantry staples, I do. It’s not always less expensive, but the fact that I can use up what I already have on hand instead of buying something new is itself an advantage. Plus, there are no mystery thickeners, emulsifiers, or sweeteners in this version.

Freezer Friendly

I purposely made this a fairly small batch (just over one cup) so there wouldn’t be much leftover, but if you do happen to have some leftover, this Homemade BBQ Sauce freezes very well! Pack it into any freezer safe container (a resealable Ziploc container, freezer bag, or even portioned into an ice cube tray), label it, and freeze. It should stay good for at least a few months in the freezer.

How to Use Your Homemade BBQ Sauce

If you’re a BBQ sauce fan then you know just how versatile this sauce is. If you’ve only ever had it when eating BBQ meat, you’re missing out! Here are a few of my other favorite ways to use BBQ sauce:

Can I Reduce the Sugar?

BBQ sauce is by nature a sweet sauce. The sugar in this recipe (both the brown sugar and molasses) serve to sweeten the sauce, balance the acidity, and create a slight glaze-like texture. The amount of sugar listed in the recipe below is balanced to my taste buds, but you can always experiment with a lower sugar content to see if it’s palatable to you. Or try Googling a low sugar BBQ sauce to find a recipe that is already specifically designed to be balanced with a lower sugar content.

Two grilled chicken breasts coated in homemade bbq sauce with a dish of sauce and brush on the side.

 

Homemade BBQ Sauce

This sweet, tangy, and rich homemade bbq sauce takes only minutes to make, uses no bottled ketchup, and is great for more than just grilling!

  • 8 oz. tomato sauce ($0.25)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste ($0.10)
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar ($0.12)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.08)
  • 2 Tbsp molasses* ($0.35)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon ($0.05)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce ($0.02)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika ($0.10)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne ($0.01)
  • freshly cracked pepper (about 10 cranks of a pepper mill) ($0.02)
  • salt to taste ($0.02)
  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the salt in a small sauce pan. Stir and heat over medium heat, allowing it to come up to a slight simmer.

  2. Let the sauce cook and simmer lightly, stirring often, for five minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed (I did not add any).

*Not black strap molasses. I used Grandma’s molasses, which is a light, unsulfured molasses.

Close up of homemade BBQ sauce being brushed onto a grilled chicken breast

Are you ready to see how fast and easy this is? Check out the whopping two step by step photos! 🤣

Step by Step Photos

Ingredients for homemade bbq sauce in the pot

This sauce is so ridiculously easy to make. Simply combine all of the ingredients, minus the salt, in a small sauce pot: 8 oz. tomato sauce, 2 Tbsp tomato paste, 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp molasses, 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/8 tsp cayenne, and some about ten cranks of a pepper mill. (that’s ice on the tomato paste, I had some saved in the freezer.)

Close up of finished homemade bbq sauce in the pot with a spoon

Stir and heat the ingredients in the pot over medium heat. Allow the sauce to come up to a slight simmer, then continue to stir and cook for about five minutes. Make sure to stir often. After simmering for about five minutes, give it a taste and add salt if needed (I did not add salt). And that’s it! The sauce is ready to use.

Molasses Jar

P.S. This is the molasses I use. It’s a light (not black strap) unsulfured molasses. For more info on different types of molasses, check out Everything You Need to Know About Molasses, from The Kitchn.

Homemade BBQ sauce being brushed onto a grilled chicken breast in a white dish with a bowl of sauce on the side.

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BBQ Beef and Beans https://www.budgetbytes.com/bbq-beef-and-beans/ https://www.budgetbytes.com/bbq-beef-and-beans/#comments Sun, 23 Jun 2019 20:53:05 +0000 https://www.budgetbytes.com/?p=44496 It’s been a while since I’ve made something that was just a straight up simple comfort food, and after a super long week comfort food was definitely in order. These BBQ Beef and Beans are like the love child of baked beans and beef chili. They’re hearty and flavorful, they meal prep well, and can […]

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It’s been a while since I’ve made something that was just a straight up simple comfort food, and after a super long week comfort food was definitely in order. These BBQ Beef and Beans are like the love child of baked beans and beef chili. They’re hearty and flavorful, they meal prep well, and can be as no-fuss or as “from scratch” as you want them to be. I’ve included instructions to make them vegetarian or to amp up the vegetable content below, so scroll on down to see more!

A skillet full of BBQ Beef and Beans with a wooden spoon and a black ceramic bowl of BBQ sauce on the side.

P.S. I’ll be posting this homemade BBQ Sauce recipe on its own tomorrow, along with plenty of ways to put it to good use!

Make it Vegetarian

To make this dish vegetarian, you’ll need to swap the Worcestershire sauce for a vegetarian version (Worcestershire contains anchovies). Annies Vegan Worcestershire Sauce is the most popular brand and can be found at stores like Whole Foods, or other large grocers. Once your BBQ sauce is vegetarian, just swap the ground beef for one extra can of beans. I suggest pinto, so you have a nice trio of shapes and colors with your beans, but you could also double up on either the kidney or black beans.

Pump Up The Vegetables

I’m usually all about adding vegetables into my dishes wherever possible, but today I just wanted to keep things as simple as possible. If you want to add a few vegetables in there to balance things out, you can add a diced onion, diced bell pepper, or even some shredded cabbage (make it easy and use bagged shredded coleslaw mix, a couple handfuls added when you brown the beef should do it). 

Front view of a bowl of BBQ Beef and Beans topped with cheddar and green onion, and a fork lifting a bite.

Homemade BBQ Sauce vs. Store Bought

I had been working on a homemade BBQ sauce recipe this week, so I went ahead and used my homemade sauce in this recipe. If you don’t feel like making your own, or don’t have the necessary ingredients on hand, feel free to sub 1 cup of your favorite bottled BBQ sauce.

How to Serve BBQ Beef and Beans

I served mine bowl-style over some brown rice and topped with cheddar and green onion, but you could also serve this on a bun like a slider or sloppy joe! Or just on its own with some saltine or oyster crackers. 

Close up of BBQ Beef and Beans in the skillet, topped with sliced green onion.

 

BBQ Beef and Beans

Serve these sweet, tangy, and savory BBQ Beef and Beans with rice and cheese for a simple and comforting weeknight dinner the whole family will love.

  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.04)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef ($2.65)
  • 1 15oz. can kidney beans ($0.89)
  • 1 15oz. can black beans ($0.89)

Homemade BBQ Sauce*

  • 8 oz. tomato sauce ($0.25)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste ($0.10)
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar ($0.12)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.08)
  • 2 Tbsp molasses ($0.35)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard ($0.05)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce ($0.02)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika ($0.10)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper ($0.01)
  • freshly cracked pepper ($0.02)
  • salt to taste ($0.02)

For Serving

  • 4 cups <strong>cooked</strong> rice ($0.80)
  • 4 oz. shredded cheddar ($0.85)
  • 2 green onions, sliced ($0.22)
  1. Add the oil and minced garlic to a large skillet. Sauté the garlic for one minute over medium heat. Add the ground beef and continue to sauté until cooked through. If using a higher fat content beef, drain the excess fat before moving on to the next step.

  2. Rinse the two cans of beans, then drain them well. Add the beans to the skillet with the ground beef.

  3. Add the ingredients for the Homemade BBQ Sauce to the skillet (tomato sauce, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and some freshly cracked pepper).

  4. Stir and cook the mixture until the sauce ingredients have combined and created a thick sauce. Allow the sauce to come up to a simmer and then simmer the beef and beans in the sauce for 5 minutes, stirring often. Taste the sauce and add salt to taste (I added 1/2 tsp).

  5. To serve the BBQ Beef and Beans, place 1 cup cooked rice in each bowl, top with 1 cup of the BBQ Beef and Beans, then top with about 1/4 cup shredded cheddar and a sprinkle of sliced green onion.

*To make this recipe faster and easier, substitute 1 cup of your favorite bottled BBQ sauce for the homemade BBQ sauce listed above.

Love BBQ sauce? Try my BBQ Beef and Cabbage, Loaded Mashed Potato Bowls, Sheet Pan BBQ Meatloaf Dinner, or BBQ Bean Sliders.

Overhead view of a bowl full of BBQ Beef and Beans, served with rice and topped with cheddar and green onion. A bowl of green onion on the side.

Step by Step Photos

Cooked brown rice in the pot.

If you’ll be serving your BBQ Beef and Beans with rice, begin cooking it first so that it’s ready when the beef and beans are finished cooking (cook your rice according to the package directions). 

Minced garlic cooking in a skillet with oil. A wooden spatula in the skillet.

Add 1 Tbsp cooking oil to a large skillet, along with 2 minced cloves of garlic. Sauté over medium for one minute.

Browned ground beef.

Add 1/2 lb. ground beef and continue to sauté until the beef is cooked through. If you’re using a higher fat content ground beef, drain the excess fat before moving onto the next step.

Rinsed beans in the skillet with the browned beef.

Rinse and drain one 15 oz. can of kidney beans and one 15 oz. can of black beans. Add them to the skillet with the browned beef.

BBQ Sauce Ingredients in the skillet with the beef and beans.

Next, add the ingredients for the homemade bbq sauce (8 oz. tomato sauce, 2 Tbsp tomato paste, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp molasses, 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, and some freshly cracked pepper). Or add 1 cup of your favorite bottled BBQ sauce. You may notice that my tomato paste is covered in frost. I routinely portion and freeze my leftover tomato paste in 1 Tbsp portions to save it for later. :)

Finished BBQ Beef and Beans in the skillet with a wooden spatula

Continue to stir and cook the mixture until all the sauce ingredients are completely combined. Allow the sauce to come up to a simmer, then let the skillet simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Finally, taste the BBQ Beef and Beans and add salt to taste (I added 1/2 tsp). 

Finished bowl of BBQ Beef and Beans served over rice and topped with cheddar and green onions.

To serve, place 1 cup cooked rice in each bowl, top with 1 cup BBQ Beef and Beans, some shredded cheddar, and sliced green onions. Then go to town!

 

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Baked Spicy Chicken Sandwiches and My Stonyfield Organic Experience https://www.budgetbytes.com/baked-spicy-chicken-sandwiches/ https://www.budgetbytes.com/baked-spicy-chicken-sandwiches/#comments Tue, 18 Jun 2019 17:24:37 +0000 https://www.budgetbytes.com/?p=44424 I bet you’ve never had a spicy chicken sandwich with yogurt in it before! Sounds weird, but stick with me. I love using basic pantry staples in fun new ways, so when Stonyfield Organic asked if I wanted to collaborate, I was all in. I created these Spicy Chicken Sandwiches to show how versatile yogurt […]

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I bet you’ve never had a spicy chicken sandwich with yogurt in it before! Sounds weird, but stick with me. I love using basic pantry staples in fun new ways, so when Stonyfield Organic asked if I wanted to collaborate, I was all in. I created these Spicy Chicken Sandwiches to show how versatile yogurt can be and how it can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. Because the more versatile an ingredient it, the less likely it is to go to waste, and we don’t like food waste around here!

This blog post is sponsored by Stonyfield Organic. In addition to creating a recipe using their yogurt, Stonyfield Organic invited me out to Stowe, Vermont to tour a couple of the farms that supply their dairy, learn about organic dairy farming, what their company is doing to promote healthy food, a healthy planet, and healthy people, and what we can do to help.

Overhead view of two plates with Baked Spicy Chicken Sandwiches with honey yogurt slaw and crinkle potato chips on a blue background.

I think it’s so important to see where our food comes from, but we don’t all have that opportunity to visit the farms that supply our food. So while I’ve got your attention with these mouth-watering Baked Spicy Chicken Sandwiches, I’m also going to share a little bit about the trip and what I learned. ;) The Stonyfield farm tour ended up being an unexpectedly transformative experience for me, so I hope my experience resonates with some of you as well. You can also view some of the saved stories from the farm tour on my Instagram account, under the saved highlight titled “Stonyfield.”

Stonyfield Organic Cows in Pasture

The cows enjoy grazing in a picturesque pasture in Stow, VT.

Who is Stonyfield Organic?

We all recognize brand names and logos, but rarely get to know the story behind the brands, and the Stonyfield Organic story is a doozy! Stonyfield Organic actually started as a non-profit organic farming school, and only began selling yogurt as a way to support the school. 35 years later, after achieving immense yogurt success, their mission remains the same. They simply want to improve the health of our food, planet, and its people. If you want to hear the long version of the back story, read the Stonyfield Organic Story on their website, and I highly suggest checking out the How I Built This podcast episode about Stonyfield Organic

Stonyfield Organic is a Certified B Corporation

“Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.” – bcorporation.net

We spent the entire day with one of the founders, Gary Hirshberg, as he told us about his dreams, the programs and foundations the company supports, and how we can all get involved. It was so refreshing to see a company with so much integrity and one that has motives and goals other than just pure profit. 🙌Gimme all that B-Corp yogurt!!

A young farm boy petting a cow in the pasture.

This boy loves his cows like they’re part of the family. They all have names, personalities, and tons of love from the family that cares for them.

Why Organic?

Before going on this trip my understanding of organic farming was extremely limited. I kind of just thought it was all about not using synthetic chemicals, but it’s about so much more. Organic farming is a synergistic farming method that benefits the earth, cows, farmers, and consumers. While there are so many awesome aspects of this farming method, here are a few things that really resonated with me:

  • Grazing and crop rotation increases biodiversity in the fields by 30%, produces more nutrient dense feed for the cows, and can actually pull more CO2 from the atmosphere than it contributes. 
  • Cows are required to graze at least 120 days per year, have cage-free living conditions with access to the outdoors, and have at least 30% of their diet come from fresh pasture (more dry hay and alfalfa is used in the winter, but on average they only consume 10% grains). 
  • Cows that are actively pasture grazing produce milk that is 62% higher in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • The lower stress levels and more nutritious diets of organic cows reduce illnesses and on average organic cows live twice as long as conventional cows.
  • Organic dairy prices are more stable and provide a more reliable market for farmers to build their business upon. The farmers have to spend less on dry grain feed, less on medication for sick cows, and their cows live twice as long.

Are all non-organic farms bad? No, not at all. In fact, one of the farms we visited told us that they had begun using these practices before becoming a certified organic farm just because they worked so well. But we can’t personally visit every farm that supplies our food to see for ourselves how they operate. The certified organic seal is a guarantee that someone went and checked out that farm for you and made sure their farming practices met a predetermined set of standards. With that seal you know what you’re getting without having to do the leg work yourself.

A cow going in for a kiss during a selfie on the farm.

Yes, this cow landed a kiss right on my face right after the camera snapped the photo! <3

Is Organic Affordable?

It’s no secret that organic products cost more than conventional, and at this point they may not be affordable for everyone. But we all deserve to live in a healthy environment and have access to safe, high quality food. So I have a new goal, and hopefully those of you who are able will join me. My goal is to buy organic whenever possible to help promote the industry, grow the supply, and hopefully make them more accessible to everyone in the future. I want us all to have access to amazing, high quality food.

“Farmers who get the message that consumers care only about price will themselves care only about yield. This is how a cheap food economy reinforces itself.”  – Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

The industry reacts to where we spend our dollars much faster than laws and regulations can be changed, so I’m going to do my part by voting with my dollars. If you have the means, I hope you will join me. If you don’t have the means, join me in spirit, and do what you can when you can in the future. ❤️

Stonyfield Organic Whole Milk Yogurt container with a baked spicy chicken sandwich in the background.

Now Back to the Baked Spicy Chicken Sandwiches!

Whew, let me catch my breath because I’m a bit moved. Okay, so this recipe… After having success using plain yogurt in place of buttermilk to bread my Homemade Baked Chicken Nuggets, I knew I had to do it in sandwich form. The process is basically the same, except I added spicy heat in three layers to the chicken! YES! And then I made a simple Honey Yogurt Coleslaw that is every so slightly sweet, to balance the heat of the chicken. 

And yes, I used organic chicken for the sandwiches, too. ;)

A hand holding a Baked Spicy Chicken Sandwich against a blue background.

Can These Sandwiches be Reheated?

These Baked Spicy Chicken Sandwiches are definitely best when baked fresh, hence the small two sandwich batch size, but I have had decent luck reheating the baked chicken in a skillet over medium-low heat. They aren’t as crispy as they are when freshly baked, but the hot skillet does get rid of some of the moisture making the breading less soggy.

Slaw Options

If you’re not into a sweet slaw, try making a batch of my Homemade Ranch Dressing to use as your slaw dressing instead. Ranch pairs great with spicy chicken. P.S. the ranch dressing recipe also uses plain yogurt. ;)

 

Baked Spicy Chicken Sandwiches

These baked spicy chicken sandwiches have three layers of heat and are topped with a creamy-sweet quick homemade coleslaw.

Baked Spicy Chicken

  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs ($0.13)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika ($0.05)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne ($0.05)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • freshly cracked pepper ($0.02)
  • 1.5 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.06)
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt ($0.25)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • 1 tsp hot sauce ($0.04)
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2/3 lb.) ($3.99)

Honey Yogurt Slaw

  • 3 cups shredded cabbage slaw mix (pre-bagged) ($0.65)
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise ($0.17)
  • 1/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt ($0.33)
  • 1/2 Tbsp honey ($0.06)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard ($0.06)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • freshly cracked pepper ($0.02)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet to hold the breaded chicken.

  2. In a wide shallow bowl or container, combine the bread crumbs, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper for the chicken's breading. Once combined, add the cooking oil and stir until the seasoned breadcrumbs resemble damp sand.

  3. In a separate wide shallow bowl or container, combine the yogurt, salt, and hot sauce.

  4. Place the chicken breast on a cutting board, cover with plastic, then use a mallet or rolling pin to gently pound the chicken breast to an even thickness, no more than 3/4-inch thick. Cut the chicken breast in half, then season with a pinch of salt and a pinch of cayenne.

  5. Dip each piece of chicken into the yogurt and hot sauce mixture, making sure to fully coat the chicken, then into the seasoned bread crumbs, again coating both sides. Place the coated chicken on the prepared baking sheet with wire rack.

  6. Bake the chicken for 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF, carefully flipping the chicken once half way through.

  7. While the chicken is baking, prepare the honey yogurt slaw. In a small bowl stir together the mayonnaise, yogurt, honey, Dijon, vinegar, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper.

  8. Place the shredded cabbage slaw mix in a large bowl, pour the prepared dressing over top, and stir until the cabbage is coated in dressing.

  9. Once the chicken is finished baking, build the sandwiches. Place one piece of spicy chicken on each bun and top with a generous pile of the honey yogurt slaw. Enjoy!

One Baked Spicy Chicken Sandwich on a plate with wavy potato chips and a bowl of honey yogurt slaw on the side.

Step by Step Photos

Spicy Chicken Breading Mixture

Begin by preheating the oven to 425ºF. Place a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet to hold the breaded chicken. To a wide shallow bowl or dish add 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1/8 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper. Stir the breadcrumbs and spices together until combined, then add 1.5 Tbsp cooking oil and stir until the mixture resembles damp sand.

Spicy yogurt mixture for chicken

In a separate wide shallow bowl or dish, combine 1/4 cup plain yogurt with 1/8 tsp salt, and 1 tsp hot sauce. 

Pounded chicken on a cutting board with rolling pin on the side.

Place one boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2/3 lb.) on a cutting board and cover with plastic to prevent splatter. Use a rolling pin or mallet to gently pound the chicken to an even thickness, no more than 3/4-inch thick.

Cut and seasoned chicken breast on cutting board

Cut the chicken breast in half and season each side with a pinch of salt and cayenne.

Chicken breast being breaded next to one already breaded piece of chicken.

Dip each piece of chicken into the spicy yogurt mixture, making sure it’s completely coated, then into the seasoned breadcrumbs, again making sure they are completely coated. Place the breaded chicken on the prepared baking sheet with wire rack.

Baked Spicy Chicken Breast pieces on baking sheet

Bake the chicken for about 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF, flipping the chicken once half way through (I usually do it at the 15 minute mark). The best way to flip the chicken without the breading falling off is to use tongs and pinch the sides of the chicken pieces, rather than pinching top and bottom.

Honey Yogurt Slaw Dressing

While the chicken is baking, prepare the honey yogurt slaw. In a small bowl, combine 2 Tbsp mayonnaise, 1/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt, 1/2 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1/4 tsp salt, and a little freshly cracked pepper. Stir until smooth.

Combine shredded cabbage and dressing in bowl. >

Pour the dressing over 3 cups shredded coleslaw mix (pre-bagged shredded cabbage and carrots). Stir until the cabbage is coated in dressing.

Two Baked Spicy Chicken Sandwiches against a blue wall, chips on the side.

Then just build the spicy chicken sandwiches. Place one piece of baked spicy chicken on each bun and add a generous pile of the honey yogurt slaw. Enjoy!

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Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Peanut Lime Dressing https://www.budgetbytes.com/baked-sweet-potato-fries-with-peanut-lime-dressing/ https://www.budgetbytes.com/baked-sweet-potato-fries-with-peanut-lime-dressing/#comments Sat, 15 Jun 2019 22:18:33 +0000 https://www.budgetbytes.com/?p=44444 This might be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. And I only happened upon the combo by chance because I had leftover Peanut Lime Dressing and a random sweet potato in my pantry! It must be divine intervention. And now it is my duty to share these Baked Sweet Potato Fries doused with […]

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This might be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. And I only happened upon the combo by chance because I had leftover Peanut Lime Dressing and a random sweet potato in my pantry! It must be divine intervention. And now it is my duty to share these Baked Sweet Potato Fries doused with Peanut Lime Dressing with the rest of the world, because everyone deserves to experience this food bliss.

A wooden plate full of baked sweet potato fries with peanut lime dressing, cilantro, peanuts, lime wedges, and a bowl of dressing on the side.

Sweet, savory, sour, spicy, and a little crunchy. These Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Peanut Lime Dressing hit ALL the flavor bases, making them completely addictive.

Are These Baked Sweet Potato “Fries” Crispy?

Nope. That’s just not how baked sweet potatoes are. I don’t care what tricks or tips you use (cornstarch, oil, whatever), baked sweet potatoes will never be crispy like deep fried sweet potatoes. But as long as you understand that going in, these “fries” to do not disappoint! I’m pretty sure that once you taste them, nothing else will matter anyway.

Make it a Meal

I could happily eat this entire recipe (2 servings) and be happy with that as a meal, but if you’re looking for something a little more well rounded, I suggest serving this with something super simple, like a grilled chicken breast or fried tofu. There is so much flavor on these fries that you don’t want anything to really compete.

The recipe below includes a half-batch of my Homemade Peanut Lime Dressing, but if you make a full batch instead, you’ll have enough to drizzle over a piece of chicken or fried tofu. That’s actually what I did today because I happened to have some chicken that needed to be cooked and it was absolutely delightful. Or, since you already have limes and cilantro, go ahead and make some Cilantro Lime Chicken. Boom. 

A plate of baked sweet potato fries loaded with cilantro and peanuts next to a bowl of peanut lime dressing.

 

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Peanut Lime Dressing

Oven baked sweet potato fries drizzled with homemade peanut lime dressing, piled high with fresh cilantro, chopped peanuts, and a pinch of spicy red pepper.

Peanut Lime Dressing

  • 1.5 Tbsp natural style peanut butter ($0.11)
  • 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.02)
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced ($0.08)
  • 1/4 tsp grated fresh ginger ($0.05)
  • 1 lime ($0.50)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce ($0.04)
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil* ($0.41)

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

  • 1 sweet potato (about 1 lb.) ($1.29)
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.20)
  • 1 pinch salt ($0.01)

Toppings

  • 1 handful fresh cilantro ($0.38)
  • 1/4 cup peanuts ($0.12)
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper ($0.02)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Peel the sweet potato, then cut it into 1/2-inch wide fries.

  2. Smear a small amount of the cooking oil onto the surface of a large baking sheet, then smear it around making sure the baking sheet is completely coated. Add the sweet potato fries, then drizzle the remainder of the 1 Tbsp oil over top. Toss the sweet potatoes until they are fully coated in oil. Top with a pinch of salt.

  3. Transfer the sweet potatoes to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven, stir them well making sure every piece has been turned, then bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until they are blistered and browned.

  4. While the sweet potato fries are baking, prepare the peanut lime dressing. In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, brown sugar, minced garlic, grated ginger, 1 Tbsp juice from the lime, soy sauce, and oil. Stir or whisk until the dressing is smooth.

  5. Roughly chop the fresh cilantro and peanuts.

  6. Once the sweet potatoes have finished baking, divide them between two plates. Drizzle the peanut lime dressing over top, then finish with a generous handful of chopped cilantro, a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.

*Neutral oils are any light colored oils that do not have a strong flavor. Oils such as canola, safflower, peanut, grape seed, avocado, or sesame (untoasted). 

A wedge of lime being squeezed over a plate of baked sweet potato fries with peanut lime dressing.

If you have leftover lime from the dressing, it can be cut into wedges and served with the fries, and the juice squeezed over top.

Step by Step Photos

A peeled sweet potato being sliced into fries.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Peel a one pound sweet potato, then slice it into 1/2-inch “fries.” I find the easiest way to do this is to cut the sweet potato length-wise, lay it down on the cut flat edge, then slice it into 1/2-inch wide strips. Then turn each strip on its side and cut into 1/2-inch wide pieces again.

Sweet potato fries coated in oil on a baking sheet ready to bake.

Drizzle a small amount of oil onto a large baking sheet and smear it around to create a solid barrier between the baking surface and the starchy sweet potatoes. Then add the sweet potatoes, drizzle with the rest of the tablespoon of oil, and toss until the sweet potatoes are fully coated. Add a pinch of salt.

Baked sweet potato fries on the baking sheet

Bake the sweet potato fries in the preheated 425ºF oven for 20 minutes, then take them out and stir them well. Make sure each piece gets flipped because the side touching the baking sheet is what browns. Return the fries to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until they are brown and blistered.

Soy sauce, lime juice, and oil added to the bowl.

While the sweet potatoes are baking, make the peanut lime dressing. Combine 1.5 Tbsp natural-style peanut butter, 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 small clove of garlic (minced), about 1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger, 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice, 1 tsp soy sauce, and 2 Tbsp neutral oil. Stir or whisk until the dressing is smooth.

Chopped cilantro and peanuts on a cutting board.

Also roughly chop one large handful of fresh cilantro and about 1/4 cup peanuts.

Peanut Lime Dressing being drizzled over baked sweet potato fries

When the sweet potato fries have finished baking, divide them between two plates, then drizzle with the peanut lime dressing (about 2 Tbsp each plate).

A plate full of baked sweet potato fries and peanut lime dressing, a hand sneaking one fry off the side.

Then finish them off with the chopped cilantro, peanuts, and a pinch of crushed red pepper. If you have any leftover lime, you can cut it into wedges and serve with them with the fries.

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Chimichurri Chicken Kebabs https://www.budgetbytes.com/chimichurri-chicken-kebabs/ https://www.budgetbytes.com/chimichurri-chicken-kebabs/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2019 17:18:43 +0000 https://www.budgetbytes.com/?p=44344 “Chicken and vegetables” sounds like some sort of boring diet food, but when you skewer them on a stick (food on a stick is always more fun) and drizzle them with the most vibrant and fresh chimichurri sauce, you’ve suddenly got a meal worth remembering. These Chimichurri Chicken Kebabs scream summer and are just waiting […]

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“Chicken and vegetables” sounds like some sort of boring diet food, but when you skewer them on a stick (food on a stick is always more fun) and drizzle them with the most vibrant and fresh chimichurri sauce, you’ve suddenly got a meal worth remembering. These Chimichurri Chicken Kebabs scream summer and are just waiting to be the star of your next backyard BBQ. But don’t worry, if you don’t have a grill you can just as easily make these using your oven’s broiler, like I did.

A spoonful of Chimichurri being drizzled over the Chimichurri Chicken Kebabs on a bed of rice.

What is Chimichurri?

If you’ve never heard of Chimichurri, it’s an amazingly fresh and vibrant sauce hailing from Argentina. It boasts fresh parsley, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and other herbs and spices. It’s super easy to make and once you do, you’ll want to drizzle it on EVERYTHING. See my Chimichurri Sauce recipe post for more ideas on how to use this amazing sauce.

How to Cook Chimichurri Chicken Kebabs

You have a few options here. The first is to grill over an open flame. The pieces of chicken on these kebabs is quite small, so they cook through within minutes, but for extra security it’s always a good idea to use an instant read thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reaches 165ºF. 

Or you can use your oven’s broiler to mimic a grill, like I have done below.

What is a Broiler?

The broiler on your oven is a heat element that provides close, direct heat, very similar to a grill. If you’re using a gas oven, the broiler will be an open gas flame. If you’re using an electric oven, the broiler will be a heating coil. In both cases, the heat is very close to the food, making it great for browning and crisping food.

The location of the oven’s broiler can vary, so you may need to give your oven a quick look. Many ovens have the broiler located on the ceiling of the main cooking compartment, while other ovens will have the broiler located in the drawer below the main cooking compartment. In either location, you should have the ability to adjust the rack up or down to make your food closer or further away from the heat. The closer your food is to the heat, the faster it will cook, so always check your food often when broiling to avoid burning.

Here’s a great article about Broiling from Bon Appétit about broilers and how to maximize their crispy potential, if you’d like more reading.

Chicken and vegetables removed from one skewer of a chimichurri chicken kebab, on a bed of rice.

Make Your Chimichurri Chicken Kebabs Vegetarian

Yeah, that title is an oxymoron, I know. But you do have options to make these kebabs vegetarian. I would try adding one or two more vegetables, and marinating the mushrooms in some chimichurri, like I did the chicken. The mushrooms are like little sponges and will absorb all that awesome flavor. You can also try tofu, but I think the texture of mushrooms would be better than tofu.

Here are some other vegetables that will work great, whether you want to make these vegetarian or just switch up the vegetables to go with your chicken: yellow squash, eggplant, radish, or tomatoes.

 

Chimichurri Chicken Kebabs

These Chimichurri Chicken Kebabs feature fresh vegetables and marinated chicken cooked over an open flame, then drizzled with a vibrant chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce

  • 1 cup Italian parsley, packed ($0.35)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, packed ($0.19)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil ($0.83)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar ($0.40)
  • 3 cloves garlic ($0.24)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano ($0.10)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper ($0.02)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)

Kebabs

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (3/4 to 1 lb.) ($4.49)
  • 1 bell pepper ($0.66)
  • 1 zucchini ($0.85)
  • 1 red onion ($0.33)
  • 8 oz button mushrooms ($0.99)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.26)
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper ($0.05)

Optional for serving

  • 4 cups cooked rice ($0.47)
  1. If using wooden skewers, place them in a shallow dish and add an inch or two of water. Soak the skewers as you prepare the ingredients. This prevents them from burning and catching fire from the close, intense heat of the grill or broiler.

  2. First prepare the chimichurri. Pull the parsley and cilantro leaves from their stems, then chop them finely. Mince the garlic.

  3. Combine the chopped parsley, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, cumin, crushed red pepper, and salt in a bowl. Stir to combine.

  4. Cut the chicken breast into 1-inch cubes. Count your chicken pieces so you'll know roughly how many you want to use per skewer later. Place the cubed chicken in a bowl and add two spoonfuls of the prepared chimichurri, saving the remaining chimichurri to drizzle on after cooking. Stir to coat the chicken in the chimichurri.

  5. Dice the bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, and red onion into 1-1.5 inch pieces. Place the vegetables in a large bowl and add 2 Tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables until they are well coated in oil.

  6. Adjust your oven's rack so that the top of a baking sheet or broiler pan will be about 5 inches from the oven's broiler. Turn the broiler on to begin pre-heating.

  7. Place two wire racks on a baking sheet, or use a broiler pan. Begin building your kebabs by adding chicken and vegetable pieces in random order. I had about 24 chicken pieces, so I used three pieces of chicken per skewer, adding random vegetables between.

  8. Place your kebabs on the prepared baking sheet or broiler pan. Once all the skewers are filled, place the pan under the broiler. Broil until the tops of the vegetables just begin to brown (about 8-10 minutes). Watch the kebabs closely, as broilers can cook food VERY QUICKLY. Remove the pan from the oven, carefully flip the kebabs and place back under the broiler. Broil until the second side begins to brown (about 4-5 minutes).

  9. Serve the chimichurri chicken kebabs over a bed of rice with a spoonful or two of the remaining chimichurr drizzled over top.

 

Front view of a plate with rice and two chimichurri chicken kebabs, with a wooden bowl of chimichurri in the back.

P.S. This works great as a meal prep!!

Step by Step Photos

Wooden kebab skewers soaking in a dish of water

If you’re using wooden skewers, begin soaking them in a dish with 1-2 inches of water. This keeps them from burning and catching fire as the kebabs cook.

Chopped parsley and cilantro on a cutting board with minced garlic.

Make the chimichurri first, since it will be both a marinade for the chicken and a finishing sauce. Pull the leaves from about 1 cup of fresh parsley and 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro. Chop them finely. Mince three cloves of garlic.

Chopped herbs stirred into olive and oil mixture.

Combine the parsley, cilantro, and garlic with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, and 1/2 tsp salt.

Diced chicken breast coated in chimichurri

Cut one boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 3/4 to 1 lb.) into one-inch chunks. Place the cubed chicken in a bowl and add 2 spoonfuls of the prepared chimichurri. Save the rest of the chimichurri for later. Stir the chicken to coat in the chimichurri.

Diced vegetables coated in oil, salt, and pepper.

Chop one bell pepper, one red onion, one zucchini, and 8oz. button mushrooms into 1-inch pieces. Place them in a bowl, add 2 Tbsp olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, then toss until the vegetables are well coated in oil.

Adjust oven rack under broiler

Adjust your oven’s rack so that the baking sheet or broiler pan you’ll be using is about 5 inches under the broiler. This was the second level down from the top for me. If I were to put it closer the kebabs would cook a little too fast for my liking and give me a little less control. When they’re still close enough to brown but not at lightning speed, I feel like I have more control.

Build Chimichurri Chicken Kebabs

Place a couple wire cooling racks over a baking sheet or use a broiler pan to allow the kebabs to drain as they broil. Begin to build your chicken kebabs by alternating vegetable and chicken pieces until the skewers are full.

Finished chicken kebabs ready to broil

Once all the kebabs are filled, it’s time to broil! Place them under the broiler and cook until the tops just begin to brown on the edges (about 8-10 minutes). Carefully remove them from the oven, flip the kebabs, and cook on the second side until they begin to brown again (4-5 mintes). The second side is always faster because the kebabs are already hot.

Broiled kebabs on the baking sheet.

See how the juices were able to drain away from the kebabs? This allows them to really brown instead of stewing in their own juices.

Chimichurri being drizzled over two chicken kebabs on a plate with a bed of rice.

To serve the chimichurri chicken kebabs, place them over a bed of rice and drizzle with a couple more spoonfuls of the fresh chimichurri. I highly suggest rice because it will soak up any flavorful runoff of chimichurri! 

Chicken and vegetables removed from one chimichurri chicken kebab, on a bed of rice with a fork.

Slide your chicken and vegetables off the skewer and enjoy!

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