Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake

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First off, I apologize for my 3-week hiatus. Between vacations, visitors and pure laziness I have been neglecting my blog.

About 6 months ago I splurged and bought a VitaMix machine. Honestly it was a spur of the moment/ impulse decision (online shopping), and I initially had serious buyer’s remorse. Who pays $400+ for a blender? This girl. I always see it demonstrated at Costco and Whole Foods and it’s one of those things that has been on my wish list for years. During one of my temporary health kicks I decided that I HAD to have it so I went online in the middle of the night and ordered it. Don’t you just hate how easy Amazon makes it to spend all of your money? That whole one-click shopping thing is dangerous.

Anyway, my guilt went away shortly after receiving the Mercedes Benz of blenders. This thing is seriously worth it. Have you ever watched YouTube videos about it? The thing can blend BRICKS. My lights literally flicker on and off when I use it and my dog always runs under my bed when I turn it on. You can use it for so many different recipes too– soups, dressings, smoothies, shakes, ice cream…the list goes on.

Enough blender talk. I’ve always wanted to find a post-workout protein drink that wouldn’t require me to plug my nose and chug. I can’t believe some of the stuff people force themselves to drink. Most of them make me gag. I set out to find something I could actually tolerate and after reading many reviews and talking to a few experts I decided on About Time 100% All Natural Whey Isolate (chocolate flavor). It was a little more than I wanted to spend ($37 bucks for 32 servings), but I was willing to pay for a better taste. It’s also much more natural than other protein powders out there– it has 5 ingredients and is sweetened with Stevia.  For a post-workout drink I would just blend with water, but for a meal replacement shake I made this awesome recipe below.

Active women need on average about 50-60 grams of protein per day and my shake will take care of half your daily protein needs. Even better– one serving of this tasty treat will only set you back about 220 calories.

Ingredients

Servings: 1

  • 1/2 banana ($.10)
  • 1.5 tbs natural creamy peanut butter ($.10)
  • 5 ice cubes
  • 8 oz water
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder ($1.09)

Total: $1.29

Instructions

Put all ingredients in blender and blend 15-20 seconds

 

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

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I get very suspicious when the words “fat free” and cake are used in the same sentence. They really don’t belong together and when they are, I get worried. There are so many fat free desserts out there but most loaded with trans fats, hydrogenated oils and artificial ingredients. So basically, all you’re really doing is clogging your arteries to save a few calories. Don’t get me wrong, there are many healthy guilt-free sweets out there, but I honestly believe it’s better to indulge in the real stuff as long as you do so in moderation. So many Americans (mostly girls my age) have become obsessed with anything labeled “skinny”, “guiltless” or “sinless”. Don’t let those marketing jerks fool you. If you want a freaking brownie, have a small one. Nobody is going to force feed you an entire tray of them.

Now, with all that said I discovered a perfect compromise to satiate any sweet tooth. I would love to take credit for this one, but the recipe has been floating around the web for years. I actually have no idea who came up with this but if I did I would give them a pat on the back.  It’s basically two ingredients: angel food cake mix and a can of pineapple. Cheap, easy, healthy– perfect.

Boxed cake mixes sometimes freak me out, mostly because you can’t even pronounce half of their ingredients, so I opted for an organic cake mix. It was only 75 cents more. I also bought crushed pineapple in it’s own juice, NOT syrup. As if this could get any better, I went completely Betty Crocker and made my own whipped cream (1 cup cold heavy cream and 2 tbs sugar, whip with hand mixer for 5 minutes).

Enjoy this heavenly treat!

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Ingredients

  • 1 Box Angel Food Cake ($3.50)
  • 1 20 oz can crushed pineapple ($1.00)

Total: $4.50

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Use a bundt pan but do NOT grease it. Mix pineapple and cake mix in large mixing bowl. Pour batter in to Bundt pan and bake for 32-35 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Roasted Harissa Chicken

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Chicken! Oh, chicken! You don’t get enough credit. I hate when people immediately put you in the boring and blasé bucket. I know, sometimes people cook you far too long and you end up tasting like mulch.  Sometimes people dredge you in flour and lard and fry you into oblivion. You are misunderstood and stereotyped as common food. Honestly though,  you’re far too humble and should really start asserting yourself. Instead, you wait. You wait for someone to realize your true potential and elevate you to the ranks of filet mignon and Chilean sea bass.

There is nothing better than a whole roasted chicken. I think a lot of people are afraid to roast an entire bird but it’s really quite simple. You can be as basic as salt, pepper and olive oil or you can go crazy and experiment to your heart’s content. Carving does require some skill, but there are several YouTube videos out there to help any rookies in the kitchen.

I’m a huge fan of spice and lately I’ve been digging Harissa. If you aren’t familiar, Harissa is a crushed red chile paste originating from Tunisia. It’s a popular condiment in North African countries like Morocco, Libya and Algeria. Until creating this dish, I’ve never had Harissa with anything other than pita bread and/or raw veggies, but now I’ve realized its full culinary potential. It’s quite spicy, so if you are heat averse just use a little less or shop for a mild harissa paste.

This is a perfect candidate for a “one pan meal”. During the last 40 minutes of cooking, I threw in some diced new potatoes, a quartered fennel bulb and a couple sliced garlic cloves, all seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Yeah, we crushed this bird.
Yeah, we crushed this bird.

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole Chicken ($8.00)
  • 2.5 tbs Harissa (for those in the DMV, I used Harissa from Cava Mezze) ($.50)
  • 1 tbs olive oil ($.10)
  • 1 lemon ($.75)
  • salt and pepper

Total: $9.35

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425. Line roasting pan with aluminum foil.

Remove gizzard bag and rise chicken in cool water. Pat dry with paper towels.

Mix harissa and juice from 1/2 lemon. Loosen chicken skin and add harissa mix between skin and chicken. Add remaining paste to cavity and place 1/2 lemon inside cavity.

Rub chicken with 1 tbs olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Bake for 16 minutes at 425 then reduce heat to 400 and bake another 50-55 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from oven and let rest 5 minutes before carving.

Crème Brûlée

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Do you know of any five-year-olds that will tell you Crème Brûlée is their favorite dessert? Shouldn’t it be like Oreos or ice cream sundaes? Nope, not this girl. My infatuation with this caramelized custard began before I knew how to spell it. Don’t let the funny symbols and French name fool you. Despite being served at Michelin star restaurants, Crème Brûlée is incredibly easy to make and features four of the most rare ingredients on earth: sugar, eggs, vanilla and cream.

The one catch with this recipe is that you need to own a butane cooking torch. I will admit that I rarely use mine for culinary purposes but instead for lighting candles. You could probably also use it to keep poisonous bugs at bay or maybe even self defense! I was terrified to use mine for the first time but it’s actually quite easy to operate and all of them have a safety switch. Just keep it away from any toddlers or pets and you’ll be fine. If you can’t justify buying a torch, feel free to experiment with your oven broiler—I just can’t guarantee the same result.

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Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 1 1/3  cups heavy whipping cream ($1.00)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract ($.05)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar ($.20)
  • 4 egg yolks ($.50)
  • 4 tbs superfine sugar ($.25)

Total: $2.00

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare 4 ramekins by placing them on a large baking pan (with a rim) so that the dishes do not touch each other. Pour water in the baking pan so that the water comes up a little less than halfway on the ramekins.

In a medium saucepan, heat cream and remove from burner JUST before it comes to a boil.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs and 1/4 cup white sugar with a whisk. Gradually add in hot cream and whisk carefully so the eggs don’t curdle. Add in vanilla extract.

Pour equal amounts in dishes and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the batter doesn’t jiggle.

Let cool for a few minutes and then refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Sprinkle 1 tbs superfine sugar on each custard and use a butane torch (or broiler) to caramelize.

Chicken Marsala

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There are certain dishes that have a special place in my heart. This one isn’t a family recipe, but it’s one that I’ve ordered time and time again at a local Italian restaurant in my hometown. For some reason Chicken Marsala reminds me of home…not sure how an Italian dish can remind me of Florida but it does.

This recipe really couldn’t be any easier. You basically sauté chicken cutlets in butter, add in some shallots and mushrooms then make a reduction sauce with marsala wine, cream and a bit of lemon juice. I love that you can use plain ‘ol white button mushrooms in this recipe. These guys are getting upstaged lately by their snobby cousins crimini and portobello. I’m willing to bet money that if you can cook them right, button mushrooms can pull off as much flavor as their fancy friends. Did you know matsutake mushrooms are approximately $1,000 a pound! I should just try and harvest them the next time I’m in Japan and sell them on the mushroom black market.

Now don’t spend all your pennies when shopping for Marsala wine. It really won’t make your dish taste any better.  Actually it will make it taste very bad. Typically if you find Marsala in a liquor store or wine shop it will be sweet and NOT meant for cooking…I always find mine near the oil and vinegar at the supermarket. Don’t be a dummy and drink this variety. Dry Marsala is a fortified wine, which means it has a spirit added to it and will last for months if you keep it in your pantry. I use mine sparingly, so a large bottle usually lasts me about a year. Score!

Tonight chose asparagus and a simple pasta with roma tomatoes, garlic and basil. It would also be good with garlic mashed potatoes or even a simple garden salad. Buon appetito!

Ingredients

Servings: 2

  • 2 tbs butter ($.25)
  • 2 chicken cutlets ($4.50)
  • 2 shallots, chopped finely ($.50)
  • 1/4 lb white mushrooms, sliced ($1.00)
  • 1/8 cup dry marsala ($.75) I use Roland brand Marsala Cooking wine
  • 11/2 tsp lemon juice ($.05)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream ($.40)
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley (optional)

Total: $7.45

Instructions:

Melt 1 tbs butter in skillet. Season chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Cook approximately 2 minutes per side then remove chicken and set aside. Melt the remaining butter in skillet and add shallots and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms release liquid and are slightly browned. Add in Mrsala wine, bring to a boil and scrape up the brown bits. Add in lemon juice and cream. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add in chicken breasts and simmer another 4 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and spoon sauce over it. If you desire, sprinkle fresh chopped parsley over top and serve immediately.

Jerk Chicken Pasta

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Jamaicans like a little heat and a lot of flavor. So do I.  Surprisingly I’ve never actually been to Jamaica but I’ve always been a fan of their cuisine…I’m sure I’ll go one day. Jamaican food is colorful and spicy with the warmth of cinnamon and allspice and the eye-watering effect of the scotch bonnet peppers. Did you know scotch bonnet peppers are one of the hottest chile peppers in the world? Make sure you have plenty of rum punch on hand (or wine) to wash it all down.

This post would be incomplete if I didn’t tell you about the wine that I paired with this dish. This past weekend I was actually celebrating a promotion at work (woo-hoo!), so I felt the urge to reward myself. I typically would never buy myself a bottle of wine over $12, but what the heck… now I’m a not-so-poor little rich cook. Whenever I make spicy food I always go for wine that will help balance the intense flavors and extinguish the burn. I’ve never been a huge fan of Riesling because I always have found it too overpowering and full of residual sugar. This all changed though when I discovered white wine from the Alsace region of France. Along with Austria and Germany, vineyards from this region produce some of most acclaimed dry Rieslings in the world. I tried a new bottle called Trimbach and it was amazing. It set me back about $23 and was worth every penny.

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Though not traditional Jamaican fare, this recipe does include jerk seasoning which is unmistakably Jamaican. For this recipe I used a local brand called Dizzy Pig BBQ Jamaican Firewalk seasoning. I wanted to make something rich and familiar, so jerk chicken pasta was the first thing that came to mind. I first got my inspiration for this dish at a chain restaurant called Bahama Breeze. I haven’t been there for years, but when I went I would almost always order the jerk chicken pasta. Their version is quite fattening…tons of heavy cream, parmesan cheese, and a serving big enough for a family of five. Mine isn’t exactly fat-free, but I did make some modifications to make it a bit lighter– olive oil instead of butter, half & half instead of cream, less bowtie pasta, etc. Enjoy my take on jerk chicken pasta, mon!

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • 1/2 C sour cream ($.75)
  • 1 cup half & half ($1.00)
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper, sliced ($1.00)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced ($.05)
  • 1/4 C chopped white onion ($.20)
  • 1/2 cup white mushrooms, sliced ($.30)
  • 8 spears asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces ($1.00)
  • 2 chicken cutlets, cut into thin strips ($5.00)
  • 1.5 tbs Jerk Seasoning ($.40) – I used Dizzy Pig BBQ Jamaican Firewalk
  • 1 tbs olive oil ($.08)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 box bowtie pasta ($1.00)

Total: $10.78

Instructions

Bring pot of water to boil and add bowtie pasta. In medium sauce pan, add 1 tbs olive oil and sauté the bell pepper, onion, garlic and asparagus. Cook 5 minutes. Add chicken (seasoned with 1 tbs jerk seasoning) and cook until no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until they start to release liquid. Add in sour cream, half & half, salt, pepper, and remaining jerk seasoning. Let simmer about 5 minutes until sauce begins to thicken. Add in cooked bowtie and let simmer another 5 minutes. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan.

Peach Cobbler

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There is something completely intoxicating about the smell of peaches in the summertime. Get within 10 feet of them and try not to get weak in the knees. This fragrant fruit is one of my favorites so you could imagine my excitement when I saw organic peaches on sale for 92 cents a pound yesterday. I was at my “bargain” supermarket mind you, but I can almost guarantee that you won’t find peaches this cheap outside of Georgia…unless they are about to rot.

See, I have different stores for different shopping occasions.  One for meat and produce, one for seafood and one for all the non-organic necessities. This method is key for a frugal foodie like myself. I value quality, but I can also see through the marketing BS that specialty stores try and sell you on. Things like flour, eggs and butter are like mascara to me. I refuse to spend $89 on a tube of black goo that will always be ranked below good ‘ol Maybelline Great Lash. The same goes for peaches.

This dessert was swoon worthy and also super easy. Besides putting the spoon down, the hardest thing about it is slicing the peaches. If you’re peach pit averse like me, maybe you should invest in one of these. I know I am!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour ($.30)
  • 1/2 cup sugar ($.20)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder ($.10)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ($.50)
  • 3 cups fresh, peeled peaches ($1.80)

Topping:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbs butter ($.10)
  • 1/2 cup sugar ($.20)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar ($.40)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg ($.05)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon ($.05)

Total: $3.70

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400. Grease an 8×8 baking dish.

Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add in milk gradually and mix until just combined. Fold in sliced peaches. Add to greased baking dish.

For the topping, bring all ingredients to a boil then take off heat. Pour topping mix on top of flour and peach mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes, let cool before serving.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken

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I have an issue with meat stuffed with meat. It just isn’t natural. I do, however, completely support meat stuffed with cheese and/or vegetables. I also support prosciutto, bacon, and other pork products in general, but I rarely allow myself to indulge. Tonight was one of those nights. I thought about making prosciutto and melon salad but after my 90-minute boxing class I needed something rich and satisfying, a reward for getting my butt absolutely kicked.

I know, I know… all that work and I go and ruin it with this. It could be worse, you know. I could have stopped at Popeye’s for a bucket of fried chicken and called it a day. I would love to see the look of horror on my roommate’s face if I showed up with a bucket of fried chicken for myself on a Monday night. The only thing that would top this is if someone found out that I have a Domino’s app on my iPhone with credit card information and address saved. Cat’s out of the bag on that one I guess. Speaking of apps, and sorry to get sidetracked, but you can really learn a lot about someone by the apps they have on their phone. Take mine for example. One would think that I have a terrible sense of direction based on the number of  GPS apps I have– FIVE. I really have no excuse for getting lost. You could also conclude that I’m slightly immature based on my “Talking Monkey” app “Dead Yourself” app or “Fat Booth” app . And finally, I have a flashlight app on my phone so one might think that I’m afraid of the dark. Forget Facebook stalking or Google searching. From now on, before dating someone, I think it would be a good idea to do an app inspection. Ok, maybe wait until like date number 3.

So back to this evening’s creation. I had a ton of leftover goat cheese from the pizza I made yesterday as well as some mushrooms. Those two are just like peas and carrots, and perfect alongside chicken and prosciutto. Now I told you about my meat stuffed meat phobia already so instead of stuffing, I wrapped the chicken in prosciutto. The result was fabulous. I served my chicken with a side of Israeli couscous and crispy brussel sprouts. Mission accomplished.

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Ingredients

Serves 2

  • 2 chicken breasts, pounded ($4.00)
  • 5 button mushrooms, sliced ($.25)
  • 1.4 C goat cheese, crumbled ($.50)
  • 4 thin slices of prosciutto ($1.00)
  • 1 tbs olive oil ($.10)
  • 1 tbs butter ($.05)
  • Splash of marsala wine ($.10)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Total: $6.00

Instructions

Pound chicken breasts and season both sides with salt and pepper. Make a slit in each chicken breast and stuff with goat cheese and mushrooms. Take 2 slices per chicken breast and wrap completely around each one. Season with more salt and pepper In a dutch oven or nonstick pan, add olive oil and butter. Add chicken and cook for approximately 6 minutes per side until chicken is cooked through and prosciutto is crispy. Halfway through the cooking process, add a splash of Marsala wine and use a spatula to scrape up all the brown bits. Leave them in the pan though! This is where all the flavor is. Remove chicken from heat and let it rest 5 minutes before serving.

Goat Cheese, Mushroom and Arugula Pizza

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Don’t you hate it when you have a bunch of random ingredients in your fridge that are on the verge of going bad? This happens to me every week. It saddens me to waste vegetables, especially since I buy mostly organic produce at Whole Foods or farmer’s markets. I should probably invest in one of those space age foodsaver things but I guess I’ll continue to let my food rot. If anyone wants to buy me one please feel free! I would gladly accept.

So, after rummaging through my fridge and tossing mostly everything, I was left with 3 bottles of champagne, half a red onion, half a bag of arugula, some goat cheese and an unopened container of mushrooms. What a perfect combo for a delicious Sunday night meal. As much as I’d love to pop open a bottle of champagne (ahem Andre), I decided to forgo the bubbly for this evening.

When I make pizza I usually buy storebought dough, which you can find in the deli section of most stores. I own a pizza stone, which is an essential if you’re into making homemade pies. It makes the crust a lot crispier and also cuts down on cleanup time. Tonight I was feeling super lazy so I opted for a good ‘ol Boboli original crust. When I go for these I always stick to the thin crust variety, but my supermarket failed me and was out of stock. They did however have the “personal pan” size, so I decided to give these a whirl.

Instead of piling on the raw veggies, I caramelized my onions and sautéed my mushrooms. I skipped the red sauce, brushed on some olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt then piled on my toppings. When I pulled it out of the oven I added a drizzle of balsamic glaze and a bit of freshly grated parmesan. Presto! Perfect pizza.

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 Boboli Mini Crusts ($4.00)
  • 1 C Mushrooms, sliced  ($.75)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced ($.50)
  • 3 tbs olive oil ($.20)
  • 1 C arugula ($.50)
  • 1/4 C goat cheese, crumbled ($.50)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Balsamic glaze

  • 1 C balsamic vinegar ($1.00)
  • 1 tbs honey ($.15)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Total: $7.60

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 450. Sauté onion in 1 tbs of olive oil on medium-high heat until onions begin to sweat. Turn heat to low and let the onions caramelize for 20-25 minutes. Be careful not to stir too often, about once every 5 minutes.

In a separate pan, sauté the mushrooms in 1 tbs olive oil on medium heat for about 20 minutes. In the last 2 minutes, add arugula until it begins to wilt.

While the onions and mushrooms are cooking, work on the glaze. Bring 1 C of balsamic vinegar to a boil and when it reduces by half, stir in the honey and salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat to low until ready to use.

Brush the crusts with 1 tsp olive oil each and sprinkle with salt. First add onions, then add mushroom/arugula mixture. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Bake for 9 minutes.

When pizza is done, drizzle balsamic glaze, if desired and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

South Asian Fish Tacos with Chimichurri

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Every night this week, I have dreamt I was on the beach. White sand, blue water, umbrella drink in my left hand and a tasty treat in my right.  Instead, I’m stuck in humid DC and my day was the complete opposite of a vacation. I did laundry, went to the gym, dog park and grocery store. While I may not be hanging 10 or getting tan, who says I can’t eat like I’m on vacation? I had a piece of tilapia leftover from last night’s dinner so I decided to cook it tonight rather than freeze. I’m very glad with this decision because I whipped up some epic fish tacos. Who can resist a good fish taco? Light, crispy white fish, your favorite fresh veggies, warm torillas and a slather of yummy sauce.

The great thing about fish tacos is that you can truly customize them and channel your inner creativity. You don’t have to stick with tilapia, either. I like tilapia for tacos because it’s cheap, easy and very light– perfect for a PLRC like me. Feel free to try other fish such as halibut, mahi or grouper, though. Just make sure that it’s a firm enough to handle toppings and tortillas. For this recipe, I pretty much just used what I had on hand. I wanted to spice up the fish, so I dressed up the flour dredge with turmeric (hence the South Asian title), cayenne and paprika. Now for the sauce, which is more South American than South Asian, I made a delicious chimichurri sauce. This will stay fresh for up to a week in your fridge. I’m thinking it would be perfect on skirt steak. Or I might just need to make these tacos again later in the week. They are just that good.

Ingredients

Serves 2

For the sauce:

  • 1 C Parsley leaves ($.75)
  • 1/2 C cilantro (with stems) ($.50)
  • 3/4 C olive oil ($.50)
  • 6 garlic cloves ($.30)
  • Juice of 1 lime ($.75)
  • 1.5 tbs apple cider vinegar ($.20)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs paprika ($.50)

For the fish:

  • 2 tilapia filets ($3.00)
  • 3/4 C flour ($.30)
  • 1 tbs paprika ($.50)
  • 1.5 tsp cayenne pepper ($.25)
  • 2 tsp turmeric ($.25)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

For serving:

  • 6 soft corn tortillas ($.75)
  • 6 tsp sour cream ($.30)
  • sliced avocado (optional) ($1.00)
  • lime juice

Total: $9.85

Instructions:

First, prepare the chimichurri. Blend all sauce ingredients in food processor until smooth. Place in container and refrigerate until ready to use. The sauce will stay fresh for up to a week if you keep it refrigerated. You can also freeze it!

Mix flour, turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. Rinse the tilapia filets and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper then dredge in flour mixture. Heat skillet with 2 tbs olive oil. Fry the fish for 1.5 minutes on each side, then drain on paper towels. Try not to overcrowd the skillet, you can work in batches. As soon as fish comes off the skillet, season with salt and a little squeeze of lime.

Heat the tortillas in the microwave then dress them. I put sour cream down first (1 tsp per tortilla), then chimichurri, then fish. Add a few slices of avocado and a sprinkle of cilantro. Enjoy!