Make-at-home recipes for fans on a budget
With warmer weather on the horizon and the promise of many interesting theatrical releases in the coming year, people are beginning to make plans to gather with friends for dinner and a movie. If you have been making these plans, you have probably noticed that many of your friends are bowing out for the dinner portion.
One of the most important social rituals for people is the shared meal, yet in these financially difficult times, it is becoming more and more difficult to afford the luxury of dining out or even ordering in.
But don’t write off feasting with your friends just yet. Instead, consider making a meal at home.
Whether you are gathering at a friend’s house to have an anime marathon, getting together at a pal’s apartment before that preview screening of a hot new movie, or meeting up with friends at a convention to which you have a free pass, there are things you can make yourself for a fraction of the cost of restaurant, movie theatre or convention food.
Some of the easiest things you can do when having guests for dinner is to have a taco night, where everyone either chips in toward the total cost of food or brings one of the components for making tacos (shells, meat, beans, cheese, salsa, peppers, lettuce, tomato, etc.). Even if you are making food for a game group that consumes vast quantities of food, when all is said and done, you will have spent less and eaten better than if you had ordered out or picked up fast food. And even if you are not concerned about eating healthier snacks, you can certainly see the value in spending the same amount on a huge batch of homemade cookies as you would have spent on one standard sized store bought package.
But you have no recipes? Never fear! Here are some tried and true recipes from my own kitchen. I have chosen a perennial favorite: Italian.
1 package no-boil lasange noodles
2 jjars (16oz each) of your favorite pasta sauce
1 egg, slightly beaten
16oz (4 cups) finely grated mozzarella (or Italian cheese blend)
1c grated parmesan
2 cups fat free ricotta cheese
1 lb ground meat (turkey, beef, sausage, etc.)
2c sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 375°
Pour 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 13×9” baking dish.
Lay 3 lasagne noodles side by side on the sauce.
In a separate bowl, mix ricotta, egg, parmesan and 1 cup mozzarella until well-blended.
Place ricotta mixture on top of noodles and pat down evenly.
Lay three more noodles side by side over the ricotta mixture.
In saucepan or skillet, saute meat, mushrooms, garlic and 1 cup of the sauce.
Spoon meat mixture over noodles, and layer another three noodles on top.
Pour remaining sauce on top and cover with remaining cheese.
Bake 40-45 minutes.
Serves 4-10 people, depending on portion size.
Fresh Homemade Pizza
Though you can buy pre-made crusts, this handmade crust actually ends up costing less and tasting better.
3 ½ cups flour (all-purpose is fine. I prefer to mix 1 cup rye, 1cup whole wheat, and 1 ½ cups bread flour)
1 packet super-fast yeast
½ tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 ½ cups hot water (not boiling)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon molasses, pure maple syrup or honey
1 tsp of your favorite dried herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary work well)
cracked black pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
Knead dough on floured surface until it is very well mixed and enough of the extra flour is integrated to keep it from sticking to everything.
Roll into a ball and rub with some olive oil.
Wrap ball tightly in plastic wrap, or cover with a (clean!) slightly damp dish towel.
Let rise 30 minutes.
Pound dough out until flat, cut in half.
Roll each half into a ball and then roll out into a flat round The dough will have some elasticity and will pull back a little, so you may need to pound on it a little more.
Place dough on baking sheets (or pizza stone) that have been lightly coated with a nonstick spray.
Spoon on ¾ cup of your favorite sauce (I usually go for a tomato basil) for each pizza.
Sprinkle each with 1 cup of cheese (or more). Low moisture mozzarella works well, and cheeses such as Asiago really add to the flavor.
Top with your favorite toppings, if desired (household favorites are sliced fresh mushrooms, kalamata olives, and dices artichoke hearts)
Bake at 450° for 10-15 minutes (the more toppings, the longer the cook time. You may need to cook for up to 18 minutes for a heavily loaded pie.)
Makes two 12” pizzas.
So, whether you are gathering for a day in, or sharing a meal before going out, bon appetit!