Zucchini, Carrots & Mushrooms: Budget Meal # 7 February 10, 2010

Filed under: Budget Meals — sotsil @ 7:06 pm
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When you hear “zucchini” do you get excited?  I don’t, but I try to eat it maybe once every two months.  I like it for making muffins or bread because it gives these baked goods sufficient moisture (they have a high water content).  You know that feeling, don’t you:  “I don’t mind eating it as long as it’s tucked in somewhere…”

Yet, I make it a point to eat it…even if it’s in full view!

I’ve decided that zucchini is the kind of vegetable that tastes better when combined with other vegetables or other ingredients like beef or pork.  On its own, it has very little character or taste.  Carrots even taste better.  Zucchinis are a plain Jane. 

But before we turn up our noses…

They are packed with Vitamins A & C, potassium and calcium.  A nutrition web site said that the flavor of zucchini is better when it is less than six inches long.  (Oh…okay).  It can grow as large as a baseball bat, but are flavorless when they get to that size.  It’s the best vegetable you can put on your plate when you’re counting calories (and pennies).  Choose the darkest green you can find, and please…don’t peel them.  The skin is where you get all that wholesome goodness. Half a cup of uncooked zucchinis is equivalent to 13 calories.  Now…that’s a very good reason for falling in love with this Plain Jane, isn’t it?

Here’s a completely vegetarian dish that won’t break the bank.  One thing good about zucchini is it does not fluctuate in price with the seasons, unlike broccoli that seems more expensive in the winter.

This budget recipe is rather simple.

You need:

3 zucchinis (about 4-5 inches long)

2 medium carrots

1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms (you can use the ones in a tin)

2-3 tbsp onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

canola or vegetable oil

beef broth (next time I’ll use oyster sauce diluted in a few drops of water for more flavor)

salt and pepper to taste


Cut up your zucchini, carrots and mushrooms as shown in the picture.  Heat oil in a large frying pan (about 2 minutes).  Sauté onions and garlic (1-1/2 minutes).  Add your veggies in this order:  carrots (cook for 2 minutes), zucchini (cook for 2-3 minutes or until tender but not soggy), mushrooms (another 2 minutes).

Pour your vegetable broth (or oyster sauce) just before serving.

Unless your fellow diner(s) adore vegetables, I don’t think this dish is going to be an instant hit or evoke fond memories…so you may want to have a luscious and evil dessert on stand-by.  Reward them for giving this meal a try.


Don’t Scrimp on Shrimp! October 23, 2009

Filed under: Meals — sotsil @ 6:08 pm
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shrimps and snowpeas

Back in May, I posted a shrimp recipe with green beans.  Here’s the link:

The picture on the left is a variation of that recipe.  This time instead of green beans, I used snow peas and carrots.

Back when I was all skin and bones and my poor mother was at her wits’ end trying to fatten me up, the doctor said I had an allergy to shrimps.  Fortunately, that allergy didn’t last too long and I started eating shrimps and loving them.  They may be high in cholesterol but my mother could not have cared one bit because she thought of me as a malnourished-looking waif; she didn’t want neighbors and friends to think that she was to blame for my impoverished look.  She encouraged my love for shrimps and cooked meals which I devoured.  I was particularly crazy about her camaron rebosado (deep-fried shrimp in batter – similar to the Japanese tempura).  The fact that my father also loved shrimp made it a household staple.  During those days, we were more concerned about good quality shrimps and where to buy them than about the cholesterol issue.

I keep a bag of frozen shrimps available at all times because they’re one of the easiest to improvise a meal with.  Foodies will say there’s a world of difference between fresh and frozen, but I don’t mind that difference one bit because there will always be ingredients that can enhance the taste of frozen shrimp.  With a bit of creativity, imagination and enthusiasm, you can really whip up a dream meal.

What I like about this recipe is the cracker-barrel crunch offered by the snow peas and the carrots.  The trick is not to overcook them so they get just the right crunchiness.  And it’s a meal that needs no salad as a side dish because you’ve got your vegetables already.

Here’s the recipe (it’s so simple – you might even say, “hey this is just like the way they make it at the Chinese restaurant!”):


method for shrimp and snow peas

As a matter of interest, shrimp contains many vitamins and minerals, notably niacin, vitamins B-12 and D, iron, potassium, sodium, phosphorous, and others; it is also high in protein.  For every 100 grams of shrimp, you get the equivalent of 444 kj of energy!


Mung Bean Sprouts: Love that Crunch! June 27, 2009

Filed under: Meals — sotsil @ 4:12 pm
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You may have ordered soup in a Chinese restaurant and when it was served, it had a generous scattering of bean sprouts on top.  What’s special about bean sprouts is that they’re good for you and they add crunch to anything you mix them with.  The only trouble is they don’t last very long – even when stored in the fridge in an air-tight plastic bag.  When I buy them, I cook them within 48 hours max; otherwise, they wilt and then get watery.

Most of my cooking is copied from other people’s recipes, but on the odd occasion, I like to improvise and create my own like this vegetarian recipe below.  My main purpose was to come up with an attractive dish rich in colors, not necessarily one that would be a shaker and mover in the gourmet world.  To make up for the 100% vegetarian content and to “wake up” this recipe a little, I looked for a recipe for tangy peanut sauce to drizzle on. Even without the peanut sauce, however, this dish can stand on its own – the colors are enough to tease the palate.  The peanut sauce is a bonus, and it does enhance the taste of the veggies.   

You’ll need:  1 cup each of bean sprouts (thoroughly washed), green beans (diagonally slivered), purple cabbage (sliced into long strips), sweet roasted red peppers (I used the ones from a can) and carrots (cut into julienne strips).  You’ll also need 2-4 tablespoons each of canola oil (you can use any oil you want – peanut oil would be great if you have it), fresh garlic (minced) and onions (diced):

brussel sprouts 1

To make the dish:

  1. Sauté onions and garlic in oil on high for one to two minutes.  The first vegetable you add is the one that takes the longest to cook, in this case the green beans (it should take about 7-10 minutes before they become tender).  bean sprouts2
  2. Next add your carrots.  Continue to sauté for 3-5 minutes on medium heat.

bean sprouts 3 

3.  You can now add the red peppers.  After 1-2 minutes, add your purple cabbage strips.  Continue to sauté, but reduce heat to low.  This is a good time to add your bean sprouts.  Do not overcook.  If you do, your dish will be too wet.  Turn off heat.

bean sprouts 4

4.  Serve with peanut sauce.  Recipe for peanut sauce follows (taken from the Cooks com  web site at,1655,133180-251192,00.html.  Recipe was from a Laura W.) 

PEANUT SAUCE (to this recipe I added about 1/3 cup of coconut milk and a few drops of red hot chili sauce).

2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
juice from half a lemon (can be less, depending on your tastes)

In a non-stick pan, combine all ingredients, stirring constantly over medium heat until peanut butter has melted. You can do this in the microwave too, for about 30-40 seconds.

(Note:  be careful when you cook the sauce.  Don’t let it become too thick because you can use any leftover the next day.  It tends to thicken with time).