One pot, one pan, less mess

It’s well known that college students are on a budget. That being said, time is another precious resource that college students can lack. The best way to curtail the dilemma of not having enough time is to simplify recipes. This week Four for $40 tackles recipes that use minimal dishes and effort, resulting in delicious meals with effortless cleanup. 

The first dish is a homey dish, perfect for a chilly day. Trader Joe’s carries two options for chili: beef and turkey. For this dish, turkey chili was selected. This chili is already cooked so shoppers can add two cans of chili and a can of kidney beans to a slow cooker or pressure cooker to warm up. Spices can be added to customize the flavor. This batch of chili included sage, Trader Joe’s BBQ seasoning rub and garlic. To stretch this recipe into four meals, folks can add an additional can of chili. Heat on high for an hour, stirring occasionally. 

Chili can be topped with cheese, sour cream and green onions. While cooking, one can make cornbread. Trader Joe’s has a box of cornbread mix that requires only a few ingredients. When the cornbread has finished baking, one can top with butter and honey. The chili yields four to five servings and the cornbread yields nine pieces. Using only the slow cooker, the bowl to mix the cornbread batter and the dish for baking the cornbread, this recipe takes about an hour and a half to complete.

The next dish is a college student’s take on a Niçoise salad. It includes pantry staple items, which can be added or substituted according to preference. In a saucepan, boil two eggs for 10 minutes. Adding vinegar to the water helps remove the shells easier. While the eggs are boiling, put lettuce into a large bowl – the butter lettuce and radicchio blend from Trader Joe’s holds the ingredients of this salad nicely – then dice half of a shallot into uniform pieces and place on top of the bed of lettuce.

 Open and drain a can of tuna which will also be placed onto the lettuce. Niçoise salads may include potatoes or olives. No Niçoise salad is complete without green beans. Trader Joe’s has a bag of washed and ready haricots verts, which is French for green beans. The haricots verts can be blanched quickly or eaten raw on the salad. 

When the eggs have finished boiling, place them into a bowl of ice water to cool them down. When cooled, peel them and quarter them, placing on top of the salad. Niçoise salad goes well with honey mustard dressing or any kind of vinaigrette. This particular salad was topped with a refrigerator staple: a Brianna’s Strawberry Vinaigrette. This recipe yields one salad and requires about 20 minutes to assemble. 

Another slow cooker go-to, taco bowls are a great way to get a healthy serving of lean protein. This recipe used a one pound of ground turkey. Mix with Trader Joe’s taco seasoning blend packet, adding shallots and garlic, and toss in the slow cooker and cook until the meat is no longer pink. When no longer pink, drain the fat, then garlic, black beans, bell peppers and Trader Joe’s fire roasted corn kernels. These can be found in the freezer aisle and make a tasty addition. Stir, cover the slow cooker, and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until the corn is fully warmed. 

Ladle the mix into a bowl, top with sour cream, cheese, green onions and a favorite hot sauce. For an extra crunch, folks can add Trader Joe’s organic corn chip dippers. This recipe makes three to four meals, makes use of various ingredients purchased in this week’s haul and takes about an hour to make. 

The final Four for $40 recipe is a delicious tilapia and haricots vert sheet pan recipe. Blanch the haricots verts in boiling water for four minutes. The haricots verts will be roasted in the oven with the tilapia, but the blanching gives them a jump start in the cooking process which is necessary because tilapia cooks very quickly. Trader Joe’s sells packets of frozen tilapia that contain two fillets of the fish. This package rang in at just over $4. Tilapia is a healthy fish that can be cooked in a variety of ways. If one knows they will be cooking this, it’s important to remember to defrost the fish, allowing plenty of time to cook evenly. 

Chefs will need a sheet pan lined with foil. Place the tilapia in the center of the pan, on either side of the pan place the haricots verts. Drizzle the fish and veggies with olive oil, cover with garlic, shallots, salt and pepper and place in the oven at 425 degrees for six minutes. Take the pan out, flip the fish and continue cooking for two to three minutes, following the tilapia package instructions. 

This meal is quick, easy, yields two servings and only dirties one pan and a few utensils. Prep and cooking time included, this tasty tilapia dinner takes about 20 minutes to complete. Stay tuned for the next issue to see how Four for $40 tackles a fully vegetarian menu. 

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