Day 4 started out with another scrambled egg & tomato sandwich for breakfast. I’m a little sad that my breakfasts weren’t as fun as last year’s, but again, I was trying not to dip too far into the bare bones staples I have in my cupboards, which eliminated the fun of quinoa or wheat berry breakfast bowls. I’ll have to fix that for next year’s challenge for sure!
I did end up taking a couple bare bones staples from ye olde cupboard for Day 4, though. After a relatively light lunch of spinach salad with salmon and tomato ($1.35), I decided to have something a little heartier for dinner. By this time my chicken had finally defrosted, so I figured I might just have that with some pasta. Then I remembered I had some black beans that I’d cooked up for some meatless protein during the challenge and thought I might just have the chicken with the beans and some of the Herdez salsa I’d procured at G.O. instead. Then I figured, why not throw them all together, top with some cheese, and throw it in the oven? And that’s exactly what I did.
This is another one of those great one-dish meals that you can make from leftovers and use for leftovers if you’re having a particularly busy week. If not able score $3.76 chicken (I still can’t get over that deal… I’ll get over it someday, I promise!) or are looking for a meatless option, no worries! This is still quite delicious without the chicken, and you’ll still get your protein fix with the black beans. Though I usually prefer making my own salsa, a good quality prepared salsa like Herdez Salsa Casera is much better for this type of dish. It gives it just the right amount of flavor & heat, and helps to keep things moist while baking. As for the cheese, I was very happy to find a couple of forgotten colby-jack cheese sticks in my fridge, so I grated those as I figured colby-jack was more appropriate than fontina for this dish. This is hearty, filling, and super tasty! Now, let’s check out the recipe.
Mexican-Style Chicken Pasta Bake (makes 4-6 servings; total cost per serving: $0.95)
1 c black beans
1 c cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
1 c prepared salsa
3/4 c cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, divided*
Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large glass baking dish, combine the pasta, black beans, chicken, salsa and about half the cheese, and mix together until everything is completely combined. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.
Top with extra salsa, garnish with some fresh cilantro (if you have it), and enjoy!
*Hunger Challenge Tip: Just because they’re in small snack form doesn’t mean cheese sticks can’t be used in cooking! If you can’t afford a full block of cheese, grating a couple of cheese sticks into a dish that requires grated cheese works just as well.
So Day 4 was filled with variety, which made me quite happy. However, I do have to admit that I couldn’t take the raisins anymore, so I polished off the rest of my blueberries instead. Bad move, considering I was planning on having cereal for breakfast on Day 5, but I suppose naked cornflakes will have to do. After all was said and done, the grand total for Day 4 came out to about $3.85. My most “expensive” day yet, thanks to the blueberries, but still under the $4 challenge budget! Not bad, Poor Girl, not bad at all…