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Dinner on a Budget

Eating Well for Not Much Money

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Eating on a budget doesn't mean eating poorly. Some of the finest dishes ever created were developed by people trying to economize. They did so primarily by using less meat and poorer cuts of meat and by using whatever was readily available. Beans, rice, and pasta all stretch a meal for not much money, slow-cooking tenderizes tough meat and deepens flavors. This collection of recipes are all fairly cheap to make - and absolutely delicious.

Pepper Steak: A Stir-fry Staple

Pepper Steak
Copyright 2009 Kevin D Weeks
When I was a kid my mother made pepper steak on a regular basis. She'd use a round steak and cook it too hot and too fast so it was always tough as could be - but it tasted mighty good. This recipe calls for sirloin steak - but only half a pound, so it's not much money - but you can certainly follow my mother's lead and use round steak. The key is that the meal is mostly vegetables and rice.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese: An American Tradition

Macaroni and Cheese
Copyright 2009 Kevin D Weeks
Macaroni and Cheese is one of my favorite meals, so when I make it I always make more than I need and freeze half - six meals for an hour's work ain't bad at all. This is that same recipe, but scaled down to produce two individual casseroles. Presented this way it's fancy enough for a birthday dinner or anniversary while still keeping the 'ole food budget in check.

Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagiole)

Pasta e Fagiole
Copyright 2008 Kevin D Weeks
This traditional Italian soup recipe combines pasta and beans (Paste e Fagiole) to produce a richly flavored and very inexpensive meal. Like many soups from the Mediterranean area it's hearty enough to make a good winter soup and yet light enough to enjoy on a summer evening.

Easy Cassoulet: Beans at Their Best

Easy Cassoulet
Copyright 2008 Kevin D Weeks
Cassoulet is one of the world's classic dishes, but it's not a task taken on lightly - some recipes take up to three days to make. It's worth the effort for a special occasion, but doesn't really qualify as an everyday meal. Although this quick and easy version doesn't have the depth and complexity of flavor the original does, it's become one of my favorite weekend meals.

Southwestern Ham Casserole

Southwestern Ham Casserole
Copyright 2009 Kevin D Weeks
This Southwestern Ham Casserole is perfect for using up that last bit of baked ham - you know, when you've got too little to feed two people and too much to throw away. If you happen to have some leftover rice all the better, but if not rice is easy enough to make.

Baked Pasta with Chicken: Making the Most of Leftovers

Baked Pasta with Tuna
Kevin D Weeks
One of my favorite meals is baked pasta. It's a great way to clean out the leftovers hanging around in your fridge - just cook up some pasta (ideally something like penne, macaroni or rotini) then cut up and toss in that leftover chicken leg, leftover cauliflower, and two-day old spinach along with those fresh herbs that are starting to wilt. Add some cheese and some liquid, stick it in the oven for 20 minutes, and you've got supper.

Chicken and Rice: An Old Favorite

Chicken and Rice
Kevin D Weeks
Chicken and rice is an old standard, but this version is somewhat different in it's use of sour cream. It began as one of those late evening "throw together" meals but turned out so well I've been making it ever since.

Roasted Cauliflower: A Transformative Dish

Roasted Cauliflower
Copyright 2008 Kevin D Weeks
Roasting cauliflower totally changes its character, providing a wonderfully nutty undercurrent of flavor. You may wonder at my use of granulated garlic as opposed to fresh garlic, but I've found that the fresh garlic ends up in the pan while the powdered garlic clings to the cauliflower, ultimately providing more garlic flavor.

Potatoes O'Brien: A Tasty Tradition

Potatoes O'Brien
Copyright 2008 Kevin D Weeks
This is a great way to use up leftover baked or boiled potatoes - in fact, I usually arrange to have a potato or two left over. You might also consider adding leftover ham if you have it or adding bacon or sausage to make it a complete one-pan meal.

Sauteed Sweet Potatoes: An Exotic Taste

Curried Sweet Potatoes
Copyright 2009 Kevin D Weeks
I was casting about for a new way to fix sweet potatoes and happened to remember a recipe I'd come up with for fried curried plantains based on an Indonesian dish. It immediately struck me as a great flavor combo: a bit of curry powder, a bit of sugar and a bit of butter for frying - what could be better? They make an especially great side dish with roast pork or baked ham.

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