With the stock market falling faster than a cold soufflé, many of us are looking at just how much our meals cost. And when we start trimming expenses, our food budget is often one place that takes a hit. An easy way to save money is to eat fewer meals out and make more meals at home. Plus you'll have greater control to create healthy, delicious meals.
Our staff at EatingWell Magazine "shopped" online for ingredients and then calculated the cost per serving for main-dish recipes in one of our recent issues. The results seemed so amazing we even went back and double-checked the math: most of those main-course recipes cost less than $3 a serving.
And if you think that nothing's cheaper than fast food, consider that Pork Chops with Orange & Fennel Salad, a slice of fresh-baked Parmesan-Herb Focaccia and Baby Tiramisù for dessert (total: 488 calories, 3 grams of saturated fat, see recipes below) is less than $6-while a McDonald's Quarter Pounder, fries and apple pie (1,040 calories, 17 grams of saturated fat) is about the same price. If you, like us, choose the healthy homemade meal, enjoy these budget-friendly recipes-your waistline and your wallet will thank you.
Here are 3 healthy dinners to get you started:
Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans (under $2 per serving)-In this one-skillet supper, dark leafy greens, diced tomatoes and white beans are tossed with gnocchi topped with gooey mozzarella.
Marmalade Chicken (under $1.50 per serving)-Orange marmalade and freshly grated orange zest make a deliciously tangy sauce for quick-cooking chicken tenders.
Pork Chops with Orange & Fennel Salad (under $2.50 per serving)-Fennel-crusted pork chops with a warm citrus-and-fennel salad is a terrific antidote to a dreary winter day.
3 navel oranges
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
4 4-ounce boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick, trimmed
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice grinder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
1 shallot, chopped
3 cups watercress or arugula, tough stems removed
1. Remove the skin and white pith from oranges with a sharp knife. Working over a bowl, cut the segments from their surrounding membranes. Squeeze juice in the bowl before discarding membranes. Transfer the segments with a slotted spoon to another bowl. Whisk lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon salt into the bowl with the orange juice. Set aside.
2. Season pork chops on both sides with fennel seeds, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chops and cook until browned and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
3. Add sliced fennel and shallot to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add watercress (or arugula) and cook, stirring, until it begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir in the reserved orange segments, then transfer the contents of the pan to a platter.
4. Add the reserved orange juice mixture and any accumulated juices from the pork chops to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Serve the pork chops on the fennel salad, drizzled with the pan sauce.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 257 calories; 10 g fat (2 g sat, 5 g mono); 66 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 24 g protein; 5 g fiber; 378 mg sodium; 818 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (140% daily value), Vitamin A (25% dv), Potassium (23% dv).
Make it a meal: Serve with Parmesan-Herb Focaccia and Baby Tiramisù.
Recipe by Nancy Baggett for EatingWell.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or unbleached bread flour (see Note), plus more as needed
1 cup whole-wheat flour or white whole-wheat flour
4 tablespoons good-quality grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant, quick-rising or bread-machine yeast
1 1/2 cups ice water (see Tip), plus more as needed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, chives or rosemary, divided
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fennel seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or other coarse salt
1. Mix dough: Thoroughly stir 2 cups all-purpose (or bread) flour, whole-wheat flour, 3 tablespoons Parmesan, the table salt and yeast in a 4-quart (or larger) bowl. Vigorously stir in 1 1/2 cups ice water, scraping down the sides and mixing just until the dough is thoroughly blended. The dough should be barely moist and fairly stiff. If the mixture is too dry, stir in just enough additional ice water to facilitate mixing, but don't overmoisten. If the dough is too wet, stir in just enough flour to stiffen slightly. Lightly coat the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
2. First rise: Let the dough rise at room temperature (about 70°F) for 12 to 18 hours; if convenient, stir once partway through the rise. For convenience (and improved flavor), you may refrigerate the dough for 3 to 12 hours before starting the second rise.
3. Second rise: Coat a 9-by-13-inch (or similar) baking pan with oil, then line it with a sheet of parchment paper. Lightly coat the paper with oil. Stir the dough just until deflated. If it is soft, stir in just enough all-purpose (or bread) flour to yield a firm but moist dough (it should be fairly hard to stir). Sprinkle 1 tablespoon chopped herbs over the dough (don't stir them in), then invert the dough into the pan so the herbs are underneath. Drizzle the dough with 2 teaspoons olive oil. With well-oiled hands, lightly pat and press the dough out until it fills the pan and is evenly thick; if it springs back and is resistant, let it rest for 10 minutes, then proceed. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan and herbs, and fennel seeds (if using), and pat down. Tent the pan with foil.
4. Let rise at warm room temperature until the dough is double the deflated size, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. (For an accelerated rise, see Tip.)
5. 20 minutes before baking: Position a rack in lowest part of oven; preheat to 500°F. Lightly spritz or sprinkle the dough with water. With oiled fingertips, make deep indentations, or dimples, all over the top. Sprinkle evenly with sea salt (or other coarse salt).
6. Bake, cool, slice: Reduce oven temperature to 475°. Bake on the lowest rack, turning the pan from front to back halfway through for even browning, until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 204-206°, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Best served warm.
Makes 12 servings.
Per serving: 124 calories; 2 g fat (0 g sat, 1 g mono); 1 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 2 g fiber; 215 mg sodium; 74 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Folate (16% daily value).
Note: Milled from high-protein wheats, bread flour develops strong gluten, resulting in well-risen loaves. It helps give breads with a high percentage of whole grains better structure and a lighter texture. Find it near other flours in most supermarkets.
Tips: To prepare "ice water" for this recipe, add a heaping cup of ice cubes to cold water and stir for about 30 seconds before measuring out the water.
You can turn your microwave into a warm, moist environment to help accelerate the second rise of the bread dough. Begin by microwaving 1/2 cup water in a 1-cup glass measure just to boiling. Set the water in one corner of the microwave, place the pan of dough on the other side of the turned-off microwave and close the door. The dough will double in size in 45 minutes to 11/2 hours.
1/2 cup nonfat ricotta cheese (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 ladyfingers (about 1 3/4 ounces)
4 tablespoons brewed espresso or strong coffee, divided
2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips, melted (see Tip)
1. Combine ricotta, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
2. Place 6 ladyfingers in a 9-by-5-inch (or similar size) loaf pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons espresso (or coffee). Spread the ricotta mixture over the ladyfingers. Place another layer of ladyfingers over the ricotta and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons espresso (or coffee). Drizzle with melted chocolate. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
Makes 6 servings.
Per serving: 107 calories; 2 g fat (1 g sat, 0 g mono); 3 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 0 g fiber; 125 mg sodium; 29 mg potassium.
Tip: To melt chocolate: Microwave on Medium for 1 minute. Stir, then continue microwaving on Medium in 20-second intervals until melted, stirring after each interval. Or place in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir until melted.
By Lisa Gosselin
Lisa Gosselin is editorial director for EatingWell Media Group. Her passion for food started when she was a kid, growing up in Paris, France. Lisa's favorite thing to do when she visits someplace new is to find a local food market and try something she's never tasted before.
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