5 Dollar (or Less) Dinners

by in View All Posts, March 18th, 2009

I’m not sure exactly how much money I spend on groceries every week/month/year, but I do know I’d like to spend less. As I worked on our Good Food For Less feature, I focused on obviously “low cost” recipes – vegetarian, tuna casserole, leftover transformations – but I decided to try a few for myself, curious to see how the groceries would add up.

For me, under $10 per person would be a savings compared to eating out (the cost of a meal at my favorite burger and fries spot). But I decided a truly “budget” meal should ring in at no more than $5 per person. I crossed my fingers, made a grocery list and went shopping.

Aida’s Pan-Roasted Chicken with Oranges and Rosemary
Chicken thighs – $4.95
Chicken drumsticks – $2.12
Orange – $0.50 / 2 = $0.25
Rosemary – on my window sill (although I used a lot less than the recipe suggests, because picking sprigs off my pet plant is somewhat painful)

Total spent = $7.32 / 4 servings = $1.83 per serving

Success!! I was amazed!! I made it a meal with a simple arugula salad and roasted spiced-up potatoes the first night. Then I decided to spruce up leftover night by making the simplest risotto recipe I could find (plus, adding some kale that was hiding in the back of my fridge). It was amazing.

I was hooked! I had to try another.


The Neelys’ Sloppy Joes (recipe halved)
1 pound (90 percent lean) ground beef – $4.00
BBQ sauce – $2.49 / 4 = $0.62
Tomato sauce – $0.32
Tomato paste – $0.50 / 4 = $0.13
Green pepper – $1.37 / 2 = $0.69
Red pepper – $1.32 /2 = $0.66
Buns – $3.19 / 6 = $0.53 x 3 = $1.60

Total spent: $8.02 / 2 = $4.01 per serving

I was surprised that the sloppy joes cost more than twice as much as the chicken, but they were still within my $5 budget, and the halved recipe really made two huge servings (1/2 pound of meat per person!). As a low cost side dish, I cut up some sweet potatoes, tossed them in oil, sprinkled with salt and roasted them to make baked sweet potato fries.

Just adding up a few recipe receipts has made me much more cost-conscious at the grocery store. I think I’m going to keep working my way through this feature. Wish me luck with the slow cooker recipes and Rachael’s tuna casserole!

Kirsten, Web Editor

“Real” Mac and Cheese

by in View All Posts, March 4th, 2009

On a recent snowy evening, the Croque Monsieur Mac and Cheese recipe from our Cheese Guide beckoned. Okay, confession time: My normal mac and cheese comes in a box with a packet of powdered cheese. But this recipe is the real deal – you make a creamy béchamel sauce, fold in two cheeses and the pasta, and then bake until it’s hot and bubbly. It’s deceptively simple and it tastes amazing!

So what the heck is a “Croque Monsieur?” I had to look it up. It’s a French ham and cheese sandwich that’s either toasted or dipped in egg and sautéed in butter. This mac and cheese is a playful twist, using the traditional Gruyere cheese and sliced ham. And, for my favorite part, a bread and egg mixture forms a savory bread-pudding-like crust over the top.

For a more calorie-conscious version of Mac and Cheese, check out Ellie’s made-over recipe, part of our Monthly Meal Makeover features. You can also find tips for slimming down this classic dish from HealthyEats.com. Or you can just do what I did: Serve the ooey-gooey full-fat version with a side salad.

Kirsten, Web Editor

Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf

by in View All Posts, February 18th, 2009


I met Alex Guarnaschelli from The Cooking Loft at a recent Food Network event, and I was amazed by how warm, personable and funny she is. When she breaks out her deadpan punch-lines, she seems more like a stand-up comic than a chef.
More Alex dish and tasty meatloaf here.

Eating Healthy = (Coffee) Cakewalk

by in View All Posts, February 4th, 2009

Since I work on FoodNetwork.com’s healthy features: Winter Ideas from Eating Well, Easy Meals, Good Deals , 30 Days of Healthy Recipes, and Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day, I love the idea of eating healthy. As I also like balance in these recipes, I seem to gravitate to Ellie Krieger’s choices. Good for you but still taste great, which is why they always sneak onto my “to-make” list.

Confession — my biggest weakness is sweets. I love to bake — cookies and cupcakes every day if I had time! I’m not afraid to use obscene amounts of cream, butter and sugar.
Sweets lie ahead. Read more.