Dinner on a Shoestring

Middle Eastern Chickpeas with Spinach

With tax preparations in the works and budget sequestration in the news, the logical extension into my kitchen is a column devoted to thrifty cooking.  And even if shaving a few dollars off the grocery bill here and there isn’t going to solve any major financial crisis, it might be useful in a more personal way—to rationalize a splurgy wardrobe purchase for spring or a well-earned night on the town.  potato and spinach frittataLuckily some of the cheapest food to prepare at home is not only good for the bottom-line, it’s also healthy and loaded with flavor.  Downsize the meat for starters and opt for inexpensive, low-fat proteins such as beans and lentils or eggs.  Eating less meat is generally better for the environment as well, with its lower carbon footprint per calorie.

Dal with SpinachSo how about a fluffy frittata for dinner  or a hearty Indian-spiced lentil stew?  Pasta and whole grains such as brown rice or farro add substance to load up hungry stomachs on a shoestring budget.  And you can always simmer a big pot of warming root vegetable soup that will nourish tonight while generating enough left-overs to line the freezer with a week’s worth of lunches too.

8 thrifty recipes—easy on the pocketbook, but extravagant in flavor:

Middle Eastern Chickpeas with Greens (pictured at the top of the page)

Potato Frittata with Greens (pictured at left above)

Lentil Salad (use your arugula from last week, if you still have it)

Lentil Soup with Roasted Roots

pappardelle with lemon and greensPappardelle with Lemon and Sautéed Greens (pictured at left—just substitute chard for the spinach)

Spiced Yellow Dal with Chard (pictured at right above)

Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk

Long-grain Brown Rice in Four Variations (again, substitute the greens you have on hand)

Quick Tips:

Roasted fennel with tomatoes and olivesTry roasting up cubed fennel as a easy side dish (dressed in a bit of olive oil before going into the oven).  Toss in a few cherry tomatoes for extra flavor.  And a handful of kalamata olives, just before serving.

Cut off the peel off a grapefruit and orange, slice the fruit crosswise, into circles, then separate the circles into wedges, and lay on a bed of crisp lettuce and shaved fennel.  Dress with a citrusy vinaigrette and layer a few slices of ripe avocado and red onion on top.

Sauté finely chopped chard stems and leaves with minced garlic.  Stir into cooked grains such as rice, farro, or quinoa.

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