Low-Cost Meals At Home

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Home cooking is enjoying a homecoming as budget-conscious shoppers feel the economic crunch hit their wallets. In fact, a survey by the National Pork Board found that 70 percent of Americans are eating out less to save money (1).

Serving up low-cost meals at home is a great way to save. Despite a year of record-rising food prices in 2008, pork retail prices rose less than 5 percent last year (2), making it one of the most competitive choices in the meat case. From pork shoulder to chops to ground pork, there are numerous, affordable options to choose from.

“There are so many family-friendly meals you can make with pork, especially if you look for the larger cuts that can really stretch your budget, like shoulder or ground pork,” said Dave Lieberman, celebrity chef and author of “Young and Hungry: Making the Most of Fresh and Affordable Food.” He also notes that because pork is so versatile and pairs well with any flavor, there are countless options for mealtime that easily fit within any budget.

Pork Potpies

Serves 4

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 pound lean ground pork

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1-1/4 cups sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce

1, 12-ounce package steam-in-bag frozen vegetable medley

1, 8-ounce tube refrigerated garlic breadstick dough

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat, add ground pork, salt and pepper. Brown well, drain; return to skillet.

Meanwhile cook vegetables according to package directions. Add sauce and vegetables to the pork in the skillet. Stir to combine well. Divide mixture into four individual-sized casserole dishes or one 9-inch-by-9-inch baking dish. Top mixture with bread dough sticks in criss-cross pattern.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to12 minutes.

Eating well and saving money can go hand-in-hand. According to Tami Ross, RD, LD, CDE, 2008 Diabetes Educator of the Year and author of “Diabetes Meals on $7 a Day — or Less!” with the right ingredients and a little planning, preparing delicious and nutritious meals does not have to break the bank.

For example, this recipe for Everyday Elbows makes dining in not only budget-friendly (about $1.40 per serving), but delicious and healthy, as well. The addition of lean ham and olives give this family favorite a new and exciting twist beyond the basic marinara sauce. Plus, the quick convenience (30 minutes start to finish) makes it perfect for any night of the week.

“Using Dreamfields Pasta provides an added health boost,” says Ross, “because it delivers twice the fiber (five grams), fewer digestible carbohydrates and a lower glycemic index than traditional pasta. These health benefits, along with having all the taste and texture of traditional pasta, make Dreamfields an ideal choice for the 81 million Americans with diabetes or pre-diabetes, and the entire family, too.”

Everyday Elbows

Preparation time: 10 minutes; cooking time: 20 minutes; makes 6 main dish servings

1 box Dreamfields Elbows

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped red onion

4 ounces cooked ham, cut into thin strips

1, 26-ounce jar marinara (pasta) sauce

2 tablespoons pitted ripe black olives, halved or quartered

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pan; keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and ham; cook 5 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Stir in marinara sauce and olives. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in parsley. Add sauce to pasta; toss. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

For more recipes and information about healthy eating, visit DreamfieldsFoods. com. To purchase Ross’ book, visit the online bookstore at the American Diabetes Association Web site, www.diabetes.org.

Cooking on a budget doesn’t have to mean cooking plain, boring food. In fact, there’s a Louisiana tradition that serves up big flavor and big servings without big cost.

Red beans and rice is the traditional Monday supper in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana. After a weekend of bountiful eating, Monday was a day to cut back on the spending and eat on a budget. A while back, Monday was also wash day, and the beans could simmer all day on the back burner of the stove without a whole lot of attention. When the laundry was done, so were the beans.

Nowadays, the custom for almost everyone in Louisiana, including people who never do their own laundry, is to enjoy red beans and rice every Monday. The beans are soaked overnight and often combined with a meat-based stock. As funds permit, andouille or kielbasa sausage can be added as a final ingredient.

Just as with gumbo and jambalaya, almost every family and restaurant makes their own version of red beans. Internationally renowned Chef Paul Prudhomme’s recipe is a bit creamier than some and is seasoned with his Magic Seasoning Blends, a line of all natural (Kosher supervised) herbs and spices.

This recipe keeps well, and is just as good a couple of days later.

Monday Red Beans

Makes about 7 cups, enough for 4 generous servings over rice

1/2 pound dried red kidney beans

About 10 cups of water, in all

3 pounds small ham hocks

1-1/4 cups finely chopped celery

1 cup finely chopped onions

1 cup finely chopped green peppers

3 bay leaves

1-1/2 teaspoons Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Pepper Sauce

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Meat Magic

Day 1: Add enough water to beans to cover them by 3 or 4 inches and soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Day 2: Place 8 cups of water, ham hocks, celery, onions, bell peppers, and bay leaves in a 5-1/2 quart saucepan or large Dutch oven. Stir well, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Raise heat and boil until meat falls off the bones, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove meat and bones; set meat aside and discard bones.

Drain beans and add them to the pot, along with remaining 2 cups of water, Magic Pepper Sauce, and the Meat Magic. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally and scraping bottom of pot fairly often, until beans are tender and start breaking up, about 1 hour.

Return meat to pot, stir and cook 10 minutes more. Discard bay leaves and break up any large pieces of meat. Serve over cooked long grain white rice, with Magic Pepper Sauce on the side for those who like a little more heat.

For more recipes and cooking tips, or to order online, visit chefpaul.com.

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