Monday, August 10, 2009

Dollar Stretching Dinners

Feeding a family in these economic times can be tough. Always on the hunt for money saving menus and dollar stretching dinner ideas, I seem to find the best values to be casseroles and other one dish wonders. A loaf of homemade bread (see recipe here) costs less than one dollar to make and can round out the meal.

Casseroles and one dish meals can help to stretch the expensive ingredients by bulking up the dish with less expensive items. Many times the bulk item is a starch, such as pasta or rice.

The recipes below cost roughly $2 per serving. They also freeze well, so consider doubling the recipes and putting the extra pan in the freezer for a future meal.

Skillet Spaghetti & Simple Meatballs
Serves 4

Simple Meatballs

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 egg
2 Tbsp. water
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup minced onion
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl combine egg, water, bread crumbs, onion, salt and pepper and combine. Add ground beef and mix together using a spoon or your hands. Form into meatballs about 1" in diameter and place on a broiler pan (I use a portion scoop for this so all meatballs are uniform in size). Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until meatballs are no longer pink in center. While meatballs are baking, prepare the Skillet Spaghetti.

Skillet Spaghetti

28-oz. pasta sauce – homemade or your favorite jar pasta sauce
1-1/2 cups water
12 oz. spaghetti pasta, broken in half
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large (12") skillet, combine spaghetti sauce and water. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add spaghetti and stir well, making sure spaghetti is submerged in the sauce. If necessary, you may add another 1/4 cup or so of water.

Bring to a boil again. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently. You may add more water or tomato sauce if the mixture appears to be too dry. Cook until spaghetti is al dente. Top with cheese and serve immediately.

Mediterranean Chicken & Brown Rice Casserole
Serves 14

2-3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
1.25 cups feta cheese, crumbled
6 cups cooked brown rice
1 10 oz package frozen spinach thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
1 28 oz can tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
salt, pepper, basil, and oregano to taste

Add olive oil and garlic to a COLD skillet. Turn heat on to medium. When the garlic has started to soften, add chicken and par cook, about 5 minutes. Add can of tomatoes, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove chicken breasts and set aside to cool slightly, then chop into bite sized pieces. Return chopped chicken to pan. Add sun dried tomatoes and herbs. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the Romano cheese and combine thoroughly. Place in a large baking dish and sprinkle with grated Romano. Bake for 25 minutes; until cheese is brown on top.

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