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Exploring Womanhood > Heart of the Home > Cooking > Menu/Meal Planning

Simple, Thrifty Meals
by Cheryl Tallman

Here are some affordable meal ideas to help you get dinner on the table each night without too much time or effort.

Casseroles
Casseroles are an all-time favorite comfort food and can be inexpensive one-dish meals. Here are two recipes that are crowd and wallet pleasers.

Classic Tuna Casserole:

Ingredients:
1 yellow onion, minced
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1 can cream of celery soup
3/4 cup milk
1 5-oz. can tuna in water, drained
3 to 4 cups flat egg noodles
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the egg noodles according to the package directions and drain in a colander. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft (about 4 minutes), and then add in the mushrooms and peas. Cook for another minute and turn down the heat to low. Mix the soup, milk, and tuna in a separate bowl and add to the skillet. Stir until blended together. Combine the noodles and the contents of the skillet into an oven-proof casserole dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake 25-30 minutes. Let stand for 10-15 minute before serving.

Chicken n' Rice casserole

Ingredients:
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 soup can of milk
1 tsp. dried Italian herbs
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
3 cups brown rice, cooked
1 package frozen asparagus, thawed and cut into 1" pieces
1 cup Colby Jack cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the soup, milk and Italian herbs together. Add remaining ingredients except 1/4 cup of cheese with the soup and stir gently until combined. Spoon the mixture into an oven-proof casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 25-30 minutes. Let stand for 10-15 minute before serving.

Friday Night Quesadillas
A quesadilla will turn plain leftovers into a great meal! Simply use leftovers as filling. Be creative use up leftovers and save money too!

Ingredients - for each quesadilla:
1/4 cup shredded cheese (Colby, cheddar, jack, or a mixture)
1 10 inch flour tortilla
2-3 Tbsp of leftover filling mixture
2 tsp. vegetable oil

Directions: Sprinkle cheese and filling over one of the flour tortillas. Leave a ˝ inch edge empty all the way around the tortilla. Place the other tortilla on top of the cheese mixture, making a sandwich. Brush the top of the tortilla lightly with oil. Place the tortilla sandwich with the oiled side down in a non- stick frying pan over medium heat. Brush the top of the tortilla lightly with oil. Using a spatula, turn the tortilla over when it is golden brown (about 2 minutes). Brown the other side (about 2 minutes). Remove from pan and slice into pieces like a pie.

Leftover Filling Ideas: shredded/diced pork, steak or chicken, steamed vegetables chopped into small pieces, any kind of beans, avocado, tomato, pineapple or mango pieces.

Beans:
Beans (Navy, Black, Cannelini, etc) are a great substitute for meat or chicken and they are VERY inexpensive. Canned beans are super convenient to use. They are already cooked. Simply pour them into a colander, rinse them in cold water for one minute and add them to your recipe.

Black Bean Soup:

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (16 oz each) Mexican style tomatoes with mild green chilies (do not drain)
2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, rinsed
1 can (15 oz) chicken broth
2 teaspoons ground cumin

Directions: In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, until the onion is tender. In a blender or food processor, combine the onions, tomatoes, and beans. Process until smooth (this can be done in 2 batches, if necessary). In the medium saucepan, combine the bean mixture, broth, and cumin. Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve the soup hot, topping each bowl with any or all of the garnishes below.

Have a "Soup Bar" for dinner! Spoon the soup into bowls and let the kids sprinkle their own toppings on the soup! Here are some suggestions:

Thinly sliced green onions
Chopped cilantro
Cubes of avocado
Sour cream
Bacon bits
Diced ham
Shredded cheese

Cheryl TallmanAbout the author:
Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, available at many fine specialty stores, BabiesRUs.com, Target.com and national chains including Whole Foods Markets. Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.

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