Healthy Recipes to Keep You Fit and Fabulous

Posts tagged ‘cheap’

Cooking in College: Another dish to keep you skinny and your wallet fat.

According to my feedback from the last post, you guys are fans of cheap dinners!  I’ve decided to add a Part 2 to my affordable feasts.

Pork chops are really one of the best things you can pick up at the grocery store.  I always buy the lean cuts, in packs of four.  They are just as versatile as chicken, but pork is actually almost always cheaper than chicken breasts, at least, that’s how it is at my grocery store.  Our pork chops cost us about $4.

Because Corey and I are leaving town tomorrow, our refrigerator and pantry are as bare as can be, so it was actually a little challenging to come up with a dinner last night.  What I came up with was definitely a random assortment, but it turned out to be a great dinner.

I meant to write a post a few weeks ago about my recently discovered obsession with a little something called polenta.  Polenta is made with cornmeal, and when it is cooked, it has a similar appearance and texture to mashed potatoes or grits.  However, there is another way to prepare it- you can pour it into a baking dish and stick it in the fridge until it sets, then cut it into squares or rounds and grill it.  I call this the restaurant preparation, because I feel like that is something you would only see during a fancy 5-course dinner.  Hey, if you want to impress somebody, give it a try! You can flavor it an endless amount of ways, by adding herbs, cheeses, garlic, bacon- anything you want!  Another bonus? It’s CHEAP! All you need is course ground cornmeal, which should cost around $3 for a medium-sized bag, and several cups of chicken stock ($2-$3), depending on how many cups of cornmeal you add.

Dijon Pork Chops

with Caramelized Balsamic Onions and Garlic Polenta

Servings: 4


For the pork chops:

4 lean cut pork chops

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Cooking spray

salt, pepper, garlic powder

For the onions:

2 tablespoons EVOO

1 large onion, sliced

4 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar


For the polenta:

1 cup coarse ground cornmeal

1 quart chicken stock

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon EVOO

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Season the pork chops with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Using the back of a spoon (or a cooking brush, if you have one) spread the Dijon mustard on both sides of each pork chop.



Sprinkle the bread crumbs on both sides of each pork chop, place them in a baking dish and spray each side with cooking spray (to help the bread crumbs brown).  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes (more or less, depending on thickness of the pork).

In an oven-safe pot, heat one tablespoon EVOO over medium heat.  Throw the chopped garlic in the oil for no more than 30 seconds, because it will burn.  Pour the quart of chicken stock into the pot and bring to a boil.

When it is boiling, slowly add the cornmeal, while continuously whisking, to prevent lumps.  Cover the pot and place in the oven for about 15 more minutes (certain types of cornmeal take longer).  Check on it every 5-8 minutes and give it a good stir so it does not stick.

In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO over medium heat.

Throw in the sliced onions, and stir to coat in the oil.  They should begin to brown and caramelize after about 8 minutes (make sure you stir them every so often so they do not burn).

At this point, pour in the balsamic vinegar and give it a stir.  Keep stirring every few minutes until the balsamic thickens and the onions are completely caramelized (about another 6-8 minutes).  When they are done, remove from heat and set aside.

To serve, top the pork chops with the onions.  Serve the polenta on the side.

*Note* If you would like to make the fancy version of the polenta, follow the above directions.  After removing from the oven, lay a sheet of parchment paper down in a 9X13 baking dish.  Pour in the polenta and place in the fridge.  It should be set after about an hour.  Use either a round cookie cuter, a wine glass sprayed with cooking spray, or just your spatula to cut out individual rounds or squares.  Spray each side with cooking spray and place in either a skillet over medium heat or a grill for a few minutes, until slightly browned on each side.




Cooking in College: Five Dolla Dinna

I would like to clear up a commonly believed myth that floats around college campuses everywhere.  You’ve probably heard it before, and you’ve definitely wanted to believe it.  Your professors and friends and parents have all said it.  When you graduate college, you are going to get a job that only people with college degrees can get, and you are going to make a lot of money and life will just be a piece of cake after that degree is finally in your hands.  Hate to break it to ya, kids, but that ain’t happenin’ in this economy! In fact, you might actually be more broke after college than you were in college, thanks to the slow but sure disappearance of Mommy and Daddy’s credit cards, gas cards, and especially those wonderful monthly bank account deposits.  Say goodbye.  Unless, of course, you’re just really lucky, in which case, I hate you.

Anyways, cooking in college or even right after college can be quite a challenge when you’re working with a budget.  That’s why there is only one thing to do when times are tough:


Just kidding.  Kinda.

This week, I thought it would be fun to try and make dinners that cost under $5 per serving.  It was a success!  Cooking really is a lot cheaper than eating out for every meal; you just have to know how to shop!

Pesto Primavera

Servings: 4-5


3/4 bag frozen vegetable medley (I used Japanese blend)

1/2 box Whole Wheat Fettucine

2 1/2 tablespoons pre-made Pesto

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, shredded, for topping

salt and garlic powder, to taste


You will need 2 pots for this recipe.

Bring one pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt to the water.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain pasta.  Fill the other pot with water, but only fill it about a quarter of the way up.  Bring to a boil, add the frozen veggies, and cover with a lid.  Cook for about 5-6 minutes, until tender.  Drain the vegetables.  Add the pasta and the veggies to the bigger pot.  Add the pesto, salt and garlic powder, and stir everything together.  Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan.

Salad with Buffalo Ranch Dressing

Servings: 2


1 heart of Romaine, chopped (or 2 cups of already-chopped Romaine lettuce)

1 tablespoon Light Ranch Dressing

2 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce


Chop Romaine and add to 2 bowls.  In a separate bowl, mix the Ranch and Buffalo sauce together.  Drizzle over Romaine and serve.

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