Garlicky greens and beans

This is the easiest and quickest way to eat like an Italian. The trick to do this well is to use boatloads of garlic, olive oil and salt. I use kale but collard greens would make a great substitute.

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Serves: 4-6

Cost per serving: $1.61 to $2.40

Ingredients

1/2 cup olive oil

1 whole head garlic

2 large bunches kale (or collard greens)

2 cans mixed beans

1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed

salt

Method

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1. Peel the garlic cloves and dice.

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2. Pour the olive oil into a large pot and heat on medium low heat. Add the garlic to the oil and saute for a few minutes.

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3. In the meantime, chop the kale into bite-sized pieces.

4. Add the kale to the pot and toss so that the oil and garlic is evenly distributed around the leaves.

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5. Cover and cook until the leaves are wilted and soft. This should take about 20 minutes.

6. Pour the kale, garlic and most of the oil into a large bowl. Mix in the beans and toss with the lemon juice and a generous amount of salt.

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7. Eat and enjoy!

Squash and leek soup

It’s fall! That means pumpkin everything, roasted root vegetables, and lots of potatoes. I love fall and the food that comes with it. There’s a lot of comfort in a warm kitchen and the smell of herbs and peeled potatoes on a cold day. To that end, I’ve got a creamy squash and leek soup. It’s warm, filling and of course completely delicious. Serve it with bread for a complete meal.

           Squash and leek soupServes 6

Cost per serving: $1.83

Ingredients

1/4 cup oil (or 3 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp unsalted butter)

1 extra large onion (or 2 medium onions), sliced

3 leeks

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped

1 litre stalk (chicken or vegetable)

2 tsp thyme (fresh or dry)

1 tsp dry rosemary or 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary

juice of half a lemon, freshly squeezed

Method

prep

1. Fry in the onions in the oil (and optional butter) on medium low heat until they are soft, translucent, and golden brown. This will take about 20 minutes.

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2.  If you’ve never handled leeks before, think of them as giant scallions. Rinse the leeks and discard the dark green leaves, which are tough and tend to collect dirt. Cut them in half lengthwise, then slice the stems.

3. Fry the leeks with the onions until they’re soft.

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4. Add the squash and carrots (if you haven’t handled squash before, I have instructions in this recipe). If using dried herbs, mix them in here and fry for a few minutes.

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5. Add the stock to the pot and bring to a boil. If using fresh herbs, add them now. Lower to a simmer and cook for at least half an hour or until all the vegetables are soft.

6. Blend the soup in a food processor, blender or with a hand blender. If using a blender, wait for the soup to cool first unless you want soup on your ceiling.

Creamy risotto with green peas and sweet potatoes

Risotto is one of those dishes that has somehow become a make-or-break chef’s test at high end restaurants. I blame Gordon Ramsay and his insistence that it remain on the menu so he can scream at the overstressed contenders on Hell’s Kitchen when they inevitably screw it up. Rest assured, risotto is actually a really simple, easy to make dish that only requires a little extra attention to avoid the “mush” that happens on TV. The secret is to stop before it’s done, since it keeps cooking after you turn the heat off.

RisottoServes: 6

Cost per serving: $2.24

Ingredients

2 litres of stock (chicken, vegetable, or beef)

4 tbsp butter

2 onions, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes

4 cups Arborio rice

2/3 cup sweet green peas, frozen

juice of 1 large lemon

salt to taste

Method

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1. Bring the stock to a boil on the stove, then lower to a gentle simmer.

2. Melt the butter in a separate pot. Saute the onions in the butter until soft and lightly browned around the edges.

3. Add the celery and cook until it’s soft.

4. Add the potatoes and cook covered until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

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5. Once the potatoes are soft, mix in the rice so that the grains are glistening with the fat and juices from the butter and vegetables.

DSCN57096. Begin ladling in the stock, one or two ladles at a time. Stir the rice constantly, ladling in more stock once almost all the liquid has been absorbed. As you keep going, you’ll notice the rice begin to expand, soften, and turn creamy. At this point you’ll want to start tasting it every few minutes to make sure you don’t overcook the rice.

7. When the rice looks creamy and tastes soft yet still a bit crunchy on the inside, stop cooking and remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and salt.

8. Heap yourself a generous mound and revel in the fact that you’ve just proven yourself to be more skillful than a Hell’s Kitchen contestant.

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One chicken, three meals

Today I bring you three recipes that can all be made from one chicken. Deliciously fatty and crispy roast chicken with potatoes and carrots, chicken fried rice, and the ultimate comfort food: chicken soup. This is an incredibly cost effective use of your budget and, even better, tasty!

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Cost for the chicken: $12 (varies depending on size)

Roast chicken

Serves: 5-6

Cost per serving: $1.90 to $1.60

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, raw, with skin

1 1/2 – 2 tbsp butter, soft

opt. fresh herb (rosemary, tarragon, or oregano, 2 – 3 sprigs)

2 large potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 tbsp oil

salt to taste

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

DSCN55782. Part the skin from the meat of the chicken with your fingers. Take small amounts of butter and slide it underneath the skin on the breasts. Put the rest of the butter on top of the skin on the back, legs, wings, and cavity.

3. (optional) Fresh herbs add a great flavour to the chicken, but you’re meal will still be delicious if you would rather forgo the cost. If you do decide to use them, pull the leaves from the stems and slide them under the skin of the breast and back, and on top of the skin of the back, legs, wings, and cavity.

4. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan, along with the potatoes and carrots. Sprinkle the oil over the vegetables and season with salt.

5. Bake in the oven until the chicken and veggies become a dark golden, crispy brown, about 1 1/2 hours.

6. After portioning off the standard cuts, reserve the remainder for the two other dishes. Pick of the remaining meat and reserve for the fried rice. Reserve and freeze all the bones, skin, fat, and any scraps for the soup.

Chicken Fried Rice

Serves: 4-6

Cost per serving: $1.55 to $1.75

*Note: Ideally this should be cooked in a wok (nothing fancy, a cheap one from China Town works perfectly). If you don’t have a wok, substitute with a large pot.

Ingredients

2 tbsp oil, plus more if needed

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 celery stalk, diced

2 cups rice, cooked the day before and still cold

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp sesame seed oil

1 tbsp vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

Method

1. Fry the carrots and celery in the oil until the veggies’ are brighter in colour and look a bit softer, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the rice. Be sure to constantly stir the rice as it fries so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Fry for a few minutes to allow the oil to be evenly distributed and the rice to heat up. Don’t be afraid to add more oil if you it’s needed.

3. Make a well in the centre of the rice and pour the beaten egg into it. Wait for the edges to cook before scrambling it, then mix it with the rest of the rice.

4. Mix in the chicken, then season with the sesame oil, vinegar, and soy sauce. Add more if you think it’s needed. Seasoning is always to taste, after all.

5. Eat your delicious, fried, greasy rice.

Chicken Soup

Serves: 6-8

Cost per serving: $0.65 to $0.89

Ingredients

Left over chicken bones and scraps, still frozen

6-8 celery stalks, roughly chopped (I bought one entire head of celery for both the rice and soup recipes and finished whatever I had left for the soup. The number of stalks you decide to use isn’t strict)

4-6 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (same deal with the carrots)

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Method

DSCN56281. Dump everything into a large pot and cover with water

2. Raise the heat and allow the water to come to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. This should cook for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours, preferably 2.

3. Pour the soup into a second pot or large bowl through a strainer.

4. Put the veggies back in the broth and dump the bones and scraps. At this point feel free to add whatever you’d like to the soup: noodles, bits of leftover chicken meat, matzah balls (my personal favourite).

Sweet mash with roasted veggies

There is nothing better than the rich buttery taste of mashed sweet potatoes and squash combined with the caramelized crunch of roasted vegetables. The addition of cumin, garlic, and onions to the chickpeas add another interesting dimension of flavour to this hearty dish. I could eat this all the time.

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Serves 4-5

Cost per serving: $1.55 to $1.95

Ingredients

Chickpeas

1 can of chickpeas

1/2 large onion, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 tbsp oil

juice of 1/2 a small lemon

1 tsp cumin

a generous amount of salt to taste

Brussels sprouts (or other vegetable for roasting)

2 cups brussels sprouts, sliced in half lengthwise

2 tbsp oil

2 tbsp brown sugar

juice of 1/2 small lemon

a generous amount salt to taste

Mashed sweet potatoes and squash

1 small squash, peeled and cubed

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

5 tbsp butter

juice of 1 small lemon

2 tbsp milk

1 tbsp brown sugar

salt to taste

Method

1. Preheat oven to 425° F.

DSCN55012. Dump the chickpeas, onions, garlic in a roasting pan and mix with the oil, cumin, lemon juice, and salt.

DSCN54973. In a separate roasting pan, mix the brussels sprouts with the oil, brown sugar, lemon juice, and salt.

4. Roast both chickpeas and brussels sprouts in the oven until the chickpeas are sizzling in the oil and slightly crunchy and the brussels sprouts are nicely browned around the edges. About 45 minutes.

5. In the meantime, place the potatoes and squash in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cook until the cubes are soft when pricked with a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain the water.

6. Mash to your hearts content, then mix in the butter, lemon juice, milk, sugar, and salt.

4 stepsIf you’ve never handled squash before, it’s not as scary as you think. Use a standard vegetable peeler to peel the skin, scoop out and dump the insides, then chop into rough cubes. Fair warning: the skin of a squash is much tougher than a potato. For those of you with crappy peelers, like me, this is going to be hard work. But it’s worth it in the end!

6. Serve yourself a plate heaped with delicious, buttery mash and sweet, crunchy veggies.

Basic lentil stew

Lentils! My favourite tool in my budget conscious belt. They’re incredibly versatile and come in a whole bunch of different colours and sizes. Use them to make a myriad of stews, soups, and even burgers. Tasty, nutritious, and best of all cheap! This is my basic, go-to lentil stew. Serve with rice for a surprisingly filling and tasty meal.

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Serves 4-6

Cost per serving: $1.15 to $1.70

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion diced

4 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cardamom

1 1/2 cups brown lentils

water

juice of half a large lemon

2 tsp brown sugar

salt to taste

Method

2 photos1. Fry the onions in the oil on medium heat until they are golden brown around the edges, about 20 minutes.

2. Add the carrots and celery and cook on medium low, covered, until the vegetables are soft, about 20 more minutes.

3. Add the coriander and cardamom and continue cooking uncovered until the liquid is almost all gone.

4. Stir in the lentils and add enough water to cover the mixture by about an inch. Raise the heat so that the water boils, then lower to a simmer. Cook the lentils with the cover on until they are soft, about 45 minutes.

5. Add the lemon juice, sugar and salt.

6. Scoop over rice and enjoy!

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Indian-inspired tomato sauce

Cumin seeds, eggplant, and green peas lend an exotic flavour to this basic tomato sauce. Serve it with brown rice to soak up every bit of yummy, rich sauce or choose the more traditional route and pour over a bed of fusilli.

photo 1Serves 4-6

Cost per serving: $1.35 to $2

Ingredients

1/4 cup oil (preferably olive oil)

1 onion, diced

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 can diced tomatoes

1 large eggplant, chopped

1/2 cup frozen sweet green peas

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Fresh squeezed juice of half a lemon

Method

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1. Fry the onions in the oil until they are soft and translucent, yet golden around the edges. This may take up to 20 minutes. I know it’s tempting to speed through this step, but it’s very important that the onions are allowed to caramelize properly. This will form the base for the sauce’s deep, rich flavour.

At this point, add the cumin seeds and cook for a couple more minutes.

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2. Stir in the can of tomatoes, then add the eggplants. Simmer the sauce with the lid on until the eggplants have softened, about 10 minutes. Take off the cover and continue cooking for another half hour.

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3. Add the chickpeas, green peas, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Notes

Fresh peas would be ideal for flavour if you’re not worried about cost. Add them in before the chickpeas and cook for about 5 minutes, until they’re soft and bright green.

I chose chickpeas as a cheap and easy source of protein in the dish, but chicken would work wonderfully as well. Fry cubed breast or thighs in the same pot at the very beginning. Take out the meat before continuing with the recipe as follows, and return to the pot at the very end.