Family meals on a budget

With the economy down and food prices up, you might find yourself counting more than just calories when preparing a family dinner. Even simple meals can be costly.

But mealtimes can be tasty and fun for the whole family, even on a tight budget. The Pampered Chef, known for its line of innovative kitchen products to make mealtimes simpler, has created budget-friendly recipes to make eating well affordable. These meals are easy to prepare—just 30 minutes or less—and can feed a family of six for an average of only $2 a serving.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. The Pampered Chef, headquartered in Addison, has test kitchens with recipe developers, tasters, chefs and home economics experts who save you work by comparison shopping in several grocery stores.

In some cities, average costs are far less than $2, says Andria Rosell, public relations manager at The Pampered Chef. In Chicago, the popular Creamy One-Pot Pasta costs around $1.86 per serving. And it tastes great, too.

There are eight budget-friendly recipes currently available and more are being developed. We’ve included a few of our favorites. Download the rest of the free budget-friendly recipes at under"Recipes.”

Creamy One-Pot Pasta

4 large garlic cloves, peeled1 jar (7 ounce) sun-dried tomatoes in oil, undrained3 cans (14.5 ounce each) chicken broth (5¼ cups)1 pound uncooked penne pasta1 head broccoli (2 cups small florets)2 medium carrots, peeled4 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese ¼ tsp. salt½ tsp. coarsely ground black pepperGrated fresh Parmesan cheese and snipped fresh basil (optional)

Thinly slice garlic. Place garlic and 1 Tbsp. oil from sun-dried tomatoes into (8-quart) stockpot. Cook garlic over medium heat 2-3 minutes or until garlic is golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add broth. Return to burner; increase heat to high. Cover and bring to a boil. Stir in pasta; cover and simmer vigorously 8-10 minutes or until pasta is almost cooked but still firm, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cut broccoli into small florets; place into bowl. Cut carrots in half lengthwise; thinly slice crosswise on a bias. Drain sun-dried tomatoes; pat dry with a paper towel. Slice tomatoes into thin strips. Add carrots and tomatoes to bowl.

Cut cream cheese into cubes. Add vegetables, cream cheese, salt and black pepper to stockpot. Stir until cream cheese is melted and fully incorporated. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook an additional 2-4 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Serve immediately. If desired, top with grated fresh Parmesan cheese and snipped fresh basil.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrients per serving: calories 410, total fat 11 grams, saturated fat 4 grams, cholesterol 15 milligrams, carbohydrate 65 grams, protein 15 grams, sodium 1,000 milligrams, fiber 5 grams.

Cook’s tip: For an interesting flavor twist, omit salt, black pepper, Parmesan cheese and basil. Add 1 Tbsp. Pampered Chef’s Moroccan Rub or Greek Rub.

For a heartier version of this recipe, add grilled turkey Italian sausage or sliced grilled chicken breasts to pasta. If desired, 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes can be substituted for sun-dried tomatoes.

Deluxe Cheeseburger Salad

4 sesame seed hamburger bun tops1 small red onion, divided2 plum tomatoes¾ pound 95 percent lean ground beef½ cup finely diced dill pickles¾ cup ketchup1 Tbsp. yellow mustard8 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce1 cup (4 ounce) shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice bun tops into¼-inch strips (if bun tops are very thick, slice bottoms off horizontally before slicing into strips). Arrange in a single layer in pan; bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove to cooling rack; cool completely.

Slice half of the onion crosswise into thin rings. Remove and discard stems from tomatoes; cut tomatoes into quarters lengthwise and slice crosswise. Set onion and tomatoes aside.

Cook ground beef in (8-inch) sauté pan over medium-high heat 5-7 minutes or until no longer pink, breaking beef into crumbles. Chop remaining onion half. Finely dice pickles. In bowl, combine chopped onion, pickles, ketchup and mustard. Add cooked ground beef; mix well.

To serve, arrange lettuce on large serving platter. Spoon beef mixture over lettuce. Top with cheese, tomatoes and sliced onion. Arrange hamburger bun croutons around edge of platter. Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrients per serving: Calories 250, total fat 10 grams, saturated fat 5 grams, cholesterol 55 milligrams, carbohydrate 20 grams, protein 20 grams, sodium 730 milligrams, fiber 3 grams.

Asian Pork and Noodle Skillet

2 medium carrots, peeled1 medium red bell pepper5-6 green onions with tops (about 1¼ cups sliced), divided2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil2 Tbsp. Asian Seasoning Mix (from Pampered Chef)4 packages (3 ounce each) oriental-flavor Ramen noodles1 Tbsp. vegetable oil4 cups water

Cut carrots into julienne strips. Cut bell pepper lengthwise into¼-inch strips. Slice green onions; set aside tops for garnish.

Trim fat and skin from pork tenderloins. Slice pork lengthwise into four strips. Thinly slice strips crosswise. Combine pork, sesame oil, seasoning mix and two of the Ramen seasoning packets in bowl, mix well.

Add vegetable oil to (12-inch) skillet; heat over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes. Add half of the pork. Cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until browned; remove pork from skillet and keep warm. Repeat with remaining pork.

Add carrots and bell pepper to skillet. Cook 1-2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add water and remaining Ramen seasoning packets; stir to loosen browned bits from bottom of skillet. Add noodles and white parts of green onions to skillet. Cover; bring to a boil and cook 4-5 minutes or until noodles are softened. Add pork; stir to break apart noodles. Remove skillet from heat; let stand, covered, 3-4 minutes or until pork is heated through. Garnish with reserved green onion tops.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrients per serving: Calories 530, total fat 24 grams, saturated fat 8 grams, cholesterol 100 milligrams, carbohydrate 38 grams, protein 38 grams, sodium 1,280 milligrams, fiber 2 grams.

Cook’s tip: Two pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips, can be substituted for pork tenderloin.

White Chicken Chili

Three whole heads of garlic may seem like a lot, but"roasting” them in the microwave lends a mild, mellow taste to this chili.

3 whole heads garlic (about 48 cloves), unpeeled¾ tsp. salt, divided3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided2 poblano peppers1 medium onion1½ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs2 Tbsp. Southwestern Seasoning Mix (from Pampered Chef)2 cans (15.5-ounce each) Great Northern beans, drained1 jar (16 ounce) salsa verde 

Slice about¼ inch off the pointed top of garlic heads to expose cloves. Place garlic cut side up in a bowl. Sprinkle garlic with¼ tsp. of the salt and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. of the oil. Cover bowl with lid; microwave on high 3 minutes or until garlic is soft. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, finely dice peppers. Chop onion. Combine peppers and onion in a deep covered baker. Trim and finely dice chicken. Add chicken, seasoning mix, remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and remaining½ tsp. salt to baker; mix well. Microwave, covered, on high 4 minutes; stir to separate chicken. Cover; microwave 4-6 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

Gently squeeze cooled garlic from heads into bowl (discard skins); mash. Add beans and salsa to bowl. Transfer bean mixture to baker; mix well. Microwave, covered, on high 5-7 minutes or until chili is heated through.

Yield: 8 servings (8 cups)

Nutrients per serving (1 cup): calories 230, total fat 7 grams, saturated fat 1.5 grams, cholesterol 70 milligrams, carbohydrate 21 grams, protein 21 grams, sodium 750 milligrams, fiber 4 grams.

Cook’s tips: Taco seasoning mix can be substituted for the Southwestern Seasoning Mix, if desired. Omit salt.

Serve this chili with optional toppings such as shredded cheese, sour cream, lime wedges, diced avocado or chopped cilantro.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be substituted for the chicken thighs, if desired.

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