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The cheapest eats of all: Cooking at home

Published October 17, 2012 9:04 am

Cooking • Four dishes for under $10.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Everyone likes to save a buck when they go out to eat. But the easiest way to cut down on your food bill is to cook a meal at home.

To illustrate this for our Cheap Eats edition, we asked three professional cooks to create a meal that would feed four people for $10 or less. Here's what they came up with:

Shredded chicken posole with a corn biscuit topping • $9.93, or $2.48 per serving

This dinner, from Victoria Topham, the chef/owner of Salt Lake City's Pinon Market and Cafe, is a twist on posole, a classic Mexican soup. "It is fast, easy and most of the cooking is done in the oven," said Topham, who used onion soup mix and a corn muffin mix to save time and cut the cost. "But the result is long-simmered flavor and a unique biscuit topping."

Vegetarian falafel cakes with yogurt sauce • $9.46, or $2.36 per serving

Topham shared a second option, a vegetarian dish, based on protein found in garbanzo beans and yogurt. "It has a lot of flavor and interesting texture, making it a terrific low-cost dinner," she said. The money she saved by not buying meat allowed her to add a salad to the menu that also takes advantage of the extra tomato, cucumber and red onion from the falafel cakes.

Mediterranean stuffed peppers with cucumber sauce and a salad • $9.80, or $2.45 per serving

Laila Hardman, owner of Taste Culinary Boutique at Gardener Village, said this meal is a good balance of protein (ground beef), carbohydrates (rice), and vegetables (peppers and a salad). Cinnamon is added to the ground beef mixture and the stuffed peppers are topped with a creamy cucumber yogurt sauce, two additions that making the dish "more exotic" than an ordinary casserole. "It really tastes like something you would get in a restaurant," Hardman said, but at half the cost.

Lemon chicken with roasted cauliflower • $8.39, or $2.09 per serving.

Diana Sheya, a culinary instructor at the Viking Cooking School at Kimball Distributing, knows that classic dishes — like this chicken piccata-style dish — never go out of style. Affordable boneless skinless chicken breasts are pounded thin, which makes them cook quickly, then they are topped with an easy sauce, made from the pan drippings and lemon juice. While capers add a nice salty taste to the final dish, they are optional because they will increase the price to more than $10. But if you've got a few extra dollars, these briny buds are worth it. The roasted cauliflower side dish is easy and will make you wonder why you don't buy this affordable vegetable more often.


Lemon chicken with roasted cauliflower


1/2 of one medium head cauliflower (about 1 pound), cut into florets

1 medium red onion, cut into ½-inch wedges

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and black pepper to taste


4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

11/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

11/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons minced shallots

1 cup lot sodium chicken broth

3 to 4 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons capers, drained (optional)

2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat oven to 450 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower and onion with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Place the pan in the oven. Roast until golden brown and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Halfway through cooking toss the vegetables and rotate the sheet halfway.

While the cauliflower is roasting, trim fat from around the edges of the chicken. Place each breast between plastic wrap and flatten them until about 3⁄8 –inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken on both sides with the flour.

In a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the butter and olive oil, swirling the butter and oil together. Place the chicken in the skillet and sauté for about 3 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm. You may need to cook the chicken in batches so you don't crowd them in the pan.

After you have removed the chicken from the skillet, remove all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat and keep the heat on medium. Add the minced shallots and cook, stirring until wilted, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to high and add the 1 cup chicken stock, stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to dissolve the browned bits. Add the lemon juice and capers and boil until the mixture is reduced to about 1⁄3 cup, 3 to 4 minutes. Add any accumulated chicken juices from the plate and reduce again. Remove from the heat and swirl in the unsalted butter. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately with roasted cauliflower.

Servings • 4

Source: Diane Sheya, Viking Cooking School —

Shredded chicken posole with corn biscuit topping

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, chopped fine (reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish)

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons ground chili powder

2 teaspoons ground Cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 (15 ounce can) whole, peeled tomatoes , pulsed in food processor

1 package onion soup mix

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 (15 ounce) can hominy, drained and rinsed

1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

1 egg

1⁄3 cup milk

1/4 (about) cup flour


Shredded lettuce

lime wedges

1 bunch thinly sliced radishes

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Heat oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the onion and cook until slightly browned and softened. Add spices, garlic and sugar and cook until fragrant. Add chicken and sauté for 2-3 minutes, while taking care not to let spices burn. Add tomatoes and enough water to keep the meat submerged halfway. Bring to a simmer. Add hominy and soup mix. Cover skillet with a tight-fitting lid and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until chicken is tender. Remove skillet from oven and shred chicken using 2 forks. The chicken should be tender and should shred easily.

Meanwhile, make the corn muffin batter with 1 egg and 1⁄3 cup milk and enough flour to form a batter that pulls away slightly from the sides of the bowl. Using a greased measuring cup or an ice cream scoop, drop batter onto posole. Return to the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.

Serve with shredded lettuce, chopped onions and sliced radishes as garnish.

Serves • 4

Source: Victorian Topham, Pinon Market —

Vegetarian falafel cakes with yogurt sauce

Falafel cakes

2 (16-ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

2 eggs

1 hot dog or hamburger bun from bakery, ground in food processor

2 (5.3-ounce) containers plain Greek yogurt, divided

1 medium red onion, diced and divided

1 bunch scallions, minced and divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoon cumin

Salt and Pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Tomato/cucumber relish

1 large red tomato, diced

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons scallion (from above)

2 tablespoons red onion

Yogurt sauce

Remaining yogurt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 large lemon

Pulse garbanzo beans in work bowl of food processor until coarsely chopped, taking care not to over process. Mix beans, eggs, bread crumbs, 1/2 cup yogurt, 2 tablespoons red onion, 2 tablespoons scallions, garlic and spices in bowl. Mix gently but thoroughly. Divide bean mixture into 8 portions, using a greased 1⁄3 cup measuring cup or ice cream scoop. Form into patties and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare sauces. Combine diced tomato, 1/2 cup chopped cucumber, 2 tablespoons scallion and 2 tablespoons red onion in bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. In a separate bowl, combine remaining yogurt, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon red onion, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat 2 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add falafel patties and cook until browned and easily turned, 3-4 minutes per side. Serve 2 patties with tomato cucumber relish, yogurt sauce and lemon wedges.

Servings • 4

Source • Victoriam Topham, Pinon Market & Cafe —

Mediteranean stuffed peppers with creamy cucumber sauce


2 large green peppers

1 cup cooked rice

1 pound ground beef

1/2 of one onion, minced

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (8-ounce) small can tomato sauce

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Cucumber sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 of one cucumber finely chopped

1 gram fresh dill

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste


1/2 package cherry tomatoes cut in half

1/2 large cucumber peeled, seeded and diced

1/4 red onion diced

1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon

1 teaspoons dried oregano

Salt, to taste

Pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds and membranes to make a boat. Place in steamer for 15 minutes to soften. Remove from steamer and cool slightly. Combine the ground beef, rice, onion, tomatoes, tomato sauce, cinnamon and salt and pepper is a bowl. Stuff mixture evently into the peppers and bake for 1 hour.

For the sauce, place the yogurt, the finely chopped cucumber and dill in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and blend until creamy.

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with the dressing.

Serve peppers topped with creamy yogurt sauce and salad on the side.

Servings • 4

Source: Laila Hardman, owner of Taste Culinary Boutique at Gardener Village