Category Archives: Main Dishes

Stuffed cabbage casserole – SNAP meal

 

This is the last of my posts of meals I made while doing the SNAP Challenge. You can look back to see recipes for Vegan Stuffed Green Bell Peppers, Turkey BLT, Turkey Frittata, and many more meal ideas. All these meals were made with about $28 for one week.

This is one of my favorite recipes of all time. One grandmother is Slovak & Hungarian and my other is Slovak & Polish, so this is a classic in my family. Usually made with ground beef, they can also be stuffed. I am usually too lazy to take the large amount of time to boil the cabbage until the leaves are soft, cool them down, carefully roll each little package, then cook.

I figure you’re just gonna cut them up into mush anyways. And I have still never figured out just what makes my grandmother’s cabbage rolls so mind-blowingly addicting. Maybe with a few decades more practice…

This recipe substitutes lentils for the ground beef, because let’s face it lentils are about $3 cheaper per pound. Everything else is pretty much the same. I also used turkey bacon rather than regular pork bacon because 1. it was on sale, and 2. it is healthier for your heart. All around, this meal is super cheap and also very healthy.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentils, cooked
  • 1 cup rice, cooked
  • 1/2 small head of green cabbage, sliced
  • 1-2 cans tomato sauce (some people use 1 sauce and 1 paste)
  • 5 slices turkey bacon
  • Garlic salt to taste

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I made this in a crock pot on low for 6 hours, you can use a baking pan in the oven for 1 1/2 hours if you prefer.

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Step 1: Layer the sliced cabbage, lentils, rice, bacon and sauce. Sprinkle in as much garlic salt as you like. Top with some extra sauce and/or water and remaining cabbage.

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Step 2: Bake on low in a slow cooker for 4-6 hours, or at 350 in an oven for 90 minutes.

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This makes a HUGE batch, so be prepared to either freeze individual portions for later or feed a lot of people at once. Or just eat it five days in a row…

This entire pot of casserole, cost $1.76. I kid you not. I ended up with about six servings, making each serving $0.29.  Can’t really beat that.

 

 

**UPDATE: The SNAP Challenge is complete, with many lessons learned! All SNAP Meal Recipes listed below:

Chicken, broccoli and potato dinner – SNAP meal

 

This is a super simple meal you can get together in about 10 minutes for under $1. You’ve got protein from your chicken, starch and carbs in the potato, and a healthy serving of veggies from the broccoli.

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken drumstick
  • 1 medium baking potato
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli
  • Garlic salt

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Step 1: In a frying pan, cook the chicken for 10-15 minutes, until no pink at all when poked.

Step 2: Wash the potato and poke some holes in it with a fork. Microwave the potato 8-12 minutes, until soft.

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Step 3: Microwave the broccoli 5-7 minutes, until soft. Serve it all with a dash of salt and enjoy. You can add whatever else you have to top the potato: butter, sour cream, cheese, beans, salsa…

 

 

**UPDATE: The SNAP Challenge is complete, with many lessons learned! All SNAP Meal Recipes listed below:

Turkey BLT – SNAP Meal

 

The BLT is a classic sandwich, and when turkey bacon goes on sale for $1.99 per pound, you cannot pass it up. With a garden supplying fresh greens and tomatoes, this sandwich is otherwise quite cheap. Even if you don’t have a garden, spinach is often on sale for $1 per pound, and one roma tomato is less than 50 cents.

You can of course use more or less bacon to taste, or omit it entirely if you are vegetarian/vegan. Alternatively, you can use strips of tofu which sometimes go on sale for $1 per pound. Just drain, slice it up, and fry in a pan.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of bread
  • 4 slices of turkey bacon
  • 1/2 roma tomato, sliced
  • 1 small handful baby lettuce/spinach

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Step 1: Cut the bacon strips in half and fry in a pan. This should take 5-7 minutes per side.

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Step 2: On the bread, layer the bacon, tomato slices, and lettuces. Enjoy!

I had my sandwich with a small handful of grapes growing wild behind my house. It actually made enough for two sandwiches, or one thick one.

Without considering the tomato and spinach, the cost is $0.33. If you make it into two sandwiches, the cost is $0.21 each. Even if you add in a few cents for the veggies, it is crazy cheap for a delicious and healthy lunch.

 

 

**UPDATE: The SNAP Challenge is complete, with many lessons learned! All SNAP Meal Recipes listed below:

Simple Chicken Soup – SNAP meal

 

This is a super simple soup made from the vegetables I could afford, and a few chicken drumsticks which were on sale. It doesn’t take much to make a delicious, warming pot of soup. It’s healthy, cheap, and keeps you from getting sick (or sicker). It’s science.

Ingredients:

  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1/3 cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 2 chicken drumsticks
  • About 10 cups water
  • Garlic salt to taste

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You can see here my meals for the day, planned out and packed to go. Oatmeal with a cut up apple for breakfast, a leftover stuffed pepper for lunch, and soup in the crock pot for dinner.

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Chicken often goes on sale, sometimes for as little as 88 cents per pound. When you find a really great deal, snag some extra to freeze for future use.

Step 1: Cut up all your veggies.

Step 2: Put them in a pot with the water, rice, lentils, and chicken, leave in crock pot on low for 4-8 hours. Or, you can simmer in a pot on the stove for 1-3 hours.

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This whole pot of soup is only $1.25! Plus a negligible amount from the water used and garlic salt. I ended up having about five servings, meaning each huge steaming bowl was only $0.25!

Soup is a great catch-all, you can add in any leftover vegetable odds and ends from the refrigerator. Same goes for odds and ends of meat. Meat with bones will give the broth extra flavor. This is a great use for a whole chicken, enjoy the meat other ways, then use the bones for soup stock. It’s just one more way to squeeze every last penny out of your food dollars.

 

**UPDATE: The SNAP Challenge is complete, with many lessons learned! All SNAP Meal Recipes listed below:

Stuffed Bell Peppers – SNAP meal

 

This is the first dinner I cooked during my week of the SNAP Challenge. I love stuffed bell peppers, and I usually make them with ground beef. Though I have had some success with vegetarian stuffed peppers in the past.

Given the already high and rising cost of meat, I knew I’d have to take a vegetarian route to keep these in budget. Swapping in lentils for the beef keeps this recipe high in protein content, and lowers the fat, while keeping the core tastes and hunger-crushing properties of the meal intact.

Ingredients:

  • 2 green bell peppers (use any color)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/3 cup lentils
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • Garlic salt

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Step 1: If you have a rice cooker, you can cook the lentils and rice together in it. If not, simmer the rice and lentils in a sauce pot with 2 1/2 cups water for 20 minutes.

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Step 2: Mix the cooked rice and lentils with the can of tomato sauce.

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Step 3: Cut the top off the pepper and pull out the seeds. Stuff the mixture inside, adding as much garlic salt as you like.

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Step 4: Bake the peppers in an oven at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until soft. Alternatively you could microwave each pepper, covered, for 8-10 minutes to soften. Another option is to put the stuffed peppers in a crock pot on low for 1-2 hours.

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Serve as a meal, or with a baked potato or salad on the side.

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I ended up eating one pepper for dinner, and the other for lunch the next day. They are quite filling, and delicious! Pretty healthy for you as well. Vegan, vegetarian, and you can make it gluten-free if you substitute in quinoa or another gluten-free grain for the rice.

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For approximately $0.84 per serving, you can’t do much better!

 

 

**UPDATE: All SNAP Meal Recipes listed below:

Better than take-out Beef & Broccoli

 

Ever want the addictive taste of Chinese take-out, but not want the MSG, additives, preservatives, sugar, salt, and calories??

The answer of course is, duh! Yes!

Good news! Making your own Beef & Broccoli at home is super simple, cheap, and nearly as fast as dialing and waiting for delivery. Try this easy weeknight favorite for yourself, and save the tip for a treat for yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beef cubes (can use chicken or tofu too)
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli cuts (or 1 head fresh broccoli chopped)
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Dash garlic
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, or 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp sriracha, or to taste

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Step 1: Mix all but first three ingredients in a small bowl. If you have time, marinate the meat for 1-6 hours in refrigerator.

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Step 2: Cook the beef in a frying pan 5-10 minutes until browned but not completely chewy. Meanwhile, use a sauce pot to boil rice, or a rice cooker.

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Step 3: Add the sauce to the meat. Microwave the broccoli 3 minutes, or cook in the frying pan, covered, for 5-7 minutes.

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Step 4: Mix beef and broccoli, serve over rice with extra sauce.

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You can add cornstarch or a little flour if you like a thicker sauce, or add more water/fish sauce/vinegar for a thinner sauce. I added a little extra sriracha with servings because I like a little kick! Enjoy never having to stop for take-out again.

 

Vegan vegetable stew

 

This is a recipe born of necessity while house-sitting for a friend. I was feeding and playing with the puppy, and got hungry. She had said I can use anything in the house, so I took stock of the pantry and fridge and came up with this.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup orange lentils
  • 1/2 purple cabbage, shredded
  •  2 leaves kale, shredded
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 1 cup rice

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Step 1:Dice all the veggies. Put into a pot with 2 cups of water and the coconut milk. Stir in mustard.

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Step 2: Simmer, covered, for 60-90 minutes. Meanwhile, cook rice in a separate pot.

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Step 3: When lentils are fully cooked, season as you like. Serve over rice.

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This curry is crazy healthy for you and you wouldn’t know by how delicious it is! There are infinite additions you could make too, such as using broth with the coconut milk, adding in shredded chicken or sausage, or varying the type of vegetable or bean. You could also make this in a small crock pot on low for 2-3 hours. Enjoy!

One-dish Enchilada Casserole

 

This recipe inspiration came from one of the several food magazines I regularly read. I absolutely love easy, one-dish recipes, especially if they look like you took hours to plan and create this masterpiece, but in reality all you had to do was creatively layer several ingredients and give it some time.

Mexican food is a great place to start for simple yet flavor-packed recipes. Pretty much anything involving beans, rice, and veggies will end up becoming a hit, and there are literally thousands of ways to get creative and make dishes your own. You can customize everything from the spices to the meat or lack thereof to the type and amount of vegetable and carb.

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For this recipe, I had chicken breast in the freezer, as well as some corn, and canned necessities (beans and diced tomatoes) coupled with a few fresh ingredients like avocado and shredded cheese, and we got ourselves a multi-layered chicken enchilada casserole!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chilies or 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup guacamole or 1 mashed avocado
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp butter or margerine
  • 2 tortillas (flour or corn, 10 or 12 inch)

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Step 1: In a skillet, cook the onion, corn, peppers, and cumin in butter until all vegetables are soft and corn is lightly charred, about 5 minutes.

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Step 2: In the same or a different skillet, cook the diced chicken until completely white and hot throughout.

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Step 3: In a large round pie pan, cover with aluminum foil and place a tortilla on the bottom of the pan. Spoon on half of the cooked chicken, and then half of the veggie mixture. It is super easy to make this vegetarian by leaving out the chicken, or you can switch it up with flank steak or chorizo.

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Step 4: Spread on half of the drained diced tomatoes with chili and/or salsa.

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Step 5: Sprinkle on half the can of drained beans.

 

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Step 6: Spread on half of the guacamole, or sprinkle around slices or chunks of avocado.

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Step 7: Put down another tortilla, and repeat the layers. Top it all off with a hearty sprinkle of shredded cheese.

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Step 8: Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and browned on top.

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Then simply slice up your casserole into as big a slice as you want, and enjoy!

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This is an amazing flavor combination, and the tortilla layers hold it together mostly well. You can add a third, top layer of tortilla, or just do one layer of filling like a pot pie. Feel free to layer it in whatever order you want, and change around the ingredients to suit your tastes. Hope you like it!

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It’s fragrant, delicious, brightly colored, and has SO many vegetables packed into one serving, yet even kids and picky eaters will likely go back for seconds!

Jambalaya

 

Jambalaya is a Creole dish originally from Louisiana. It’s creation was a combination of French and Spanish influences in the deep South of America, and is closely related to the Spanish paella.

The basis of any Jambalaya is meat(s), vegetables, and rice simmered in some sort of stock. Some versions of Jambalaya add tomatoes for “red Jambalaya”, while others do not and rely on meat drippings for a brownish color. The accepted classic version cooks meat, typically chicken, sausage, and/or shrimp with celery, onions, and bell peppers. Then tomatoes and possibly other vegetables are added, and finally equal parts rice and chicken stock, and simmered until cooked.

According to Wikipedia, “Jambalaya is differentiated from gumbo and étouffée by the way in which the rice is included. In these dishes, the rice is cooked separately and is served as a bed on which the main dish is served. In the usual method of preparing jambalaya, a rich stock is created from vegetables, meat, and seafood; raw rice is then added to the broth and the flavor is absorbed by the grains as the rice cooks.”

This dish is absurdly simple to cook, you just need to have the right ingredients and the patience to let them cook slowly so the flavors can develop and meld. I had bought some chicken breast and shrimp on sale, and had two sausages in the freezer, so of course Jambalaya was just begging to be made. It is possible to make a vegetarian Jambalaya, and you can include only one or two of the meats, or any other kind you prefer; the basic recipe and method is the same.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sausages, sliced
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 1 cup shrimp, deveined
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup white or brown rice
  • 2 tbsp Cajun/creole spices if you have it
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies

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Step 1: Dice up the celery, peppers, and onion and put in a pot with a few tbsp butter. Saute until soft.

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Step 2: Add in the meats, cover and let cook until the shrimp is fully pink, the sausage is browned, and the chicken is completely white.

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Step 3: Add in spices and canned tomatoes, simmer covered for 5-10 minutes.

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Step 4: Add 1 cup raw rice and 1 cup chicken stock, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 30-40 minutes. When the rice is cooked, it’s ready.

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Jambalaya is a filling, delicious meal with complex flavors from all the various vegetables and meats cooking together.

You can shorten cook time by cooking the rice separately and pouring the red jambalaya over the rice. This dish can also be made in a slow cooker to save you time. Just add all the ingredients, and cook on low for 4-6 hours. The end result should be similar.

Less than 5: Tuna Salad Puffs

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On nights when you just don’t have the energy or time to cook a whole meal from scratch, these “less than 5” meals are the perfect solution. For me to title a meal as “less than 5” it must require less than 5 ingredients, and it’s an extra bonus if it also takes less than 5 minutes to make.
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For this recipe, I had several cans of tuna I had purchased during a great sale weeks prior. I didn’t want the usual tuna-salad-sandwich, or tuna noodle casserole. So I looked in the fridge, and saw I had a can of biscuits. Viola, dinner inspiration!
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Ingredients:
1 can ready to bake biscuits (or croissants, any type of dough)
1 can tuna
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp relish
Salt & pepper if you like
Step 1: Open and drain the tuna. In a bowl, combine the tuna, mayo, and relish. Mix well.
Step 2: On a sprayed baking sheet, place each biscuit about 1-2 inches apart. Tamp down a small depression with your fingers or a spoon. Fill with 1-2 tbsp tuna mixture.
Step 3: Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown on top.
You can sprinkle these with whatever spices you have on hand, or a little bit of shredded cheese too.
They are great as appetizers, or eat several for a full meal! Feel free to add in other veggies to the tuna, like diced up cucumber or cooked egg, or lemon juice.