Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nutritional, Inexpensive and Tasty Fall-Flavored Meals

It's a complete myth that good wholesome food is too expensive for the average American. Healthy meals don't have to break the bank, nor do they have to take an entire evening of preparation and large amounts of culinary skill. Nutritious food is affordable, easily found, and simple to cook, provided you have a few simple recipes and a can-do attitude. Fall in New England offers a particularly lush and bountiful supply of local foods. From sweet potatoes to tomatoes, all kinds of squash to cranberries, these nourishing and readily available foods will satisfy your hunger.

But let's not talk about how good food is affordable and easy to make. Let's see the proof ourselves.

One of my favorite fall recipes is Autumn Acorn Squash, found on www.allrecipes.com. Fresh cranberries have recently popped back up in supermarkets around New England, so I figured this was a perfect time to make this delicious meal once again. I've listed the ingredients below; most of the prices that accompany each item are taken directly from my grocery receipt, but some are the best approximations I could make.

2 medium acorn squash – ($1.49 each) $2.98
1/2 pound ground turkey - $1.24
1 egg - $0.11
1/2 cup cooked wild rice $0.45
1/2 cup chopped, peeled tart apple $0.65
1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries $0.66
1/2 teaspoon salt $0.01
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes $0.10
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice $0.10
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom $0.10

Total: $6.40 (+ 6.25% tax in Massachusetts) = $6.80

The recipe itself is very simple. Cook the ground turkey; make the rice per the instructions on the box. Add them together once done and dump all the rest of the ingredients in the pan. Mix it all up and cook for just a touch longer. Cut the acorn squash in half, and scoop out all the seeds. Put the turkey mixture in the acorn squash and place, face-up, in a 9x13 baking pan with ½ inch of water and tin foil over the top for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the foil, bake for another 20-25 minutes. Then eat them.

(Photo taken from allrecipes.com)

I sometimes will make a simple fall-flavored dessert for after a fall-flavored meal, and what better sweet this time of year than apple crisp? A basic apple crisp is simple to make, delicious and makes a dessert mostly out of a healthy item – apples. While I don't have a particular recipe I use when making this, this is the general patten that I follow:

3-4 apples, chopped up into inch size pieces - $1.45
1 egg - $0.11
½ cup flour - $.050
½ cup sugar - $0.40
2 tablespoons margarine - $0.30
Touch of cinnamon - $0.15

Total: $2.91 (+ 6.25% tax in Massachusetts) = $3.09

To make, just dump the chopped apples in a small 8x8 pan. Mix the egg, flour and sugar together to form a crumbly mixture and sprinkle over the top of apples. Melt the margarine and add in the cinnamon and drizzle over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes.

(Photo taken from allrecipes.com)

Both of these recipes will serve four, and their combined prep time shouldn't exceed 20 minutes. One pot meals like the acorn squash don't require any extraordinary culinary skill, and all of the ingredients listed here are readily available at local supermarkets. As I've shown through my calculations, a simple, healthy, fall-flavor inspired meal doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg; this entire meal only cost me $9.89 and I can feed four people with it. So check out your supermarket, try a few new recipes, and make a list of expenses if you like. Cooking nutritious food doesn't ever have to be difficult, time consuming or overly expensive.

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