Hearty recipes that won't break the bank

Mini meatloaf. (Courtesy of Longos)

Mini meatloaf. (Courtesy of Longos)

Joanne Richard, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Just before the holidays comes the worry that grocery prices are going to go up. There's a variety of reasons, with some economists predicting food prices may shoot up by as much as 4% by the new year. Blame can be given to the extreme drought conditions south of the border that have destroyed crucial crops.

What to do? Be a wise consumer - make grocery lists, take advantage of the local bounty, pack lunches from home and stop throwing out food.

Here's a selection of great recipes that are not only delicious, but nutritious, too, and easy on the pocketbook.

Barley & Bean Risotto

The barley is cooked in a style to produce a creamy risotto-like dish. Barley has a slightly nutty flavour and a tender-firm bite that makes it particularly satisfying, especially when combined with beans for an economical main course or side dish. The Tuscan flavours of fennel and tomatoes complement the barley and beans wonderfully. Recipe courtesy of Jennifer MacKenzie, P.H.Ec. of Foodworx

  • 4 cups (1 L) reduced-sodium vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 bulb fennel (or 1 1/2 cups/375 ml sliced celery)
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) dried rosemary, crumbled
  • 1 cup (250 ml) pot barley
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) white wine vinegar
  • 1 can (19 oz/540 ml) Romano or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) drained canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a saucepan or in microwave, heat stock until steaming. Cover and keep hot.

Trim stalks off fennel bulb; chop about 1/4 cup (60 ml) feathery fronds and reserve for garnish. Cut bulb lengthwise into quarters; thinly slice crosswise.

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add fennel and onion and saute for about 3 minutes or until starting to soften. Add garlic, basil and 1/4 tsp. (1 ml) each salt and pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Add barley and stir to coat well. Deglaze pan with vinegar and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated.

Stir in 3 cups (750 ml) of the stock. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until barley is almost tender. Add a little more of the stock if necessary to keep mixture moist.

Uncover and stir in tomatoes and beans. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often and gradually adding remaining stock, until barley is tender with a slight bite. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the pot at a steady simmer. Stir in parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with fennel fronds, if using.

Serves 4.

Mini Meatloaves

This classic is what everyone loves for dinner but made mini for little hands to love as well! Serve up some peas and mashed potatoes. Courtesy of Longo's, (Longos.com.)

  • 1 pkg (about 500 g) extra lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) tomato basil pasta sauce
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) each dried oregano and basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) salt
  • 1 cup (250 ml) ready-made mushroom soup

In a large bowl, using hands, mix together beef, tomato sauce and water until well combined. Add bread crumbs, cheese, oregano, basil and salt and mix until distributed evenly. Divide mixture evenly into 6 balls and place into greased mini loaf tins. Flatten top slightly and divide 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the mushroom soup among top of each one. Flatten tops slightly and spoon 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) of mushroom soup over top of each one.

Bake in 375F (190C) oven for about 35 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 160F (71C) and meatloaves are no longer pink inside.

Makes 6 mini meatloafs.

Thai-Style Edamame and Veggies

The classic Thai dish, paht si-yu, was the inspiration for this recipe. Similar to Pad Thai, the flavours wonderfully enhance green soybeans and cauliflower for a zesty one-dish meal. Recipe from Fresh and Healthy Cooking for Two - Easy Meals for Everyday Life Ellie Topp and Marilyn Booth.

  • 4 oz. (120 g) linguine or fettuccine
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) light soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. (1 ml) ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) chopped garlic
  • 2 cups (500 ml) small cauliflower florets
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) frozen shelled edamame, about 4 oz. (125 g)
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 3 cups (375 ml) chopped Swiss chard leaves, about 4 oz. (125 g)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) low sodium chicken broth

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook linguine for 8 to 10 minutes or just until tender yet firm. Drain and rinse with hot water; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce and pepper; set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cauliflower, edamame, red pepper and broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Add chard and soy sauce mixture. Cook for 2 minutes longer. Stir in linguine and toss until well mixed.

Serves 2.

Slow Cooker Marvellous Mushroom Pot Roast

Pot roasts make the most comforting one-pot meals. And bonus - they're so simple to make: Just brown meat and flavourings, add a liquid for cooking, cover and slow-simmer. Courtesy of beefinfo.org

  • 4 lb. (1.81 kg) beef pot roast (cross rib, blade or brisket)
  • Coarsely ground sea salt or kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cooking onion, cut into wedges lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup (50 ml) red wine or beef broth
  • 1 can (284 ml) condensed mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) dried mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) quartered button mushrooms
  • 1 cup (250 ml) diced green beans (optional)

Pat roast dry; season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add roast; brown well on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove roast from pan. Add garlic and onion to pan. Reduce heat to medium; cook until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes (Note: add splash of water to prevent scorching if needed). Stir in wine, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Stir in soup. Soak dried mushrooms (if using) in 1/2 cup (125 ml) hot water. Strain, reserving liquid; add soaked mushrooms and reserved liquid to pan.

Transfer roast and liquid from pan to slow cooker insert. Add fresh mushrooms; cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours until roast is fork-tender.

Remove roast to cutting board; cover with foil and towel to keep warm. Add green beans (if using) to sauce; cover and cook on high for 30 minutes or until veggies are tender. Season sauce to taste. Serve roast with the vegetables and sauce.

Serves 6.


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