Kitchen Wit and Wisdom: Making it budget-friendly

With food prices on the rise, Cathi Litzenberger offers some tasty meals that won't break the bank

Ah, the first column of the new year!  With so many people resolving to improve their eating habits, I’m inclined to offer a few recipes that are wholesome, comforting and inexpensive.

Most of us have been rather surprised — even shocked — by the increase in the cost of basic foods since the fall, and the more we can restrict ourselves from imported foodstuffs the better our budgets will be.

Try locally grown root vegetables and either home-canned or Canadian canned foods instead of fresh vegetables trucked in from the southern states or Mexico. The food value is better and the cost is less.

Today’s first recipe is a casserole combining many favourites. If your kids love cheeseburgers, bacon or pizza, then your family has got to try this yummy casserole. It’s the perfect, kid-friendly meal and costs well under $2 per serving. Just serve a tossed salad on the side and you’re good to go.

Since January is soup month, the second recipe is a warm vegetarian chili soup. Feel free to substitute chili spice if you don’t have the first two ingredients, but it is much nicer with the cumin and chili flakes.

Here’s wishing everyone a healthy, happy new year.

Bacon Cheeseburger

Upside Down Pizza

1 pound lean ground beef

1 onion, quartered, sliced

1 bell pepper, cut into bite-sized strips

8 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled, divided

1-14.5-ounce can chunky pizza sauce

3 Italian plum tomatoes

6 slices cheddar cheese

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon oil

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In large saucepan, brown ground beef with onion and bell pepper; drain.

Stir in 6 slices of the bacon and pizza sauce.

Spoon into ungreased 13×9-inch (3-quart) baking dish.

Sprinkle evenly with tomatoes; top with cheese slices.

In medium bowl, beat eggs slightly.  Add milk and oil; mix well. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Add flour and salt to milk mixture; beat 2 minutes at medium speed, then pour mixture evenly over cheese slices.   Sprinkle with the remaining 2 slices crumbled bacon. Bake at 400 F for 20 to 30 minutes or until topping is slightly puffed and deep golden brown.  Cost: $1.43 per serving.

Red Lentil, Chickpea and Chili Soup

2 tsp. cumin seed

Large pinch chili flakes

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

140g red split lentils

850ml vegetable stock or water

400g can tomatoes, whole or chopped

200g carton chickpeas or ½ a can, rinsed and drained (freeze leftovers)

Small bunch coriander, roughly chopped (save a few leaves, to serve)

4 tbsp. 0% Greek yogurt, to serve

Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin seeds and chili flakes for 1 min., or until they start to jump around the pan and release their aromas.

Add the oil and onion, and cook for 5 mins. Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins until the lentils have softened.

Whizz the soup with a stick blender or in a food processor until it is a rough purée, pour back into the pan and add the chickpeas.

Heat gently, season well and stir in the coriander. Finish with a dollop of yogurt and coriander leaves.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.