You asked and here it is: More about the meal plan and recipes dietitian Stephanie Norris and I used for Sunday's column to shop healthy for a family of four on a food stamp budget.
I actually used a lot of the dinners I cook often for my family and Stephanie helped me round out the breakfasts and lunches. Our goal was to keep these meals simple. They all take about 30 minutes or less to prepare.
I'll start with one of my absolute favorites, black beans and rice. I love this because you can keep it meatless (and cheaper) or add strips of baked or grilled chicken or fish. It's also kid-friendly because they can add cheese or other toppings they like.
Black beans and rice
1 can black beans (undrained)
1 cup brown rice
1/2 onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped
tsp minced garlic (this is economical if you buy the large jar and it lasts for months)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 packet Goya sazon without annato (these come in a box with about a dozen packets)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (can also use white vinegar or leave it out depending on what you have on hand)
Saute onion and green pepper in a pan with olive oil. Add black beans. Add about a half can of water. Then add your seasonings. You can also add cumin if you have it or a little pepper. Cook your rice separately according to instructions on package.
Serve the beans over the rice. This is great on its own. But you like, you can add a few strips of chicken or fish on top. To pack on some extra greens, I top with fresh spinich or other greens or, if I have it, avocado.
Whole Wheat Pasta with Meat Sauce
This is another family favorite. Sometimes my kids won't eat the meat sauce so I mix their whole wheat pasta with a little olive oil and cheese and they love it. Here's how I do the red sauce. I basically doctor up a jar of sauce to give it some extra flavor, veggies.
1/2 or 1lb lean ground beef (depending on how much you need)
half onion (use other half from the black beans)
green pepper if you have it
Jar of red sauce (I like tomato and basil flavor)
1 tsp olive oil
Cook any kind of whole wheat pasta and drain. Spaghetti works, but penne or something else is great too. Saute onion and green pepper in olive oil. Then add the ground beef and brown. Season with a touch of salt, pepper, oregano if you like. Then add your red sauce and simmer.
Serve red sauce over pasta. You could serve this with a side of frozen or fresh broccoli or another vegetable. Or a small simple salad of lettuce with tomato or cucumber or both.
Baked Chicken with Collards, Brown Rice and Sweet Potato
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. You can season chicken the night before or even the morning before you plan to cook this dish. I've also seasoned it right before I threw it in the oven and it comes out fine so don't worry if you don't do it ahead of time.
Season chicken with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of salt, pepper, any other spices you like and have on hand. I like cumin and garlic. If you have a little lemon juice you can add that too.
Bake chicken 25-30 minutes or until done. Chicken should NOT be pink in the center.
Stephanie suggests cooking the fresh collards with vegetable oil. She says collards are a nutritional powerhouse and typically a good buy at the store too. Cook rice according to package instructions. You can bake the sweet potato in the oven or I sometimes do mine in the microwave to save time. I love sweet potatoes and like to eat them plain, but you can lightly season if you wish and still get all the good nutrients out of them too.
That gives you an idea for dinners. Here are a few samples Stephanie, a registered dietitian and nutrition instructor, came up with for breakfast, lunch and snacks:
2 slices of whole wheat bread
1 or 2 eggs fried or scrambled (number of eggs depending on calorie needs)
3/4 cup grits or oatmeal
1 1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 medium banana
1 1/2 cup Cheerios (we bought generic brand) cereal
1 1/2 cup nonfat milk
Tuna salad (light mayo) sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce, sliced tomato and a cup of nonfat milk
1 1/2 cup lentil soup with 1 cup of brown rice
Snacks (one per day):
2 cups nonfat milk, 2 cups of diced watermelon
1 medium banana, 8 wheat crackers, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 oz cheddar cheese, 8 wheat crackers, 1 1/2 cup orange juice
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