Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Making Magazine Worthy Recipes More Budget and Kid Friendly

Between busy schedules, budgets and an already acquired arsenal of trusted and loved recipes, it's hard sometimes for me to justify taking a chance on a new recipe.  I seem to only try a new recipe about 1-2 times a month.  But when I received the May 2011 issues of Better Homes & Garden, I couldn't resist.  It helped that I was familiar with all of the main ingredients, so it was really going to be just a twist on the preparation.

Now please don't get me wrong, I don't regularly cook magazine worthy, picture perfect meals every night of the week.  I've shared many of my easy, no fuss standbys, but this last week the stars aligned and schedules worked out nicely so that I was able to spend a bit more time in the kitchen.  Following are my tips and tricks to making each of these recipes a bit more budget and kid friendly so the whole family can eat the same thing, keeping the weekly market specials in mind and adjusting some ingredients.  When I create a meal plan for the week, I always try to make sure that each meal can be easily adapted for the kids to eat.  The end goal is A) avoid becoming a short order cook, and B) continue to expose the kids to new tastes and foods.  I was able to achieve those goals with all these recipes below.  All photos via BH&G because mine never turn out this pretty :)

Luckily I already had a nice package of 2 pork tenderloins in the freezer so I cut costs there.  The original recipe called for the salsa to be made with pineapple and papaya, but mangos were on sale so I made a substitution.  To make the dish more kid friendly, I shaved off the outside of the pork before serving, as the dry rub was a bit spicy.  And instead of serving the mango & pineapple salsa mixed up, I just reserved some pieces on the side and served them plain.  I grilled up some corn as well and called it dinner.

We had a whole tenderloin left over which served as dinner for a second night, and with just a bit leftover I made a yummy salad for lunch the next day of lettuce from our garden, cubed up pork, cannelini beans, avocado, cherry tomatoes and a simple olive oil and lime juice vinaigrette, with a dash of salt and pepper.

I usually roast my pork tenderloin with a simple dry rub of salt and pepper, but this ingenious method of grilling made the meat turn out phenomenal.  Super moist and tender, I'll be cooking this dish all throughout summer.

Fish tacos are just about one of my favorite dishes to make because they're fast and healthy.  This dish calls for halibut, but Tilapia was on sale for a great price of $4.99/lb so I went ahead and made the substitution and these tacos couldn't have been more amazing.  For the slaw, I substituted the diced chili for a sprinkle of ancho chili powder that I had bought for the pork tenderloin.  Might as well use what you've got right?  The cabbage for the slaw is just about 1/4 of a head, so I asked the produce guy to cut a cabbage in quarters and paid I think 35 cents for it, a heck of a lot cheaper than lettuce!

To make the dish more kid friendly I served the fish by itself without the tomatillos and minus the taco shell.  I served sliced mango, my Grandma's Spanish Rice and pinto beans on the side.  The kids devoured the fish!

This recipe called for sugar snap peas, one of the few vegetable I can get Syd to eat, so I was on board!  I had plenty already on hand, as well as carrots and celery, so I just mainly needed the chicken.  The recipe calls for a whole chicken, but chicken breasts and thighs were on sale for .97 cents a pound, so I went ahead and used those instead.  The soup went far, feeding us for 2 dinners and 2 lunches for me.  If you have tortilla chips on hand, use those instead of frying up your own.

To serve the soup for the kids, I gave them the broth, chicken and sugar snap peas (neither of my kids will eat cooked carrots or celery but will eat them raw), and made little quesadillas as well.  I have found that my kids will always be more apt to try a new dish if I make sure to serve something familiar with it, hence the quesadillas.  They liked adding their own toppings of the cheese and tortilla too. 

Overall I was impressed with the recipe planning of these meals because they all had overlapping ingredients, so you could make the most of what you had on hand.  For instance all 3 of the above recipes called for cilantro, which usually goes to waste when I buy it for just one dish.  This sort of planning helped me keep my grocery bill right at $100 for the week.

Well I've already professed my love for these bars, but I just wanted to reiterate how ridiculously good they are!  I ended up making them 3 times last week for 3 separate events we went to and they were a hit everywhere we went.  To make the bars a bit more budget friendly, I went ahead and used cream cheese (as suggested) for the custard instead of the goat cheese.  I made them both ways, and trust me, you don't notice a difference between the 2.  I did make the shortbread with my hand mixer the first time, and the Kitcheaid the other 2 times and the Kitchenaid definitely does a better job of mixing the shortbread.  It came out lighter and flakier when made with the Kitchenaid. 

Do you have any tips on how you make your recipes more budget and kid friendly?  Do you usually make separate meals for the kids if you're making a special recipe, or do you hold the philosophy that you get what you get?


  1. Love all these! Can't wait to try the pork and the fish as soon as I feel like cooking again. Thanks for sharing.
    love from,

  2. I think we made exactly the same things last week! Wasn't that pork DELICIOUS? Can't go wrong with a tenderloin..good every time.

  3. When I first saw the pictures I was, like WOW, magazine worthy indeed. Then I read your disclaimer :) . They look absolutely delicious any way! Yum!

    By the way, your post is up on June's Uniquely Your City!

  4. Ahhhh! this is wonderful, andrea! thanks! xo


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