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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Try easy, budget friendly meals

With school underway, parents are looking for quick and easy dishes to cook. Not only quick and easy, but also budget friendly. These days, it’s easy to stop by your fast food restaurant for a quick meal. However, fast food is no longer an inexpensive proposition .

I have been asked by friends for meal that can be quickly fixed while not requiring numerous ingredients and steps. Here are three dishes that definitely fit those categories: Sausage Jambalaya, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and Chicken Piccata. Most of these ingredients you would have on hand in your pantry. There is plenty of flavor in these quick and easy dishes while not breaking the bank. Let’s head to the kitchen!

Jambalaya is a great quick and easy meal. This one pot New Orleans staple can be on the table in 30 minutes. Since everything is cooked in the same pot, cleanup is also easy. Feel free to use whatever meat you have on hand.

Sausage Jambalaya

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 pound smoked sausage, sliced

2 cups beef stock

1 cup long-grain rice

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Sauté onions until soft. Add sausage and cook for 2 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add rice and season with salt and pepper. Cover; reduce heat to low and cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Homemade spaghetti sauce usually takes hours to cook. I developed this recipe to make a quick alternative to a pre-made sauce. You can save money along with increasing the flavor over those store bought sauces.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1/4 cup onions, minced

1 can (29 ounces) tomato sauce

1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste

1 tablespoon Italian seasonings

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

2 tablespoons sugar or more to taste

1 pound ground chuck

Creole seasoning, to taste

1 pound spaghetti, cooked to package directions, kept warm

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Sauté onions and garlic in butter until the onions are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and paste; mixing well, making sure the paste does not remain in lumps. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cook for 10 minutes over low heat.

While tomato sauce is cooking, brown ground chuck seasoned with Creole seasoning. Drain off fat. Add ground chuck to tomato sauce and let cook for a few minutes. Serve immediately over warm cooked spaghetti.

Here is a dish that you will find in most Italian restaurants. I remember making this dish at a young age. If you are looking for a restaurant quality dish that can be on the table within 30 minutes, this is the one for you. You will impress even your pickiest eater.

Chicken Piccata

4 4-ounce boneless skinless chicken breast pounded thin


Creole seasoning

3 tablespoons butter divided

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons hot chicken stock

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat oven to 175 ℉.

Season flour with Creole seasoning. Heat large sauté pan oven medium heat. Dredge the chicken in flour, shaking off the excess. Melt two tablespoons of the butter in the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the chicken, cooking it quickly. When the meat is done, place on platter in the oven to keep hot. Add the parsley, lemon juice, remaining butter, and hot stock or broth to pan. Stir well and as soon as the sauce is bubbling, place chicken on serving plates and pour sauce over top. Serve immediately.

With school here and children going in different directions with extracurricular activities, quick and easy dishes are a great way to eat as a family. They will keep you on your budget while feeding your family with a delicious meal. With these dishes, you won’t have to deal with the drive-thru window.

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