Thursday, October 29, 2009

Food October 2009: Healthy Dinner for 4 on a Budget

There was a legendary place in Waitsfield, Vermont when I was growing up called The Den (now called Ake's Den).  A comfy cozy restaurant that served the famous juicy Den burger on an english muffin with fries.  It had the good old-80's-fashioned salad bar... you know, where you could make a salad that was more calories than the burger.  A total winter comfort meal, but maybe not as healthy as it could be.

To update this classic to a healthy at home meal on a budget - head to Trader Joe's.  I make 4 burgers (2 adult size and 2 smaller sized) from the 16 oz. organic beef packages for $5.99 (240 calories for 4 oz.).  To give the burgers a little added juice, put a small pad of Earth Balance Organic Whipped buttery spread (40 calories for 1/2 tablespoon) in the center of each burger so that it can melt as the meat cooks.  Toast and serve on whole wheat english muffins from Disraeli and Gladstone for Trader Joe's ($1.99 for 6 muffins at 130 calories each).  For the kids smaller burgers, I use a cookie or biscuit cutter on the muffins to make them just the right size.  If your kids like cheeseburgers, try Trader Joe's Sliced Lite Cheddar (70 calories for $4.69 with plenty of cheese left over for the week's sandwiches.)

To serve with the burgers, my toddlers love sweet potato fries.  Two sweet potatoes works for our family of four and, depending on the size, go for less than $3.   Not a lot of money considering that one medium sweet potato at 108 calories (or 56 calories for serving) boasts 384% of the Vitamin A, 33% of the vitamin C and 14% of the Vitamin B6 in the recommended daily portion - and more importantly they are flippin' yummy.  I slice them thinly and long (almost the shape of a McDonald's fry) earlier in the day and toss them with 2 tablespoons safflower oil (each portion will have approximately 1/2 tablespoon for 60 calories) as it is healthy and works well at high heat, and sprinkle with salt.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and when you put your burgers on the grill, place the fries on a baking sheet in the oven.  Turn them frequently to prevent burning and they should be done in roughly 20 minutes depending on their cut, or when the fry is crisping up on the outside and soft on the inside.  If the fries are soggy you might be using too much oil, or your oven is not getting hot enough.  For the burger and fries healthy style for 4 you come in under $17 and 520 calories for the meal without condiments!  (590 calories if you opt for the cheese) If you are willing to spend a little more, search out a local butcher shop or farm that sells local meat so that you can best research your source; or if you are concerned about fat and are willing to spend more, Whole Foods sells lower fat organic ground beef options.

If you are feeling ambitious, or just missing the 80's, feel free to recreate the salad bar for your kids - its a great way to introduce them to the idea as kids love having the control of making their own salad.  I like to offer them organic baby spinach ($2.69), dried cranberries ($1.99 for 8 oz. or at least two meals), chopped organic grape tomatoes ($2.99) and sliced almonds ($2.49 for 8 oz.. or at least 4 meals) (easy items to find at Trader Joe's).  ENJOY!!

NOTE:  Since this was published, on 10/31 a beef recall is affecting some Trader Joe's beef products.  Thus far, their organic beef has not been included, see the USDA information here. 

No comments:

Post a Comment