Making good food that costs less: Most of us can get behind such an effort. Here are some recipes that will help you get there.

Although these dishes will set you back more than the touted “pennies per serving,” especially if your pantry isn’t stocked with a few staples, they compensate by saving you time, using leftovers or small amounts of ingredients you have on hand.

Braised turkey legs

This preparation doesn’t take a lot of time or money, yet it yields a homey meal and plenty of leftover options.

Make ahead: The braised turkey meat, sauce and vegetables taste even better after a day’s refrigeration; the sauced meat freezes well. Adapted from


  • Olive oil
  • 4 pounds skin-on turkey legs and thighs
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 to 2 cups water, plus more as needed (may substitute no-salt-added turkey or chicken broth, or dry white wine, or a combination)
  • Potatoes, peeled and quartered (optional)
  • Turnips or rutabagas, peeled and quartered (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Ground cayenne pepper (may substitute hot pepper sauce)
  • Fresh lemon juice (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley, for garnish


Coat the bottom of a large Dutch oven with oil and heat over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.

Season the turkey pieces all over with salt and pepper. Add to the pot and cook just long enough to brown the pieces on both sides. Transfer to a plate and add the onion and celery to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes or until softened, then return the turkey pieces to the pot, arranging them on top of the vegetables. Add water to a depth of 1 inch. Once it begins to bubble at the edges, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low, cover and cook for 1 ½ hours or until the meat is tender and falls easily away from the bone.

Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and discard the skin and bones, leaving the dark meat in chunks and shreds as you see fit.

At this point, you can use the liquid remaining in the pot to cook the optional vegetables. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are easily pierced with a fork. Transfer them to a bowl, then increase the heat to medium-high and reduce the remaining liquid in the pan to intensify its flavor.

Whisk the cornstarch into ½ cup of water to form a slurry. Reduce the heat to medium and gradually add the slurry to the pot, stirring until slightly thickened. Season with the cayenne and the lemon juice, if using; taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Return the turkey meat and cooked vegetables, if using, to the pan and stir to coat and heat through. Remove from the heat and add the parsley.

Serve right away; or cool completely, transfer to a container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

Nutrition per serving (based on 8; meat and sauce only): 220 calories, 35 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 145 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar.

Smoky-sweet carrots

If your pantry contains Spanish smoked paprika, maple syrup and either broth or a bouillon cube, this savory side dish will set you back only the cost of a bag of carrots.

Adapted from “The Clean Plates Cookbook: Sustainable, Delicious, and Healthier Eating for Every Body,” by Jared Koch with Jill Silverman Koch (Running Press, 2013).


  • 1 pound carrots (not baby-cut)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable broth (may substitute chicken broth)
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika (substitute 1 teaspoon dark chili powder)
  • Kosher salt


Trim the carrots, then cut them crosswise into 2½-inch pieces. Cut each of those pieces lengthwise into ¼-inch sticks.

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and stir to coat; cook for 2 minutes, reducing the heat as needed to keep the carrots from burning. Add the broth, syrup and smoked paprika; cook for about 10 minutes, tossing the carrots a few times, until they are tender and lightly browned and the liquid has reduced to a glaze. Season with salt to taste; serve hot.

Makes: 4 or 5 servings

Nutrition per serving (based on 5): 100 calories, 1 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 120 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar.

Beggar’s soup

The Persian tradition behind this dish, a type of porridgelike stew known to Iranians as “ash,” is that long ago, someone in need would leave an empty soup pot by the road. Passersby would toss in coins so the pot’s owner could buy ingredients. Today, visitors to a dinner bring an ingredient to throw into the soup pot.

Here, a little bit of meat is used for flavoring a rich, spiced mixture of budget-conscious beans, legumes and rice. Chuck roast is an inexpensive cut; next time you buy it, get one that weighs an extra quarter-pound and use the excess to make this soup. Adapted from “One-Pot Wonders,” by Clifford A. Wright (Wiley and Sons, 2013).


  • 6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 ounces boneless chuck roast
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups water
  • ¼ cup dried brown lentils
  • 3 tablespoons dried red kidney beans
  • 2 tablespoons dried chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons dried mung beans (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons raw long-grain white or brown rice
  • ¼ cup chopped spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped scallions, white and light-green parts


Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until the garlic is golden but not burned. Transfer the garlic to small plate; use a fork to separate it into bits.

Add the remaining 4 teaspoons of oil; once it’s hot, add the boneless chuck and the onion, stirring to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes; once the beef has lost its raw look, stir in the turmeric, salt and the pepper to taste, then add the water, lentils, red kidney beans, chickpeas and the mung beans, if using. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring once or twice.

Add the rice, then cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add the spinach, parsley, dill and 1 tablespoon of the scallions. Cover and cook for 40 minutes; the soup should be quite thick.

Taste to make sure everything is cooked through; if it isn’t, cover and cook as needed.

Divide among individual bowls. Garnish with some of the reserved garlic and the remaining tablespoon of scallions. Serve hot.

Makes: 4 servings

Nutrition per serving: 230 calories, 13 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 610 mg sodium, 8 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar.

Sherley’s Parmesan Puffs

Makes 12 to 24 hors d’oeuvres

The original recipe appeared in “The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook” by Marian Burros and Lois Levine (Simon and Schuster, 1997). The version in the more recent “101 Classic Cookbooks” did not provide ingredient amounts, and now that we’ve eaten our share of these retro bites, we understand why. You could exert great self-control and make a few, or you could make a lot. They are addictive — and, as the original recipe touted, “they disappear like soap bubbles.”

They cost pennies to make. As reprinted in “101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic Recipes,” edited by Marvin J. Taylor and Clark Wolf (Rizzoli, 2012).


  • 4 to 6 slices soft white bread
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons finely minced sweet onion, such as Vidalia
  • ¼ cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiling element; preheat the broiler. Have a large baking sheet at hand.

Cut off the bread crusts, reserving them for another use if desired. Use a 1- or 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut rounds of the bread (3 or 4 per slice), arranging them on the baking sheet spaced an inch or so apart. Place a little of the onion at the center of each one.

Stir together the mayonnaise and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a medium bowl. Completely cover each round of bread and onion with the mayo mixture. Broil for about 3 minutes, until puffed and browned. Serve right away.

Nutrition per piece (based on 24, using low-fat mayo): 25 calories, 0 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar

Baked Clams With Rosemary, White Beans and Tomatoes

Makes: 2 or 3 servings

The price of clams has risen in recent years, but this recipe makes economical use of them. Less-expensive mussels can be substituted. It’s a good way to use up a bit of leftover wine; or open a bottle of beer or cider, then drink the rest with dinner.

Serve with bread for dunking. Adapted from “Full of Flavour,” by Maria Elia (Kyle, 2013).


  • 14 ounces fresh littleneck clams
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
  • ½ cup canned no-salt-added cannellini or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • Sprig rosemary
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • ½ cup dry white wine, beer or hard cider


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Have a rimmed baking sheet at hand.

Place the clams in a colander; rinse under cool running water, then shake dry.

Lay a large doubled piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper over the baking sheet; it should be big enough to fold over the clam mixture.

Combine the clams, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, tomatoes, beans and rosemary in a heap on one half of the foil or parchment. Drizzle with the oil and pour the wine, beer or cider evenly over the heap. Fold over to create a loose packet, sealing the edges and making sure you leave enough head space for the clams to open as they roast.

Roast (on the baking sheet) for about 12 minutes; the mixture should be wonderfully fragrant. Carefully open the packet, allowing steam to escape. Discard the rosemary sprig, along with any clams that have not opened.

Divide between wide, shallow bowls, including any juices. Serve right away.

Nutrition per serving : 270 calories, 29 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar

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