$5 dinners

'Bacon and Eggs' Spaghetti and Green Salad ($4.69) This pasta dish is known as spaghetti carbonara in Italy, where it's often made with the Italian bacon known as pancetta. We used sweeter, cheaper and easier-to-find American bacon. Ingredients: ...

'Bacon and Eggs' Spaghetti and Green Salad ($4.69)

This pasta dish is known as spaghetti carbonara in Italy, where it's often made with the Italian bacon known as pancetta. We used sweeter, cheaper and easier-to-find American bacon.


12 ounces. thin spaghetti

6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice


3 eggs

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 tomato, diced (optional)


Head of lettuce

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.

Meantime, in a skillet, cook bacon until fat is rendered and desired crispiness is reached. Turn heat to low.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, parmesan cheese and black pepper as desired. When spaghetti is cooked, drain, reserving a little of the cooking water.

Add to the skillet with the bacon and its fat. Stir in the egg-cheese mixture, tossing all together until eggs become glossy. Stir in peas and a little of the cooking water if dish seems dry. Top with diced tomato, if using.

To make green salad with vinaigrette: Tear and wash head of lettuce. Submerge lettuce leaves in ice water bath for 30 seconds. Shake dry. (This "shocks" them and makes them crisp).

In a small, sealable plastic container, shake together 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and 1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, then toss with lettuce.

'Sloppy' Stacked Enchiladas (Cost: $4.72)


This hearty one-dish meal isn't really messy -- it gets its name from the sloppy joes that even adults crave now and then. The exact number of tortillas and layers you use in this recipe depends on the size and shape of the baking dish you use.

1 can (15 ounces) sloppy joe sauce

About 12 corn tortillas

1 pound ground beef

1 can (16 ounces) low-fat refried beans

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Open can of sloppy joe sauce. Pour about 1/2 cup into a bowl. Soften two or three tortillas in the microwave. Dip both sides of the tortillas into the sloppy joe mix. Set these tortillas aside. These tortillas will be the top layer of the casserole.

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet; drain off fat. Add sloppy joe mix, including any left in the bowl, to the meat and simmer a few minutes. Grease the bottom of a casserole dish. A square 8-by-8-inch or round 9-inch dish works best. Layer two or three tortillas in the bottom, tearing off pieces to fill any gaps. Don't worry if some overlap.


Spoon about one-third of the meat mixture over the tortillas. Top with another layer of tortillas. Spread about half of the refried beans over the tortillas (the beans will be easier to spread if heated in the microwave first) and top with 1/3 cup cheese.

Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with the tortillas that were dipped in the sloppy joe mix and the remaining 1/3 cup cheese.

Bake in a 350-degree oven about 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly.


'Unwanted' Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Steamed Broccoli (Cost: $4.75)

We got the frozen chicken leg quarters used in this recipe for 49 cents a pound. What makes them so inexpensive? Americans prefer the breasts and wings of chickens. Nothing wrong with that, but many chefs consider the chicken's dark thigh meat the tastiest part of all. The sweet chile sauce brushed over the chicken while grilling is available in Asian markets and in the Asian section of many supermarkets. Look for a bottle that lists sugar as the first ingredient.

4 chicken leg quarters

Salt and pepper (or Cajun seasoning)


1 cup sweet chile sauce


Fresh broccoli

Extra-virgin olive oil

Thaw chicken if frozen. Separate at the joints if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper or Cajun seasoning.

Grill chicken over medium heat until done, brushing with sweet chile sauce during last 5 or 10 minutes of cooking. Lower heat if chile sauce appears to be burning.

To steam broccoli: Cut broccoli florets and stalk into even-size pieces. Place in steamer over boiling water, cover and steam 4½ to 5 minutes. Toss with extra-virgin olive oil while warm and season with salt and pepper.



'Parisian' Potato Pie and Cole Slaw (Cost: $3.58)

OK, we didn't really get this dish from France, but it was inspired by the deliciously rich potato pie from La Galette French Bakery and Restaurant in Delano, Kan. It makes a great dish for vegetarians, but you also can add leftover ham or cooked bacon to the filling.

While shopping for the ingredients for the pie and coleslaw that accompanied it, we noticed that French onion dip and mayo-based sandwich spread were cheaper than the sour cream and mayo they contained, so we used them instead and took advantage of their added flavor from chives, pickle relish, etc.

1 pouch (7.2 ounces) flavored mashed potato mix (such as garlic-cheddar or four-cheese), prepared according to instructions

1/2 cup French onion dip or sour cream

3 eggs

1 frozen pie crust, thawed


4 cups cabbage

2/3 to 1 cup of mayo-based sandwich spread

Pinch of each: salt and sugar

Make the mashed potatoes according to package directions. Cool briefly, then stir in sour cream and two of the eggs.

Separate the white from the yolk of the third egg. Add the yolk to the potato mixture. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon cold water and set aside.

Pour the potato mixture into the pie crust and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 50 minutes, or until filling is firm and top is golden brown. During last 20 minutes, brush top with egg white.

To make coleslaw: Shred 4 cups cabbage. Toss with 2/3 to 1 cup of mayo-based sandwich spread, plus a pinch of salt and sugar.

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