Fast and frugal meals

Dec 22, 2009 at 1:18 p.m. ET

Fast budget-friendly meals are the key to eating together as a family while being kind to your pocketbook. Dawn Hall, author of Busy People's Fast and Frugal Cookbook (Thomas Nelson, October 2009) and host of the Cooking for Busy People TV show, understands balancing good food and frugality and will inspire you to eat in, eat healthy and eat cheap. Hall's recipes feature up to seven ingredients and can be on your table in 30 minutes or less.

Bacon Cherry Salad

Cooking with a purpose

Hall self-published her first cookbook when she needed to raise money to pay for her late husband's cancer treatment. As you page through her newest cookbook as well as previous Busy People's cookbooks, you'll find her passion for healthy eating and knack for money-saving meals quite infectious. Hall's cookbooks and cooking shows feature simple, great-tasting dishes for busy people who like to eat real, everyday food as a family.

"To help fight the battle of the bulge, along with exercising, I count my daily caloric intake as if each calorie had a dollar value, and I only have so many caloric dollars to spend a day," she writes. "As if shopping at a great sale on clothing, I try to get a great value with my limited caloric dollars." Hall follows -- and recommends -- a low-fat, high-fiber diet because it's actually more economical and, most important, reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

A delicious guide for feeding your family

You'll find the Busy People's Fast and Frugal Cookbook a practical guide for feeding your family. Each of the nine chapters, ranging from breakfast dishes to desserts, gives you the option of making 10-, 20- or 30-minute meals based on your time constraints. Each easy-to-fix recipe comes with a shopping list, nutritional information and serving suggestions. Hall also offers helpful time-saving hints throughout the book to even better optimize your time in the kitchen.

Fast and frugal recipes

Here are three of Halls' recipes adapted from the Busy People's Fast and Frugal Cookbook.

Cherry Bacon and Rye Tossed Salad

Serves 2 to 4

You'll have this delicious salad to the table in 10 minutes. Share it with a friend for lunch or divide it into smaller portions to pair with chicken or pork entrees for the family evening meal.

2 slices seeded hearty rye bread
1 medium head iceberg lettuce, chopped (about 5 cups)
1/4 cup firmly packed dried cherries, chopped
1/2 cup shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup imitation bacon bits
1/4 cup low-fat Marzetti slaw dressing

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray both sides of the bread with butter-flavored cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Cut bread into small croutons and place them on a cooking sheet. Bake for 3 to 4 minutes or until crispy.

2. Meanwhile, place the lettuce in a large bowl. With your hands, toss lettuce with cherries, cheese, bacon bits and dressing until well mixed. Add croutons and toss. Serve immediately.

German Bratwurst with Honey Mustard Potatoes

Serves 6

A hearty 20-minute meal, this dish only looks and tastes like you slaved in the kitchen. Even better, turkey bratwurst is a tasty low-fat choice to traditional brats. For a sweet dimension of flavor, serve this dish with a homemade chutney.

4 links from a (19.5-ounce) package turkey bratwurst, sliced
1 (20-ounce) bag frozen diced potatoes with onions and green peppers
1 (4-ounce) jar of pimientos, drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can of sauerkraut, squeezed dry
1/2 cup fat-free honey mustard salad dressing

1. Preheat a 12-inch nonstick saucepan over high heat. Add bratwurst and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, microwave potatoes on HIGH for 3 minutes. Stir potatoes into bratwurst. Once the liquid evaporates, reduce heat to medium-low and gently stir in pimientos and sauerkraut. Stir in dressing. Turn off heat and cover. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Spicy Baked Oranges

Serves 6

Serve this spicy citrus dish for breakfast or partner it with light ice cream or yogurt for dessert. Warm orange segments sprinkled with allspice and brown sugar will fast become one of your family's favorite recipes.

3 navel oranges
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons Splenda Brown Sugar Blend

1. Move oven rack to top the shelf. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Slice oranges in half horizontally. Segment each orange as you would a grapefruit. Place on a jellyroll pan or in a large baking dish.

3. In a small bowl, mix allspice and Splenda. Evenly sprinkle over oranges and bake for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

More fast and frugal cooking tips and recipes

For information on Busy People's cookbooks and TV listings for Hall's cooking show, visit