Budget meal planning tips & recipes from Melissa d'Arabian

Jun 24, 2010 at 6:27 p.m. ET

As moms, we know what it’s like to have the well-being of others resting on our shoulders, so my cooking style has evolved since I’ve had my four daughters. My experiences have definitely influenced my overall cooking style, but now I’m more pragmatic and practical. I want to make sure I’m giving my kids all the essential nutrients their bodies need.

One thing I've learned from working with the Grain Foods Foundation on the Bread Art Project is that white bread is a good source of complex carbohydrates. I also learned that enriched grains are the number one source of folic acid in our diets, which is something I think all women that are moms -- or plan to be moms someday -- should know.

Bonding with the kidsMelissa d'Arabian

Cooking is a great way to bond with your kids. And, when kids are included in the process, they're likely to at least try what's been prepared. We treat cooking like other families might look at craft time. It's something we can do together.

In case of emergency, thaw baguette

I always have a baguette in the freezer. I can pop it out and grill it outside in the summer or warm it in the oven during the cooler seasons -- and it dresses up any meal. Let your kids brush some olive on the bread before serving and they'll feel like they're painting!

BLT Tartlets

One of the favorite recipes I've developed lately is something I call BLT Tartlets. They're also something to get your kids involved with because they're so easy and fun to make!

Just press down a piece of white bread that has the crusts removed. (Don't throw away the crusts -- they can be used later as bread crumbs or little dippers to dunk in jam for a fun snack.) Then fold the flattened, almost doughy, bread into muffin tins that you and your kids can fill later with a delicious herbed cream cheese mixture topped with crispy bacon, juicy tomatoes and lettuce.

You can also fill the little tartlet with fruit -- maybe strawberries or bananas -- and top with Greek yogurt for a delicious summer snack!

No-stress pasta

We all have those days when, despite our best efforts, dinnertime comes and we have nothing planned. Don't stress! Put some water on to boil and get out some pasta (a pantry staple in my house).

While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, start looking through your crisper drawer and chop up anything that might be headed south. Instead of throwing them away, use up all those veggies that are on their last legs in a really tasty pasta dish. (Remember, any ingredient that gets thrown away is the most expensive ingredient in your house!)

Tune in for more tips

All the recipes I develop are tried and tested in my home. I love sharing my experiences and swapping stories with moms across America. More tips and recipes including the BLT tartlet and Crisper Drawer pasta recipe can be found online at gowiththegrain.org, and season three of "Ten Dollar Dinners" premieres on the Food Network July 4. Tune in for more fun tips!


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