Food & Nutrition

Healthy Cooking on the Cheap: 3 Tasty Back-to-School Dinner Recipes

By Jenna Weber

It’s back-to-school time already! I can’t even believe it. Where did summer go?! Now is the time to use up all that fresh sweet corn, and I have a few great recipes that feature it today! Try the tamale pie for a back-to-school treat. It takes only about 15 minutes to throw together and is a big favorite of kids and grown-ups alike. And get out of your comfort zone a little by trying farro risotto! You’ll fall in love with its pleasing chew and hearty depth of flavor. Let’s soak up all summer has to offer now; fall is on its way!

Grocery list
1 polenta roll (sometimes found in the produce section of the supermarket)
One 15-oz. can pinto beans
Mexican cheese blend
Chili powder
5 ears corn
Cayenne pepper
Sour cream
1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large knob fresh ginger
2 shallots
2 quarts vegetable or chicken broth
Ground coriander
Olive oil
3 green onions
1 cup dry farro
1 lb. sliced mushrooms
1 large wedge goat’s milk Gouda cheese (or Parmesan)

Quick and Easy Tamale Pie
This version uses polenta crust for a easy, delicious twist!

Serves 4

1 polenta roll (sometimes found in the produce section of the supermarket)
One 15-oz. can pinto beans
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
1 ear corn (or 1/2 cup frozen corn), kernels shucked off the cob
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Cilantro, sour cream, and additional salsa for serving


1. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or 9-inch square pan) with a little olive oil. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large bowl combine corn kernels, salsa, pinto beans (and their juice—just dump the can in), and spices. Stir well to combine.

3. Slice polenta into 1/4-inch slices. Cover bottom of skillet with overlapping slices. Pour bean mixture on top. Top with cheese.

4. Cover and bake for 15 minutes, then remove and bake for an additional 15 minutes uncovered. Serve with minced cilantro, sour cream, and salsa.

Carrot Ginger Soup
My favorite soup is so simple and comforting, it makes eating your veggies easy!

1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 shallot, minced
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. coriander
1 tbsp. olive oil
Thinly sliced green onions for topping

1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add minced shallot and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add chopped carrots, broth, coriander, and salt, and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until carrots are tender. Carefully transfer to a blender and puree. Serve with thinly sliced green onions on top.


Farro “Risotto” With Mushrooms
I love the chew that farro gives a traditional risotto.

Serves 4

1 cup dry farro
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 lb. sliced mushrooms
1 tsp. salt
1 shallot, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
4 ears corn, kernels cut off
1 cup freshly grated goat’s milk Gouda cheese (or Parmesan)

1. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a saucepan. Add minced shallot and cook for 4 minutes or so until softened. Add the farro and toss to coat each kernel with olive oil. Raise heat to medium-high and toast farro, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.

2. Add 2 tablespoons chicken stock (or white wine). It should almost immediately simmer down. Add stock, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring continuously. Do not add more stock until the previous 1/4 cup has been absorbed into the farro. Repeat until the farro is tender (you may not use all the stock). This process will take about 30 minutes.

3. While farro is cooking, heat butter in another small pan. Once melted, add sliced mushrooms and sprinkle with salt. Sauté over low heat for about 10 minutes until tender and juicy. Keep warm.

4. Once farro is tender and most of the stock has been absorbed, add the mushrooms. Take off the heat and stir in the raw corn kernels and cheese. Season to taste.

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