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Spice of life: Fill up without emptying wallet

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Pork loin milanese with arugula salad makes for an inexpensive yet tasty meal.
Pork loin milanese with arugula salad makes for an inexpensive yet tasty meal. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Earlier this year I decided that working full time, being a wife and parent, a freelance writer, food blogger, children’s television host and author of this column wasn’t enough on my plate, and I became the host of my own Internet radio show.

Crazy, I know. I am a strike-while-the-iron-is-hot kind of person.

So at 11 p.m. Thursdays, I go live; and so far the show’s popularity has far exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t sure how receptive the fans of my website would be to tuning in and being a part of the show. Amazingly enough, I have scores of live listeners each week and lots of callers. It is fun to get a chance to speak with many who follow the goings-on in my food world.

My show, “Around the Kitchen Sink,” is syndicated on iTunes, so people can download each free podcast at their leisure. Even my kids subscribe to my show; and I know my 13-year-old would never admit it, but he thinks it’s pretty cool. I have been pretty lucky to nab some great guests so far like the creators of Gooseberry Patch Cookbooks, Jon Acuff of Dave Ramsey fame, Jill Smokler of Confessions of a Scary Mommy and most recently Food Network host Melissa d’Arabian.

D’Arabian called in to my show for what was supposed to be a 10-minute interview, and it turned into an extended conversation about her new cookbook “Ten Dollar Dinners” and a chat about motherhood and feeding your family on a dime.

I have to admit, I was a little giggly when she first came on the line. Hearing her voice after I had watched so many of her shows was a bit surreal. I do not watch cooking programs often. A few here and there, but for the most part I have a hard time watching them. I think it is the dialog with the camera that gets to me. I want to watch them cook, not feel like I have to mute them to get through their show.

But “Ten Dollar Dinners” is one that I do watch. I feel like we have a common way of cooking and similar tastes. I have tried many of her recipes, and I am sharing one with you today.

One of my favorite brownie recipes is one of hers. It is the one where she adds a cup of cooked black beans to the mix to boost the nutritive value of the dessert. Plus, you would never even know they were there. Now that is a good recipe.

What I find to be interesting about this particular cookbook is that they all revolve around a particular line of thinking — that a budget meal can be an enticing one; delicious, fresh, exciting and made without compromise; celebrating smart cooking and saving along the way.

I think some people think budget cooking is all about meatloaf and pasta dishes. While those are two great ideas, there is so much out there if you just take a minute to find it.

Being conscious of your shopping choices is somewhat of a lifestyle. Streamlining your grocery shopping starts in the kitchen or, more specifically, the pantry. Take a few minutes to asses what you have before you go. This sounds obvious, but how many times have you wondered whether you had this or that ingredient back at home?

Every once in a while I have what I like to call a pantry week where I try to completely empty what is on my shelves, refrigerator and freezer before heading out to buy more. You would be amazed at what you can come up with, and that extra week of not spending as much at the checkout can add up during the course of the year.

D’Arabian mentioned buying in bulk, not mass quantities but what she called “low bulk.” For example, if a recipe calls for a small amount of an ingredient, then make use of the salad bar or olive bar for that. Which would you rather do, spend $3.99 on a specialty can of olives or 42 cents on the amount you really need from the olive bar? You can do the same thing with cut-up veggies and fruits, spices and nuts, as well.

There are so many ways to save here and there, more than I have the space here to share. The big thing is to spend where it matters. Make use of weekly specials try not to buy out of season, splurge occasionally on a few choice items and add a bit of punch and “wow” factor to those ordinary, everyday dishes.

There is something to be said for knowing that you brought a healthy and tasty meal to the table and it didn’t break the bank. Cooking for people and bringing them joy by creating something special is what makes me happy.

It was nice to get a chance to talk to someone who has been able to make a living out of teaching others that they, too, could do what I love to do. Making food you love that is budget friendly and easier than you think.

Pork Loin Milanese with Arugula Salad


1½ cups of Panko breadcrumbs, found at any grocery store

1 pound of pork loin, thinly sliced or 4 pieces of boneless pork loin chops

¼ cup of olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

pinch of kosher salt

fresh pepper

1 large egg, beaten

1 lemon, half-juiced and the other half-cut into wedges

3 cups of arugula or other small greens

Parmesan shavings (optional)


Place breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and set aside.

Set the pork chops between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper, and using a meat mallet, flatten the pork to about a quarter-inch thick.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large resealable plastic bag.

Add the salt and pepper.

Add the pork, seal, massage to coat and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Whisk the egg in a shallow dish.

Set up an assembly line with the Panko.

Take each chop, run through the egg, coat each side on Panko and place in a skillet that has been heated and lightly coated in oil.

Cook on each side for about 3 minutes per side.

Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

Meanwhile, toss the arugula in a small bowl with the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and fresh black pepper.

Divide amongst the plates, place a warm pork chop on top and garnish with a bit of the Parmesan.

Squeeze a wedge of lemon over the top, if you like.

Heather Tallman lives in the Center Grove area and writes the cooking blog Basilmomma.

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