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Veggie lasagna

5 healthy and budget-friendly fall recipes

These dishes are delicious, nutritious and won't break the bank.

November 14, 2019

By Cory Phare

These five fall recipes prove that healthy, tasty and affordable don’t have to be mutually exclusive. 

It's a concept at the heart of the community-nutrition course taught by Rachel Sinley, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition with Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“In general, our purpose is to enhance knowledge and motivation around healthy cooking – and how to implement that with a limited budget or access to food,” she said.

The approach to applied nutrition brought Sinley’s students to West Denver's Sun Valley People Hub. Over the course of the semester, the class, supported by a Denver Housing Authority grant, provides healthy-cooking instruction and one-on-one nutritional counseling to residents of the long-underresourced community.


RELATED: How to feed a family of four on a budget without skimping on nutrition


The key to successful implementation of the program, which was first piloted last spring, is listening with an approach of inquiry, not authority.

“It’s not just us popping in with a plan and saying, ‘Here’s what you need to do,’” Sinley said. “If breakfast isn’t a part of your cultural beliefs, how do you incorporate nutritional meal-planning in an accessible way?”

In a recent pop-up storefront sponsored by childhood-hunger-elimination organization Cooking Matters, residents used $10 gift cards to make a meal for a family of four that included all food groups.

So, with that in mind, we asked Sinley to pick her favorite Cooking Matters recipes to help you plan your own healthy meals that don’t skimp on taste or break the bank. 

White bean basil chicken chili. Image courtesy Cooking Matters.
White bean basil chicken chili. Image courtesy Cooking Matters.

White bean basil chicken chili

Versatility is the name of the game in this white-bean basil chicken chili, as Sinley noted the ability to use canned, rotisserie or cooked chicken breasts interchangeably in this comfortable concoction.

“It is packed full of flavor and full of comfort on cold nights,” she said. “I love traditional chili, but this version mixes it up a little and is easy on the pocketbook. It is actually on my meal plan for this week.”


RELATED: Food waste is a massive problem. Here's how Colorado is responding


Vegetable lasagna

Do you find yourself struggling for something to whip up for meatless Monday? Look no further than this hearty and filling veggie lasagna.

“When I was growing up, my mom always used cottage cheese in her lasagna, and I think this version reminds me of hers,” Sinley said. “Between the spinach, mushrooms and zucchini, you don’t miss the meat in this recipe.”

Pizza with the works. Image courtesy Cooking Matters
Pizza with the works. Image courtesy Cooking Matters

"The Works" pizza

If you think of cooking as your craft, let your imagination run wild with this opportunity for culinary creativity.

“I love this recipe because it is a great foundation from which a family can make pizzas with ingredients that work for their preferences,” Sinley said. “You can use a pizza dough from any grocer, and we like to add red onion, spinach, bell pepper and fresh tomato. I’ve also used broccoli, squash, yellow onion and artichoke.”


RELATED: Here's what you need to know about Beyond Meat and other plant-based meat alternatives


Pasta with beans and greens

This is a great throw-together recipe for an easy family dinner. If you have a can of beans and some fresh greens on hand, you can make this happen in less than 20 minutes. It also makes a large batch, so you will have leftovers for a few days.

Pumpkin muffins. Image courtesy Cooking Matters
Pumpkin muffins. Image courtesy Cooking Matters

Pumpkin muffins

Looking for a sweet treat that’s healthy to eat? We’ve got gourd news to help you squash your cravings – and it’s not just desserts.

“I like to add a few semi-sweet chocolate chips to these,” Sinley said. “If I make a batch of these over the weekend, I like to toss them in the freezer and then I have breakfast for 2 weeks!”


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