Looking for dinner ideas that won’t break the bank? Here’s two of my favorites that don’t sacrifice flavor for cost.
Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs are a wildly simple, inexpensive and easy meal that I can always whip up, not just on a budget but also on a time crunch. Hey, fellow Food Network Star chef Caodan Tran and I even impressed Bobby Flay and Giada de Laurentiis with this dish. We had to cook for a family of eight with a budget of $32 in 30 minutes. If that isn’t a tasty, budget–friendly kind of meal, I don’t know what is! It’s sweet and slightly acidic and involves minimal effort and ingredients. Bone in, skin on chicken thighs pack extra flavor and are cheaper than chicken breasts.
Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs
8 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup stone ground or smooth Dijon mustard
2 tbsp chicken broth
5-6 garlic cloves
3 sprigs rosemary, bruised
1 tbsp olive oil (for cooking)
salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the excess skin off the chicken. You want to leave a layer on top; it has great flavor and texture. But any extra dangly bits probably aren’t necessary. Salt and pepper to taste (both sides) and set aside.
- In a medium–sized mixing bowl, combine the honey, the mustard and chicken stock until smooth and set aside.
- In a large pan or skillet, put a tbsp of olive oil and allow it to heat up. Add your minced garlic. Place the chicken, skin side down into the cast iron skillet and sere until it begins to brown (roughly four minutes). Flip and repeat the process.
- Turn the chicken thighs so they are skin side up again.
- With a flat knife, bruise your rosemary (roll with your palms or smack on a cutting board) and add it to the pan.
- Pour the honey mustard sauce over the chicken and the rosemary.
- Put your chicken into the oven for roughly 20 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the internal temperature reaches 165.
- Remove the chicken and spoon in some of the sauce as well.
Another twist on a classic is Chicken Fajita Pasta. Pasta is a great way to stretch a dime while filling your tummy. The classics are classics for a reason, but sometimes mixing it up can make it even better. If you are apprehensive at this pitch, so was my husband. However, he is totally on board and is asking for it by request now. Imagine a fajita, but the sour cream, cheese and squeeze of lime are already mixed in with the charred onions, peppers and chicken. It is pretty legit.
For the Chicken Fajita Pasta
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into strips
3 yellow onions, cut into strips
2 green peppers, cut into strips
1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
1 red or orange pepper, cut into strips
12 oz box penne pasta
½ cup butter
12 oz sour cream
8 oz Monterey jack cheese (I like jalapeno jack)
3 packets fajita seasoning
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup whole milk (heavy whipping cream or half and half are also fine)
Salt to taste while cooking
- In a large pan, melt the butter and add the onions.
TIP: If you have extra time, I like to cook them low and slow, then crank the heat last minute to get that char on them like you would get in the restaurant. This really adds to the flavor. But if you are in a time crunch, you can totally skip this. Cook for 10-30 minutes, depending on time/preference. Sprinkle with salt.
- Add the peppers as well, and cook on a high heat till they begin to blacken in some places.
- Reduce the heat and add the chicken, also adding one fajita packet to the chicken, pepper and onion mix.
- Cook some noodles to taste, drain and set aside.
- In a large pot add sour cream, shredded cheese, milk, lime juice and other fajita packets. Stir until well incorporated.
- Add the noodles and cooked chicken and fajita vegetables and stir until everything is mixed well.