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asparagus soup

If you’ve ever experienced the challenge of putting together a healthy meal that is also affordable, you’re not alone. My personal interest in healthy eating on a budget comes from the sense of stewardship I feel toward the resources available to my family — which include both food and money. I want to honor the gorgeous bounty of fresh, healthy ingredients available to us while bringing a sense of connection and celebration to every meal. Part of that pleasure includes knowing that I’ve been smart about my spending.

Whenever I go shopping, I aim to be an informed consumer, thinking of creative ways to make meals that speak to my values and my budget. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that we won’t go over budget if we eat produce that’s in season, and we can stretch out more expensive options like grassfed beef and pasture-raised chicken by serving them with low-cost staples like beans and quinoa.

What we eat has a long-term impact on our health. I know that when I spend and eat thoughtfully, I feel good, and so does my family. These are some of my favorite recipes for merging the paths of mindful eating and mindful spending.


Salmon and Herbed-Bean Salad

Canned salmon is an often-overlooked protein. It keeps well in the pantry, it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to use, and it doesn’t require turning on the oven. I’m a huge fan and try to make a salmon-centered recipe at least once a week for my family. Look for salmon in BPA-free cans and pouches — you can buy them online in packs of six or 12 to save money.


Makes four servings
Prep time:
30 minutes

For the Yogurt Dressing

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tbs. water

For the Herbed Beans and Salad 

  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 3/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch pieces
  • 2 cups cooked white beans (drained and rinsed if using canned)
  • 3 tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 4 cups baby greens
  • 1 cup canned salmon, large bones removed


Yogurt Dressing

  1. Combine dressing ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

Herbed-Bean Mixture

  1. Stir the parsley, mint, tomatoes, cucumber, and beans together in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper; pour over the beans and toss to combine.
  2. Divide the baby greens among four plates and top with the herbed-bean mixture. Flake the salmon over the top, and drizzle with the yogurt dressing before serving.

Almost-Raw Asparagus Soup

When asparagus is completely raw, I find it tastes quite grassy. This simple technique maintains the asparagus’s freshness while giving it a warm, roasted flavor. The asparagus roasts in the oven just long enough to become a bit sweet, and is then puréed until smooth.


Makes four servings
Prep time:
10 minutes
Cook time:
15 minutes


  • 1 1/2 lbs. asparagus, tough ends snapped off
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbs. finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the asparagus in a baking dish or on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and roast until it is just al dente, about five minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. While the asparagus cools, place the almonds on a clean, rimmed baking sheet and toast until lightly browned, five to seven minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  3. Add the asparagus, along with the chicken broth and water, to a blender, and purée until it is smooth, about two minutes. Return the puréed asparagus to a medium saucepan (strain through a fine-mesh sieve if you want an even smoother texture) and stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil, the lemon zest, and mint. Warm the soup over medium heat.
  4. Divide the soup among four bowls. Top each with 1 tablespoon of the yogurt and a sprinkling of the toasted almonds to serve.

Chicken Braised in Carrot Juice

Combined with aromatics like onions and ginger, carrot juice tenderizes and sweetens the chicken while it slowly braises in the oven, giving the chicken more depth. For an all-in-one meal, add a few small red potatoes to the baking dish before placing it in the oven. For extra fiber, leave the potato peels on. 


Makes four servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour


  • 1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 medium breasts)
  • 1 1/3 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tbs. all-purpose flour (or substitute rice flour if you’re avoiding gluten)
  • 4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced into sixths
  • 1 1/2 cups carrot juice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 1 1-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and sliced into three rounds
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 tsp. unsalted butter


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse the chicken and pat dry.
  2. Use 3/4 teaspoon of the salt to season both sides of the chicken. Add the flour to a medium bowl and dredge the chicken, evenly coating both sides of each breast.
  3. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until both cut sides of each onion wedge are browned, about four minutes. Transfer the onion to a baking dish.
  4. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the skillet. Set the chicken breasts in the skillet and brown on both sides, about six minutes total. Transfer the chicken to the baking dish with the onion.
  5. Add the carrot juice, chicken broth, garlic, ginger, thyme, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to the skillet. This is your braising liquid. Bring to a simmer, then pour over the chicken in the baking dish. (Don’t wash the skillet yet — you’ll want the drippings for your pan sauce.)
  6. Bake the chicken about 35 to 40 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest breast reads 155 degrees F. Remove the baking dish from the oven, and use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken and onion to a serving platter. Loosely cover the platter with aluminum foil.
  7. To make the pan sauce, pour the braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve back into the skillet used to brown the chicken and onion; discard the solids. Bring the liquid to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until the liquid is reduced by about one-third, eight to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter.
  8. Uncover the chicken and slice it crosswise into thin pieces. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with the onion.

d’Arabian Family Protein Bars

My family is always on the go, and we love protein bars. But so many of them have preservatives and ingredients I don’t like. By making our own, I can control what’s going into them. Best of all, my kids love them.


Makes 10 bars
Prep time:
10 minutes
Cook time:
30 minutes


  • Olive oil in a mister or nonstick pan spray
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tbs. sunflower seeds
  • 3 tbs. unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tbs. lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 tbs. coconut oil (if solid, microwave until melted)
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 2 tbs. honey
  • 1/2 cup vanilla or chocolate-flavored whey protein powder
  • 3 tbs. roasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-x-13-inch baking dish with olive oil or nonstick pan spray. Mix the oats, sunflower seeds, coconut, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. In another medium bowl, stir together the coconut oil, yogurt, almond butter, and honey. Add the yogurt mixture to the oat mixture, and mix until the two are thoroughly combined. Stir in the protein powder, almonds, and cranberries. The mixture will be sticky.
  3. Spread the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for 15 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and let the mixture cool slightly, then slice it crosswise into 10 bars. Carefully remove the bars from the baking dish and use a spatula to transfer them to a parchment-paper-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Return to the oven and bake until the bars start to turn golden, about 15 minutes longer. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, transfer the bars to a wire rack, and cool completely. Wrap in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one week.

Roasted Chickpeas With Fennel

This combination is one of my favorites — it makes the most of chickpeas, which are a great pantry staple, and fennel has such a nice, mild flavor. Serve alongside steamed brown rice or quinoa for a meat-free meal.


Makes four servings
Prep time:
10 minutes
Cook time:
25 minutes


  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (drained and rinsed if using canned)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, halved, cored, and thinly sliced lengthwise, fronds reserved
  • 1 tsp. roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Olive oil in a mister
or nonstick pan spray
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Transfer the chickpeas to a paper towel–lined baking sheet and shake the baking sheet to dry them. Once the chickpeas are no longer wet, remove the towel and add the fennel to the baking sheet. Sprinkle the thyme over the chickpeas and fennel, then spray liberally with olive oil. Season with the salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the chickpeas and fennel until the fennel is tender and lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and sprinkle the lemon juice over the hot chickpeas and fennel, then use a spatula to toss everything together. Transfer the chickpeas and fennel to a serving dish. Finely chop 2 tablespoons of the fennel fronds and sprinkle over the top before serving.

Reprinted from Supermarket Healthy: Recipes and Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending a Lot. Copyright © 2014 by Melissa d’Arabian. Photographs © 2014 by Tina Rupp. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House LLC.

Protein-Packed Pantry Staples

Although I keep fresh sources of protein in the fridge, I like having some great protein options on hand in the pantry, too. Here’s what you’ll always find in my cupboard.


Both a protein and a carb, quinoa is incredibly versatile. I can boost the flavor in a salad, or stretch out some chicken by serving it over quinoa and vegetables. It’s also budget friendly, especially if you can get it in the bulk aisle. My favorite strategy is to cook a bunch of quinoa at the start of the week and keep it in the fridge, so I can use it to whip up a meal quickly anytime during the week.

Canned Fish

People tend to think first of tuna, and though I do keep plenty of that on hand, I’m a huge fan of other types of canned fish, including canned salmon and sardines. You can throw them in a salad, or make fish cakes. You can toss the fish with beans, or try a smoky spread with paprika. It’s fun to experiment with different dishes, and you can get these fish in cans for way less than you’d spend at the fish counter.

Canned Beans

These are more expensive than dried, so if you have the time to soak and cook dried beans, I would recommend it. But sometimes it’s a Tuesday night and you just need to get dinner on the table. With beans, you can boost a meal’s fiber and protein content easily. Try adding them to any meat dish, which helps you make the most of those more expensive cuts.

Whole-Grain Pasta

People usually think of whole-wheat pasta, but the alternatives are incredible — and some have a surprisingly high protein content. You can get pasta made from lentils, black beans, quinoa, flaxseed, or other nutrient-rich foods. Make sure that you read the ingredients and nutrition labels, though, because some of these pastas are big on marketing and short on nutrients.

This article originally appeared as “Supermarket Healthy” in the May 2016 issue of Experience Life.

Photography by: Tina Rupp

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