The $4 supper

Posted by Aarti on November 6th, 2009 . Filed under: Uncategorized .

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say, the meals are a little simpler in the McSequeira house these days.

Unemployment Dinner

We’ve been stretching one unemployment check between the two of us, as we look for work in our respective fields. Which reminds me! Need an incredibly-skilled comedic and dramatic actor? The most intelligent and vocabulary-rich writer I know? A witty, imaginative improv-er? A looker? Hire my husband, Brendan McNamara! He’s pretty rad, man. And in a dream world, he’d be acting on Saturday Night Live. See what I mean?

SNL REEL: Brendan McNamara from brendan “fireball” mcnamara on Vimeo.

So, yeah if you can make that happen, let me know.  :)

Where was I?

Oh yeah. FOOD!

So yeah, our meals are simpler — less meat, more carbs, more veggies. My recipes have always been pretty cheap to begin with, but these days, I’ve been trying to find even less-frilly ways to feed ourselves.  You can look forward to some of those recipes in the next season of Aarti Paarti.  But in the meantime, I found one that I just couldn’t wait to share!

I came across this recipe from Joe Bastianich, Mario Batali’s restaurant partner. As soon as I read it, I knew it was a keeper, and I KNEW I had to share it with you folks! It’s one of those dishes that you’ll make over and over, because it’s healthy, cheap (two of your ingredients are canned goods, so they’ll only cost you about $0.80 each!) and quick. In fact, this entire meal cost me about $4! hel-LO!

I made one adjustment of note; Joe (yeah, I figure we’re on a first-name basis now) boils his swiss chard, then squeezes the water out of it. I couldn’t stand the idea of losing all that lovely chlorophyll in the water, so I just cooked it with the rest of the ingredients and it turned out great! I can’t wait for you to try it.

Unemployment Dinner!

aka Swiss chard, tomato and Great Northern Bean sautee
(adapted from Joe Bastianich recipe)

Olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 15oz can whole tomatoes, chopped, juices retained
1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
1 big bunch swiss chard, washed, stems diced, and leaves sliced about 1/2″ thick
1 15oz can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
Salt & pepper

1) Warm a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once shimmering, add onions, and a little salt. Saute until softened. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute 30 seconds until garlic is fragrant. Add tomato paste and saute another 30 seconds.
2) Add tomatoes, and a little more salt. Cook until tomatoes turn mushy, about 3 minutes.
3) Add swiss chard, tossing until well combined with tomato mixture. Add 1/2 cup water, bring to a boil, then turn heat down a simmer. Semi-cover and cook about 10 minutes, until chard is cooked through.
4) Add beans. Toss, and warm through. Taste for seasoning and adjust according to your taste. Enjoy, knowing that you’ve beat the system one more time! $4 dinner! Woohoo!


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45 Responses to

The $4 supper

  1. S McQUEEN

    Hey, Girl!

    Love this! isn’t this the truth! My sweet thang had to sell all but one business this spring due to economical slump (as many small business didn’t have the cash flow to make it thru the slump) and the production co. i worked for Nashville closing down, too, we’ve been on unemployment since July. it’s a joke, tho. $300 bucks a week for our family. luckily we have a hefty savings. i was ruminating the other day the very topic you bring up…. ‘remember when’ we call it in our house… remember when we had all sorts of vinegars and oils and herbs and ingredients for cooking! now it has diminished to 2-4 ingredient dishes. ‘remember when’ we dined out. ‘remember when’ we went shopping! etc.
    but, what we’ve found is that we’re happier than ever. as long as we have food and (now cheap) wine, and each other then we’re in want of nothing! there’s been a seismic shift and it feels wonderful. so, when you’re cooking from the unemployment cookbook remember many of us are, too, and that makes your theme all the more intriguing! xxx `S

  2. Aarti

    love this staci!!

  3. Robert

    We’re slightly employed, but just barely. This will come in handy!

  4. Alex

    Hi Aarti! Love the new layout on your page. I also enjoy watching your cooking videos. I am also without a job, but to make matters worse I can not qualify for unemployment.. so I hear you on the cheap dinners. Glad to know that I am not alone in this. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Winter Comfort: Butternut Squash And Sage Pasta | Earth Eats - Indiana Public Media

    [...] I was relieved to come across another blogger who is also feeling the financial pinch – Aarti of Aarti Paarti shared a filling recipe to fill you up for only $4! Along with her colorful blog, Aarti and her [...]

  6. Claire

    I am SO hungry now and it’s all your fault. I love you for it!

  7. Meatless Monday Recipe Roster | cooking

    [...] The $4 Supper (or, “Unemployment Dinner!”) from [...]

  8. rani

    love your writing and recipes! And you are rockin Food NEtwork!
    I would like to cook more and your blog is quite inspiring!

  9. Hart

    Hi Aarti you are an absolute inspiration to me. You absolutely HAVE to win the next food network star for me and ALL of your other adoring fans! You have the greatest skill in cooking and in front of the camera. You HAVE to win!!!

  10. Heather B

    I made this dish to go along with my brother-in-laws brined pork loin (which it matched really well with)…and can I just say it was SUPER FAB! Simple ingredients, great price. Thankee!

  11. Tara

    love all your videos,recipes, songs ,extras and more…. such a treat to watch you in action and trying so many of your recipes, this is such fun and they’re all faaaab!!!
    rooting for you on TNFNS and know you’ll shine … go girl! xox

  12. Aman

    Aarti, love you show. I am so inspired. I tried all your receipes (literally). My mom love your show tooooooooooooooooo
    keep smiling,and shinning

  13. Laury @TheFitnessDish

    Aarti!!! We are rooting for you on The Next Food Network Star!!! I wish I had discovered your blog sooner!!! It’s fantastic!!

  14. Megan

    Hey Aarti!

    Just tried this one tonight. LOVE IT!!! I am going to grad school, so recipes like these really help with my miniscule budget.

    Keep ‘em coming!

  15. betsy

    If anyone is wondering how many people this recipe serves, in my case – ONE! It was do good I couldn’t stop! Yum!

  16. Kristin

    Reading these comments brings to mind that I remember hearing Bobby Flay admonish Aarti for suggesting that a dish could be made inexpensively. He said no one wanted to hear that. Ummm. Perhaps in his privileged universe but from what I see here Aarti is right on the money (or lack thereof as it were…) Keep rockin’ it real, girl.

  17. Ben

    Hey Aarti! I absolutely love your show…I didn’t even know you had an online cooking show until recently. You have such a warm, inviting, loving and adorable personality, I feel like I’ve known you for years. That is the kind of personality a food network star should have! I’m rooting for you!

    In reguards to this recipe: it is fantastic. As a broke college student barely making it by, it is definitely refreshing to have affordable recipes created by someone who actually knows what it is like to be on a tight budget

    Good Luck Aarti, you deserve this!!

    From one of your lovelies,

  18. Lara

    If the judge saw how much the fans want you to win I bet it would change their mind a little.

  19. Mary

    We are going through this too and I love, love, love this recipe. I’ll be making it this week!

  20. Rhonda

    Hi Aarti, I too, am rooting for you on the Next Food Network Star. From the beginning, your warm personality showed through, and your cooking absolutely rocks! I, too, am unemployed, although I am praying that I will be accepted for this particular job that I applied for… I figure if the Lord wants me to have it, I will… Anyway, this is a great recipe! I have another one that is super simple, but tastes really good. Saute half an onion in evoo, add in chopped fresh rosemary (to taste), and one rinsed, drained can of Great Northern beans. Heat to bubbling; serve. Yum…although, I’ll be you can kick it up a couple of extra notches! Keep cooking and sharing.

  21. Sherry

    You are my far my favorite on Food Netowrk. I can’t wait until you get your own show because you will.

  22. Diana

    I have to say I LOVE your hubby’s reel. I was dying laughing! I hope he’s found some work. You two are fabulous!

  23. Rachael

    First of all, congratulations! My fiance & I were cheering for you the whole way through.

    Second, I tried this recipe tonight and it was delish! Looking forward to your show, Aarti! :-)

  24. Craig

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was wonderful! Unfortunately, my grocery store didn’t have Swiss chard, so I substituted kale, which seemed to work. I also added a little garam masala.

  25. Marti


    WAY TO GO!! Loved you on the next food network star..knew you could do it!! Now take you passion and run with it..inspire people just not to cook..but inspire them to follow their passions without much money!! Again…CONGRATS!!

  26. aphrodaia

    WOW! unemployment dinner recipes to THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR!!! great job aarti! you were my pick and i think i screamed out loud when you won! just watched your sloppy joe show and think i might have to make every recipe on your show for my own food blog! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  27. Cheryl

    Congratulations Aarti, I was thrilled you won. You were the clear winner from the start!

    You need to know that the night you won, my husband cut his finger and I had to take him to the hospital for stitches. Man was I mad. He did it 1 hour before the show aired and I had to keep my mouth shut and be understanding for over 5 hours. As soon as we got home from the hospital we stayed up late and watched you win (we taped it). I don’t think either of us will forget the night. He is fine and you won. All is well!

  28. Patty Knox

    Aarti, I love your focus on herbs and spices to enhance the taste of food, some that have languished neglected in my spice rack & are being used for the first time ever! Now that I know what to do with them in your recipes, I’m branching out & experimenting. Green cardamom pods were a revelation from God! How have I lived all these years without knowing about their ability to transform everyday food?
    But I need your help on something we don’t get home from church until 1 on Sunday afternoon, & I’ve missed your first two shows. Is there any way, perhaps as a promotional strategy, to air those episodes on the Food Network website or on your website? Or can someone post them on Youtube for those of us who can’t afford a gizmo to record shows? I would be forever grateful.
    Your Irish sister in Ohio,

  29. Cassandra

    Congrats Aarti!
    I am SO happy you won. Your sincere and genuine nature really come through the camera and you are just an absolute joy to watch. :o)

    My boyfriend is Indian so I like the fact I have you to watch that will incorporate Indian food into every day. I learned how to make daal, aloo gobi, etc and now I can get even more creative thanks to you!

    I hope you know you have a fan in PA that will tune in eery Sun to watch and giggle along with you bc your laugh is truly infectious!

    Good luck in your career and keep rockin’ the flower, you are too cute!


  30. Momma Goose

    LOL!! Your husband’s video cracked me up. I especially liked the Wordsmith’s citizen’s arrest. “Past and future tense in the same sentence? There is no defense for such misuse!!” LOL!! [The $4 dinner sounds pretty fabulous, too!!] :)

  31. sarah

    Hi Arti, you are a phenomenal cook and i am sure you are on the way to make a big name for yourself.
    Thinking of inexpensive dinners … do you have a spaghetti/pasta dish with your typical indian spice twist?

    Love sarah

  32. Rita Bentley

    Oh no! Twice my dvr has failed to record your party! I was so worried that they’d moved you, or worse, not renewed you, and was soooo relieved to see that you got picked up for another season. LET THE FOOD NETWORK know that I hate to cook, but you made everything look so tasty and easy that I have tried EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOUR RECIPES, with huggy buggy bread pudding being the favorite and It Ain’t Chicken Chicken a close second (you need to know that if your oven isn’t clean, cooking at 500 degrees creates a very smoky home atmosphere). Love your personality, love your recipes, love your show!

  33. Vidhya

    Hi Aarti, I made this dish last night and it was really, really good. The kids loved it. Thanks for this wonderful recipe. I’m sure I will be making this regularly! Love your show and your blog.

  34. Charlotte Anglim


    Your food is great…………can you please help me.
    I am looking for a recipe you made live on
    It’s was you COCONUT TOFFEE – can you please email the recipe of email where I could find it. Thanks,


  35. Katie


    This will come in handy, my husband’s unemployment was cut from $149 a week to $77 a week. I cant wait till summer when he can work again. Our 2 kids love mostly loves everything in this recipe so that it a huge bonus. I will be trying this in the near future.

    BTW, I love your show when I get to watch it. I was a fan of yours since the first show of The Next Food Network Star

  36. Crystal

    I just completed this dish and I can’t keep my hubby away from the stove before it is served! It is so bright, fresh and easily approachable from a novice point of view, that’s me. Thank you Aarti for sharing Joe B’s recipe with us, we love it!

  37. Jamie

    I was so excited to see you win your own show, I was pulling for you the whole time! I wish I’d had known you were going to be in North Carolina! You bring such joy and inspiration to my kitchen, keep creating your beautiful dishes!


  38. Angie @ Bigbearswife

    I love this!! I understand needing to eat cheap. Right now its just hubby and I but we’re living off my small paycheck while he goes to school. I’ll be trying this dish soon!

  39. Lee Ann Van Schoick

    This is a delicious sounding dish to make. I am always looking for great and cheap recipes. I am now living on Social Security Disability which means I have a fixed income. I have been so charmed by you ever since you won the Foodnetwork Star competition. After reading your blogs I have found it very inspiring and you have given me a needed boost. Since I have become disabled I have my dark days. Thanks for your blogs describing your struggles about self worth and your relationship with God. Please know that you are being an instrument of God to touch others.

  40. Kenya

    something ive learned from creating my own recipes is that my best and absolutely most fabulous recipes come from times when i have little or no money and the minimum to work with in my kitchen! love this recipe!

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  42. Sarah W.

    I made this when I thought I was going to be home alone but my meat-loving hubby came home earlier than expected and ate it with me. Later that night I asked how he liked the vegetarian dinner and he said “there wasn’t any meat in that”? DEFINATELY a keeper for us! Huge flavor punch with just a few ingredients. Thanks Aarti!

  43. Stephen Lambert

    Hello Aarti,

    I’m a big fan of all you have done. I am a bicycle mechanic and in the winter here in Iowa, things slow down quite a bit, overtime dries up and things get a bit tighter around the wallet area. Also, I just returned from Dubai, I think you have heard of it, hehehe. So, cash is a bit scarce. This dish was so easy, inexpensive, and really tasty, its going into my regular rotation.

    Thank you Aarti,keep up the good work, you continue to inspire me with your cooking as well as your bright and sweet attitude.

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  45. Tamisa

    More like this, please! Yum!

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