Eating on a budget doesn't have to be all about Hamburger helper and grilled cheese.

Frugal recipes from Latin America

Eating on a budget doesn't have to be all about Hamburger helper and grilled cheese

You're on a budget. You're searching the web for delicious, frugal recipes, but most of your search results are recipes for stretching hamburger to its frugal limits, endless cream-of-frugal casseroles, and twenty-five uses for orange jello. While all of this can be satisfying and delicious, there's only so much hamburger, casseroles and cornbread you can eat before you start to feel like an extra on Little House on the Prairie, and another can of creamed corn may send you over the culinary edge. Before you run out of the house in desperate need for taste bud stimulation and blow $15 at the local Mexican restaurant, try these frugal recipes from Latin America that are big on flavor and kind to your wallet.

Pollo Entomatado (El Salvador)

Difficulty Level: easy

Frugal factor: buying a whole chicken is economical and works perfectly for this dish. In the United States, look for well-priced tomatillos and cilantro during the spring and summer in Latin grocery stores. If you can't find tomatillos or if they're pricy, tomatoes also work very well for this dish.

Pollo Entomatado is rich in the flavors of Central America, and its bright green color, fresh aroma of cilantro and rich tangy flavor make it a great option for impressing friends and family who enjoy Latin dishes. Serve with white rice and corn tortillas.
You'll need:
A blender or food processor
1 whole chicken, cut into 4 parts
6-8 tomatillos or tomatoes; stems/shells removed
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper
½ -1 jalapeño pepper
1 cup of chicken stock

Blend the tomatillos or tomatoes, garlic, bell pepper and jalapeño. If using a blender, you can add some of the chicken stock to this combination to make it easier to blend.

Brown the chicken on both sides, and then set aside. Fry the onion until transparent, and then combine with the chicken, blended vegetables and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer on medium-low heat for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and cooked throughout. Serve with boiled white rice and a corn tortillas. A light salad also goes well with this dish.

Can be frozen and reheated.

Papa à la Huancaína (Peru)

Difficulty level: easy

Frugal factor: Potatoes are filling and budget friendly, and this delicious dish has no pricey ingredients. One of Peru's most famous dishes, Papa à la Huancaína, or “potatoes Huancayo-style” is a dish you'll often find in Peruvian restaurants. Potatoes are first boiled and then covered in a rich cheese sauce that is slightly spicy. This dish is served at room temperature and makes a great substitution for traditional potato salad. Perfect for a grill out or taking to a pot luck!

You'll need:

8 potatoes
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup cheese: use queso casero, queso fresco, feta or muenster
2-3 tablespoons minced aji amarillo (a fiery Peruvian chilli), jalapeño or habanero pepper
4-8 crumbled saltine crackers
3-4 tablespoons of canola oil
12 lettuce leaves
4 eggs, hard-boiled and quartered
2 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
8-10 pitted black olives

Boil the potatoes whole and unpeeled until cooked through. Set aside to cool. In a blender or food processor, combine the cheese, milk and pepper, and slowly add the crackers to thicken the sauce. Add milk or crackers to adjust the consistency of the sauce if it's too thick or too thin; it should be the consistency of a typical cheese sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Peel and quarter the potatoes, and line a serving platter with the lettuce leaves. Arrange the quartered potatoes on top of the lettuce, spoon the sauce over the potatoes, and top with the hard-boiled eggs and tomato wedges. Sprinkle with olives. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Variations: add a dash of lime to the sauce. For a richer dish, you can use cream or half and half instead of milk, or a combination.

Perico Venezolano (Venezuelan Scrambled Eggs)

Difficulty level: easy Frugal Factor: eggs are a cheap and healthy source of protein. Bored of the usual scrambled eggs for breakfast? Try eggs the Venezuelan way!

You'll need:
2 tablespoons canola oil
6 eggs
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped and seeded
1 bell pepper (red, yellow or green), finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Lightly beat the eggs and set aside. Heat the oil and fry the onion, pepper and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, and cook for another 3 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the eggs, stirring gently to scramble, and turning occasionally, but keeping them soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with bread.

Mexican beef burgers

Difficulty level: easy Frugal factor: the only pricey item on the ingredients list is avocado, which adds a lot of flavor. Swap your usual burgers for this spicy, delicious Mexican version.

You'll need:
1 lb ground beef
1 tomato, diced
1/4 onion, diced
1 jalapeño chile, finely chopped
6 teaspoons mustard
garlic powder and salt to taste

You will also need:
6 hamburger buns
1 large ripe avocado, sliced
washed lettuce leaves
mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup

Combine the beef with the tomato, onion, chile, salt and garlic powder. Divide into 6 portions and form into burger patties. Grill or fry until done to your liking. Put burgers into buns, and add avocado slices, lettuce leaves and condiments.