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Main Advantages of Homemade Meals + Bonus Recipes

#6 Money Savings

Eating home cooked meals is much more affordable than eating out at restaurants regularly. This information rings true because your restaurant receipt includes, not only the cost of your food, but also the cost of running a business. When you dine out, you are ultimately paying for food, water, electricity, building rent, and staffing. Thus, making the conscious effort to cook fresh and nutrient rich meals at home will save you a considerable amount of money in the long run as you are only paying for the meal itself. To reap additional savings while grocery shopping we recommend meal planning, sticking to your original grocery list, and saving all leftovers.

#5 Time Savings

It is a common misconception that running to your local fast food joint or grabbing take out from a favorite restaurant is quicker than actually cooking. However in reality, cooking a meal at home can be much faster than going out to grab food, especially if you have planned ahead. Oftenly, people do not factor in traffic, lines, and food preparation wait time when looking to outsource their meals. It is popularly forgotten that many delectable home cooked meals can be made in 30 minutes or less. And if your recipe is more complex, just make sure to cook a large batch where there will be leftovers for dinner a few more nights of the week.

#4 Healthier Ingredients

Commercially prepared foods tend to be higher in salt, sugar, and fat. While these nutrients are great in smaller amounts, they are very unhealthy in large quantities. You can not control how a restaurant prepares your meal and therefore you have no say in how much of each nutrient you are receiving. Contrarily, when we prepare our own foods, we get to control how much of each ingredient we will be eating and understand the exact nutritional value of each and every one of our meals. For example, McDonald's french fries contain 19 ingredients vs. home cooked fries that only contain 5 ingredients - potato wedges, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Your home cooked meals can be healthier without sacrificing flavor.

#3 Easily Avoid Food Allergies & Sensitivities

Cooking at home is extremely beneficial for families with food allergies and/or sensitivities. This is due to the control you have in your kitchen! Only you know exactly what your family can and can not eat. Thus, you are not risking anyone's health when eating a home cooked meal.

#2 Portion Control

It is not uncommon for fast food joints and restaurants to provide consumers with portions that are much larger than the average recommended caloric value. This creates a problem because when food is placed in front of you, chances are you will eat it all, no matter how many calories it contains. Unfortunately, eating unnecessary calories causes unwanted weight gain and may even lead to severe health problems. Luckily, when dining in, you can regulate the amount of calories in each plated dinner serving eliminating temptation and encouraging healthy food portion control.

#1 Family Time

Eating at home altogether at the diner table brings families closer as it allows time for communication. Studies have shown that when families eat together, the entire family tends to be healthier. Obesity in children has been linked to family stress and abuse. Thus, eating at least one entire meal together can release tension and the need to overeat. Involve your children in the food preparation process because it is both educational and fun. Teach your children healthy eating habits early on so that they may have a solid foundation of knowledge and a healthy relationship with food in the future.

Read on below for seven awesome recipes to try this week!

Mini Spinach & Cheese Frittatas

Frittatas are a great, protein packed breakfast option. They are easy to prepare and can be made in advance. Plus, Frittatas are pocket sized and make for a great healthy meal on the go!

Ingredients:

- Nonstick cooking spray
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (2 tbsp)
- 1 Large Leek, halved & thinly sliced
- Spinach, no stems (1 lb)
- 6 Eggs
- Ricotta Cheese (1 cup)
- Grated Swiss Cheese (⅓ cup)
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (⅓ cup)
- Salt
- Freshly Ground Pepper

Preparation:

- Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit
- Coat four small baking dishes with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside
- In a large pan, over medium heat, place in olive oil with leek.
- Cook leek until soft. 2 to 3 minutes
- Add Spinach into pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes
- Drain leek and spinach mixture in a colander. Be sure to squeeze out any excess water
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk in all eggs, ricotta cheese, swiss cheese, parmigiano reggiano cheese, leek/spinach mixture, salt, and pepper
- Spoon the completely whisked mixture equally into each baking dish
- Bake for 20 minutes. Eggs should be fluffed up and lightly browned

Spaghetti al Pesto

Homemade Pesto is superior to store bought pesto, especially when basil is in season. Making a large batch of pesto and freezing it small containers to have year round saves both time and money. Pesto is delicious on sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and spaghetti.

Ingredients:

- Spaghetti (1 lb)
- 2 Cloves of Garlic, fully peeled
- Basil leaves (2 cups)
- Pine Nuts (2 tbsp)
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (½ cup)
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (⅓ cup)
- Grated Pecorino Cheese (2 tbsp)
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Salt is optional
- In a food processor combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts. Pulse until finely chopped
- Add cheese to food processor and combine well with previous mixture
- While the food processor is pulsing, add in the olive oil slowly to make the completed pesto mixture smooth
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Once your pot of water is boiling, add in pasta and cook until al dente
- Drain pasta but reserve one cup of its water
- Place cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl with the premade pesto. The cup of water you have reserved is to add to the pasta if the consistency is too thick
- Toss well and serve immediately

Fresh Tomato Sauce & Gnocchi

Homemade tomato sauce is much healthier than the store bought alternatives. Similar to pesto, tomato sauce can also be made in large batches and frozen for later use. Gnocchi is great because it only takes two minutes to cook making this meal perfect for days with little to no time to make dinner.

Ingredients:

- Gnocchi (2 lbs)
- Fresh Tomatoes (2 lbs)
- 2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (2 tbsp)
- Salt (to taste)
- 5 or 6 Basil Leaves
- Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (to taste)

Preparation:

- Bring a medium pot of water to boil
- On the bottom of each tomato, cut a shallow 'x'
- Plunge each tomato in the boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the skin easily peels off
- Remove skin for all tomatoes and rinse them quickly under cold water
- Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out seed and excess water - Once all tomatoes are peeled and squeezed, chop them into small squares
- In a saucepan heat olive oil
- Add garlic to pan and brown
- Once the garlic becomes aromatic add in all tomatoes to pan with a large pinch of salt
- Cook tomatoes for 15 minutes. Stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon
- While the tomatoes are cooking, boil a large pot of salted water for gnocchi
- Add the gnocchi to the boiling pot of water to cook. Gnocchi will float when fully cooked, about 2 minutes
- Drain gnocchi and then toss with tomato sauce
- Add roughly torn basil to the mixture
- Sprinkle Parmigiano Reggiano to the top of each dish and serve

Tuna & Bean Salad

Tuna and bean salad is perfect for days with only a few minutes to throw together a meal. It only takes ten minutes to prepare with very simple ingredients.

Ingredients:

- Canned Cannellini Beans (2 cups, washed and drained)
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (⅓ cup)
- 1 Small Red Onion (finely sliced)
- Parsley ( 2 tbsp, finely chopped)
- 3 cans of Tuna in Olive Oil (drained)
- Salt
- Pepper

Preparation:

- Mix together beans, onions, and olive oil in a shallow serving dish
- Season the dish with salt and pepper
- Break up tuna into small pieces and add together with bean mixture
- Sprinkle parsley on top and serve

Pear, Walnut, Gorgonzola, and Spinach Salad

This delicious salad is a great main dish and can be paired with grilled chicken and/or garlic bread.

Ingredients:

- Baby Spinach
- Pears
- Walnuts
- Gorgonzola Cheese (crumbled)
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (3 tbsp)
- Red Wine Vinegar (2 tbsp)
- Salt
- Pepper (freshly ground)

Preparation:

- Make the vinaigrette by combining olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Whisk oil and spices together well with a fork
- Peel and cut pears into small cubes
- Place as much spinach as you would like into a large salad bowl with as much cubed pears, walnuts, and gorgonzola as you desire.
- Pour homemade vinaigrette over the entire salad
- Toss well and serve immediately

Steak Strips Over Arugula Salad

This arugula salad not only tastes amazing but it is full of protein and veggies. Plus, it is super easy to make and the end result looks beautiful.

Ingredients:

- Boneless Top Sirloin Steak (1 lb, cut into thin slices)
- Arugula (5 oz)
- Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (to taste)
- Cherry Tomatoes (12 oz, halved)
- 2 Garlic Cloves (peeled and smashed)
- 3 Large Shallots
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (⅓ cup)
- Salt
- Pepper (freshly, ground)

Preparation:

- Place all arugula on a platter
- In a large sauce pan heat olive oil over medium-high heat
- Add garlic in sauce pan and cook until brown
- Discard garlic and add meat to the pan with salt and pepper
- Cook each size of meat carefully about 5 minutes
- Once cooked thoroughly, arrange the steak over the plated arugula
- Saute the shallots, tomatoes, and vinegar in the preheated pan for 1 minute
- Serve once the sauce has thickened slightly
- Pour mixture over steak and arugula as dressing
- Sprinkled the shaved parmigiano reggiano cheese on top and serve immediately

Light Eggplant Parmigiana

This recipe is a healthy alternative to the traditional dish - Eggplant Parmigiana dish. Light Eggplant Parmigiana utilizes grilled eggplant instead of fried which reduces much of its caloric content. We recommend baking this dish the day before you plan to serve it to allow the flavors steep together and develop.

Ingredients:

- Eggplant (3 lbs)
- 1 Can of Crushed Tomatoes (28 oz)
- 2 Garlic Cloves
- Mozzarella (8 oz, cut into small cubes)
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (1 cup)
- Basil Leaves
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt
- Pepper

Preparation:

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Cut eggplant into ¼ slices
- Layer eggplant slices in a large colander sprinkling each layer with a pinch of salt
- Cover the eggplant slices with a plate and weigh them down. Leave the eggplants in this position for 1 hour to expel their bitter juice
- After 1 hour rise off the eggplant with water and pat dry
- Now it is time to prepare the tomato sauce by heating a few tablespoon of olive oil into a large saucepan
- Brown the garlic cloves in this saucepan over medium heat
- Add tomatoes and salt/pepper (to taste) into the pan once the garlic has browned and let cook for 15 minutes
- Place the eggplant slices in 1 layer on a baking sheet and let bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes
- While both mixtures are cooking spread a couple tablespoons of tomato sauce around the bottom of a 13 x 8 inch baking dish
- Arrange the cooked eggplant slices in one layer over the sauce
- Top with a couple more tablespoons of tomato sauce, a few cubes of mozzarella, leaves of basil and some parmigiano
- Layer until you run out of eggplant
- On the top layer add extra parmigiano
- Bake for 40 minutes, until all the cheese has melted and top is slightly browned
- Let cool for 10 minutes and then serve