Having an audience is nothing new for Melissa d’Arabian. She’s done stints as a cruise-ship singer, private chef, local food-show host and even as a beauty queen (she’s a two-time Miss Vermont runner-up). So it’s no wonder the stay-at-home mom beat out nine other hopefuls on The Next Food Network Star this summer and ended up with her own show. She’s certainly cut out for hosting Ten Dollar Dinners: Melissa has an MBA from Georgetown University, and she recently slashed the household bills for her husband, Philippe, and their four daughters by more than half, to $175 a week. “If you saw my coupon binder, you’d be floored,” she says.
Of course every mom knows that cooking for kids comes with another challenge altogether: getting them to eat healthful food. We asked Melissa to make some cheap-and-easy dishes for her daughters, Valentine, 4, Charlotte, 3, and 2-year-old twins Margaux and Océane, using some of their not-so-favorite ingredients. We have to hand it to her. She got the girls eating whole grains, greens, fish and even tofu...and she kept her budget in check while she was at it.
Photographs by Ngoc Minh Ngo