Holiday Cooking on a Budget

Holiday Cooking on a Budget

No time of year warrants sticking to a budget quite like the holidays, yet December is probably the most difficult month to be a penny-pincher; especially when it comes to food. First you’ve got the turkey. A good one will set you back at least $60-70. Then you’ve got to figure out what sides to pair with it. Everyone has their favourites so there really aren’t any you can eliminate. You can’t forget dessert either. Christmas chocolates? Yes please. But $15 for a box of Quality Street or Turtles, say what?

Thankfully good food doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are 3 dishes you can prepare to serve up to 6 people, for less than $30. If I did my math correctly, that’s less than $5 per person.

Your friends and family may throw a fit if you don’t have turkey for the holidays, so instead of cooking a whole bird, try opting for legs instead. They are dirt cheap – between $2.50 to $3 per leg – and braising them ensures they stay moist and tender, unlike that dry breast meat that no one likes.

For a side, try making a chickpea salad. Beans and legumes are a great way to add bulk to your meal and are a blank canvas to add a plethora of other flavours. The red and green colours of pomegranate and brussels sprouts scream “holidays” to me!

Finally, dessert is required at all holiday meals, regardless of how full you are. Grandma’s coconut snowballs are the easiest treats you will ever make in your life. You don’t even have to turn the oven on. Still they are a crowd favourite year after year.

I don’t know about you but that’s one tasty sounding budget meal right there. It will have everyone at your table saying “Merry Christmas”, your wallet included!

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BRAISED TURKEY LEGS

Serves 4-6 – costs $14.50

Ingredients

  • 4 turkey legs
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp. dried herbs (I used a combination of rosemary, thyme and oregano)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Season the turkey legs with salt and pepper and brown them in a large skillet over medium-high heat. You are just looking to sear them, not cook them through.
  2. Remove the browned turkey from the skillet and place it in a large, oven-proof dish.
  3. Add the vegetables and dried herbs to the same skillet you browned the turkey in. Deglaze with chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  4. Pour the vegetables and stock over the turkey legs. Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 3-3.5h, or until tender. You can then use the braising liquid to make a gravy if you like, or you can serve the turkey as is. The turkey can also be braised a day ahead of time and just warmed up when you are ready to serve.

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CHICKPEA SALAD WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND POMEGRANATE

Serves 4-6 – costs $5 total

Ingredients

  • 1 14 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups raw brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2-3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. To make the dressing, whisk together the mustard and honey until smooth. Whisk in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Combine the chickpeas, pomegranate, and brussels sprouts in a bowl. Pour in the dressing and stir to combine.
  3. This salad is best eaten after a couple of hours because it allows the dressing to marinate the chickpeas and brussels sprouts. You can ever make ahead of time to serve the next day.

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COCONUT SNOWBALLS

Makes 20 balls – costs $7.50 total

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 6-8 oz. chocolate chips (about 1/2 of a typical 350g package)
  • shredded coconut, as needed (about 1-1 1/2 cups)

Instructions

  1. Stir together all ingredients except the shredded coconut.
  2. Roll the mixture into bite-sized balls and coat each with coconut.
  3. Refrigerate if not eaten immediately.
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Tahini Chickpea Salad

Tahini Chickpea Salad

Hi friends. Posting twice in one week? It’s crazy talk, I know. Almost as crazy as the fact that the school semester is rapidly drawing to a close. 2 finals written, 2 to go. That leaves one more year of my undergraduate degree to be completed (and then who knows how many years of grad school, but I have to get into that first – baby steps). However, before I begin my Honours thesis next year, I still have an entire summer of research ahead of me. Did I mention that I received a research grant for the summer? Well I received a research grant for the summer! I must admit, I wasn’t expecting it so needless to say I was thrilled when I found out I was a recipient. It should be a solid few months of rigorous scientific exploration if all goes as planned. Yes, psychology is a science.

Anyways, with exams and such in the works, food and cooking has moved a tad further down the priority list than normal. At the same time, food is at the top of the priority list when you are trying to keep your brain and body both mentally and physically nourished. I have been subsisting off a lot of fruits, vegetables and beans lately so I thought it might be somewhat hypocritical to share a recipe for chocolate banana bread or banana chocolate sticky toffee pudding (although both of those are to come in the nearish (??) future). Hence this tahini chickpea salad! I try my best to fight the stereotype that all healthy habits are thrown out the window in the face of stress and adversity. Take exercise for example, it’s usually the first thing to go when people don’t have enough time (or at least they think they don’t have enough time) to fit extracurricular activities into their daily regimens. Yet it is the one thing that should absolutely stay and there is an abundance of evidence to prove it. Stress reduction, anxiety reduction, improved quality of life, the list goes on, all complements of exercise. It all sounds like common sense but if that were so, why doesn’t everyone do it?

At this point you are either thinking, “preaching to the choir” or “shut up and get off your high horse”, I’m sure. If it’s the latter, don’t knock it until you try it. If it’s the former, let’s eat some tahini chickpea salad!
Tahini Chickpea Salad
Tahini Chickpea Salad

Tahini Chickpea Salad
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced (about the same size as the chickpeas)
  • 1 carrot, diced (about the same size as the chickpeas)
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tsp. capers, minced
  • 1 tbsp. tahini
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. To make the dressing whisk together the lemon juice, zest, capers and tahini until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the chickpeas, bell pepper and carrot. Serve. This salad can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for the week for lunches and/or snacks.

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Roasted Chickpeas

Ok so here is my life story. I know, I know you have probably forgotten that I even exist it has been so long since I last wrote something. I could make up some excuse like, “between school and work and then more school and more work…blah, blah, blah” which is true but more accurately, I just spent the past 3 hours knitting my mom a toque. Sorry, I was in the zone. I was only planning on doing a few rows, but I guess now it’s all finished. I’m like that. I start something with the intention of only doing it for maybe half an hour then next thing I know it’s done. Largely due to the fact that I am a list person I would say. I love checking things off my list. This time around though there has got to be a better reward. The cup of extremely black, disgusting tea I am trying to ingest just isn’t doing it for me. Really what is this stuff? Not even the sugar is helping it out.
Do you know what is good though? Roasted chickpeas. The ones I made were also slightly black thanks to some black lava salt, straight from Hawaii. A weak connection, I know, but at least I am trying here.
Roasted Chickpeas
Ingredients:
– 1 540 mL can chick peas (drained and rinsed with cold water)
– 1 tbsp. olive oil
– 1/2 tbsp. sugar in the raw
– 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. black lava salt (or any salt you like, it could be fancy like himalayan pink salt but plain table salt works fine too) the amount you use really depends on how strong it is
– 5 grinds of black pepper
– 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Mix everything together in a bowl. Pour onto a baking sheet. Roast at 400 F until golden and crisp, turning the chickpeas every 10 minutes or so to ensure that they do not burn. For me, with my oven, this took just over half an hour. If you like them crunchier, roast them for a longer period. Then you are free to munch to your hearts content!
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