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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A lowdown on life and a recipe for chocolate pecan pie

A lowdown on life and a recipe for chocolate pecan pie

Why hello there! What’s happening? I figured since I have a couple days off school it would be a good time to catch up over here on this blog that I seem to forget about 99% of the time. Oops. So what’s going on? Well the November issue of Culinaire is out and I’ve got my usual Tips and Tricks article in it. This month is all about working with spices and you can read about it here (pages 16-17). I’ve also written another food/psychology piece for Eat North, which can be found here. Oh and if you missed all of my exciting ramblings on Facebook, I was on the news! I did a short segment on baking and cooking with apples which was a ton of fun and something I would love to do again. I am one of those crazy people who enjoys public speaking in any and all forms. Well as long as I know what I am talking about that is. There is nothing worse than giving a presentation on a topic you aren’t comfortable and confident speaking about. That being said, when it comes to cooking, I could go on forever.

Outside of food writing, I’m being kept well occupied with grad school applications. It’s a daunting process planning this next phase of my life, especially when the admission rates for clinical psychology are somewhere around 5%. That’s right, it’s easier to get into med school than it is to gain acceptance into a clinical psyc program. All I can say is I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

School itself is good as well. I’m plugging away at my Honours thesis and recently ran participant #19. Only 41 more to go between now and April! It’s hard to believe that after this semester, I only have 3 courses left before I’m finished my degree. Time flies.

Despite all of my food writing, I actually haven’t spent much time experimenting in the kitchen lately. So when Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate sent me some  holiday recipes to share, I was pretty happy to use them as an excuse not to come up with my own material. Sad, I know. But seriously though, how good does this chocolate pecan pie look? Too good not to share, that’s for sure. With the Christmas fast approaching, I cannot think of a better way to end a holiday meal. I’m in the midst of helping to plan a work Christmas party and this pie is definitely going on the menu.

That’s it from me for now. Have fun out there! PS. if you bake this chocolate pecan pie, let me know how it turns out. It’s on my to-do list to try it in the very near future!

Chocolate pecan pie
Photo courtesy of Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate

Chocolate Pecan Pie
 
Take your pecan pie to the next level with this chocolate pecan pie, perfect for the holidays!
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 255g (9 oz) Ready-made sweet short crust pastry
  • 85g (3 oz) Green & Black’s Organic Dark 70% Chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 5 tbsp. Unsalted butter
  • 2 Large free-range eggs
  • ⅓ cup Superfine sugar (white granulated sugar will work if you cannot find superfine)
  • ½ cup Corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) Pecans (finely chopped)
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) Pecan halves (to decorate)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
  2. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the shortcrust pastry to the thickness of a quarter. Use it to line an eight inch loose-bottomed quiche pan with 1 ¼ inch straight-edged sides but do not trim off the excess. Chill until needed.
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Cool slightly.
  4. Place the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract, and cooled chocolate mixture in a large bowl and beat together until smooth. Fold in the chopped pecans, then pour into the pastry. Trim the pastry to ½ an inch above the filling. Decorate the surface with the pecan halves.
  5. Transfer the pie to the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until just set.

 

Blackberry Sour Cream Cake – A Guest Post from gotta get baked

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I figured since I’m off gallivanting in Europe for a few weeks, it would be a good time to feature some guest bloggers here on Because I Like Chocolate. I’ve got three amazing ladies lined up to share some delicious eats with you, kicking things off with Nancy from gotta get baked. I have never met Nancy in person but I can say without question that she is one of the most honest, blunt, tell-it-like-it-is people on the face of the planet. She’s a realist, that’s for sure, and she never fails to make me laugh – in that really unattractive, “oh my god I just snorted, I am so sorry” kind of way. Seriously, you have to check out one (or all) of her random crap posts, stat. If she doesn’t succeed as a blogger, Nancy could definitely make it as a comedian. Now over to Nancy!

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Hi everyone! I’m Nancy of gotta get baked. I live on the West coast of Canada (born ‘n raised) and I blog mainly about desserts ‘n sweets ‘n anything made with copious amounts of butter and sugar. In other words, it’s a (mental) health blog.

I don’t know when Mal and I started following each other’s blogs, commenting and becoming friends, but I’m glad we did. The girl’s blog is called Because I Like Chocolate. It’s like our relationship was meant to be!

To say I’m a chocoholic is a huuuuuuuuge understatement. I crave it, need it, want it all the time. I eat so much it’s probably running in my veins instead of blood. When my 9th grade English teacher had us write a report on any subject we wanted, I researched the history of chocolate and wrote 20 pages about it. During the process, I found out that there’s a Hershey chocolate town and it was my dream to go there (and live there). Some of my favourite books as a kid featured chocolate prominently (The Chocolate Touch and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Delicious classics!).

That’s why it’s super odd that I’m guest posting for Mallory two times this month but neither of my recipes feature chocolate. What’s wrong with me, right?! Well, because it’s summer, I wanted to make something fresh and seasonal, thus the blackberry sour cream cake featured in today’s post. The cake is super moist and lightly spiced, studded with sweet local B.C. blackberries. Perfect for breakfast or an any-time-snack.

Blackberry Sour Cream Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temp
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 2 cups of fresh blackberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper and butter the sides of the pan.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer or a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Scrape the batter into the cake pan. The batter will be thick.
  4. Top the batter with the blackberries. You can sprinkle the top of the cake with sugar if you want – that’s totally optional.
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may want to start checking the cake around the 30 or 35 minute mark. I left my cake in the oven a bit longer than necessary (such a rookie mistake!) and it was a bit darker than I wanted. Thankfully it didn’t negatively affect the texture too much.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the side of the pan to loosen the cake, then move it onto a cooling rack to continue cooling. Enjoy as is or with ice cream or whipping cream. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for two days. Any longer and I’d put it in the fridge.

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Stay tuned for another post from Nancy in the coming weeks. I won’t give it away completely but let’s just say it involves peanut butter. Cannot go wrong with that, can you?

Ohh La La Tasting

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Is there anything better than dessert for dinner? I didn’t think so. That’s why I jumped at the invite to attend a dessert tasting event hosted by Ohh La La Patisserie, making sure to come on as empty of a stomach as possible. Chef Sebastian invited several local food writers and bloggers to taste-test proposed items for his new menu. All 5 desserts were paired with tea from the host venue, The Tea Factory. It was actually an excellent idea. The cold teas were especially refreshing given the high sugar content of the food we were eating.

We started off with what was probably my least favourite course of the evening, an olive oil cake with white chocolate ganache, mascarpone espuma and coffee pearls. Although I could have eaten the ganache on its own with a spoon, the rest of the components didn’t really strike a chord with me. I liked the idea of topping the cake with an espuma or foam, but the texture was a bit off and the tang of the mascarpone was not as apparent as I would have liked. The coffee pearls were little balls of gel, set by agar agar, a fun idea in theory but they were a little too firm and didn’t really add anything to the dish. Overall, it was an underwhelming first course. Luckily, it meant that things could only get better.

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The second course was Sebastian’s take on apple pie, with layers of crust, caramelized apples, almond financier and finished with a vanilla Bavarian cream. As was the theme of the evening, he used molecular techniques to create a maple sphere, again set with agar agar. I much preferred the little dome of sugary, maple goodness to the aforementioned coffee pearls. Other than the caramelized apples themselves, nothing in the pie was overly sweet, so combining just a sliver of the maple sphere on your fork with all of the other ingredients really brought you back to your childhood eating grandma’s apple pie with vanilla ice cream. In fact I would take the impeccably smooth texture of the vanilla Bavarian cream over regular ice cream any day. The dessert was paired with an apple pie tea, which was probably my favourite drink of the evening. It was the strangest sensation to drink something that tasted and smelled exactly like apple pie, minus the sweetness, but at the same time, what pairs better with apple pie than apple pie?

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The third course paid homage to Sebastian’s Argentinian roots and was filled with tropical flavours. From the outside, it looked like a simply passion fruit mousse draped in glistening strawberry glaze, but the centre held plenty of surprises. Banana cream, lady finger and a hazelnut sable were all enveloped in the silky mousse. My only critique of this one is that I thought the strawberry flavour slightly overwhelmed the subtlety of the passion fruit, although it was the perfect pairing with the banana. I also wonder if the sable would have been more effective if made with macadamia nuts, which are slightly more tropical than hazelnuts (I always think hazelnuts and chocolate so it threw me off a bit). All in all though, I would definitely order one of these at Ohh La La.

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My favourite course was the fourth one, mainly because it was chocolate galore. Chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache are three things that make me one happy girl. The most interesting element of this dessert however was the caramel tagliatelle, a dessert take on “pasta.” Essentially he used agar agar and a few other chemicals to set salted caramel into a firm but pliable sheet, which he then sliced into “noodles.” Sure they were a bit on the slimy side, but I did not find the texture off-putting and the salt was the perfect foil to all of the other sweet components. Just look at that cross-section of chocolate heaven.

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I could have finished things off with a second helping of the chocolate course but we moved on to a light, Greek yogurt mousse instead. It definitely was not the most photogenic of the bunch but there were some interesting flavours and textures at play. Underneath the mousse sat a Matcha (green tea) dacquoise cake and on top that’s not spinach, it is a Matcha “wrap”, essentially a green tea flavoured jelly skin (there was a purplish blackberry one as well). Similar to the caramel tagliatelle, the wraps had a certain slime factor to them, but it was a unique way to provide texture to the foaminess of the mousse. Maybe if they were sliced in a chiffonade it would be easier to incorporate tiny pieces into each bite, rather than committing to an entire mouthful of Matcha or blackberry gel. Either way, I applaud Chef Sebastian’s creativity and courage to test out different techniques on us as his critics, to see if they would fly with actual customers. The thing with molecular gastronomy is that used effectively, I do believe it can enhance a dish above and beyond its natural state. However, oftentimes it is used without purpose, simply to add a modern technique in an attempt to be inventive and original, without actually enhancing the ingredients themselves. You don’t know until you try. That being said, after all of the feedback, hopefully you will see some of Sebastian’s latest creations in the showcase at Ohh La La Patisserie in the very near future! Just make sure you get there early before I go hoard all of the chocolate ones for myself.

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Ohh la la Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Canada Day Desserts

Happy early Canada Day to all of my fellow Canadians out there! To celebrate the occasion, I have put together a round-up of some amazing Canada Day desserts and other sweet recipes from some unreal Canadian bloggers. This country has some great talent and there are simply too many to choose from, so this is just a taste of what Canada’s food scene has to offer! Enjoy and I hope you have a fabulous day spending time with those you love most.

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The Dunbar, courtesy of Isabelle over at Crumb. It’s based on a recipe from a bakery in Vancouver.

– This Canadian take on Baklava from Dan of Dan’s Good Side, chalked full of apples and cranberries.

– Nothing says summer in Canada like stone fruit and berries. Julie from Dinner with Julie definitely know what’s up.

– We love our camping up here in the Great White North and that means one thing – s’mores. Wanda from Bakers Beans has you covered!

Blueberry pie is pretty traditional but not when you add spruce tips like Bernice from Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen did. Too pretty!

– These strawberry cloud bars from Regina at Leelalicious are red and white, just like our flag. Sounds about right for Canada day!

– When you are hiking in the mountains you need some trail mix – or trail mix cookie balls like these ones from Stephanie over at Global Dish.

– Anna Olson is as quintessentially Canadian as it gets. Check out her chocolate chip cookies on Stephanie’s blog (a different Stephanie), Clockwork Lemon.

– Ok it’s technically not dessert but it’s still sweet. The honey brew beer cocktail over at Eat North that is.

– If you have any rhubarb left it must go into making this tart from Melissa at Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach. It must.

– Does the top of this soufflé from Medha of Farm on Plate not look like our flag too? Except in chocolate form which is even better!

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– We may not grow tropical fruits in Canada but we do have some wicked blueberries. Mixing them into cheesecake ice cream is genius! Thanks to Nancy from Gotta Get Baked for this.

– Amy of Simple Bites makes a wicked looking fresh strawberry pie. Heck yeah.

– This country makes some gooood ice wine. Why not try it in a gelée like this one courtesy of Tara from Seven Spoons?

– Cool off with this frozen berry tart from Emily, the blogger at This Rawsome Vegan Life.

– What dainty little muffins from Jo-Anna at A Pretty Like in the Suburbs. Pretty indeed!

– Start off the day with these strawberry crepes from Janice at Kitchen Heals Soul.

– Maple syrup and blueberries. Check and check. This cake from Dessert by Candy looks awesome and super simple too!

– If there is anyone who deserves recognition on Canada Day it is Valerie from A Canadian Foodie. She has started up such projects as the Canadian Food Experience Project and basically dedicates her site to all things Canadian. It seems fitting to end things with Valerie’s grandmother’s angel food cake. Traditions are what make this country what it is and there are nothing better than food traditions. Happy Canada Day to all!