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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Cranberry Pomegranate Spritzers

Cranberry Pomegranate Spritzers
I have an uncanny knack for liking ingredients that most people find repulsive.
Blue cheese. Really any cheese that smells more like feet than it does food.
Chocolate so dark that it is basically unsweetened.
Mushrooms that look like they were plucked straight out of an enchanted forest.
But if there’s one thing that I struggle to wrap my head around, it’s wine. I want to like it, I really do. I understand the virtues of pairing it with foods to make them taste even better. Except that in my mind, it still makes them taste worse.
Lately I’ve changed my tune a bit. White and rosé I can tolerate, red, not so much. Consistent with most of my other tastes, the sweeter the better. Did someone mention sangria? I’m in.
These spritzers are a more “wintery” take on sangria. Pomegranate, cranberry and pear are all flavours that scream “holidays!” to me. Christmas; it’s the ultimate time for consuming alcoholic beverages and it’s less than 2 months away. You could totally make a non-alcoholic version too using half cranberry juice and half sparkling water. But let’s face it, even the kids get into the wine at Christmas. Who are we trying to kid? Ha that pun was totally unintended.
Ginger would be awesome in these too. You could even substitute the sparkling water for ginger ale. Wine + juice + fruit + sparkling drink = endless possibilities.
Just like other acquired tastes, I think that if you gradually condition yourself, you can gain an appreciation for wine. Add in some fruit and you pretty much have me convinced. I may still be a long way from appreciating the tannins in a nice cabernet sauvignon but I will get there eventually. Or at least one can hope.
Cranberry Pomegranate Spritzers
Cranberry Pomegranate Spritzers

Cranberry Pomegranate Spritzers
Makes 2

Ingredients

1 cup white or rosé wine
1/2 cup cranberry pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sparkling water, such as Perrier or club soda
1/2 pear, small dice
1/2 pomegranate, seeded

Instructions

In each glass pour 1/2 cup wine and 1/4 cup each cranberry juice and sparking water. Adding 2 heaping tablespoons of both diced pears and pomegranate seeds to each. Drink up!

Cranberry Pomegranate Spritzers
Cranberry Pomegranate Spritzers

Pomegranate Brownies

Oh technology. I was saving this post for later in the week but then my finger slipped and I pressed “publish” instead of “save draft”. But hey, what the heck? I think we can all go for some pomegranate brownies now, right?
Pomegranate has officially replaced pumpkin as my favourite ingredient right now so I decided to add them to the batter. I would like to take credit for the idea, but truthfully I saw pomegranate brownies over at Twigg Studios. The sourness of the pomegranate seeds actually does wonders to cut the richness of these brownies. And believe me, they are rich. For the most part I am totally down for making healthy desserts. But when it comes to brownies, you need two critical ingredients, butter and chocolate. I don’t care what people say about adding beans and avocados and applesauce (I have done all of these things myself and yes, they produce a yummy product but it’s not the same). If you want a rich, fudgy, decadent and totally over the top brownie, it’s not going to be good for you. Period.
People just need to wrap their heads around the fact that every once in awhile, that’s not going to kill you.
Just look at these. For me at least, it would be much worse to go without.
Pomegranate Brownies
Pomegranate Brownies
Pomegranate Brownies
Pomegranate Brownies

Pomegranate Brownies
Makes 9

Ingredients

170g dark chocolate, 70%
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 pomegranate, seeded

Instructions

1. Heat your oven to 350F. Prepare an 8″ or 9″ square pan by lining it with parchment paper.
2. Melt together the butter and chocolate, either over a double boiler or just in the microwave. Stir to incorporate and set it aside to cool slightly.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt.
4. Add the cooled melted chocolate/butter to the egg mixture, whisking to combine.
5. Stir in the flour, mixing until it is just combined. Then stir in most of the pomegranate seeds, reserving about 1/3 cup.
6. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of pomegranate seeds over the top. Using your hand, press them lightly into the batter but not so much that they no longer show on the surface.
7. Bake at 350F for about 30-40 minutes. The outer edges should be matte and set while the middle remains slightly glossy.
8. Cool to room temperature, refrigerate and slice. And then eat of course!

Pomegranate Brownies
Pomegranate Brownies