Sometimes a major holiday meal just – for whatever reason – isn’t on tap. Be it a nice but lower “energy level” dinner or just dinners that surround the holidays that aren’t turkey or ham, there are many easy to fix solutions to the question “what’s for dinner?” Here are some ideas to celebrate together without breaking the budget.
For example, ordinary pork chops take on new heights with a peppery sauce. Brown six thick cut pork chops and place in a 13×9 inch pan. Set oven to 350F and place a 7 ¼ ounce jar peppers, teaspoon oregano, 2 garlic cloves (halved), ½ teaspoon pepper, ½ cup vegetable oil, 1/3 cup chopped walnuts and ¼ cup each parmesan cheese and wine in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour over the chops and bake until chops are tender, about an hour. Top with pepper rings to serve.
Brown a pound of ground beef with a medium onion (chopped) and 3 tablespoons chopped pepper. Add a teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper along with 2 tablespoons chili seasoning. Place some of this mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish, top with a tortilla then cheese. Layer this until all are used topping with cheese and pouring a can of tomato sauce around the outside edge of the layers then add a can of water. Top with chopped bell pepper and bake 35-40 minutes at 350F. .While this is not an expensive meal, served with cornbread and trimmings it can provide something different for the table!
Another inexpensive meal can be made with three pounds of chicken leg quarters and a half pound ham, cubed, browned together in 3 tablespoons oil. Remove the meat and sauté a cup of chopped green pepper and a cup chopped onion with a clove of minced garlic 5 minutes over low heat. Add 2 teaspoons each salt and Worcestershire sauce, ¼ teaspoon each thyme, Tabasco and black pepper. Add 3 cups canned chicken broth or broth made from cubes. Simmer 10 minutes then add the meat and 1 ½ cups uncooked rice. Cover and cook on low for 25 minutes, fluffing rice then cooking 5 minutes more.
With expenses high and budgets not these are easy meals to get through but not do without! Enjoy the holidays with filling meals that celebrate the season.
Peppers are a nutritious and tasty part of the food offerings from gardens, produce stands and preserved. If you are putting up peppers, consider what you have. If some are mature to red, they’re often sweeter than green. Green are more common. If you are freezing or drying, add 1 part colored to 2 or 3 parts green peppers and you can pre-measure for instant identification. For example, dice one and a half cups of green peppers with a half cup yellow or red and freeze. When you need 2 cups for family pizzas you can tell at a glance over the one cup bags that are all green.
Chili Powder Blend
Makes ¼ cup
2 tablespoons chopped or crumbled dried Ancho chili peppers or other mild type
2 teaspoons dried cumin seeds
2 teaspoons crumbled dried oregano leaves
2 teaspoons ground paprika
1 teaspoon dried garlic slices
½-1 teaspoon chopped or crumbled dried cayenne chili peppers or other hot variety
Combine all ingredients in a small electric coffee mill/spice grinder, and process until fine. Use for chili, bbq sauce, bean dishes, meatloaf and wherever you want a taste of the southwest. – The Beginner’s Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods
The book above is an awesome resource for someone on your gift list who is interested in doing more of their own food preparation. Easy to follow and tasty recipes!
1 cup room temperature water
2 1/4 active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups (9 ounces) bread flour, plus more as needed
2 cups (11 1/2 ounces) corn meal, plus more for pans
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup diced roasted red peppers, well drained (1 large red pepper)
1 jalapeno, cored, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1.Combine all ingredients in stand mixer and knead with the dough hook until smooth. You can also mixe the ingredients in a large bowl, then knead by hand. The red peppers add moisture to the dough, so if it is wet and sticky and won’t form a cohesive ball, add a bit more flour (a tablespoon at a time) just until the dough comes together. If you are using a stand mixer, the dough should form a ball around the dough hook and clean the sides of the bowl. Don’t worry if the dough seems too soft – the cornmeal in the dough will hydrate overnight, making the dough denser.
2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour in a warm room.
3.Meanwhile, spray four 5×3 inch loaf pans with baking spray. You can also sprinkle them with cornmeal, for more corn flavor.
4. When the dough has risen, flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Divide it into four equal pieces. Form each piece into a log about 5 inches long, and place one log in each pan. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
Baking day – Take pans out of the refrigerator and heat oven to 350*F. Remove the plastic and bake the loaves until they are browned and the internal temperature reaches 195*F on an instant-read thermometer, about 30 minutes. Transfer the bread from the pans to a rack and let them cool completely before slicing.
Tip – try 4 ounces of sharp cheddar, coarsely shredded, added with other ingredients.
This is from Make Ahead Bread - many want to have fresh bread but don’t have a great deal of time. This book is for you. Do the prep work, then take it out and bake for fresh bread when needed! There’s white, wheat and other flavors of breads included too, but it gets beyond the ordinary. (The Cinnamon Swirl bread recipe looks heavenly!)
Smoky Pepper Chili Sauce
4 cups chopped onions
3 cups chopped red bell peppers
2 cups finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons pickling or canning salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
2 dried ancho or mild New Mexico chile peppers
1 cup boiling water
2 drained chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
2 tablespoons adobo sauce
In a Dutch oven or large, heavy bottomed pot, combine tomatoes, onions, red peppers, celery, garlic, brown sugar, salt, allspice, cinnamon, cumin and vinegar. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring often, for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until chili sauce is reduced by about half and is thick enough to mound on a spoon.
In a heatproof bowl, combine hot chili peppers and boiling water, let stand for about 30 minutes or until peppers are softened. Remove peppers from liquid and discard liquid. Discard stems and seeds and finely chop peppers. Stir into chili sauce with chipotles and adobo sauce and boil gently, stirring often, for 10 minutes to blend the flavors.
Combine all and ladle into sterilized jars to within 1/2 inch of rim, remove any air pockets and adjust headspace, if needed, by adding hot sauce. Wipe rims. Apply prepared lids and rings; tighten rings fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. Turn off, remove canner lid, Transfer jars to towel lined surface and let cool Check seals, refrigerate unsealed jars for up to 3 weeks. Makes 6-7 pint jars.
Perks up scrambled eggs, burgers, sliders, meat pies. From Best of Bridge Home Preserving. Loaded with photos, tips, recipes, this is a great idea for those seeking to buy local but still interested in having food in December. These make great gifts too!
All three of these books add to the pantry shelves if used, and add some new tastes to daily life.
Here are a couple of easy and tasty desserts.
A coconut dessert is heavenly after a meal and a good three layer coconut dessert begins by mixing together a cube of margarine or butter, a cup of flour and ½ cup chopped pecans. Press this into a 9×13 pan and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. While that is baking combine an 8 ounce package of cream cheese with a half box of powdered sugar and a cup of whipped topping like Cool Whip. Pull the crust out and while it’s cooling, set these two aside to prepare the third layer by mixing two packages instant pudding (vanilla works well) 2 ½ cups milk and a half cup cream of coconut (look near the mixed drink section in stores). Take the cream cheese mixture and press into the cooled crust. Sprinkle with shredded coconut and chopped pecans. Top with the pudding mixture and more pecans. Refrigerate a couple hours before serving.
Another I really like for ease and holiday is making a white cake (inexpensive white cake is fine). While it’s baking prepare cherry or black cherry or lime gelatin. When the cake is done take a fork and poke holes randomly in the cake from half to ¾ the way down. Carefully pour the gelatin mixture over these holes and when you’ve used it all put the cake in the refrigerator. Pull out and top with frosting and red and green sprinkles. The down side to this is if left out it can get soggy, but it’s such a good and easy dessert, and when cut the gelatin puts red or green color down into the white cake.
These are just two favorite desserts for the holiday season. Enjoy!
Desserts and holidays can be troublesome for many. We love the pecan pie, pumpkin and cream pies but they don’t always love us. We drool over peanut butter pie and cookies but are committed to staying on our healthy goal so even “just a small piece” or “just a bite” isn’t enough. Dessert recipes can be healthy and need not be expensive or time consuming.
For example, berries over shortcake with just a touch of whipped cream offers not only taste but the berries have more good-for-you nutrition than that pie does. Gelatin desserts have moved to the salad/appetizer bar in restaurants but had long been used as desserts that are low calorie and versatile. Add fruit for a different taste such as this mimosa fruit salad. These are commonly available items and easy to make but we don’t often think of them for *dessert*!
Healthy need not be boring either. A touch of indulgence may be just the ticket to a healthy dessert alternative. This need not be difficult. Maple apples are an ideal fall dessert with nuts complimenting an apple dessert drizzled with reduced calorie maple syrup. Sweet potato pie is an alternative to pumpkin and easy to make. Spiced oranges and pears, minted grapefruit ice, and a carrot cake or spice cake all offer alternatives. This vanilla-raspberry pavlova has just 120 calories per serving.
Thinking outside the box just a little bit results in many ideas to stretch the budget and offer healthy desserts this Thanksgiving. You can also make regular desserts just a little better, adding honey oatmeal cookies or molasses bars or sherbet to the taste table instead of more traditional desserts.
Sometimes the answers have been there all along. Dig out old cookbooks and there are many desserts within that are healthy or can easily be made so. Experiment with honey instead of sugar, or look for some with molasses as a flavoring ingredient.
There are many alternative desserts to choose from and surely something for everyone! Don’t think that healthy means leaving out taste! It’s just a different kind of taste and much lighter after a big meal.
Christmas party dips don’t have to be extremely fancy or expensive. Indeed some of the tastiest of dip cost little to make. Here are some Christmas dip recipes that are actually good year round!
For one take a dozen hard cooked eggs, shell and chop finely. Mix with 2 tablespoons softened butter 2 ½ teaspoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons mustard and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Add in 2 drops Tabasco, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, a teaspoon dried minced onion, ¼ teaspoon pepper and ¾ cup mayonnaise. Mix in a blender until smooth and refrigerate at least 4-1/2 hours. Whip to soften for serving. This is even less expensive to make if you have your own hens for eggs.
Another is even easier – take 2 cups cottage cheese or three 3 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened. Dice 2 cloves of garlic, ½ teaspoon and ¼ cup pickles, adding to the cheese with enough milk for consistency. You can also use garlic powder to taste. For those with a dairy source this is very inexpensive to make.
Herbed cream cheese can also be used with an 8 ounce package of cream cheese and forming it into a disk, ½ inch thick. Poke with a toothpick or fork to make shallow hole all over. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon each dried crumbled thyme and rosemary. Top with 2 cloves garlic that has been peeled and finely minced or sprinkle with garlic powder (not garlic salt).
An easy cold dip can be made with a cup of crab meat or tuna combined with 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons ketchup, the juice of one lemon, ¼ cup each celery and minced black olives. Combine well and serve on lettuce leaves.
Hot cheese dip is tasty and easy when served in a small slowcooker which keeps it warm. One combines ¾ pound each cheddar and Roquefort cheese with 3 pounds butter a teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, half teaspoon dry mustard, ¼ teaspoon salt and a clove of garlic minced. Combine these with a cup of beer and melt in a double boiler or Crockpot.
Even easier – and tastier! – is a cheddar salsa dip made by melting over medium heat 4 tablespoons butter and adding 4 tablespoons flour. Cook for one minute then mix in 2 cups whole milk, a little salt a teaspoon paprika, 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese and heat until the cheese is melted. Stir in a cup salsa and serve with vegetable sticks or tortilla chips.
Christmas party recipes don’t have to take endless hours and expense to do. These are easy and tasty enough to use for New Years parties as well as sports party get togethers and summer BBQs as well.
Take a roast small enough to fit in your crockpot. Sometimes I’ll cut a roast in half to make it fit in two sections. I sprinkle it liberally with a garlic pepper seasoning we buy at GFS Marketplace or, alternately, their “Canadian Steak Seasoning.” Rub this into the meat.
From here I can use several variations. One favorite is sprinkling with a packet or dry onion soup mix, placing in the crockpot with about a half cup of water. Turn on low setting and let it slow cook all day – it’ll fall apart by dinner time. Add a couple side dishes, some rolls or bread and it’s a meal for every day or special days!
A second option is drizzling with maple syrup and just a quarter cup or so of water. A third option is sprinkling with homemade onion flakes, placing in the crockpot with a half cup of water or broth and some cubed potatoes, maybe carrot chunks or other variations.
Often the broth can be served with the beef or make gravy with it but the amount of water needed usually isn’t enough gravy for all. For two people a good sized roast is obviously more than one meal. Depending on how much is left it’s good to save for leftovers. For a half pound to a pound it’s wonderful in a stroganoff as it already has seasoning from the ‘first time around” so you can cook your noodles then add the shredded beef and other ingredients.
It’s equally good with cooked diced potatoes, reheated to mix together and topped with cheese or gravy. If there is enough left over it’s easy enough to divide and make two leftover meals from it, where the beef is the main dish the initial meal but part of a main dish two more times.
This not only makes use of leftovers but allows for inexpensive almost “heat and serve” meals for the busy Thanksgiving weekend that for many includes decorating for Christmas. A tasty but easy dinner is especially appreciated when it allows for time with the family and not taking a great deal of effort in the kitchen!
The best part – when you’re done you have the crockpot to clean up, making cleanup fast and easy.
Inexpensive but tasty side dishes offer a variety to the Thanksgiving table and two ingredients that can easily be grown even in containers on a patio or a corner of the yard are sweet potatoes and squash. These also are mentioned in some stories of early Thanksgiving meals but they weren’t prepared quite like this!
Take six cups uncooked squash and three tablespoons minced onion, cook 10 minutes or until tender and drain then mash. Add in a can of cream of chicken soup, an 8 ounce of sour cream, a grated carrot and box of stuffing mix (the generic is fine – do look for sage in the ingredients). Mix together and put in a casserole dish then bake for 30 minutes at 350F.
Sweet potato casserole can also be made easy by taking three large sweet potatoes and setting them to boil. Once well done remove skins, add 2 tablespoons margarine, a rounded tablespoon of sugar and ½ teaspoon salt and mash/mix together until creamy. Add ½ cup (or more if desired) chopped pecans and ½ cup ginger snap cookie crumbs. Butter a baking dish and put about half the potato mixture in the baking dish, topped with about ½ cup mini marshmallows, then another layer of potato topped with another ½ cup mini marshmallows. Top that with some extra ginger snap crumbs and bake at 325F for a half hour.
Both of these are inexpensive to make and easy as well. For an even easier casserole side dish slice up some zucchini squash, yellow squash, green pepper, onions, tomato and layer in a casserole dish. Don’t add water, but top with cheese and bake at 350F until done. This is a great way to use a bumper crop of zucchini too!
Of course there are those for whom potatoes is the only acceptable side dish and there is an easy fix for them too. Take about two pounds shredded potatoes (hash brown style) and mix it with a can of cream of chicken soup, 2 cups shredded cheese, a pint of sour cream, 4 tablespoons diced butter, a small chopped onion, and mix thoroughly. Spread in a 9×13 baking pan. Melt 4 tablespoons butter and mix with 2 cups crushed corn flakes then spread evenly over the potatoes. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. This will serve 12 unless someone is really hungry!
Side dishes add to the meal but shouldn’t break the budget! These add taste and economy to the Thanksgiving table.