By Chef Joey
Holiday! Celebrate! Madonna had us singing that tune, but let’s face it: holidays can be stressful! Who came up with the idea that we had to buy gifts for everyone AND entertain, making a dent in our savings?
When I was a kid, my mother used to tell us: “When Christmas came we got an orange.” Well, it was World War II, and they did move all the way from Europe … . But I was a kid and the neighbors had virtual Egyptian pyramids of gifts!! So the point was not coming across! My cousins and I would discuss the various items we received that were all going to be items we would use during the year: pajamas, stationery, pens – you get the point.
However, my mother did take us out shopping after Christmas and bought us things that were on sale. She was all about the spirit of the holiday season, NOT the commercialization that starts in October with decorated pine trees in mega superstores.
As I got older, I realized she was a forerunner for my frugal view of the holidays, so I stopped buying gifts for adults. Instead, I started making donations to food banks, homeless shelters, and I requested letters for the donations and I handed them out as gifts. It helps the community and eliminated the need to re-gift or become a closet hoarder!
Little kids, on the other hand, are the exception. And college-bound youths get the necessary items that I received, and those with a driver’s license get gas cards.
Now that I explained the gifting part – there is the food! In my last column I explained how to make nutritious and delicious meals for a low cost. Like the guy in poltergeist, “I’m BAAAAACK!”
Turkey is a staple for the holidays, and it is affordable: usually on sale for $.89 to $1.50 a pound. To quote Nike “Just do it!” Pork roasts are also a great way to go and are often less than $2 a pound.
Veggies … Load up on your vegetables and you will have a sure fire holiday. feeding up to 20 people for less than $50. Price it out: a 20 pound turkey at $.99 is $10. Butternut squash unpeeled is $.99 a pound. Roughly you’ll need 5 pounds so we are at $15 now. A 10 pound bag of potatoes is $3.99 so we are at $19. Add another veggie – and go frozen here – lots of nutrition – and it is already clean. Store brands are packaged by major companies and usually the store brand is $2 a bag so let’s get 4. Now we hit the $27 mark and we have $23 to go.
Dessert comes to mind … I am going to give you a cake recipe that costs under $2 that you will pass down for generations to your family. You will never buy a cake mix again!
The other recipe is a rub you can use on your roasts that seal in the juices and makes your meal perfect.
The cake recipe is so simple:
2 ½ cups sifted flour
2 cups sifted sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
Mix together – it will be kind of like a paste. Add ½ teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and sprinkle 2 teaspoons of baking POWDER on top.
Now add ¼ teaspoon of baking SODA and pour 2 cups of HOT WATER on top, and the foaming begins.
Whisk together until it all comes to a creamy consistency with no lumps.
Pour into either two 9” cake pans or a rectangle sheet pan that is greased, floured and has a greased and floured wax or parchment paper lining in it.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes – depending on your oven, test with a toothpick for doneness.
When done, let cool slightly. Take it out of the pan and when it is cool – cover it in whipped cream.
This is your $2.59 cake topping: Get a pint of heavy or whipping cream. Whip it up, add vanilla and a couple tablespoons of sugar … and there you have it! Fewer calories than frosting and nature’s goodness.
To add dimension to your cake, you can add 6 tablespoons of cocoa to the dry flour when sifting for chocolate cake … or ¼ cup orange juice and reduce water to 1 ¾ cup and add zested orange to your cake – or add lemon or lime or even coconut – your choices are endless!
Now that rub –
¼ -1/2 cup brown sugar or regular sugar
depending on the size of your roast, 1 cup oil
pinch of salt
¼ cup parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Rub your ROOM-TEMPERATURE roast and there you have it!
No matter what your holiday traditions, have a safe, healthy and delicious holiday season!