I spoke, one year ago, in my post Moving Forward and Be My Guest about the friends who so generously offered to write guest posts for my blog as I dealt with the loss of my Dad. I remain grateful to and for every one of those writers.
The mental paralysis took me by surprise though, a few weeks ago. I hadn't even considered what impact this first anniversary might have on me.
And then suddenly there it was, the ping of an incoming email.
A guest post from another friend. Obviously a clairvoyant one.
Not just any guest post either, it's the perfect companion to the piece to the one I'd just published about The Work of Angels, providing food to struggling families in our area. In this post, Kristina shares recipes and strategies for preparing a holiday meal on a budget, proving that we don't need to spend a lot to serve a gourmet holiday feast.
I'm honored to introduce you to Kristina of The Angrivated Mom. I've known for some time that Steena is a talented writer. As well as her own blog, she's regularly been published on a multitude of well-known web sited. So it should come as no surprise that the same creativity that comes through in her writing presents itself as a resourceful and innovative approach to cooking.
Gourmet Feast on a Budget, Semi-Homemade Style
Many of us have found ourselves living from paycheck to paycheck with no wiggle room for extravagance at some point or another. The Holidays can turn into a stressful time of year when money is short. While some people luck out and are able to avoid hosting the customary get-togethers with relatives and friends, for whatever reason others are left to pull off the makings of a feast with little means to do so. Sometimes you are the only family member with enough space or are welcoming enough to invite guests over. You might not have the kind of situation where relatives want to gather either, leaving you to celebrate with your immediate family alone.
I, myself, have been found scrambling to make miracles happen for Thanksgiving and Christmas: on more than one occasion, in fact. Being stuck in a rut so many times before has enabled me to learn how to make magic happen out of what I commonly keep in my kitchen and what I can buy on a small budget. Not everything has to be homemade from scratch to blow your guests out of the water. A few key focus dishes that look amazing paired with a juicy, flavorful turkey make it easy to chat with other items on the menu and save your pocketbook. Below are my go-to recipes for a holiday meal that will surely impress, and a list of items you can get away with going the store-bought route in order to complete the menu. Recipes are enough to feed roughly 6 - 10 people.
6 chicken bouillon cubes, dissolved
4 beef bouillon cubes, dissolved
1/2 bottle Worcestershire sauce
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 cups cheap white wine
8 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 container seasoned meat tenderizer
2 capfuls poultry seasoning
2 capfuls dry mustard seasoning
1 capful paprika
1 capful garlic powder
1 turkey, defrosted
*Mix ingredients well. Brine turkey at least 4 hours prior to cooking, preferably overnight.
*Pat dry. Reserve 4 - 6 cups marinade, depending on bird size.
Seasoned Butter Rub Ingredients:
2 - 3 cups margarine or butter spread, slightly softened
2 capfuls seasoned meat tenderizer of seasoning salt
1/2 bottle of Mrs. Dash (salt-free) onion and herb seasoning
1 capful garlic powder
1 capful lemon pepper seasoning
1 capful onion powder
1/2 capful of poultry seasoning
2 TBSP ground black pepper
2 TBSP dried basil
2 TBSP oregano
2 TBSP dried parsley
Seasoned Butter Rub Preparation:
*Mix ingredients together. Rub all over the turkey, leaving as thick a layer as possible to drip during the browning period.
1 medium apple cut into quarters
1 medium white onion cut into quarters
1 small lemon cut into quarters
1 small orange, cut into quarters
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
reserved turkey marinade
*Pour marinade into the cavity of the turkey. Arrange the rest of the ingredients inside however they will fit.
*Put into a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
*Cover with tin foil and turn oven down to 325 degrees.
*Baste turkey with juices 30 - 45 minutes.
*Cook according to recommended time limits for a stuffed turkey. Mine was 15.8 lbs and it took 4 hours and 45 minutes.
*NOTE: Reserve a cup of the drippings for use in the gravy.
Cheddar Green Bean Casserole
1 cans no salt added cut green beans, drained
1 can french style green beans, drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
4 oz block of cheddar cheese, cut into tiny cubes
1/2 cup evaporated milk (reserve the rest of the can for the mashed potatoes)
1 TBSP plus 1 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp paprika
2 tsp pepper
1 cup Fried Onions for mixture
1 cup Fried Onions for topping
*Mix soup, milk, seasonings and cheese in a greased 8" or 9" baking dish, round or square.
*Mix in green beans and 1 cup of the Fried Onions until well coated.
*Put into a 350 degree oven uncovered, for 25 minutes.
*Top with remaining Fried Onions and continue baking until golden brown and bubbling, about 15 minutes.
Cheesy Broccoli and Rice Casserole
2 boxes Country Cheddar Rice-A-Roni
milk and butter as the packages of rice call for
1 bag frozen broccoli cuts
1 bag frozen corn
2 cups crushed crackers or corn flakes
1 individual use packet of Velveeta Cheese Sauce
*Make rice according to package directions.
*Microwave broccoli with 2 TBSP water in a lidded container for 5 minutes. Add the corn, mix and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Container will be hot, be careful lifting the lid as the steam will rush out.
*Once it cools slightly, drain any remaining water.
*Mix finished rice and vegetables together in a large greased baking dish. Add Velveeta Cheese Sauce and mix well. Pat mixture down and top with crushed crackers.
*Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until thoroughly hot.
2 cans Yams in syrup, drained and rinsed
1 cup Toffee Peanuts, crushed
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 TBSP cinnamon
2 tsp salt
1 bag miniature marshmallows
*In a small saucepot, cook yams and butter on medium heat until they begin to break down into mush.
*Add cinnamon, salt and brown sugar. Continue cooking while mashing with a fork until only small lumps remain. Stir in crushed peanuts.
*Pour mixture into an 8" greased baking dish and top with as many marshmallows as will fit. Brush a little butter over the tops so they don't fluff up too much while baking.
*Put into a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated and marshmallows are melted.
Items You Can Cheat On
Stuffing: Packaged is no different than homemade if you use a little less of the water and butter the directions call for on the box. You can always mix in chopped walnuts and dried cranberries for a fancier version, but I can tell you right now, my kis won't eat it like that.
Corn: Grab a few economy sized cans, drain 'em, dump into a microwavable bowl with a dab of butter and pinch of salt, then heat up while the turkey rests before carving.
Baked Beans: Prepare just like the corn. Dump a few cans into microwaveable bowl and warm it up the same time as the corn.
Mashed Potatoes: Instead of wasting milk your kids probably go through way too fast as it is, use the leftover evaporated milk you already opened for my Cheddar Green Bean Casserole. I have found my creamiest mashed potatoes are made this way. I don't add any water to dilute the contents, either. In a real pinch though, you can fix instant potatoes to be more like the real deal by using evaporated milk, an extra bit of butter, a couple TBSP more of the flakes than called for by the box directions, and a few pinches of garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Gravy: I have no issues with making gravy from a packet. I get them 2/$1.00 at the grocery store, which is a steal in comparison to the price of canned gravy. I replace about 1 cup of the water necessary to make 6 packets worth with 1 cup of the leftover juice and drippings from the finished turkey for a more homemade touch and kick of extra flavor.
Rolls: While everyone loves crescent rolls, they're not very budget friendly. Grab a few packs of the brown-n-serve rolls from the bread aisle and call it a day. Before putting them into the oven to warm, lightly brush the tops with a mixture of 1/2 cup margarine, 1 TBSP garlic powder, 1 TBSP parsley flakes, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp Italian seasoning and 1 TBSP grated parmesan cheese. Brush with the remaining spread when you pull them out of the oven.
About the Author:
To Insanity and Beyond!
At The Daily Rantings of an Angrivated Mom, Kristina chronicles her journey as a SAHM of 4 with big dreams and little luck. A writer by nature, poet by heart, and blogger by nurture, Steena shares an eclectic mix of poetry, essays and humor running a gamut of themes. From parenting experiences and relationships to marijuana legalization and mental health awareness, there's something for everyone.
Don't miss her blog posts at The Angrivated Mom.
And be sure to follow her: