budget talk

A Budget Smart Cook Always Loves the Holidays

Most of us spend more money during the holidays, but that doesn’t mean we have to break the bank. By following a few simple rules you can have enough money over to start the New Year in the black. Oh, and did I happen to mention this is a great time to stock up and save even more?

Keep it Simple
When you’re throwing a holiday party or even the Christmas dinner, stay within your comfort zone. You’re less likely to have a cooking disaster and be forced to toss food if you stick with your favorite stand bys.

Look to Leftovers
When I’m planning a special meal or party, I think about leftovers. No matter how good the food and how hungry the guests are, leftovers are inevitable. Choose foods that can be turned into new meals or added to other ingredients to create a new dish. For example, dips can be substituted for mayo or butter in sandwiches and wraps. Leftover cheese and crackers are perfect for making macaroni and cheese. And as pesto sauce is one of my favorite must haves for appetizers, I always have some leftover. So what do with it? I use it to make the quickest meal you can put together.
Cooked spaghetti or other pasta you have on hand. Toss it with pesto sauce, just enough to coat each strand of spaghetti, add some chopped sun dried tomatoes, even some chopped black olives (also a common ingredient leftover from parties) and plenty of Parmesan cheese.

Bring Out the Party Food
I don’t know about you, but for some reason I have recipes that I only use at holiday time. The following is one of those. This makes a great snack to place in dishes around the house for guests to eat while they’re waiting for the big meal to be served. I should make this recipe more often because in my house, these goodies are gone before you can turn you back. And they make a great last minute gift for someone too!

Sweet BBQ Nuts

•2 cups of nuts cashews, peanuts, pecans, or walnuts work well for this recipe and you can even mix and match.
•Two tablespoons honey
•Two tablespoons BBQ sauce
•One tablespoon ketchup…if you like some heat, replace the ketchup with some Frontera Chipotle Hot sauce.
•½ teaspoon paprika
•½ teaspoon garlic powder

1.Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.In the meantime, take a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients, except the nuts, and mix together.
3.Place the nuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven to warm through. About five minutes should do it, watch them carefully because they can burn very quickly. Add the nuts to the mixing bowl and toss in the honey/BBQ mix. Make sure they’re all covered.
4.Cover the baking sheet with some parchment paper and place the coated nuts on top and spread out evenly.
5.Bake for about 10-15 minutes, stir occasionally and keep your eye on them as they can get too hot and burn.

Sales are Everywhere
One thing I love about shopping during the holidays is lots of items go on sale at only this time of the year. Just today, I stocked up on vanilla extract and packages of yeast that were both 50% off. Stuffing and flour also go on sale and have long shelf lives or freeze well. Yes, I’ve even put bags of flour in the freezer. And don’t overlook boxes of chocolates too. Valentine’s Day isn’t that far away. Chocolate makes a perfect gift or you can use it for toppings on cookies and cupcakes, etc.

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