Elevating simple recipes to get the most out of your holiday budget

Woman working on cutting board

With the help of SAIT culinary instructors, we’ve put together budget-friendly recipes and instructional videos to make the most out of your grocery bill.

As we gear up for holiday gatherings or at home comfort cooking, grocery prices are on our minds, encouraging us to get creative with every dollar this season. SAIT culinary instructors Victoria German and Kate Symes share tips and recipes to make the most of what’s in our cupboards.

Life is short — eat dessert first

Shortbread cookies

With just a few simple ingredients and help from Baking Pastry Arts instructor Victoria German, transform a basic shortbread by tapping into different flavour profiles.

“Shortbread isn’t a difficult recipe to make over the holidays and it makes a nice homemade gift when you're going to someone's house for dinner,” says German, who appeared on Food Network Canada’s The Big Bake.

The cost works out to around $2.50 per gift, including the ingredients and some simple wrapping from the dollar store.

Shortbread three ways

German uses the same basic shortbread recipe to create three different cookie options.

Total cost $2.80 per dozen

Traditional rounds ingredients:

  • 600 g of all-purpose flour / 4 cups
  • 200 g granulated sugar / 1 cup
  • 454 g of butter / 1 package
  • 5 g kosher salt /   1 tsp
  • 6 g vanilla extract / 1 tsp

Weigh 200 g each or divide dough into six.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Cream together using a paddle attachment in a stand mixer, room temperature butter, sugar, salt and vanilla until light and fluffy almost white in colour and temperature reaches 70F
  3. Add sifted flour gradually until it is blended.
  4. Optional: Wrap and store shortbread for 3 days to age the shortbread to develop optimum flavour.
  5. As soon as the dough starts coming together, bring it onto your surface to finish mixing.
  6. When the dough is at room temperature, roll out half an inch thick and cut into 6-inch rounds.
  7. Place onto a parchment lined baking tray dock with a fork and score into 8 wedges, dust with sugar and bake for 20-30 mins, just until golden brown.
  8. Let cool completely before packaging.
  9. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.

Total cost $1.45 per dozen

Cranberry shortbread ingredients:

  • 600 g of all-purpose flour
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 454 g of butter
  • 5 g kosher salt
  • 6 g vanilla extract
  • 100 g of sundried cranberries / 1 cup

Makes approximately 6 dozen.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Cream together using a paddle attachment in a stand mixer, room temperature butter, sugar, salt and vanilla until light and fluffy almost white in colour and temperature reaches 70F.
  3. Add dried cranberries.
  4. Add sifted flour gradually until it is blended.
  5. Optional: Wrap and store shortbread for 3 days to age the shortbread to develop optimum flavour.
  6. As soon as the dough starts coming together, bring it onto your surface to finish mixing.
  7. When the dough is at room temperature, roll out half an inch thick and cut into star shapes or any other cutter shapes.
  8. Place onto a parchment lined baking tray, dust with sugar and bake for 15-25 mins, just until golden brown.
  9. Let cool completely before packaging.
  10. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.

 

Total cost $1.55 per dozen

Savoury shortbread ingredients:

  • 600 g of all-purpose flour
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 454 g of butter
  • 5 g kosher salt
  • 100 g of parmesan reggiano fine grated / 1 cup

Makes approximately 6 dozen.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Cream together using a paddle attachment in a stand mixer, room temperature butter, sugar, salt and vanilla until light and fluffy almost white in colour and temperature reaches 70F.
  3. Add grated parmesan reggiano.
  4. Add sifted flour gradually until it is blended.
  5. Optional: Wrap and store shortbread for 3 days to age the shortbread to develop optimum flavour.
  6. As soon as the dough starts coming together, bring it onto your surface to finish mixing.
  7. When the dough is at room temperature, roll out half an inch thick and cut into shapes or little rounds.
  8. Place onto a parchment lined baking tray, and bake for 15-25 mins, just until golden brown.
  9. Let cool completely before packaging.
  10. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.

Penny-pinching pointers:

  • No electric mixer? No need to splurge — cream the butter and sugar together by hand.
  • Use any cutter you have available — a round shape will minimize waste but you can always roll your dough scraps together to squeeze out an extra cookie or two.
  • Additional ingredients are interchangeable, so use what you have in the cupboard. If cranberries aren’t for you, try dried orange peel or lemon zest. Swap out the type of cheese or include your favourite herb. The cookie base lends itself to a rich tapestry of flavours from sweet to savoury, giving you the option to add a personal touch.
  • When butter goes on sale, stock up and pop it in the freezer.

Pro tips:

  • Go easy when dusting your work surface with flour before rolling out the dough. “I met a pastry chef from the School of Artisan Food on a culinary study tour and his expression to the students was that you must dust your flour like Tinker Bell, not like a Canadian blizzard,” says German.
  • If you can wait, German suggests aging your shortbread dough for three days to give it a slight cheesy flavour. Don’t worry — it will still taste great if used right away.

Time to veg out

Christmas veggies

What do potatoes, Brussels sprouts and carrots have in common? They grow well in Canada, are relatively inexpensive and are seasonal this time of year. They’re also Culinary Arts instructor Kate Symes three favourite vegetables.

“I'm going to take you through a few side dishes for the holiday season, with the idea of elevating some of your standard starch and vegetable dishes in order to make them an exciting part of your meals,” says Symes.

Three easy, elegant sides

Each of these dishes takes about an hour to prepare and tastes good at room temperature — helpful when you’re preparing a big meal or need a dish that travels well.

Total cost $12.67

Roasted potatoes ingredients:

  • 3 lbs baby potatoes $7.49
  • 4 L water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 tablespoon spice mix (I use a mix of 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon cumin but you can use any spice mix you have)

Method:

Put the potatoes into a pot with 4 L of water (enough to cover) and the salt. Bring to simmer and let cook for 10 minutes. Strain off the potatoes and let them cool down. Once they have cooled, press them under your palm to flatten or “smash” them a bit. Place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, spice mix and salt. Bake in the oven at 375F for 20 minutes, flipping them over half way through. Serve with sauce on the side.

Lemon dill yogurt ingredients:

  • 1 cup Greek or plain yogurt $1.70
  • ½ red onion $0.99
  • 1 pack dill $1.50
  • Juice of 1 lemon $0.99
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

Finely chop the red onion. Roughly chop the dill. Mix all the rest of the ingredients together and check the seasoning.

 

 

Total cost $10.50

Charred Brussels sprouts ingredients:

  • 2 lbs Brussels sprouts $7
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

Trim off the bottom of the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half. In a large bowl, mix the Brussels sprouts, olive oil and salt together. Lay out on a baking tray and roast in the oven at 375F for 15 minutes or until charred. Stir once during roasting. Top with balsamic aioli and croutons when plating.

Balsamic aioli ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic $0.10
  • 200 ml balsamic vinegar $1.50
  • ½ cup mayonnaise $1.40
  • Juice of ½ lemon $0.50
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

In a small pot, saute the chopped garlic in the olive oil. Once it starts to brown, add the balsamic vinegar and let it simmer on low heat for 8-10 minutes or until it has reduced by half. Strain off the vinegar and let it cool down. Once cool, add the mayonnaise, lemon juice and salt. Check the seasoning.

Garlic croutons ingredients:

  • 2 slices bread
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

Cut the bread into small squares. In a small bowl, mix the bread with chopped garlic, olive oil and salt. Bake in the oven at 375F for 5-8 minutes, until golden brown.

Total cost $17.36

Roast carrots ingredients:

  • 3 lbs baby carrots $7.89
  • ½ red onion $0.99
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

Wash and dry the carrots. Finely dice the red onion. In a bowl, mix the carrots, onions, olive oil, honey and salt together. Lay out on a baking tray and bake in the oven at 375F for 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once during that time. Top with pomegranate, feta, mint salad.

Salad topper ingredients:

  • 1 pomegranate $2.49
  • 1 bunch mint $1.49
  • 200 grams feta $4.50
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

Peel and clean out the seeds of the pomegranate. Roughly chop one bunch of mint and crumble the feat cheese. Mix them all together and add the olive oil and black pepper.

 

Penny-pinching pointers:

  • Symes is all about sourcing local, seasonal product from farmers markets around Calgary — and it has its advantages. “Produce markets have strong relationships with local growers so you can find out what's seasonal and sometimes get good deals on produce near the end of its shelf life,” she says. You can also find everything you need at the grocery store if that works best for you.
  • Save the ends of bread loaves to make delicious croutons at home.
  • Seasoning your vegetables is important and interchangeable, so use what you like and what you have available. While Symes does advocate for fresh herbs, if you are going to buy fresh be sure to pick an herb you’ll use entirely before they go bad — or freeze them. Otherwise, you can use dried herbs but keep in mind, you only need to use half as much as the recipe calls for.
  • Skip a shopping trip by subbing in what you have on hand. The potato dish calls for Greek yogurt but any plain yogurt or mayonnaise can be used instead. Maple syrup or brown sugar are great options if you don’t have honey. And swap out carrots for beets, or try both to stretch your ingredient inventory.

Pro tips:

  • Prep your vegetables ahead of time so they are ready to roast when the moment is right.
  • You can use any type of potato, but Symes suggests yellow potatoes. “They were developed to be creamy so they already have a nice buttery flavour to them and you don’t have to add much.”
  • Boil potatoes for 10 minutes before you roast them for a better texture.
  • When roasting vegetables, always use some sort of fat to get them a little crispy — olive, vegetable or coconut oil.
  • When preparing a larger meal, try to pick dishes you can cook at the same temperature.

 

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