It’s crunch time! Holiday parties, holiday potlucks, and the big giant Christmas meal itself. If kitchen-sense eludes you, and you usually find yourself at the door with a bottle of wine in lieu of an appetizer or side dish, you’re not alone. But there’s hope! Especially for the recipe-challenged among us, I’ve dug up some simple, frugal side dishes sure to wow a crowd, and all can be whipped up for under ten bucks.
Total cost assumes that you already have small needed quantities of things like olive oil, butter, and basic spices.
Fancy, Frugal Side Dishes: Five under $10:
1. Carrot mash with orange and mint, from FineCooking.com. My husband made this for thanksgiving and wow, the tiny bit of orange zest really makes it pop. Healthy, too! If you have butter, hot sauce, and olive oil, you just need carrots, an orange, a small amount of mint, and some heavy cream.
2. Roasted root veggies, from The Frugal Cafe. The link to this recipe has some great baking tips, such as making sure the heat is high (to caramelize the veggies) and the addition of onions or garlic at various points, to bring out flavors. But I’ve found just about any batch of root veggies (yams, potatoes, carrots, beets), lightly shaken in olive oil and some seasonings (salt/pepper, rosemary, dill… go crazy!) can turn into caramelized gold. Out of season beets can be expensive, but canned beets are a good budget alternative for roasting.
3. Cranberry relish. Easy as pie. Take two bags of washed cranberries and throw them in a food processor with 1-2 cups of sugar (start with one, add more as needed). Then let your imagination go wild. You could make an apple cranberry relish (add two cored apples, peels on), or a mandarin cranberry relish with 4-5 satsuma oranges, or a “tropical drink” relish by adding pineapple chunks and brandy or Grand Marnier. No cooking needed; these recipes turn out as a tart and crisp pairing for heavy meats and cream dishes.
4. Rice pudding. An easy dish with simple ingredients, rice pudding is the perfect warm, sweet side for the chilly holidays. Can be as standard as this simple creamy rice pudding recipe from AllRecipes.com, or spice it up with Food & Wine Magazine’s tasty coconut rice pudding, which uses flaked coconut, and substitutes coconut milk for some of the dairy.
5. Wilted kale. All your hipster friends will dig the kale, and your grandma Betty too; a few bunches of kale go a long way! Yummly has a great recipe for wilted kale with coconut, ginger, and lime. While it calls for tuscan kale, it stipulates you can really substitute any kind of kale. The main ingredients you’ll need to pick up include the kale, a can of coconut milk, a jalapeno, some ginger, and a lime. Though the recipe calls for a dutch oven, a regular frying pan will do the trick.
Bonus: Bananas foster for dessert! My husband has a really fun dessert recipe he pulls out for company. Though the bottle of rum will set you back more than $10 to start, you can buy a more frugal rum for this dessert because you’ll be lighting it on fire anyway. Dark rums work best thought. And each time you make it, you just need a few teaspoons. Slice the bananas into thin rounds and put in a frying pan with a few teaspoons of rum and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar (“add a little butter, too, if you’re feeling generous,” he says). Begin heating the pan on the stove and then use a lighter to light the contents of the pan on fire. The alcohol will burn off, cooking the bananas and caramelizing the sugar. Wow your friends with the fireworks, then pour the resulting compote over vanilla ice cream.
I know you all have some great ideas too. What’s your favorite fancy side dish?