The frugal, festive holiday feast

The holidays are the perfect time to gather the family and plunge into a waistline bulging array of foods so bad for you they’re good. But if the responsibility of hosting holiday dinner has fallen to you this year, you might think twice about what you serve.

Costs add up quick, especially if you’re planning on serving a bird or ham. And what about those guests who are strict vegetarians, vegans or gluten-free? In this helpful guide, you’ll find recipe ideas that will help you prepare for any mix of guests and their dietary preferences.

Roasted Brussel sprouts

  • 1 pound Brussel sprouts, halved with outer layers removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or bacon fat (or just enough to cover)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves fresh minced garlic

Brussel sprouts get a bad rap. Often demonized and portrayed as punishments for naughty children, Brussel sprouts only taste like soggy cabbage if you don’t know how to cook. But you know how to cook, don’t you? Of course you do. You’re an animal.

The trick to cooking Brussel sprouts is not overcooking them. The best way to keep your sprouts from getting soggy is to bake them.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Then remove any yellow or wilted leaves from the outer layer of the sprouts. Next, chop the sprouts in half. This will help them to cook evenly.

Toss the sprouts with olive oil and chopped garlic, as well as a bit of salt and pepper. If you’ve got any (and you’re not adverse to the idea) you can replace the oil with bacon fat to give the sprouts a meaty flavor, but be warned: You just slathered a really healthy vegetable with bacon.

Lay the sprouts cut-side down on a baking sheet and cook for roughly 25 to 30 minutes. If you want to continue on the bacon train, you can add some cooked, crumbled bacon to this dish just a few minutes before it comes out of the oven. Or omit for a healthy, vegetarian side.

Butternut squash with pecans

  • 2 pounds butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup pecans

Pumpkins get all the glory during the holiday season. They kick off the festivities with Halloween and then strong-arm their way right through Christmas. But the pumpkin’s reign of terror is over now. The butternut squash is the true king of the holidays.

Many butternut squash recipes you’ll find will ask you to cube the squash before cooking it. This is a cool way to hurt yourself because have you ever tried to cut a squash before cooking it? It’s like trying to get blood from a stone if you’re using anything but the sharpest knife.
Instead, preheat that oven of yours to 400 degrees. Cut the squash lengthwise (from stem to stem) and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. You can retain the seeds if you want to cook them separately, which is something I do every Thanksgiving and then never get around to it but, hey, maybe you’re some kind of wunderkind or something.

Brush the inside of the squash and the surface of a baking dish with butter, or a tasteless oil. Place the two halves of the squash face-down into the baking dish and cook for 30 minutes.

If you want a more flavorful squash, turn it over in the last couple of minutes of baking and brush your squash with about a fourth of a cup of maple syrup and cook for five minutes, or until the syrup has crystalized on the squash. You’ll know the squash is done cooking when you can slide in a toothpick or fork with no resistance.

Top the squash with pecans and serve by scooping out the innards.

Honey glazed carrots

  • 1 pound baby carrots
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

This honey glazed carrots recipe is a great way to jazz up one of the most underrated vegetables out there: carrots. Not only that, but carrots are super cheap!

First, steam your carrots. Boiled carrots are fine enough, but leaves them with a lackluster flavor. The carrots will be done when they’re tender, after about five minutes.

Throw the cooked carrots into a pan on medium heat with along with the butter, honey and lemon juice. Cook the carrots until ingredients have coated the carrots and have become thick, about five more minutes.

Serve immediately and enjoy your (optionally) vegetarian spread!