Feasting on a Budget

Can you do it? Sure. Here’s one feast you can put together for cheap:
Middle Eastern Feast
North African/ Middle Eastern Inspired Feast
serves 8

Falafel – $0.12 per serving
Okay, this came from a box mix I bought for a dollar on clearance. Add some water, shape into patties, brush with olive oil, and broil for about 10 minutes – FANTASTIC! I am now planning on keeping falafel mix in the pantry, because I KNOW I can’t make it that good from scratch.

Za’atar Sweet Potatoes – $0.32 per serving
serves 6-8, prep 10 minutes, cook 1 hour
This was inspired by me looking at the sweet potatoes in my cupboard and looking at my spice cabinet. I have a jar of My Own Za’atar still in my cabinet, and I thought, “Why not?” So sweet potatoes with no sugar added:

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 3 medium)
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1-2 T. za’atar spice mix
  • 2 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Peel and cube sweet potatoes (about one inch cubes). Cut onion into wedges and then cut wedges in half (basically, big chunks). Put sweet potato and onion pieces into a 9″x13″ baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on za’atar and salt and toss to coat. Bake at 350 for one hour, stirring every 20 minutes.

Squashed Squash – $0.27 per serving
6-8 servings, prep 10 minutes, cook 1 hour
Squash was on sale for 79 cents/lb. at the grocery store I went to last weekend, so I bought some. I love winter squash! However, I have peeled it raw once, and that is plenty for my lifetime, thank you very much! 🙂 Never again. I much prefer this way:

  • 2.5 lbs. winter squash (I used 1 gold acorn and 1 carnival)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Get a BIG knife, no serrations. You are mostly looking for leverage. You want the blade of the knife to be longer than the longest part of your squash. Imagine your squash is a globe, with the stem as the North Pole. You’re going to cut it longitudinally, going from stem to point. Except it is easiest to start at the tip, where the flesh is softer, carefully slice down towards the stem on the cutting board, keep your fingers on the knife, all ten of them! The easiest and safest way I have found to cut a squash in half is to insert the knife blade as you would normally, then when you have sliced about halfway through the squash, place it on the cutting board with the stem down, put one hand on the knife handle as normal, and use your other hand to grasp the blade from the top, non-sharp, side and push toward the cutting board. Once you get down to the stem, it will get very hard to cut through. Don’t. Start twisting the blade so that the stem pries itself in half, and the squash comes apart. Aesthetics are not crucial, but safety is.

Now that your squash are cut in half, rub a little olive oil on the cut side and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet, cut side down, and roast at 350 degrees F. for one hour. When they come out, the squash can be scooped out with a spoon and placed in a serving dish. If it isn’t mashed to your liking, mash away, puree if that’s what you like. 🙂

Couscous – $0.22 per serving
2 cups uncooked

Mini Pitas – $0.12 per serving
I picked up a bag of these on clearance for a dollar and froze them. I knew DD would get a kick out of them. She put a falafel patty between 2 and made mini “burgers” with them, happily dipping them into hummus . . .:)

Roasted Garlic Hummus – $0.11 per serving
serves 8-12, cook 1 hour, prep 10 minutes
This was easy and very very yummy! It started off as Creamy Roasted Garlic Hummus, but that was scrapped when I realized that I had actually run out of tahini. I use it so infrequently that a jar lasts forever. But a tiny smidge in hummus is really good. So, I went with what I had and tasted it frequently.

  • 1 head garlic
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 15 oz. canned chickpeas
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 t. sea salt

Remove most of the papery skin off the head of garlic, and then cut the top off the head. You should be able to see the tips of most of the cloves of garlic. Roast at 350 degrees for an hour. Put the rest of the ingredients into a food processor, and blend until smooth. After you have removed the head of garlic from the oven, let it cool just until you can handle it. Squeeze out the soft garlic cloves and put into the food processor. Process until smooth. You can also use a blender.

Black Olives – $0.19 per serving
One big can (15oz.) will easily satisfy most groups this size. In our house, only RM and I will eat them, so I just put out the leftovers from a can I opened a while ago (if you want to keep olives in the fridge, remove them from their can and place in an airtight container with the brine from the can). If you can splurge and want to, this is a good place to do it. Kalamatas can be found in a variety of price ranges, and taste much better than the canned black ones. If your store has an olive bar, even better! Sample some and find the ones you like best.

Timeline

  • 00:00 – Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prep Za’atar Sweet Potatoes. Prep Squash. Prep garlic head for hummus and place on baking sheet with squash. Place both baking dish and sheet in oven.
  • 00:20 – Prep hummus (except for garlic) and let sit to allow flavors to mingle.
  • 01:00 – Get serving dishes ready. Put olives and pita in their serving dishes.
  • 01:10 – Start hydrating falafel mix (mine required 15 minutes to soak up the water). Start boiling water (with olive oil and salt) for couscous.
  • 01:15 – Once water has reached a boil, add couscous, take off heat and cover.
  • 01:20 – Remove veggies from oven. Turn off oven, and turn on broiler. Put sweet potatoes in their serving dish. Remove squash and garlic from baking sheet. Wipe down baking sheet with paper towel and then wipe olive oil on it for the falafel.
  • 01:25 – Scoop up falafel mixture and roll into balls. Place on baking sheet and slightly flatten. Once they are all done, brush with olive oil.
  • 01:30 – Place falafel under broiler for 3-5 minutes. Squeeze garlic cloves out of head and add to hummus, process to finish and place in a servings dish.
  • 01:35 – Turn falafel over and brush with more olive oil. Put back under broiler for another 3-5 minutes. Use a spoon to scoop squash into serving dish. Mash if you want.
  • 01:40 – Remove falafel from oven. Put falafel and couscous into serving dishes.
  • 01:45 – Serve and enjoy!

Total of 1 hour 45 minutes from start to finish, but that includes a lot of no-work time while things are roasting. This is a very easy, vegetarian, healthy feast which comes out to about $1.35 per serving total.

You can easily change this around to suit your family’s tastes, and if someone in your house will give you the the look I got from my roommate when I said, “vegetarian”, here’s a good recipe for Moroccan style chicken. If you already have the spices in your cabinet, this can be made for about $0.80 per serving, even using chicken breasts. That would only bring this feast to about $2-$2.50 per person, very cheap for a dinner party. Just cook the chicken during the time when you are waiting for your veggies to roast, around 00:50 or so.

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