Keep it simple for gifts, meals

The bigger-is-better view of holiday shopping and entertaining has now moved toward more simple and realistic ways of giving and showing appreciation.

The most special gifts are often not big or expensive material items. The gift of time or a photograph that has captured a special moment or homemade offerings are gifts that relay kindness.

Remember that overindulgence does not bring happiness, just more debt.

Be an informed consumer as you shop for family and friends. Consider these tips from the Canadian Bankers Association:

  • Before buying, analyze whether you could pay cash for items you are purchasing. If not, be cautious if shopping on credit. Using credit adds to increasing money problems. Always compare interest rates between credit companies.
  • Determine your wants and needs and comparison shop.
  • Save receipts to check against monthly statements or for refund or exchange purposes. Stores are not required to give refunds or exchanges. Be in-formed before you make the final decision to buy.
  • Shop locally when possible, supporting your neighbours and community.

The upcoming holiday season can get busy with social events so we all need some easy and comforting one dish meals that are simple to prepare and have minimal cleanup. Using a skillet allows you to lock in flavour and these one pan wonders are easy to keep warm when everyone cannot eat at the same time.

Try this menu, which is prepared on the stovetop.

Skillet Chicken Dinner

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • dash of seasoning salt
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil 15 mL
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup 284 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. water 375 mL
  • 1 tbsp. white wine (optional) 15 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika 1 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper 1 mL
  • salt to taste
  • 2 c. uncooked white rice (I use converted) 500 mL
  • 2 c. fresh or frozen broccoli florets 500 mL

Season the chicken as desired. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes or until well browned on both sides. Remove the chicken from the skillet.
Mix the soup, water, wine, paprika, pepper and salt in the skillet and heat until bubbling. Stir in the rice and bring back to a soft boil, add broccoli and reduce the heat to low. Return the chicken to the skillet. Sprinkle paprika over the chicken.
Cover and cook for six to eight minutes or until the chicken and rice are thoroughly cooked through. Serves four. Use with soy sauce and cranberries for the garnish if desired.
Source: Adapted from www.campbells.com.

Simmering Berry Sauce

  • 2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries, saskatoon, raspberries or strawberries 500 mL
  • 1/4 c. sugar 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. water 60 mL
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch 15 mL

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In a saucepan, combine the ingredients and stew until the mixture thickens over medium heat. Serve warm over vanilla ice cream or cool completely and serve over Greek yogurt.
Sprinkle with chopped nuts or dark chocolate, if desired.

Crispy Peanut Butter Slice

This is a square that my mother-in-law made for special occasions. It is a family favourite and a must over the holidays.

Slice:

  • 3/4 c. brown sugar 175 mL
  • 3/4 c. corn syrup 175 mL
  • 1/4 c. butter 60 mL
  • 3/4 c. peanut butter 175 mL
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • 3 c. crushed corn flakes 750 mL
  • 3 c. crushed crispy cereal 750 mL

Icing:

  • 2 tbsp. cocoa 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. butter 30 mL
  • 1 c. icing sugar 250 mL
  • 3 tbsp. hot coffee 45 mL

Combine dry cereals in a bowl.
Heat and stir brown sugar, corn syrup and butter together until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts to bubble.
Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla. Pour syrup over the cereal and mix well. Pack into a greased nine x 13 inch (22 X 33 cm) square baking pan.
Icing: Stir together the cocoa, butter, icing sugar and hot coffee. Spread over cereal mixture.

Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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