Looking for budget-friendly bites to feed a crowd? Nova Scotia’s home chefs have some suggestions

Looking for money-saving bites to help cut the cost of your grocery bills amid today’s rising costs?

Mary Janet MacDonald of Port Hood, Cape Breton has an idea to help families. Her website, Tunes and Wooden Spoons, has recipes and tutorials for a wide variety of dishes. She does a cooking tutorial live from her kitchen every Sunday via her Facebook page.

MacDonald’s inexpensive meal is his sweet and easy chili and herb bread.

“Good friends of ours, Peter and Janet MacKenzie, had a simpler version, but I added extras to it to make it my own and we love it,” she says.

MacDonald makes his chili in a six-quart Dutch oven. It serves eight to 10 people at a cost of around $15.

She says she is successful “when the family gets together for a late night get-together or especially if friends are over for the Super Bowl. A large dish from a bowl.

But it wouldn’t be chili if it didn’t have a secret ingredient.

“The crushed pineapple is the secret ingredient and some people think they’re not going to like it, but when they taste it they say, ‘This is my new favorite chili recipe,'” she says.

Sweet and easy chili and herb bread from Mary Janet MacDonald.  - Contributed
Sweet and easy chili and herb bread from Mary Janet MacDonald. – Contributed

Vegan option

Devon Huston of Halifax, NS loves to cook and her Instagram account proves it: @weeatingoodtonite.

Her favorite cheap dish is a pan-fried, vegan fermented purple dumpling.

Huston’s wife is vegan, “so whenever we go out to dinner, we usually buy all the vegan options and try them all.”

He says: “We found these dumplings at a restaurant on Queen Street in Halifax and they were so good we had to learn how to make them at home because we were ordering too many.

He shares that his recipe should make 70-80 dumplings, “which, if eaten on their own, should serve three to four people. However, the two of us usually manage to finish them all in one sitting.

Huston says that although the dish is vegan, “it’s still high in protein, with a nice creamy filling thanks to the tofu.”

Do it at home:

Sweet and Easy Chilli from Mary Janet MacDonald


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can 796 ml herbed tomatoes
  • 1 can 680 ml tomato sauce
  • 1341 ml crushed pineapple
  • 1 can 398 ml brown beans in tomato sauce
  • 1 can 398 ml kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 can 398 ml black beans (drained)
  • 1 can 341 ml corn kernels (drained)
  • 5 tablespoons chilli powder


Brown the ground beef, drain and place in a Dutch oven. Add all the rest of the ingredients. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with cornbread, cookies or herb bread.

For: Eight to ten people

Herb Bread from Mary Janet MacDonald


  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon of white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
  • Mix and leave for 10 minutes


In a large mixing bowl, add:

  • 1 cup hot milk (30 seconds in the microwave)
  • 3 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of white sugar
  • Mix well and add:
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (10-15 seconds in the microwave)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil (or 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons oregano (or 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1/2 teaspoon)

(These spices are my choice only – you can add your own – like Italian seasoning, onion seasoning, maybe some sliced ​​green onions – your choice)

Mix well and add to the yeast mixture.

In a separate bowl:

Measure out five cups of all-purpose flour (or bread flour if you have it). Add one cup at a time until you have added about four cups. Use some of the remaining flour to sprinkle on your work surface. Keep adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky and knead for two to three minutes.

Put about a teaspoon of olive oil in a bowl and spread it out and put the dough in the bowl (get oil all over the dough). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes.

Place the dough on the work surface and divide it into three equal pieces (or just leave it whole and shape it into a free-form loaf and place it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet). If split into three pieces, roll each piece into a long piece about one to two inches thick and about 14 inches long. Place these three pieces lengthwise on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Braid the bread from top to bottom. Tuck in the edges of the dough at the top and bottom.

Whisk an egg, then brush it with a pastry brush over the top of the braid and sprinkle a little kosher salt on top (just a tiny bit – and that’s optional). Let rise 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and bake the bread for 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly before slicing.

Devon Huston and his wife are big fans of pan-fried purple fermented vegan ravioli.  - Contributed
Devon Huston and his wife are big fans of pan-fried purple fermented vegan ravioli. – Contributed

Devon Huston’s Pan-Fried Purple Fermented Dumplings

Equipment needed: Blender, four inch diameter cookie cutter

Suggested Equipment: Cheesecloth (or something similar like a fine-mesh strainer or reusable mesh produce bags) and a pasta roller (hand or KitchenAid attachment)

Ingredients for Purple Ferment:

  • 900g purple cabbage (about 2/3 head of red cabbage)
  • 2 fresh beets
  • 1 small red onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
Dumpling wrappers being prepared.  - Contributed
Dumpling wrappers being prepared. – Contributed

Ingredients for the dumplings:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup lukewarm water

Additional ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 2 packets of extra firm tofu
  • Soya sauce
The purple ferment mix can be made up to 10 days before making your dumplings, says Devon Huston.  He likes to let the mixture ferment for a minimum of five days.  - Contributed
The purple ferment mix can be made up to 10 days before making your dumplings, says Devon Huston. He likes to let the mixture ferment for a minimum of five days. – Contributed

Optional toppings:

  • Roasted sesame seeds
  • Chili oil (can be made at home with pantry items)
  • Chive


Slice all fermentation ingredients and place in a large saucepan. Cover with water until all vegetables are submerged, adding 1 tablespoon salt per 2 cups water. Leave to ferment for at least five days, up to 10 (the farthest I’ve let it sit so far).

Before you begin assembly, add the flour and warm water to a bowl, stir until fully combined, and knead for about 15 minutes by hand, or six to eight minutes with a dough hook on your stand mixer.

Roll out your flour into a log shape about three inches thick and pinch the doughnut-shaped ends. Set aside covered with cling film or a damp cloth and leave to stand while preparing the other components.

Drain the purple ferment in a colander then add half to the blender along with a block of tofu and the ginger. Blend until smooth. Repeat with the other half of the ferment and the other block of tofu. This will most likely need to be done in two batches, depending on the size of your blender, but if you can fit it all in one go, do it.

Pour this mixture through a cheesecloth and strain further until you have a manageable texture that will stay in a solid mass rather than melting the sides of your dumplings.

Cut your donut into wedges and roll them as thin as possible – so thin you can see your fingers on the other side (the rolling pin is extremely handy here). Brush each side of the baking sheet with flour then use the cookie cutter to shape the meatballs.

Begin assembly:

Pour some of the purple mixture into a dumpling batter. Mix as much as you can, the wrappers are just a container to dip this purple goodness into. Pinch the outside until it’s sealed. Wetting the edges with water is not necessary with homemade wrappers.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat with oil. Place the meatballs in the skillet and fry them until golden brown, when they have reached the perfect level of crispy brown, add about half a cup of water to the skillet and cover (let finish cooking). steam cooking).

Plate of dumplings and garnish with sesame seeds, chives and optional oil. Serve with soy sauce.

Serves: three to four people (70-80 meatballs)

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