Quick Holiday Cooking Tips

Logan Niles

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With money being tight all over and holiday festivities feeling the squeeze here are a handful of great holiday food and party tips to keep you from getting “Scrooged” out of a good time.

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It seems the days of cookie swaps are fading as we become more health conscious and have less time to spend in the kitchen. Why not try a frozen hors d’oeuvre swap instead. When buying your favourite frozen hor d’oeuvre buy an extra box or two to swap with friends. When it comes time for neighbourhood holiday parties have a swap to diversify everyone’s spread. If your local stores lack variety try Good Wives, Appetizers To Go, or Saigon Soul Food. All of these great retailers offer great, inventive tidbits. Plus if you end up with too many frozen goodies for the holidays you can still enjoy them during the long Winter months to come when you don’t want to brave the elements to eat out. That’s a much better option then eating through wintertime gloominess with your hand in the cookie jar.

Waste Not Want Not

Your time that is. The holidays are stressful enough so keep your cooking light, fun and a family affair. If you do decide to make your own hors d’oeuvres keep it light and simple. Marinated skewers, simple but flavourful dips, cheese “lollipops” and simple finger foods you can make in advance are best.  Seasoned goat cheese balls rolled in toasted, chopped nuts can be fun, whimsicality and season with a kiss of paprika or fresh, chopped parsley. Buy cleaned shrimp and have your butcher do a little extra work to make your load lighter. If you’re throwing a holiday party for family and friends barter prep time from your kids in exchange for 30 minute increases in TV viewing times or online game play.

Veg Out

Don’t forget the vegetarians. Nothing says “Bah, Humbug!” more than not being mindful of your guests dietary needs. No need to go whole hog and throw calorie counting into the snow when vegetarian, gluten-free and even vegan food choices abound. Dazzle your friends with holiday recipes they won’t believe are meat-free. Not only will you save money and mess (vegetarian preparations are so much cleaner) but you won’t feel guilty at the end of the night either. Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Asian markets and many large grocery chains now offer fabulous frozen snacks and hors d’oeuvres that are easy on the pocket and big on taste. Besides, it will make that extra martini all the more enjoyable.

Mix and Match

Speaking of martinis, mixology is all the rage! You can borrow or create everything you need to produce delicious libations. Companies like Stirrings Cocktails, Mixerz and Urban Accents do most of the work for you with tantalizing mixers made from natural ingredients. Or you can make your own yummy mixers with simple syrup recipes and fresh fruits and herbs. For a little extra flavour substitute plain white sugar in your base mix with agave syrup, coconut sugar (or jagary in Indian shops) or even Splenda to create a low-cal syrup.

Lightening fast tips:

  • Run out of cheesecloth? A brand new knee high stocking will do the trick. Wash with hot, lightly soapy water first time out then use as needed. It can be washed well and reused again. Just make sure to dry it completely and place in a zip lock bag until next use. Cheaper and far more flexible.
  • Tun out of twine for the roast or turkey? Dental floss will do you in a pinch.
  • Broken candy thermometer? To detect the perfect softball stage of a cooking syrup place any firm, looped, metal item (like the end of a small whisk or other kitchen item that hangs) into your syrup and try to blow a bubble through the hole. If your syrup has reached softball stage you should be able to blow a stable bubble that expands well before it pops.
  • Don’t have a wrack for your turkey/chicken/roast? Use a natural wrack of vegetables like full length carrot and celery sticks, potatoes cut in half and halved onions. The finished meat won’t be sitting in oil the entire time and the vegetables will brown an season. Instead of using cornstarch to thicken your gravy puree some of the rack veggies for added flavour and starch.
  • Don’t want to add dairy fat to a vegetarian dish but still want creaminess? Raw, Soaked and pureed almonds, cashews and/or Brazil nuts add incredible richness to any dish and are often used to mimic creamy dairy products in vegan cooking and baking. Nutritious and delicious their fats are beneficial and guilt-free.

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Happy Holidays!