The holidays are indeed a cooks wonderland, but often the demands of the season can really slow us down, and running out of kitchen essentials while preparing for guests, or making a dish to take to a party can really put a wrench in things. You’ve been there, right? Ready to put the final touches on a dish when you realize that you need a couple more tablespoons of butter, or perhaps you realize that your sauce would be killer if you could simply add a splash of of red wine, but you used it up two days ago! While these are not always soul crushing moments, they can be drag, especially when you really feel like you are doing your best to have your Holiday A-Game On!
To help you avoid some of these stressful moments I have put together a list of essential items that you should have on hand for a well stocked holiday kitchen. You can buy them weeks ahead of time, or just pick up an extra here and there each time your are at the store. With just a little planning ahead you won’t have to worry about making any final dashes to the store at 5:30 PM on Christmas Eve! Instead you can be relaxin’ by your hearth – real or not – and patting yourself on the back for another holiday season well done!
Right now you are probably thinking that you seriously have more butter than you could ever use. But trust me my friends stock up on this and put it in your freezer! Whenever I see it on sale between Thanksgiving and Christmas I buy a couple of pounds, and I am constantly dumbfounded by how quickly I go through it! There is no reason to run out of butter. Get the unsalted kind because it can be used and jazzed up to suit your needs – meaning you can add salt, herbs, garlic, whatever you like to it if unsalted is not your thing. But a blank canvas is a good basic to have on hand! Just remember to always take a stick or two out of the freezer as you use up what is in the fridge, frozen butter can be a real drag! But if you forgot to take it out, here are some tips to soften it up on the fly.
I go through more Heavy Cream between November and December than I do the entire rest of the year. Seriously, it is not like I am putting cups of cream in everything that I cook, but it seems that holiday dishes often need a splash of it here and there. Buy a couple of pints and keep them in the fridge. I recommend buying pints rather than quarts because you don’t have to use it up as quickly, and if you end up needing less than you expected you don’t have half a quart sitting in your fridge open and starting to go bad. Also, I prefer to buy heavy cream instead of half and half for my coffee drinkers because I never go through a full pint of half and half. So, instead of wasting half a pint of half and half I make my own by pouring heavy cream into a coffee creamer, filling it half way and then filling it the rest of the way with milk – an item that I always have on hand in the fridge! Lastly, let us not forget whipped cream! Heavy Cream is of course the main star in this oh so popular holiday dessert and hot chocolate topper! By having the heavy cream on hand you can have whipped cream whenever you need it, forget about the Reddi-Wip or Cool Whip, you’ll be ready for the real deal! I think this is a good thing!
PARSLEY, SAGE, ROSEMARY AND THYME
OK….Yes, those tasty ingredients are lyrics to an awesome Simon and Garfunkel song, and to me those four herbs are a holiday cooks anthem! Stock up on these hearty herbs, which all together scream holiday dinner! Whether you chop them up to add to a dish, tie them up into a flavor bundle for a braise or a sauce, sprinkle them on top of your holiday roast, or even decorate with them, you will be happy to have added these fresh ingredients into your fridge. They are hearty and will withstand some time in the fridge when stored properly, so purchase them ahead of time, and I recommend getting a little bit more than what you think you will need because you will certainly use it! Here are some tips to keeping your herbs fresh!!
The world of citrus is a bountiful one and this time of year you cannot have enough lemons and oranges around! You will want to add these to your: braises, roasted vegetables, salad dressings and cocktails! And that is just the beginning! Don’t be shy and really do stock up on these for your fridge, here is a great tip on storing them so they stay fresh and beautiful even beyond the holiday season. An added bonus is that citrus fruits are fabulous for decorating with too! Pinterest is full of great ways to style your table or home with lemons, oranges, clementines and other seasonal citrus!
Pick up a few extra bottles of wine when you are out! This will come in handy for loads holiday 911’s! So many holiday recipes call for a splash of red or white wine, plus as the cook, but the time you start rolling up your sleeves you will most likely ready for a glass yourself, so be sure to cook with something that you like to drink! In addition to be having wine on hand for cooking, it is also important to be prepared for unexpected guests. This is the time of year when friends pop in to say hello, drop-off a gift, or just to take a breather from all of the holiday hoopla. Having an extra bottle or two of wine around will make you very popular with your last minute guests. And, don’t forget to always have at least one bottle of white wine, prosecco or champagne in the fridge at all times chilling. Just because you only like red wine in the winter, does not mean that everyone else feels the same way, so don’t be caught unprepared with a warm bottle of white when those unexpected friends arrive.
Oh, Ice! You take up SO much room in my freezer! I know, I know! The amount of space that ice can take up this time of year can be a little bit burdensome. However, it is better to have it than to not. The list of reasons that you might need extra ice during the holidays is a long one. But here are just a few things to think about. Cocktails. You must keep that Christmas Sangria nice and chilled! Blanching vegetables. You don’t want to use your only tray of cubes on blanching your green beans and then have nothing left for the previously mentioned Sangria, right!? Serving chilled beverages. Nothing is more welcoming than a hospitable tub of chilled beverages, however, you better have a lot of ice to make this pretty display happen. You can of course make extra ice cubes for a few days before you have guests over and store them in a bin like this. However, remember that ice is seriously the cheapest item that you can buy. Dust off your cooler that has been in hibernation since summer and store your ice in there. Trust me, the feeling of having too much ice is a way better one than realizing 20 minutes before your guests arrive that you used the last tray of ice cubes to arrange your shrimp cocktail display!!
This is the time to stock up on disposable containers that you don’t want back. I like to use nice glass reusable containers too, however, I don’t want to give them all away with leftovers to my friends and family over the holidays. So, the next time you are at the supermarket pick up some extra containers that you don’t want back. I usually buy Zip-Lock Brand and they are usually in the same aisle as the Zip-Lock bags, plastic wrap and tin foil. I like to buy the containers that have the holiday images on them and I get a few different sizes. Your guests will enjoy that too when they go home with a nice reminder of wonderful meal!
The holidays have a way of putting us all in a tizzy, I hope that by planning ahead and having a few extra necessities on hand your time in the kitchen will be the last thing causing you stress during this busy time of year!
If you have other tips to share with us please include them in the comments below! We’d all love to know what your holiday kitchen essentials are!