Welcome — If you’ve arrived after seeing Barefoot Contessa, I’m so happy to have you! To stay up to date on all things BGSK, follow me on twitter, facebook, and instagram or sign up for the weekly newsletter. Happy holidays!
In small kitchens, I sometimes think useful gifts trump all other gifts.
For much of this year, I’ve been posting about the tools that are essential in my small kitchen, the (soon-to-be) complete collection of things you’ll need to cook great meals. There really aren’t that many–we’re talking about small kitchens, after all. But there are some pots, pans, utensils, and gadgets that will help make your kitchen a place you love, so why not give or get some of them this Christmas?
To spare you a slog through the archives, I’m reposting a dozen of my kitchen essentials, with brand recommendations and links pointing you to buy.
When you are trying to figure out how you feed yourself decent food on a semi-regular basis, at home, without spending tons of money or all your free time soaking beans, and you happen upon someone who seems to have the whole feeding thing down pat, and you ask her, “so, how do you do it?” you’re bound to hear one of a few unhelpful answers.
I say unhelpful because at some level feeding yourself is something you have to do on your own terms, and whether it’s your astronomical takeout bill that gets you on the path or the awareness that everything at the salad bar has started to taste the same or the really good three-ingredient quesadilla you fried up in five minutes yesterday and have realized you could easily make a variation of today, if you want to cook at home, I know you’ll get there.
Anyway, one of the unhelpful things don’t-sweat-it, at-home cooks say is that you can make food on the weekend and eat your pot of stew all week. Though I love leftovers, this is not something I can do. I like to cook, after all; and so reheating chili on Wednesday that was delicious on Sunday kind of bores me, thereby making the chili less delicious.
This is crazy, not only because chili gets better with time.
I love hosting around the holidays almost as much as I love being a guest at friends’ parties. Most of all, I adore when friends come to me for advice about how to plan a menu, prep, and cook for their holiday meals. I love this because it gives me a chance to dole out all the wisdom I have: make sure to have fun at your own party.
Too often, hosts—especially people like me who are improvising parties in tiny kitchens and itsy bitsy apartments—get so involved in the hosting aspect that they forget to be guests at their own events. The best defense against becoming high-strung or worried is tons of preparation. Here’s a rundown of how to get the party rolling long before it starts.
Make punch. A huge bowl of punch has all the allure of a sophisticated mixed cocktail without the necessity of paying individual attention to everyone’s drink. At its most basic, you can do a punch with freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juices, Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon vodka, seltzer, and champagne; add drops of bitter for a more nuanced taste. Serve with plenty of ice.
Do all the little extras ahead of time. By this I mean scrub every countertop, clean every floor, wash every glass, caramelize every onion, assemble every crostini, arrange every cheese plate, and make and plate every dip and crudités platter. The more you can accomplish long before guests arrive, the more your hostess duties can have to do with introducing friends and setting up potential romances and less with basting some silly turkey.
On that note, your entire menu should be made up of foods that can be made ahead of time and taste just as great a few hours later, like these. That means yummy dips, trays of crostini, shrimp cocktail, chicken skewers, big grain salads, savory pies, roasted vegetables, and cheese plates. If you’re serving a sit-down meal, make a stew or a roast that merely needs pulling from the oven. If you need to check on dinner once or twice; fine. If it’s more than that, I guarantee you won’t have a good time.
Have extra booze on hand. My “quarter-life” crew is now approaching thirty, but it’s still self-evident to all of us the the beginning of the end of the party occurs when the booze supply runs dry and a guest has to bolt out for replacements. Have plenty of booze and mixers in your fridge and pantry when you start, and always ask friends to bring more.
Pre-game. Reward yourself with a cocktail about 30 minutes before the first guests arrive. Sip it (and any ones that follow) slowly so you can enjoy and relax!
Happy Monday! I’m really happy to introduce Natalie of Good Girl Style, who will be joining us to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers. I should mention that these desserts will all be gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just good old-fashioned butter, sugar, fruit, cream, and, most importantly for today’s dessert, chocolate.
Have you ever been to Serendipity? I used to go as a kid, and though I most looked forward to the foot-long hot dogs, I think everyone else was really there for the famous frozen hot chocolate, a decadent slushie-like drink that can now be yours at home. Thanks, Natalie!
Frozen hot chocolate may seem like an oxymoron, but the frozen chocolate-y treat is both refreshing and somehow warming after a savory winter meal. Cozy up by the fireplace, wrap a blanket tight, and enjoy this unique and fun dessert-slash-drink.
Best of all, frozen hot chocolate comes together quickly and easily, and the base can be made ahead so you’re ready at a moment’s notice to blend together a frozen treat. You can definitely use chocolate chips in the recipe, just make sure you stir the base mixture constantly, as the chips will take longer to melt and you don’t want to scorch the milk in the meantime.
Just as, as a quarter-lifer, you start to invent your own traditions (Friendsgiving, Sunday Night Pasta, Latkes for Two), I think as I’ve grown up, I’ve reinvented my own comfort foods, too.
Lentils have fought and won for a spot on my comfort food list as my twenties have advanced. On cold nights, or cold rainy nights like the ones we’ve been having, a bowl of lentil soup steaming beside grilled bread or cheesy pita croutons satisfies both Alex and me like little else. Even the creamy pastas that had long been my go-to’s.
Because I’ve been cooking a lot of lentils recently, in my exploration of Middle Eastern cuisine for Sargento, I wanted to take the chance to share a lentil-cooking technique that might help make this healthful, cheap bean, a staple of the region, one of your comfort foods too.
Around the Web: Hunter Boots and Cup of Jo — Happy Thanksgiving! Big Girls, Small Kitchen has been getting some awesome pick-up around the web, and I wanted to share some links with you. Fitting on this day of thanks, since I’m so grateful for old and new readers. Thanks for being here!
Joanna featured my Blue Cheese Rotini with Spinach on Cup of Jo.
I’m wearing a pair of Belize Hayden Short Boots and sharing my pumpkin clafoutis recipe over on Hunter’s U.S. website.
Shana wrote a lovely profile on Greatist…we cooked some pasta together, and I especially love how she summarized my obsession with cooking at home.
I wanted to tell you about my partnership with Seven Daughters: I’ve been working with the wine company to develop fun cooking tips around wine, like adding whole bottles to your stews or sipping a glass of wine while you cook!
A sweet Slate piece about why, sometimes, you do need as many desserts as people at your Thanksgiving table.