December is upon us and the holiday season can be a stressful time, but that’s not how it should be. How many times have you heard someone say they've slaved away in the kitchen all day? Stress in the kitchen can easily arise for a variety of reasons, especially when you're strapped for time and have a never-ending to-do list. We live in South Florida and we should be taking time to enjoy the weather this time of year, not stuck inside the kitchen. So if you decide to eat in or go out we have the answers, plus a few tips from a ‘MasterChef’.
As a survivor of Gordon Ramsay's MasterChef competition, Caitlin Meade - a top 4 finalist on season 8 - understands the pressure all too well. To decrease the stress and make your hosting experience more enjoyable, consider putting these tips from Chef Meade into practice.
Prep Before You Begin
Practice the "mise en place" method - a French term alluding to having everything in place before cooking. Measure ingredients, chop vegetables and prepare utensils to create a steady workflow.
Plan in Advance - Like a Chef
Prep the main dish the night before, have easy appetizers assembled ahead of guests' arrival and outsource sides to family and friends.
Save Money by Getting Spicy
Before it's time to cook, pre-make spices. Since many store-bought blends can be overpriced, this is a way to save both time and money while personalizing your own flavors.
Save Table Wine for Drinking & Use Cooking Wine
A secret ingredient and important pantry staple for Chef Meade, cooking wine is perfect for when she needs to make a pan sauce or add flavor. It's even saved her from having to open a nice bottle of table wine, as most recipes call for less than a cup. An option like Holland House Cooking Wines delivers consistent, bold flavor while standing up to high temperatures. Available in Sherry, Marsala, Red and White, there are plenty of flavor-boosting options that will have your friends and family wondering what your secret ingredient is.
Create Your Own Stock
Many recipes call for chicken stock. One way to save money and time at the store is to create your own. Save any leftover poultry carcasses, wing tips, neck and bones. Add onion peels, celery tips, carrot tops and other vegetable scraps in the freezer. When you're ready to make a batch, fill a large pot with the leftovers, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer 1-2 hours for stock that can last up to one year.
Here are a few of Chef Meades stress-free holiday recipes:
Spinach Feta and Artichoke Dip
Recipe courtesy of Cate Meade
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
Nonstick cooking spray
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 package (12 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed and excess liquid drained
2 cans (14 ounces each) whole artichokes, drained and chopped
1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 1/4 cups low-fat mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled, plus additional for garnish
1 1/4 cups low-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup Holland House White Cooking Wine
1 package (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Garnishes (optional): feta cheese, roasted red peppers
1. Grease 6-8-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In slow cooker, mix garlic, spinach, artichokes, water chestnuts, mozzarella, feta, yogurt and red pepper flakes.
3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, simmer cooking wine 3 minutes. Stir in cream cheese and turn off heat.
4. Transfer cream cheese and wine mixture to slow cooker; add salt and pepper, to taste, and stir to combine ingredients.
5. Cook on low for two hours.
6. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with feta and roasted red peppers, if desired.
White Hominy Chicken Chili
Recipe courtesy of Cate Meade
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 4 hours
2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 packet of white chili seasoning
1 cup Holland House White Cooking Wine
1 jar (16 ounces) chunky salsa verde
4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
1 can (16 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large poblano or green pepper, diced
1 bag (10 ounces) frozen fire-roasted corn
1 can (29 ounces) white hominy, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons cornmeal (optional)
Toppings recommendations: Lime wedges, avocado, cilantro, sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, jalapenos
1. Turn slow cooker on low; add oil, onions and chicken. Distribute chili seasoning evenly over chicken and onions.
2. Add cooking wine, salsa verde and chicken stock.
3. Cover and cook 3 hours.
4. Remove chicken and allow to rest, covered, for 15 minutes before shredding.
5. Add beans, peppers, corn and hominy to slow cooker. For thicker consistency, add cornmeal, if desired. Cook on high 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
6. Add shredded chicken back to slow cooker and serve with lime wedges, avocado, cilantro, sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips and jalapenos, if desired.
These holiday tips and recipes are a great way to take the stress out of preparing a great holiday meal. But, if you truly want to take all the stress out of the holiday and spend no time in the kitchen, then visit one of the many local restaurants that will be open for the holiday’s. This way you are sure to share a meal that will make you and your family happy, plus be at the table with them to enjoy it. So call and make arrangements to visit Flashback Diner they have a Roast Turkey Dinner, Pecan Crusted Salomon and many more mouth watering holiday dinners for you. Blue Bar & Grill on the beach is preparing Beef Short Ribs, Duck Confit, plus other delicious dinners to choose from. So no matter how you choose to celebrate your holiday meal, be sure to look through this weeks South Florida Sun Times to check out some of the great holiday menus planned for you.