December 7, 2017

Top 10 Holiday Spices For Cooking 30 Minute Meals That Feed a Crowd

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Coming together with family and friends for a special occasion is a tradition in almost any culture across the world!

It is gratifying to welcome people to your home, cook for them and make them feel comfortable.

But one cant take away the fact that hosting friends and family does require thoughtful planning, especially if you intend to enjoy your time and not stress about cooking, cleaning and entertaining.

The Truth About Holiday Entertaining

Although we love to have guests over, We do stress about it… if not a month ahead but perhaps On the day!. It’s quite normal as you would like your family to be happy and having a good time! ( doing their share of helping too!)

Holiday cooking or Festive cooking can cause a lot of stir, not just limited to the kitchen.

One of the BIGGEST worry of holiday cooking for a crowd is, What to cook, How to cook for so many and not sweat out in the kitchen instead of merry making!

Make Holiday Cooking Stress – Free with these 10 Holiday Spices & Herbs

Well, I don’t have any magic pot that will churn up dishes for you, but what I do have, are many spice jars that can magically transform your food from bland to bold without much effort.

You’ve already got a lot on your plate, so this isn’t the time to make fancy dinners or experiment with new, complicated recipes (unless you have your In-laws or Out-laws to impress). Keep meals simple, quick, and easy.

Let me show you how I use these 10 holiday spices and herbs to cook different kinds of meal under 30 minutes when it comes to feeding many.

Hope the list and meal ideas help you to enjoy a stress -free and quick festive cooking.

1. Paprika

Paprika is made from dried and ground sweet peppers. It comes in various flavours such as smoked, mild or hot. The heat level depends on the type of pepper used and how much chili powder has been added to it.

How to Use it

Paprika is a very versatile spice, that can be added to many different dishes, especially if your guests like it hot! However like with most spices, I would not add it to every dish. Use it for making soups, stews, marinades for fish or meat

Meal Ideas

You can give a simple tomato soup a lift of flavour, Make a one pan paprika chicken or make paprika roasted vegetables

2. Turmeric Powder

Turmeric is a quintessential Indian spice which has a bright yellow colour and a very mild flavour. It’s mostly a colouring agent as opposed to a flavouring agent. The reason I recommend this spice in your cabinets is for its many benefits, which helps to shield you against the harshness of the ever-changing weather pattern.

How to Use it

Turmeric can be used to add colour and a mild flavour to most legumes and grains such as rice and lentils. Use it to marinade meats or to roast vegetables too.

Meal Ideas

Make a wholesome rice dish and serve with a grilled fish or chicken, a simple curry served with plain rice also makes a great quick crowd feeding meal.

3. AllSpice Powder

Allspice is a spice made from dried berries. Would surely recommend having this in your cupboards as this one spice has the flavour of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper all together.

How to Use it

Although associated with traditional Christmas spice for baking and making sweets and desserts, there is so much one can do with its amazing flavours.  Add a pinch to roasted root vegetables or as a marinade for meats. You will not need to add any other spice if you prefer not to and yet have a flavour packed steak!

Meal Ideas

Enthrall your guests with exotic sauces which may look like hard work but all you needed was a pinch!  A roasted jerk chicken is a palette pleasure.

4. Curry Powder

Curry powder is a British invention of basic Indian spices. The spice mix normally has cumin powder, turmeric, coriander powder, chili powder, dried curry leaves powder and maybe other spices. Like most spice blends there is no set recipe for a curry powder but what it will render is the quintessential Indian flavours.

How to Use it

Curry powder does not need to be restricted to just Indian cuisine. For a quick dish and flavour add curry powder to soups, curries, strir fry vegetables marinades and stews. All you need is about 2 teaspoon, added to any dish of your choice and you have an exotic meal ready.

Meal Ideas

You can make an Indian curried chicken or vegetable by frying onions, ginger garlic, and tomatoes and add curry powder!  Add a different dimension to classic western meals like this Curry Corned Beef Hash recipe.

5. Taco seasoning

When I am in a serious dearth of ideas to cook something different other than pasta or Indian that pleases the kids too, I simply pick up my Taco Seasoning Jar! A classic Mexican spice blend which is a sure crowd pleaser!

How to Use it

This is one versatile spice that can be used from any dish such as taco’s, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, chili beef or even as a marinade. All you need are few teaspoons of this magic ingredient and there you have a Mexican platter in under 30 minutes!

Meal Ideas

Instead of tacos make this one pan Southwestern Fiesta Chicken Rice with taco seasoning. This super easy Taco Casserole with 7 ingredients is a sure shot hit! A crockpot chicken or Beef taco too is great if you plan on having a couch day!

Best Holiday Spices
6. Cinnamon

I don’t think any Christmas or holiday season is complete without a little whiff of Cinnamon! Apart from an instead flavour enhancer, it has many health benefits.  Keep them handy either in whole or powder form to add to your meals.

How to Use it

Cinnamon can be used whole to flavour broths, stews or cinnamon infused flavoured rice. Powdered cinnamon can be used for drinks, desserts or added to savoury dishes.

Meal Ideas

Enjoy a flavourful and healthy start to the day by preparing and storing this Cinnamon Flavoured Granola . A little sweet treat for your guests with this Apple Cinnamon Crumble .

7. Garlic powder

Garlic powder is made from dehydrated garlic. Its taste is a bit different than fresh garlic but the undertones are quite similar. Cooking in large quantities means that you may require to peel and chop more aromatics such as Garlic and Onions. Reduce excess work and keep a bottle of garlic powder ready to be replaced when a recipe calls for fresh garlic.  However, powdered garlic has a different flavour element so cannot always be replaced for fresh garlic, but can used for shortcuts once in a while!

How to Use it

Garlic powder is hugely popular for making spice blends, marinades, and rubs. You need to use it sparingly as it can become too strong and overpowering.

Meal Ideas

This easy Alfredo sauce is great for a quick sauce base for pasta, fish or gratins.  I love this Baked Buffalo Chicken bites as a yummy and easy side dish option.

8. Onion powder

Onion Powder is dehydrated onion bulbs that have been finely ground into a soft powder. It smells strong, but adds a subtle onion flavor when used in a dish. Its use is also similar to that of garlic powder and adding it as a replacement for fresh onion is an option but not always the best!

How to Use it

Like Garlic powder Onion powder too is used for making spice blends, marinades, and rubs. To avoid chopping a lot of onions, I add onion powder to fresh onions to balance the taste and reduce cooking time.

Meal Ideas

Grill a fish and serve it with this homemade tartar sauce . This easy to make Greek meatballs can be made in under 30 minutes to feed many hungry mouths or perhaps a classic Mac and Cheese dish . 

9. Fresh Ginger

The reason I have kept fresh ginger as a must- have option is because of its strong spicy and deep flavours. Just a dash of fresh ginger added to soups or stews renders a freshness to the dish .

How to Use it

Fresh ginger can be chopped, grated or crushed and added to soups, stews, teas, and even desserts.

Meal Ideas

This Carrot and ginger soup served with crusty garlic bread is a family favourite. Bring in oriental flavour to your dinner table with this Brocolli Chicken Stir Fry recipe 

10. Mixed herbs – Fresh are best but dry

I am a complete sucker for fresh herbs! Not only are they good for health but its subtle flavours bring out the flavour of other ingredients.  This is perhaps my most important all time must-haves! If fresh is not an option then having a jar of mixed dry herbs is equally helpful!

How to Use it

Delicate fresh herbs such as basil, coriander, parsley, chives and dill are generally chopped or torn and added at the end of cooking to maximize their flavour impact. Stronger herbs like thyme, oregano, sage and rosemary can be used whole earlier in the cooking process to allow their flavors to infuse the dish and can be removed before serving if needed.

Meal Ideas

This basic Herb parmesan crusted topping can be used to make any fish or chicken in the oven.  Medittarean Tabbouleh is a great meal to go with any meat, chicken or fish leftovers.

Be Prepared for the Party

Get your hands on few if not all of the above spices and enjoy less time cooking and more time merry making!

Happy Holidays!

Do you have any easy and quick holiday recipe that you make for a crowd? Please do share your recipes. I would love to add them to the list.

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