December 7, 2017

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

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Worried about planning meals that feed a crowd during festivities?Keeping stock of these top 10 holiday spices will help in making delicious meals  in 30 minutes. 

Holiday means a sea of happy chirpy faces, a whiff of oven bakes, large bubbling pots, clinging of glasses and loud voices !!

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.

Meal Planning Tips For Large Groups

Holiday cooking or festive cooking for a group of people can cause a lot of stir, not just limited to the kitchen.

Although we love to have guests over, we do stress about it… if not a month ahead but perhaps on the day!.

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 with family and friends!

Here are few tips that I follow when planning a meal for vacations or stay at home holidays. These help keep my nerves under control and be the gracious host I should be:

  1. Keep breakfast to basics – Simple cereals, toasts, eggs, bacon or baked beans along with fruits and juice are good enough to start the day. People can help  themselves as they rise from their slumber.

2. Stock up on pantry stables – One of the easiest way to save time  and brain fluid is to keep stock of some basic pantry and frozen food that you can quickly make meals with. My must haves are:

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Instant noodles
  • Breads – of many varieties
  • Pasta sauces
  • Spice blends
  • Tinned and frozen vegetables
  • Tinned legumes ( beans, chickpeas, ,corn etc)
  • Eggs
  • Mince meat ( veg option minced quorn)
  • Pastry rolls

When struggling with recipe ideas boiling pasta and serving with pasta sauce and veges is one day’s meal done !!

3. Recruit help – Everyone understands and knows what it is to cook and look after a large group. All you need to do is ask and specify what help you need, be it shopping, chopping, serving, cleaning.  Treat them with an extra or two more tipple or dessert later !!

4. Go for simple lunches  – Use dinner left overs or keep buns, breads, wraps, salads, cold cuts, spreads for filling them with. If it’s a hot fresh lunch you want to make stick to easy one pot meals such as pasta with sauce, one pot rice dishes, hot dogs, quiches, curries or soups.

5. Plan your dinners before hand – Dinners are one of the most important and social meals to enjoy together.  A bit of planning and buying pantry goods before hand will do a ton of good and save time. Stick to easy and where possible one dish pot meals . Oven based dishes such as pies, dump and bake dishes, roasts; slow cooked hot pots and stews,  curries, BBQ’s are great dishes to cook for a crowd with minimum effort.

6. Make extra – Leftovers makes thinking for lunch easier. Depending on what you are cooking make some extra that can be eaten with some bread, boiled veges or salad for next day’s lunch.

7. Cook together –  Bring celebrations into your kitchen as well, cooking with family and friends ( where they are of help rather than hindrance) is so much fun. You chat, you squeal, you stir and you sip together!!

Top 10 Holiday Spices  For Cooking Flavourful Bulk Meals.

One of the best ways to make different meals and earn accolades for your amazing cooking skills is to add spices for instant flavour.

Unfortunately 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 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.

Stocking up on these 10 holiday spices and herbs will help 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 festive cooking.

1. Paprika

Smoked paprika
Click image to buy smoked paprika online

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 for BBQ’s.

Follow these easy hacks in case a dish becomes too spicy .

Meal Ideas

You can  make a one pan paprika chicken or make a  healthy low carb meal with this sweet and spicy quinoa stuffed pepper.

2. Turmeric Powder

turmeric-powder-haldi-image-indian-yellow -spice buy indian spice online spiceitupp
Click image to buy turmeric online

Turmeric is a quintessential Indian spice with a bright yellow colour and a very mild flavour.

It’s mostly a colouring agent as opposed to a flavouring agent that makes a dish look vibrant and appetizing.

With many of the health benefits, this spice adds subtle flavour and lots of colour to any dish you make.  w

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 pumpkin and beans curry served with plain rice also makes a great quick crowd feeding meal.

3. Allspice Powder

Allspice is a spice made from dried berries.

I would surely recommend having this in your cupboards as just 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 the amazing flavours of allspice.

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  one pot beef stew which may look like hard work but all you need is just a pinch!  A roasted jerk chicken is a palette pleasure.

4. Curry Powder

Curry powder spice blend buy International spices blends online
Click image to buy Curry Powder online

Curry powder is a British invention of simplifying Indian flavours.

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 give 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, stir 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 easy chicken curry with 7 ingredients frying onions, ginger garlic, and tomatoes and add curry powder!  Add a different dimension to classic western meals like this baked curried Corned Beef Hash recipe.  Substitute chicken with vegetables and beef with soya mince for veg option. 

5. Taco seasoning

Taco seasoning buy online
Click image to buy taco seasoning online

When I am in a serious dearth of ideas to cook something different other than pasta or Indian that is an all round pleasure,  I simply pick up my Taco Seasoning Jar!

A classic Mexican spice blend which is a sure to be a win win with any age group!

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!  Add exotic taste to a classic meatloaf by adding your choice of seasoning to the dump and bake meatloaf dish.

Best Holiday Spices

6. Cinnamon

cinnamon-cassia-sticks-dalchini-indian-spices
Click image to buy cinnamon stick online

I don’t think any Christmas or holiday season is complete without a little whiff of Cinnamon in the air!

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 .

For a savoury dish this yellow aromatic lentils daal is a wholesome dish for a crowd.

7. Garlic powder

Garlic powder is made from dehydrated garlic.

The taste is a bit different than fresh garlic but the undertones are quite similar.

When cooking in large quantities you may have 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 that cannot always be replaced for fresh garlic, but can use it 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.

Add it with other spices such as all spice, paprika etc for an instant spice rub.

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 or Onion flakes

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.

The use is 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 can be 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

Sprinkle, marinade and bake juicy chicken breast with onion and garlic powder and herbs. 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 with a little flair.

9. Fresh Ginger

Fresh-ginger-paste-indian-cooking buy online

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 gives so much 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 low carb chunky cauliflower 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

I am a complete sucker for fresh herbs!

Not only are they good for health but the subtle taste brings 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.  Make a basic pesto sauce such as this and add it to vegetables, pasta, or any protein for a complete dish.

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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