Tools and Gadgets

I do love cooking a holiday feast, complete with roast beast.

It’s a lot of work (and a LOT of dishes) but there is nothing more lovely than having your family sit down to a traditional holiday meal.  Whether it’s latkes or collard greens or ham or a Christmas goose, there is comfort to be had in that celebratory meal.

I’ve learned over the years that there is neither time nor patience for an “everything from scratch” feast in my world.  So, the menu is a combination of homemade and easily-made:

Beef Roasted with Walnut Oil and Sage
Red Wine Sauce
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Carrots with Butter and Dill
Salads, green and cole slaw
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
Vanilla Cheesecake with Cranberry Maple Sauce

Christmas Eve Feast

I’ll post the homemade recipes after all the presents are opened and the wrapping paper is in the recycling.  But here are my tips for the easily-made dishes.

1. Never peel another potato — at least not for mashed potatoes.  Use a frozen mashable potato instead (I like Ore-Ida Steam and Mash).  All they are is cubed potato that you steam in the microwave and then mash to your desired consistency.  You can dress them up with garlic and onions or just add milk and butter.  I make mine in the Kitchen-Aid Mixer to get a sort of lumpy, sort of smooth consistency.  Ten minutes in the microwave, another three or four in the mixer, and voila!

2. Green bean casserole is even easier if you use frozen french beans (again, I like the steam in the bag variety).  I fancy it up a bit with the new Progresso Creamy Portobello Mushroom Recipe Starter  (yes it’s from a can, and I try to avoid canned food as much as possible, but you try and find cream of mushroom in a box).

3. Fresh herbs are amazingly expensive in Alaska, and often on their last legs before they hit our stores.  So I’ve become a huge fan of Gourmet Gardens herbs in a tube. The dill in the tube is wonderful, and just three or for “dots” of this concentrated form will season an entire pan of carrots.

(This post looks like some sort of product placement overload — I swear it’s not.  Just some handy tips about products I rely on for yummy food, especially for company.)


My friend Jorden has a new cooking blog, The Rainy Kitchen. Jorden has a true appreciation for the soul of creating good food — and enjoying it. Her first post, fresh out today, is a smoked salmon and orzo salad with kale. Check it out!

For years, my go-to sources of cooking inspiration have been Cooking Light, Southern Living, and my battered copy of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. Great resources for beginning and experienced cooks, all — but I’ve noticed that I don’t often feel that WOW factor when I read through them looking for ideas.  And then, during an endless layover at the Atlanta airport, I found that WOW!

La Cucina Italiana is a foodie mag for those with “Mangia!” tattooed on their soul. Daydream recipes, gorgeous photos, and well-written articles all relit my pilot light. So inspiring was this lovely find that I planned an entire Sunday supper around its latest issue. Tonight, we’ll be having:

Pasta e Broccoli Profumato
 Rigatoni with Spiced Broccoli and Cauliflower

Lombatine “Vestite” Ai Pinoli
 Pork Cutlets with Prosciutto and Pine Nuts

Assorted Gelatos in Almond Tuile Bowls

You will assuredly be seeing more from this wonderful collection of ideas.

How many of us take our laptops and tablets into the kitchen when we try out a new recipe from the internet? And then worry about getting smudges and spills on the computer?  Well, thanks to my favorite taste tester, I found under my Christmas tree the best invention ever!

The Prepara Cookook Stand is designed for a tablet!!  It’s adjustable and it swivels. My Kindle Fire fits perfectly behind the protective screen, allowing me to see the recipe AND cook with my usual reckless abandon without worrying about the health and safety of my technology. Oh — and it will hold a book or magazine, too.