Holiday Cooking for People Who Think They Can’t Cook

Shit! You have three days to come up with a holiday dish and you have no idea what you are going to make. You start questioning why you even agreed to provide something in the first place. Never fear, there are a few easy dishes you can turn to throughout the winter festivities that require little to no actual cooking skill. I swear!

Soup

First, meet your new best friend: the blender. No really. With the magic of your blender, you can make delicious soup!

I don’t know why soup is so impressive to people, because it’s not actually hard to make at all, but I’ve found it to be quite the crowd pleaser.

There are so many variations so my advice is to start with one element at a time and taste each step of the way.

The process is pretty simple:

  • Take some veggies that seem like they would be good together in a soup (or whatever you have in your refrigerator)
  • Pulverize them in the blender.
  • Then heat up the puree with veggie stock. (I like my soups thicker so I prefer to see the veggie puree and slowly add broth until I get the consistency I want. It ends up being about ¼ stock and ¾ puree most of the time but this is not a science, there is flexibility.)
  • You can add various spices for flavoring.  (I liked adding cayenne pepper because it gives it a kick. Some people really like nutmeg for sweet potato and squash.

That’s it.

You don’t have to worry about “messing it up” if you just go pinch by pinch and taste test as you go. If you think it tastes good, it probably tastes good.

I’ve made  it’s pretty easy to make fancy soup while binge watching Breaking Bad, i.e. you can totally split your focus and not panic.

My suggestion: Butternut Squash soup. It’s in season right now, super simple, and very tasty. Try this recipe from BlenderBabes. And don’t worry, you can totally skip the cream and keep it completely vegan.  You won’t even miss it. No need for dairy substitutions.

No-Bake Baking

If soups aren’t your thing, I recommend looking to dessert. Even if you constantly burn things, there are many no-bake recipes that work for the holidays (but, if you do want to try your hand at baking, read this). Both Banana Pudding or No Bake Nutella Cheesecake don’t even require turning on an oven. Plus, you can even make the Graham Cracker Crust with your trusty blender.

Graham Cracker Crust:

  • Turn graham crackers into dust using blender
  • Add butter until it looks like “dough.”
  • Then press the crust into a cake pan.

Voila, crust.

Things you don’t want to skip: You have to make sure you have time to refrigerate both the Banana Pudding and the cheesecake or else they are goop. I also don’t recommend skipping the heavy cream in the cheesecake. I tried using a substitute this year and it didn’t work well. The cream cheese and the nutella just didn’t set as well and it was more blob than cheesecake (though they still tasted delicious).

Breakfast Strata

I love this recipe. It’s so simple and so delicious.

The Process:

Take any amount of the following:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Bread
  • Veggies and/or Meats options

Put it in a glass-baking dish and cook for 20 minutes. Done. I’m serious, there are no ratios, just add those three things. You can’t possibly screw it up and people will think your like Jacques Pepin!

If you’re sure you can’t cook…

My next best suggestion is to look up some special cocktail recipes. Liz Kerin tested some of her favorites for the holidays here!

But, if all else fails; there’s no shame in buying something. I’m not a big fan of faking it but if you have to, go for something that will inspire nostalgia in your guests. For me, that’s picking up some Magnolia cupcakes to remind my friends of our time in New York.  If I was in my hometown, I would die if someone brought a fruit tart from the bakery by my house. While I appreciate someone’s home-baked goods, one surprise dish from a place I love can brighten up the meal.

Whatever you decide to do, I promise that as long as you are excited about what you are bringing, you and your food will be welcomed with open arms. You’ll make new friends when everybody asks you how you made it and even if you didn’t, you get to tell them about a cool new restaurant or bakery in your hometown. You will still be part of the life of the party, no matter what your cookery skill level is. Promise.

Photo by Rob Adams

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