Tis the season! Colder weather has arrived across most of the country, which means the holidays aren’t far behind. And do you know what else that means? There will be lots of family get-togethers, football-watching parties, and non-stop open houses. We want quick and easy recipes that won’t take much time, but will totally impress. So, how can we be the host with the most, while still juggling all the other stuff we have on our to-do list?
The answer: Build your menu around a few refrigerated and frozen supermarket shortcuts. When you dress them up, no one but you will know how easy it was to pull together.
Leave the Stress for the Elves!
One of the biggest things we can do to help ourselves during the hustle and bustle of the season, is learning not only to be flexible, but also to be creative, because sometimes things just don’t go as planned. If there’s one thing I’ve learned while working at the Mr. Food Test Kitchen, it’s how to improvise when it comes to entertaining. As the mom of a precocious little toddler, improvisation is becoming a way of life.
So, I’m always glad when I learn something that makes life just a little bit easier.
Something you can do to make your holiday season a bit easier is stock up on some of your favorite frozen food items. It will help more than you know. Unexpected company showed up this past weekend–well unexpected for me. Apparently my husband knew, but forgot to mention it. Anyway, I was in a pickle food-wise, so I sent a text to Howard, because I knew he would be able to come up with a creative solution on the spot. (Seriously, Howard is that good.) After a quick rundown of what I had on hand, he had some great thoughts on how to turn my favorite frozen-stock items into quick and easy recipes. It saved the Sunday-Funday–that I had no idea we were having until last minute. (Communication is key in any relationship.)
“Natasha,” Howard said. “Let me tell you a secret. It’s not just the food you share, but how you share it.”
Trust me, he was right. In just a few minutes, and yes I mean minutes, I had quick and easy recipes fit to feed the ravenous unexpected guests that adorned my living room. Here’s a few things I set out.
Crazy Simple Recipes
Special Shrimp Fried Rice Tasters: A frozen package of fried rice heated according to the package directions was where I started. Then, I pulled a handful of cooked shrimp out of the freezer, ran them under some cold water, (yes, they thaw that quickly), and created Special Shrimp Fried Rice Tasters, topped with black sesame seeds that knocked the socks off our drop-in guests. And, to give it a bit of restaurant flair, I served it from tasting spoons I picked up a at the dollar store.
BBQ Pork Mac & Cheese Shooters: Having a little guy at home makes refrigerated or frozen mac & cheese a staple. So I heated that up along with a refrigerated package BBQ pulled pork and layered them in a shot glass. A few scallions on top and you would have thought I called in a fancy caterer to help me out. (If my guests hadn’t already been there, they might have thought so too.)
Mini Grilled Cheese: No matter how bad I need to go grocery shopping, I can always find a few slices of cheese and a tub of butter lingering somewhere on my refrigerator shelves. I teamed that with some cocktail party rye that I keep in my freezer and made bite-sized grilled cheese that took about 5 minutes, start to finish. If you want to make them even more impressive, add a slice of tomato. These disappeared crazy fast!
Ice Cream Dessert Squares: The only thing sweet in my freezer was a box of my son’s favorite ice cream sandwiches. Perfect for snuggling up with my family and watching a movie, but not quite what I had in mind for my guests. So, it was time to get really creative. Howard recommended that I cut them into about 1” squares. Then, I microwaved some chocolate chips until they melted, and placed this molten mixture in a pastry bag, piping it onto the ice cream sandwiches. I topped it with a raspberry and a bit of mint. Let me tell you, my ice cream sandwiches went from kiddie party to 5-star dessert in the blink of an eye.
The key to all of this is to be creative. Don’t be afraid to use what you already have and serve things in new ways—like layering shot glasses—that your guests might not expect.
Everyone loved these easy-to-make ideas, and all that was left behind were the crumbs. Quick and easy recipes during the holidays come in all shapes and sizes. You can create something spectacular with ingredients you might never suspect. But, once you realize the amazing capabilities of the foods in your freezer, you’re never going to be lacking when company shows up–whether it’s planned or otherwise. It’s budget friendly, less work, and exactly what quick and easy recipes should be, especially during the holidays.
For more easy weeknight dinners the whole family will enjoy, visit EasyHomeMeals.com
This conversation is sponsored by National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association. The opinions and text are all my own.
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