Let’s face it, holidays are stressful — especially if you do most of the cooking or baking. Here’s how to keep your cool even when your to-do list is still a mile long. (Make sure you take advantage of grocery specials and stock up on these basic pantry staples.)
For baked goods: Having these items on hand will guarantee hot-from-the oven treats in under an hour.
1. Unsalted butter
Store in a freezer bag and refrigerate or freeze up to six months. The bag stops it from picking up odours from other foods.
2. Granulated, brown and icing sugar
Store this sweet trio in a cool area of the pantry. A drizzle of glaze or a light dusting of icing sugar will put any cake in the holiday spirit.
3. All-purpose or pastry flour
It can be kept for longer if packaged in freezer bags. Freeze up to a year.
4. Dried fruit
Dried cranberries, cherries and sultanas give a stained glass flair to cookies or desserts. Bonus: Gather a handful for a cheeseboard and you’re ready for company.
Stock up on unsweetened cocoa, baking chocolate and chocolate chips. Turn them into festive brownies or ganache at a moment’s notice.
6. 35% cream
Whip it up in minutes and garnish a pie, or use it to make a custard and even eggnog (Tip: It’s the second key ingredient in the aforementioned ganache). Check expiry dates and keep sealed until needed.
7. Puff pastry and phyllo dough
Pull tarts and nibblies out of a magic hat with this dependable pre-made duo. They keep well in the freezer for up to six months. Just thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
8. Canned milks
Use evaporated, condensed and coconut milks as a back up. Ran out of cream for soups? Use evaporated milk. Condensed or coconut milk are easy bases for last-minute puddings.
Pantry items for quick meals: Turn these basic ingredients into quick weekday dinners.
Linguine, spaghettini and couscous need less time to cook than other pasta shapes. Use them when you’re really in a hurry.
10. Whole grains
Boil some water and turn bulgur wheat into a hearty salad for company. Cook cornmeal with milk and it becomes creamy polenta that matches well with practically any entrée.
11. Panko or regular breadcrumbs
Bread crumbs make any meat or fish dish guest-worthy. Coat with maple syrup or mustard for that extra special touch before breading your meat.
12. Canned tomatoes and tomato paste
With these, you can build a flavourful pasta sauce from scratch in no time. Just add dried herbs and spices and a pinch of sugar.
13. Chicken, beef and vegetable broths
A splash of any of these broths ensures a crowd-pleasing rice pilaf or baked veggie casserole.
14. Canned beans and lentils
Drain and rinse a can and add to chilies, soups or stews.
15. Jams and preserves
Use to coat a roast before or after baking. Whisk into meat juices with Dijon for an instant sauce.