Spice up holiday food staples with these suggestions

If you plan on entertaining during this holiday season, consider making it memorable by spicing up what you serve. Holiday staples like the Christmas ham and Hanukkah latkes can be enhanced by pairing them with new dishes. Here are a few tips for finding a special addition to the menu. Who knows, maybe by exploring you’ll start a new tradition!

Explore unusual side dishes

We are creatures of habit, largely content to stick to what we know we already like. Experimenting with a new entrée may feel like an extra unnecessary stressor when preparing to host for the holidays. Take a smaller risk by preparing a new side dish alongside the usual favorites.

Start by exploring the grocery store with fresh eyes. Once you start paying attention to what is available outside of your weekly shopping list, you may be surprised by all of the unfamiliar items. The privileges of modern-day food preservation and transportation provides us access to foods from across the country and beyond. The internet is your friend. If something catches your eye, research ways to prepare it.

Within the past year I have started experimenting with okra, a vegetable I previously had not known even existed. From tossing it in a gumbo to roasting it with seasonings, I have found it to be a versatile source of iron and fiber, and I plan to introduce it to my relatives when they visit. If you will be hosting vegetable-averse children, the allure of a new and mysterious side dish may outweigh their fears of anything green.

Prepare an old favorite in a new way

I cannot emphasize the power of the internet enough. If a dish has become tired over the years, I promise there are millions of ways to reinvent it. If I tried one new way to prepare potatoes each day, I would need several lifetimes to get through even a fraction of the available recipes.

Putting a fresh twist on a classic may be necessary if things go awry in the kitchen. My father is known for serving golden squash soup every year before the main course on Christmas Eve, and he always prepares a batch the night before the event. One year, his concluding taste-test sent him into a panic. The squash he had bought was strangely bitter. Although cinnamon had never been added to past batches, he took a risk and added some. It counteracted the bitterness and added a new, delightful edge to the overall flavor.

Phone a friend

If you are stressing over what to serve this year, trust that you are not alone. Lean into how food brings people together by arranging a swap with a friend who plans to host a separate gathering. By exchanging your signature dishes, you embody the holiday spirit by forging a connection with people you otherwise might have no contact with.

The key detail of this idea is to plan in advance. Prepare and exchange your dishes a day in advance of your gatherings so that it’s one less thing to worry about the day of. This is a great way to gain appreciation from a new audience for a traditional family recipe. If you trust your friend enough, consider letting them in on the secret of how to make it on their own. Maybe they’ll return the favor, and you’ll both benefit from expanding your kitchen repertoires.

Support a local business

The holidays are an important time economically for small bakeries. Consider trying a specialty dessert as a sweet finale to your celebration. Ordering from an expert significantly increases the likelihood of all of your guests enjoying what you serve. This is the season of giving, so make sure to provide a generous tip!




Featured photo courtesy of Tim Douglass, Pexels