Stress-Reducing Secret No. 4: Go Casual—with Diamonds

What if you’re getting stressed about making a new recipe but don’t have time for a trial run (Stress-Reducing Secret No. 3) ? In that case, go casual, but don’t forget the diamonds. In other words, take a familiar recipe and jazz it up with a few great accents.

Women know all about this strategy. You don’t feel like getting all dressed up for a party so you throw on a tried and true comfort outfit and add some razzle and dazzle with a great necklace, scarf, belt or shoes—or one of each.

Good news: You can do the same thing with a recipe. Here are three basic techniques:

1. Add a special ingredient, especially something too costly for everyday or that’s only available during the holidays. As an example, basic green beans become instantly gourmet by the addition of an exotic variety of sautéed mushrooms. The luscious red seeds of pomegranates, which come in season around the holidays, are another easy gourmet addition. Toss them in a basic stuffing, salad or vegetable dish.

2. Use a special cooking technique, maybe something that takes longer than you normally spend on a meal. As an example, mashed potatoes take on an amazingly rich dimension with the simple addition of roasted garlic. Of course there’s nothing difficult about roasting garlic. It takes about a minute to rub a head with olive oil, place it in a small, lidded casserole dish and pop it in the oven. Baked at 350 degrees it morphs into a sweet-pungent paste–but only if you will give it a leisurely 45-60 minutes to work its magic.  Take the time and you’ll end up with a stellar addition to your holiday meal.

3. Pay attention to presentation, like how things are cut and arranged for serving. You can get a lot of mileage without a lot of talent by just cutting fruits and vegetables with care. Say you’re just making a green salad. Take time to shave some fennel very thinly, use a julienner to create sweet strips of carrot, add some perfectly diced pears and apples, toss everything with some carefully hand-torn lettuce and spinach, then top with hand-broken walnuts and you’ve got an admirable addition to the holiday meal. For other dishes, don’t forget the benefits of garnish, like a few sprinkles of paprika on the potatoes, a bed of greens to frame the Waldorf salad, or sprigs of fresh parsley to liven up the sweet potato dish.

What a way to impress without a lot of fuss!

Want to learn more about cooking simple but inspired holiday meals?  Check out my listing of Holiday Cooking Classes.

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2 Responses

  1. […] Stress-Reducing Secret No. 4: Go Casual–with Diamonds […]

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  2. […] Stress-Reducing Secret No. 4: Go Casual–with Diamonds […]

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