We wouldn't do it all if we didn't believe it's truly fun, but it sure can be overwhelming sometimes. So you really couldn't blame us for looking for a few shortcuts -- or at least a few products and services that help us feed ourselves and our loved ones. Here's a few we've found that we think you'll find especially useful.
Twist Your Spirits
Here is the next best thing to hiring a bartender to sling custom holiday cocktails at your party: Alison Dinerstein's Twist Your Spirits collection of artisan cocktail kits. In every box you'll find everything you need — well, everything except the booze itself — to create the perfect cocktail created by an award-winning mixologist. For example, the Emotional Rescue includes Royal Rose Raspberry Syrup, Scrappy's Grapefruit Bitters, Simple & Crisp Pear Slices and a recipe to prepare this tequila-based cocktail inspired by the Cosmopolitan. It also includes a jigger, that handy measuring tool everyone forgets to buy.
You can always order refills if you want to double your batch — or if your cocktail was such a hit at the party that your friends are begging you to make it again. And yes, they do custom kits. This is a spankin' new company, so expect it to roll out new concoctions seasonally.
Love With Food
This makes an awfully sweet gift: Love With Food is a snack subscription service that delivers a box of eight or more (mostly) healthy, organic snacks once a month. For every box you buy, Love With Food donates a meal to a food bank. Many of the snacks are unique treats created by small producers that would be hard to find just anywhere. And there are vegan and gluten-free options.
We see a lot of subscription food services, but the charity element to this one makes it special. Founder Aihui Ong awoke to hunger issues while traveling after a painful divorce. She founded Love With Food to connect food producers with eaters, but she also wanted to do something about the more than 16 million children in America at risk for hunger. Through this subscription service, you can too.
One question we dread while we're busy prepping for the holidays is "what's for dinner?" It can be a bit of a splurge, but those meal kits that come straight to your front door, with everything measured out for you, can be a lifesaver. There's a new organic meal delivery service on the market from the woman behind popular family food blog and cookbooks Weelicious. It's called One Potato, and what's special about this one is the child-sized portions (which save you money) and the slice-and-bake cookie dough in every box.
Meals should take just 30 minutes to prepare and feature fresh-from-the-farm produce and protein. Right now the service is available only in the Los Angeles area, but One Potato hopes to expand to parts beyond. We love the meal kit concept overall — people seem to get smarter about tailoring it to work better for families. More of these, please!
Bits & Pieces
If a meal kit is not heading to your doorstep anytime soon, here's something else that might help you out with dinner. Our latest YouTube cooking show crush is Julie Yoon of Bits & Pieces. She's a Chicago-based chef who creates flavorful, approachable and affordable recipes that don't take a lot of time to make. With her cameraman husband Joe, Yoon produces her cooking show in her home kitchen. But behind her is that it's thoughtfully produced. She slips in tips on techniques and substitutions, explains how ingredients will contribute to a dish and demonstrates steps clearly. The photography is beautiful. And of course, all the dishes look delicious and easy. She's come out with an interactive e-book, Bits & Pieces: Season 1 Cookbook, which is sure to save your dinner many times through the holidays.
Red Velvet NYC
Here's another take on the meal kit: a baked dessert kit tied up in a pretty red bow and shipped to your door. Agathe Assouline-Lichten of Red Velvet NYC curates gourmet baking recipes and delivers them with premeasured ingredients, all except the eggs. (You really don't want to receive eggs in the mail.) Each box includes a recipe in six steps with gorgeous, full-color photographs, along with baking advice and a little background on your dessert.
We like this idea for your own holiday baking or as a gift for your favorite busy but aspiring baker (via gift card). The recipes range from "easy" to "advanced," and yes, there's a kit for red velvet cupcakes. They include helpful extras like cake pan liners, but if you don't have the right size and shape pan, you can buy that from Red Velvet too. So far Red Velvet is available only in the Northeast, but we hope it grows enough to ship throughout the U.S. soon.
Feed Your Head/Pirate Pastries
If you're vegan or planning to serve vegan friends or family during the holidays, a new producer called Feed Your Head could help you out. It creates preservative-free faux meats and "cheese-teases," like smoky "Gouda" cheeze sauce, using natural ingredients — no Frankenfoods. It also makes Pirate Pastries, vegan cupcakes, brownies, cookies and more.
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