In the brief period between the end of summer and the commencement of the holiday season, I take an inventory of my spice and herb cabinet. I begin by comparing the contents of the cabinet against a list of spices and herbs I will need for holiday cooking. I consult my recipe box as well to compare what my planned holiday meals will be and what spices and herbs will be necessary to have on hand to prepare them. Finally, I consider what holiday treats I want to prepare and review what spices and herbs they will require. This year, my treat list includes cinnamon rolls, pumpkin doughnuts, spiced cider, stuffing, turkey, soup and a selection of favorite cookies. I can almost hear Bing Crosby on the turn table and see the Yule log burning on local access cable. Holiday perfection!
My fully stocked spice and herb cabinet for fall holiday contains the following:
cinnamon, ground and sticks
cloves, ground and whole
These items supplement and round out my spice and herb cabinet:
onion powder and salt
dry mustard powder
And you should always have these friends on hand in high quantity and quality:
Happily there is a great spice shop near my home called the Spice and Tea Exchange that carries these items (and many more). They appreciate the importance of fresh ingredients with which to cook. They also prepare propriety blends that help give my dishes a special twist. I rely on their Baker’s Spice Blend and Jamaican Jerk Spice Blend. I have also become a fan of the blends created by Virtuous Living. One of their blends called Faith turns buttered toast into a gourmet treat. Use their blend Hope on grilled or roasted chicken to make it stand out or a dash of Love on freshly popped corn to give it a punch of flavor. Propriety blends are a time saver for the cook and a memory maker for the guests.
While doing your inventory, check expiration dates as you go along. Spices and herbs should generally be used within one year of the date on their packaging. Restocking in the fall and keeping that date on your calendar helps take out the guesswork. And do this in early fall: stores tend to run low and run out of spices and herbs the closer the holidays get.
Hostess Tip: Manufacturer dates can fade or be difficult to read. Take a Sharpie and write a date one year from the purchase date on the bottom of spice and herb jars to avoid throwing out ingredients prematurely.
To avoid being wasteful, I like to challenge myself to create recipes using spices and herbs that are close to the annual purge. A fun one for the fall is pumpkin doughnuts. They are super easy to whip up and as the smells fill the house it helps motivate you for holiday prep!
Hostess Tip: Take the time to plan ahead. Having a well stocked kitchen helps alleviate hostess anxiety throughout even the most crazy of holiday celebrations.
Another welcome benefit of making these donuts is that you will have a wholesome and tasty desert or breakfast (yes, the two aren’t always mutually exclusive) on hand and ready for guests and family. These pumpkin doughnuts are also a perfect reward for you after your spice and herb inventory is complete. Combine making pumpkin doughnuts with an afternoon of apple picking and a walk in the cool weather. You will know at the end of that day that you have been a great hostess who has made hospitality an autumnul habit for your loved ones!
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups + 2 Tablespoons gluten free flour (can also use all purpose flour)
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
3 Tablespoons sugar
(make more of the dusting mixture as needed and to your taste)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease doughnut pans (will make 2 batches using the Wilton Standard Doughnut Pan)
Mix together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt, and baking powder until smooth. Add in the flour until smooth.
Fill the doughnut wells with 1/4 cup of batter each.
Place in the center of the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a doughnut comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let cool for approximately 5 minutes on rack. Remove from pan and place on cooling rack. While still warm roll each doughnut in the cinnamon and sugar mixture to fully coat.
Hostess Tip: You can use muffin tins as well. If you do, fill them 3/4 full and bake for 23-25 minutes. Sprinkle the tops generously with the cinnamon and sugar mixture.
Store in a non-air tight container for up to 3 days. Best served imediately.
You have many options for serving your doughnuts. When I have a party I like to make a few batches and display on our tiered wooden tray. When it is just the hubby and me I arrange a few on a lovely fall plate shaped as a large leaf with gold details. Get creative but most importantly, relax and enjoy. Remember, this is the calm before the storm of the Holiday’s.” Enjoy some quite time with your loved ones and admire your initiative for being prepared!