Le Creuset casseroles and fondue pot

Before I got married earlier this year, I was convinced that I’d be using everything I put on my wedding registry constantly. I imagined that as soon as we got back from our honeymoon, I’d be busting out my Le Creuset on the regular to whip up gourmet (or at least gourmet-ish) meals all the time in my quest to be a kick-ass wife. The reality has been a bit different. Between work obligations and a hectic schedule, most nights my husband and I find ourselves pulling up Seamless or making grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner (they’re delicious, but a human cannot live on grilled cheese alone). So recently, I’ve made it my personal goal to get back into the kitchen and actually take advantage all the fancy items that our nearest and dearest gave to us with the hope that we would actually use them. Here’s how I made a dent over the holidays, and how you can, too.

1. Pull out the martini shaker

perfect gin martini

Chowhound

One of my favorite adult holiday traditions is wrapping holiday gifts to the tunes of Frank Sinatra songs. And what goes better with “Ol’ Blue Eyes” than a martini? Nothing, that’s what. Due to some shipping snafus and going the gift card route for a few people this year (sorry!), I didn’t actually have much to wrap, but that didn’t stop me from christening our martini shaker with some gin and vermouth while I listened to the chairman of the board sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I realized after mixing that we didn’t actually have martini glasses, but some old margarita glasses from the back of our cabinet worked just fine for our impromptu Rat Pack concert…which then transitioned to Mariah Carey holiday songs on repeat.

2. A slow cooker is not just for food

slow cooker spiked wassail punch

Chowhound

I have to admit that I’ve been a bit intimidated to use my Crock-Pot, and also worried that there would be no occasion that would warrant me making quite as much food as you can in one. (Okay, I’ve been a bit lazy, too.) But two of my best friends were hosting a holiday party, which seemed like the ideal time to try a lil somethin’ somethin’ in my slow cooker. I eventually settled on mulled wine, since it was snowing the day of the party, and booze is always a welcome addition to any fete. Nothing quite like a cozy glass of the stuff to put you in the festive spirit…and to fuel a fun game of White Elephant. (My husband and I ended up with a mermaid tail blanket and dart board, respectively. Not too shabby.)

3. Let exciting ingredients inspire you

truffle mac and cheese

Leite’s Culinaria

At the start of December, my husband and I braved the crowds to go to the holiday market at Bryant Park, which seemed like it would be a bust until I discovered that the Truffleist was selling truffle everything there—basically my nirvana. We eventually bought truffle oil and salt to experiment with at home and I spent some time furiously researching what to use the ingredients for. A few days later, I ended up making a huge batch of mouthwatering truffle mac and cheese, finally putting some bakeware to work that I hadn’t used yet. Totally worth dealing with the weekend crowds at the market!

4. Don’t neglect your veggies

zucchini noodles (zoodles) with shrimp scampi

Damn Delicious

The holidays and clean eating don’t exactly go hand in hand, but after days of binging on festive cookies from Trader Joe’s and skipping the gym for holiday parties, my body was craving some veggies. This prompted me to whip out my never before used spiralizer to make this zucchini shrimp scampi, which was so good that I didn’t even miss the pasta. Heaping on some Parmesan cheese to the final dish probably cut down on the health factor slightly, but I was just happy to get some green on my plate during the month of December.

Bottom line: during this part of my mini-experiment, I realized that with a bit of planning, some Pinterest inspiration, and the right Spotify playlist I can actually put to use the stuff that our generous friends and family gave us even during the most hectic time of year. Can’t wait to pull out the champagne glasses to toast to the new year!

Header image courtesy of Amazon.

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