In the last post, we talked about planning for your Merry Little Solo Christmas Dinner, now it’s time to shop for your feast!

I’m also sharing my recipe for lemony carrot and dill soup, created when the ingredients for my favorite soup were out of stock one too many times at the market.


Making a List, Checking it Twice …

Once you know your menu, you can create your shopping list. Be sure to read through each recipe carefully—it’s easy to miss things.

  • For each dish, establish what you have on hand
  • Make a list of what you need to buy, dish by dish
  • Look at your list, noting where you have common ingredients and determine how much in total you need. Create your master shopping list
  • Create a backup plan list too, including some shelf-stable substitutes in case you really need to change course

IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to reduce the amount you need to buy when you’re reducing a recipe!

Red or White? Neither?

What do you want to drink with your feast? Pairing wines with your courses is fun, but generally, just a bottle of something nice that goes with your main suffices. You can wind up with too many open bottles … or feeling very sad on Boxing Day.

My wine shop has splits (smaller bottles), not just for sparkling wines, but for reds and whites as well, and, depending on what I decide to have, I may go that route. Smaller bottles of sparkling wines are easier to find and add a sense of occasion.

If you don’t drink or won’t be drinking on Christmas, sparkling cider might be nice. Also, there are a number of non-alcoholic spirits available now. I’ve been meaning to try them—if you have, I’d love a recommendation.

I also have sparkling water with my meals. I tend to get this in cans to avoid it going flat.

Shop for your Merry Little Solo Christmas Dinner!

Now you’re ready to shop! Be careful about shopping too early—you don’t want ingredients like meats or delicate vegetables to spoil. However, you also want to make sure that you get everything.

When shopping for the holidays in regular years, my dad and I would typically head out on the 23rd for an epic shop. If you’re ordering from a butcher shop, I’d get that order in right away and ask them when you can pick it up. I’m getting my online order in tomorrow and am calling the butcher this afternoon.

Don’t Panic!

If something is out of stock, don’t panic. You had a backup plan, remember? If you’re shopping in person, and the missing ingredient means that you have to completely change your planned dish, simply get those ingredients and put back any you had in your cart. For online ordering, many services allow you to indicate an acceptable substitution—do that. You also might want to order a couple of “just in case” ingredients that keep, should you need to really change course.

Remember, you’re just cooking for yourself. As long as you like what you end up with, who cares?

Recipe: Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill

Ingredients for soup
Ingredients for Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill. Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

A recipe born from ingredients for my favorite soup always being out of stock

Do you ever beg for a recipe after a dinner party? I did that nearly twenty years ago, and that’s how I got the recipe on which this soup is based. Alice Waters’s Carrot and Cilantro soup (the photocopy doesn’t show the book title, but I am pretty sure that it is from Chez Panisse Vegetables) is one of those dishes that’s so delicious that I talked about it the entire dinner, and my host graciously got me a photocopy of it, probably so that I’d shut up about it.

Haha. Nope.

I made it for dinner parties (not ones he was at), and I’ve given that recipe to other people. Once I even won a prize for it at a friend’s Soup Off party. I stuck to that recipe faithfully, never varying.

A nearly twenty-year old photocopy. Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

Out of jalapeños again?!

It wasn’t easy, though, because, when I really, really  wanted that soup, I would often find that the market was out of cilantro, or the jalapeños. Sometimes even the limes, or all three ingredients. I live in New England, and at the time didn’t live in the city—I suspect that this isn’t an issue in other parts of the country, but it happened one too many times here for me.

Improvisation, going from good to great

Frustrated by missing cilantro, I decided to forego the salsa improvised with some dried chervil, adding a bit of cream to the finished soup. Yum.

Then I tried fresh dill. Also yum, and fresh dill was easier to get than chervil, and I found that I personally liked dill better than the cilantro. I started adding more herbs to the soup base, as well as a bit of lemon for some acid. And, behold, it was good. I got rave reviews from friends and family alike.

One time I wasn’t really thinking, and I squeezed more lemon juice than I normally added to the soup. That, my friends, took this from a very, very good recipe, to a truly tasty one. I had forgotten that one of the best parts of the original recipe was the salsa with lots of lime juice. The extra kick of acid here was what I hadn’t known was missing. The last time I served this at my family’s Christmas diner, a guest blew kisses at me.

UPDATE: I’ve since updated the demo on this recipe, and you can find it in my Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill post below!

More holiday recipes and cheer!