It always feels like the holidays creep up on us. Forgotten presents and unpredictable logistics (or guests) distract us from this special time to come together. This season, we encourage you to set yourself up to enjoy it, focusing on the most important part: the meal!
Our advice? You can’t control everything, but you can maximize the holiday cheer by picking the tips that work best for you…
Get organized. Do as much cooking (and cleaning, shopping, planning, and family diplomacy) as possible BEFORE you host guests.
1. Delegate. Ask little ones to set tables, dispatch kitchen-fearing adults for last-minute ingredients and airport arrivals, ask guests bring desserts or appetizers, and have family help cook.
2. Optimize storage and counter space by cleaning out your kitchen NOW: give away unused items, and freeze or throw out old perishables.
3. Make lists, especially for shopping and menus, including a detailed meal-day schedule. When planning, cheat heavy research with our Kitchen Basics.
4. Make things you feel comfortable with and want to eat.
5. Mise-en-place: Gather all equipment and prepare component ingredients in advance.
6. Print out or photocopy all recipes.
7. Start off the hosting with an empty dishwasher, get helpers, and soak things in soapy water.
Buy or borrow these essential tools that can save your tail.
1. Food processor: Makes fast sauces, dips, and dough easily and reliably. In a pinch, grates cheese, and shreds vegetables like carrots, squash, or yams.
2. Slow cooker, for walk-away recipes like Pork Tenderloin.
3. Parchment paper (and aluminum): great for baking, less sticking, allows you to re-use trays without vigorous scrubbing
4. Kitchen shears – for efficient package opening, breaking down proteins, pretty garnishing, or your favorite knife isn’t clean. On the other hand, use your knife if you hate peeling; it’s better for even cuts anyway.
5. Containers, scoops, and funnels for mess-free ingredient transfer and storage.
6. Paper and kitchen towels and durable kitchen towels, kept accessible while cooking.
Recipe selection: favor the make-ahead category, and aim for larger quantities of fewer things. Incorporate spick packs, box mixes, pre-cut vegetables, and canned or frozen ingredients when necessary – you can always spruce things up with fresh garnishes.
For passed appetizers, try our Prosciutto-Stuffed Mushrooms, which can be made 2 days ahead.
Other kitchen tricks
1. Have extra butter and stock, easily homemade from cooking scraps.
2. Blanch vegetables for easier peeling.
3. Cut butter into small pieces to thaw faster, or place in the microwave on low.
4. Roast instead of sauté to free up your hands, like bacon or garlic. Roasting vegetables in big chunks makes for a rustic holiday medley.
Create a festive atmosphere with:
1. Decorations and music.
Sometimes the hardest but most important goal is to budget some downtime for yourself, and keep smiling!Read More From Holidays and Entertaining.
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Join Paula for a book signing/meet & greet from 11:00 – 2:00 at Wolf Furniture in Hagerstown, MD.
Friday, May 9th starting at 6:30 pm at the Downstream Casino Pavilion. Admission: $100 per person; $60 per person for auction only. Limited seating available. Purchase tickets online. Proceeds benefit The Bag Lady Foundation.
Join Paula for tea and conversation at St. Mark Catholic Church, Richmond, KY. Get tickets online.
In celebration of the 25th Anniversary, come join the Deen Family for a Book Signing at The Lady & Sons on Friday, June 13th from 10 am to 12 pm.
The event is free; 350 wristbands to be distributed starting at 9 am.
Join Paula and family for a Party at Sea aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas to Labadee, Jamaica, and Cozumel (roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale) presented by Alice Travel. We will be having special, separate events for kids on this one with Jack Deen hosting the kids program! Click here for more information, and please note that the Paula Deen cruise is only available by booking directly with Alice Travel Book now before the prices start going up on the cruise and air!