Time Saving Tips for Stress-free Holidays

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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

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.

If you’re coursing your meal, start with salad or re-heated soup.

For sides, try casserole, mashers, or lasagna: assemble in advance, then hold off the topping and baking, or bake and reheat later. 

For mains, roast ham or try our simple, elegant Christmas Duckling or Game Hens.

For fast and easy desserts, try our colorful Holiday Cherry Cheesecake or Peppermint Pie.  Use pre-made crusts, freeze cookie dough, or make ice cream

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.

2. Platters of bite-sized snacks like yummy Hot Spiced Ciderdips, spiced nuts, or holiday cookies.

3. Beverages a-flowin’ like Mama’s Eggnog or delicious Hot Spiced Cider (alcohol-free and reheat-friendly).

Sometimes the hardest but most important goal is to budget some downtime for yourself, and keep smiling!

Read More From Holidays and Entertaining.

Read More From Christmas.

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Reader Comments:


Hi paula how are you ,thank for oll you tip Ilike to no how you loss you soos much w ilike to nothank you adela

By adela weyer on December 08, 2012

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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm