Time Saving Tips for Stress-free Holidays

  • Pin It
  • print
  • email to a friend
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.

You May Also Like These Blogs:

You May Also Like These Recipes:

Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:

54321

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

image
Paula Deen
Paula Deen
The Lady's Blog
The Queen of Southern Cuisine muses about her recipes, life and family. See Posts

Brooke Deen
Brooke Deen
Deen Mother
Advice on raising two boys (three counting Jamie). See Posts

Brandon Branch
Brandon Branch
Southern Style
Decorating Inspiration from Paula's Design Director. See Posts

Julia Sayers
Julia Sayers
Hot off the Press
Step behind the pages and let the Associate Editor of Cooking with Paula Deen fill you in on what goes into creating every issue. See Posts

Lisa Scarbrough
Lisa Scarbrough
Thrift Store Mommy
Mom on a dime advice from Paula's Digital Properties Manager. See Posts

Andrea Goto
Andrea Goto
Mom 2.0
Tips from a real-world mom with comedic tendencies. See Posts

Martha Lee
Martha Lee
Earth Mother
Practical, earth-conscious ways to live and parent in the 21st century. See Posts

Susan Greene a.k.a BUBBLES
Susan Greene a.k.a BUBBLES
Bubbles' Corner
Ideas and advice from a 21st Century young at heart Grandmother. See Posts

Cindy Edwards
Cindy Edwards
Southern Proper
Etiquette advice from a true Southern belle. See Posts

image

hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 9:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 7:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 3:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 10:03 pm