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!