Holiday Cooking Tips- Top 10 Time Savers
If you have hosted a Thanksgiving dinner you know how stressful it can be. The pressure of trying to get everything cooked and served hot at the same time is crazy. This could be the reason so much wine is had before noon , joking. Well, maybe ! Over the years, I have managed to figure out a process that works by using some great time savings tips I learned long ago.
These tips are great whether you are hosting a dinner for the first time or you have been doing it for years. The best part is that they can be applied to every type of dinner from a large holiday to a busy work night meal. Try them out and let us know if they helped!
1. Plan ahead, menus are not just for restaurants! – Create a menu that includes the name of the dish, how long it takes to prepare, how long to cook and put them in order of how you need to make them. For example, appetizers, main dish, dessert. Add side notes such as “Make the day before” , “Freeze, thaw that morning”.
2. Make one shopping trip– Make a list, check it twice, or three times. Whatever you do, make sure everything is on it and you buy everything. You do not want to have to buy anything last minute. Does anyone remember that episode of The Cosby Show where he had to go out in the rain, more than once. Don’t let that be you…. (Ps. Yes, I referenced Bill Cosby, the fact that he has issues going on right now doesn’t make the episode any less funny)
3. Use ingredients more than once– One of the most time consuming part of cooking is the preparation. Try to use ingredients more than once, this way you can prep once, use twice. For example, if your making mashed potatoes you can also make a roasted potato with green beans. When you dice your potatoes, reserve some for the roasted dish.
4. Don’t be afraid to “Semi-Homemake” it – Semi-homemade recipes are my absolutely favorite. They save a lot of time in the kitchen and still present an amazing dish. For example, skip the scratch pumpkin cake and use a box spice cake. Add a little pumpkin and make your own frosting. I have personally done this one and it was a huge hit !
5. Use frozen vegetables– If your recipe allows, use frozen vegetables. They are the closest thing to fresh without all the added preparation like cleaning, de-seeding, chopping. I love homemade creamed corn, but I can not always get corn on the cob (or have time to husk it, roast and cut it off the cob). So instead, I use frozen corn, toss it in a skillet with a little olive oil, salt & pepper, give it a little color. The flavors come out and you would never know it was frozen.
6. Delegate duties– As hard as it can be to cook in the kitchen with other people, it can also be pretty helpful. Sometimes you just have to go against everything you have always said about being the only person to cook in your kitchen… oh, wait.. that was me. I said that. I don’t like to share my kitchen, but I will share tasks! Hand your husband a knife, some vegetables and a cutting board and send him to the kitchen table to help prep. Or better yet, keep your child on hand to clear away and clean dirty dishes as you make them. Even a home cook needs a “sous chef” and “bus boy”.
7. Make ahead – choose recipes that can be made ahead of time and frozen. Such as dinner rolls. A yeast dough can be , stored in the freezer and taken out the day before hand. Let it thaw, cut into pieces, place in your baking dish of choice and let proof the morning of your dinner then bake about 30 minutes before serving. Pies… pies are the perfect make ahead dessert!
8. Enlist your slow cooker– The slow cooker is great for so many different things. Make appetizers, hot drinks, side dishes, even desserts. The best part, you can keep it warm all day long. Ok, the best part really is that you just toss the ingredients in and do a whole “set it and forget it” thing. Try a meatball appetizer or the chocolate lava cake I have been seeing around social media!
9. Set up a bar– Not necessarily an alcohol bar, but maybe a hot chocolate bar or self serve appetizer bar. Make a punch, set out crackers, cheese, pickles, olives, fruit and veggie trays. This is a great way to skip making all those hot appetizers. A fun idea for the kids- use your Crockpot to make hot chocolate, sit it out with cups and a selection of mix-ins and toppings like marshmallows, chocolate syrup, chocolate chips, whip cream and peppermints.
10. Use your grill or alternate heat source– A turkey or ham can take up a lot of room in the oven, sometimes all of it. One year I cooked a 28lb turkey, I had to remove the top rack, nothing else was going in the oven. Grills have side burners, boil your potatoes on it. Just be sure to delegate the duty of watchman to someone. You do not need to be running in and outside.