Love the holidays but dreading all the chaos, cleanup, chopping and shopping? Well, with a little planning and a the right supplies, you can make holiday cooking this season relatively stress-free and enjoyable.
1 - Source Make-Ahead Recipes
When browsing through those holiday recipes, look for the all-important phrase "make ahead." A slew of different recipes, from pie doughs and breads to soups and sauces can be made a day or two ahead of time. That stew, soup or sauce will also most likely taste better on day two!
2 - Get an Immersion Blender
A couple of years ago, these handheld, immersion-type blenders were all the rage and makers like Breville and KitchenAid were asking a pretty penny for them. The novelty has worn off just a tad now, so prices are now within reach! If you're into your soups and sauces, an immersion blender will save you lots of hassle, spills and cleanup time. Gone are the days where you have to transfer that hot soup into your VitaMix blender. Now, with just a click, you can puree and serve in seconds. The Breville BSB510XL Control Grip Immersion Blender runs about $100 on Amazon and gets good reviews, though Consumer Reports says it is quite large and unwieldy at times. KithenAid's KHB2351 3-Speed Hand Blender is more streamlined and runs about $55, so it's basically a steal and a great holiday gift for fellow cooks!
3 - Get Storage Containers, Ziploc Baggies and Baking Supplies Now
Nothing is worse than having lots of food and nowhere to put it! Save yourself the frustration now by taking stock of what you have and what you'll likely be needing. Consider the leftovers you'll be packing up for people and the fact that you'll be roasting a ham and a turkey. Get all the storage and baking needs assessed and handled. When going for storage containers, I suggest investing in some good glass ones with snap-on lids. Whatever you buy, make sure the containers will work well with the layout of your fridge. Will they stack up to two or three levels? Do a dry run and see what brands and sizes will work for you. Then, stock up!
4 - Mise en Place
There's plenty that can be chopped and prepped before the actual cooking. Have an over-achieving niece or nephew who likes to help in the kitchen? Have them help you peel potatoes or wash cranberries before the heavy cooking begins. This will give them a sense of satisfaction and will keep the coast clear when you're at full throttle.
5 - Get Your Game Plan Together
Gather the recipes you want to use and put together a shopping list. If your place is small, or ingredients are very perishable, two days of shopping may be in order. After you know what you need to shop for, block out the time you'll need to make the dough or chop up the ingredients for that Christmas stew or plum pudding. Don't overwhelm yourself with too much prep at one time. Block out intervals of two hours each, then move onto other things. Having this kind of a detailed shopping and prepping plan will take a bit of work, but when other, less-organized cooks are a hot mess, you'll be coming in for the home stretch.
Got a busy-bee mom or in-law? Or, how about a brother who loves nothing more than following you around the kitchen? Get preemptive. Set up snacks and have the game on or maybe the whole Harry Potter series on the TV in the living room. Plan on people wandering into the kitchen, too. For that curious bunch, never underestimate the power of a good magazine and nice bottle of wine. Set them up near the kitchen but away from the actual stovetop, leaving you with ample working room. People tend to congregate when they smell something cooking, so having a few snacks, drinks, playing cards and even board games near the kitchen is a great way to prevent our nearest and dearest from being underfoot. Oh, and pour yourself a glass, too!