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Stress-free holiday cooking tips

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Save yourself some stress this year

The holidays are supposed to be about joy, spending time with loved ones and remembering the things that are really important. There’s a reason they call it “the most wonderful time of the year.” But for many of us, it’s pure chaos. There’s no reason holiday cooking has to be stressful, though. Try one or more of these simple cooking tips to keep your focus on what really matters this year.

Woman planning for the holidays

Don't please everyone

Everyone in your family has a favorite holiday dish. Trying to make all of them will leave you short on time and long on leftovers only one or two people will eat. Try to cook only the dishes everyone (or most) will eat and one or two favorites. You can always make Uncle Jake's favorite cranberry crisp sweet potatoes next year.

Call in the reserves

Many families have holiday dinners at Mom's or Grandma's house every year. If you're the family cook, you can still ask for help. Many people are glad to bring their favorite dishes while you prepare the turkey and dressing.

Or, set up a preparation station at the kitchen table where adults can peel, chop, mash and mix while enjoying lively conversation. You can even give children easy (age-appropriate) tasks. Let little ones smash potatoes, while older kids chop veggies.

Can't get any volunteers? Put out appetizers in or near the kitchen. That way, there's always someone nearby you can enlist.

Get professional help

Many restaurants, grocery stores and caterers sell turkeys and hams you can pick up or have delivered fully cooked the day before (or day of). Unless you have a special recipe, it will taste the same to your family no matter who cooked it. Then all you have to worry about are the sides.

Start the week before

A lot of recipes can be made several days in advance without losing a bit of their tastiness. Make or even pre-chop as many things as you can starting the week before. You'll save yourself hours the day of and free up that valuable time you need to catch up with loved ones who live far away.

Have a game plan

Plan your meal out in advance. Knowing how much time it takes to cook everything and cooking things in the proper order will save you from last-minute stressors. Also know what you need for each dish. If you need diced onions for the stuffing and the casserole, chop them at the same time.

Enjoy yourself

Everyone enjoys a yummy meal during their favorite holidays. But remember that it's also about getting together with friends and family, reconnecting with people who live far away and celebrating the season. Sure, your family may be used to their traditional favorites cooked the way Mom makes it, but if it comes between you and your sanity, no one will mind lending a hand.

More tips to stay organized

Tips to get organized for the holidays
Holiday party planning checklist
Top 5 holiday hosting don'ts

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