I feel like so many people get stressed out this time of year especially when it revolves around the kitchen and baking and prepping for Thanksgiving and Christmas (and yes, even Halloween!) that I wanted to share how I keep myself sane. A little checklist I run through in my head around this time every year. To keep it smooth sailing. Because saving time doing work in the kitchen allows us more time with family and that is what is most important, am I right?!!
1. Clean Out
Yes, I said clean! Before you can begin any work in your kitchen during the busy holiday season I highly suggest cleaning out your pantry, your refrigerator, and even your cupboards containing your cookie sheets and loaf pans. Cleaning all those areas of your kitchen will allow you to see what you really have. Is your baking powder 2 years old? Chuck it! Did you lose your favorite 9 x 13 pan at your last potluck? Time to get a new one! Mystery leftovers in the refrigerator? Out you go! Now you will have a better idea of what you have and where things are when things are clean and tidy. So, so, so helpful when it comes time to start cooking and baking for a crowd.
Yep. Like I said above, you should always to do a thorough check of all your pantry goods. Make a list of everything you might need. This includes fresh basics like flour, sugar, butter, and spices, etc. but also think hard about those extras you use every holiday season. Maybe you use lots of sprinkles to decorate cookies, food dyes, or melting chocolate. Do you use raw sugar for rolling cookies? Do you go through a lot of chicken stock? Buillon cubes? This is the time to stock up and then when you have that free afternoon or even weekend you will have everything you need to get down to business!
Take a little time before it gets crazy and go through all your recipes and cookbooks. Organize them into cookies, bars, cakes, side dishes, appetizers, etc. Spend some time bookmarking which recipes you will want to use and/or write out a list of favorites. If you bake batches of Christmas cookies, organize them based off of chilling time, baking time, and oven temperature. Same goes for side dishes for holiday meals. This will save you lots of time on the big day by reducing the need to wait for your oven to change temperatures for a number of different recipes.
4. Reduce Clean Up
If you are short on time or have more than enough to do in the kitchen already, a great time saver is reducing your clean up by using items like parchment paper instead of greasing your cookie sheets or baking tins. Cupcake wrappers also achieve the same outcome. Cling wrap is great for chilling cookie dough instead of using a mixing bowl which takes up much more space in your refrigerator. And re-sealable plastic bags work wonders for piping frosting or marinating meat. One less dirty bowl times many different recipes reduces the amount of time you need to spend in the kitchen washing up afterwards.
5. Make Ahead
There are plenty of desserts that can be made well ahead of time including pie crusts and certain types of cookie doughs, even whole pies and cakes. Did you know that you can even bake layer cakes and freeze them until you are ready to frost (just thaw before doing so!) Slow cookers allow you to make many main dishes as well as side dishes and appetizers like dips earlier in the day to leave you more room in your oven for that turkey. And you can even make many side dishes like sweet potato casseroles, cranberry dishes, and breads up to a few days before the big event, just store them well in the refrigerator or freezer. You could even grab a few Marie Callender’s Pot Pies to help you feed your hungry family. They are easy to make, just cook and serve, and they taste just like homemade! Your family will love you for the warm and hearty meal and the extra time you get to spend with your family instead of cooking a large meal and then cleaning up the dishes afterward is priceless!
I hope these tips help you in the coming months as you prepare for another exciting and busy holiday season!
This post is part of a collaboration between SheKnows and Marie Callender’s Pot Pies