The countdown for Christmas is upon us and with it comes gift shopping, festive parties and holiday guests. Time management is key to preparing those Christmas cookie exchange goodies and crowd-pleasing holiday feasts – while also keeping your sanity intact. Here are a few of our top time-saving cooking tips to help you get in and out of the kitchen fast.
Make a list and check it twice
Plan ahead! You’ve heard it hundreds of times, right? But does that mean you’ve already planned your holiday meals? Probably not, so sit down today and write down all of the upcoming events requiring festive fare, gather your recipes, and make a shopping list of the ingredients you need. Take your list to the supermarket and buy your nonperishable goods (flour, sugar, spices, canned goods, etc.) now and make weekly lists for the next few weeks with the perishable ingredients you’ll need to get later. Make a copy of your holiday meal planning and keep one on the fridge while tucking the other one in your purse so you never leave home without it.
Befriend your food processor
Dust off your food processor and let it do your slicing, dicing, shredding and pureeing. With all the cooking you’ll be doing in the next few weeks, it’s not only important to save time in the kitchen, it’s also important to save your wrists. Instead of using your cutlery, graters and whisks to prep food, lean on your food processor. Most food processors come with slicing, dicing and shredding disks, which make short work of veggies and hunks of hard cheeses, and blades that quickly blend and puree holiday ingredients.
Take advantage of your stand up mixer
Many stand up mixers come with paddle, whisk and dough hook attachments. The paddle attachment will quickly mix your cookie, brownie, quickbread and cake ingredients for your dessert recipes. Use the whisk for beating cream or egg whites. The dough hook is your best holiday friend because it can knead all of your yeast-risen bread dough while you’re tending to other holiday recipes.
Become buddies with your blender
Just because you primarily use your blender as a smoothie maker doesn’t mean you can’t turn it into a holiday workhorse. Let your blender do double duty to puree fruit sauces, pumpkin pie filling, savory sauces, pesto and creamy soups.
Turn to your freezer for holiday help
Fixing and freezing recipes is another genius way to save time during the holiday season craziness. Cookies, rolls and other baked goods as well as casseroles, side-dishes and appetizers can be made ahead so all you have to do is thaw and reheat or cook without the prep time or clean up.
Rely on a few packaged goods
Trust us when we say no one is going to care if your festive feasts are semi-homemade. Just be strategic in choosing packaged or canned goods: Reach for brand names known for their quality and rely on canned or frozen items for ingredients that are not in season.
Here are a few of our favorite packaged goods that will save you time in the kitchen:
- Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes (when is the last time you fire-roasted tomatoes?)
- Canned pumpkin puree
- Marinated artichoke hearts
- Roasted red peppers
- Sea Pak Popcorn Shrimp (a super fast and fabulous appetizer!)
- Casa Di Bertacchi Meatballs
- Romarsi Pesto To Go
- Tribe Hummus
- Near East Rosemary and Olive Oil Quinoa Blend or other quick-cooking whole grains
- Puff pastry (use as a fast substitute for pie crust)
- Phyllo cups (fill with sweet or savory ingredients)
- Frozen unsweetened fruit (great for fruit sauce and pies)
Recruit some extra hands in the kitchen
Mom isn’t the only holiday chef. Ask the family to pitch in to help you in the kitchen. Even if it’s just sending someone out to fill your grocery list or cleaning up dishes, delegate tasks to other family members to relieve some of your holiday cooking stress.