Take the Stress Out of Holiday Cooking
Tips for making a hassle-free holiday meal
(Family Features) This year, nearly 70 percent of people will cook all or part of a holiday meal. For some, that could mean cooking enough food for at least nine or more friends and family. But with some smart planning and a few easy tips, you can make something that everyone will remember and still have time to actually sit down and enjoy it yourself.
"The holiday season can be a busy one, but it needn't be an overwhelming one," says Gail Greco, editor of Carefree Cooking Magazine. "Some basic entertaining ideas and tips on which you can rely will make planning and creating a great meal the easiest part of your holiday season."
Have a plan. It is important to plan ahead of time, especially if you are cooking for a large group. Choose recipes and shop early, giving you time to enjoy the process. Head to the grocery store with a list that matches store aisles, and while there, choose time-saving ingredients such as pre-chopped nuts and any sauces or condiments you will not be making from scratch. Shorten your to-do list by precooking or baking foods and freezing them until ready to use; just thaw the day before and re-heat on party day.
Be sure you have the best cookware. Those who plan on cooking a holiday meal will use an average of seven pots and pans (including bakeware). So before starting your holiday meal you'll want to make sure you have the right tools. Go through your cabinets and drawers, checking your cookware against your recipes. If baking, you'll want to ensure you have wet and dry measuring cups to get your desserts just right. Roasting a turkey? Use a roasting pan and rack that are nonstick to avoid a long soak at the end of the day. For gravy use a nonstick metal-utensil safe pan so you can whisk in the flour and other ingredients without worry of scratching the surface.
Take time for yourself. The day before your guests arrive, set the table and put the finishing touches on your dining table and other rooms in which you'll entertain. Then, take a brisk walk or do another activity for 30 minutes - anything that helps you unwind. In addition to giving you a few minutes to yourself, this pre-event exercise actually affects how fat is processed after a big meal - a bonus in your favor.
Ask for help. There's nothing wrong with asking guests to bring a dish, dinner supplies or even showing up early or staying later to help with prep or clean. If you're cooking for your family, set up a preparation station at the kitchen table where adults can help slice and dice and kids can mash and mix.
Start the day right. Eating a light, healthy breakfast early will help you power through the day and make sure you're at your best when your guests arrive. Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day; this helps curb your appetite and prevents over indulging.
Clean as you cook. It's no surprise that 7 out of 10 Americans agree that cleaning up is the worst part of cooking holiday meals - some people will spend more than three hours in the kitchen after the meal is done. But cleaning needn't be a chore if you clean as you go and use carefree nonstick pots and pans. If you're among the 78 percent of Americans who will use nonstick pans to make a holiday meal, go ahead and put those pans in the dishwasher. Just be sure they are dishwasher safe; if you're unsure, check the manufacturer's care instructions.
Have fun. Remember that the holidays are supposed to be a festive time with friends and family. So relax and enjoy this holiday season both in and out of the kitchen.
Find more tips and holiday recipes at http://www.teflon.com/CarefreeCooking, and be sure to check out Gail's 12 Pans of Christmas, a holiday dozen of kitchen must-haves.