Whether you are having guests over for the holidays, or you are the guest, nearly everyone is responsible for doing some cooking. It can be stressful, especially if you are not used to cooking for a lot of people and you have several recipes you have to make. Here are some short cuts and tips to help make your holiday cooking a success:
1. Potluck - If you are the host, have your guests to each bring an item. Even if you are a do-it-yourself kind of person, if someone asks you if she can bring something, make a suggestion. Chances are if someone asks to bring something, she's going to bring something even if you say no. You might as well make a kind suggestion like, "yes, i really love your potato salad." Meanwhile, if you are the guest, try to bring something to the party, even if your host swears she doesn't need any help.
2. Gathering Recipes - The week before your holiday party, gather all your recipes so that you can begin making a shopping list of everything you'll need to cook with.
3. Clean out fridge and pantry - You should clean out your refrigerator and you pantry. Check the expiration dates, and throw out old ingredients, in order to make room for all the new food you're going to buy and so that you'll have room for all the left overs. Also, you can use this opportunity to do an inventory and make a more accurate list of what you will need to buy.
4. Shop early - Buy everything you're going to need the week or weekend before the big day. This way you can beat the crowds, and you won't have to stress about the shopping trip anymore. Plus, if you wait and shop at the last minute, there's a good chance the store might be out of something you need, and you'll be more stressed and more likely to forget something.
5. Buy bags and containers - This would be a good time to buy extra ziplock bags and storage containers. Not only will you be storing leftovers, but you may also want to make a few "to go" plates for your guests.
6. Microwave - Consider using the microwave to cook certain items faster. You can use it for baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, and certain breads. It's also a good place to keep your side items warm till the rest of the food is ready.
7. Rolls - Save time by getting rolls from a bakery, or buy rolls that can be baked within just a few minutes, out of the bread, frozen, and refrigerated sections of your grocery store.
8. Frozen Vegetables - Frozen vegetables are often better than canned and are the next best thing to homegrown. Depending on what you buy and your method of cooking, most frozen veges can be cooked up in 20 minutes for less.
9. Cooking several days before - You can save time by making pies several days before the party. Simply make your pies and then freeze them. Just don't forget to get them out in time to thaw before the party. If you place pies that are traditionally eaten warm (such as apple) in the oven for a few minutes before your meal, they'll come out tasting warm and fresh like they were just made. Holiday candies are also a good item to make several days ahead, especially the ones that take a long time to make. Just be sure to look at the instructions on the recipe to find out if they can be stored in a container at room temperature, or whether you need to have them chilled in the fridge.
10. Cooking the night before - Other time consuming recipes can be cooked the night before such as potato salad and deviled eggs. You can also make dressing and casseroles the night before. Simply mix them up, and place them in a dish, and then all you'll have to do is bake them the next day.
11. Crock Pot - Often people forget about the slow cooker. What is great about it is you can place your ingredients in it, and it does the cooking for you. You don't have to do a lot of prep work, and you don't have to constantly watch it. Use it to cook your dressing, a stew, meat, beans, or side items.
12. Clean up - When you have a lot of cooking and baking to do, you may not have much time to clean your house. So try doing the majority of your cleaning the week before your party. Be sure to clean your bathroom, kitchen, and living area, and don't forget to clean the guest room if you are having people sleep over. If you do most of the cleaning ahead of time, you'll be a lot less stressed, and then you can do just a quick clean up the day before the guests arrive