You probably love having family around during the holidays. Sharing memories and new events can be a lot of fun. However, cooking for a large family gathering can be overwhelming. The key is to take steps to make sure that cooking the meal doesn’t steal the fun from the entire holiday. Here are some simple tips for stress free holiday cooking that will make things a lot easier.
Plan ahead – It is important to have a plan ahead of time, especially if you are cooking for a large group. Planning ahead keeps you from having to make split-second decisions when you are supposed to be cooking.
Prepare in advance – Once you have your plan, it is important to begin to prep as soon as possible. This can be done several days in advance. For instance, if you have to dice a bunch of vegetables, you can probably get that done two to three days in advance and store them for use. Same with making stock or broth; make it a week in advance and freeze for use. Prior prep work makes for a smooth cooking day.
Don’t be overly ambitious – Just because you think you can pull off a full five course professional meal with one oven and a dog that eats crumbs off the floor, doesn’t mean you need to show off your skills for the first time with 30 hungry people waiting. Keep your meals simple yet elegant. Not only will your stress levels stay low, but it will also keep down your guests’ hungry tummy-rumbles.
Time plan – One of the hardest things to accomplish is getting everything ready on time so it comes out hot, all at once. This is a simple thing to figure out, but many people don’t take the time to think about this ahead of time. Take a look at what you need to cook, how you are going to cook it, (i.e. stove, oven, crock pot) and how long it takes to cook. Once you have those figures, just walk back from the time you are supposed to have company in order to figure out when you need to put stuff on or take it off.
Use simple recipes – Using one pot, or simple recipes that do not call for a mess, can keep your life simple as peach cobbler (which also uses one pan). The fewer pans you use, the better off you will be. There will be less to clean up and less you need to worry about finishing at the same time.
Clean as you go – Not every recipe calls for single pan usage, so if you have to dirty more than one pan, cleaning as you go will reduce stress big time. Keeping your area clean is a major stress reducer, especially once the food is cooked and ready.
Turn on the music – Listening to music is another great way to take the stress out of the kitchen. Studies have shown that music actually helps to calm the system and remove stress.
Reduce movements – While music might take the mental stress out of the picture, reducing your movements will help to take the physical stress off. Grab a trash bowl to put on your counter and throw everything in there so you are not walking back and forth to the trashcan. Organize your kitchen to help you find things quickly and lower the stress level every time you don’t move.
Delegate – Stress usually happens because you have too much stuff to do and not enough time to do it. If you have any children, now would be a good time to delegate and distress. Having some people to help you out can reduce stress quickly and efficiently.
Clean out your fridge ahead of time – Nothing is more stressful than ending a fantastic meal, only to find out there is no room in your fridge for the leftovers. Having a clean fridge will help reduce the after-party stress. A clean fridge mans less wok for you and less chaos trying to keep the food from spoiling.
By following some, or all, of these simple tips for stress free holiday cooking, you can make sure your holiday is more pleasant for everyone. Grab your knife and cutting board; turn on some tunes and start whipping up a table full of scrumptious goodies.
If you need more help with planning or holiday recipes, be sure to check out Easy Meal Planning, the Holiday Turkey Cookbook, and the Country Cookin Basic Cookbook for more ideas and help in the kitchen.