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The Best Make-Ahead Recipes for Holiday Travel

The holidays can be joyful and tasty, but they can also be the most stressful time of the year. Between entertaining at home and traveling to see friends and family – all while making sure your famed mashed potatoes survive the journey – there’s often very little room to enjoy the festivities.

This year, we’re helping you relax with six holiday recipes that can be prepped in your own kitchen and easily taken on the road. From rich gravy to sweet cranberry sauce to hearty cornbread, these dishes can be made in advance and warmed up when it’s time to feast.

With fewer last-minute preparations, you can arrive at your holiday destination with more time to spend connecting with family and friends, without having to run straight to the kitchen.

Photo by Sarah Shatz

Recipe: Double-Corn Cornbread with Fresh Thyme

This cornbread is tender and faintly sweet from a touch of brown sugar, and the thyme makes it smell absolutely incredible as it's baking. The batter comes together in under ten minutes, leaving you plenty of time to prepare the rest of your holiday feast, and the baked cornbread has plenty of moisture to keep it tasting fresh in the days ahead.


Photo by James Ransom

Recipe: Pear, Brandy, and Walnut Cranberry Sauce

In this cranberry sauce, you won't find any of the punishing tartness you get in many versions -- it's all silk and fragrance. The pears, which are shredded, melt into the sauce, and cranberries soften and soak up the brown sugar. Brandy smoothes any wrinkles. Spoon it into a mason jar to make it both portable and beautiful for a holiday table (or hostess gift).

Photo by Joey De Leo

Recipe: Potato Mash with Leek Confit and Bacon

These bacon-studded mashed potatoes are savory, creamy and hearty. They can easily be made ahead and sealed tightly in plastic wrap once the dish has cooled, letting the flavors take hold and permeate each bite. Simply reheat, uncovered, in a warm oven.

Photo by James Ransom

Photo by James Ransom

Recipe: Cider-Sage Gravy

This gravy can transform even the saddest, most desiccated turkey into a delicacy. It's ready ten minutes after the turkey emerges from the oven, and it's wonderfully smooth and lush, perfumed with the sweetness of apples and grassy sage. Prepare the recipe as directed, cool to room temperature, and then freeze in freezer-safe resealable bags to make transport easy. To reheat, remove from bags, thaw in a saucepan and serve.

Photo by Sarah Shatz

Recipe: Butternut Squash and Cider Soup

This is soup lends itself perfectly as the starter for any elegant holiday spread. It’s sweet and purely flavored with butternut squash, apple cider and sour cream. The pureed soup can be made ahead – just remember to add the garnish of diced apple and cracked pepper after reheating so they retain their bite.

Photo by Sarah Shatz

Recipe: Challah, Mushroom, and Celery Stuffing

No one would ever guess that this is a vegetarian stuffing, and why should it matter? It's rich yet light and teeming with fresh herbs -- a wonderful dish for everyone to enjoy. Most memorable of all is its texture -- the challah soaks up the vegetable broth and melted butter and then puffs up in the oven, creating a stuffing with a thick, crisp top and fluffy, almost pudding-like interior. Do your bread-stale-ing and chopping in the days before your feast, and all you'll need to do is arrange and bake. (And devour.)

Tell us: What are your tips and tricks for make-ahead holiday meals? Share your comments below. 

From carving with confidence to pouring with pride, our online Holiday Cheat Sheet means more of your best for less stress. Order holiday meals online too; we'll do the work, you'll take the credit.