For many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a busy holiday season filled with family visits, dinner parties, and other home gatherings. While hosting loved ones can be a great experience, it can be stressful and tiring, too. With the big day still weeks away, you have a golden opportunity to get prepared so you can better enjoy your time in the kitchen this holiday season. Here are our top tips to set the stage for easy entertaining.
Start With a Clean Slate
Before bringing home your holiday groceries, de-clutter your kitchen, pantry, freezer and refrigerator. Finishing off leftovers and discarding past-its-prime produce will leave room for all of your fresh holiday favorites.
Check Those Recipes Twice
Review your recipes and check your pantry carefully to create an extensive shopping list. The more items you pick up on your first visit to the grocery store means fewer trips later on.
Get Ready for a Crowd
Cooking for more than your household this holiday? Additional guests equal more food, and you may need larger pots, extra dishes and more utensils. Take stock of your supply and pick up or borrow any needed tools before you start cooking.
Remember that added guests can mean added trash, too. Have clearly labeled recycle containers available and place multiple trash receptacles around the dining and kitchen areas.
Cooking ahead could mean the difference between harmony and havoc. Desserts can be made in advance, along with anything you serve chilled, such as cranberry sauce or chutney. Roasted vegetables, casseroles and stuffing can all be fully or partially prepared ahead of time as well.
You may be using the same ingredients in multiple recipes — onion in both the stuffing and your favorite casserole, for example. Review your recipes and prepare all of the celery, garlic, parsley, nuts, etc. at the same time.
Maximize Oven Space
Dishes competing for oven space can be tricky. When cooking a lot of dishes in the oven at the same time, make sure to leave enough space between dishes for hot air to circulate. Adjust cooking temperature and time for dishes such as root vegetables and stuffing to find an appropriate common temperature.
While the turkey or other meat is resting before carving, warm prepared casserole dishes, vegetables and rolls in the still-hot oven. Use a toaster oven or microwave to reheat smaller dishes.
If you live in a warm climate or don't mind the cold, try roasting potatoes, warming casseroles or even roasting the turkey on an outdoor grill.
Clean As You Go (with help)
Cleaning up is easiest when you have help and when you keep up with it as you cook. Try taking a clean-up break every hour or so. Enlist a family member to help (cookie bribes might be necessary) and tackle the job together.
We hope these tips help make your holiday season a little more simple and stress-free. After all, the holidays are about spending time with our friends and family, not stressing out in the kitchen. What are some of your kitchen planning tips for easy entertaining?