10 Tips to Stress Free Holiday Cooking

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With Thanksgiving just a few short days away, I thought I would offer up some tips to help make your holidays a little less stressful.

Everyone longs for stress free holidays, especially when it comes to cooking for large crowds. Here are 10 simple tips to keep your holiday cooking stress free.

1. 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.

2. Prep ahead – Once you have your plan, it’s 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.

3. 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 and not only will your stress levels be down, but so will the stomach growling of your family and friends.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Clean as you go –  This is one of my all time favorite tips, and one I have not been able to teach my dear hubby. 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.

7. Music – Another one of my favorites. 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. I love to play Christmas music while making Christmas dinner, but for me…it’s got to be music I can sing to. 😉

8. 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.

9. 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 de-stress. Having some people to help you out can reduce stress quickly and efficiently. Who says you have to make everything. Have guests bring a dish to share.

10. 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 means less work for you and less chaos trying to keep the food from spoiling.

By following some, or all, of these simple tricks, you can de-stress your holiday gatherings. Grab your knife and cutting board; flip on some tunes and start whipping up a storm of scrumptious goodies.

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