Let’s Get Ahead of the Game.
Tips, time saving ideas and recipes for the holiday meals. It will be here before we know it.
It’s September, and fall is in the air here in Montana. Time just seems to fly faster and faster as I get older. It was just June and here we are. It got me thinking about the holiday season that will soon be upon us.
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I don’t know about anyone else but the whole cooking thing has been my least favorite part of that time of year. Planning the menu, doing the shopping and prepping everything. Then it’s digging out all the “big” serving bowls that often stay tucked away until the holidays roll around. I am sure you know what I mean.
It Can all become such a chore.
By the time the meal is done and served I am just wore out. Therefore, over the years I have come up with some things that make it easier on me and saves a little time. I want to serve a nice meal but I also want to visit and enjoy the company instead of falling asleep in the chair.
Shopping ahead of time has been a lifesaver. Especially for the turkey. They sell out fast and we can often end up with slim pickings. A couple of times I remember not being able to find a big enough turkey. And if you go organic you better order your turkey about three months or sometimes more, in advance. Other things might be hard to find if we wait to long. In our case, living a long way from any big grocery store makes it even more important. If the little store is out of olives I sure don’t want to make a 100 mile round trip to get a jar. So, for us, we plan ahead. Actually this can be helpful in the budget as well since we don’t have to spend it all at once. We can get a few things here and there during various shopping trips.
The worst of the whole cooking thing – for me – is finding room for everything that needs to be cooked. Oven space is always an issue for us. Once that turkey or ham goes in, there is little room for anything else. About the only thing I find room for is tossing the rolls into heat right before serving time since the ham or turkey has been taken out around that time.
Around here stuffing is a big hit and what goes in the bird is never enough. Not to mention that we want lots of left overs for the next couple of days to get a break from the cooking. Besides, who doesn’t love those turkey sandwiches and warmed up stuffing and potatoes?
I started making crock pot stuffing a couple of years back. Probably one of the best ideas I ever had. There was never enough room in the oven. I know some folks will cook a pan the day before. I just can’t bring myself to do pre cooked and re-heated stuffing.
Day Before Prepping
I generally mix up the stuffing the day before, cover the bowl and put it in the fridge.
Another “day before” prep is getting things ready for the snack tray. We have a big tray with several dividers and I will fill it with celery sticks, carrot sticks, pickles, black olives, green olives, green onions and pepper jack cheese slices.
After they are all cut up I put them in a container with a little water to help keep them crisp. I will also slice the cheese and set out the cans or jars of olives so they are ready to go. I don’t know about you but I have forgotten things because I left them in the cupboard. We can get so busy the day of — it’s not to hard to forget something as simple as a can of olives. So, I set these things out on the cupboard where I will see them.
The veggies are chopped and prepped – and all ready for the steamer pan. The potatoes cut up and ready to go. The rolls are wrapped in foil and ready to be heated.
The turkey gets a little pre day attention as well. Because the stuffing has been pre mixed I can go ahead and stuff the turkey. We use the cooking bags for the turkey, because they are less work, keep the turkey from drying out and cook a little faster. I make a simple rub of salt, pepper, garlic and sage. Then – into the cooking bag that I have placed in the roasting pan. I add a little water, a couple tablespoons of flour, some butter and sliced onion into the bag and that bird is ready to go.
I think most of us get this one out of the way the day before. For Thanksgiving it’s the pumpkin pie but on Christmas I like to make the Lemon – Cranberry Cheesecake because it’s a favorite and often requested. (you can find the recipe in the resource library)
I know there are a variety of other little dishes we all might add that can be prepped somewhat or made the day before. I have a cranberry relish that I do occasionally because my husband and grandson like it. (can also be found in the resource library)
The morning comes and everything is ready to go. The stuffing goes into the crock pot. The bird into the oven. All the pre cut and sliced snacks onto the tray, potatoes and veggies into their pans, and I can relax for a bit.
No matter how much we do it still gets a little crazy as it closes in on serving time. Finding enough space on the stove top can get frustrating. A couple years ago we got a induction cook tops. I would have never thought we would use it so much but we use it nearly every single day and it’s a lifesaver when we need more cook top space.
We eat a lot of steamed veggies and the induction cook top is amazing for proper temperature and perfect for steaming veggies. I won’t even admit to how many steamer pans we have burned up in the past.
The gravy is my least favorite thing to make but it helps to have a nice, flavorful juice built up in the cooking bag because it makes some flavorful gravy.
Thankfully hubby is very helpful in the kitchen and has made sure the table is set. He gets the serving bowls and spoons set out and ready to fill and will generally take orders without getting upset. Not saying he does that all the time.. (smile).. But he keeps a calm and helpful demeanor during these holiday events.
If you have helpful and time saving tips – please share in the comments.
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