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Old 10-04-2005, 10:51 PM   #1
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Holiday Cooking Tips

I know this may be a bit early, but this is my favorite cooking time of year. I was hoping to start a discussion on tips to streamline your holiday cooking.

Please don't post recipes on this thread, but keep it to tips or ideas that you do or have heard work really well.

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Old 10-04-2005, 11:06 PM   #2
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If your having a lot of guests. TIME MANAGEMENT! lol yea keep everything in order and time everything perfectly. I tend to start 1 week of planning then 1 week of preparation and creating the meal.
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Old 10-04-2005, 11:24 PM   #3
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Some things can be done now if you have freezer space. Some cookie doughs like chocolate chip, can be mixed now, shaped into logs, wrapped well and frozen and baked when needed. Umbaked dough takes less freezer space than baked cookies. Shop for non-perishables each week as you do your grocery shopping. Delegate. Most people want to bring something, so don't be shy when they ask and specify what you would like them to bring.
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Old 10-05-2005, 04:49 AM   #4
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LISTS!!!!

Lists are essential, if you have more than a couple of special holiday things to do! Start as soon as possible, wrap presents and tuck them away, fill out & address & stamp Xmas cards and keep them in an easy to see spot so you remember to send them in time. Stock up on things like candles and inexpensive glasses (Ikea is great for that, if you are fortunate to live near one) and try to do as much baking/cooking as you can pre-BIG DAY as purrfectlydevine wisely pointed out.
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Old 10-05-2005, 05:37 AM   #5
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I'm a firm believer in that little fat dough boy. His pie crusts trump mine any day of the week, and I keep them on hand. Tourtiere is a must, and freezes very well. But the best hint is to delegate. I'm not a baker, but have a freind in Florida who sends me home-made cookies. When it comes to the big meals, have your freinds bring THEIR regional specialities. I never try to reproduce someone else's favorite at this stressfull-enough time of the year. The best shortcut is to not put the pressure on yourself to do everything.

I don't have children, but highly recommend you clear a few afternoons to cook with the children in your life. I'm amazed at how many parents find it easier to "do it themselves" rather than have their kids help. Who cares if that cookie is ugly, the tree isn't perfect, the pie looks like ... well, a mess. The best kitchen hint for the season is to give up being a Normal Rockwell family and a Martha Stewart hostess. Relax and enjoy it.
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Old 10-05-2005, 11:28 AM   #6
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I read a tip about stuffing your turkey. I haven't tried it, but it sounded cool. You can put your stuffing in the end of a CLEAN nylon stocking and put it inside the turkey that way, so when it comes time you remove it, you have it in one ball. The tip said that nylon is good to a much hotter temp than the inside of a fully cooked turkey so this would be safe. I imagine cheesecloth would work too, but I haven't tried that either.

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Old 10-05-2005, 11:42 AM   #7
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I'm one of those folks that doesn't put the stuffing into the turkey. I cook it separately. I think the turkey comes out much better that way.
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Old 10-06-2005, 07:05 AM   #8
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Quote:
I cook it separately. I think the turkey comes out much better that way.
Stuffing was wildly popular in our house growing up (probably my fav part of the Christmas meal), so my mom always stuffed the bird and made a casserole dish full of stuffing on the side. Inevitably we ate the stuffing from the turkey first as it tasted just that much better than the one cooked alone.

To this day I can gleefully make a meal out of stuffing alone
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Old 10-06-2005, 08:11 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ICadvisor
To this day I can gleefully make a meal out
of stuffing alone
Same here, IC! The stuffing is one of the best parts of Thanksgiving in my mind!

Since we're expecting the baby right around Turkey Day this year, I'm not planning a large get-together like we normally do. I'll miss cooking the dinner--it's always been one of my favorite holidays, but we'll have a belated one with even more to be thankful for.

When I do though, I agree that LISTS are so important. I plot out my menu--from apps and snacks to desserts and beverages well in advance so I can pick things up at the store in small doeses and work ahead as much as possible.

I always try a couple new things but am always sure to have several TNTs on my menu, too. It's as much for me to have something familiar to make to take some of the pressure off as it is making my family's favorites.

Delegate! And this is the pot calling the kettle black since I don't delegate much in my kitchen, but if someone offers to bring something, let them. I usually have someone bring pretty paper plates and cocktail napkins for the apps, crackers to go with cheese spreads I might make, beverages (hey, it saves me a run to the liquor store!), that sort of thing. And my Mom always makes the stuffing. It's not so much a tradition as it is a law.
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Old 10-06-2005, 08:50 AM   #10
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When my kids were growing up, the stuffing left from one meal never made it to another. My dd would finish it before anyone else got to it. We always had ambrosia with our holiday meals also, but I didn't make it like many do. I use only naval oranges, coconut and a touch of sugar to release the juices in the oranges. DS would finish that off. He also does what I thought was rather strange, but has gotten everyone in our family and many friends to doing the same. I make the cranberry orange relish on the back of the cranberry package. He would always put his ambrosia next to the cranberry relish on his plate and mix them. It is really very good, but I would not have come up with that. Some things we just have to have every holiday meal no matter what other things have been added.
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Old 10-06-2005, 09:22 AM   #11
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My tip is if others offer to cook or bring something, take them up on it. There is no reason one person needs to make everything. People will usually volunteer to make something that that is their specialty so you get the best dishes that way.
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Old 10-06-2005, 10:19 AM   #12
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Planning and orginization is everything. When it gets down to the wire, you want everything to flow smoothly, and you DON'T want to be so over-worked and flustered that you can't enjoy your guests.
I start way ahead planning my menu and who will bring what. Then I go through my recipes and make my shopping list.
I prepare and freeze or refrigerate anything ahead of time that I can. I also do all my chopping and dicing, and put in ziplocks in fridge.
Then I get a game-plan in mind and make notes for myself. (Since I like to drink a wee toddy while I cook, I've found that very helpful. )

My mother used to set her table the day before, using all her prettiest crystal and china, but I can't do that, as I have a pair of Siamese cats who are very curious, so that job goes to my daughter just before we eat.
And I don't hesitate to ask for help from any of my guests...stirring a pot, taking up ice, watching the rolls, etc. Our kitchen/living/dining areas are all combined in one big L shaped room, making it easy to keep everyone involved.
One hint about your table setting...I have bought several sets of pretty dish towels to use for napkins. They are nice and big, and easy to wash.
Depending on how big the crowd is, sometimes I set up a separate table for the kids at our big round coffee table (cut down from an old round oak table.) They get candles and flowers like the grown ups, so they think it's pretty cool, and we get their plates fixed first, so the adults can relax and have good conversation with their meals.
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Old 10-07-2005, 05:30 AM   #13
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I love that dish-towel as napkin idea! I have used dishtowels as napkins when doing an on-hands meal (chicken on the grill, lobster, etc) but it wouldn't have occurred to me for Thanksgiving. Right now a lot of stores have those holiday-themed towels out and they usually are very pretty and not-too-pricey. My husband is in charge of table setting in our house -- after all, the china and silver were his when I married him -- so that's one less thing for me to do. We're already planning our holiday meals in our social group. Not quite at the stage of planning the meal itself, mind you, but at which house. I have Thanksgiving.
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Old 10-07-2005, 07:48 AM   #14
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I like doing as much as I can ahead of time. My first step is to clean the refrigerator in the garage so I can keep whatever I need there. I can thaw the turkey, store the ham, chill the pickles, relish, etc. It makes the job in the kitchen much easier to have some of the stuff out of the way. As the time grows closer, I put salad, rolls, pies so I can still find things in the fridge in the house. I don't think I'm as organized as some of you, but I do live by lists for the preceding weeks of a holiday. I will make my fruitcakes (no comment) by the end of this month so they will taste great by Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our biggest problem is deciding where we will spend the holidays. My sister likes us to go to the farm and the kids each want to have it at their house. I suppose we will come to a decision before long and make plans accordingly. I no longer feel it is my duty to have the family come to my house every holiday and it seems to suit them as well.
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Old 10-08-2005, 06:44 AM   #15
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I have to confess that planning isn't my strong suite. Thanksgiving dinner is a formula as far as I'm concerned, so it doesn't really require as much planning, I've been doing it, all or part, since I was quite young. BUT I have to admit that at then end of almost every meal I find I've forgotten something. Usually desert, since I don't care for any (not at holidays when it's pie and everyone expects it ... part of the formula). And I often burn the rolls/biscuits. So often that about ten years ago I learned to sit a guest down at the kitchen table with a timer and a potholder, and making sure the bread doesn't burn is that person's sole job. No burned buns since.
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