Helpful Holiday Hints

Enjoy the Season!

Welcome Autumn!
No sense getting your knickers in a knot over your holiday baking, cleaning, shopping, volunteering or whatever else you may take on for the holidays!

There are many things you can do ahead of time to ease the stress of the most wonderful time of the year!

Holiday recipes, especially for Thanksgiving, always seem to have plenty of "do ahead" opportunities.  This alone will cut your stress level in half!  These little steps that you can do will really speed up getting the dish ready on the big feast.

As these special times draw near, many of us view the start of the winter holiday season with both anticipation & dread.  It's a timed to gather with family members & friends, give thanks for the blessings that we have received during the past year & a chance to spend time visiting with those we don't see often enough. But, there can be another side, the extra people can make the house seem crowded, and there's lots of extra cleaning. Then, when the guests have left, you often wonder if it was worth the time & effort that was spent in the kitchen while everyone else was enjoying themselves and laughing in the other room.

There are, however, some simple hints that can help you enjoy the holiday gatherings. By utilizing as many of these as possible, you'll find that your holiday dinner will be more enjoyable and relaxed for everyone...especially YOU!

Family & friends all ready to dig in.
1. Have a planned menu:  Write down your menu ahead of time, but check with your guests first to find out if anyone has any food allergies. (This could definitely put a damper on dinner.) You may want to make a special dish for that person to compensate...I promise, they will love you for it! Guess what, your stress level just went down a notch. 

2. Make your ingredients list (based on your menu), a week or two in advance and purchase the items on the list that you are able to:  Purchasing non-perishable items such as evaporated milk, gravy mix, brown sugar, etc. can save on time in the long run.
Start shopping for the ingredients you will need for your main dishes ahead of time - the expense can be spread out over a few weeks rather than hitting all at once.

3. Decorate early:  If you like to decorate your house for the holiday, do it early.  My Fall/Thanksgiving theme goes up the first day of Autumn.  They work for Halloween too, just add a few Jack O'Lanterns, ghosts & goblins, then take them away on November 1st.   This way, you get to enjoy them for a longer time too!  A week before your big day, just freshen up the house with a good cleaning...the decorating is already done!

4. Anything that can be started & "held" in the refrigerator or freezer, should be!: This is a super stress-buster. Prepare your pies and casseroles ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Many vegetables can be sliced the night before, covered & left in the refrigerator.  I make my casseroles two days before, cover them with aluminum foil and write the oven temperature and time on each one.  This way I can coordinate what goes into the oven and when without having to look up the recipe for each one.

5. Consider having a "pot luck" and let everyone bring their special dish:  Be sure to keep track of what your guests will be bringing or you might end up with nothing but desserts.  Wait...what? Is that a bad thing?  LOL! 

6. Bake your pies a few weeks in advance and freeze them:  Pies, such as sweet potato, pumpkin, and pecan can all be frozen a week or two before the big day.  Make them as directed, let them cool to room temperature, wrap then tightly in Saran Wrap and cover that with aluminum foil, label, then place in your freezer.  Defrost them the night before by sitting them out on the counter.  Next day, unwrap and serve!

7. Clean out your fridge a day or two in advance:  It's important to make room for all the leftovers that you'll have after dinner.  Making room in the fridge a few days before hand can save the frustration of trying to make room afterward.

8. Use other small appliances to cook dinner:  If you have a slow cooker or electric skillet, they can come in handy.  Consider using those to make some of your recipes.  Save as much oven space for the recipes that absolutely have to be made in the oven itself.

9. If children are coming, plan some fun activities for them:  If you have some planned games & activities for the kids while your cooking, this could help avoid any meltdowns from sheer boredom.  How about a coloring book contest?  There are also a nice selection of Thanksgiving games online...for free!

 10. Give yourself a break: If you don't have time, or just can't do it...visit your grocery store and buy those pies, cakes and cookies!  I have a friend that bought everything already made at our local grocery store.  Her mother-in-law was so impressed, that she never knew it wasn't home-cooked for years, until someone let the cat out of the bag.  Really, it's the time well spent with friends and family that counts the most.  Most of all, make wonderful, lasting memories!

May God bless your holidays with good health, great love and precious memories!




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