6 Holiday Dinner shortcuts

There’s nothing quite like sitting down to a big celebratory dinner with family and good friends during the Christmas Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa seasons. But all too often the chef ends up slaving in the kitchen and missing out on quality time with everyone else. The key to avoiding this fate is a little bit of organization. We’ve put together some simple shortcuts that will minimize your time in the kitchen on the big day so you spend more time with your guests.

1. Serve cold appetizers.

There is no need to add to the cook’s already heightened stress levels by having a hot appetizer on the menu. Instead, choose items that can be served “cold,” like a shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs, cheese plates, and vegetable dips. Not only will this keep the ovens and stovetop free for what’s really important but you can prepare these kinds of dishes well ahead of time too.
[image via: mel’s kitchen cafe}

2. Get the potatoes right.

There’s always one dish that, if you get it right, will make your guests forget any other shortcomings. For Sarah, that’s the roast potatoes. For Alicia, it’s the latkes. So we both put lots of attention on getting those potato dishes done beautifully – and at just the right moment. Everything else we do our best, but don’t waste a moment’s energy worrying about getting “perfect.” {image via: “Point-less” Meals Blogspot}

3. Prep veggies the night before.

There is quite a bit of prep work that you can do the night before so that all your vegetables are ready to be cooked on the big day. We recommend cutting up your vegetables the day before and storing them in Ziploc bags or in sealed glass containers so that they stay fresh. This is the one task that takes the most amount of time, so the more you do the day before, the more time you actually have to spend with your gests rather than slaving in the kitchen.

4. Put dirty plates and pans outside until you can deal with them.

When you’re whipping up a large dinner with many side dishes, the pots and pans can quickly accumulate. Rather than stopping what you’re doing to get the mess under control (and get your counter space back), consider putting the trays, pots and pans, and any other baking dishes you’re done with out in the back yard, or on a porch, until you have the time to deal with them.

5. Cook your turkey so it is done 1 hour before dinner.

Organize your time so that the turkey is finished cooking one hour before you serve dinner. When it’s done, cover it in tin foil and let it rest. Not only will it be juicier, but it will also free up precious oven space right when you need it most.

6. Measure ingredients ahead of time.

You might be shocked to see how much time you save by measuring out all the ingredients you’ll need ahead of time. So, rather than measuring out the dry ingredients you need for that zucchini bread on the big day, do it the day before. Sift them if the recipe calls for it. Then store it in a Ziploc bag so that all you have to do on the big day is dump it in the mixer with the wet ingredients. This trick works for everything from the milk and cheese for your mac & cheese dish to baked goods and eggnog. {Fish measuring spoons by Anthropologie}

How about you? What are your best shortcuts for preparing your holiday meals, whether it’s a Christmas dinner or Hanukkah celebration?