Steal these food bloggers' holiday shortcuts and hacks
These easy holiday tips and tricks from some of our favorite food bloggers will help you pull off your holiday festivities without a hitch:
Keep it simple
When Maris Callahan of In Good Taste is prepping for an event she makes sure to have enough time to get the dishes going as well as ample food and drinks. "Always overestimate how much food and beverages you'll need; a party that runs out of champagne is not a party," says Maris.
More importantly, when she plans her inventive menus, she keeps to a theme. "To keep things simple, I try to stick to a theme when I have a party: finger foods, Spanish tapas, wine and cheese. Even if I don't advertise the theme, it helps me narrow down my menu and shopping list," explains Maris.
Phone it in
Pre-planning for the holidays is absolutely essential, says Libby Elder from Lemony Thyme. And while it might be tempting to add a last-minute dish, it may muck up the works. "That one addition can be the tipping point that keeps you in the kitchen on that special day instead of mingling with your guests," explains Libby. "Plan the menu, break it down by what can be prepared and/or frozen in advance, and leave plenty of time on party day to breathe."
She also recommends ordering ahead to save time. "Last year for Christmas Eve we created a 'Feast of the Seven Fishes' menu. It was important that the seafood was very fresh," says Libby, "so I called my local Whole Foods five days in advance and placed my order, including any details that were important to me (sea scallops of equal size, thick-cut salmon fillets, peeled shrimp tails still on, etc.). When I arrived at Whole Foods on Christmas Eve morning there was no waiting in line and no unforeseen surprises. My order was ready and I was quickly on my way home to prepare my dishes."
Create an easy-bake plan
Stephanie Wise from Girl Versus Dough creates amazing baked goods year round, but has a little secret during the holiday season: Her freezer.
"The freezer is your friend. For me, that means baking all of my rolls, pies, cakes (unfrosted), cookies, etc. up to a month or two in advance of the holidays and freezing them," says Stephanie. "It leaves me with more time and energy to focus on dishes that can't be prepped that much ahead of time. Then, when the holiday is here, I just take the food from the freezer, thaw it and decorate it as needed. Total lifesaver, that freezer of mine."
Do test runs
Stick to tried-and-true recipes that you know will come out great, recommends Patsy Kreitman of FamFriendsFood.
But "if you want to try a new recipe, make two test runs ahead of time. There is nothing worse than trying to read through a recipe on the day of the holiday gathering and possibly missing a step or ingredient! Also, by making a couple of test runs you can tweak to what you know your family will enjoy," she explains.
Joanne Bruno from Eats Well with Others is a MD-PhD student in New York City with a penchant for creative, delicious dishes with a vegetarian slant.
Given her busy schedule, she knows the importance of stocking up on the kitchen musts. "Try to stock up on essentials (butter, flour, sugar, broth) in the weeks leading up to the holidays when they might be on sale so that you'll have less to think about or worry about as the holidays approach," she suggests.
When you’re planning a turkey dinner, be smart about how much you order, says Kelli Dunn from The Corner Kitchen.
"A good rule of thumb for buying a turkey is to plan for 1 pound of turkey per person," says Kelli. "This should be enough meat to get you through dinner, plus some extra for leftovers. If you really love leftovers, plan for 1-1/2 pounds per person."
And don't forget to defrost that bird! "The fastest way to thaw your bird is to place the turkey (still wrapped) in a large pot of cold water. It will take about 30 minutes per pound—so an 8-10 pound turkey will take 4-5 hours to defrost. Never defrost the turkey at room temperature," cautions Kelli.
Say yes to your guests
One important thing Cate O’Malley of Sweetnicks has learned over the years is the importance of accepting a little help from guests.
"If guests offer to bring something, let them! Even if it's just a baguette or juice for the younger guests, it's one less thing for you to worry about," says Cate. "It took me years to learn this lesson, but many hands make quick work... and a less stressed holiday."
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.