(BPT) - No matter how big or small the group, gathering with loved ones over a delicious meal is a holiday season essential. However, if you've offered to host the event, panic is likely to set in as you realize the amount of work it's going to take to cook a memorable meal for friends and family.
Fortunately, with some tips and tricks, cooking a feast doesn't have to be stressful. Just use these time-saving kitchen hacks and you can enjoy more time savoring the season with your guests and less time in the kitchen.
Prep side dishes early: Prepare as much as you can in advance. In the week leading up to the event, chop, boil and blend whatever you can to save countless hours in the kitchen. You'll cut down on stress and have enough time to visit with guests as they begin to arrive.
Use multitasking methods: What if you could make a quick dinner in one simple step? With meals that taste like homemade and use high-quality ingredients, Marie Callender’s(R) allows you to serve signature holiday meals without the extra work. The Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese will have guests thinking you slaved away in the kitchen, but all you had to do is open and close the oven.
Buy cooking mesh: From blanching to boiling, you can quickly run out of stove-top space when cooking a holiday meal. To save time and space, use cooking mesh so you can boil several foods at once in the same pot of water while keeping items conveniently separated.
Fluffy mashed potatoes: Whipping up a big batch of mashed potatoes? To avoid dense spuds and save time endlessly mashing, use a pinch of baking powder when whipping. The baking powder reacts with the heat from the potatoes to create tiny air pockets and, ultimately, fluffy mashed potatoes.
Utilize the slow cooker: Slow cookers are one of the most useful tools when hosting a holiday meal. You can cook early and keep virtually anything warm, including gravy, mashed potatoes or drinks like hot chocolate and cider. Need more slow cookers than you own? Borrow from friends or hunt down some at a bargain price at second-hand stores.
Grate frozen butter: Baking a special dessert for the holidays? Rather than waiting for frozen butter to thaw or risk melting it in the microwave, use a cheese grater instead. Hard butter thaws quickly when shredded.
Keep drinks outdoors: Fridge space goes fast when hosting a holiday soiree, so instead of worrying about where you're going to fit cans and bottles, put them outside instead. The winter chill will keep them cool and you won't have to give up precious fridge space. Just hang a sign so guests are directed to the right location to quench their thirst.
Clean as you go: Rather than cooking everything at once only to end up with an unbearable amount of dishes, try cleaning as you go. By multitasking you'll end up with less mess at the end when all you want to do is sit down with a slice of pie and visit with loved ones.
Embrace simplicity: Following a big day of entertaining, give yourself a break by re-purposing leftovers and weaving in quality, already-prepared meals from your freezer. Marie Callender’s Turkey Pot Pie makes a perfect next-day meal or midday snack with its premium turkey breast, assortment of vegetables and flaky, made-from-scratch crust.