It always seems everyone gets so overwhelmed during the holiday season.  There always seems like so much that needs to be done.

I love this season!  From October through the end of the year – it is my most favorite time of year!  I love the cooler weather; Rob and I celebrate our anniversary; we host our Annual Christmas Decorating Party and Holiday Open House; and we get to enjoy numerous gatherings with family and friends.

So how does one find the time to get everything done for the holidays with so much activity going on??  Plan, plan, plan!!!  It’s as simple as that!  I want to enjoy the holiday season as much as possible without having to worry about cooking all season long!  People often think I’m crazy, but I actually start planning for Christmas over the summer!  Many of the foods I make for the holidays can easily be prepared in advance and frozen for when I need them.  In August/September of this year I prepared meatballs, lasagna, sausage and peppers, tomato sauce, soup, and crab cakes, among some other dishes and froze them for the holidays.  They will freeze just fine for a few months!!!  So why stress?

I spent a handful of weekends making and preparing dishes for our holiday events and dinners.  I put them all in the freezer and pulled out what I needed in advance.   I pulled out my frozen dishes for our holiday dinner over the course of a week and they defrosted perfectly in time for Christmas.

I also love to bake throughout the holidays.  A great trick is to pre-measure all of your dry ingredients in advance.  I write out the measurements for my wet ingredients on the outside of Ziploc bag with a Sharpie marker and then pre-measure my dry ingredients and put everything in the bag.  Be sure to read your recipe and pre-measure everything out correctly.  For example, if the recipe says to cream your butter and sugar, I would suggest pre-measuring your sugar in a smaller bag and putting it inside the larger bag so you have everything you need.  Doing this makes my life so much easier!  It doesn’t seem like measuring out ingredients takes a lot of time, but you would actually be surprised how much quicker it goes having so much already done!

Another great trick is a basic culinary technique called mise en place (mees-on-plas).  It is a French term meaning “everything in its place.”  When you are preparing a meal, read the recipe thoroughly from start to finish and measure out all of the ingredients you will need to make the dish.  Then when it comes time to add that ingredient, all you have to do is add it.  You don’t have worry about burning what’s on the stove while you stop to measure!  Mise en place is especially great when you are making soup.  Homemade soups often call for numerous vegetables and having everything peeled and diced in advance makes things so much easier!

While I realize you can’t prepare everything in advance, I try to do as much as possible even a night or two before.  Our Christmas Brunch menu this year will include deviled eggs and some homemade orange cranberry scones.  I’ll be making the scones over the weekend as well as hard-boiling and de-shelling the eggs for deviled eggs.  Once they’re cooled enough, I will half them and put the egg white halves in a Ziploc bag, then remove the yolks and make the filling and put that in a Ziploc bag.  When I’m ready to serve, I just cut a small hole in the tip of the bag and pipe my filling into the empty egg white halves.  Voila!  Deviled eggs and I don’t have to do any work the day of!

Many hosts/hostesses serve a vegetable tray for their guests.  Save money by cutting up the veggies yourself!  Cut your veggies a couple of days ahead of time.  Layer your vegetables with paper towels in a Ziploc bag to absorb the excess moisture and you’ll still have fresh, crisp vegetables for your event without having to spend so much time cutting them up the day of your party – or spending a lot of money on pre-cut vegetable trays.

I also have numerous recipes – on paper, on index cards, in cookbooks, in recipe boxes – you name it!  Last year my husband bought me an iPad for Christmas and I found a fabulous app called “Pepperplate.”  I have used it to organize all of my recipes and to create a digital kitchen for myself!  It is very versatile as well.  You can import recipes by just copying and pasting website addresses (provided the website is supported – but they have dozens that they do support such as foodnetwork.com, allrecipes.com, and Martha Stewart).  You can also manually enter your own recipes as well.  What I really love about it is that automatically links to its own website.  When you log in using your ID and password it automatically updates the recipes you entered whether you entered them on your iPad or on your computer!  I absolutely love this app!!  It has really helped me get my recipes well organized.  If you have an iPad, you won’t regret downloading this app for a little added help in the kitchen!  Now I don’t have to worry about losing a recipe card or piece of paper – all of my recipes are in one central location!  It’s also great because I can set my iPad next to my workspace in the kitchen and have the recipe I need right in front of me – complete with ingredients,  instructions, and a built-in timer!  I highly recommend Pepperplate.

So, while I haven’t shared a recipe with you on this blog post, I certainly hope that I’ve given you some great tips and tricks to making your holidays – and entertaining in general – a bit less stressful!!

I hope each of you and your families had a very Merry & Blessed Christmas and wishing you all a Happy & Healthy New Year!!

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