If you could pick two words to describe the holiday season, what would they be? Some people might say “cookie baking,” or maybe you might pick “Christmas shopping;” there are dozens of ways to sum up these festive few weeks! I don’t know about you, but if I had to pick two words to describe the holidays, they would definitely be these two: comfort foods.
From creamy spinach dip at holiday bashes to cheesy potato casseroles at your Christmas feasts—not to mention all of the baked goods in between!—comfort food is definitely at its peak during the holidays. The only problem with comfort foods is that they have reputations for being time consuming and oftentimes overwhelming. To save yourself stress and time this holiday season, try these shortcuts that still let you indulge in your favorite winter comfort foods:
When it comes to holiday cooking, make your refrigerator your best friend. Many of the most popular comfort food dishes, from mashed potatoes and vegetable gratins to cobblers and puddings, can be assembled a day or two beforehand. Prepare your dishes on a day when you’re not busy and simply pop them in the oven when you need them; oftentimes, they’ll taste even better after sitting in the fridge.
Don’t be afraid of premade
No matter what anyone tells you, there’s no shame in not making everything from scratch—especially during the busy holidays! Traditional homemade dishes can still be just as delicious if you use a frozen pie crust or no-cook lasagna noodles in your meals instead of doing every single bit from scratch. No one will be able to tell the difference in the long run, and you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle.
Pre-dice and pre-chop
One of the best ways to save time on your holiday bakes and casseroles is to spend some time cutting up ingredients like celery, carrots, mushrooms and onions a few days before your event. You’ll typically use these kinds of vegetables in most of your holiday dishes anyway, so why not have them ready beforehand? Keep chopped veggies in Tupperware in the fridge for easy access whenever a dish calls for them.
Cut down on cooking time
There are lots of cooking tricks out there that can save you cooking time on some of your more time-consuming dishes. A helpful tip for comfort foods like noodle casseroles and lasagnas is to boil your pasta for a shorter amount of time and instead add water directly to your casserole sauce; this way the noodles will cook through while the casserole bakes and you’ll save time at the stove!
Use your crockpot
Did you know your crockpot is good for more than just soups and stews? Crockpots are so versatile that they can help shave hours off of your holiday cooking. Comforting dishes that you’ve probably always made in the oven, like lasagna, chicken pot pie and mashed potatoes, can all actually be made in the crockpot; this will end up saving you lots of boiling, baking, chopping and recipe-following since the crockpot will do all the work for you.
Cooking during the holidays should be a fun and enjoyable experience, so don’t be afraid to take some shortcuts if you’re feeling stressed. Happy cooking!