Baking is probably our most consistent holiday tradition. It doesn’t matter what holiday we are celebrating – baking plays is the starting point of all holiday cooking. On birthdays and Easter we bake cakes. We bake rolls and pies for Thanksgiving. But for Christmas we bake cookies and fudge all month long. The children take turns helping me make Lemon Burst Cookies or Red Velvet Delights and we bake lot of cookies in December!
Preparing Ahead for Holiday Cooking: Get the Baking Done
I love peanut butter fudge, but my kids also love Neena’s special chocolate fudge. My favorite peanut butter fudge is the traditional kind my mom always makes. I also love a special chocolate-covered kind that my Grandma Mimmie made when she lived with us. I don’t have any pictures of fudge, but it plays a huge roll in our holiday cooking for sure! It’s usually one of the first treats I make, starting the day after Thanksgiving.
One of our favorite recipes to share at parties is for Sugar Cookies of the cut-out variety. I’ve been making sugar cookies and trying different recipes since I was in high school when I used to take over 100 cookies to school to share with my classmates several times each year. Of all the recipes I’ve tried, the one below is my favorite. We frost these cookies with my Special Buttercream Frosting which can also be used for elaborate decorating.
For years, my sister would ask me for this recipe each December as she never wrote it down or kept my email. Last year, my original recipe cut from a magazine got ruined. I was so glad to discover that my sister had finally written down the recipe and our sugar cookies (and therefore our holiday cooking) were saved!
For each holiday, figure out what baking you want to do and get that done ahead of time. Cakes, cookies and pies can all be made several days before. The trick: keeping itchy fingers out of the goods.
Preparing Ahead for Holiday Cooking: Planning The Big Meal
Once we’ve got the baking well under control, then we can move on to planning the rest of the menu. One of my favorite tools to use for holiday cooking is my Instant Pot. Since we have the turkey taking up all of the oven on Thanksgiving, we discovered a couple years ago that using the Instant Pot for Thanksgiving sides was a perfect solution. Since I have three Instant Pots in various sizes, we put them all to good use for Christmas and Thanksgiving using that list. I even made a dessert in one this year!
Leading up to Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day or any other holiday cooking I decide what we are going to make, buy all the ingredients, and plan out when each dish should start cooking. This eliminates the stress of having to figure it out as you go the week and day of.
Think back to the last holiday you cooked for your family. Was it crazy stressful or a walk in the park? In recent years, our holidays have been getting more and more like a walk in the park. In large part, this is due to our careful planning in the weeks beforehand. So let’s reiterate those steps again so you don’t forget.
- Bake Ahead.
- Decide the Menu.
- Buy All Ingredients.
- Plan Out the Start Time for Each Dish
After you’ve got it all planned out, the hardest part is the physical work of standing and stirring and lifting in the kitchen! Of course, you could always simplify it more and make pizza! Pizza has actually become our traditional Christmas meal. We got sick this year and didn’t get to make pizza, and the kids were so sad! We save the big meals for Thanksgiving and Easter and go simple for Christmas. Tasty, but simple. As you think about the holiday cooking in your future, this is one las thing to keep in mind: