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Cooking Tips and Tricks for the Holiday Season

If you love cooking or baking, the holidays can be an exciting time of year to try out your favorite culinary creations on your loved ones. From sumptuous roasts, to seasonal side dishes, to decadent cakes dripping with glaze, our eyes tend to be bigger than our stomachs this time of year, providing you with a captive audience at the dinner table.

As fun as it is to be in charge of making food for a holiday gathering, the hustle and bustle of the season can make it tricky to find time to prep and cook your highly anticipated feast. As you begin to plan your holiday menu, consider the following tips and tricks to avoid disaster in the kitchen and make your meal a success.

1. Assemble salads in advance

Making a salad is entirely about preparation – there’s no cooking required. This makes salads ideal for assembling in advance and storing in the fridge until the moment you’re ready to serve. Start by adding the dressing to the bottom of your salad bowl, then top with the hardiest ingredients. Layer the more fragile elements on top. The salad will remain fresh for several hours without wilting. Simply toss at the dinner table and serve.

2. Skip the multi-step casseroles

Everyone loves a hearty green bean casserole, but the many steps required to make it can be a drain on your time and resources. As an alternative, top boiled or steamed green beans with a rich, decadent sauce for a dish that’s just as delicious, but ready in half the time. The same shortcut can be used with nearly any cooked vegetable, including corn, sweet potato, and squash.

3. Create a menu and stick to it

Pre-planning for a holiday feast is essential. If you’re cooking a recipe you’ve never made before, do a trial run to see what can be prepared or frozen in advance. While it may be tempting to add a last-minute dish the day of the party, doing so can create chaos in the kitchen. Stick to your original menu so you have plenty of time to enjoy the occasion with your guests.

4. Make baked goods ahead of time

When it comes to holiday baking, the freezer is your friend. Bake all of your dinner rolls, pies, cakes and cookies as early as possible and stick them in the freezer. This leaves you with more time and energy to prepare time-sensitive dishes leading up to the event. The night before your gathering, simply thaw your baked goods and decorate as needed.

5. Downsize from the holiday goose

Many chefs would argue that no bird makes a better centerpiece for a holiday feast than a goose. However, if you’re trying to simplify your time in the kitchen, try Cornish hens instead. They still possess that special occasion flair, but take a fraction of the time to cook. Plus, they’re the perfect size for individual servings – no carving required.

Brush up on your cooking skills this holiday season!

The holidays are fast approaching, but there’s still time to brush up on your cooking skills before your big event. At National Culinary School, we offer holiday cooking classes and baking classes in San Diego that will provide you with the skills you need to succeed in the kitchen this season and beyond.