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LUNCH

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DINNER

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APPETIZERS

Kick off your next party with crowd-pleasing, smile-inspiring appetizers.

 
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Top 10 Sanity-Saving Simple Holiday Hacks

The holidays are here! You didn’t realize that when you saw holiday decorations start showing up in stores in the middle of August?

It seems the holiday season gets more complicated and frantic each year. Maybe your family is growing – or members of your family have moved so your holidays now include travel. Maybe you’re the one who volunteered to wrangle all of the holiday festivities – including managing the meals and hosting the celebrations.

Our goal is to help cut out the complications, so we’ve compiled these 10 simple hacks to help ease your mind – and stress level – this time of year. (If you don’t read all 10, please make sure you read the last two and take them to heart!) 

  1. MAKE A PLAN WELL IN ADVANCE
    If you’re just reading these a couple weeks before the big day, don’t freak. One of the easiest ways to combat seasonal stressors is to build a plan. But if you’ve already procrastinated party planning, don’t fret. Start now – well, not right now, read the rest of this list first! Your assignment once you get to the end of this list is to take a breath and then start plan building. Put together a comprehensive plan for your ingredients; when you need to go shopping; what utensils, pots and pans you'll need; and when each dish, casserole and ham needs to go into the oven and come out. Ask others to help you plan centerpieces, music and more – this way you can prioritize the tasks that you aren’t comfortable delegating.

  2. GET YOUR KITCHEN ORGANIZED AHEAD OF TIME
    Are you one of those people who lays out your outfit the night before? Whether you are or not, you should use that mindset and plan your kitchen gear in advance. Don’t wait until the day of the dinner to forage around looking for that one utensil that’s buried deep in the back of a drawer. Once you know your menu inside and out, get all of your pots, pans, and dishes ready for the big day. Some people even set their tables the night before a holiday meal just to save a little bit of time. Following that simple strategy in the kitchen will help you get right to work and stay organized when you get up to cook!

  3. MAKE SURE YOUR RECIPES ARE ALWAYS WITHIN REACH
    Whether this is your first holiday hosting or not, you’ve witnessed the swirling vortex of kitchen craziness that can consume even the most seasoned of hosts. Avoid holiday hullabaloo and establish a sacred spot for your recipes. We suggest taping them to the fridge or the cupboards or splaying them out on the table – it’s your kitchen. Do what feels right.

  4. ONE NICE TRICK FOR KEEPING HOT FOOD HOT
    Aside from juggling the needs of festive and frenzied family and friends, you’re going to have to be juggling time in the oven and on the stove. This is where you can use a classic tailgating trick to keep things simple – and warm. If you have a cooler, you can use it to do the opposite. Line it with brown paper bags or newspaper for insulation, cook your casseroles, dips and soups in the oven for 20 minutes at 300ºF, wrap them in tinfoil, and stuff them all inside the cooler. This neat trick will keep a bunch of hot food nice and hot while you work on the main course, and free up a bunch more time to spend with the family. (Just don't mix hot food with cold!)

  5. MANAGE YOUR APPETIZERS
    We’re assuming that you’ve already planned to prep your apps so they’ll be ready when guests arrive. This buys you some extra time – post greetings and holiday hugs – to get back in the kitchen and keep the cooking on schedule. Even if you plan ahead, hungry guests can chew through your appetizer spread faster than expected, so be ready to roll out reinforcements. Also, you can help keep the masses at bay with a few portion-controlling tricks. Prepare portions on small serving plates for your guests and re-stock the station as needed. This will stretch your appetizers as far as they can possibly go, and provide you with more chances to mingle with the family as you re-fill the app plates!

  6. PREPARE YOUR “WORKSPACE”
    When you’re in game mode and are ready to cook a solid holiday meal, make sure that your “workspaces” (i.e., the kitchen and surfaces) are clear of clutter. This includes mail, magazines, even utensils that you’re not going to use like a blender or a toaster (unless you are using those, of course). Another simple trick is to set out multiple cutting boards (you’ll need at least two – one for meats, one for veggies, fruits and everything else), stirring spoons, food thermometers, the works. Everything in the kitchen should serve a purpose for the day and be within arm’s reach!

  7. BUY PLENTY OF “TUPPERWARE”
    We put it in quotes because we’re not promoting the brand, just using it as the catch-all because “leftovers storage receptacles” doesn’t roll off the tongue in the same way. Plan ahead of leftovers. When it’s time to clear the table and pack everything away, pack it in simple holiday hand-off containers so you can send your guests home with something to eat post-holiday. Also, plan ahead so you’re not giving away your best “Tupperware” – because we all know not everyone will bring them back.

  8. STORE BOUGHT? NO PROBLEM!
    If you’re actually a guest instead of the host/hostess, you might have been asked to bring a dish to pass. Then, you might feel some pressure to find the time to make something from scratch. But honestly? Buying cookies from the bakery, taking them out of the plastic and wrapping them festively on your own plate isn’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings. Even if you’re hosting, don’t feel like you can’t buy things from the store. Anything you can do to save time on cooking and spend more time with the family is worth it!

  9. TAKE SOME TIME TO ENJOY THE RIDE
    As the great 20th century philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “life moves pretty fast – if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The holidays are opportunities to create memories with your loved ones, and even though you might be in charge of making sure the day is executed perfectly, you still need to take a minute or two to stop and socialize, watch kids play, and enjoy some eggnog. Hopefully, the entries on this list help make your life a little easier so you can find more of those moments! Point is, don’t spend so much time and effort making the day happen that you miss the entire thing yourself.

  10. REALIZE YOU CAN'T CONTROL EVERYTHING
    On that note, plenty is bound to go wrong. Kids will get into things, messes will be made, and people will show up late and mess up your perfect plan. Maybe a dish doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to, maybe you drop a plate, or maybe you got the wrong brand of cranberry sauce. Hear us. It's okay. You can't control everything. Head into the day with that mindset and all will be well. It's simple: control what you can, and enjoy spending time with the family!

OK. Now that you’ve made it to the end of list, take a breath and get started on simplifying and enjoying your holiday plans! Share some holiday snapshots with us on social using #SimplyHatfield.