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How you can stay cool in the kitchen during the holidays

  ideas for vacation with little stress holiday dinner

Feel completely zen, no matter how hectic things are.

handsome / E + / Getty Images

This story is part of Holiday Survival Guide 2019 with tips on the best ways to manage the holiday season.

Keeping you cool in the kitchen during the holidays is equivalent to mental preparation and having the right tools to get the job done. Anyone who has ever cooked a holiday meal knows how stressful it can be. It is a delicate balancing act that ensures that the main courses, side dishes and desserts are properly cooked and timed, all while navigating through (often sticky) family interactions. Remember to cook dishes that you don't normally make every day and it is enough to steer even the most relaxed home cooks in an emotional spiral caused by vacation.

Here are a few tips to help you keep your sanity intact these holidays.

1. Setting limits

As the old saying goes: "Too many chefs in the kitchen spoil the broth." Take control of the situation. If you have a quirky family member who is known to spend two cents when it comes to cooking, or a slick lover who tends to steal bites of ingredients from the cutting board, it is crucial for your own understanding that you first have some limits Imagine you start preparing your holiday meal. You are in charge, so be clear about what you need help with and what not.

2. Keep snacks and activities to hand

Make sure there are tasty snacks and fun activities (for example, board games, binge-worthy TV or a sports game to watch) in another room to keep people busy and out of the food preparation area. Your loved ones will be less inclined to linger in the kitchen if there are bacon-cheddar mini-quiches or chorizo ​​and olive-flatbread squares in another room.

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Starters double as a diversion to keep the kitchen clean.


3. Give everyone a job

If your loved ones insist on lending a hand, give everyone a specific task or responsibility. Whether folding napkins, chopping vegetables or running to the store to get a last-minute ingredient, giving away specific tasks will help move the process while keeping "helpers" out of your hair .

4. Use a food processor

Looking for a way to speed up the preparation of holiday meals? Enter your new best friend: the food processor. Nothing cuts, dice and mash as quickly and seamlessly as a food processor – and yes, so does your family members (no matter how much your Aunt Brenda claims she is the best at chopping onions).

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This Braun 12-cup food processor ($ 163) is ultra-quiet and comes with seven counter tops, including a juicer – perfect for the start of that detox after the holiday with homemade fruit and vegetarian juices (after enjoying your perfectly cut) scalloped potatoes, of course).

5. Use your Instant Pot

  instant-pot "data-original =" https://cnet4.cbsistatic.com/img/eRLq6AwGg84kIFQok7wSsBJEzqs=/2019/11/14/9bb3519c-459d-4c72-bf94-0081b2c0cd36/instant -pot .jpg

The Swiss pocket knife of devices.

Instant Pot

There is a reason why this Swiss Army knife of a device has achieved cult-like popularity. The Instant Pot Duo ($ 79 from Amazon) is a 7-in-1 programmable pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and yogurt maker that can also be used to sauté and keep food warm. The extreme multifunctionality is perfect for freeing up valuable burner space while preparing a large holiday meal. Use the quick-cooking function to make everything in a fraction of the time, from gravy and mashed potatoes to other delicious dishes such as peach cobbler and ham. If you have limited oven space, you can even use your Instant Pot to cook a turkey.

When it comes to cooking on vacation, timing is everything. The Instant Pot's warming function keeps food at the right temperature until they are ready to be served.

Read more: Turn your Instant Pot into an air fryer with the Mealthy CrispLid

6. Cooking sides in the slow cooker

Everyone likes a good side dish during the holidays, but finding enough burner and oven space to properly cook and cook all your favorites can be a logistical nightmare. The solution: use a slow cooker (or two) to prepare side dishes. Whether you use your Instant Pot or a stand-alone device such as this portable 6-quarter digital programmable slow cooker from Hamilton Beach ($ 32 at Amazon), a Crock-Pot is perfect for making holiday favorites such as sweet potato dish and filling, or even ready-made snacks and hot drinks. A slow cooker is also useful when it's time to make soup with all that leftover turkey or your ham.

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Your slow cooker is also great for crowd-serving self-service cocktails


7. Add a portable hob

Go one step further and really free up some burner space with a portable hob, such as this Cusimax portable electric heater with 1800W infrared double burner ($ 79 at Amazon). Not only do you get extra burner space for cooking and heating food, thanks to the compact design you can place it anywhere in your kitchen, near a power outlet. In contrast to previously hot plate burners, infrared burners only need a few seconds to heat up and are compatible with coated frying pans and cookware made of aluminum, copper, cast iron and glass.

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Increase your burner space with a portable electric hob.


8. Invest in a kitchen mixer

Are you stressed to get your potatoes or yams just right? Receive silky-soft mashed potatoes every time using a kitchen mixer. This KitchenAid Artisan tilt-head kitchen mixer ($ 280 from Amazon) will work wonders during holiday treatments such as potatoes, jams and pumpkin pie fillings. Use your kitchen mixer as it is or invest in one of the many accessories – such as the ice cream maker – and amaze your guests with homemade cake à la mode. It is also indispensable for holiday cookies.

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Indispensable for holiday baking but good for so much more. Walmart

Read more about Chowhound: Unexpected use for your kitchen mixer

9. Deep-fry your turkey

Don't beat it until you've tried it. If you are concerned about enough time to cook a turkey, consider frying it. This Masterbuilt XL stainless steel fryer ($ 122 from Amazon) can prepare a 20 lb turkey in ¼ of the time the oven is roasting. Not only will your turkey taste great, the use of a fryer will free up space in the oven for desserts and side dishes.

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Deep-fried turkey that you can make indoors.


10. Make a plan for your leftovers

A refrigerator full of uneaten leftovers leads to fear. Do not leave the turkey carcass hanging around for days. Instead, prepare a contingency plan on how to use the leftovers before you start cooking. This can mean that you put aside a certain amount of leftovers for other meals (think: Delicious bone broth made in your Instant Pot or these crispy turkey enchiladas) and divide the rest between lovers. If you have some extra food containers on hand (which you no longer need) – such as these bento-style meal-prep containers with lids ($ 20) on Amazon will make handling leftovers easier.

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You will be happy with leftovers if you know what delicious things you will make with it.


11. Take a moment for yourself

Self-care is important, especially during the holidays. Even if you like to cook, take a moment to catch your breath. This may mean that you take some time to practice before you start preparing food or just take a walk around the block once the turkey is in the oven.

12. Focus on what's important

The pursuit of perfection can easily suck away the joy of the holiday season. Unless you are used to cooking for large groups of people, preparing a holiday meal will be a challenge and sometimes even entail a few downsides. Don't dwell on it. It doesn't matter if your Brussels sprouts are not perfect or if your cake was bought in the store. The holiday is really about spending time with people you care about.

This story was written by Simone Paget.

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