Monday, November 19, 2012

Holiday Food Preparation Tips...

Thanksgiving is this week, here in the US and Christmas is not too far after that. I thought I would share a food preparation tip that will save your sanity during the holidays.

If you are hosting the meal for family and friends, you know how crazy things can get. Here's what helped me for years when getting things ready the night before...

Before I begin, the first and most IMPORTANT thing to do...make lists.

  • guest
  • menu
  • grocery
  • time temperature list...when food goes in the oven and for how long

Now that you have all your lists done, pull out all your serving dishes and platters.

Write what will go in that serving dish on a post-it note.

This will save you from scrambling around your kitchen searching for dishes to serve the food in as they come off the stove.

Also helps to have the casserole dishes ready to go the night before when you are getting the food prepared for the oven.

Another important tip is find all your serving spoons or utensils. If you don't have enough, you can always buy the plastic kind.

I have most all of the holidays at our house and we usually have between 30-40 people.

To make my life easier, I have invested in buffet servers. I bought mine at Job Lot...a local discount store. They do sell them every where though...just watch your prices.

Advantage for this system...

  • heat up all your vegetables and side dishes
  • put the food in aluminum pans and cover with foil.
  • food keeps hot while you are cooking other things on your stove or in your oven...frees up stove space
  • keep putting all the hot food in the hot buffet servers and the last thing that needs to be done is carve the turkey.
  • when the turkey is carved, the food is all set and ready to craziness!!

The first wire rack, on the left in the picture below, is what holds the 2 sterno cups. You light the sterno cups and the flame last for hours and hours.

The middle picture is the larger deep aluminum pan that goes in first. That holds the hot water. I reuse these pan a few times. TIP...put HOT water in the base pan, so it doesn't take too long to heat up

The last picture on the right is the food step up. The 2 shallow pans rest, hovering over the hot water pans (that stays hot from the sterno cups). This keeps the food hot for a very long time.

You can either have 2 small pans or one large one.

I don't serve the food on my coffee table (picture below), but the light was better in here this morning for the picture!! LOL

The wire racks were $3.99 each

The deeper water pans $1.00-$2.00

Smaller food pans 50 cents each and perfect to wrap up and store in the refrigerator after dinner.

Sterno cups 79 cents

Well worth it for me!!

If you have the time and the space a few days before your holiday party, get as much ready as possible...dishes, silverware, napkins, tables, chairs etc. It will really help keep you organized and the day will go more smoothly.

Preparation ahead of time is the key to a stress free holiday dinner or party!!

Have a great day,

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  1. I bet you are a domestic godess when it comes to holiday hosting!! Great tips as ever Karen :-) Have a super thanksgiving.

    Claire x

  2. You have some great tips, some I have used in the past when I hosted dinner for 15. I want to know your tip of hosting 30-40 people, where do you seat that many and do you have that many place settings?

  3. I started using this method of pre-choosing serving pieces when I was entertaining large groups of people several years ago. I also made charts to determine where the serving pieces would sit on the buffet and dining room table. (I am just a teeny bit OCD!) Another great tip I read years ago and implemented was filling the washing machine with ice and keeping all the cold drinks (mostly beer and white wine!) there as opposed to chilling in the fridge as it saves space and when you are finished you just drain the washer. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

  4. I love your hints Karen. We have two cooks in our family, and several times one cook will use the dish that was intended for the other cooks dish. Marking with the sticky notes is genius! Thanks! And have a very blessed Thanksgiving.

  5. Great ideas Karen -- thanks for sharing your holiday planning tips. =)
    They are greatly appreciated!

  6. I also take the recipe and all the ingredients I can and put them with the serving dishes. I line them up in order that they have to be cooked as well. I chop everything I can the night before measure and put it in marked ziplock baggies in the fridge, so it is grab dump and continue. Makes it soooooooo much easier. This way you can join the festivities more. I am out of the kitchen more than I am in it this way. Take something out of the oven, put something else in.

  7. I have done this exact same thing for years. You're right, it helps so much knowing which tray or dish you are serving something on before hand. :)
    xo Crystal

  8. Your organizing skills amaze me! Very helpful post.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. I did this same thing (labeling serving dishes) for an occasion I was hosting for extended family. My daughters (27 & 29) thought I had LOST IT!! However when the time came to dish up, I didn't have to do a thing - they knew where to put everything. I notice they now use this same idea when entertaining.

  10. Smart! And such beautiful dishes!

    It's late and when I first saw the pictures I thought that was a pat of butter in each one. I thought you were sharing that butter in every dish was the most important part ;). LOL

  11. Great advice! Thanks, Maggie xx

  12. I do set the table out the night before, and put a post it on the appropriate serving piece, so I know. But I am SO going to try the buffet servers soon.
    xo Kris

    1. Bonus, by doing it this way you confirm that there are enough leaves in the table BEFORE trying to serve dinner on it. Learned THAT the hard way during one dinner party!

  13. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing!!

  14. These are some great ideas, I haven't gotten to the point in my life where I've needed to host any big dinner parties of my own, but we always hosted the major holidays for my dad's side at our house growing up and I helped wherever I could. Here's a thought, would it be possible to use cloth or some other material to hang over the edges (not completely wrapping it to stay away from the flame) of the wire buffet rack? Maybe leave the back open to allow for air flow so that flame doesn't get smothered and to dissipate any excess heat that may threaten to ignite the material used. I'm thinking these could be easily whipped up in an afternoon and you could make different ones for each holiday/event!

    Let me know what you think or if you've tried anything like this yourselves.


  15. I had to smile when I read this post (a year later). I do all the same steps you do when entertaining a crowd, even down to the post-it notes! We have a large outdoor summer party every year. We set up canopies, tables & chairs the day before. This year I discovered elastic-edged plastic tablecloths. They work like a fitted sheet and are so much easier when covering many outdoor tables. They are sturdy enough to reuse. I found that many caterers use the same foil pans you talk about. I had warm food in the caterer's pans delivered just before meal time and placed it onto the pre-lit chafers. This fall, my daughter had a party and labeled the containers the night before too.


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