Getting ready for the holidays is often overwhelming, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to get it all done- much less enjoy it! Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. It’s not about the perfect gifts. It’s really about being thankful for more things than one single day can contain. And let’s face it, getting ready for the holidays means good food and lots of it. So! I’ve put together a few things you can do quickly and easily while you’re getting celebration food ready for the holidays…
As far as you can- plan your holiday calendar for food and menus. Buy ahead, a bit each week instead of one huge purchase. Start with items that can be stored, chilled or frozen ahead of time. Note: Check out your seasonings and spices now- chances are they need to be replaced.
I also buy bulk pecans, almonds and cashews ahead of time. Pecans, cashews and almonds are stored in the freezer waiting to be toasted in the oven with butter and salt or even candied. Since nuts are often expensive- go ahead and buy them in advance. No southern cook worth her salt would be without at least pecans! Here’s how we’ve made Toasted Pecans
I make cheese balls ahead and freeze them- there’s always an event I’ve forgotten and believe me, they may not be the most exciting thing- yet somehow a cheese ball is always welcome! Speaking of cheese, I buy sharp cheddar in bulk also… Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese has never been turned down!
If you go ahead and chop celery and onion for making poultry stock or adding to dressing (we don’t actually say stuffing or cornbread dressing, yet for those who don’t know.. it’s made with cornbread!) anyway- put the whole batch in a large freezer bag. Take out what you need when you’re ready to use. I also make cornbread ahead of time, cool and freeze. These are such a time savers for me
If you serve a green salad with your meals, go ahead a week or so early and mix up homemade salad dressing and keep chilled, it will stay fresh about a week and that’s one less thing you have to worry about! And let’s face it, homemade salad dressing is always better!
Butter Balls aren’t named for turkeys… no butter balls will make your gravy silky and beautiful. They’re so easy to make, I keep them in the freezer almost all year round! And speaking of butter, the holidays require lots of butter! I buy it on sale if possible and freeze the excess.
Plan fun and easy treats- this is one of my favorites- Purchase donut holes, warm the donut holes, spear with long sticks. Then dip donut holes i your favorite fudge or caramel sauce, which may purchased as well. A platter of varied fruits, pound cake chunks and the donut holes makes a festive fun treat for children of any age!
I wish I was a wonderful yeast bread baker- I’m not. Still. In my area, there are wonderful rolls such as Millie Ray’s, Sister Schubert’s and even little Marshal’s biscuits! I buy ahead, freeze and bake fresh rolls for holiday meals and leftovers too! I’ve even been known to buy several pans of rolls, cinnamon rolls and orange rolls- stack them up, tie with a bow and it’s a wonderful gift or hostess gift!
Speaking of biscuits, Biscuit Mix is one of the 3 ingredients in Sausage Balls, which make an annual appearance! With one pound of sausage, one pound of shredded cheddar and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of biscuit mix formed into balls..baked at 350 until they’re done.. easy appetizer and! You can make up a double batch, freeze uncooked in a single layer on a sheet pan; stored in freezer bags- you’re almost ready for anything!
If you have one or two favorite casseroles or sides- double or triple the recipe and freeze or as in the case of Mimi’s Apricot Casserole– I double or triple the topping, seal in a freezer bag- set aside the other ingredients and foil baking pans so it’s ready to assemble and bake.
Green Bean Bundles seem to be a favorite side wherever they go. It’s just as easy to assemble them ahead of time, thaw slightly and bake until the bacon is browned and beautiful. There’s even a shortcut to get all of the flavor without even making one bundle! Place the green beans in a baking dish, cut bacon in pieces and scatter over the green beans, then add seasonings and bake as usual.
Simple Sugar Syrup is a must have for Southern Sweet Tea lovers. In a saucepan, using a 1/1 ratio of water and sugar, gently heat until the sugar is melted. That’s one cup of water simmered gently with one cup of sugar- in more plain English, darlin’ Cool and store in a tightly capped jar until you’re ready to use. Simple Sugar Syrup is also welcome for other sweetened drinks.
We all want our homes to have the scents of the holiday. There may be nothing that draws us in quite like cinnamon, cloves and warm scents… we’ve got that covered too as we get ready for the holidays. And no, it’s not a candle- it’s the easiest, most delicious Warm Punch you’ll ever make and your house will smell like a holiday home. Combine one large container of cranberry juice with one large container of pineapple juice- toss in a few cinnamon sticks and 4-5 whole cloves. * Feel free to float thin orange slices or wide strips of citrus zest, for a variation. Cover and on low heat, bring to a slow simmer. Your home will smell like it’s ready for the holidays!
The best advice of all for those wonderful holiday meals you’ll be making- is my grandmother’s creed- ‘Have a lot of a few things. Just make sure each thing is delicious.’ We will see you again soon- in the meantime… on your mark, get set, go! Getting ready for the holidays the kitchen!
Love y’all, Camellia * All photographs are obviously mine- with one glorious exception! Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese was memorialized by the very talented Becky Hadeed. Find her on Instagram @thestoriedrecipe .