9 Holiday Kitchen Shortcuts Worth Trying This Year

The kids are home from college, your favorite cousin just flew in from the other side of the country and the house is filled with toddlers (and their toys) again for the first time in decades. But instead of spending quality time with the house guests you've been dying to see, you're stuck in the kitchen getting everything ready for The Big Holiday Meal — or cleaning up after it.

Sound familiar? It shouldn't have to. That's why we've partnered with Pillsbury Grands!® Frozen Biscuits for a lesson in how to pull off large family gatherings without the dreaded holiday stress-fest. Click through the gallery below for the easiest ways to minimize your shopping list, prep work and cleanup duties while keeping the event as special and festive as the season demands.

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  • Serve Buffet-Style

    Setting the table the day before takes time and energy, not to mention that it renders unusable a perfectly good surface that you can otherwise use to chop vegetables, lay out finished dishes to cool and do other necessary preparations. Instead, set up a buffet table and let people serve and seat themselves when they arrive.

  • Clean Out Your Fridge In Advance

    Before you even start shopping for the party, take some time to make space in your fridge for the ingredients you'll be buying, as well as for the new batch of leftovers you're probably going to have on your hands once all is said and done. You'll avoid that moment of panic when you've got a tupperware container full of perfectly good lasagna and nowhere to put it but the back porch.

  • Don’t Try To Make Everything From Scratch

    Stick with a few tried-and-true recipes you're already comfortable with, and supplement them with, say, shrimp cocktail from the local grocery store, canned bruschetta, a batch of frozen biscuits and a great pie from the local bakery.

  • Use Disposable Dishware

    If you're serving six or more people, disposable dishware is a perfectly reasonable way to save yourself some clean-up time. If you're concerned about seeming unsophisticated, don't. There are plenty of options — from plastic that looks like real china to specialty designs to bamboo — that are better-looking than the average paper plate. For the eco-conscious cook, the jury's still out on whether going disposable for the Big Meal is truly worse for the environment than the water and energy used in dishwashing, so using recyclable materials is a good bet.

  • Pick Easy-To-Scale Dishes You Already Know How To Make

    When it comes to scaling recipes, 2x2 doesn't always equal 4, and certain dishes (soufflés, breads and cakes, for example) are just not conducive to serving large crowds unless you have the time to prepare several separate batches in small portions. So go with casseroles, soups, salads and other less-finicky dishes that can be doubled and tripled with lower risk of kitchen catastrophe.

  • Don't Be Afraid To Delegate

    The most common reason most people don’t delegate in the kitchen? They feel awkward doing so. But when you’re the one in charge of the Big Holiday Dinner, offloading responsibilities shortens your to-do list and lets you focus on the tasks you alone can do. For guests, being asked to help implies that you trust their skills, appreciate their contributions and value their company.

  • Choose Recipes You Can Make The Day Before

    This collection of <a href="http://www.livebetteramerica.com/Home/healthy-living/food/recipe-collections/make-ahead-holiday-sides-and-desserts?nicam5=PARTNERSHIPS&nichn5=AOL&niseg5=TDCORE_LBA&esrc=16549">desserts and sides</a> contains 7 holiday-themed recipes designed to be prepared a day ahead. Simply refrigerate after assembly, then bake the day of your fête (allowing a little extra cooking time if the dish is cold to start out with). You’ll take a chunk of the work off your food-prep plate and have more time to celebrate.

  • Embrace The Slow-Cooker

    Throw in the ingredients and go. Come back later to a house that smells like a holiday. What's not to love about your slow-cooker? And yet too many of us pull them out only for soups and stews, missing opportunities to make flavorful and warm-you-up-from-the-inside dishes without much fuss. From delicious roasted veggies to poached pears, steamed persimmon pudding or even mulled wine, your slow-cooker is your friend when it comes to big holiday gatherings.

  • Try A Partial Potluck

    There's no shame in requesting a few additions to your menu from the guests you already know have great, signature dishes in their repertoires. If your cousin's favorite meatball recipe is the stuff of legends, why spend the time making your own version when she'll probably be thrilled to bring hers along? It'll give you more time to focus on your own famous recipes, and hopefully a little extra to spend with the family you rarely get to see.

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