Holiday Cooking Tips

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Holiday Cooking Tips

Holiday Cooking Tips

Clean your pantry, freezer and refrigerator.

Get your refrigerator, freezer and pantry cleaned and ready to stock up on the food you will need for your holiday cooking as soon as it comes on sale. Then they’ll be ready for the store bought items and the things you will be cooking.

Fill Canisters

I use canisters to store my flour, sugar and other staple items because the canisters help keep out bugs and humidity and it is less messy to scoop things like flour or sugar out of a large canister than a bag. Get the canisters filled up and ready for your upcoming cooking and baking marathons.

I also fill up my spice containers at this time. I usually buy my spices in bulk and some of the containers they come in are large and are not easy to measure from. I keep smaller spice containers and then just fill them from the bulk packages.

Keep A Trash Can Handy

When doing a lot of baking or cooking be sure to keep the trash can or a brown paper sack near you so it’s easy to throw away trash. I often make 5-6 trips to the trash can so this simplifies the process. It also motivates you to clean as you go along. You might also keep a large bowl on the counter to dump your trash into as you work. Then, when you are done, you can take it all at once to the trash.

Graham Cracker Crumbs

It seems like half the desserts I find call for graham crackers of some sort. To make things easier, crush a whole box or more of graham crackers and store them in an airtight container. Keep a measuring scoop in the container and the next time you have a recipe that calls for graham cracker crumbs, you’ll have no mess or fuss and one less step to do.

Twisted oatmeal cookies

Use pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice in place of cinnamon in your oatmeal cookies.

Sliding cutting board

You will probably have that cutting board out all the time during the holiday cooking. To help keep it from sliding around, glue a small piece of waffle rubber shelf liner  to the corners.

Margarine, butter???

Sometimes it gets confusing trying to decide what kind of margarine or butter to use in baking. Always use margarine that has at least 80% fat. If you don’t, your baked goods can stick badly to the pan or spread too much and they often turn out too dry. Oils to stay away from in baking (unless otherwise stated in recipe) are vegetable oil, low fat margarine and tub margarine.

Easy Pancakes for a crowd

With out of town guests coming or when you’re preparing holiday brunches, it can mean you’ll be making lots of pancakes. To make things go faster, using about 3 cups of pancake mix to make your batter. Pour the pancake batter into a greased 15×10 inch jelly roll pan and bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes until puffy and brown. Then just cut the “pancakes” into squares with a pizza cutter.

Holiday Banana Nut Bread

Give your regular banana nut bread recipe a holiday flair by adding chocolate chips and maraschino cherries to it.

Ham Juices

Many of you will be baking hams for holiday dinners or parties. Often, we just throw away the ham juice but this year save it. Skim off the fat and then pour the juices into ice cube trays or small containers. The next time you make green beans, pea soup, boiled potatoes or green bean casserole, use a cube for flavoring.


Photo By: ccharmon


  1. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    Love these tips. Keep them coming. Especially loved saving the ham juices as ice cubes and adding to veggies.

    Another pancake thought, always cook all of the batter. Leftovers can be heated just like bread in a toaster.

    • says

      That is true Grizzly Bear Mom. The same goes for waffles and French toast. Murphy’s law is I usually have enough batter for 2-3 leftover – go figure – so freezing these odds helps. Also if they don’t get eaten for breakfast you can use these odds and ends in bread pudding.

    • maria says

      Something many Swedish people have as a tradition around christmasis “dopp i grytan”, which means dip in the pan. Take your best bread, something spicy is nice, then cut strips of the bread. skim the far off the ham juicea, heat the juice up really well, then serve in a nice pot and dip your bread strips before you eat them. My husband really loves this, but I am not used to it.

  2. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    We’re German so there normally aren’t left over. I listed this for your “foreigners”.

    In Annapolis 7-11 sells pancake wrapped sausages with an infusion of maple syrup. Yummy on the go!

  3. Monette says

    Thanks so much for this post! Also, thanks for the fantastic sale today! I have been coveting some of your books and today I was able to give myself (and my family) and early present and ordered 2! The free downloads with purchase are unreal. Thanks again for all you do to help us use our resources wisely!

  4. Rebecca says

    Dont throw out your ham bone, we are not big split pea soup eaters but I use the bone to make a ham stock, it gives rice a wonderful smoky flavor when used in place of chicken stock. It adds a nice touch of variety for anything you might use chicken stock in.

  5. Doris Hofmann says

    Although this is a little differentfrom your topic, it is about saving food. I was talking to a man in the grocery store and he was upset about the fact that he has to throw out bread because it gets stale or moldy. I told him how I freeze my bread and never waste it by keeping it out. I put a piece of wax paper between every 2 slices of bread and place them all back in the bread wrapper, put the whole thing in the freezer and then take out any needed amount and let it defrost. I place the frozen bread inside a small baggie or more wax paper and put it on a rack so it doesn’t sweat. If I remember in time,I take it out least 15 minutes before I need it; otherwise, if I forget, I can put it in the toaster for just a couple of seconds to thaw it out or toast it for toasted sandwiches. I am sure that most of your readers already do this, but some may not. Love your column and all today’s tips, too!!!

    • says

      Very good tip Doris. You can also freeze half and keep the other half out. I use the half I haven’t froze for sandwiches and when I need toast I use a piece from the frozen half.

  6. Doris Hofmann says

    I meant to add this, too. I didn’t have any beef for vegetable beef soup one day, but I did have a big ham bone with quite a bit of ham on it in the freezer, so I used that in place of the beef. That soup was delicious and I make it a lot even if I have beef.

  7. Donna B. says

    Jill, I thought of you last weekend! My daughter was going to a “cookie/cocktail” party, and she refused to take her gingerbread men because she wouldn’t give out the recipe! I couldn’t stop laughing thinking about you and your gingerbread guys each year. I hinted gently “I’m your mother, can I have the recipe?” She answered, “no, and I hid the book I found it in”! LOL!!! Oh, we mothers and our daughters!!!!

  8. says

    most important is to play fun christmas music as you do the jobs.
    last year I mentioned a song called Ethelbert the elf.
    well someone uploaded it to you tube and anyone interested in hearing a Sudbury Ontario singer and song writer who did fantastic songs for children. here is the address.…0.0…1ac.1.pjM3Tok_cx4

  9. dawn adair myers says

    when i make ham for christmas time instead of throwing out the ham juices i make my own ham gravy for the mashed potatoes and let me tell ya it is great and to take out the salt i use a little water to lessen the salt taste then add my corn starch voila

  10. Miller says

    Me and graham cracker crumbs do not get along. So I buy the the prefabs from the store. I get them on sale. They freeze nicely and and stay fresh for a long time frozen.

  11. Simplesista says

    Hi everyone! I love the photos of u baking with your grandchildren on today’s newsletter, Jill. The gingerbread men u make are pretty huge- I love them already! I’d like wish u and everybody who reads this site, a very happy and healthy festive period. Hope it’s as u all planned and expected. See u all on the other side! Best wishes from a it’s very stormy here,hold into your (Santa)hats shores of England,xxxxx

  12. Mary Jane says

    Oh, how I love my freezer around the holidays! I can buy some ingredients earlier in the Fall to cook later, but I like being able to do whatever baking I can ahead of time. I recommend saving the boxes that the mandarin oranges come in, here in Canada. When lined with wax paper, they are great for freezing and storing baked good is until needed. It is also a great idea to do a few casserole or one dish meals for the freezer for busy days, or when you are just too tired to cook.

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