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Recipe for Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining: Pinch of Planning; Scoop of Simplifying
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Stress-free holiday entertaining doesn't need to be as illusive as sugar plum fairies or flying reindeer, according to Ginny Bean, publisher of Ginny's, one of the country's fastest growing housewares catalogs.
"We put such pressure on ourselves to create the perfect holiday feast for our family and friends," says Bean. "We often overlook the fact that holiday meal prep should be as joyous as the festivities that follow, focused more on making shared memories than the perfect pecan pie. When holiday stress supplants holiday spirit, we need to take a step back, simplify and strategize."
1. Think big. Bean points out that few of us cook "holiday scale" the rest of the year. She suggests taking an early cookware inventory to ensure tools are up to the task, and to save a lot of last-minute headaches. A couple over-sized pieces, like Ginny's stainless steel stockpots in 12- and 16-quart sizes, can carry cooks through years of holidays to come.
To expand stovetop capacity, electric skillets and griddles can be handy holiday helpers. Ginny's holiday catalog has a 7-quart digital skillet from Rival that can do everything a stovetop can, with precise temperature control, and even lifts off the cooking unit base for easy serving and cleaning. Perfect for holiday breakfasts, Ginny's electric griddle has a nonstick cooking area big enough to make eight pancakes at once.
2. Set it and forget it. A watched pot never boils, but it certainly adds to holiday meal-prep stress. Slow cookers can be a god-send to the harried holiday cook. The new "Smart Set" digital Crock-Pot from Rival has a temperature probe that measures when food reaches a safe internal temperature, then automatically switches to simmer, and finally to warm, for mistake-proof slow cooking.
The set-it-and-forget-it rule translates to the dinner table, too. Buffet serving is considerably less stress-producing than sit-down service, and may even allow time to enjoy your guests. Ginny's electric, professional-grade triple buffet server has three separate 2.6-quart covered stainless chafing dishes on a large stainless base that can be used alone as a warming tray for rolls or appetizers.
3. Make the most of your space. The size of the meal may expand during the holidays, but cooking and serving space doesn't. Ginny's convection rotisserie/toaster oven can cook a whole roast, two sheets of cookies, or an 8-inch pie, all in less than three-quarters the time of a conventional oven, and not much more than a square foot of counter space. Ginny's double coffeemaker is another great holiday space-saver, brewing two 12-cup pots of coffee at once, so guests can choose between decaf or regular.
4. Think small. At the opposite end of the spectrum from over-sized roasters and stock pots, sometimes the smallest - and simplest - gadgets can make a big difference in holiday food-prep. Ginny's holiday catalog features a triple pour measuring cup with three handy spouts, allowing a busy cook to pour from the left, the right, or the front, with whichever hand happens to be free at the moment. There's also a 5-piece silicone spatula set that provides just the right amount of flex and stiffness to make scraping bowls and pans a breeze, and is heat resistant up to 500 degrees.
For transporting holiday cupcakes to the in-laws' house or the office potluck, without squishing the icing, a novel bake and take set holds two stacking pans of 12 cupcakes each under a plastic locking lid with handle.
5. Create memories. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of holiday entertaining, Bean urges families to find ways to turn prep-work into shared experiences and lasting memories. She suggests simple, time-tested traditions like baking cookies together or creating handmade party favors, and says she featured a Christmas tree cake kit on the cover of her holiday catalog to reinforce that creating beautiful (and edible) holiday memories doesn't need to be difficult or time-consuming.
Ginny's catalog, first published in 1990, is dedicated to showcasing fun and unique items for everyday life. The holiday 2006 catalog includes more than 140 pages full of practical solutions for the home, kitchen and beyond, including appliances, housewares, furniture, bedding, accessories, personal care items, electronics, and a wide selection of gifts for men, women and children. There are also seasonal recipes and helpful tips on everything from trimming a Christmas tree to making a moister turkey.
To request a copy of Ginny's catalog, log on the GinnysSolutions.com or call (800) 487-9024.
Courtesy of ARA Content
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