With Christmas quickly approaching, the media is abuzz with glorious images of perfectly roasted and glistening turkeys, gingerbread houses with perfectly placed decorations, and picture-perfect decorated cookies.
Reality check: that turkey? A chef prepared it and a food stylist sprayed it with some magic liquid to make it look like it just came out of the oven perfectly brown all over. That gingerbread house? You’d need an engineering degree to get those things to look that good. Those cookies? Don’t kid yourself; an art major decorated them and chose the best out of many for the picture.
Christmas, however, isn’t about creating masterpieces to impress your family and friends. It is about the process— about listening to Christmas carols on the radio and sipping eggnog or your favorite cocktail while mixing cookie dough. It should be about chatting with friends over a meal that you all help make, and about sharing memories over delicious eats, both savory and sweet.
The following are some tips to help you get started cooking up some Christmas cheer!
What supermarkets don’t want you to know is that making sugar cookies is a) pretty simple and b) the dough freezes like a charm. Skip those brightly colored tubes of pre-made sugar cookie dough, and instead, ask Mom or Grandma for their trusty and true recipe. Then, double or even triple the recipe, make the dough and freeze what you don’t use. Wrap the remainder tightly in plastic wrap. Then, in a layer of foil, freeze the remaining cookie dough for up to three months. You will be able to bake cookies easily whenever the mood strikes.
The secret to decorating cookies is meringue powder, and it can be purchased at any hobby store in the cake decorating section, or even in larger supermarkets. This product allows the icing to harden without the colors all running into each other and making a mess of your masterpieces. Save your icing! Make a batch of icing then divide it between several different small bowls. Color each bowl of icing with a different color, and tightly wrap what you don’t use in plastic. It’ll keep for several weeks this way.
Perfectly cooking a huge turkey is any chef’s nightmare. They need to be brined for hours, slowly roasted, continually basted and regularly checked. Unless you’re cooking for the entire neighborhood, save yourself some sanity and cook a turkey breast. Most supermarkets stock turkey breasts on the bone, and like a whole turkey, they come in various sizes. They are easily as versatile as a whole turkey (turkey leftovers are wonderful!), but they are considerably easier to roast.
Cranberries aren’t just for cranberry sauce anymore. These nutrition-packed red jewels can be found in cakes, pies, bars, squares, glazes and much more. A quick Internet search will turn up dozens of inspiring recipes. Share some cranberry-love this year by baking up a batch of cranberry bars to take with you next time you visit friends.
Before you know it, the holiday season will be over. Make the most of it this year by getting organized ahead of time and figuring out exactly what you are going to make, bake and take to share. These tips will help you get started, but remember, it’s not how the final product looks, it is how much fun you had making it that counts!