Cooking for the Holidays (with Recipes!)
Updated: Jan 28
Everyone is familiar with the stress that comes with the holiday season. Cooking for the holidays in particular, can be a very stressful experience. Cooking meals for the holidays can also bring people together and create a sense of community. So in that spirit we wanted to share some of our favorite recipes for the season with you.
Written in conjunction with our class "Holiday Cooking", this post is designed to help reduce some of the pressure you may feel during this fun, but busy, holiday season by giving you easy to follow tips and recipes for holiday cooking.
To start, we're going to go over some basic food safety tips for making sure that all of the delicious food you cook up this year doesn't get anyone sick.
1. Thoroughly clean your work space:
Take a minute to estimate how much space you will be using to prepare and make your food. Clear anything off the counters that doesn't need to be there (ie. papers, pens, miscellaneous household supplies). Then, take a sponge and run it under hot water, adding some soap afterward. Clean all of your counters and work surfaces thoroughly with the hot soapy sponge and then run a clean wet towel over all of it to pick up any excess soap. The next step is to sanitize the surface to kill any bacteria that may be left. If you have Clorox wipes or a similar disinfectant, you can wipe down the surfaces with that and then allow them to air dry. If you do not have a disinfectant, here's a quick recipe for a sanitizer solution using standard bleach.
- 1 tablespoon bleach
- 1 gallon water
Make sure the water in this sanitizer solution is cool, as warm water can make the bleach less effective. Take a clean white towel and soak it in the sanitizer. Then use use that towel to wipe down your counters and all of your workspace. Allow this area to air-dry completely before you start cooking.
2. Make sure all of your dishes and utensils have been fully cleaned with hot soapy water.
3. Deal with raw meat the right way:
One of the most common dishes to make for the holidays is turkey. This means that you will most likely be dealing with raw meat. Which can be a little intimidating for some who may not have a lot of cooking experience. But after you learn these food safety and cooking tips, dealing with raw meat will be no big deal.
When dealing with raw meat, make sure your work surface is cleaned and sanitized before and after the raw meat is worked with. Do not re-use dishes, knives, etc. without cleaning them again after dealing with raw meat. This will greatly minimize the likelihood of spreading any food-borne illness.
On that same topic, it's important to know what temperature you need to cook your foods to in order to minimize the risk of food-borne illness. Below is a helpful chart that includes the standard temperatures to cook common foods to. You'll notice that poultry (which includes turkey) should be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now that we've got the cleaning and sanitizing out of the way, it's time for the fun part, cooking! Below we've included four recipes for classic holiday dishes, to help reduce time you might spend searching for the perfect recipe.
Prepping/Cooking a Turkey
- Whole turkey
- 2 apples
- 2 oranges
- 2 lemons
- 2 onions
- 1 stick of butter
- 2-4 cups of water, or chicken broth or vegetable broth (depending on size of turkey)
1.Thaw turkey completely, depending on which method you use it can take up to three days (the easiest/safest way is to thaw it in the fridge).
2. Chop oranges, apples and onions; cut lemons into quarters. In a large mixing bowl combine all of these ingredients with 1 teaspoon each of thyme, rosemary and sage.
3. Remove the insides of the turkey and re-stuff with the chopped fruit and vegetable mixture.
4. Using paper towels, pat down the outside of the turkey until dry.
5. Rub every inch of the outside of the turkey with butter, then season with a generous amount of thyme, rosemary, sage and salt (varies depending on the size of the turkey, you want there to be quite a bit on there but not so much that you can't see the turkey anymore).
6. Place turkey in a foil lined baking pan. Add 2-4 cups of water, or chicken broth, or vegetable broth to the bottom of the pan.
7. Set oven to 350 degrees. Cook turkey for 15 minutes for every pound the bird weighs (ie. 75 minutes for a 5 lb turkey, 180 minutes for a 12 lb turkey). Use a food thermometer to make sure that the thickest part of the turkey (usually the breast) is at a minimum of 165 degrees before taking it out of the oven.
8. Allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for 30-40 minutes (a prefect chance to make the gravy), then carve and serve!
Turkey Dripping Gravy
- 2 cups pan drippings (from cooking a turkey)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1-2 cups water
1. Pour the pan drippings into a 2-cup measuring cup and skim off the fat into a separate cup.
2. Put 1/4 cup of the drippings into a saucepan and turn heat to low-med.
3. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour.
4. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring throughout.
5. Add enough water to the measuring cup with pan drippings, to make it a full 2 cups. Pour into the flour/fat mixture in the saucepan. Cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbling. Continue cooking for another minute, stirring constantly.
6. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe
- 12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup of sugar
- Orange or lemon zest
- 1/2 green apple (diced)
1. Transfer 1/2 cup of cranberries to a small bowl and the remaining into a saucepan.
2. In the saucepan: add sugar, orange/lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of water, diced apple, and cook over low heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft (approx. 10 minutes).
3. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst (roughly 12 minutes).
4. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the reserve cranberries. Add sugar to taste.
5. Remove after another minute of stirring and let cool to room temperature
Easy Green Bean Casserole
- 1 can cut green beans drained and 1 can french style green beans drained (or 2 cans of your favorite style drained)
- 1 can condensed Cream of Mushroom soup
- 6 oz Onion Straws (also called Crispy Fried Onions)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place green beans and soup in a large microwave-safe bowl. Mix well and heat in the microwave on HIGH until warm (approx. 3-5 minutes). Stir in 1/2 cup of cheese and heat mixture for another 2-3 minutes.
3. Transfer green bean mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle with onion straws and remaining cheese.
4. Bake in the oven until the cheese melts and the onions just begin to brown (approx. 3-5 minutes).
We know this isn't a comprehensive list of holiday recipes, so in the spirit of community, we recommend that you go out and share one of your favorite recipes with a friend or neighbor. The best and most delicious food is the food that we share with others.
Hopefully these tips and recipes will help make your holiday cooking a little easier! We wish you a fun (and hopefully less stressful) holiday season!