The holiday season means spending time with friends and family. Whether you’re exchanging gifts, watching the Super Bowl, or celebrating the new year, there’s one thing you’ll need no matter the occasion: food. Or tips and tricks for how to cook for a crowd will make your hosting job easy, so you can enjoy the fun!

SMALL BITES

Snacks, hors d’oeuvres, finger foods — or whatever you might call them — are the staple of any large gathering. Before you resort to the same boring veggie tray, check out a few ways to spice up your menu without setting up residence in your kitchen.

Have You Seen the Muffin Pan? 

Make mini versions of your favorite, crowd-pleasing muffin recipes. Line a muffin pan with baking cups, and prepare up to twelve appetizers at a time. Possible appetizers include quiche, baked mac n’ cheese, shepherd’s pie, frittatas, hash browns, and taco salad cups.

Prepare in Advance

Prepare dips and salsa by cutting up and saving vegetables for later. For example, if you’re making an appetizer like chunky mango salsa, chop up the onion, tomato, and mango in advance. Cooked rice and quinoa save well and can be refrigerated until needed. Have a favorite and want to up the health factor? Check out our favorite swaps for healthier meals.

Line on Up

Set out appetizers and small dishes buffet-style to save time and table space. 

Hire the Kids

Kids can help assemble finger foods like deviled eggs, crostini, and fruit kabobs. 

BIG BITES

A holiday meal is hardly complete without turkey, mashed potatoes, and several family-favorite side dishes. We’ve thought of a few ways to make your meal prep easier, so you can spend less time doing and more time enjoying.

Turkey Tips

Did you know that basting a turkey is unnecessary? Basting is a time-consuming process and often dries out the meat. Save time by brining the turkey instead, which can be done up to a week in advance. 

Time for Taters

Skip the hassle of peeling raw potatoes. Boil them first, and then slip off the skins before mashing. 

Souper Supper

Soup can be made in less than an hour and caters to vegetarian and gluten-free guests. Holiday favorites include butternut squash soup, beef stew, and French onion soup. For a fun twist, make soup “shooters” in a shot glass or dessert cup. You can also head out into the Black Hills to find your own mushrooms and make our mushroom soup!

No More Lame Leftovers

If you have family members staying an extra few days after the holidays, get creative with your leftovers. Try making comfort food classics like turkey soup, turkey enchiladas, or turkey lasagna. Or whip up a unique side dish like cranberry corn salsa, turkey dumplings, or mashed potato bites.

SWEET BITES

Finish off a satisfying, turkey dinner with a delicious, easy-to-make dessert (or several!). From chocolate bark to slab pies, you’ll be able to whip up all of your holiday favorites in no time.

Holy Sheet…That’s Easy

Sheet pan desserts can range from creme brulee to almond espresso bars. For a quick, sweet treat, consider making chocolate bark, pecan pie bars, or a pumpkin sheet cake. 

Dessert Display

Make a dessert charcuterie board, complete with chocolate-covered pretzels, gingerbread cookies, gummies, and candied nuts. 

Snacks and finger foods are easy to display using a large serving dish and smaller bowls. It looks like a million bucks with none of the prep! For added fun, let each member of your family pick their favorite candy to add in.

Slab Happy

Ever heard of slab pies? Similar to sheet pan desserts, slab pies are often made in a standard baking sheet or jelly roll pan. Depending on the size of your pan, you can even make a “tri pie” or flour-flavor slab pie, all on one sheet.

Hot Chocolate for Everyone!

Set up a hot chocolate bar with plenty of fixings to go around, including whipped cream, chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, and peppermint sticks. And Baileys. 

HANDY KITCHEN GADGETS

There’s a gadget for everything these days, but there are a few small appliances and tools every kitchen should have. They can save you time, make cooking easier, and preserve your sanity. We gathered some tried-and-true favorites, but also found unexpected ways to use them that make them an even better bang for your buck. 

Instant Pot

The magic genie of kitchen gadgets, the Instant Pot can pressure cook, slow cook, steam, sauté, and warm food. Use the Instant Pot to make large batches of rice for holiday meals, yogurt for a breakfast treat, or mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving day. No room left in your oven to bake dessert? Make cake, cobbler, pie, or even cheesecake in this one-stop pot. 

Air Fryer

The hottest kitchen tool since the Instant Pot, air fryers have become all the rage the past several years. Sure you can fry all your favorite Super Bowl snacks in them, but you can also hard-boil eggs, toast nuts, make apple chips, and even whip up a grilled cheese sandwich. The best part of all of it is the minimal cleanup, not to mention saving on oven space.

Electric Carving Knife

Make Thanksgiving day — or any day, for that matter — just a little easier by using an electric carving knife. In addition to meats, many electric carving knives can cut bread, cheese, fruit, and vegetables. 

Fullstar Vegetable Chopper

With a catch tray, storage container, and four interchangeable blades, the Fullstar Vegetable Chopper is the perfect sidekick for your holiday meal prep. According to reviewers, this handy appliance can also slice cheese, hard boiled eggs, and sausage.

WORDS: AVERY THOMAS
PHOTOS: JESSE BROWN NELSON