Holiday Cheats

We Chicks were whining, er, chatting about how busy we always are, especially during the holidays. After some more whining, er, discussion, we realized we weren’t alone in the shortcuts we surreptitiously took to make the food/decorating/shopping/hosting magic happen every year. Because we’re all friends here on the internet, we decided to come clean, and hope YOU share some of your Holiday Cheats with us so we don’t have to whine, er, nonchalantly request, even more ways to be lazy, er, efficient.

Lisa Q. Mathews

CotC Word balloons

We have the same menu every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sometimes a few items might just happen to mysteriously emerge from the downstairs freezer. Except for the instant appetizer: Throw liberal amounts of brown sugar and a bunch of pre-sliced almonds on top of a wheel of Brie and stick in oven (careful, it cooks quick, but even the ensuing mess is delicious). But my absolute fave cheat? My mom-in-law is known for her fabulous homemade pumpkin bread. When she visits in mid-October, she and my hubby make (literally) at least 2 dozen loaves. Then they go directly in the aforementioned freezer. I dress them up with pretty ribbons as hostess gifts and you’ll always find a loaf or two on my holiday table(s). Sooo much work, sigh. Gobble, gobble!

 Ellen Byron

Two words: Stovetop Stuffing.





Cynthia Kuhn

cynthiaGo to someone else’s house. 🙂

We are very lucky to have some wonderful cooks in our family who love to host holiday meals.

And we love to attend, with a bottle of wine and a side dish in hand.


Leslie Karst

Leslie graphic

Since I’m known as a bit of a culinary geek, I have a reputation I feel obliged to uphold. Plus, I do indeed like to cook. As a result, I don’t tend to use many hacks during the holidays when it comes to food. But there is one dish that’s so very tedious and time-consuming that I’m sometimes willing to cut corners when I make it: creamed onions. To do them “properly,” one must painstakingly peel each tiny onion, then whisk up a sauce Béchamel, and finally simmer the sauce with the onions till they’re tender. A whole lot of work.

So I occasionally cheat. I buy frozen (pre-peeled) pearl onions, simmer them in a jar of Alfredo sauce along with a touch of nutmeg and maybe a bay leaf or two (to mimic a real Béchamel), and voilà! Easy peasy!

Kathleen Valenti

Holidays chez Valenti are pure madness. It’s usually a group of 30+ noisy, festive friends and family who’ve seasoned their greetings with pre-funk treats and holiday spirits.

I continue my year-round tradition of cheat-cooking with dishes that keep me out of the kitchen and in the mix of family fun. My fave: Praline Yams.

Now those initial caps are superfluous, as is the recipe. It’s nothing fancy. In fact, the instructions for this much-ooh-ed-over dish comes from the back of the can of Princella sweet potatoes. (It’s such a cheat I don’t even have to WRITE anything.) It’s flat-out delish and I’m always asked for the secret to its yumminess. (Answer: sugar and butter. Which is pretty much my answer to everything.)

Here’s the run-down:


  • 29 can of yams , drained (this is the large size can)
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup coconut
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons butter , melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place drained yam pieces into an ungreased casserole dish in a single layer (8×8 – use 9×13 if doubling this recipe).
  3. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together. Sprinkle the crumbly mixture over the top of the yams, to cover.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 – 40 minutes. Serve while hot, and enjoy!


If you need me, I’ll be hanging out in the living room.

Becky Clark

I’m an excellent guest at any party. I perform extensive hygiene rituals so as not to give personal offense. I RSVP in a timely manner. I bring my A-game small talk, often studying some aspect of culture or current events ahead of time. I never needlessly “poke the bear,” that one guest who has very odd politics and becomes agitated whenever they hear someone mention NASCAR or Greta Thunberg. I ask the host/ess if they’d like me to bring extra chairs. I often bring a bottle of wine without being asked.

But the most important thing I do as a party guest is avert my eyes from the bakery bags poking up out of the trash can. Because I know a fellow Dinner Roll Cheat when I see them. Have you ever made dinner rolls? What a complete waste of time that could be better spent chatting about Greta Thunberg and NASCAR, or having a glass of wine, or reading another chapter. There are entire industries devoted to baking delicious dinner rolls. Who am I to strip them of their livelihood? Better to just warm my lovely, lined ceramic bowl, plop those factory-farmed rolls in it, and serve them with a demure smile and softened butter. Which I probably did not churn, thankyouverymuch.

Nobody needs to know I don’t succumb to the Do It All Syndrome, either. Except you guys. And the internet.

Readers: do you have any holiday cheats you’d like to admit to and share with us (and with the whole wide internet)?

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33 thoughts on “Holiday Cheats

  1. I’m like Lisa, where I basically have the same menu for all holiday meals this time of year. It still takes some time to prepare, but I know exactly how long I’ll be in the kitchen and, most importantly, I know for sure the meal will be edible.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I tend to do the same basics–turkey, ‘taters and gravy, stuffing–but then mix it up with the sides, trying different veg and casseroles I’ve drooled over in food magazines from year to year. And if I really like it, the new dish will go into my non-holiday dinner party repertoire.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Cynthia, you are a hoot. 🙂

    In my wild and inexperienced youth, I used to do EVERYTHING by hand. Then it hit me. The only person who cared was me. One year I just could not do it all, so I used Stovetop Stuffing and something else (I forget what). And guess what? Nobody. Said. A. Thing.

    So yeah, the cranberry sauce? From a can. The rolls? Bought from the store or the local bakery (I am supporting the local economy, yeah, that’s it). I even got away with gravy from a jar one year.

    There are some dishes I can’t get away from making – there MUST be homemade mashed potatoes, and there MUST be homemade pie, and there MUST be homemade cookies. The Hubby likes a particular homemade dressing.

    But those biscuits I slaved over and they still turned out dense little hockey pucks (for three years running)? Yeah, no. Pass the frozen Pillsbury biscuits or the frozen Pepperidge Farm French Bread rolls, please.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. My mom was always a fan of Parker House rolls. They’re a classic. (Named after the fancy Parker House Hotel in Boston—do they sell these outside of New England? They always pop up in grocery store end-caps for major holidays here.)

      Liked by 5 people

      1. I am blessed to have a family full of men who will eat anything.

        I only cut corners on the gravy once. I think I forgot to include the giblets in the roasting pan or something and came up short with drippings.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I had to laugh at my niece who kindly and bravely agreed to host the clan this year for Thanksgiving. Usually the host does the obvious things, like turkey, and then assigns everything else. But she listed that she’d handle the entire meal AND booze and then said the rest of us should just bring whatever else. Um … there was nothing left to bring! Hilarious. There will be so. much. food!

      Liked by 5 people

  3. So one of my more-laborious “classics” each year is creamed onions. My daughter and I dread the peeling every Thanksgiving morning with the Macy’s parade in in the background. Santa arrives before we’re done. But now I have Leslie’s secret recipe. Woohoo!

    Liked by 6 people

      1. And I had no idea pearl onions came any other way than frozen! But I’ll have to admit, fresh homemade dinner rolls can’t be beat. Plus they’re perfect for leftover turkey sandwich sliders 🙂


    1. My Cajun hubby and I do the family visit as they all live in Louisiana and just the two of us live in Texas! And usually we have fried turkey. This is the first year in a while we will be going there in between holidays! (No fried turkey for us. 😭)


  4. Hey, tips AND recipes! Best post EVER. This year, we’re taking the Kuhn/Clark path of guesting at someone else’s shindig. I like to bake and never get to do it because I’m always on a damn diet, so I’m going to make a pecan pie AND one of the recipes from my very own books: Bourbon Pecan Bread Pudding. I’m going to try and make a separate dish of it with pumpkin somehow.

    BTW, what is it about men and turkeys? That’s Jer’s domain too. We’re going to make a small one just for us because we love turkey. And my trusty box of Stovetop Stuffing is on the counter awaiting the starter’s pistol.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. We are having a simple small meal for us since I am still on a basic veggie diet (per Dr rules) so no fried turkey and rich gravy. 😭
    Good part is in a week or so we will be going to Louisiana so I will get some small treat – beignets!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Thanks for sharing so many great shortcuts! Ellen Byron’s recipe for dressing is the same one I’ve been using for years. 🙂 I’m going to try the Praline Yams by Kathleen Valenti & my favorite shortcut of all (going to someone else’s house) seems to be a favorite. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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