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.
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!
Go 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.
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!
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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place drained yam pieces into an ungreased casserole dish in a single layer (8×8 – use 9×13 if doubling this recipe).
- In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together. Sprinkle the crumbly mixture over the top of the yams, to cover.
- 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.
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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