Thanksgiving and Christmas are seasons of festive joy. These are times when family and friends come together in united bliss. However, the family cook may not find the seasons to be so relaxed. Cooking for large crowds of people is not an easy task to undertake. However, preparing a beautiful meal for loved ones is vastly rewarding. As well, this may be accomplished with less stress when adhering to a few organization tips. Below are some stress relieving hints which you may find helpful in your holiday cooking endeavors.

Acquire a guest list

Try to secure a guest list. This will help you to estimate the number of people you will be cooking for. You may find it helpful to send out RSVP invitations. Do this at least four weeks in advance. The responses you receive will help you to judge the amount of guest which will be attending the dinner. Keep in mind that this list is only an estimate. Some guest may experience a change of plans or be unable to attend. Others may bring unexpected friends.

Practice early shopping

Everyone knows that the holiday season brings about a mass of store chaos. One of the most stressful things about holiday cooking is fighting the crowds to gather ingredients. There is no way to avoid this distasteful chore completely. However, early shopping can reduce the amount of time you spend among fellow holiday shoppers. Make a detailed list of the things you will need. Next, inventory your cupboards to determine if you already have any of these things. Remove any items from the list which you discover in your kitchen. Divide the remaining list into two sections. The first part will be for non perishable and frozen foods. The second half is for those foods which will quickly spoil. You are now ready to shop. Visit the store as early as possible and pre purchase the frozen and non perishable items. This will leave you only a small number of items to purchase just before meal preparation.

Begin preparing dishes and treats in advance

There are many foods which may be safely prepared well before the actual dinner date. Create a list of all foods you plan to serve. Observe the list and determine which foods can be frozen without compromising taste or quality. Such foods may include breads, cookies, pies, cakes, and casseroles. Preparing these foods ahead of time will lessen the work load on the actual event night.

Make space for your cooking creations

As you begin preparing for the preparation of a marvelous holiday meal consider space. This includes both counter and storage space. Remove any unneeded items from kitchen counter tops. This will provide you with extra room for cooking. As well, you will have space to store finished desserts and other dishes. Also, remember to give the refrigerator adequate attention. Toss out empty containers and foods which are less than fresh. It is important to have access to vast cold storage.

Do not be afraid to put kitchen appliances to work

Part of past family holiday tradition most likely included grandmother doing all the slicing, dicing, and shredding by hand. Such hard work was certainly a noble notion. It was also time consuming, stressful, and hard on her hands. Fortunately, you have the luxury of a magical kitchen aid known as the food processor. During the cooking process do not hesitate to chop, dice, and slice using the machine. This will lessen preparation time and stress. You may even blend and puree with the help of this device.

It's ok to take short cuts

Naturally, you will want everything to be perfect. As a result, you may feel compelled to prepare each facet of the meal by hand. This is not a requirement. There are several areas where you may take short cuts in recipes. Guest will never know you took these time saving measures. Below are some examples of such shortcuts.

• If a recipe calls for diced tomatoes canned tomatoes will most often work in those dishes which will be heated.

• If you are making a salad packaged shredded lettuce will yield tasteful results without the hassle of hand shredding.

• Frozen vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, corn, and carrots are just as good in casseroles as fresh. Buying pre packaged veggies will decrease the amount of hard work and time you put into making these dishes.

• Canned fruits will deliver the same delicious pies and cakes as fresh ones. This includes pumpkin for pies. If you are short on time do not mess with taking the time to clean and boil fresh pumpkin. Simply purchase canned pumpkin. You can still add your own spices and ingredients to create your special signature pie.

Save yourself time on peeling

Peeling tough skinned vegetables such as white and sweet potatoes can be a cooking nightmare. This can be easily bypassed. If you will be using white potatoes in a dish that requires them to be diced or mashed you may simply boil them with the jackets on. White potatoes are wonderful when mashed with the jackets on. There are two benefits to this cooking method. First, the jackets harbor a multitude of healthy vitamins. Secondly, mashed potatoes with the jackets will add a classy appeal to the dish. This will remind guests of something they would be served in an upscale restaurant. As for sweet potatoes, if you will be making a pie or casserole allow the potatoes to cool enough to touch. Once cooled you will be able easily to shed the peeling. You will not have to devote long periods of time to peeling and your hands will avoid the tiring process.

The above tips can relieve some of the stress related to cooking large holiday meals. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with cooking responsibilities simply take a deep breath. Remember that this is your gift to friends and family. The meal does not have to render perfection. Your loved ones will adore the fact that you have taken so much time and effort to create a wonderful holiday for them.