Preparing Your Kitchen for the Holidays

Happy Holidays!

However you choose to celebrate, the kitchen always seems to be at the heart of the season. It is fun to bake with little ones or prepare special dishes that you had growing up. And, traditions seem to be more present now than at any other time of year. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share some of our traditions with you. Maybe it will remind you of something you did as a kid that you want to rekindle or inspire a new tradition in your family. We also are pleased to share some helpful tips for making sure your kitchen, which is at the heart of it all, is organized and prepared to handle the extra "love" it will receive.

But, through it all, just remember that this time is about being together. It is not about being perfect, for this time together with family and friends will make memories that will last a lifetime. Our best to you and yours...

TIPS FOR PREPARING YOUR KITCHEN TO MAKE IT HOLIDAY-READY

Taking a few minutes to plan now will save you unneccessary frustration in the future. These helpful hints are only the beginning. If you have a specific need, nearly anything can be found on the Internet with a simple search of your issue in the search box. Happy cooking!

  • Inspect your refrigerator and get rid of the leftovers and any old items to make room for your holiday food.
  • Use your oven to its maximum potential – read your appliance manual in advance and think about how your oven and microwave can help with your recipes. For example, we often times use our microwave as a plate warmer and when baking fresh bread, we put our oven on a setting of 200 degrees and then turn it off, open the door and let the dough rise in front of the warm air. If you have a convection feature, try to use it while cooking family dinner in the upcoming days and work through the process so you can take full advantage of all of your settings when entertaining.
  • To expand your refrigeration capacity, put a plastic cooler (like an Igloo Wheelie-Cool) in your walk-in pantry or nearby utility room.
  • Store fresh herbs (e.g., sage, parsley, rosemary) by rinsing them and then laying them on a paper towel; loosely wrap and put themin Ziploc bags in your refrigerator's crisper drawer.
  • Down-size your plastic storage containers as leftovers get eaten.
  • When making whipped cream, put your whisk or beaters for your hand mixer along with the metal bowl in the freezer 10 minutes prior for the best results.
  • Add color to your kitchen with a fresh wreath hanging from a pretty french-wire ribbon that matches your decor. Add a large glass jar filled with holiday balls for extra color and use poinsettias to take the holidays throughout your home.
  • And, of course, get cooking! Below are two of our holiday favorites. There is nothing as memorable during the holidays as the smells of our favorite holiday foods. Enjoy!

RECIPES FOR ENTERTAINING

Sausage-Cheese Balls

3 cups Original Bisquick® mix

pound bulk pork spicy sausage - make sure it’s spicy!
4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (16 ounces)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley or 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

Heat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease bottom and sides of jelly roll pan (15.5 x 10.5 x 2 x 1 inch). Stir together all ingredients, using hands or spoon. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Place in pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brown. Immediately remove from pan.

Snowballs (Mexican Wedding Cookies)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then pecans. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside. Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. (Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar.) Sift remaining cinnamon sugar over cookies and serve.

TIP: Use a food processor for the pecans, you will not be able to chop them fine enough by hand.

HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

We asked our staff about their holiday traditions and especially like these. Think about your own special traditions and talk about them with your family. You may not even realize how many traditions you have!

Our tradition for Christmas is the Christmas Eve party – given everyone is going to have the “traditional” Christmas fare on Christmas Day, my mom hosts a party with a Mexican buffet on Christmas eve. After everyone has eaten, we gather around the fireplace and the kids sing various Christmas carols in the great room around the piano. They go in order of age and everyone has to perform one Christmas carol – then at the end, everyone joins in for Jingle Bells. - From Lead Designer, Katie Bacon Ewell

Our tradition for Hanukkah is a "Latke Party." We exchange gifts, light the menorah and eat our hearts out. There is something about walking into my parents' house and smelling the potatoes being fried into these little delicacies. I call them delicacies because you only eat them once a year and when they are gone, they are gone. Mom will sometimes add shredded carrots or zucchini, but our favorite are the plain potato ones. Hearing the crunch of the latke at first bite with a dollop of sweetness (apple sauce or cinnamon sugar on top) - YUM YUM! You really don’t need anything else for this dinner, but a salad is always served. - From Designer, Leslie Greenblatt

On Christmas morning, we make fresh eggnog (including a child's version) for all to have while opening gifts and then have a hearty breakfast of french toast that we make the night before so all we have to do is bake it and we're ready to go. Another favorite holiday tradition for us is having a 10-person carriage ride with friends and family where we look at Christmas lights and sip on hot chocolate. The clip-clop of the horses tells me Christmas is near! -- From Mary Kathryn Reese, Co-Owner/Founder

Win a New Kitchen!

Our Neediest Kitchen Contest has gotten overwhelming attention and, until December 31, you have a chance to get into the fun. If you have one of the Dallas area's neediest backsplashes, you might win a new backsplash or even the final contest of a complete kitchen makeover! For details, to enter or to vote, check out Dallas' Neediest Kitchens Contest on the Snappy Kitchens Facebook page.

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