99 Genius Tips That Will Make Your Holidays So Much Better

From grocery shopping to cooking to using up the leftovers, we've assembled expert tips to help you through the holiday season.

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THGKH19, Kitchen Hack Ironing Board as Cooling Rack
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Break out the ironing board

The holiday season is when many of us home bakers are in the kitchen nonstop. With so many Christmas cookies coming out of the oven, settling for small cooling racks is out of the question. Instead, grab an ironing board, remove the cover and use it as a cooling rack. You’ll be happy for the extra space and how it leaves your counters and tabletops free for other baking prep.

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Turkey in Oven.; Shutterstock ID 1269477514; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH

Crisp up your turkey

Is your turkey up to temperature but doesn’t have golden-brown skin yet? Stop basting and crank the oven up to 230°C (450°F) to crisp up the skin. The bird will brown in just a few minutes, so be sure to keep an eye on it.

Could a hairdryer be the secret to the best-ever turkey?

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Cranberries and orange for making homemade cranberry sauce; Shutterstock ID 164156969; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Zigzag Mountain Art/Shutterstock

Try a new spin on the sauce

Add some holiday spirit to your cranberry sauce with a splash or two of orange liqueur, spiced rum, port wine or cranberry-raspberry juice. Just stir in the liquor or wine at the same time as the juice, sugar and cranberries of your go-to recipe. And don’t worry, cooking the sauce will burn off any harsh alcohol taste, and the alcohol itself, but leave some amazing flavour.

Check out these other fabulous fall recipes!

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Santa Star Cookies
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Repurpose cookie cutter shapes

Think outside the box with your cutouts. Many shapes can be repurposed to make seasonal designs. Stars can become Santas, diamonds can become elves, gingerbread people get new life as yetis and much more.

Have more fun over the holidays with these secrets for decorating Christmas cookies.

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Turkey Gravy; Shutterstock ID 7196317; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Michael-John Wolfe/Shutterstock

Nix the gravy lumps

When the lump won’t dissipate no matter how much whisking you do, transfer your gravy to a blender. Pulse the gravy until it’s nice a smooth.

Avoid these cooking mistakes that ruin your food.

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DIY carrier for multiple casserole dishes
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Build a double-decker carrier

Bringing multiple goodies to the holiday party? Go you! Here’s a great way to transport them all at once. Grab your cooling rack and a storage bin that’s slightly larger in size. Place one of your dishes on the bottom of the bin, set the cooling rack on top, then set another dish on top.

Try these healthy winter soups that’ll fill you right up.

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Huge turkey on table
Alexander Raths/Shutterstock

Stay away from mega-birds

If you’re having lots of people over, it might seem counter-productive to get two smaller turkeys instead of just one huge one. But birds over eight-10 kilograms are much more likely to have been treated with chemicals. Plus, massive birds also take quite a bit longer to thaw and cook and tend to cook less evenly.

Try something new this year with these clever ways to use turkey leftovers.

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Traditional stuffing side dish for Thanksgiving in a baking pan; Shutterstock ID 1178196673; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Bake golden brown stuffing

Add some crunch and texture to your stuffing by spreading it on a cookie sheet and baking at 177°C (350°F) for 10 minutes. If it’s still too soggy for your tastes, just stir and repeat.

Here’s what to add to stuffing mix to make it taste homemade.

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Get creative with packaging goodies

There’s more to gifting food than cookie tins (though there are some really cute ones!). When wrapping up holiday treats this year, get creative. Recycle waxed paper boxes and turn them into cookie containers, fill mason jars with homemade treats, wrap rolls of cookies in parchment and much more.

Check out these common holiday disasters—and how to fix them.

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Disguise cracked pumpkin pie

Got a big crack in the top of your pumpkin pie? Don’t worry. You can solve this problem with simple and tasty disguises. You can top with a simple chocolate ganache, a praline pecan topping or even a generous dose of freshly whipped cream. No one will ever be the wiser and your pie will taste delicious.

Tired of pumpkin pie? Discover these holiday food traditions from around the world.

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Roasted ham food photography recipe idea; Shutterstock ID 1200725638

Make juicier ham

Keep your ham nice and juicy with some help from a glaze. You can go with a molasses, sweet mustard, cranberry or bourbon glaze for an extra-special ham.

Avoid these holiday foods that aren’t worth the calories.

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Thanksgiving table with roasted turkey, sliced ham and side dishes; Shutterstock ID 1178474017; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Know exactly how much to cook

For a smaller gathering, you’ll want to plan on getting a bird that serves 1 ½ pound per person. For a large dinner, however, grab a turkey that serves 1 pound per person. The extra sides and fixings will help round out the meal.

Don’t miss these other secrets chefs won’t tell you.

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Slow cooker with bungee cord tied on for safe traveling.
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Secure your slow cooker

Nervous to place that steamy slow cooker chili in the passenger seat as you drive to your holiday get-together? We were, too, until we found this genius trick to keeping the lid on tight: Grab a small bungee cord hook each end onto the slow cooker’s side handles then wrap it around (or thread it through) the lid’s top handle. Give it a wiggle to be sure it is good to go.

Watch out for these common slow cooker mistakes.

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Dinner: roasted turkey legs with vegetables, potato and herbs; Shutterstock ID 1302584431; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH

Cook the bird evenly

Not all areas of a turkey cook at the same time. If you find yourself with legs that aren’t quite done when the rest of the turkey is, there’s an easy fix. Remove the legs and thighs from the bird and place them in a roasting pan. Place the pan back into the oven (at whatever temperature it’s already set at) and let the pieces continue to cook until they reach 77°C-80°C (170°-175°F) when a thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the leg.

Don’t miss these genius ways to cook everything faster.

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Mashed Potato Comparisons; How To
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Avoid gluey mashed potatoes

Though it’s much quicker to make mashed potatoes in a food processor, overworking potatoes can give them a dense, unappetizing texture. Stick with a potato masher, potato ricer or even just a fork for fluffy mashed potatoes.

Discover the secret ingredient that totally transforms sweet potatoes.

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TOHDJ20, dessert board
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Build the sweetest dessert tray

This sugar bomb dessert board will add instant fun to your next get-together, and it requires almost zero prep. Raid the candy aisle and load it onto your favourite platter or cheese board. Fill small dipping bowls with caramel dipping sauce, chocolate sprinkles or hazelnut spread. Use it as a sugary centrepiece for your holiday party.

Don’t miss these low-calorie options for cheese lovers!

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Sliced roasted tukey breast for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with side dishes overhead shot; Shutterstock ID 735091306
Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Make sure your bird is moist

If your turkey comes out dry or tough, slice the meat and place it in the pan forming a single even layer. Cover the meat with either turkey or chicken stock, then bake at 177°C (350°F) for 10-15 minutes. This will add moisture to the meat, plus some extra flavour!

Find out how to perfectly roast chicken thighs every single time.

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Tasty turkey gravy in saucepan; Shutterstock ID 670955218
Africa Studio/shutterstock

Get silky smooth gravy

Sometimes gravy can come out with lots of lumps. Banish them by whisking in a tablespoon of turkey or chicken broth at a time into your simmering gravy. Be sure to whisk until all the broth has mixed in before adding more to prevent the gravy from getting too runny.

Learn the real difference between broth and stock.

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Woman holding baking tray with golden roasted turkey
Photo: Shutterstock

Check the shape of your turkey

Look for a turkey with a well-rounded breast—it’s juicier. Beware of flat spots, which can indicate thawing and refreezing. This raises the risk of food-borne illness.

Make sure you don’t throw away these underrated cuts of meat!

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Give double-crust pies extra crunch

It’s easy to give double-crusted pies extra texture. Just brush the top crust with water and sprinkle with sanding sugar or turbinado sugar. When baked, it’ll give your crusts an extra crunch.

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Make your own pumpkin pie spice

No need to buy a special jar of pumpkin pie spice just for one or two pies. Instead, you can make up your own spice blend. Just combine four teaspoons of ground cinnamon with two teaspoons of ground ginger, a teaspoon of ground cloves and a half teaspoon of nutmeg.

Test your knowledge of Christmas words!

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Huge dinner

Tailor the turkey to your guests’ tastes

Do you have guests coming that are particular about their turkey? If most or all of the people you’re feeding prefer white meat, consider buying an extra bone-in turkey breast in addition to (or even instead of, if your guests really can’t abide dark meat) a regular turkey. The same goes for lovers of dark meat: Get a smaller turkey and an extra drumstick or two.

Does turkey really make you sleepy?

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Gingerbread cookies, cookie dough and Christmas decorations on wooden table
Shutterstock / Vladislav Noseek

Use parchment paper to transfer cookies

One of the hardest parts of baking gingerbread men or other holiday cutout cookies is transferring the shapes to the baking sheet without stretching them out. Make your life easier by rolling the dough directly on a piece of confectioners’ sugar-dusted parchment paper. Use the cutter to create the shapes and remove the excess dough. Then, slide the parchment onto the baking sheet and bake away!

Here’s how to wrap Christmas presents like a pro.

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Close up of salad spinner with lettuce on white table; Shutterstock ID 229211386; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Devrim PINAR/Shutterstock

Save over-dressed salad

Revive an over-dressed salad by transferring it to a salad spinner or colander and shake the excess moisture off. Add the greens back to the bowl and toss with some undressed greens for crunch.

Get the recipe for Jamie Oliver’s Angry Bean Salad.

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Prep cookie dough in advance

You don’t need to do all your holiday baking the week before the big day. Most cookie doughs can be prepped in advance and stashed in the fridge for two days or the freezer for several weeks. For cutout cookie doughs, form the dough into a log or round and wrap in plastic wrap. For drop cookies, you can either freeze the dough in an airtight container or pre-portion the dough and then freeze. Be sure to label them with the date and cookie type.

Planning a Christmas cookie exchange? We’ve rounded up the best Christmas cookie recipes ever!

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Jazz up your platter

Add some pizzazz to your turkey platter with some lovely roasted veggies. Simply toss a pound of small carrots and two halved lemons with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast them for 20 minutes at 246°C (475°F), stirring at the halfway mark. Then, arrange the carrots and lemon around the sliced turkey for a pretty presentation.

Try these 10+ best turkey recipes.

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Cranberry sauce or cranberry jam with orange and rosemary. Top view on light stone table.; Shutterstock ID 1318144853; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH

Sweeten up the sauce

You don’t have to turn to sugar to sweeten up homemade cranberry sauce. Alternately, stir in some maple syrup, sweet wine or sweetened fruit juice (like apple or orange) and a pinch of salt. The salt will intensify the flavour so you don’t have to add too much sweetener.

Don’t miss these dazzling walk-through Christmas light displays across Canada.

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Dress up frozen meatballs

This last-minute holiday appetizer couldn’t be easier to put together. Simply cook frozen meatballs according to the package directions and toss with a homemade sauce. Guests won’t believe their tastebuds.

Follow these pro tips to master the art of cooking meatballs.

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Homemade Leftover Thanksgiving Sandwich with Turkey Cranberries and Stuffing; Shutterstock ID 334602803; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home
Brent Hofacker/shutterstock

Send guests home with leftovers

Stock up on special (yet disposable) to-go containers so guests can take leftovers home so you’re not stuck eating the same thing weeks after the big day.

Beware of this list of leftovers that can make you sick.

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Season under the skin

Don’t lose a single sprinkle of seasonings by adding your seasoning under the turkey skin. Gently lift the skin and rub the butter or oil, spices and herbs all over the bird. That way, the flavours can get even deeper into the meat and those who don’t like skin can simply peel it off.

Get the recipe for gluten-free cranberry walnut stuffing.

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Use corn syrup for decorating

If you’re decorating cutout cookies or even spritz, you can use corn syrup to keep your sprinkles in place after baking. Just brush the cookie with a bit of warmed up syrup and sprinkle away. The sprinkles will stay in place once cooled.

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Easy bagel brunch
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Host an easy bagel brunch

When you’ve stressed over dinner for weeks, the last thing you want to do is wake up the next morning and fuss over breakfast. Luckily, this fancy bagel brekky comes together super quick, and can totally be prepped in advance. To make your “gourmet” bagel spreads, simply soften cream cheese and add favourite ingredients. Here are a few of our fave combos:

  • Raspberry chipotle sauce and honey
  • Cinnamon and sliced apples
  • Blue cheese crumbles, butter and garlic salt

Garnish with nuts, fruits or olives for an Instagram-worthy look. Have someone pick up bagels and you’re ready to host!

Editor’s tip: If you want a sauce to stay on top of a block of cream cheese, pull the tines of a fork lengthwise on top. The ridges will keep the jam in place and look oh-so-fancy.

Find out the truth about refrigerating butter.

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Green bean casserole; Shutterstock ID 1115920352
Elena Trukhina/Shutterstock

Experiment with green bean casserole fixin’s

Rather than sticking to cream of mushroom soup for your green bean casserole, switch things up by mixing and matching the condensed soup. Consider cream of chicken, cheddar, celery or broccoli for some added flavour. Once your flavourful green bean casserole is ready.

Discover the 12 things you didn’t know about Christmas in Canada.

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Cooking Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey in a roasting pan with lemons and herbs overhead view; Shutterstock ID 737627689; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Thaw correctly

Every four pounds of turkey needs 24 hours to thaw, so make sure you’re planning ahead of time. For example, a 14-pound turkey should be transferred to your fridge 5 days before you want to cook it.

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Foil-Covered Crust Trick; How To
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Keep pie crust from burning

Sometimes pie crusts bake more quickly than their fillings. To prevent the crust from over-browning (or burning) while the filling cooks. make yourself an easy pie crust shield with foil.

Here are our 10+ best apple pie recipes.

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Man Taking Roast Turkey Out Of The Oven
Photo: Shutterstock

Buy the bird early

Purchase your turkey far enough in advance to allow it to thaw properly: One day for every four pounds. But try to avoid shopping on the worst day of the year to buy your Thanksgiving groceries.

These microwave tricks will change the way you cook!

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Sweet Pea Pesto Crostini
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Grab a bag of frozen veg

Remember that bag of frozen peas that’s been sitting in the back of the freezer since who knows when? Turn that bad boy into a stunning last-minute party appetizer. Thaw the peas, then give them a whirl in the food processor along with garlic, olive oil, rice vinegar and Parmesan cheese. Schmear the spread on toast for easy (and healthy!) crostini dish everyone will enjoy.

Use these tricks to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer.

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Use a warm knife to slice and serve

A warm knife cuts through cakes, cheesecakes and bars like butter. Before serving, dip your knife into hot water and dry it. Then slice away. Repeat as needed.

Discover the secret ingredient that makes the fluffiest pancakes ever.

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Cute turkey-shaped cheese appetizer
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Craft an easy turkey treat

This kid-friendly appetizer might just be the cutest snack of the season. All you need are crackers, cured meats, cheese and a little handiwork to make this cheery gobbler come to life.

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Close up of turkey gravy in a gravy boat.; Shutterstock ID 65015092; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Stephanie Frey/Shutterstock

Liven up the gravy

Pump up the flavour of your gravy by seasoning it with a bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir in a tablespoon of white wine (or a splash of vinegar, if you want to keep it alcohol-free) and let the gravy simmer for 3-5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and transfer the gravy into a holder to be served.

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Create a design with cardstock

You don’t need to break out the piping bags to create a pretty finish on cakes and brownies. With just a sheet of card stock—or even a doily—you can create an impactful visual. Simply trace and cut out the design of your choice. Press this onto the top of your bake and then dust with powdered sugar. Carefully remove your template to reveal a gorgeous finish.

You’ll wish you knew these kitchen hacks sooner!

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THGKH19, Kitchen Hack Chilling Wine Bottle
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Chill the bubbly quickly

You can chill a bottled beverage in a mere 20 minutes by filling a pitcher with ice water and a handful of salt. Fully immerse the bottle, turning it two to three times. This tip works well with wine or soda.

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Overhead view of brown creamy turkey gravy with a white spoon in the food.; Shutterstock ID 1299945853; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
BW Folsom/Shutterstock

Thicken your gravy

Sometimes, gravy turns out a bit too soupy. Thicken it by mixing some cornstarch with cold turkey or chicken broth. Stir the slurry into your simmering gravy, whisking until it reaches your desired consistency.

This is how to make the best beef stew ever.

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Freeze baked cookies

Pro tip: You can freeze baked Christmas cookies. Once your cookies are cooled, place them on a cooling rack or sheet pan and pop in the freezer until cold. You can then stack them and arrange them in an airtight plastic storage container with layers of parchment or waxed paper between the layers. Thaw as normal. You can always refresh them in a low oven 149- 163ºC (300-325ºF) for a few minutes.

Find out how long your Christmas cookies will stay fresh.

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Preparing bechamel; Shutterstock ID 48788257; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Photo: Viktor1/Shutterstock

Make shortcut gravy

Shave a few minutes off your cooking time by making the roux beforehand. It’ll give you a jump start on your dinner and ensure your gravy is nice and smooth.

Check out these uniquely Canadian holiday traditions.

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Thanksgiving plate with turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and cranberry sauce; Shutterstock ID 735091315; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Keep food warm

We all have that family member who tends to show up fashionably late. Anticipate tardy arrivals by keeping your prepared dishes warm in an oven set to 93ºC (200°F). This temp won’t dry your dinner but will still keep it piping hot.

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dipped fruit
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Dip it good

Chocolate dipped fruit may sound time-consuming, but it’s way quicker than baking the decadent chocolate cake. Pop a bowl of melting chocolate chips in the microwave for 20 seconds and stir until smooth. Dip fruit (we love apples, but strawberries, pears and pineapples work) and garnish with odds and ends you can find in the pantry. Hello, crushed pretzels! These delish treats will be ready by dessert.

This is an easy way to make powdered sugar in seconds.

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Delicious fresh cooked mashed potatoes in the pot, vegetables and spices on the white table; Shutterstock ID 1411764926; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Piece of Cake/Shutterstock

Heat up the spuds

If you made your mashed potatoes ahead of time, keep them warm in a slow cooker or in a covered heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. When you’re ready to serve, stir in a little warm cream to get the potatoes extra fluffy.

Check out the simple trick that keeps potatoes from turning brown.

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Green beans casserole, traditional side dish for Thanksgiving; Shutterstock ID 1178196694; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Use up French fried onions

Don’t throw those extra French fried onions away! Pull them out of your pantry and add them to a Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich or pizza.

Learn how to peel garlic in 20 seconds flat.

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Soften butter quickly

Every baker’s been there: You’re ready to start baking a batch of cookies and realize you forgot to take out the butter in advance. The good news is you don’t need to delay your baking. You can easily soften butter a handful of ways. Our favourite way to do this is just by cutting the butter into small cubes and letting it sit for just a short time. In about 15 minutes your butter will be ready.

These are the healthiest cooking oils, according to food experts.

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Golden roasted turkey in oven with meat thermometer
Photo: Shutterstock

Go generic with your turkey

When shopping for turkey, go for store brands. They are cheaper than well-known ones, and both birds may even have come from the same place. One of the main differences: Some brands use a unique seasoning on theirs. Check the ingredients to see if it’s something you might like.

Check out these tricks to get cheap meat to taste expensive.

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TOH Bakeware, blueberry muffins and baking pans
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Switch out pan sizes

When the kitchen is in full-on production mode, you might find the pans you need aren’t clean or are already in the oven. While using the pan mentioned in the recipe is always recommended, there are a few practical swaps you can make. Here are some common conversions:

  • One 9×5″ loaf pan = three 5-3/4x3x2″ loaf pans
  • One 8×4″ loaf pan = two 5-3/4x3x2″ loaf pans
  • One 9″ round baking pan = one 8″ square baking dish
  • Two 9″ round baking pans = one 13×9″ baking pan
  • One 10″ bundt cake mold = one 10″ tube pan or two 9×5″ loaf pans
  • One 13×9″ baking pan = two 9″ round pans or two 8″ square pans
  • Regular muffin pan (12 muffins) = mini muffin pan (36 mini muffins)
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Get room temp eggs quickly

When baking, it’s important to use room temperature ingredients (unless otherwise specified). If you forget to take your eggs out of the fridge in time, don’t fret. Just place them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

Keep reading to learn where you should be storing your eggs—and why.

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via Amazon.com

Use cake wraps for level layers

Making a showstopping layer cake this holiday season? You might want to invest in cake pan wraps. These reusable bands help your cakes bake up nice and level for stacking—no trimming needed.

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Demonstration of injecting a turkey
Photo: Shutterstock

Look for basted or self-basted turkey

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a bird labeled “basted” or “self-basted” has been “injected or marinated with a solution containing butter or other edible fat, broth, stock or water plus spices, flavour enhancers and other approved substances.” This can add flavour and moisture to your turkey. If you prefer to do things yourself, avoid those basted labels.

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Use dried beans as pie weights

If you’re blind baking a pie or tart crust, you’ll need something to weigh the pastry down. You can use pie weights, but if you don’t have any on hand, you can use dried beans instead. Just fill the crust with parchment or foil and then fill with the dried beans. You can reuse them infinitely, so stash them away in a container for future baking.

Read the heartwarming story behind this family’s 47-year-old holiday food tradition.

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DIY salad kit for make-and-take potlucks
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Make a to-go salad kit

Here’s how to make a quick, party-ready salad, hassle-free: Prep all of your ingredients separately in reusable containers and place them in a large serving bowl along with a bag of greens, a bottle of dressing and your serving tools. When you’ve reached your destination, simply toss everything together and serve.

Here’s how to wash salad greens (and why you absolutely should).

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Classic Pumpkin Pie
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Use cookie cutters to create gorgeous pie crusts

One of the easiest ways to finish your pie crust is to break out your favourite cookie cutters. Cut out crust into shapes to form an edge or top crust for pies. Use a bit of water to get the pieces to stick and bake as normal.

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Skip the homemade pie crust

Do we love flaky, buttery homemade pie crust? Absolutely. Do we always have time to make it? Nope! When pressed for time, it’s perfectly OK to reach for the store-bought stuff.

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a pile of frozen Thanksgiving turkeys
Photo: Shutterstock

Don’t be afraid to buy frozen

There’s no real quality difference between fresh and frozen turkey, says Norma Farrell, a consumer-education specialist at the National Turkey Federation, since the latter are flash-frozen after processing to preserve them. “Fresh” turkeys can be many days old by the time you buy them—and can cost up to 50 per cent more.

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Pastry shell tartlets
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Fill flavourful tartlets

If your freezer isn’t stocked with a couple of boxes of frozen pastry shells, it’s time to get some ASAP. This pre-cut puff pastry is our secret weapon for whipping up last-minute finger foods. There are infinite options for the filling, but we prefer to top these cuties with melted brie, jam and fresh fruit.

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tomato or butternut squash soup shooters on buffet table

Pour elegant soup shooters

Soup shooters may look elegant but come together in a moment’s notice. To make: Thin a carton of tomato soup with vegetable broth and top with crème Fraiche. Add a sprig of fresh dill for garnish.

Get the recipe for Jamie Oliver’s Spiced Parsnip Soup.

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Lazy Susan on Counter
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Break out the Lazy Susan

Decorating Christmas cookies can be messy business. Wrangle all your decorating supplies on a lazy Susan to keep everything within reach.

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Use food colouring pens for easy decorating

Piping decorations onto cookies can be tedious. You can speed up the process and get detailed results with a basic coat of royal icing and some edible ink pens. All you have to do is frost a cookie, let the icing dry and sketch on any design you choose.

Here are 20+ great holiday decorating ideas!

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Cookie garlands
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Dress up the table

Is your table feeling a little blah before the party? Break out a box of cookies for this easy (and edible) craft. Simply thread ribbon through each treat, then place loosely on the table as a sweet centrepiece.

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Think three-ingredient

When time runs out before the holiday soiree, do the dip! This Baked Asparagus Dip calls for only three ingredients: asparagus, cheese and mayonnaise. Just place in an ovenproof bowl and bake at 170°C (375°F) until heated through. Serve it warm with pita chips.

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genius holiday tips - cookie recipe
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Try a new cookie press

Spritz cookies can be tough to master, especially when you’re using a vintage cookie press. If you love spritz but hate the fuss, invest in a new press. These new machines make uniform cookies every single time with just the pull of a trigger.

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genius holiday tips - food storage
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Keep cookies soft with a slice of bread

Need to keep soft and chewy cookies, well, soft and chewy? It’s easy. All you have to do is pop a slice of bread into the container. It’ll give the cookies the moisture they need. And this trick works if your cookies have gotten a bit too crispy or have dried out.

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genius holiday tips - cake roll
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Use a tea towel to get a perfect cake roll

Keep your yule log from breaking by rolling it in a tea towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Rolling the cake while it’s still warm keeps it from breaking and helps train the sponge to curl the right way for when you fill it.

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genius holiday tips - charcuterie cheese board
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Put together a classic cheese board

Don’t have time to cook but have an upcoming celebration to attend? Use our guide to pair wine and cheese with ease.

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Christmas Turkey dinner served in front of a Christmas tree
Photo: Shutterstock

Know that size matters

Smaller turkeys tend to be more tender. Consider cooking two small birds instead of one larger one.

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genius holiday tips - baking soda into the bowl with wooden spoon
Shutterstock / al1962

Test your baking power and baking soda

Before you dive into the baking season, be sure to check on your baking powder and soda. These products do have a limited shelf life, so if they are expired or ineffective, you won’t get the right rise and lift on your favourite baked goods.

To test baking powder, measure a teaspoon into a cup and add a third cup of hot water. If it bubbles, the baking powder is ready to be used. To test baking soda, measure out a quarter teaspoon and add two tablespoons of vinegar. If it bubbles, it’s ready for baking.

And remember: Baking soda and baking powder are not the same and cannot be used interchangeably.

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genius holiday tips - Overhead view of savory marinara, slow cooked all day in an enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven.
Shutterstock / Aimee M Lee

Fake homemade tomato sauce

While Nonna had hours to babysit her famous red sauce, we’re guessing you might not. Stir in a pat of butter or a splash of half-and-half to make canned pasta sauce taste homemade. Try adding minced fresh herbs right before serving. “I also add Better Than Bouillon to make it taste like it’s been simmering forever,” explains reader Angela Lively.

Here’s why you need to be cooking your pasta in red wine.

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genius holiday tips - frozen cranberries
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Use cranberries as a garnish

Need an easy finish for your favourite bundt cake or cheesecake but don’t want to fuss with finicky finishes? Try sugaring cranberries. In about five minutes you can turn this seasonal fruit into a jewel-like topper worthy of any holiday dessert.

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genius holiday tips - chicken salad sandwiches
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Prep easy party sandwiches

Roundup a few deli salads and slider buns from the store, and cocktail sandwiches for your party will be ready in no time at all.

We’ve rounded up a dozen easy meal prep ideas that will make your life simpler!

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Use a glass (not your fingers) for perfect crumb crusts

Crumb crusts—be the made of graham crackers, cookies or pretzels—are an easy base for cheesecakes, pies and tarts. While you can press them into the bottom of these dishes with just your fingers, using a glass or measuring cup with a flat bottom helps you get a nice even layer on the bottom and sides.

Here’s what to add to pasta sauce to make it taste homemade.

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genius holiday tips - cheesecake
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Put a swirl in your cheesecake

Cheesecakes are a wonderfully decadent dessert. Put the presentation over the top with a pretty (and simple) swirl design. With just a skewer, you can create all sorts of gorgeous designs.

Here are 30 New Year’s jokes that’ll have you laughing out loud.

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genius holiday tips - whipped cream
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Make whipped cream fast

A warm mug of hot cocoa just isn’t complete without a dollop of homemade whipped cream, however dragging out your big mixer (or whisking by hand) doesn’t always seem worth it. But you can make whipped cream quickly and easily in your immersion blender. Just add heavy whipping cream, a touch of confectioners’ sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract to a tall container. With just a few pulses you’ll have a terrific topping for any dessert and minimal dishes to wash.

These are the high-calorie foods worth eating.

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genius holiday tips - Free range turkeys
Svetlana Turchenick/Shutterstock

Consider free-range turkey

If you see “free-range,” “free-roaming” or “cage-free” on a turkey label, this means that the turkeys had access to the outdoors and could move around in a yard. These turkeys tend to be more muscular, and therefore have more flavourful, and often leaner, meat. This shows in the price, but the better flavour is worth it for some consumers. But keep in mind that, despite what many people think, “free range” is not the same as organic and doesn’t necessarily mean that the bird was raised without growth hormones.

Here’s why you should never wash chicken before cooking it.

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genius holiday tips - greasing pan
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Use the right pan for gluten-free goods

Gluten-free bakes can be tasty (especially this chocolate cake), but sometimes they can lack that pretty golden colour. Get a richer colour on these treats by using dark metal pans.

These 10+ vintage Christmas desserts will make you nostalgic.

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genius holiday tips - knead dough
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Check if your bread is kneaded correctly

Making rolls for the holiday season? Make sure that you’re kneading the dough well enough with a quick test. After kneading for a bit, stretch a small wad of dough between your fingers. If the dough stretches to form a windowpane, your job is done. If the dough tears, keep kneading until it passes the test.

Here’s the answer to what is the healthiest bread.

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genius holiday tips - party franks
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Help little smokies shine

Cocktail sausages are great on their own, but make sure they go above and beyond for your holiday buffet. Dress ’em up with barbecue sauce.

Yes, you can freeze cold cuts—here’s how!

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genius holiday tips - oven proof bread
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Use your oven to proof bread

Need to proof a gorgeous holiday bread but it’s too chilly inside to get a good rise? Don’t fret. Instead, turn to your oven—but don’t turn it on! You can use your oven as a proofing box. Just fill a glass baking dish with boiling water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. Then place your dough on an upper rack and shut the oven door. The steam will create heat and humidity—bread dough’s best friends.

Avoid these common mistakes everyone makes when buying bread.

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genius holiday tips - slow cooker cinnamon roll
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Use cooking spray for clean cuts

To create precise knife cuts in cinnamon rolls, twisted breads and other decorative doughs, spray a serrated knife with cooking spray before cutting.

Consider trying these Depression-Era cooking tips.

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genius holiday tips - Mini Caramel Rolls
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Save the day with crescent rolls

Crescent roll dough is magical in a last-minute situation. Skip all the kneading and they come together in a flash—perfect for holiday brunch!

Here are 30+ long shelf life foods to keep in your pantry.

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genius holiday tips - Man lining the trunk of a car with shelf liners
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Prep your trunk for travel

Bringing lots of treats to the party? Make sure your car is prepped. Collect your yoga mats or extra drawer liners before you place any dishes in your car. Line a trunk, or back seat, with these non-slip materials to keep food from slipping and sliding when you hit the interstate.

These are the fresh foods you should never store together.

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genius holiday tips - Salad kit over empty bowl
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Enhance a salad kit

Salad kits are an excellent starter for your next potluck salad. Simply grab one or two from the produce aisle and add a few ingredients to give it homemade flair. (Think shredded chicken, walnuts, or whatever else you have on hand.) No fussy chopping necessary.

Get the recipe for Jamie Oliver’s Greens Mac ‘N’ Cheese.

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genius holiday tips - Close-up three tasty oatmeal cookies laying at the green checkered textile kitchen towel at wooden surface of bakery, cafe or kitchen table in the morning during the breakfest in cozy atmosphere
Parfenteva Tatiana/Shutterstock

Keep cookies in place

Cookies are notorious for sliding off plates. Luckily, there’s a simple fix. Line the plate with a pretty kitchen towel or napkin and place your baked goods on top. Cover with plastic wrap, and your cookies won’t budge!

Bake up these 10+ vintage Christmas cakes that’ll take you back to your childhood.

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genius holiday tips - Use a dab of frosting to keep a cake in place
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Prevent cakes from sliding

Before assembling the cake, place a dab of frosting in the middle of the cake plate—as well as on the cake board, if you are using one. The frosting acts as a glue to prevent the cake from slipping as you decorate, as well as staying put in the car.

Don’t miss these grandmother-approved cake baking tips!

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genius holiday tips - Antipasto Kabobs
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Assemble quick antipasto skewers

This mini antipasto kabob recipe can be made using items you pluck right from the deli counter. All you need are olives, pepperoni, salami, cheese tortellini and some Italian dressing. Skip the marinade step to serve up in a flash.

Here’s how long you can really freeze food for.

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genius holiday tips - Fresh cupcakes are on a black pan on the table, cookie sheet, cupcake
Beliakina Ekaterina/Shutterstock

Utilize your baking sheets

Disposable foil pans are super useful, but they are prone to caving in under heavy bakes. Instead of risking it, slide a baking sheet underneath for extra support.

Read on to find out why you should stop cooking with aluminum foil.

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genius holiday tips - Stack of newspapers on table

Insulate with yesterday’s headlines

News flash: Newspaper makes a great insulator. Next time you need to keep something cold, line a cooler with your weekly paper and tuck it around and over your dish.

Here are the 10 best chili recipes from Canada’s top cooks.

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genius holiday tips - Reusable plastic container in the larder; Shutterstock ID 114016396

Reuse containers

Give tubs, like ones for sour cream, butter, yogurt or salad mix, an extra live! Rinse out used plastic containers and keep them on hand for future side dish duty.

Check out these brilliant ways to hack your kitchen appliances.

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genius holiday tips - Dipped Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
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Choose crackers over cookies

When you don’t have time for your fave slice-and-bake cookies, these chocolate-dipped, peanut butter-stuffed crackers are the next best thing. That’s it, that’s the recipe. Add coloured sprinkles for a festive touch that comes together in minutes.

Check out these holiday cooking tips straight from Grandma.

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genius holiday tips - Cakes and cookies recipes in a recipe box
Shutterstock / Karin Hildebrand Lau

Make a meaningful hostess gift

You made a dish to pass but totally forgot about getting something special for the host. Before you walk out the door, grab an unused recipe card from your box and jot down the recipe you’re bringing or a holiday recipe you know your host loves.

Try these Christmas card messages this year.

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genius holiday tips - Popcorn with Nutritional Yeast
Taste of Home

Don’t count out popcorn

You might think of these tiny kernels for movie night, but popcorn is a great snack to have handy when surprise guests pop over this holiday season. Add cinnamon sugar, smoked paprika, Parmesan—or nutritional yeast for your DF friends—to step up the flavour.

Here’s why using your microwave’s popcorn button is a bad idea.

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genius holiday tips - Baking cookies with embossed rolling pin
Shutterstock / ranniptace

Use an embossed rolling pin

If you want picture-perfect cutouts every time, consider using an embossed rolling pin. It’s a super-easy way to create a high-end look. From snowflakes to Christmas trees, there are a variety of patterns that are perfect for your holiday cookies.

Did you know about the surprising health benefits of stress-baking?

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genius holiday tips - Fruit and Cheese Board
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Assemble a fruit platter

A fruit platter makes a healthy addition to any holiday spread. Be sure to use in-season ingredients like pomegranates and tangerines for best flavour.

Here’s our quick list of fruits for diabetics to avoid.

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genius holiday tips - Country Thanksgiving Main Beauty
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Outsource dinner

If you love hosting but are trying to avoid Turkey duty this season, there’s no shame in ordering out! Some restaurants offer delicious Thanksgiving meal orders. Less stress means more time enjoying what’s most important: the family and friends you’re with.

Next, learn how to correct the mistakes you might be making with eggs.

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Originally Published on Taste of Home

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