iStock Mashed Potatoes
Read on for some handy holiday potato tips.

Native Cooking: 16 Helpful Holiday Hints

Dale Carson

First, a word or two of caution, whenever there are a series of celebrations on the horizon, we tend to get anxious, well some of us do. People sense this, and often offer to help—let them! Like many other people, I get excited about all the wonderful produce and products available, and enjoy create amazing tastes for family and friends.

Things change though, we once had friends who had several apple trees and we were welcome to pick to our heart’s content. They walked on, their property sold, trees were cut down, now the land is a new development, their kids are rich—sound familiar? Those apples were such a treasure.

Whatever you decide to make for friends and family over whatever holidays you celebrate, here are some helpful hints:

Save the Peels

Save the peeled skins from oranges and lemons. Let them dry out and mix with kindling wood or place on your wood stove by themselves. They burn slow and give off a nice aroma that you can enhance with a pinch of cinnamon and clove.

Leave that Skin

Most vitamins and nutrients are in the skin of vegetables. Leave the skin on if you can and wash the veggies with a soft brush. I am thinking of luscious baking potatoes. The exception is fruits like apples or tomatoes, which have been sprayed with pesticides and need to be scrubbed. A teaspoon of lemon juice can brighten the color of some vegetables like corn or cauliflower. A bit of lemon juice can keep rice from sticking together, too.

Turn it Down

If you will be out all day and want to conserve a little energy, turn the thermostat down 5 or 10 degrees. After baking bread or a pot roast in the oven and turning it off, leave the oven door open and let that heat the room while it cools.

Stay Organized

Baking a lot for the holidays? Put all of your ingredients to the left of the mixing bowl before you use them, then put them to the right after you have used them, then you will know how far you have gotten should you get interrupted.

Rising Heat

Waiting for bread dough to rise can be a pain. Putting the dough in a greased pan or bowl and setting it on a warm heating pad, speeds the process.

Defrost It

Need to defrost something while you go off to work? Put it in a cooler—it’s faster than the fridge, but not as fast as the counter—it’s just right.

Crush It

To crush nuts for a recipe, put them in a strong freezer weight plastic bag. Smash with a smooth rock or smooth wooden mallet.

Whip It

Need to whip cream or egg whites? Both whip faster if brought to room temperature first.

Whip cream faster at room temperature. (iStock)

No Roasting Rack?

If you cannot find your roasting rack, or don’t own one, put a layer of celery ribs and/or carrots under a roast. It will provide the air circulation needed and add extra flavor.

Gravy Goodness

When making gravy, whisk the flour into cold water before heating to avoid lumps.

Fluffy Taters

I heat a cup of milk with a little butter before putting it in potatoes to mash. Makes them light and fluffy.

Add OJ

When mashing sweet potatoes, I add brown sugar and butter and a dash of orange juice.

Steam It

Steam fresh vegetables as often as possible for maximum flavor, nutrition and color.

Freeze It

Keep candles in the freezer, they burn longer.

Clothespin It

Twist ties are hard to grab, I use clothespins for breads, chips, and anything else that needs to be kept closed for freshness.

New Uses for Pastry Tools

Use a large flat pastry cutter to move chopped veggies to the cooking pot.

Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: “New Native American Cooking,” “Native New England Cooking” and “A Dreamcatcher Book.” She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.

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