Kitchen shortcuts

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By Greg Summers

You're about to panic.

If work, marriage, young'uns, homework and school projects and ball practice wasn't enough, you just found out that the office Christmas party is tomorrow.

Somehow, you have to find the time to make a holiday treat that wows everyone. Yeah, right.

So what do you do when time isn't on your side and you know that everyone is looking forward to seeing what you can come up with?

First, take a deep breath, and start with a little planning.

There are plenty of alternatives that won't have you waking the rooster up in the morning to get everything done.

•Measure ahead of time – If you've never tried this, you will be amazed at how much time can be saved by measuring out the dry ingredients before hand. Just sift them (if needed and put them is zip lock bags so that all you have to do is dump them into a mixing bowl (or pot) with the wet ingredients.

•Cake mixes are a good thing – Several years ago, a group of up and coming cooks on the TV show "Top Chef" were criticized by their judges for making a wedding cake from cake mix. Given that they had very little time during the competition to pull it off, what's the problem?

There is nothing wrong with using cake mixes, pancake mixes, biscuit mixes that have everything in them. I do it all the time. There are plenty of recipes out there that use these as their base. And unless you tell someone, they'll never know the difference.

•Get back to basics – Snack mixes and sausage balls can be put together in no time and are still holiday favorites that can be put together with very little cooking time. Use the microwave oven when possible; saving time is what it's for.

•Think ahead – I call this tailgate cooking. If you plan to cook to something that contains pasta, you know how time-consuming that can be to prepare from scratch. You can boil your pasta or macaroni two days ahead of time. Then put it in a plastic storage container or zip lock bag with a slight amount of oil to keep it from lumping together and keep it the refrigerator. That way, you don't have to take up precious time waiting on it to boil.

Other dishes like stuffing can be made ahead of time, placed in a casserole dish, covered in plastic and kept in the refrigerator, too.

Just don't panic. Use your kitchen time wisely.

For the recipe, pick up Wednesday's edition of The Lancaster News.

– www.cdkitchen.com

– Contact Greg Summers at 283-1156 or gsummers@thelancasternews.com