Anyone who has had to do a ton of cooking during the holiday season will know just how stressful it can be, so here are a few tips to help make cooking that massive dinner a success.
1. As obvious as it may seem, make sure you have everything you need for whatever it is you're cooking. You don't want to be half way into making a batch of cookies only to realize you don't have any butter or whatever. I suggest reading the recipe, and pulling the individual items out of the pantry and fridge as you read along to make sure you have what you need.
2. Got a pan with dubious non-stick qualities, and you don't want to cook in oil? Or you want to make sure your pancakes or eggs don't stick in any kind of pan? Let your pan of choice preheat, and then add about a half tablespoon of your favorite oil. Then, use a napkin or cloth to rub it into the entire pan, and then simply wipe away any excess. From there, you can add butter, and cook your heart out knowing nothing will stick. This method is used to cook eggs in cast iron cookery, and works just fine with other types of pans. Bonus tip: spray your cheese grater with a thin layer of non-stick spray to make grating great.
3. Add wine to like... everything you cook!
4. When making whipped cream for pies or desserts, hand mix the heavy whipping cream. I personally hand mix just about everything, mainly because I am far too lazy to drag out the mixer, but using a hand whisk for whipped cream will really help you gauge just how done it is.
5. Recipes are not written in stone. With a few exceptions of course, feel free to substitute or exclude whatever you want. This also means that you can put other ingredients in the dish as well. The bulk of my cooking recently has excluded eggs 100%, so either I will leave the eggs out completely, or I will substitute them with more of another liquid, baking powder, or baking soda. Eggs are usually used as a form of leavening, and as a binder, but bananas work just as well for this purpose. No chicken broth? No problem, I'm sure you have chicken flavored bouillon laying around somewhere.
6. Take your time when you cook, don't half bake something (pun intended), unless you're going for it. Most cooking I do will be lazy and something simple, but for real cooking, take your time and really feel what you're doing. Cooking is a cathartic activity, and the more respect you show the ingredients and the more prep you do, the better your dish will come out. Turkey needs another half hour? Then let it sit in the oven for another half hour.
7. Pay attention to your food. Don't go wandering off if you're sautéing onions, because they can go from not done one second, to practically on fire the next.
8. Like soft/hard boiled eggs, but hate dealing with peeling the shells off afterward? Simply add a few pinches of baking soda to them as they boil, and peeling will be far easier.
9. Going hand in hand with number 5, cooking times are also not set in stone. Food is done when YOU think it's done.
10. Stick to the basics. You absolutely do not need to add 500 different herbs and spices to food for it to taste good, and this is especially true with meats and produce. All I season steak with is salt, pepper, and garlic. For turkey, I use salt, pepper, butter, and oregano. While piling on the seasonings can add "depth" to the dish, it can also mask the flavor of the meat itself.
Bonus: A lot of people tend to add salt or olive oil to boiling water when cooking spaghetti, and claim that it prevents sticking and whatnot. Salt will only make the water boil faster. As for oil, if your noodles don't stick together, how do you expect the spaghetti sauce to stick to the noodles? The best way to prevent noodles from sticking to each other while they cook, is to give them a good stir right after adding them to the boiling water, and stirring them every so often until they are done.