(StatePoint) The holiday season is upon us, which means you may be preparing food for more than your usual crowd. You're going to want your main dishes to impress your guests, and your desserts and sides to wow your hosts.
But you don't need a culinary degree to turn heads. These cooking tips will help you to keep the crowd pleased all season long:
*If you want to keep your friends and family safe, without leaving your poultry and pot roasts dry, invest in an instant-read thermometer. It's the best way to tell when meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature without overcooking.
*Using seasonal ingredients is the best way to ensure freshness and optimum taste. Online tools can help you identify what's in season in your region any time of year. When fresh produce isn't available, use preserved fruits and vegetables.
*Give your salsa dips an extra appetizing kick by roasting your own chili peppers. Forgo the broiler and opt for a gas stovetop, which allows you to get close enough to the flame to char the peel faster.
*But be sure to cook with a blue flame. A yellow flame indicates inefficient heating. Cooking with natural gas is also a great way to save money during the holidays. Gas cooking is 92 percent efficient compared to 32 percent when cooking with electric, according to the Council for Responsible Energy. More information can be found by visiting www.comfortableresponsible.org and clicking on "cooking."
*Make candy at home! The results will be far more delicious than anything store bought. Keep a stash of extracts like cinnamon, vanilla, mint, and cherry on hand, but be sure to wash your measuring spoons thoroughly between flavors. Remember, candy making is a precise science, so a gas stove, which allows you to precisely control temperature, is ideal.
*It may be too cold for barbequing, but bringing a campfire inside makes for a fun activity that can involve your guests. Grab some skewers and some Graham crackers and make some stovetop s'mores. Be sure to supervise the little ones though as a marshmallows can catch fire.
The holidays are the time to strut your stuff in the kitchen. So have fun with it!