Holiday Hacks



  • Allspice:  1 teaspoon, substitute 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Apple Pie Spice: 1 teaspoon, substitute 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg plus 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice-Amount: 1 teaspoon; Substitute: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/4 ground teaspoon ginger plus 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice plus 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Egg: 1 whole egg…Substitute:
    • 1/4 cup egg substitute (examples include: Egg Beaters, Second Nature, Scramblers); check label for specific directions
    • Reconstituted powdered eggs; follow package directions
    • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    • ½ banana for 1 egg
  • Flour, Cake: 1 cup, substitute 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and replace with cornstarch
  • Flour, Self-Rising: 1 cup, substitute: 1 cup minus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Baking powder: ½ tsp cream of tartar and ¼ tsp baking soda for 1 tsp baking powder

Buttermilk:  1 cup milk 1 TBS lemon juice or vinegar…or just thin down plain yogurt with a little milk to make 1 cup

  • Bake cupcakes without a muffin tin by using aluminum liners or placing the cupcakes in Mason jar rings
  • Don’t have brown sugar? You can make your own with white sugar and molasses!  1 cup sugar and 1 TBS molasses (unsulfured)
  • Rum: any amount, substitute: 1 part rum extract plus 3 parts water. For example: for 1/4 cup rum, substitute 1 tablespoon rum extract plus 3 tablespoons water.
  • Wine, Red: Any…Substitute: The same amount of grape juice or cranberry juice
  • Wine, White: Any…Substitute: The same amount of apple juice or white grape juice, or chicken stock
  • Sweetened condensed milk:  1/2 cup boiling water; 1 cup nonfat dry milk; 2/3 cup sugar; 3 tablespoons melted butter; a few drops of vanilla extract.  Place in a blender and blend until smooth.  OR: 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk; 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the evaporated milk with the sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and let stand until cooled. Add vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate, or use immediately in a recipe.

CANDY TIPS…temp check/altitude adjustments, storing, etc.

On the day that you are making cooked candies, place your candy thermometer in a pan of boiling water.  Allow it to reach temperature.   If the temperature of boiling water that day is 203°F, subtract that amount from sea level boiling water temperature of 212 degrees F.  EXAMPLE:  212-203= 9 degrees.  Now, subtract 9 degrees off of your candy recipe’s temperature, and that is the temp you use for your candy.

Another way to figure it (if you do not want to go to that bother) is to lower the cooking temperature given in the recipe by approximately 2 degrees for every 1,000 foot of elevation.  EXAMPLE:  4500 ft. X 2 = 9 degrees.

Melting chocolate? Use a slow cooker.  Fill with water approx. 2 inches.  Add pint jars or bottles with chocolate chunks for melting.  Melt on HIGH…uncovered.  Be very careful not to get any water inside the jars with the chocolate…it causes seizing of the chocolate.


For drop cookies like oatmeal and choc. chip, scoop dough onto a freezer paper lined cookie sheet and freeze individually first.  Then place in heavy duty plastic bag…trying to get as much air out a possible. Double wrap in a good quality plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil.  Label.  When ready to bake, let dough thaw in fridge a few hours.  Bake as directed.  Freeze sugar cookie dough in large balls of dough…

Keep cookies softer by storing with slice of bread


  • First, pick the right cookies for shipping.  Moist bar cookies like brownies, left right in a disposable pan is a good way to go.  Or a drop cookie or slice roll cookie.  Shortbreads and tea cookies, biscotti’s, ship well.
  • Cookies that do not ship well are really moist cookies like an applesauce cookie…they will sweat and also stick to liners, etc. 
  • Second, wrap cookies well, and insulate well with either crumpled wax paper or plastic wrap.  Also, insulate box of cookies in another box with air popped popcorn
  • Store cookies with a slice of bread to keep them fresh and softer.


Yeast dough is best frozen after it is kneaded and before the first rise. To freeze dough, divide it into the desired amounts and flatten into disks that are about 1 inch thick. Place flattened dough on baking sheets and freeze for 1 hour. When dough is frozen, remove from the freezer and wrap tightly with either plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Then place in resealable plastic bags and return to the freezer. Dough can be kept frozen for up to 4 weeks. For even thawing, place in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to use, place dough on your kitchen counter; cover it lightly and let it come to room temperature (first rise). Punch the dough down. Proceed as usual with shaping and the second rising.


Place shaped dough on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for one hour to harden. Remove from freezer and wrap in plastic wrap or foil. Place in a self-sealing plastic bag and return it to the freezer. Dough can be kept frozen up to 4 weeks. To thaw, unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly greased cookie sheet or pan. Lightly oil the top of the shaped dough and cover tightly with a piece of plastic wrap or foil. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator, partially unwrap, and bring to room temperature. Let the dough rise until it passes the “ripe test“. Bake according to the recipe directions.


For every 1 foot of tree height you need: 100 lights (min); 9 ft garland; 20 ornaments

Use pre-lit pine garland wrapped in around the center of the tree to make the tree look fuller.

Stringing lights down the center of the tree helps with the glow and visual effect.

Use a pool noodle and funnel to water a live tree without having to get down on the ground and try to reach under the boughs and pour at the same time. 

Wrap smaller fake trees in plastic wrap for easy storage.

Add a little pizzazz to your Christmas lights with ping pong balls!

Use a dust buster or hair blow dryer to freshen up the tree.


Single strand…hand and band.

Long strands, like for outside, consider using a hose roller.  Or, hangers… Store lights wrapped neatly on a hanger.  Can also use a piece of cardboard to wrap lights on.

Nets…layout on lightweight plastic and fold up neat.

Pool noodle cut to about 12 inches with slit in each end to hold the ends of the lights strand.


Use a coffee filter to wrap around ornaments before packing. Glue party cups to cardboard and place ornaments inside cups. Layers nicely inside a tote.


Store rolls inside a dress bag or under bed storage bag, OR, in a 5 gallon bucket.

Tissue paper in a magazine box or magnetic folder holder for side of file cabinets


Store in small kids dress bags, round laundry basket, or big durable plastic bags.


Place a can beneath your candle in a hurricane vase — you’ll use less filler, and your candle will sit perfectly straight.

Freeze whipped cream in dollops or spread on freezer paper lined cookie sheet and cut out with cookie cutters for fun shapes on hot cocoa.

Tie strips of ribbons or fabric strips (in any color scheme) onto a string of lights for an easy garland.

Make a ‘Kids Kit’…all through the year buy little project kits at craft stores or dollar stores that can be used during the holidays to keep kids busy…particularly fun at Grandma’s house. Could also contain books, movies, games.

If you have similar foods at Christmas meals as you do at Thanksgiving, make a bigger batch and freeze…mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie dough, etc.

Hot gravy keeps in a thermos for easily an hour.

Use painter’s tape and hot glue to hang cards and decorations without damaging the wall.

Store tomatoes out on counter…not fridge.

Cucumbers…cool place, but not the fridge…they don’t like temps under 50°F

Lemons, tangerines, oranges, limes…store in an airtight bag in fridge

Strawberries…wash in hot, hot water, 125°F or rinse in 3:1 ratio water/vinegar…dry well, store in fridge with slightly damp paper towel over them.

Grapes and blueberries…3:1 vinegar rinse, then in fridge once dry.

Use mini Command Hooks on top of your doorframes or mirrors to hang banners.

Tie ribbon to your cabinets to display your holiday cards somewhere you’ll actually see them.

Separating egg yolks from whites with a water bottle.

Make hash browns in the waffle iron…crispy and quick.

To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes.

Keep all your chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom by coating them in flour first.

Use a heating pad to make frozen dough rise faster.

Mix together a cup of butter with a cup of flour and spread in an ice cube tray and freeze. Store the cubes in a container in your freezer and use a cube with a cup of milk heated slowly over low heat stirring till thickened for an instant white sauce.

Store a tongue depressor in your sugar and flour canisters for a quick means of levelling off your dry measures.

Wrap celery in aluminum foil when putting in the refrigerator and it will keep for weeks.

Use frozen butter and grate into dry ingredients…let thaw a few minutes…will blend/cut into biscuit dough or pie dough so much easier.

Soften brown sugar tips—apple slices, lettuce in bag.

Bake stuffing in muffin tins to maximize crispy surface area and make easy single servings.

When it comes to keeping clothing static down during the dry cold winter months mix up 3 TBS fabric softener, a ½ cup water, and ¼ cup white vinegar.  Place in a spray bottle.  Spray on the underside of garment lightly to help with static cling.

Use caramel as glue in making gingerbread houses.

Put ice cream in a Ziplock bag…keeps it soft and doesn’t grow whiskers as fast.

Cook bacon in the oven…less mess—line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil (Make sure the foil extends up the sides of the pan so it captures all the bacon grease and clean-up is easier.), place a cake cooking rack on that, then lay out slices of bacon.  Place in a cold oven and turn it to 400°F.  Lay a layer of foil over the bacon; this will keep grease from popping all over the oven. Remove the foil for the last few minutes of cooking for “final crisping.”  Takes 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon and how crisp/brown you like it. Carefully remove pan from the oven and quickly remove bacon onto a paper towel lined plate.

Use your slow cooker for hot cocoa in large quantities.

Make your own Christmas potpourri with ingredients such as whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, apple peels, and orange rinds in a pan of water.  Simmer gently.

For a cheap and classy alternative to expensive tabletop trees, make a cone out of card stock and glue on some bead garland.

Use a cooler to keep your food warm. Line with a blanket.

Inventory and label all your pots and pans a few days prior to cooking to make sure you have what you need.

Spray your baking dishes with vegetable spray over an open dishwasher door to catch the overspray, and make it easy to clean up.

Make this cake-release mix and your cakes will never stick to the pan again: ½ cup shortening; ½ cup veg. oil; ½ cup flour.

Thaw turkey in unopened packaging in a pan in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf. Allow approximately 4 hours per pound to thaw. Leave turkey in unopened packaging. OR…Cover completely with cold water…in the sink, change water every 30 minutes to keep turkey surface cold. Allow 30 minutes per pound to thaw.

When cutting apples, pour Sprite over them to prevent browning.

Keeping salad fresh…place one or two coffee filters inside a bag and blow (co2) into bag—tie off.

Use a can of coconut milk and a box cake…no eggs or oil needed and still makes a nice moist cake.

Use command hooks to make hanging decorations a snap…great on the back side of a door, using a ribbon to hang a wreath…doesn’t ruin the door frame.

Party foods take up a lot of room in your refrigerator, so organize a cooler with condiments and extra ingredients you’ll need access to while cooking, or use it to stow random items you won’t need so you can use that valuable refrigerator real estate for drinks or party food essentials.

Add bread clip/tags to the end of the tape to make it easy to grab.

Utilize grocery delivery services to save time/headache.

Using different wrapping paper for each child’s presents. Even if they can’t read, they know which gifts are theirs.

Use a mixer to shred cooked chicken.

Use a paper towel stand for stacking ribbon.


Create a digital inventory of the contents of each of your holiday storage bins.   It’s the perfect solution for organizing holiday decorations.  All you do is click on the Bin #1 folder and contents will be listed.  No more going down to the basement storage room and pull out bins to remember what decorations you have. You can also label each bin with a number and QR code, and scan that way. (Sortly)

Charge your phone on airplane mode.  Helps devices regain battery strength by eliminating apps or services running in the background.

Scan or photograph passport, identification, and itinerary. If you are traveling out of the country save these images for offline access and email them to your personal account. It is always important to have an extra copy of travel docs.

Take a screenshot of directions anytime you travel because once you have saved the directions, you can turn off your phone’s navigation and location services in order to conserve the battery.

If you are an online shopper checkout Ebates before buying anything. Most major stores have tons of deals that you can cash out on. Ebates gives you all the special promotions and cash back offers in one spot.

Get paid to watch videos with InboxDollars.

Sources:  Pinterest, Joy of Cooking, Real Simple, Taste of Home

Presented by:  Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension, Weber County FCS Educator

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply