The Shortcut Saviors' Guide to Holiday Survival

Our newest Clean Eating Academy instructors, Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, lend their top advice for sailing through the entertaining season.
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Our newest Clean Eating Academy instructors, Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, lend their top advice for sailing through the entertaining season.
Bruce
 Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

From mid-November to late December, you’ll shop, you’ll plan, you’ll cook your heart out, and, no matter how much you love the holidays, you’ll stress. It’s inevitable. Or is it?

Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, cookbook authors, culinary instructors and the faces of our newest Clean Eating Academy course, Shortcut Cooking: Easiest-Ever Clean Meals, seem to have it figured out.

“People overemphasize the product of cooking rather than the process,” Scarbrough explains. “That mistakes the point of cooking.” He continues, “Given the status of the food industry in North America right now, there’s a crazy emphasis on super-perfection. And there is a fascination, or obsession, with everything artisanal. It’s insanity! That overemphasis on perfection stymies people.”

Weinstein jumps in, in agreement, “The fetishization of it pushes people away. You do not need yellow Bintje potatoes to make the perfect oven fry. I don’t care how many New York Times writers say that. Mark is right!”

Now, don’t be fooled. Weinstein has been known to make dumpling wrappers from scratch for a dinner party, while Scarbrough is ambitious enough to make his own Worcestershire sauce. But the dao of their cooking is to put practicality before form. If you try to do everything, and do it perfectly, you’ll likely be miserable. Instead, think ahead and choose where and when to expend your energy.

But how, you ask? Read on for their tips to conquer cooking during the holidays.

Weeknights Should Be Worry-Free

Keep it minimal for weekly dinners. It’s like marathon training – taper off your workouts as you near the big race to save your strength. For Weinstein and Scarbrough, that means relying on pressure cooking, stir-frying and grilling until years’ end.

Decide on the Star of Your Holiday Meal It’s like the ensemble cast of a movie: If there are too many leads, your meal will probably fall under the weight of the pressure. Let a few, selective dishes shine and be the focus of your most concentrated effort. “You’re so busy worrying about the turkey or the ham or the roast, you don’t necessarily need to spend an hour creating the most perfect wild rice pecan pilaf that’s also going to take you 2 hours of prep,” Weinstein says.

Make Friends with Your Pressure Cooker

Scarbrough and Weinstein are zealots for the pressure cooker –Scarbrough especially. “It’s our favorite time-saving tool in our arsenal,” he says. There’s no pre-cooking, so you can cook recipeslike Quinoa “Risotto” with Kale, Pears & Walnuts or Black-Eyed Peas with Apples, Ginger & Turmeric in 30 minutes or less (both featured in their Shortcut Cooking course), and you’ll have minimal dishes to clean up. They’re such big fans of pressure cooking, in fact, that it’s what everyone receives for the holidays. They’ll give their favorite pressure cooker – a Fagor – along with a copy of their book, The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book (Clarkson Potter, 2015).

Go Easy on the Appetizers

They’re fun and can be incredibly inventive, but unless you’re hosting a canapés-style gathering, skip the snacks and apps. Scarbrough and Weinstein rein it in for the first course, in order to maintain the focus of the meal. To wit: They avoid dips, because it’s so easy to mindlessly eat them until you’re surprisingly full. Instead, Weinstein – the chef of the duo; Scarbrough, the writer – typically serves olives that have been gently warmed up in a skillet (sometimes with a little honey and balsamic) to bring out their flavor.

Cook Your Turkey from Frozen

Yes, you read that right. Weinstein swears by his method of using a frozen bird. It will take about 50% longer to cook from frozen (see the chart below). Here’s how you do it.

• Place the unwrapped, frozen bird on a rack in a roasting pan in a 325°F oven.

• Check in 2 hours if it’s thawed enough to remove the giblets and any other surprises inside. No? Check every 20 minutes until you’re able to remove them.

• Once removed, if you prefer, brush with melted organic unsalted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

• Keep roasting until the internal temperature hits 165°F, per the chart below. Cover the turkey if it starts to brown too much.

8–12 lb An additional 2 1/2 to 3 hours*

12–14 lb An additional 3 to 4 1/4 hours

14–18 lb An additional 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours

18–20 lb An additional 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

*Cooking times are approximations. Always ensure an internal temperature of 165°F.

Try this recipe for Straight from the Freezer Roasted Chicken with Butternut Squash & Pearl Onions.

For more details and to sign up for Shortcut Cooking: Easiest-Ever Clean Meals, visit cleaneating.com/shortcutcooking