An arsenal of last-minute remedies to save your recipes in a clutch situation.

Sorghum and Spice Cookies
Credit: Photo: Jennifer Davick

Holiday entertaining is stressful enough; when something goes wrong, it could become a traumatic experience. Here are some quick-save solutions to keep you cool under the pressure of a party.


  • If your cookie dough is too dry, stir in a tablespoon or two of milk.
  • If cookies harden and stick to the cookie sheet or a cake sticks in the pan, return them to the oven for 1 minute.
  • To cool cookies, place them on a wire rack or a sheet of wax paper sprinkled with sugar. Cookies will cool without getting soggy.
  • Make side dishes ahead, and freeze them.
  • Keep berries, chopped green bell pepper, chopped onion, parsley, soft breadcrumbs, shredded cheese, and a variety of toasted nuts on hand in zip-top plastic freezer bags in your freezer.
  • When frying or sautéing, keep grease splatters as contained as possible by placing a metal colander on top of the skillet.
  • Make use of your microwave for thawing foods or jump-starting the cooking process for meats.
  • Soups and stews can be made less salty or fiery by adding several large pieces of raw potato. Don't forget to remove the potato before serving your dish!
  • Failed pralines can be crumbled over ice cream for a sweet dessert.
  • When a cake turns out dry or layers fail to come out of pans evenly, make parfaits or a trifle. Simply crumble the cake into glasses or a dish, and layer with whipped cream and fresh fruit.
  • For a quick chill on wine and champagne, fill the sink with cold water and ice, and submerge the bottles. This will cool the liquid faster than the freezer or ice bucket.
  • When the chocolate you are melting seizes (clumps), stir in a tablespoon of vegetable oil or shortening to smooth things out.
  • To thicken a mousse, stir in whipped heavy cream.
  • If you accidentally scorch a recipe or sauce, do not scrape the bottom of the pan. Transfer the remainder of the sauce to a clean pan immediately.
  • If a cake gets too brown on top, simply cover it with whipped topping or a sauce.
  • If your chocolate pie is soggy, serve chocolate pudding. If your savory cheesecake doesn't set, have dip with crackers.
  • Dry stuffing or dressing can be remedied with a little chicken broth.
  • Strain lumps from your gravy, and mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water; add this mixture slowly to thicken the gravy.

Finding yourself in the kitchen without a needed ingredient is a nightmare. Instead of sending someone to the store, try a substitution.

  • Buttermilk = 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • A sweet salad dressing = whole-berry cranberry sauce + olive oil + vinegar
  • 1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar = 1 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Process this in a food processor.
  • 1 (1-ounce) chocolate square = 3 tablespoons cocoa + 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 medium onion, chopped = 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon dried herbs or 1/4 teaspoon powdered herbs
  • 1 garlic clove = 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar = 1/2 cup red wine vinegar