Less Stress Holiday Dinners
I love cooking during the holidays. But it wasn’t always like that. When I was a newlywed I stressed during the holiday cooking season. I always felt I had to make the best food and entertain everyone. It was not easy even when my husband helped with clean up. And it’s much more difficult when there are fewer family members to keep everyone entertained.
So over the last 22 years of holidays I’ve learned a few things that have made holiday dinners less stressful.
In the early days, I would shop twice the week and days before and cook for two days, the day before and the day of the holiday. As time went on, I found that many people didn’t like the rich foods. They all seemed to look forward to the old faithful foods, turkey, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and eggnog. Of course we have a few hors d’oeuvres for beforehand munching.
Sometimes there are variations of a few of the foods such as regular mashed potatoes and yams, two different kinds of vegetables, and two different kinds of cranberry sauce. Occasionally there are some who make a great side dish and I happily accept their offer to bring it. But for the most part, the meal is simple.
Were you to happen upon a regular holiday meal at my home you might find the table set with fancy paper plates and cups. (The years we’ve used paper have given me a much-deserved rest.) I cook most of the food the day before, including all that’s needed for my stuffing made from scratch. All that’s usually left to cook on the day of… are the vegetables, stuffing, and turkey. However I will occasionally under cook the yams and pie so they can be put back into the oven, then served hot. An extra 10 – 15 minutes is all they need.
The kids help me prepare the foods in dishes and cover them to keep them warm. Last minute cleaning and prepping is done, and then we wait for the guests to arrive. Of course I’m in the kitchen continuing with the last minute preparations when they arrive.
After they arrive we put out drinks and hors d’oeuvres, then show them where the refrigerator is and invite them to enjoy our home as their home. TV is put on in one room for those wanting to watch the game. Hors d’oeuvres are placed in the TV room and sitting room. At about 3 o’clock we serve dinner. This gives everyone enough time to digest dinner a bit before digging into pie and having coffee.
I am blessed to have a husband who always seems to be cleaning up before I even think about it. But I hear that’s not always the case. So using paper plates and cups will help mom with the cleaning. And if the guests ask if they can help, let them! For some, it’s difficult to just sit and relax. They need to feel a part of things.
If you know you’re having a guest who just can’t live with paper plates and such, make it a point to put out your finest dishes and just leave a hot sink of soapy water to put everything in after the meal.
©2004 Susie Glennan
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