You need this guide to find out how to host Holiday Meals stress free! No more stressing out because you forgot to do something and find out when everything is ready to go! Organization is the key. Not organized? No worries, I’ve got your back!
I had a smaller group than usual for Thanksgiving this year. In the afternoon, I posted on Facebook that I was pretty much done with all my prep and all I had to do was nothing until the turkey came out of the oven. I had a few comments asking me to do a blog post on how I managed that and thought that was a great idea!
I used to be so stressed out cooking holiday meals that by the time everything was ready to eat, I was worn out and didn’t even feel like eating. Not so anymore. Through the years I have come up with several tricks that work for me and I’m sure they will help you out too!
So now that we have all made it through Thanksgiving, it’s time to turn our attentions to Christmas. It’s such a busy time of year… shopping, cleaning, baking, decorating, wrapping, etc. etc. etc. I have a pretty big group coming for Christmas but I’m confident that I will still have time to watch “Chef’s Table” for a while in the afternoon because I will have everything done! (Yes I am a geek, I watch cooking shows in the middle of cooking the largest meal of the year!)
So I want to take you through the process. First and foremost, make lists!!
I can’t stress that enough. Start with a master list for your menu. Get that set in your mind early. You can always tweak a few things here or there if you find a great recipe you want to try or you can’t find that special ingredient you are looking for.
Once your menu list is made, go through all of the recipes. Add the ingredients you don’t normally have in your pantry to the list. I keep my shopping list on a free App on my smartphone. The reason for this is that before smartphones, I would leave the list on the refrigerator, in the car or lost somewhere in the bottom of the black hole that is my purse!
When I use the last of a pantry item, I grab my phone and update the list. So I don’t usually have to worry about those items. Just in case, when coming up with your shopping list, check all of the pantry items that you might be low on and add them to the list. If you do this list early, you can pick up a few things that may be on sale when doing your regular grocery shopping. Thereby saving money, as an added bonus.
As you purchase items, cross them off of the list. You can purchase the non-perishable items well in advance and not have to worry about them! In this case, I just bought the turkey, almonds and cranberries because they were on sale. Dry sherry is a pantry item for me.
Again, well in advance, plan your table decorations including, centerpiece, dinnerware, plates, serving platters and bowls, napkins, etc. If you know the color scheme you want to go with, you can pick up lots of things at the dollar store. Saving you more money!!
These are fun. Just a few different sized glasses and a vase with some spruce that I cut from the back yard. A package of tealights and a few colorful leaves. Cost me $8 at the dollar store. When they are lit they are really cute! The tea lights float on water for about 40 minutes.
In my local dollar store there is an entire isle dedicated to glassware of all shapes and sizes. You can come up with really cute centerpieces for next to nothing!
Go back to your menu and determine how long each task will take to prepare and how long each item needs to cook. Add each task to a timeline that you can refer to all day.
Go back to your original list and determine how many serving platters, serving bowls and serving utensils you will need. This will save a ton of stress as you are getting your finished food ready to plate and you have nothing to put them in. If you’re like me, the only time I break out the good china, is a few holidays. Inevitably they need rewashing. A few days before your event, get the dishes and serving bowls out and wash them. Then just set them aside for a few days. I usually cover with a clean kitchen towel because we have 3 dogs and they would be full of dog hair, if I didn’t. One to two days ahead, purchase the produce and perishables.
If you read posts with tips such as this, many advocate for setting the table up to a week early. There is no way I can do this. We live in an old farmhouse and the dining table is where everything is set when anyone walks in the front door. Backpacks, groceries, tools, mail, you name it, it ends up resting for a time on the table. I have, in my old age, decided that I am setting it the day before any event.
So iron the tablecloth, if you must, (I freaking hate ironing and might not if my Mom wasn’t coming 🙂 ). Place the centerpiece and set place settings. If you are doing a buffet, set up for that. (Threaten your family with a horrible fate if anything gets messed up!)
Anything that can be made a day or two in advance, do it. Think cranberry or other sauces. Parboil vegetables and cold shock them. If you are making stuffing, for instance, cook any sausage and the onions and celery the day before and store in a container. Then you can just add it to the bread cubes and stock the day of the feast. I usually make Cauliflower Au Gratin, otherwise my husband and my dad whine so I always make that the day before and just pop it in the oven. If you are making a vege tray, most everything can be cut up the day before and stored in plastic bags. Then you can just arrange on your serving tray the day of. You get the point. Get any prep you can done early!
Ok, so you finally come to the day of and you have made yourself a timeline. Pie comes out of the oven first. Try not to get behind. If you can get ahead, that’s all good. If you are making mashed potatoes don’t wait until 4 o’clock to peel them and cut them up. Get them done at 1 pm and cover with cold water. They will stay for hours without browning and soaking actually removes a bit of the starch.
So now, it’s only 2 o’clock and you have 2 hours to relax before company shows up. Kick your feet up and watch a good cooking show because you just owned this dinner!
The hardest part is the last 30- 40 minutes. You have to mash the potatoes, make gravy, finish the last minute veges, bake rolls and whatever else you have on your list. Remember, if you are cooking a turkey, it needs to rest for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour. Plan your last minute things so they can be finished in this time frame.
My last two tips. Sit down, enjoy the feast you have produced, enjoy your company. Next, when dinner is done and everyone wants to know how they can help, let them help with clean up! Have plenty of tupperware containers ready to pack with leftovers. Delegate where to put all the leftovers. Let one person be in charge of washing dishes another with leftovers. Get the kids in there helping too!
When the guests leave, put your feet up and pat yourself on the back because you OWNED this!!!!
Originally Published 11/25/2016