The holidays are both wonderful and stressful. Here are quick tips for keeping the happy in your Christmas without sacrificing any festive fun. Keep all you like best about the holidays and ditch the rest – and no one else even has to know. Enjoy great party décor, food, and baking, all without quite so much fuss.
No, we’re not suggesting a recipe for roasted guinea pig. We know you’ve probably been eyeing recipes for holiday treats for months. The temptation may be to try all the new dishes for your Christmas dinner or other event – plus all your traditional favourites, just in case.
Stop. Take a moment. Breathe, and be realistic. Rather than trying a collection of new recipes for the big day, start now. Your family, co-workers, and neighbours would love to sample your new creations. In fact, once the holidays are in full swing, your new dishes are more likely to be lost in the shuffle.
Try out the recipes now and see how they work and find out if you like them better than your traditional favourites. If you like them, it will be much easier to make the dishes the second time for the big day. You’ll have a much better idea how long it will actually take and any tweaks you might like to make. Remember, no one wants a side dish that doesn’t finish cooking until after dessert has been served.
So, you want to cook or bake plenty of your favourites this year or even some new recipes. Why not space them out? Take one to each of the events you attend over the holidays, rather than trying to cook them all for the same meal. If you feel you simply must have your special dishes available at each event, try to consolidate your efforts. For items that freeze well, make a large batch and put separate portions in the freezer. Then you’ll have plenty for each event without having to rush around each time. Remember, as the holidays get closer you’ll probably have far less time.
Your freezer is your friend and this is the time to put it to work for you. Fortunately, many Christmas foods freeze nicely. Biscuits, breads, homemade sauces, soups, stews, mash, gratin, and roast potatoes. Start preparing items now, and tuck them into the freezer. Then, on the day of the big event, your only stress will be whether your uncle is enjoying a bit too much Christmas cheer.
If you are planning an event with family, it is perfectly acceptable to plan ahead and agree who is going to do what. If relying on others to bring items is even more stressful than doing it all yourself, be strategic. The person who always arrives late for events is the perfect person to bring dessert. Your aunt who is known for creating the most amazingly inedible foods (“is it supposed to be that colour?”) should be given disaster-proof tasks like bringing the wine or food that is purchased fully prepared. You’ll still get credit for hosting an amazing event and everyone can feel better knowing they contributed.
During the event, feel free to designate someone to be in charge of drinks. This also helps others who might want a refill but don’t want to interrupt the host or hostess whist they are busy with hosting duties. A side board or bar area stocked with beverages can also provide convenient access for your guests while reducing the traffic in the kitchen.
Perfectly lovely prepared meals are available for purchase in a shop. Think of it as just being a savvy shopper. You can purchase appetizers, side dishes, desserts, or whole meals. If you have your heart set on cooking, you can purchase a few items and make the rest. If you insist on cooking at least save yourself the time shopping for ingredient by purchasing complete, ready to prepare meals. You can even hide away the containers the prepared food came in and no one would ever need to know you had help.
Food from a shop can be particularly helpful if you know you’ll have a few special diets to accommodate at your event. Vegetarian and gluten-free meals are available to purchase. For those on restricted sweets, a purchased sugar-free dessert might make their holidays.
Special diets can be particularly challenging to cook for if you aren’t that familiar with those particular restrictions. Outsourcing is the perfect way to have a full meal available for each of your guests without burdening yourself with trying to cook multiple versions of each dish.
Make It Festive
Decorations really make an event special. Rather than a routine meal at your home, adding festive cheer instantly makes the meal an event. Fun holiday choices will also look fabulous when the pictures are posted on social media. Fortunately, rather than spend hours shopping and decorating, professionally styled Christmas décor can be shipped to your home. No shopping, no fuss, and magically your home is a winter wonderland, waiting to greet your guests.
Often the holidays are so busy they aren’t really the best time for a formal sit-down dinner. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve can all be filled with people stopping by, guests coming and going, events for the children, and other interruptions. Rather than stress about trying to get everyone together at the same time to eat, start a new holiday buffet tradition. This will make it easier on you and your guests. A buffet also gives everyone a chance to view your beautiful display of food – no passing dishes around the table necessary.
Another advantage to a buffet is it makes it easier for people to socialize. We’ve all experienced how hard it is to carry on a conversation across a busy table. Let people graze as they feel hungry and socialize freely. Both you and your guest might find this a perfect, stress-free event. Feed restless children and then set them up in their own area where they can enjoy crafts, play, or watch the tele while the adults talk. This will be more fun than watching the children squirm at the table.
Obviously, the key is to plan ahead in order to minimize your holiday stress. With Christmas rapidly approaching, now is the time to work out your strategy. Remember, years from now your loved ones will remember your event for the excellent company, food, festive décor, and holiday spirit. Fortunately, these quick tips will help you remember that as well, instead of just remembering being too busy to sit back and enjoy. This is your holiday, too. Don’t forget to make it special.