10 Tips For A Stress-Free Holiday Dinner
The holidays are less than two weeks away...are you getting excited or stressed? Most people will say stressed if they're the one hosting the big event. I used to be one of those people, but not anymore! Even when I host 20+ people, I still manage to squeeze in a 2 hour walk to the beach while my turkey is in the oven. How is that possible you're wondering? Well, I have 10 lifesaving tips to share so you'll never stress about a holiday dinner again!
1. Plan your menu well in advance. Be realistic, you don't need to make 10 different dishes. Let's face it, when it comes to a holiday dinner people want the classics. Turkey with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, brussel sprouts, possibly another veggie and some kind of home- made dessert. I used to make a salad and a few other veggie options every year and they largely remained un-touched. So keep your menu simple and concentrate on doing a few things flawlessly!
2. Buy all the non-perishable things you need well in advance of your dinner party. The benefit of this is two-fold. Firstly, It helps spread out the cost and secondly, you won't have to do a marathon grocery shop a few days before the big event... when the grocery store is packed!
3. I ALWAYS make my stuffing, cranberry sauce, cooked carrots, whipped yam, candied nuts and a gravy base a day or two before...I explain what I mean by gravy base in my Fail Proof Gravy recipe. Anything that can't be made ahead of time I at least prep. For example, I peel and dice my potatoes in the morning and keep them in a pot of ice cold water.
4. Set your table a day or two ahead of time. Lets face it most families eat dinner in front of the TV these days anyway, so a day or two with an "off limits" table isn't going to throw the family into a tailspin.
5. Set out a serving dish and utensils for each item being served. This will save you from having to rummage around trying to find things while you have a house full of people. I also make sure if it's for an item I'll need to rewarm it's in a dish that will fit in my microwave. Trust me... you'll thank me for that little tip! If you are a little anal like I am about what food goes in which dish, why not put a sticky note on each serving dish? That way, when Aunt Edna asks if she can help she knows exactly what to do with out pestering you every 5 seconds lol!
6. Play to your strengths. I love to cook but don't like to bake quite as much. My sister on the other hand LOVES to bake so why not share the work load? I'm all for potluck dinners. I find they usually works best if the host makes all the main dishes and the guests each bring an appie or a dessert...and of course a bottle of wine. That way everyone feels like they had their time to shine by being part of the process. Also, keep in mind which guests are notorious for being late...be sure it's a dessert they are bringing not an appie!
7. Buy a fresh turkey! I know they're a little more expensive but half the stress planning a holiday meal is worrying about how long to thaw the turkey, where to thaw it? Then you have to worry about whether the turkey has time to completely thaw, if not it will end up being under cooked. Why not just save yourself the grief and buy fresh if the option is available to you. If you do decide to take my advice and go with a fresh turkey, just make sure to order it about two weeks in advance to ensure you get one. If you can't buy fresh, I have some thawing info here for you.
8. This tip is going to change your life! Don't baste your turkey until the last 45 minutes of cooking. Yes, you heard me right. I have an amazing tip that will have your turkey dripping with juice. To discover this tip, be sure to check out my turkey recipe. You can thank me later.
9. Make sure as many of the dishes from prepping dinner are washed and the dishwasher has been unloaded. Clean up will be easy peasy if you have an empty dishwasher. You can even let guests help load the dishes if they insist on helping. While the turkey is cooking in the oven, sit back, relax and have a glass of wine before everyone arrives. Be sure to give yourself enough time to get ready. There is nothing worse than being flustered when everyone shows up. When everything is ready to roll, get the guests to help set out the food. Now you'll actually be able sit down and enjoy the evening too.
10. This final tip is easier said than done. Remember, It's not about putting on a magazine worthy spread, so try to relax and enjoy yourself. The holidays are about being thankful for all the people you've chosen to have at your table... thankful for the food in front of you, and yes... even being thankful when a few of those people go home and you don't have to see them until the next big family dinner lol!