My mom was a chef and when I was a child she always cooked all the holiday meals. Every holiday where people were coming over to eat – there was a feast being created. One thing I noticed for sure was that this was planned over weeks but all cooked in one day (or the night before into the next day). I tried running to the store one Thanksgiving to get a turkey like the day before – I don’t recommend it.
There’s a way to avoid the frazzle factor.
Nothing can frazzle us more than trying to rush around cooking against the clock. That frazzle factor goes up tremendously if we forget something and EVEN WORSE if it is the day of the event and you aren’t sure if you can even go out and find your ingredient. I bet it has happened to you at least once…or maybe you delegated it to someone else and they forgot – either way, talk about some hair pulling.
Yay for Calendars
Figure out ahead of time when all of the parties, church gatherings, special meals and work related celebrations are going to be held. Take a large calendar – the desktop ones work well for this – and in the large blocks, write down the events by their due dates and the foods you’ll need for each event. I actually print out my calendars from outlook but there are plenty of sites out there that will let you print some out.
Then once you have everything written down, you’ll know at a glance where you need to be, when and what items you’re bringing. Purchase all needed food items at the beginning of the month so that you can have them on hand. The best time to buy ham or turkey for Christmas meals is at the same time you pick up your Thanksgiving meat. Please only do this if you have a freezer of some sort that can preserve the meat. Last thing you want is to cook a turkey that has been sitting in your fridge for a month.
Last Minute Potlucks
Unfortunately, some hosts only give a two week notice (if you are lucky) that an event is going to take place. But don’t worry, you can still work within that timeline. Find out what type of item you are supposed to bring and consider raiding your pantry and freezer for items that might fit well into the menu. Or run to the store and find something that is premade or heat up and serve so that you aren’t the only one not bringing something. I know this is blasphemy to some people but sometimes you work with what you got!
Be Prepared with Freezing and Baking
If you have to bring a home baked item, bake it now and freeze it. In airtight freezer containers, foods can keep safely (and taste delicious) for months prior to use. The trick with baking goods is that you can take one day out of a weekend and bake enough goods to last the entire Christmas season.
You can bake a batch of cookies or candies all at once for every party. You can use store bought items to save the time it takes to bake, but if you do this, make sure you remove them from their original packaging and freeze them so they’ll keep, too. The night before the event, simply thaw out the amount of treats you’ll need, slip them into a large, decorative Christmas bag and you’re on your way.
Most foods for any party – whether work or personal or church related – can be prepared well ahead of time and frozen until needed. Stress comes our way when we put off preparing the dish or treat and then scramble the night before the event (or worse the day of) to get everything ready.
Remember to Think About Guests
When preparing food for any event, including your own Christmas Eve or Christmas Day meal, you’ll want to start first with a guest list so that you can determine the amount of food you’ll need. I would say ALWAYS overestimate. Everyone loves leftovers to take home if there is that much food left and it can only lead to disappointment if dinner runs out earlier than intended.
Decide who will be joining you and whether they’re adults or children because you can figure in less food consumption for children. Not to mention you might need to have a separate children’s menu. Categorize your holiday meal according to the course – the main meats and side items and of course, the desserts.
The best rule of thumb to remember when buying meat for guests is to figure a half a pound of meat for each adult and a quarter of a pound for each child. Make as many side dishes as you can one to two days in advance of the Christmas Eve meal.
The reason most people get overloaded with cooking for the holidays is because they try to make the entire meal either the night before or the same day and then they’re too worn out to enjoy the company or the festivities. So plan ahead and don’t be shy about asking for help in the kitchen from family members! I mean that’s what they are for correct??
My mother always did all the cooking in one day. It never seemed to stress her out but there is no way I could ever pull it off. What about you?? When do you prefer to do your holiday cooking?