Many of us are in the final countdown of making our holiday preparations. Hopefully, you have everything well in hand for any and all celebrations you are contributing to or hosting. If you’re not quite there yet, you might want to pay attention. Here are some of my most hard-earned but important tips for getting through your holiday meals without having to resort to calling Mom at the last minute, ordering takeout, or simply having a meltdown.
Now is the time to plan. Pull out your guest list, recipes, and grocery list. Have you planned enough food for all your guests, or do you still need to set a menu? Do you have enough dinnerware, cutlery, napkins, and serving pieces on hand? Do you have enough casserole dishes/baking pans/cake pans, etc. for each dish you will be making?
Is there enough room at your table, or can it be extended or can you add another table to accommodate all your guests? Don’t forget about tablecloths and centerpieces! Can you make room in your refrigerator for everything you will be making? Now is the time to make any last minute decisions or alterations to your party plans, while you can still address them and before the last minute crush at the stores.
Don’t forget to thaw! Unless you’re preparing a strictly vegetarian feast, more than likely you’ve already purchased a special meat main course for your holiday meal. Whether you’re serving turkey or ham, or something else entirely, many meats come frozen from the grocery store. Nothing stresses a holiday hostess out like attempting to prepare a main course that is still rock solid when you need to put it in the oven. The time you will need to thaw your meat varies according to type and size, but most experts agree that slow thawing in the refrigerator is the safest method for any type of meat. The packaging on your entrée will give you the weight and other particulars you need, and I’ve included links to assist you in your preparations.
To safely thaw a turkey for your dinner, check out this chart on foodsafety.gov: https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/turkeythawingchart.html
If you are serving ham, see this guide: https://asktheexpert.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/498/~/ham-thawing-time
Establish a queue for the oven. If you’re like me and only have one oven and a microwave in your kitchen, (yes, hubby, I still have my eye on that double oven we saw), it is especially important that you plan the order in which you will prepare food. To save yourself time and headache on the day of your event, make any dish that can be done so; such as desserts, Jell-O salads, or any items served at room temperature or cold, either the morning of or ideally a day or two beforehand.
This early prep will free up your oven for side dishes, rolls, and your meat main course. Still, you may need to be prepared to use the oven in shifts, so decide which dishes can go in at the same time, and what items will be fine either standing or sitting on a warming zone on the stovetop for a while. If you’re really lucky perhaps you have a warming drawer that will hold extra food until you’re ready to serve. Some dishes, such as mashed potatoes, can be transferred to a slow cooker until dinner time to help free up space on the stove.
Ask for and accept help. No matter if you are hosting family, friends, or just acquaintances this holiday season, there is probably someone who will be glad to lend you a hand. Don’t let pride get in the way of others’ assistance; it’s your show, but you do not have to be a one person army! Perhaps they will do part of the cooking, or just allow you space in their oven or refrigerator during the preparation process. Some of your guests may be happy to bring out a platter, fill drinks, or simply pass along information about where to leave coats or find a bathroom. Graciously accept any offers of help you receive, because not only will doing so take some of the stress of you, it will also allow your guests the joy of having contributed to the celebration.
I wish you all the best of luck with your holiday celebrations, as well as blessings for the holidays themselves. Merry Christmas!