8 Tips For A Stress-Free Christmas Dinner
This post written by guest blogger – Amy Gentry
When I was asked to write a post about how to prepare a stress-free Christmas dinner, I had to laugh a little (maybe a lot). With three kids (ages 2, 3 and 11), I’m not sure I do much that is stress-free these days. It would have been easy to simply submit “Step one: get a sitter, Step two: go out for Chinese…”, but I was up to the challenge and with some real thought, insight from friends and general common sense, I think I have created a solid list of tips for keeping happiness and a calm spirit in our holiday meal.
1. Menus –
Set your menu as early as you can. This includes breakfast, snacks, and the big dinner. If you have menus for the entire day, you won’t interrupt your dinner prep with figuring out what to make for breakfast or how to satiate some snack-needing friends and relatives. Prepare some homemade whole wheat pancake mix and fruit salad for breakfast. And set out crackers, cheeses, summer sausage and some crisp raw vegetables for some afternoon snacking to hold house guests until dinner.
2. Create a schedule for the dinner –
While it might seem like a control nut is in the kitchen, it actually helps keep stress at bay to have a schedule for the day / evening. For example, 3:45pm set out hors d’oeuvres, 4pm guests arrive, 4:30pm heat ham & pour ice water, etc. until everyone is seated. I do this for most parties just to keep me and the meal on track.
3. Prep Ahead –
Always, always, prepare as much as you can ahead of the dinner time. Green beans can be snapped, potatoes can be baked, and pie dough can be made and rolled out. It feels good to know that the little jobs are done when you step into the kitchen for the cooking. Set the table the night before too!
4. Easy Hors D’Oeuvres –
Always welcome guests into your home with light appetizers and beverages waiting for them. Not only does it make you an excellent host, but it keeps guests occupied and not wondering if the party has actually started. Gathering around some delicious starters is also a great way for new friends to start chit-chatting. Try this yummy Red Pepper and Hazelnut Spread with crostini at your holiday dinner to get things going.
5. Simplify Dishes –
Often times, I find that holiday meals should be wearing festive hats the way the host has dressed them up. If you’re cooking with wonderful, fresh ingredients there’s no need to dress them in sauces that cover their flavor. Not only does simplifying the main ingredient of the dish add to the deliciousness of the meal, but it cuts down on the prep and cooking. One of my favorite side dishes is green beans with shallots sautéed in some olive oil until tender. Easy and tasty.
6. Give Out Small Jobs for Meal Prep/ Serving –
Remember that it’s 2012 and most people do not have serving staff and many family members take active roles in the kitchen. Ask guests to help pour water, set dishes on the buffet table or uncork the wine. Most folks don’t mind helping out with the little things. It can add to the festive atmosphere to have everyone participating.
7. Easy Serving –
When planning your menu, think about whether you will plate each meal or have guests serve themselves. Most times it’s much easier to set out a buffet-style meal, with bread and a relish dish on the table for passing. When you’re setting your table the night before, set out your serving dishes and spoons, forks and tongs as well. It helps to know where everything is going ahead of time so you’re not searching for dishes or proper utensils at the last minute.
8. Remember the Season –
It’s very easy to get carried away by the hectic activities of the holiday season. As you start to plan your meal, take a moment to think about your guests (hopefully you’re happy that they will be with you) and reflect on the year. No matter what holiday you’re celebrating, take the time to remember that these special times are blessings. Allow the meal to come together. Take a breath and enjoy yourself.
What are some ways that you simplify and create a stress-free holiday meal?
Amy Gentry is a mother, wife, writer and Marketing Director for the Harlem Globetrotters. All of this keeps her busy, constantly entertained and continually searching for ways to stay calm and healthy. Follow her blog at www.averagejoemama.blogspot.com.