Holidays don’t have to be stressful
That time of the year is rapidly approaching. Whatever holiday is celebrated in whatever form, there is sure to be food involved. Some of us look forward to entertaining and preparing meals for friends and family, while others dread the thought. Anyone can prepare a nice meal or set of party appetizers with a little planning and organization.
- The first thing to do, once you’ve invited your guests to the event, is to write out a menu with all the ingredients listed and where they can be found. This should be done at least 2 weeks ahead. If you have to order something, it will give you enough time to receive it and ensure that it is indeed what you need for the event. I ordered a wild turkey for Thanksgiving one year and didn’t receive it until the Wednesday before. To my horror, the bird was puny and weighed only 7 lbs.—a little more than a chicken. There was no way it would be enough to feed my turkeyholic husband and friends. I had to rush out and buy a turkey and fortunately for me, I was able to find one. Lesson learned: always give yourself more than one day’s time to receive an item that was ordered sight unseen.
- Do all your shopping for the non-perishable items at least one week prior to the date. Shop for all your perishable items as far ahead as possible and store them in the refrigerator. You don’t want to be out on the day of the event frantically running from store to store to find a key ingredient.
- Next, determine which dishes can be made ahead and either frozen, or stored in the refrigerator until the date of the event. Never try to prepare everything on the day of the event. You will only exhaust yourself and be a terrible host when everyone arrives. For example, I always make my own cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries for Thanksgiving. I make it at least 1-2 weeks prior and put it in the freezer. I thaw it 2 days before and bring it out early on Thanksgiving day to come to room temperature; it always tastes great, and is one less thing I have to deal with on Thanksgiving day.
- Make sure you consider the equipment needed to prepare the meal. For example, if you only have one oven (like I do), you cannot bake everything on the same day. If you need to bake a pie, do it the day before. Or, you can partially cook dishes the day (or several days) before and finish them in the oven after the turkey or ham has been removed and is resting. Consider cooking some items on the stovetop. For those of you in more forgiving climates, you have the BBQ as an option.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many people think that just because they are hosting the event that they have to do everything themselves. If you are good at the entrée but not the dessert, ask a friend (who loves to bake) to bring something. You’d be surprised at how eager people are to share their expertise and their creations when asked.
- Don’t expect everything to come out perfectly. Even the most experienced and most prepared cook will run into a problem now and then. One year, I decided to make a mushroom bread pudding instead of a traditional stuffing. I burned the bread pudding and had to throw it out. I ended up making traditional stuffing anyway; it came out fine, and no one knew about my mishap (except my husband of course). No harm no fowl…..oops, foul… Of course, it’s always a good idea to test any new recipe you are thinking of trying prior to the event date. It might turn out to be delicious or not…..
- Finally, enjoy yourself. All holidays are about celebration and the food is a big part of it. Don’t think of it as work or a chore. Enjoy what you are doing, even if it’s peeling 10 lbs. of potatoes! Think about the delicious dish that will be made with them and how much you will enjoy watching everyone’s face when they taste it. That’s the beauty and magic of cooking: transforming a raw ingredient into a delicious and nutritious dish that will make people happy. You are giving the gift of yourself when you cook for others; be it a simple dish or a complicated entrée, it is a part of you and something to be cherished.
If you are still dreading the idea of cooking anything this holiday season, give us a call. We can help you plan your menu, do your shopping, help you prepare the food, or even cook it for you ahead of time. You can spend your time celebrating the holidays with your family and friends and enjoying good food. Or, if you are not doing the cooking this year, why not give the cook a gift certificate from A Posto Personal Chef Services LLC. They might appreciate a break themselves.