This time of year is filled with good feelings…it is great to have family visiting and the kids out of school and home for the holidays. That said, the holidays present a unique set of challenges for all of us. They seem to be totally counter-productive. Be kind to your fellow human is my take on the common theme, no matter what your religious or philosophical beliefs are. However, everything about the holiday season seems to pull in the opposite direction. Almost everything about this time of year creates stresses that tend to make us grouchy. Lines are longer, services take longer and plans change quicker than a Trump stance on foreign policy. All these stresses have one thing in common. They are self-induced.
A little bit of planning goes a long way. If you look at the next few weeks as a whole, you can probably find a few things that can wait until after the holidays have come and gone. Just because you have guests coming over doesn’t mean now is a good time to touch up the paint in the kitchen. And your car will probably be fine if you don’t wait an hour and a half for an oil change just because it’s been 2,995 miles since its last one. You get my point.
I can’t help you plan your gift shopping. But I can help you with some suggestions around meal time (fancy that!). It seems like most folks do a pretty good job planning the menu for the main event. For sure, we get some poor soul looking for a 15lb Prime Rib on Christmas eve after we’ve been sold out for three days. And while we are pretty good at helping come up with a Plan B, save yourself that particular stress and get your holiday orders in right now. Here is the Holiday Meats page for your convenience. Go ahead, we’ll wait here…
Ok, now that that’s out of the way…what’s missing? Well, you have a dozen folks coming for Christmas/Hanukah dinner. How much of that can be done ahead of time? A lot of the prep can be done days ahead. We have a FoodSaver and it can save you a ton of time. If you don’t have one, put it on your list to Santa, and use ziplock bags in the meantime. If your using ziplocks, push as much air out of it as possible. Don’t tell anyone, but I will actually zip it most of the way closed and then suck the rest of the air out. Weird, I know, but effective. Chopping carrots, onions and celery a few days ahead of time is a great time saver. And do more than you think you need! You can always throw the extra into a green salad.
Make chicken stock as much as a week ahead of time. It is used in many of the recipes you will cook over the holidays, adds flavor to dishes like mashed potatoes, and in a pinch, makes a way better quick soup than squeezing ketchup into boiling water. I had a fraternity brother that used to steal handfuls of condiment packets and make soup out of them, but I digress… If you have a bunch of chicken parts saved up in the freezer like I suggested months ago, now is the time to use them! If not, we have backs, necks, wings and giblets for sale, but they go quick this time of year so use the Web Store to get your orders in before we run out. You can save a ton by buying a 10lb Stock Pack, a nice selection of whatever I have in the freezer that will make a killer stock for $25. Here is my Stock Tip post that gives you all the pro tips you will ever need!
You know what most people forget when hosting a large group over multiple days? All the other meals! Here are some easy meals that can feed a bunch without breaking the bank.
Smoked Ham Frittata – Even, or actually, especially if Ham is not your main dish for the Big Meal, having a small boneless ham in the fridge is a great way to make sure you have something quick and tasty. Ham sandwiches, Grilled Ham and Cheese, and cubed ham in split pea soup or a pot of beans is quick and easy. Here is a great recipe for using ham, whether its is leftovers the day after or breakfast for everyone the day of!
Pork Scallopini – We have a few packs of Pork Scallopini in the freezer at all times. It is great for a quick meal because it thaws and cooks super fast. Here is a really simple recipe that can be doubled or tripled to feed the masses!
Beef Stroganoff – There is a quick way to make stroganoff and a “take your time” method included in this recipe. If you want to make a quick version, our Fajita/Stir Fry Strips are perfect. If you have a little more time, Chuck Roast can be cubed or sliced for Stroganoff, is packed with flavor and is perfect in this slow simmer.
The main thing we can do to take the stress out of the holidays is sllooooowwwww down. Take a breath and remember that all anyone really cares about is being with the ones they love. Ok, Timmy is gonna be ticked if you couldn’t get your hands on this year’s Teddy Ruxpin and Grandma will be grumpy if you forget the Waldorf Salad, but other than that…who you are with is way more important than what you eat. Make sure you spend more time with them than in your kitchen. Or better yet, spend more time with them IN your kitchen….having them peel potatoes, chop onions and such!