There is a part of me that loves the holidays, but there is an equal part of that totally and completely dislikes, maybe even loathes the holiday season. The latter part has endured questions, raised eyebrows, and stone-cold-silence in response myself or my husband saying, “Oh thank you, but I can’t eat that,” or “That looks delicious, but just in case I think I’ll skip it. Thank you though!” While I can’t help anyone with that stone-cold-silent-treatment, I can help you take care of planning a menu.
1. Start Planning As Early As Possible!
Planning early will allow you to achieve a less stressful holiday season. I’m not guaranteeing no stress, but hopefully less stress, without late night baking, or panicked trips to the store at 9pm the night before the Big Meal. There are several things you’ll need to consider:
- Where you are eating – will you need to bring pre-cooked foods to share or can you do some cooking there?
- Who will be there – I know this sounds overly cautious but, you need to remember that people who don’t have dietary restrictions forget details like cross contamination, or enthusiastic eaters who might accidentally eat all the food that you can eat leaving you hungry, and children – yours or others.
- What you’ll be bringing – a whole separate meal or just an extra “safe” side dish.
2. Pick Your Dishes
Each time I’ve had to tackle a dietary difference around the holidays the both of us would list foods that were important. I always want a tasty vegetable dish, my husband wants copious amounts of safe protein, and we both want enough food that we can eat without feeling deprived. Once you have decided how much you need to bring it’s time to start picking dishes. We usually bring or prep most of a meal to be safe. Though it does depend on the people with whom we are celebrating. Some family and friends already eat similarly to the way we do, some do not.
- Pick the protein
- Pick a vegetable side
- Decide if dessert is important
- Narrow down to a couple of different dishes, main courses or sides – consider how complicated and time consuming they can be
- Know your limits! – I’m super duper serious about this – don’t try to be Martha Stewart.
3. Test Recipes
Testing the recipes out ahead of time is very, I mean VERY, important in the beginning (even for us “old pros” it’s a good idea). You never know if the recipe you follow will need to be altered for cooking temperature, time, or taste. It’s always disappointing if you make a dish that ends up tasting horrible, so test it out, and then play around after you know what you like.
4. Ask For Help
Let me repeat, don’t try to be Martha Stewart. Ask your partner, friends, or children for help. This is of course my opinion, but not requiring participation of others who will be eating a meal is ridiculous. There is no reason one person has to bear the burden of planning and executing a meal – especially a holiday meal.
5. Week Before
The week before should include basic prep so that you don’t find yourself without an important ingredient.
- List all needed ingredients
- Purchase any ingredients not on hand
- Make sure the cooking pans etc are available to be used
- Decide when to cook dish(s)
6. Day Before and Day of Holiday Meal
Breathe, in the end the holidays should be about having fun and enjoying good company. If you prepped enough, even if you don’t feel like you did, everything will be fine. Go through your day as planned. Do what you can to be ready early. But when something strays from the plan don’t freak out. Life is too short and won’t ever be perfect. That’s perfectly okay. Go have fun!