Cooking meals for holiday celebrations always brings a level of stress. Some of that comes from our own high expectations and grandiose menus. What if you could slow things down, and find joy and satisfaction in the creation of holiday meals this year? You could share the holiday spirit with your family and friends. What a gift to produce lovely meals which don’t hugely dent your budget, or stick you in the kitchen. It’s possible (and a little self-care at holiday time goes a long way)! I have a few tips for you.
Put your culinary focus on one simple holiday dish
I know how it is—I planned elaborate holiday meals featuring extravagant entrees, fancy side dishes, and show-stopping desserts. If you can’t be grand at the holidays, when can you? But instead of feeling like a culinary queen, I often felt underwhelmed by the result. I would be annoyed my time and effort hadn’t paid off the way I thought it would, and felt exhausted. So, simplify! Pour your culinary talents into one dish at each special holiday meal, and keep the rest simple. Decide ahead of time what dish you’ll want to focus on—entrees and desserts are natural choices, but an amazing appetizer, savory side dish, or festive beverage can be fun, too. You can easily apply this strategy at a special holiday breakfast or brunch. Consider doing a run-through prior to the big day. You can get the timing down, and ensure you have the equipment and ingredients required.
Skip the exotic. Let seasonal, simple holiday, foods shine
Julia Child once said, “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients.” This is a great strategy for holiday meals. Simple can be special when you purchase high quality, seasonal ingredients at the supermarket. Than, cook or serve them in a way that lets them be the stars they are. For me, a perfect fresh pomegranate is one of those foods. I typically buy them only a few times each winter. As a result, my family considers them special, a sign that the holidays have arrived at our table (here are some festive ways to use pomegranate). Certain citrus fruits, specific types of seafood (find tips on fearless fish cooking here), freshly shelled nuts, or a favorite variety of cheese are simple foods which can create memorable dishes that are delicious, without being fancy.
Give yourself a break
It’s no surprise many aspects of the holidays require effort. Amid the whirlwind of decorating, gatherings, and gifts, take things down a notch or two. Moving from frantic and fast-paced to fun and festive (perhaps even peaceful?) can restore your enjoyment of the season. The truth is, your family and friends want to celebrate the holidays with you over a good meal. Complicating the food portion of the holiday season doesn’t serve anyone well. Take some pressure off by remembering that the holidays are not defined by food, they are enhanced by it! To that end, feel free to purchase some prepared items at the supermarket—check out some of our ideas for quick cooking using convenience items in this webinar. Alternatively, consider hosting a holiday potluck meal, or plan ahead and try recipes that use handy cooking tools like your slow cooker or rice cooker.
Happy holidays! And enjoy your meals!