When my children were little, I spent most of December trying to make their holiday experiences memorable and magical. Now that my son and daughter are grown and on their own, I still love Christmas, and I also admit I’m enjoying the freedom which comes with this mostly-empty nest.
Taking the busyness down a notch relieves stress and the potential of feeling overwhelmed. That stress can take a toll on your holiday happiness (even if you don’t notice it in the moment). As your life has changed, you may still feel the need to continue elaborate or time-consuming culinary traditions. And I have a few ideas that can help you realign your holiday food situation to your current life. Consider the resulting ease and peace a little gift you give yourself.
Take a reality check
We might think that our family members will stage a mutiny if homemade cinnamon rolls are not on the table at 8 am on the big day, but are those really a requirement for holiday harmony? Why not take a poll to find out? Older children (and adults) might prefer something lighter, less sweet—and later (and you may prefer not having to rise at 5 am in order to give that dough a proper two risings).
I’m not saying you need to toss out all the old favorites, but menus can “grow up” along with children. Plus, mixing it up a bit is fun for the cook. Find out what recipes are a must-make and let the others fall by the wayside for now (or forever—it’s up to you). Skip the cinnamon rolls and opt for something you can make ahead of time like our nutritious Gingerbread Muffins or our speedy Pumpkin Blender Waffles.
Your existing holiday recipes likely have enough servings to feed a small crowd. If there’s just two of you now, seek out some new recipes suited for a couple. This gives you a chance to try some new dishes, and perhaps create some new traditions. You could use recipes with a bigger yield and adjust the ingredients down to a smaller yield (“scaling” a recipe). Scaling is handy if there are old favorite recipes that can’t be beat. Keep in mind there are some recipes which don’t scale well, check out this quick “how to” on scaling.
Think outside the holiday box
There’s no rule that says one must have a roast or ham on the big day! There is also no rule that says big batches of cookies are required. Maybe cooking a nice fish chowder or vegetarian lentil curry is more your style these days. You could even create a fun and interesting meal consisting of a couple of appetizers (something I frequently do when eating at restaurants) like Crab Quesadillas and a salad .
If making cookies for two doesn’t sound appealing, make whatever your heart desires (our easy Apple Cinnamon Cobbler is a seasonal choice that offers the benefit of being perfect for breakfast the next day, too!). The point is, you get to choose what your holiday meals look like—and that can change along with the season of your life.
Wishing you all a very happy, healthy holiday season!