It’s that time of year again– and with the first falling flakes of snow and Christmas cheer comes a laundry list of things you must do before Santa slides down your chimney. Over the years I’ve mastered how to pull off a holiday feast with the least amount of effort– which I’ve learned is the best way to please your loved ones and enjoy every second of the holiday season. Below you’ll find tips and tricks to build a perfect dinner and make the most of all those leftovers. Have a suggestion I haven’t mentioned? Share it with everyone by posting it as a comment!
Building a Holiday Dinner
There’s a lot of time and planning that goes into making a holiday meal. It can be daunting thinking about everything that needs to be accomplished, but there are plenty of simple strategies you can employ to make your holiday dinner go smoothly. By planning ahead and making sure you’re prepared, you’ll be able to make a delicious healthy holiday meal without all the stress. Check out the tips below for how to make the most of your time and plan your most fabulous holiday dinner yet.
- Write down your menu. Figure out exactly what you’ll be serving. For a party of 12, a main course, stuffing, three side dishes and dessert should be enough food. Add another side dish for each 3 additional guests
- Ask guests to help with the cooking. If you have room, invite your friends or family over to cook with on Thanksgiving day. Otherwise, ask guests if they can bring a side or dessert and make note of what everyone is bringing. Some websites such as Evite allow guests to claim what dish they’re bringing when they RSVP.
- Review your recipes. Look over your recipes to get an idea of the basic process and make sure there aren’t any techniques you’re unfamiliar with. Make note of ingredients you need to buy.
- Make grocery lists. After looking over your recipes, make a list of everything you need to buy. Divide your list by store so you don’t forget anything while shopping. Consider what items you want to buy pre-packaged such as washed greens. Think about any special items such as sparkling cider for younger guests.
- Make to-do lists. Make a list of cleaning, shopping and other errands that need to be done before Thanksgiving. Plan a schedule to ensure that you have time to get everything done.
The Week Before
- Set the table. Get the table set ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it on the big day. Take this time to make sure you have the wine glasses, coffee cups, pitchers, corkscrews, etc. needed for the table. Wash table linens if necessary.
- Allow time for the turkey to thaw. If you’re using a frozen turkey, give it 5 days in the fridge to thoroughly thaw. Alternatively, but a fresh heirloom turkey.
- Make sure your knives are sharpened.
- Inventory your cookware and serving dishes. Make sure you have enough pots, pans, large bowls, serving spoons etc. for all of your food. Label the dishes with the item they will be serving to keep things organized.
- Measure ingredients ahead of time. If you have time, chop and measure out ingredients a few days ahead. Store in labeled bags or bins separated by recipe. Store a copy of the recipe with the ingredients to make it easy for family and friends to help with the cooking on Thanksgiving.
On Christmas Day
- Don’t wait until the last minute. Get your cooking started early. Start with the dishes that can be made ahead and reheated or kept warm until dinner. Plan for things to take longer than expected, especially for dishes like turkey that take many hours to cook.
- Keep hot food on warm plates. Warm up plates by running them through the dishwasher on dry cycle. Put hot food on the plates once it’s done. to keep it warm.
- Have a plan for dirty dishes. Put a tub somewhere in the kitchen for people to put dirty dishes in. Make sure you have enough utensils that they don’t need to be cleaned between courses, or plan accordingly if you do need to wash them. Enlist in some help from your guests to clean everything up.
After Christmas Dinner
Take notes. Make a document or write in a notebook about dishes that worked well or tips for what could work better next year. That way you won’t have to rely on your memory for what works when it comes time to plan dinner next holiday season.
At the Table: Food
There are a number of meats to choose from for the main course, including the classic turkey, braised lamb or a lemon-sage roasted chicken. There are great options for your vegetarian friends as well, such as a lentil-potato Shepherd’s pie.
Make a great stuffing with gluten-free bread crumbs, dried fruit, apple slices and chopped nuts.
Make mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. Keep it healthy by using orange juice in your sweet potatoes. Another healthy alternative is mashed cauliflower. Scalloped potatoes are another option and can be made ahead of time and covered with foil.
Go for a colorful variety of vegetable side dishes. Veggies to choose from include green beans, broccoli, squash, carrots, Brussels sprout, asparagus and corn. Try roasted carrots with sage or green beans in olive oil and lemon. Sweet side sides such as cranberry sauce or roasted apples are also great options.
There are a number of gluten and dairy free pies to make or buy. Pumpkin pie is a delicious option that offers some nutritional value as well. Fruit dipped in chocolate is another light option.
10 Holiday Leftover Ideas
Your holiday dinners will probably leave you with tons of leftovers. Get creative with your leftovers using these tips:
- Make sandwiches. Sandwiches on gluten-free bread are a great way to use holiday leftovers. Try turkey, cranberry sauce and roasted carrot or grilled cheese with turkey and pear.
- Make potato patties by mixing chopped veggies with leftover mashed potatoes, forming patties and cooking in olive oil in a frying pan.
- Make stock using the bones from your turkey or other meat. Add carrots, celery, onions and other root vegetables for flavor.
- Try out different types of turkey soup such as a turkey potato soup or a turkey noodle soup with gluten-free pasta and tons of veggies.
- Use leftover sweet potatoes to make a sweet potato soufflé. Avoid the sugar from syrup and brown sugar and opt for a healthier soufflé flavored with feta and sage. Cook the leftover sage leaves in olive oil to bring out the flavor before adding to the soufflé.
- Give your turkey leftovers a new life by cooking it with curry, another great warm flavor for winter. Squash and potatoes taste great cooked in curry as well and taste delicious with healthy grains such as wild rice and quinoa.
- Chop up leftover bread and toss on a baking sheet with olive oil and sprinkling of herbs to make yummy croutons to toss on a salad or soup.
- Make a Thanksgiving salad. Top spinach leaves with stuffing, slices of turkey and a dollop of cranberry sauce.
- Toss leftover cranberry sauce in with frozen berries, greens and almond milk for a Thanksgiving inspired smoothie.
- Add sweet potatoes or pumpkin to a gluten-free pancake mix for a fall-flavored breakfast.
And last but not least, try to buy everything organic. Here’s why: The Benefits of Eating Organic.