As the year begins to come to a close, the holidays rapidly approach. Regardless of your religious, family, or country, it is the time of year that everyone has a holiday or two. And with holidays comes meals. Full meals filled with family, friends, large amounts of food, and drink.
Holidays can be stressful for some people, in fact there are several holidays that even have phobias! Seriously, medically diagnosed phobias brought on by the holidays. Deipnophobia, Cibophobia or Sitophobia or Sitiophobia, Geumaphobia or Geumophobia, are just a few phobias that have to do with eating, meals, and the holidays...this doesn't even include fear of Christmas trees, Santa, Hanukkah lights, turkeys, ects..,Most of these phobias are deep down and need serious help to overcome. They can be brought on by years of stress or even by one horrible incident. A great way to cut down on your chance of developing a phobia is to plan ahead, metal do over what the holidays will bring on. And try to work out any stress you have building in anticipation. I am not a medical professional, nor do I claim to have the ability to help these phobias.
What I can do is help make your holiday meal less less stressful. Trying to create the "perfect" holiday meal or memory is never an easy thing to do. We spend years a children growing up in our families holiday arrangements and then suddenly we have to create the same feeling. Questions about making traditional family dishes, how much food, what time should we eat, should I make more than one main dish? Are just a few things that you will need to deal with. The important thing is to sit back, relax, and plan ahead. Don;t wait until the week of to start planing. You want to start at least a week ahead to plan your menu.
Make a list of all recipes you will be making, how many they serve, how long they take, how much cooking space do I have, and what you will need. Once you have this all planned out ask yourself the following questions:
HOW MUCH FOOD WILL I NEED?
Start by looking at how many guests you will be having. Modify recipes you may need to double or cut down to ensure enough food without too much waste. I like to build in two extra people when planning meals, this will allow for last minute guests, or a little extra leftovers. Just remember to calculate in larger appetites so you don't run short.
HOW DO I COOK EVERYTHING TO SERVE AT THE SAME TIME?
Start by looking at you cook time. Are there things that can be made ahead of time? Breads and desserts can often be made a day before.
Some cold served sides can be made a day ahead, for instance cranberry sauce or apple sauce.
Stuffing can be mixed or part cooked a day ahead. Just remember if you are stuffing to do it right before cooking and not any earlier
Now remember that larger cuts of meat, full birds such as turkeys and ducks, need an hour of rest time after cooking before serving so, you get that nice little window of a free oven.
I actually do things like stuffing, breads, even boil my potatoes for mashed potatoes the day before.
Just make a time line and work with it, don't be ashamed to have a list where people can see it, i use post-its. It really does work.
HOW DO I MAKE EVERYTHING SPECIAL?
This is a tough one, most traditional family meals include items you serve on a regular basis. The importance of making them special is actually all relative to what you consider special. Usually your plating or presentation is a great way to make things special. I like to use platters with a holiday theme and garnishes to elevate the plating.
HOW DO I GET IT TO TASTE LIKE MY *****'S?
Realize this is never going to happen1 I will never get my sauce or meatballs to taste like my Great Grandmother's cooking. No matter how much you try. It may come close but, it will never be spot on. So don't worry. Your Aunt's beans, In-law's eggnog, Mother's stuffing will always be a welcome sight at the table but, they will be your own. You can ask for the family recipe but, don't stress if it is slightly different.
WHERE CAN I FIND A RECIPE FOR ******?
Okay, seriously? I actually get this question often. The answer is anywhere. Just ask. People love to share dishes, on the web, in the office, in books, you can find them anywhere, Just ask. Traditional things like cranberry sauce can be found in multitudes on the web. (See November 2011 for mine) Some companies even include them on the packaging. Seriously, flip over a bake of chocolate chips and you'll see a cookie recipe. Pie filling has the recipe for pies on it, store bought dough even has pie recipes on it. And any dish considered a classic holiday favorite (think green bean casserole) is on the label, trust me, just look its right there.
If you want a special family dish, you usually want to ask the family social director. Not an insult, but everyone has that family member who knows everything going on, talks to everyone, tells 8 stories at a time, and always seams to "remember" that. This is the person to ask. Even if they don't cook, or cook well they have it.
If you want a special dish from a country, try the web and look up. Traditional dishes of....insert country. I usually do tons of research between web, books, and people I know before I set out to create my own.
The most important thing is to remember, just enjoy them. Holidays are a time to enjoy your family and friends. Don't let them overwhelm you. Just sit back, relaxe, breathe, and everthing will be fine.