In the Kitchen … Tips for a Sane Christmas

Are you a nut when it comes to Christmas? Do you do and overdo absolutely everything? Does the following sound like you?

The lights and decorations in your yard are so bright they can be seen from Pluto.

Inside, your house looks like the cover of a glossy magazine.

Not only do you bake k’zillion cookies but each and every one is a miniature work of culinary art.

Christmas Eve dinner is at least five courses and you do another one on Christmas Day.

And don’t forget the magnificent holiday brunch you serve to the entire neighborhood around 11:00 on Christmas morning.

… the list can go on and on and on …

Here are a few tips for a sane Christmas from an admitted crazy person:

Christmas is Sunday this year. If you are having visitors you can count on a three or four day weekend. Your friends and relatives will start to arrive on Thursday evening and stay through Monday… some through New Year’s Day, so pace yourself.

It’s not too early to think about menus. Maybe your family has an age old tradition of turkey or beef tenderloin for Christmas so your menu is done. Or maybe not. Could be your budget can’t handle beef tenderloin for sixteen this year … don’t worry about it. There is always a yummy and frugal alternative. When it comes to turkey, it might be time to trim back on some of the trimmings. Just because Nana always served eight side dishes and four desserts doesn’t mean you have to!

And don’t forget, you still have the rest of the week(end) to consider and plan.

Once you have your menus, you can start to stock up. Check your recipes and make two lists. The first is for all the non-perishables and hardy ingredients you’ll need. Pick them up now. The second is for fresh produce, fish, chicken and meat … send someone else to store to pick up these ingredients. With a little organization, you can avoid a daily trip to the supermarket .

It’s not too early to stock the freezer. Whether it’s a gallon or two of soup or a couple of quarts of classic Bolognese sauce, everyone’s favorite lasagna or casserole, six dozen cookies or a batch of brownies, you can make it now and enjoy it later.

Divide and conquer. No one said YOU have to make-cook-bake everything. Spread the fun and let everyone lend a hand. Your cousin who can’t boil water can set the table. I’m guessing your ‘tweens and teenagers love to bake, let them at it. And you can’t tell me you don’t have a friend or sister-in-law with an extensive repertoire of hors d’oeuvres and appetizers or a world-famous potato gratin. If not, you can find yummy cakes at your local bakery and great appetizers and sides at your favorite deli. Don’t forget to order in advance!

As for the rest of the week(end)… Whether you’ve got college kids home for the holidays or middle-age kids up for a ski week, let everyone take a turn at dinner! What to do about the guy or gal whose specialty is making reservations? Let them take everyone out to dinner. Not in his or her budget? Well it’s time to develop a new specialty quickly … or order pizza!

Breathe deep. If at any time you start to feel rushed, frazzled or overwhelmed, step back, take a couple of deep breathes and relax. Or better yet laugh. Even if you can’t think of anything particularly funny, let out a little ha, ha, ha. Okay, a little louder now, ho, ho, ho! Repeat until you are relaxed and smiling again.

Anyway, what’s the worst that can happen? A healthy dose of perspective is a good thing any time and priceless during the holidays. So the turkey takes longer than expected. Your family will not disown you if dinner is served at 7:30 instead of 7:00.

And if the dog makes off with the pecan pie? Not only will you have a great story to tell for years to come but the ice cream for the pie à la mode will go great with a little Death by Chocolate Sauce. If you don’t already have a jar in your refrigerator, it takes minutes to make.

Even if you update or simplify your menu, I guarantee, everyone will be back next year. And if your nephew falls into a deep despair because you didn’t bake Grammie’s sweet potato casserole, the one with the mini marshmallows? Well, maybe he’ll volunteer to make it next year.

Happy holidays and bon appétit!

More Tips, Tricks & Tools

What are your favorite tips for a sane holiday? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Want more? Click here for lots more to read, see & cook! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2011

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