Tips for a Sane Christmas & Maple-Nut Sundaes

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.
• You’ve shopped till you dropped and stitched and glue-gunned until your fingers were numb. It was worth it; you have enough presents to fill Santa’s sleigh two, make that three, times over.
• You not only 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. Or maybe you throw an open house for all the neighbors on Christmas Eve?

I confess that, especially when it comes to the food, I’m prone to overdo it. Even if I tend to wait until a day or two before Christmas to get started. Anyway, here are a few tips for a sane Christmas from an admitted crazy person.

It’s not too early to think about menus. Maybe your family has an age-old tradition of roast turkey or beef tenderloin for Christmas so you’re good to go. Or maybe not. It might be time to trim back on the trimmings. Just because Nana served eight side dishes and four desserts doesn’t mean you have to!

Okay, Christmas eve and day solved. Now, don’t forget the weekend. Keep it as simple as possible with casseroles, one-pot chilies or braises and easy roasts.

Once you know what you’ll serve, you can start to stock up. Check your recipes and make two lists. The first is for the non-perishable ingredients you’ll need and anything you can stick in the freezer. Pick these things up early. The second is for fresh produce, fish, chicken and meat. Let someone else pick up that stuff. You, personally, do not need to make a daily trip to the supermarket.

Sugar_Spice_NutsIt’s not too early to stock the freezer. Whether it’s a gallon of homemade soup, your fabulous Bolognese sauce or six dozen cookies, you can make it now and enjoy it later.
By all means, divide and conquer. No one said YOU have to make-bake-cook-do everything. Share the fun and let everyone lend a hand. That cousin who can’t boil water can set the table. Your teenagers probably like to bake, let them at it. You must have a sister or sister-in-law with an extensive repertoire of desserts, hors d’oeuvres or a world-famous potato gratin. Invite her to add to the feast. Otherwise, let the local bakery supply the pies and head to your favorite deli for great appetizers and sides. Don’t forget to order in advance!

As for the weekend… 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 friend or family member whose specialty is making reservations? Pass the phone. Not in his or her budget? Well it’s time to develop a new specialty and fast … or order pizza!

If at any time you start to feel rushed, frazzled or overwhelmed, step back and take a couple of deep breathes. 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.

Come to think of it, what’s the worst that can happen? A healthy dose of perspective is a good thing any time and priceless during the holidays. So what if the turkey takes longer than expected? Your family will not disown you if dinner is at 7:30 instead of 7:00. Nor is it a crisis if your nephew falls into despair because you didn’t bake Grammie’s sweet potato casserole, the one with the mini marshmallows. Who knows, he might even volunteer to make it next year. And if the dog makes off with the pecan pie? Relax; you’ll have a great story to tell for years to come. Plus, you can whip up a simple sauce to drizzle on the ice cream in minutes. (Don’t tell me the dog stole the ice cream too!)

I guarantee everyone will be back next year. Enjoy the holidays and bon appétit!

Maple-Nut Sundaes
If the dog steals the pie, you can whip up these sundaes in the time it takes for your elves to clear the table and pop the dinner dishes in the dishwasher. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 cups maple sauceMaple_Nut_Sundaes_05

1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
Vanilla ice cream
Walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

In a large saucepan, combine the maple syrup, sugar, salt and cream. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.

Increase the heat to medium-high, and cook until the sauce thickens and registers 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat, whisk in the vanilla, rum and butter and, whisking a few more times, cool for about 15 minutes.

To serve: scoop vanilla ice cream into dessert bowls, add a generous drizzle of warm maple sauce and sprinkle with toasted walnuts or pecans.

The sauce will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. You can reheat the sauce on the stove on medium-low or in the microwave on medium until warm but not hot.

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One Year Ago – Rosemary Cashews
Two Years Ago – Greek Stuffed Mushrooms
Three Years Ago – Ginger Crème Brûlée
Four Years Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Five Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Six Years Ago – Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Penne
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How are your holiday preparations going? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

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