For all you Americans preparing for Turkey-fest…
Have you ever had small crisped up sausages with your Christmas meal?
It was part of the spread growing up. Turkey, sausage stuffing, mashed turnip, brussel sprouts, potatoes (mashed and roasted), cranberry sauce, bread sauce, gravy and mini sausages. Can you tell my mum is Scottish? Lots of meat and root vegetables.
Dessert was a huge trifle with sponge and custard and canned mandarin segments immersed in red and green jello. The kids trifle love started and ended on Christmas day. After that the leftovers sat in the fridge and my mother made a valiant attempt to finish them as the jello hardened, the sponge got soggy and the whole thing turned to soup.
One year my mother made a serious announcement on Christmas Eve: she couldn’t find the small sausages. There would be no crispy mini sausages with the meal.
It was like she had announced Christmas had been cancelled.
We were all despondent at the idea of no cocktail sausages with the big meal. I was in my early 20’s at the time…
There is a lot of pressure on the big holiday meal. I know this and yet, I don’t want to miss Christmas day and be exhausted by the time we sit down to our meal because I was up at six in the morning stuffing a turkey.
So I’ve decided to set the bar a little lower for my family. A turkey and just a few side dishes. I’ll prepare one or two of the side dishes in advance and freeze them. And I’ll recruit my husband and son to help on the day.
I might even, GASP, used a prepackaged gravy.
If I don’t bake something in advance dessert will be whatever is left from the chocolate Santa brought.
I’m not losing my day of rest, connection and thankfulness to a complicated potato gratin or five vegetable side dishes.
Here are a few ideas for simplifying the holiday meal so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family.
6 Ways To Simplify Your Holiday Meal
1. Make fewer side dishes. Sure there is drama around the turkey, will it be ready in time and is it moist, but the piece that usually garnered the most stress and work in my family was the side dishes. If you can cut a few out it will save you time, fridge space and dishes.
2. Freeze/prepare in advance. Easier to thaw than to peel, slice, cook and mash on the day of. Anything that can be prepared in advance, even just chopping a few heads of broccoli, should be.
3. Recruit help. I tsk, tsk my younger self at how lazy I was on Christmas day. There was a lot of whining about helping out with the meal: shelling brussel sprouts, peeling potatoes and setting the table. My mother had to drag us away from our Christmas bounty of magazines, books and movies to get us to help.
Give people jobs before the big day so they know what is expected of them. Also helpful when you have a lot of helpers: make a schedule for when each person will use the kitchen to prepare their dish.
4. Make smaller quantities. Leftovers are a beautiful thing but so is a turkey that can be cooked in under four hours. Consider just making enough for that day’s meal to cut down on preparation and cooking time.
5. Ask people to bring or make side dishes. Many hands make light work as they say.
6. If you’re really tired of it all skip the big meal. Last year we were away and I knew we would be out of our rental apartment on Christmas Day. We had a nice festive brunch before we left and then I think it was curry for dinner. It was a different Christmas but I still felt festive and thankful. That’s what counts.
Anyone else have ideas for simplifying large holiday meals? Has anyone drastically changed their holiday meal menu to cut down on time spent in the kitchen?
Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt