7 Ways to Keep Your Sanity While Preparing Your Holiday Meal

Family Matters on 11.17.12
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Photo Credit: Ryan Stavely/ Creative Commons

It can be daunting to get a holiday meal on the table even if you are accomplished in the kitchen. A full Thanksgiving meal has a lot of different components competing for oven space, as well as figuring out how to get everything cooked and hot at the same time. Take some of the pressure off by creating a game plan that can guide you, and provide tasks that you can delegate to your thankful guests.

1. Make an ingredient list of everything you need. If you need onions for the green bean casserole and the stuffing, figure out the total amount of onions needed and chop them once. Having one list of all the ingredients you need for each dish can also help make sure you have everything you need before you get started on a recipe.

2. Put everything on the grocery listUse your ingredient list as a starting point for what to buy, remember to add beverages, and other items you'll need to get through the holiday period.  Shop early to avoid the rush and chaos at the busy grocery store right before the holiday. 

3. Create a cooking schedule. Knowing how long everything needs to cook will alert you when to start each dish. This is especially important when putting a large turkey in the oven because your oven will be unavailable for most of the day. When preparing the schedule be sure to include what needs to go in the oven, for how long and at what temperature so you don't end up burning things that need to be reheated. Figure out how to have the turkey done at least 30 minutes before you sit down to the meal. Allowing the turkey to rest before carving helps to keep the natural juices in the meat. It also gives you a little time to heat everything else up and make the gravy.

4. Prepare everything you can in advance of guests arriving. Set and decorate the table, make sure the linens and napkins are clean and presentable to use. Locate all necessary serving platters and utensils so they are ready to be used as soon as the food can be served.

5. Make food a day ahead. Pies and many side dishes can be made the day before serving and will still taste just as fresh.  Even if you can’t completely make a dish in advance there are shortcuts like chopping vegetables and measuring out ingredients that can make the actual holiday go a little easier. I personally struggle to follow a recipe when I entertain guests in the kitchen at the same time.

6. Delegate tasks to unload some of the responsibility. Great jobs for others to do include filling the water glasses, stirring the gravy, lighting the candles on the table, placing food on platters to be served. People love to help on the holidays, so be ready to assign a job when they offer. 

7. Accept help.  Be willing to let your guests participate. If they are looking for suggestions on what to bring, have ideas for what they can prepare or purchase to make your life easier. Thanksgiving is based on the idea of community-- take advantage of yours to help make your holiday more relaxing.

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