Whether you’re planning a holiday meal for your immediate family or you’ve got all kinds of parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and such invading your home for the holidays, the process of hosting a family feast can be a bit stressful to say the least. Even if you’re only cooking for a few, the difficulty of delivering a multi-course meal on schedule can be daunting, what with trying to make sure everything comes out at the same time. And the pressure can go up exponentially when family members are traveling from far and wide to attend. Then, of course, you’ll have to deal with an incursion of well-meaning mothers and aunts trying to help out in the kitchen, or worse, standing around with glasses of Chardonnay and criticizing your every move with underhanded barbs. Yup, we’ve all been there. But believe it or not, you don’t have to resign yourself to this culinary hell during the holidays. Here are a few suggestions to decrease the stress and get the fun and festive family feast you crave.
The best way to start is by planning the meal well in advance. You’ll need to know how many people are coming, for one thing, and you’ll want to make out a menu. This will allow you to consider a variety of recipes in order to select those that are going to work the best for your feast. And it will give you your first opportunity to reduce stress when your family meal rolls around. The recipes you choose can make a huge difference in your stress level. For example, you might be keen to try tons of new recipes. But this is a mistake. You don’t want to have to refer to seven different cookbooks while you’re trying to get a meal ready. That’s too many plates to juggle. Instead, stick mainly to recipes you’re familiar with so that you’re less likely to miss an ingredient or skip a step by accident.
If you really want to try a new recipe, early planning will provide you with the time needed to give it a whirl well in advance to determine if it’s too difficult or to iron out the kinks so that everything goes smoothly on the day of your family feast. Of course, you’ll also have the option to choose recipes that you can make a day or two in advance in preparation for your get-together. If all you have to do is pop a dish in the oven or microwave to warm it up you’ll make your life a lot easier when your family is sitting around, waiting to be fed.
You might also consider hosting a potluck instead of doing all the work yourself. Most of your family members are bound to have signature recipes (like your Auntie’s sweet potato pie or your sister’s green bean casserole) and they’d likely be more than happy to assist you by cooking them up and bringing them to your family dinner. This will take a lot of the pressure off you since all you’ll probably have to take care of is the main dish (turkey, pot roast, or whatever) and it will save you some money, to boot. While you can certainly go all out with a slew of delicious new recipes from a site like RecipeChart.com, there’s no reason to ratchet up the stress when you’re planning a holiday meal. So keep it simple, stick to what you know, and feel free to ask for help. This way everyone can enjoy the holidays, including you.