Simplifying Holiday Meals

Simplifying Holiday Meals

I love traditional holiday meals. Not necessarily because of the traditions themselves, although they are meaningful, but because no one expects innovation. And no innovation means simple, because I’ve done it all before.

As part of my move to deliberate living I have moved away from complex meals that stress me out to the point where I can’t enjoy the holiday. So that means simplicity, repeatability and more enjoyment.

With the American Thanksgiving and the winter holidays coming up, I thought I would share with you how I have simplified the big Thanksgiving dinner we have at our house.

One Holiday, One Menu

I love this part. Every Thanksgiving, my family knows exactly what to expect: turkey, mashed potatoes, ranch green beans, cranberries, rolls and pumpkin pie. Other dishes were tried and discarded. What remains are the family favorites. Anything we had left in the menu that no one ate was removed. The menu stays the same from year to year, which leads to another simplicity: computerized recipes, directions and shopping lists.

Shopping Lists. A few years ago, I put the shopping list for all the dinner ingredients into my computer. Every year, I print out a fresh copy and I’m ready to go shopping. I print it out at the end of October and add a few on-sale items to my cart when I do regular shopping. That way I spread out the cost of the meals, as well as take advantage of seasonal sales.

Directions. The same year, I wrote down the timing for all dishes. I know exactly how long from when dinner will be served I need to start boiling potatoes, for example. This ensures that all the food makes it to the table at the same time, as well as nothing getting left behind (in the oven, for example, where it will turn into charcoal)

Recipes. All of my recipes for the dinner are in another computer file. When it comes time to cook, I just print out a copy. This saves time and effort on two fronts: I don’t have to hunt for recipes, and I don’t care if the recipes get covered in miscellaneous food substances during the cooking procedure.

Simplify Cooking

No More Basting!

I have basted a few turkeys in my time. What a waste of effort! I discovered Reynolds Cooking bags. You stick the turkey in, stick it in the oven, and at the end of the cooking time you have a turkey that is moist and falls off the bones.

For hams, I buy the spiral cut which only need to be glazed at the end of the process. That not only cuts down on attention needed during cooking, but simplifies carving.

Make Ahead

I also simplify in another way: I make what I can ahead of time. The pies, rolls, and salads are made up the day before.

I also do what prep I can the day before, such as chopping veggies. Not only does this save time on the holiday, but it serves as a double check that I have everything I need. One year it made it possible to have our favorite veggie dish – because I had forgotten to buy one of the needed ingredients.

By doing the above, I make holiday meals as stress-free as possible. That means that I can focus on being with my family instead of stressing about the food.