There are many elements that make up the holiday season, but one of the most important events during Christmas is the dinner itself, whenever you may be celebrating it. For those that are hosting, this event is even more important – and stressful! With many activities on the go, the holidays may seem like one massive headache, but it doesn’t have to be if you plan ahead.
While most of the food can’t actually be cooked until the day before or the day of, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do ahead of time. On the contrary, planning out the meal and making a list will make the day of go a lot smoother!
First things first: plan out the dinner menu. You will have to make note of who is coming, and what, if any, dietary concerns there are and if you will need to make changes to your menu. For example, will you need to make your menu gluten free? If so, you will also need to be aware of any cross-contaminations between non-gluten and gluten dishes.
Consider what dishes can be made ahead. Many desserts, casserole dishes, and sides are easy to make up or prepare a couple of days before, so all you have to do is place them in the oven before the meal. We recommend making a mashed potato bake recipe.On Christmas day they get popped in the oven and there is no mashing and no mess.
The oven is a popular place and time should be organized beforehand depending on what needs to be cooked, when, and for how long. To save time and space, consider cooking vegetables the day before so you can just heat them up in the oven or microwave right before the meal. Instead of completely cooking vegetables like carrots, take them out early and run them under cold water to help keep their texture and colour. On the day of, they’ll only need a couple of minutes to warm up.
Also important to consider is the look of your food. Aim for colour! Meat and potatoes are all bland colours, so add some bright and vibrant vegetables like Brussel sprouts, carrots, beets, and salad to make your dinner plates pop.
You can even add garnishes to colourless dishes to add colour and texture. For example, green beans with almonds, mixed seasonal vegetables, roasted peppers – a mix of complimentary colours!
Karen recommends a “favourite” salad of hers that includes pomegranate, candied pecans, feta cheese, and maple dressing. This salad is a “colourful and beautiful taste combination” that can be made ahead of time by prepping the ingredients and washing and drying the salad greens the day before.
Simple is always best. Cook dishes that you are comfortable with and have made before. If you are trying something new, do a test run and try the recipe ahead of time so you have a better idea of what to expect the day of.
Beverages can easily be prepared ahead of time. Make sure the fridge is stocked with wine, water, and any other beverages so they’re ready to enjoy at dinnertime.
Last but not least, make sure that your table is ready for the food. You can put on the table cloth (after it’s been washed, cleaned, and ironed, of course) and set out clean dishes the night before if you have a separate table. If not, these items can still be taken out and set aside until the day of, and can be set out when you have time while the dishes are cooking.
A plan of action will help ensure you are prepared and not stressed the day of. Getting steps done ahead of time creates a clean and uncluttered space in your kitchen so you can worry about what’s important on Christmas day: spending time with friends and family, and cooking a perfect turkey!