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Avoid stress: Get ready for Christmas ahead of time!

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!  

Getting Ready for the Holidays

November is here, which means it’s time to get organized for the upcoming holiday season!

First things first, one has to determine what needs to be done. To break things down, we can look at the holidays in terms of gifts and cards, the meal, decorating, and holiday activities, and organize these topics chronologically.

All of these topics require planning, thinking of ideas, and making lists. This time-consuming task doesn’t have to be done all at once. While waiting for kids to finish lessons, on the train to work, waiting for an appointment – use these moments of time to think of gift ideas, guest lists, menus, shopping lists, etc.

Another important thing to remember is that it’s hard for a person to do these tasks by oneself – get family and friends to participate and help out!  

 

Beginning of November

-       Gifts and Cards

o   Start shopping: Especially when buying items online, it’s best to get them ordered sooner rather than later to make sure you receive before the holidays. Buying gifts is usually cheaper if you purchase them ahead of time, because they are more likely to be on sale and the stores are usually not as crowded, which makes for a less stressful shopping experience!

o   Create Christmas cards: Although they don’t have to be sent yet, get your kids to make up an ecard or design a print-out online. There are many websites that will offer easy print out picture options that are great to send out as well.

-       Holiday Activities

o   Charity/donations: A lot of people want to give back or support local charities by volunteering, but around the holiday time there are almost too many people that want to help. Consider making a donation or volunteering earlier – these charities don’t just need help around the holidays.

 

Mid-November

-       Gifts and Cards

o   Send U.S./International holiday cards and presents: A list of the deadlines for Canada Post’s letter and parcel shipping for the U.S. and International destinations can be found here. Don’t leave this to the last minute!

o   Wrapping: Now is a good time to make sure that you have the wrapping paper and gift bags that are needed for this year. As you purchase Christmas gifts, wrap them when you have time in the evenings in front of the T.V. or on the weekend.

-       Holiday Activities

o   Christmas parties: A lot of companies tend to host Christmas parties around the middle to end of November. Make sure you have an outfit to wear, item for donation, and potentially a food item to bring if it’s potluck!

 

End of November

-       Gifts and Cards

o   Send out Christmas cards: It may seem early, but get cards printed or make sure all of them are written and addressed, and send them out during the last couple of days of the month. That way, they are guaranteed to be received during the beginning of December and you will have one less task to worry about!

-       The Meal

o   Create a guest list and menu: Decide who will be coming, when you’ll be hosting, and what you’ll be eating. Is it sit down, potluck or buffet? Get this figured out now so you can start preparing your schedule for December.

o   Bread cubes: Another item that can be checked off the list early. Cube up the bread, dry it out, and pop it in the freezer.

o   Baking: Get some of the Christmas baking out of the way. A lot of cookie dough, squares, and cakes can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer.

 

Beginning of December

-       The Meal

o   For a break down of managing and planning out a meal, check out our previous post for Thanksgiving Time Management. Different holiday, but the same guidelines apply!

-       Decorating

o   Christmas lights: Lights can be put up anytime throughout the month, but can be very dependent on weather. Watch out for warm chinook days and take advantage of them!

o   Christmas tree: Depending on whether you use a fake or real tree, it can be set up earlier in the month along with the rest of the decorations. It’s nice to get the house set up ahead of time! Get the family involved and make it a fun holiday activity.

All that should (hopefully) be left by this point is the rest of the meal preparation, most of which can’t be done too far ahead of time. Now, you can enjoy caroling, Christmas parties, and other activities instead of rushing last minute to buy gifts, decorate the house, and send out Christmas cards. Getting gifts and cards, decorating, and holiday activities done early allows you to enjoy the rest of the holiday season stress-free!

 

Thanksgiving Time Management

Trying to orchestrate a sit-down turkey dinner for the Thanksgiving holiday can be a daunting task for many. Although shopping for ingredients and supplies, making dessert, and decorating can be done the day before or even up to a week in advance, there is a lot that must be done the day of. To keep Thanksgiving day organized and running efficiently, I’ve compiled a guideline of what to do and when to pull of a traditional turkey dinner:

1-2 weeks before:

-       Decide on a guest list: Figure out how many people will be coming for dinner. This will be important when planning out the menu and grocery items to be purchased.

-       Plan the menu: Are you hosting a sit-down meal or a buffet? Consider whether anyone has dietary concerns like celiac or gluten intolerant and dairy intolerant. Make note of dishes that may have to be changed or optional dishes that may need to be prepared.

-       Create a shopping list: Working backwards from the menu, plan out what produce and other ingredients will be needed to purchased and when. Purchase your frozen turkey when they are on sale. Fresh turkeys should be ordered early to avoid disappointment. Local farmers such as Country Lane Farms supplies fresh turkeys. 

-       Grocery shopping: Ingredients like beverages, napkins, and condiments can be purchased well in advance.

-       Prepare bread cubes: Bread can be dried and cubed a couple of weeks in advance and stuffing can be made and frozen until the day before you stuff the turkey. This is an easy task to get done ahead of time!

4 days before:

-       Turkey: At this time, take the turkey out of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge.

-       Baking: If you’re planning on making cookies or other baked goods that can be stored for a couple of days before eating, they can be made now and kept in a sealed container or frozen until needed.

2 days before:

-       Grocery shopping: Produce and perishables should be purchased 1-2 days in advance.

The day before:

-       Prepare vegetables: A lot of vegetables like glazed carrots and mashed potatoes can be prepared the day before and then cooked, reheated or baked before the meal is served. Less time spent in the kitchen the day of!  Choosing a menu that allows you to prepare early is where your early planning can really pay off.

-       Bread cubes: Take the bread cubesor your own pre-made stuffing out of the freezer so it defrosts in time to be stuffed into the turkey.

-       Bake pies: What’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin or pecan pie? The actual pies can be baked they day before and still taste as good as if it were baked fresh.

The night before:

-       Dinnerware: This is a good time to pull out the necessary serving dishes and utensils that will be needed. The table can also be set the night before in preparation for the next day.

-       Condiments: Fill your table serving dishes with cranberry sauce, pickles and goodies. Wrap and keep in fridge.

-       Cookie trays: Are you serving cookies? Now's a great time to make up an assorted cookie platter and put in the fridge.

-      Bar set-up:Great time to gather your beverages, chill your beer and wine. No space in the fridge? Put your beer and wine in a cooler - Day of, top with ice!

The day of:

-       Stuff the turkey

o   Allow for 4-5 hours of cooking time depending on the size of the bird. To find out exactly how long you should be cooking your turkey for, visit Tasty Turkey.

o   After the turkey is finished cooking, make sure to let it rest for 20-30 minutes. My mom always had her gravy made in the morning. Ready to go!

-       Side dishes: heat/cook the vegetables

-       Relax! Take the time to get ready and great your guests when they come. Everything is ready to go and all you have to do now is enjoy the meal.

Happy Thanksgiving!