After all is said and done, when all the hustle and bustle is over, we get to gather around the table, or kitchen island, or somewhere usually in close proximity to the fridge, and appreciate spending time with those we love!
During the holidays, there is often so much stress, pressure, pre-conceived notions, traditions, and expectations that we lose sight of what really matters - our connection to those we love. My Motto has always been: “If you mess it up, call the pizza guy, but get in the kitchen and try. After all, its JUST food!”
When I think back to being a kid, it seems as though the holidays had a very different feel; it was about fun and family, great food, and school vacation. It was about “breaking bread” with, and enjoying the company of, those you care about.
Is it REALLY that big of a deal if the turkey is overdone? Or if the gingerbread cookies are slightly “crispy”? Or if the mashed potatoes are lumpy? I can tell you that I would give anything to eat my grandmother’s awful, burnt stuffing again with her (she died over 15 years ago).
This holiday season I encourage you to stay focused on what REALLY matters, and make your holiday season the best ever. Here are a couple ideas that may just help with the stress:
Being the host does not mean that you have to be SUPER WOMAN, leaping tall piles of mashed potatoes in a single bound! Allow your guests to bring their favorite side dish – it’ll give them the opportunity to experience the memories attached to that side dish, and will also take additional stress off of your plate. So what if you have 3 different types of stuffing!
For those of you still unwilling to relinquish culinary license, an easier compromise is to plan and shop for the entire meal yourself, but invite your family and friends into the kitchen to help with the cookng. If you go with this option, make sure to plan a dish people CAN help with. You will find that people enjoy a meal just as much (or maybe more) if they have contributed to its production.
Do not wait until the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas to do the grocery shopping!! Shop for the majority of the food 2-3 days prior, preferably a weekday. When you do go to the store? Go during times when not as many people will be there; for example, right when the store opens. Shopping at that time of day can actually be a calm, quiet experience.
Do as much prep work ahead of time as you can. Don't just make a grocery list; organize it. I go through each recipe and input items in an excel spreadsheet by department, that way you don’t waste time going back and forth from one end of the store to the other. I am in and out of a grocery store in under 20 minutes!
Pace yourself and say yes only to those things you want to do and know you are able to do. It’s totally OK to decline participation in the office “secret santa”! Maybe this isn't the year to deliver 100 meals to senior citizens, either. Maybe this is the year you should focus on YOU and the ones you love.
How good would it feel to be able to just sit back & enjoy the meal like everyone else?
If cooking the "perfect dinner" is shifting your focus away from spending meaningful time with your family, there are other options: eating dinner out, having the meal catered, or even hiring a personal chef can be a welcome alternative to doing everything yourself.
Whatever type of Thanksgiving you decide to have, enjoy the breaking of bread - gathering together and appreciating those we love! Here’s to you having an enjoyable, joyful, and gracious holiday season!
images courtesy of life unstill photography.
Nicole is the Executive Chef, Founder and CEO of It’s JUST Food, a culinary services entity that provides custom culinary experiences — such as cooking classes, family dinner parties, or even intimate dinners for one — all in the comfort of your own home. A certified personal chef, she believes that classic cuisine never goes out of style. Nicole was classically trained in French and Italian cuisine at Cook Street School of Culinary Art in Denver, Colorado, and she has formal training in Paris; Cap d’Agde, France; and Parma, Italy.
Read more about Nicole in our November cover story, Culinary Joy: Building a Business While Cooking With Grace.