Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving and Christmas? The focal point to both these celebrations is of course the meal, be it lunch or dinner. If you are a guest you can of course offer help as well as bring contributions to the feast. But if you are the host, the logistics and planning that goes in to putting together a meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas Day can be really quite stressful. Costs can quickly mount up,and if you don’t get things together enough in advance you could end up frazzled and too drained to enjoy the celebration you’ve worked so hard to create. So, how to make the whole thing less stressful and less expensive?
Tips to Make Hosting Thanksgiving & Christmas Lunch Less Stressful and Less Expensive.
In the spirit of the upcoming season, I have done some research into how to make your celebratory meal just that bit easier and cheaper. Here are some tips, which if followed, should mean a less stressed host, who gets to enjoy the festivities just as much as everyone else.
Shop Ahead for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
Think about shopping ahead. Pretty obvious tip I know, but worth repeating.Take a list with you to the supermarket in the few weeks leading up to the Holidays and make the most of any deals available for the non-perishable items and frozen foods like mini sausages. Closer to Thanksgiving or Christmas when you are buying last minute foodstuffs, it’s worth remembering that day-old or stale bread, which is likely to be reduced in price, makes the best breadcrumbs for bread sauce.
Prepare Ahead for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
Many vegetables can be prepared ahead of time. For example roast potatoes can be prepped and frozen as shown here: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1789635/freezeahead-roasties
Most vegetables can be blanched, which means cooked in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then immediately plunged into ice water to preserve their vibrant colour and freshness. When ready to be used, they will only need a few further minutes of steaming or boiling.
Gravy can be made in advance and frozen. Stuffing can also be made and frozen – one idea I saw was putting individual servings into muffin cases. You can freeze these and take them out to cook in a muffin tin when needed. Here is a good stuffing recipe: https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/christmasapricotandc_73428
How to Keep Gravy Hot Whilst Saving Space on the Stove
Juggling space in the oven, stove top and preparation areas can be one of the most challenging parts of putting the meal together. I recently found a simple yet very clever tip for the gravy: keep it hot in a thermos flask or in a filter coffee jug on the hot plate of the coffee machine. You can also use a large teapot to both hold the gravy and even serve it at the table from the tea pot if you want!
Turkey Cooking Tips
Make sure that you take the turkey out of the fridge at least an hour before it needs to start roasting. Cooking it from chilled will take longer, and it may not cook as effectively. It will also need to sit and rest for around 20 minutes once it comes out of the oven, so allow for this when planning timings etc.
Cook the turkey in an oven roasting bag, to cut down on oven cleaning afterwards. Then you will have a handy bag to put all the leftover scraps and bones in, to either use for making stock for soup, or for tidily disposing of afterwards.
You could try poaching the turkey ahead of of roasting it. This will help to keep the meat tender and ensure it cooks more evenly, instead of the usual where the legs take much longer than the breast to cook, meaning that the white meat dries out. Place the bird on its back in a roasting tray filled with with about 2.5cm of chicken stock. Poach it on the stove top for around 15 minutes, then let it cool for ten minutes before stuffing and roasting as usual.
Thanksgiving and Christmas Drinks
You could think about just providing one type of alcohol,to both cut down on costs, and save preparation time. Something such as a Festive Cranberry Sangria is refreshing and very seasonal. You can make this ahead of time and provided you have a large enough punch bowl, leave it out for guests to simply help themselves. Try this fabulous cocktail from The Gold Lining Girl https://thegoldlininggirl.com/2016/12/cranberry-pomegranate-sangria/
Another idea would be: instead of using a fancy white damask tablecloth like the one in the picture, (which is beautiful but let’s face it is very unforgiving of spills and stains and even after being laundered, and will need about 2 hours-worth of ironing), consider buying a beautiful piece of fabric off-cut to use as a table covering. And if you don’t have time to hem it, probably no-one will notice anyway, as they will be so blown away by the amazing setting and the delicious food and drink!
When it comes to decorating the table natural items are the way to go: buy some fresh flowers as a base, but supplement with lots of greenery, berries and pinecones hopefully found for free outside. Add some tea lights and candles, or fairy lights. It will look and smell wonderful.