Balance Food Wellness

Surviving the holidays

Written by Margaret Campbell

THAT time of year has arrived. Halloween is over, dreary weather has appeared, holiday lattes have arrived and so have the holiday decorations and songs in the stores. It’s time to think about the holiday season. If, like me, you just felt a lead weight fall on your shoulders let’s see if we can alleviate that weight.

I am an acknowledged foodie. I went to cooking school and still enjoy cooking for my friends, I geek out when my favourite chef publishes a book or opens a new restaurant. For the most part I enjoy it but I hate the stress of the holidays. Everyone, I feel, expects amazing perfect food. I do not want to work that hard and miss out spending time with my family especially my child. The thing I have come to realize about holiday entertaining is you can never go wrong with traditional offerings.

How do we accomplish all of this, by which I mean all of the cookies, cakes, desserts, feasts in which we feel we must participate? If I were smart I would have as much of it catered as possible. Why spend time in the kitchen you don’t have to? Watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time is a much better use of time. I think since the holidays are about family we should delegate those dishes we don’t like to cook. Let someone else get criticized for trying a different stuffing! For all the rest, plan ahead. There is just enough time to get it done without ripping our hair out.

I have two go-to resources for the holidays. The first is Delia Smith’s Happy Christmas book. In it she has simplified and planned it all out for us – from soup to nuts. She even has included a chapter on last-minute Christmas- love her! If you feel reassured as I do to have help on hand that doesn’t talk back I highly recommend this book. My other go- to is the BBC Good Food website. They have many great recipes that inspire.

I may have a great reference but Delia doesn’t cover it all so here is my brain stormed plan to get ahead and stay sane this holiday:

1. Host/Hostess Gifts

  • Buy little holiday cellophane bags and tags to pretty up gifts
  • Make Spiced Nuts- fast, easy and do up to three days ahead. I do a recipe from BBC Good Food.
  • Buy really nice packaged cookies, soaps from your favourite bakery or shop.

2. Cookies: Pick only those that make a lot of dough that can be frozen! Freeze in small portions to allow for freshness throughout the season.

  • Buy freezer bags, cling film and don’t forget to label!
  • Ginger Bread. It’s a standard because you can refrigerate it for a week or freeze it for two weeks.
  • Sugar Cookies. Another classic that can be stored for five days or frozen for up to three weeks.
  • Parmesan Sables. A little something different that can be stored for up to a week or frozen for a month- instant canapés!
  • If you know a good bakery, buy them

3. Dishes and items to be made ahead and frozen for the big feast days or any given Tuesday:

  • Buy freezer containers and bags and don’t forget to label!
  • Braised Red Cabbage is an excellent side that can be made two are three days ahead or frozen for a week or two.
  • Your favourite Stuffing. This staple can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated or frozen for up to a month ahead!
  • Any non-cream based soup can be frozen well ahead of time.
  • Stews. Can be frozen for two to three months ahead.
  • Butter- you can never have enough, can be frozen for six to nine months.
  • Low Fat Milk: I like to do this at hectic times because I always seem to run out when I need it!
  • Pastry: Puff, Pie etc. for canapés and desserts can be frozen up to three months ahead.
  • Mincemeat Tarts can be frozen for a month and can be baked straight from the deep freeze.
  • Muffins can be frozen for a month and are handy for quick breakfasts and snacks.
  • Stock: Chicken, Beef, Vegetable and Fish can all be frozen for months to use in soups and gravies
  • Hard Sauce. This is one item I tend to forget to make in the madness and Christmas Pudding and Mince Tarts taste much better with it! It can be frozen months in advance.

4. One to two weeks before or at least three days before the big feast check the cupboards, fridge and freezer to ensure there is no last minute running around.

5. Rent dishes, glasses and flatware.

6. Find someone else to cook it all or share the burden!

I hope you find this useful. Seeing it all broken down in writing is helpful; the holidays do not have to be stressful, having a plan helps. There is no law saying we have to cook/ make everything. Enjoy your friends and family and have an extra cookie.

I wish you all the best this holiday season!


About the author

Margaret Campbell

I run a charitable foundation but I find most of my time being taken up by thinking about food and cooking it to the delight of my friends and family. Once my friends knew I had completed my first year apprentice chef training, I was inundated with requests, for recipes, food preparation help and meal planning assistance. It seemed to be more efficient to write various tips and interesting foodie facts once instead of replying to individual requests and thus Surviving Dinner was created.

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