Cooking a Stress Free Christmas

A stress-free Christmas Dinner?! Is this even possible? Well, I like to think it can be and know that with a little forward planning you too could be sitting by the pool sipping a nice cool mocktail, relaxing with your family and friends instead of sweating it up all day in the kitchen.

If the thought of this coming Sunday’s lunch crowd descending on your dining room is starting to give you the shudders and thinking about your Christmas dinner menu is creating a lump of dread deep down in your stomach, then stop, take a step back and a deep breath – it doesn’t have to. Its true!

So here we go, simple steps to follow to ensure your Christmas Day prep is panic free, runs smoothly and takes no time at all.

 

Know who you’re catering for and plan accordingly.

Grandma is gluten intolerant? Make sure there’s some rice crackers as well as the Jatz and use cornflour in the gravy. Cousin Chelsea’s a vegan? Plenty of yummy salads and veggies will keep her happy. If in doubt, just ask the tricky eater for some ideas. They’ll be happy you thought of them and more than ready to help out.

Know how many are coming.

One of the biggest fears is under or over catering for a big crowd but its not too hard. If you usually feed a family of four, and sixteen are coming, just multiply what you would normally prepare by four. If you would normally make one salad to go with dinner for your family, you’ll need four for the Christmas dinner crowd. Add another for good measure and make five different salads. You’ll have the perfect amount.

Don’t be afraid to ask people to bring things.

If Aunty Jenny makes a fab pav, she’ll be flattered and happy to contribute if asked. Assign someone to bring the drinks, and someone else to bring some nuts and choccies or some yummy stone fruit. No need to be scared to be specific, they’ll be glad to have some direction and not just a vague, ‘can you bring something?’

Don’t be afraid to use pre-prepared items.

There’s so many amazing pre-prepared options out there these days from puddings, mince pies and custard, to frozen roast veggies, turkey roll, pre-peeled prawns, pre-mixed salad greens and delicious gourmet salad dressings. You can save so much time by shopping smarter. Check out these fabulous Christmas dessert cheats made with purchased pre-prepared items on taste.com.au. I love number 10!

Plan realistically.

If you’re a bit of a nervous cook, don’t try the Beef Wellington or Baked Alaska for the first time on Christmas Day. Keep it simple and avoid unnecessary angst.
How about a baked ham, some lovely fresh prawns and a few delicious salads. Taste.com.au has a bunch that even double as table decorations they’re so good looking!

Make a list (or two) and check it twice.

When you get to the supermarket make sure you know exactly where you’re headed. It also pays to have a back-up plan or two in mind, just in case there’s no walnuts…or cherries….or (heaven forbid) turkey. No need to panic. Don’t forget the napkins, cranberry sauce or dinner rolls.
Make a plan of attack for Christmas Eve (your prep day – see below!) and Christmas Day so everything’s ready at the same time. Assign someone to make the drinks and someone to serve the nibblies and so on.

Get everything ready on Christmas Eve.

Chop the veggies, toast the nuts, mix the dressings. You can even par-boil the potatoes. Get some ziplock bags or plastic containers and portion everything up and then put together with the recipe on the bench top in the bowl or platter in which they’ll be served (some items might need to go in the fridge of course). Set the table, get out the plates, glasses and cutlery, serving spoons, chairs, linen. If everything is ready before Christmas morning you have a lot more time to enjoy the day. Just a little bit of assembling needed.

Don’t be chained to the kitchen.

Spend time with your family and friends and enjoy the fruits of your labours and the rewards of your planning, forethought and organisation.
Here’s a great recipe for that mocktail I mentioned earlier.

strawb-cocktail

Apple Strawberry Punch

  • 2 punnets strawberries, washed, hulled
  • 3 cups of lemonade
  • 2 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of soda water
  • 1 cup of freshly brewed earl grey tea (cool)
  • 1 bunch mint (leaves only)

Blitz ½ the strawberries in the blender and add to a jug. Chop the rest of the strawberries (reserve a few for decoration) and add to the jug with the other ingredients. Pour over ice into glasses and decorate with another sprig of mint, half a strawberry and an apple wedge.

Cheers! And Merry Christmas.

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