Cooking Tips for the Newlywed Holidays
My number one tip for the holidays? Plan ahead! Create menus and plan for leftovers so you can make future meals for your family and houseguests. My mantra is, “Work once, feast twice” with an entirely new meal. Turn leftover turkey into fabulous Southwest Turkey Pot Pie or turn leftover ham into Creamy Linguine with Ham, Goat Cheese and Basil. Leftovers don’t have to be boring – they can be inspired, NEW dishes that take just minutes to prepare.
Do what you can in advance. It's never fun when you’re relegated to the kitchen while everyone else is socializing (plus it makes guests feel like you're working too hard!). Certain dishes can easily be made a few days in advance, such as stuffing and dressing (stuffing is stuffed into the turkey while dressing is cooked in a separate dish), casseroles (assemble them before baking), salsas, sauces, pre-chopped vegetables (for serving with dips or for tossing into side dishes), vinaigrettes, and marinades.
Make shopping and "to-do" lists and stick to them.
Make it healthier. Swap reduced-fat or "light" dairy products for regular (milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, frozen yogurt, etc). No one will notice the difference and their heart valves and waistlines will thank you.
Never try a new recipe on a crowd! It's too stressful and who needs the added stress this time of year?! Yes, it might want to impress your guests, just don't tempt fate with your first soufflé! Stick with what you know and everyone will love it.
Make holiday décor personal. Here's what I did on my first “married” Thanksgiving. Both sets of in-laws, brothers, sisters, and kids came. Not a huge crowd but, as a newlywed, enough to make my knees quiver. For the seating, instead of place cards, I bought individual Christmas ornaments for each person and placed them on the dinner plates. I made sure each ornament was personal enough so that everyone could find his or her seat. For my father-in-law, it was a bundle of grapes (he loves wine). My sister-in-law got a tennis ball ornament (she loves tennis). My dad got a golf ball (he loves golf). For my mom, a chili pepper (you guessed it, she loves peppers!!). You get the idea! Also, keep table decorations simple while using seasonal items – fresh holly, pine cones, gourds, apples, and nuts all make excellent tabletop décor.
Don't be afraid to delegate. Assign dishes and tasks to family and friends. Maybe one person brings a dessert. Perhaps two people bring side dishes. Ask a few people to set the table. See how quickly you've shortened your list?! People love to contribute (especially during the holidays) so don't hesitate to ask!
Remember this: the holidays are a time to enjoy and cherish family and friends, not fuss over a meal or two. In fact, the greatest memories come from holiday foibles. That said, relax, enjoy and happy holidays!!