Holiday Meals: Tips for a Stress-Free Season
While it can be so fun to gather family and friends around the holiday table, planning for the large meal brings its fair share of stress. If hostess duty falls on you this year, follow these tips to bring your meal together early and with less of the stress that comes with holiday meal planning.
Menu Plan Early
Plan your menu with your guests in mind, as well as a budget. You don’t need to go broke cooking a roast for 20, but you may be able to splurge for more expensive meat if you are cooking for five people. When planning the number of guests for the evening, do your best to find out whether any of the guests have food allergies that you need to be sensitive to, or whether any of the guests are vegetarian or vegan and need accommodations. If children will be coming, consider planning a children’s table and giving the kids an easy to prepare meal, such as pizza or macaroni and cheese and salad.
When planning your meal, make sure that all basic food groups are covered and that you present a variety of choices for guests. You don’t need an event catering background to successfully plan the menu, just think about the main meat (or meat alternative) and brainstorm two to three sides that complement that flavors of the meal. You could consider having a themed dinner or cooking from a specific cuisine, such as a red and green Italian Christmas dinner or an Asian vegetarian dinner for your book group.
Once you plan the menu basics, check your pantry and prepare a shopping list. Head to the store well in advance of the holiday to avoid crazy holiday traffic and stores that may be suffering from shortages. Pick up everything you need for the holiday season.
Accent with Décor
Especially if you are planning a themed meal or celebrating a special occasion, decoration can really help set the tone. Again, you don’t need to spend a lot to feel the impact. Think back to your favorite weddings, receptions, or other catered events that you have attended. There were probably flowers or another type of centerpiece on the tables, candles around the room, and nice linen. Well, you can do that!
Pick up seasonal flowers at your local nursery or grocery store. For fall, consider accenting the table with miniature pumpkins, gourds, and mums. Choose colored napkins, placemats, or a table runner that blend with the decor or add a neutral accent, such as silver or cream.
Managing Stress on Dinner Day
Prep the table the night before. For a large gathering, consider making assigned seating cards so guests know to take a seat. This can help you avoid the awkward seating moments as guests decide who they would like to sit next to. Set the table with placemats or tablecloth, china or plates, flatware, stemware, and napkins. Incorporate your decor. If you’re doing a cocktail hour or appetizers before the main meal, gather the assorted plates and cups you’ll need for this too.
If you have extra time, do some of the meal prep work in advance. If you’re handling a large holiday like Thanksgiving, make a prep chart so you know what needs to be cooked. Then tackle what can be done in advance. For example, cranberry sauce is easy to make ahead and chill, as is stuffing.
Incorporating these steps into your next large meal planning can help soothe your stress about the upcoming event without having to sacrifice any of the dishes you want to prepare.
In today’s world most of us are far more aware of how important it is to be healthy than we were several years ago. With modern technologies, constant research and motivational health information at our fingertips, we stand a much better chance of improving and maintaining better health overall.
Thankfully there is always the right time and the right place to jump on the better health wagon. If there were any time to realize how important health is it would be before and during vacation times. Nobody wants to feel green during vacationing. So, the challenge of increasing good health before vacation while maintaining it during vacation stands before you. Let’s take a look at a few ideas to help jump-start your healthiest vacation yet.
Let’s start with the primary element which makes up the highest percentage of our bodies’ functioning ability. Water. Our bodies are mostly water; therefore, watering the body inside and out is critical. Staying well-hydrated everyday with fresh water, preferably filtered, and water-based fruits and vegetables will help optimize the body’s healing responses to such dehydrating moments as air travel and alcoholic imbibing. Water assists in balancing digestive processes and cognitive alertness. Always keep a bottle of water handy while trying to consume at least a cup an hour. Pregnant women in particular require bottled water at all times. When travelling outside of the continental U.S. it may be necessary to avoid tap water and produce washed with tap water. Don’t take chances with your vacation. Choose bottled waters over tap water.
Vacationing often invites us to sway from regular routines. Frequently, this tempting trap can be the largest culprit to experiencing a less-than-lovely vacation. Prior to departure make sure all necessary medications, vitamins and doctors orders are organized and followed. Never allow deviation of these factors when vacationing. Nobody enjoys a hospital vacation stay.