Being the Holiday Host takes time & practice. I’ve had my share of distractions & disasters on the day of — power outages, waylaid guests, defective ovens and birds that refused to defrost. Over the years, the holiday meal and the preparation thereof, has evolved. How? I’ve added new traditions, stripped away some old, but held onto just enough for good measure.
Thanksgiving is only 2 weeks away and my goal this year, and every year, is to have more fun and less stress!
Here are my 5 Survival Steps to keep sanity in check as a Holiday Host:
1. Make it your own. Just because Mom served turkey & turnips doesn’t mean you have to. If your family prefers pizza or meatballs, by all means have them! I choose to serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal – you know roast turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, dressing, etc. But it’s the “etc” that I’ve changed up over the years. I steam sweet peas and fresh carrots because that’s what Grandpa and I like. Hubbs and son#1 get their beloved asparagus and we round it off with a tossed salad for our daughter in law and son #2. I’ve stopped serving rolls, yams and jellied salads. Why? No one ate them. D’uh! There’s no law written that mandates what we should load up on … just have what you like and enjoy being together.
2. Let others help. This was a hard one for me to learn. For years, I insisted on doing it all and ended up exhausted. I’ve learned that letting others help lets them feel like they’re part of it all and isn’t that the feeling we’re aiming for anyways?
3. Make ahead/do ahead. In the days leading up to any big Holiday get-together, I do as much ahead of time as I can. I tidy up the house, clear the counters, and wash & dry my favorite “pretty” platters (a few heirlooms but most are from yard sales). I empty the dishwasher and assemble place mats and decorations. I cut up all fresh vegetables and make my world famous cheese balls *see recipe below. Lastly, I write out the menu in a timeline format – pick your meal time and count backwards. I.E. If you’re planning to serve the meal at 4:00 pm and the turkey (size) you picked takes 4 hours to cook, put it in the oven at 11:30 am (allowing ~30 min for the bird to sit before carving). Potatoes should be peeled and boiling by 2:30 and so on.
4. Be kind to yourself. Get your rest, drink water, take a stroll through the neighborhood and for goodness sakes, eat something – No one wants a faintly, cranky cook snarling at them from the kitchen. My favorite go-to snack? 1 cup of Greek Yoghurt with 2 tbsp of Holy Crap stirred in – this is a high protein, high fiber and energy inducing treat! (for more about the world’s most amazing breakfast cereal please visit http://holycrap.ca/)
5. Have fun.Hubbs insists on taking me out the night before a major holiday and I never protest. We visit with friends, have a few drinks, and enjoy getting waited on. It makes for a relaxed and happy cook (me!) and he’s just a darn hero for coming up with the idea … every year. Hee hee.
It’s my privilege to have loved ones to host and I don’t often find cooking to be a chore. It’s a gift I give, with my whole heart, to those I adore most. It’s creative, meaningful and the effort feeds my soul. And that, to me, is what hosting a Holiday meal is all about anyways.
MJ’s Marvelous Cheese Ball
- 2 blocks of cream cheese
- 2 packets of Carl Buddig Smoked Ham, chopped (sold in the deli meats section)
- 1 envelope of dry ranch dressing seasoning
- 2-3 green onions, chopped with some green, too
- About 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of curry (I don’t measure, I just give it a liberal shake)
- About 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of Mrs. Dash regular or onion (I don’t measure, I just give it a liberal shake)
- About 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- If you want to “fancy it up” you can roll the cheese ball in chopped pecans or walnuts before wrapping.
Bring cream cheese to room temperature OR microwave until soft. Stir in seasonings: ranch dressing, curry, and Mrs. Dash.
Stir in chopped onion & ham. Lastly, stir in shredded cheddar.
Divide into 3 cheese balls and wrap in Plastic Wrap; wrap in 2 layers. Refrigerate immediately.
Best if made ahead of time and these can be frozen although they will be crumbly vs. creamy when defrosted.
Serve with your favorite crackers & stand back (I prefer to take it the cheese ball out of the fridge about 15 min before serving so it has time to soften).
How about you? Are you a Holiday Host or a Holiday Guest? Any tips to share?