7 Ways to Reduce the Stress of Preparing A Big Meal

Mon, Sep 29th, 2014

There you were sitting on the couch, quietly minding your own business and getting caught up with Aunt Sally. Then from somewhere across the room you heard your name mentioned. And before you know it – you have been nominated to host the next family get together!

Or maybe one day you were strolling down the sidewalk and decided it was time for your neighbours to move beyond the courteous hellos and happy waves. Before heading back in your front door that night you had invited several neighbours for dinner that weekend. Time to get to know each other!

Then you stop and think... what will I cook?

Here are some tips from our kitchen on how to prepare for that big meal while keeping stress to a minimum.

oven turkey

Do Something That You Know

Now is not the time to experiment with a variety of new dishes and flavours. Pick items that you have prepared before. If you need to cook something for the first time – look for a recipe with a limited list of ingredients and not too many steps.

Think 'one pot meal'

The last thing you want to do is try to pull off a meal that needs more pots than you have. You may not even have enough burners or oven space. And don't forget that less pots means less cleanup.

Look for recipes focused on using one pan and consider using a slow cooker.

You may still need other pots for gravy or a side dish but at least you are keeping things simple.

Is your pan big enough for the quantity needed? Ever tried to stuff a 10lb turkey in a chicken sized roasting pan? It doesn't work well so borrow a larger pan if needed.

Side Dishes – Keep It Simple

When it comes to side dishes, don't have too many. Two options are usually fine. Again... keep the 'one dish' concept in mind.

Look to vegetables that are in season and readily available. Easy side dishes can include corn, potatoes and carrots.

Consider options where you could make the dish ahead of time. For example, a broccoli salad can be prepped ahead of time, and its flavour will improve while in the fridge.

Plan your menu & grocery list.

Now that you have a main dish decided, start writing down a complete menu.

  • Appetizers?

  • Drinks

  • Main dish

  • Side dishes

  • Salad?

  • Buns?

  • Condiments – Butter? Gravy? Cranberry sauce? Horseradish? Relishes?

  • Dessert

After you fill out your menu build your grocery list, thinking through the ingredients for each item.

Timing Making sure everything is ready on time at the same time is very difficult. Mastering this takes a lot of practice!Write down when you would like the meal to be ready, and then work backwards from there. Double check the cooking time you will need for each item.

Think beyond food

Don't forget to think about the serving spoons and dishes you may need.

It's also good to have some containers ready for leftovers.

What can I bring?

Be careful in what you ask people to bring. Think of items like beverages, buns, salads and desserts.

Mention that your kitchen - including your fridge and oven - will already be full so any item will have to be ready and not require any further prep.

Give Yourself Credit

In today's busy world, stopping to enjoy a meal with others is often forgotten. Recognize that as you bring together family or friends you are playing an important role in keeping people connected!

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