this just speaks to me!
Is it just me, or do you feel like you are in the kitchen all the time? If you're not making something, you're cleaning it up, and then a small 2-legged creature under 42" whom we shall endearingly call a child ;) is in the kitchen again, rummaging around for something to feed his growing body.
With the holidays here and no extended family in town, feeding my family falls solely on me. I enjoy it, really I do. But sometimes preparing all these meals and snacks, plus extra baking for Christmas, gets quite overwhelming. For some mercy and advice in this area, I emailed Marybeth--a Southern cook who keeps quite busy feeding her family of 8.
Here is part of what I wrote:
I am reflecting on how to help next year's Christmas run smoother, mainly regarding all the food prep. We did not have any family in town, so it was just us (five of us, my three boys are under 5 so that in itself is busy!). I wanted to (and tried to) finish baking for neighbors (saving it for Dec. 23 and 24 was not the best idea). I planned to make appetizers for Christmas Eve dinner, and ham, cranberry fluff, hashbrown potato casserole from scratch (as in making my own hashbrowns), cherry cream pie, glazed baby carrots, and rolls. We had a sausage/pepper/cheese pie and Maple Apple nut bread for breakfast (which I did make the night before). Long story short, there was a lot of food prep and cooking; many, many dishes; and I found myself spending more time than I would have liked in the kitchen (and getting quite stressed about getting it all done and still enjoying time relaxing with my family).Here's what Marybeth said in response:
I wanted to ask you--since you've been cooking and hosting longer than I--for your best tips on getting it all done and getting it done smoothly. I've heard for food safety, it is not a good idea to keep a dish longer than 3 days in the refrigerator, so it's a little tricky to make too many things too many days ahead of time. But how do you prepare your menu and prevent a major overhaul day in the kitchen?
If you were solely responsible for all the Christmas cooking, setting the table and cleaning up, what principles would you follow?
Preparing all the food takes a lot of time and hard work obviously! What tips have you found to get it done joyfully, and manage to also enjoy quality time with your family (instead of segregating yourself to the kitchen for several hours at a time)?
Cheryl, unfortunately I have no good tips for that... I find myself in the kitchen an awful lot during the days leading up to Christmas too! I think as women there is just no way around it. I try to take comfort in the knowledge that my kids will not remember all the gifts they got but they will remember my traditional foods I made year after year.
I would say simplify your menu some-- you don't have to have all those side dishes. On Christmas Eve we had meatball stew that I made that morning and put in the crockpot, some Sister Schubert's rolls and a brownie trifle that I made that afternoon. Everyone raved about the food and it was very simple to come home from church and serve quickly. So that's something to think about-- not doing so much and searching out simple alternatives. We did not do a meal on Christmas day-- we did do a big breakfast of egg casserole and cinnamon rolls. The rest of the day was leftover stew and some pasta I had made on the 23rd. The kids knew I was not cooking and was going to enjoy my day!!
All this brings me to the reminder of the once-a-month cooking festival right here on the 1st of every month. This month we'll be looking at ways to help get ourselves out of the kitchen for at least a few hours every day. :) We'll consider cooking co-ops: how do you start one, how do they work, and we'll also talk about ways to streamline holiday hosting. If you have any great tips, please let me know (ahem, Jodi!).
Happy New Year and see you January 1st!