Welcome to the fourth installment of “All Done By December 1,” our group effort to get organized for the holidays early so we can enjoy the month of December and actually experience the joy and wonder of the season. Last week, we worked on wrapping, packaging and Christmas cards. After exploring our own hopes for a simpler, more meaningful Christmas 2012 in Week 1 and whittling down the gift lists in Week 2, we also began acquiring and wrapping a few presents.
I’ve started a special Happy Simple Holidays board on Pinterest with easy Christmas ideas: decor, wrapping, gifts, foods and do-it-yourself projects. Do you have a holiday-themed board on Pinterest, too? Be sure to share a link in the Comments section below so we can all visit.
This week, we’re going to create a plan for the food of the holidays. When you think of all the extra cooking, baking and serving we do during the Christmas season on top of everything else, it’s no wonder our expectations sometimes fall short of reality.
In order to get everything done by December 1, you may wish to consider some new, do-ahead options when it comes to food preparation for this year’s holiday. Let’s begin by thinking about all the extra food we hope to prepare between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Grab a piece of paper and jot down any special meals, parties, potlucks or other events for which you’d like to prepare food, plus any food gifts and Christmas goodies you’d like to make. These are the things on my list:
- Our contribution to the neighborhood progressive dinner (appetizer, main course or dessert)
- Food gifts for friends, relatives and teachers
- Christmas cookies for the holiday cookie exchange
- Christmas cookies for family nibbling
- Five dinners prepared ahead and in the freezer, so we can be spontaneous and have fun in December
- Christmas morning brunch
- Christmas dinner
Wouldn’t it be nice if it this year all of your holiday meals could be planned in advance? What if all the ingredients could be purchased ahead of time, and every part of the meal that could be made in advance was tucked away securely in the freezer?
Of course, you may not wish to prepare every single thing on your menu in advance, but if you start planning now about the parts of the meal you can make in advance, you can watch for deals on ingredients at the grocery store and get organized. Here are some recipe ideas:
- Easy Stollen recipe for a Christmas morning treat from Delish.com (make up to a month ahead and freeze)
- Top 10 Do-Ahead Brunch Menus from Bon Appetit
- Make-ahead holiday appetizers for Taste of Home
- An elegant, make-ahead Christmas dinner from Fine Cooking
- Entertaining a Crowd from the Food Network
- 35 make-ahead side dishes from Better Homes & Gardens
- Freeze-ahead holiday desserts from Busy Cooks
- 6 make-ahead chocolate desserts from Real Simple
Next, think about any food-related holiday gifts you’d like to make. Imagine the calm, serene feeling we’d all have if our food gifts were made and tucked away in the pantry, all prettily packaged and ready to give. It’s completely possible if we simply get started now. Here are some ideas for make-ahead food gifts:
- Jams, preserves, pickles, homemade vinegars, etc.
- Homemade liqueurs like Limoncello
- Hot fudge sauce or homemade salted caramel sauce
- Homemade chocolate-peppermint bark or peppermint patties (store in refrigerator)
- Holiday breads (wrap tightly and freeze up to 3 months ahead)
- More holiday food gift ideas (dozens!) with packaging tips, from Country Living
Finally, if holiday baking is one of your family’s favorite traditions, perhaps you’d love to have some cookies prepared ahead of time so that you could decorate them together during the month of December (like these Make-ahead holiday cookie recipes from Simple Delicious Magazine). Or you could simply prepare the dough in advance and freeze it, leaving the baking for later. Or even just gather some recipes and ideas now, so when the holidays roll around you’ll have a plan in mind and already know what ingredients you need.
I usually roll, cut and bake a large batch of gingerbread cookies in mid-November and freeze the unadorned cookies. I wrap them in layers of parchment paper and put them in zip-lock bags (that I can reuse, of course). To thaw, just remove them from the freezer a couple of hours before you plan to decorate them. Since the cookies are already baked, you can sit around the kitchen table with the kids, piping and spreading icing and adding decorations to your heart’s content. Be sure to put some Christmas carols on!
Your Holiday Homework (HoHo!) is to make a written food plan for all of your holiday meals, food gifts and Christmas goodies. If you do plan to make some food gifts this year, see if you can prepare or acquire the ingredients/jars/packaging for some of those gifts. Do what you can with the time and resources you have. The important thing is to just begin!
How are your preparations going so far? Have you made a dent in your list of preparations, and gotten some of your tasks done early? Share your experiences in the Comments section below, and here’s to your happiest Christmas ever,