Top Tips for Stress-Free Christmas Cooking
Christmas is a time of celebration and sharing quality time with family and friends. If you are the cook in the house and not careful, your quality time comes if anyone pops into the kitchen to say hello. Time spent in the kitchen preparing food for family and friends is one of the great pleasures but often by the time the revelries begin you are too worn out to enjoy them. Don't worry though as help is at hand with these top tips for stress free Christmas cooking.
- Start Now if You Can
Now means any time you decide or plan to do something. One guaranteed way to create stress is procrastination. Do it or write it down because once written down it is out of your head (leaving your head clear for more great ideas) and there's such a kick in ticking off completed jobs.
Draw up menus for all the meals you plan to make over the Christmas holidays well in advance, including all drinks, breakfasts and snacks. Starting this task early gives you time to look at new ideas, search out Christmas recipes and change your mind or amend if circumstances or guest numbers change.
Found the recipes you want, read the recipes, then read them again. There's nothing worse than realizing on Christmas Eve you are missing a vital ingredient, pan, or worse, you don't know how to do it.
Choose or check recipes to see if dishes can be made in advance and frozen or how long they will keep once cooked so they can be prepared one or two days in advance.
The Shopping List
Shopping is one of the biggest jobs at Christmas, so to simplify the task make a master-shopping list of everything you will need, including any new cooking equipment.
- Divide the list into perishable and non-perishable goods including wines and spirits.
- Buy all non-perishable goods, wines and spirits well in advance as many supermarkets and shops stock them as early as October.
- Many on-line wine and drinks companies will sell wines in mixed cases and will recommend wines suitable for Christmas food so use their expertise. They also deliver, one less job to do.
- Order any specialist goods (perishable and non-perishable) well in advance and check if they deliver.
- Perishable goods don't need to be bought on Christmas Eve. Buy them a day or two before and store them in the refrigerator or a cool, frost-free place.
- Don't be Overambitious
This in one area where many fall down by taking on too much to do in too short a time. Pull back and be realistic in balancing what is required in the kitchen and everywhere else (gift-wrapping, housework, kids and family).
Christmas cooking and all it involves is not a time to start experimenting with new techniques. If you have never made bread, now is not the time to start.
If you want to be a Domestic God/dess that's fine but if you can delegate a few jobs - peeling the potatoes, polishing the silver, whatever - it will help ease the pressure. Surprisingly many people do like to help and share the fun in the kitchen so don't be afraid to ask. No one wants a frazzled cook at the Christmas table.
- Buy (and Use) Post It Notes
My kitchen wall is always littered with yellow sticky notes when I am on a cooking marathon. What time the turkey went in, when it needs to come out ... what time I need to put the Christmas pudding on to steam … pick the kids up from the Carol Concert, I jot it down and stick it on the wall. Remember to take them down when completed or you'll be in even more chaos.
- Time Plan
Time spent making a time plan for Christmas Eve and Christmas day is time well-spent. Not only does it help in organizing the cooking, it also organizes the mind and it is astonishing how many forgotten jobs turn up when writing a time plan. This Christmas Time Plan lays out the most important jobs and can be adjusted to fit with your menu. Don't forget - build time for you into the time plan. Time to get ready, or have a cup of tea is as important as a perfectly cooked dinner.
A Few Jobs Often Overlooked
There are a few jobs that are often forgotten and will make Christmas cooking easier.
- Sharpen knives including the carving knife well in advance. Makes all the chopping, peeling and carving so much easier.
- Clean out the freezer well before Christmas - you can't do this job early enough. Sort the freezer out and make space for Christmas food to be stored together in one place. Rummaging through an overstocked, messy freezer, trying to find food can become irritating.
- A week before Christmas give the refigerator a good sort through and clean and make space for Christmas food - time for all the old jars and leftovers to hit the trash can.
- Time for a deep clean of the oven. Leaving this job until after Christmas will be ten times messier with all that turkey fat.
- Make Time for You
This is your Christmas as well. You may have built time for you in the time plan, make sure you stick to it. Allow time during or at the end of cooking to chill out a little, get ready or have a drink. Merry Christmas.