My first Christmas as a young bride I didn't know anything about cooking a turkey dinner, but I was excited to try...and crushed when my bird was still mostly raw after hours in the oven. That was the night I discovered that the oven in our rental unit needed new elements. We had to drive our mostly raw turkey across town to my in-laws to finish the job!
If that defined my every holiday cooking story since then I probably wouldn't have chosen anything related to food as a business and I really wouldn't enjoy cooking large dinners. Thankfully, it was the only time my oven chose to break down during a major event.
It took me a few years after that to cook another big dinner again. It was sometime after the birth of our first son that we decided to start cooking our own Christmas Dinners. In honour of Thanksgiving in America tomorrow, here are a few tried and true suggestions to move your cooking mood from frazzled to fantastic so you can enjoy your holiday cooking (and eating!) a little bit more.
1. Enjoy People
If you know someone who will be alone on the holidays, invite them over. They may not want to participate, but it feels good to be wanted and you might be the only one who took the time to ask.
2. Plan Ahead
Make sure you know you have all the groceries and supplies you need! No surprises are good surprises when you are out of time and realize you are missing a big part of your meal.
3. Play it Safe
It's so much fun to try new foods! But unless you're willing to go hungry if it's not as edible as you imagine it will be, a big holiday dinner on the "larger than life" scale they tend to be is NOT the time to try an entirely new spread. Instead, limit new things to appetizers and desserts.
4. It Doesn't Have to be Perfect
Give yourself room to breathe. I know what it's like to feel the stress of cleaning up every little thing to make it perfect. But I'm beginning to realize that it just can't be perfect at this time in my life with young kids and a small house, and that's ok. Focus on your guests' enjoyment and your delicious meal and you will have more joy in your dinner.