Families big and small typically celebrate the holiday season together. For some, celebrating the holidays with family requires traveling, while others stay put and welcome family and friends into their homes.
At some point during the holiday season, celebrants who host family and friends will no doubt prepare a home cooked meal for their loved ones. Cooking for a crowd can seem like a daunting task, especially for first-time hosts. However, there are various ways for hosts to simplify cooking for a crowd this holiday season.
Prepare a familiar dish. Hosts may agonize over their holiday menus, and some may feel compelled to prepare a family specialty or the same dishes their parents or grandparents prepared for holiday dinners when they were children. But holiday hosts can make things easy on themselves by choosing dishes they’ve made in the past, regardless of their place in family history. Chances are the ingredients for hosts’ own specialties are already in the pantry, saving a potentially time-consuming trip to the grocery store. And thanks to the familiarity factor, hosts’ own specialties likely won’t require as much time to prepare.
Share some cooking duties. Another way to simplify cooking for a crowd is to invite guests to bring along a side dish or dessert. Guests who live nearby can make something in advance of the big meal, while hosts can hand over their kitchens to overnight guests who express a willingness to contribute their own home cooked dish to the party. Sharing the cooking duties gives hosts more time to connect with friends and family and serves as a great way to plan the menu in advance.
Only make what guests are likely to eat. Hosts also should not feel pressured to cook more food than is necessary. Holiday meals have a tendency to be lavish, but hosts don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen preparing food that will likely end up as leftovers or trash. Get a final headcount in the days before everyone comes over and adjust your recipes accordingly.
Start early. If the big dinner is on Christmas Day, that does not mean hosts have to start cooking while everyone unwraps their presents. Hosts who are uncertain about what to cook can look for meals that can be prepared in advance so come the big day all they need to do is turn on the oven and let meals cook while the family spends time together.