Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Cooking Prepping

I never did my report on how my Thanksgiving planning chart worked out. I am happy to say it worked great, but not perfectly. Problem is, some of my helpers ended up getting up late which pushed us behind. Then a guest called and said they would be late. Then another individual who we thought wouldn't show up called and said they would. And...

Bottom line, it was great having a timeline, but even the best laid plans can be thrown off. Sometime (oftentimes) unexpectedly. That said, the one HUGE advantage I found with the planning is that I had more than enough time to clean as I went, meaning I didn't have the sinkful of dirty prep dishes at the end of the day that I normally do.

That said, we still did pretty well. Instead of 2:00, we ended up eating at 3:30. The appetizer spread went out on time, which meant everyone had something to munch on until the main course, so it wasn't a disaster. Everything else went smoothly, with only a few mishaps. Of course, even with the chart we ended up not putting out the cranberry sauce until everyone had filled up their plates. That is like the one area we can never get right!

As I readily admitted back at Thanksgiving, I am usually a one-day cook. However, for Christmas I am planning to doing something different. I am going to pre-cook most of the meal. The main motivation for this is we are not sure really what the schedule will be, who will be coming, if we'll be going somewhere else, or what. Nothing like indecision a week before the holiday! Since I will be doing most of the cooking regardless, I have planned to prep everything.

Our tentative menu:

Bacon Waterchestnut wraps
Cheese and Meat tray
Fruit tray

Pork Roast
Sausage/Apple Stuffing (big hit, requested again)
Mashed Pots
Sweet Potato Casserole with Carmelized Bananas
Rotini Lasagna (another repeat request)
Cheese Fries
Baked Veggie Medly

Banana Split Pie
Double Chocolate Pie
Pumpkin Pie

The goal of prepping was/is not only to spare myself a lot of hassel on Christmas day, but to avoid any type of marathon cooking situation. Part of that meant planning my regular meal-chart to compliment the holiday cooking. Such as making a pasta dish on Tuesday, which would allow me to make a double batch of rotini and use one for the meal, and one for the holiday dish. Same for the stuffing. Tonight I will be making Chicken Stuffing Casserole. I'll make extra stuffing for Christmas.

This is the first time I have endeavored to make a full meal ahead. Aside from a few small things, I plan to make everything--even the turkey--beforehand. The mashed pots are done, as is the lasagna. Tonight I tackle the stuffing and sweet potato base (the banana topping cannot be made ahead). Some thing cannot really made fully ahead, but they will be prepped so that the dish will simply have to go into the oven.

Not really sure how this will all turn out, but I do have to admit I like the idea of spreading it out. In years past, I usually spend so much time in the kitchen, I don't really get to enjoy all the package-opening and such. It will be nice change to be able to relax. Well, relax as well as I can. I don't think I will ever relax when hosting a gathering!