With the holidays rapidly approaching – yes, right after Halloween the press is on for Thanksgiving and Christmas, you want to make sure that the holiday meals are what you’d like them to be – festive and wholesome. I like to start well ahead of the game and pull out my calendar to start making preparations.
First, I visually walk through everything in my mind – from the beginning of the day to the end. When I wake up, I shower, brush my teeth, do my hair and get dressed. (It may seem a little silly to start off with these basics, but I start at the very top of my day.) I imagine everything else after that from sipping a cup of tea to pulling out the vegetables, to chopping, to cooking, to food layout – all the way through serving and watching the last guest leave. I even imagine comments and feedback and throw in little “what if’s.” What if so and so doesn’t make it? What if I can’t get a certain spice or ingredient?, and so on. Then I think about my plan B’s. Well if this doesn’t work then, I can try this, or try that.
Once I’ve visualized the day and different scenarios, I set out the making my lists:
FOOD PLAN, Including Preparation
The first and of course most important thing is what I am going to serve. I make my decisions based on family and guest preferences. You usually have a sense for who likes what.
The entire meal that is being prepared – including any deserts
All the ingredients that I will need for cooking every single dish
What’s involved with preparation (chopping, etc.)
How long each item will take to cook
What dishes will be cooked at what time
What dishes can be cooked ahead of time and will then need reheating
Beverages that will be served
SERVING AND DISPLAY
How will food be served – buffet style or table centered?
How will I display of the food being served
What dishware I will use
waterproof printed tablecloth, napkins, silverware
When invitations will be sent out
Deadline for attendance confirmations
Follow up with attendees
Final head count
I make sure that I have all the fine details worked out. I know when I am shopping for items I need and where I will get them from. When it is time to start cooking the dishes, I know when and how I am going to do everything. My timing is usually right on.
I like to group items together that will be cooked together when I am staging everything (by staging, I mean getting things ready to be prepared for cooking). For instance, if I am making a cake, I set aside the mixing bowl, the flour, the eggs, the sugar – all the ingredients and I sit them all together in one spot. The string beans with white potatoes, they go into a group together, with the pot, potato peeler, mixing spoon and knife. Each dish sits together, but separated from the whole. By staging, this also helps me to make sure that I have every single ingredient that I need. I order everything according to when it will be cooked and when I start the actual preparation of ingredients and cooking, I move right down my newly created “physical” list. It makes the process clearer, more simple and keeps everything moving at the right time.
I look forward to the meal time with friends and family with excitement. I have spent the time to plan everything so carefully that things usually go off without a hitch and everyone is happy. Holiday time is about love and family. The food that we eat reflects that especially if that food is prepared with love. That love energy is an essential ingredient, not just with this meal, but with every meal that we eat. So, if you take the time to carefully plan out all of the details, it makes the experience easier for you and will help to enhance the joy that everyone will experience on those days.
Feel free to share your kitchen organization and food preparation “secrets.”