The holidays. GOBS of house cleaning for of town guests. Spending TONS of money on presents. Hosting HUGE parties. Cooking GIGANTIC meals. It's enough to make any person lose their mind.
I've been lucky enough to have a good support system with my family during the holidays, but I'm starting to see a younger generation start to host their first family gatherings. I love the mix of new and old traditions, but whatever you're planning on doing, these five tips and tricks will help you keep your sanity!
Be patient and be prepared. If you’re using a new recipe, be sure to read through the entire thing a few days before you start. Some recipes require hours of set-up and/or resting time. Puddings and custards may even need to rest overnight. These are steps that you can’t skip, so don’t get caught short-handed on time the day of the party.
Assign tasks to guests before and as they arrive. It’s great to have people want to help with the menu and bring their best dishes. It takes a lot of responsibility off your hands if you can have someone bring the key side dishes if you’re providing the entrees. And don’t be afraid to assign your guests with jobs as they arrive! Have them draw from a hat with pieces of paper that contain tasks like setting the table, taking out the trash, making sure the bathroom has TP, helping with the dishes, etc. These are things that often get stuck on the host alone, and it’s no fun doing EVERYTHING. Make your favorite in-laws get off their butts and help!
Always use the best ingredients you can find. Especially if you’re baking. You usually get what you pay for when it comes to ingredients, and a cheap chocolate, a marked-down cut of meat, or a non-branded butter can make for a last-minute disaster. You’ll pay a little more, but these are the people you care about most in your life. They’re worth it and YOU’RE worth it.
Use shortcuts when you can. If you REALLY feel like you need to make your pie crust from scratch, then do it. But there are so many decent ready-made ingredients like this that can save you a ton of time and sanity. Don’t be afraid to buy the Spinach Dip for appetizers (Costco has a great one). Remember, the Holidays are for spending time with friends and family, not slaving over the stove and oven all day.
Don’t be intimidated by fancy recipes or ingredients. Practice a recipe before hand if you feel you need to! I was always intimidated by lamb recipes. Especially the French Rack of Lamb. My husband LOVES to order them in restaurants, but I was always afraid to make it at home because it always looked so fancy in the restaurant. It’s just like any other steak or cut of meat. Safeway always has a DELICIOUS French Rack of Lamb that cooks up in a snap and looks great when it’s plated. Here’s my favorite recipe:
EASY GRILLED AUSSIE RACK OF LAMB WITH ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES
Prep Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes / Cook Time: 40 minutes / Servings: 4
1 Open Nature Frenched Aussie Rack of Lamb
2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 clove fresh garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. each salt/pepper
3 large Russett potatoes, cubed
3 large beets, peeled and, cubed
3 large, carrots peeled and sliced on a bias
1 tbsp. Herbs de Provence
In a large, sealable plastic bag, combine the rosemary, thyme, fresh garlic, 1/4 cup of the olive oil and 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper. Seal the bag and mix well with your hands to combined the ingredients.
Remove the rack of lamb from its packaging, place it in the plastic bag and re-seal the bag. Coat the lamb with the marinade by massaging the meat through the bag for about 1 minute. Place the bag in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees and heat a grill or grill pan to high heat.
Place the potatoes, beets and carrots on a large baking pan. Toss them well with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the herbs de provence, and the remaining salt and pepper. Place them in the oven to roast for about 25 minutes, until they’re soft when pierced with a fork.
Add the rack of lamb to the grill. Cook on high heat for about 4 minutes per side, or until the desired internal temperature is reached (135 for medium rare). Remove the meat from the grill and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
When portioning the lamb, place the rack on end with the bones facing up. Cut downward between the bones to portion the rack into individual chops.