This holiday season my children were both old enough to get into the holiday spirit. The plan was to go big and holiday it UP! Looking back on my holiday plans, it’s clear that I was optimistically ambitious. We enjoyed a few family fun outings this holiday, not nearly as many as scheduled, then suddenly it was days before Christmas and we had presents to buy, all the presents to wrap, holiday food shopping, meals to plan and cook, cookies to bake, and so much more. We were constantly busy starting well before Thanksgiving, and I didn’t even have to cook the Thanksgiving dinner this year and I did very minimal holiday cooking! I feel we went out with a whimper, and it was more than we could handle. I’m amazed at how much others accomplish during this hectic time of year. What holiday magic do you use and can you send some my way? [This is the first post in a three-part series- second part here, third part here]
So what did I learn for the new year and the next holiday season?
Oh, very little.
Then lots of very littles.
Little people saying silly things.
More little moments.
And before I knew it, I was three posts deep.
So illness threw a kink into our plan to holiday it UP. I fell sick shortly before Christmas Eve dinner (after lovingly preparing the meal that I never want to smell again). I was laid out on the couch through dinner and present opening, through days of family gatherings, and then well into the new year. Like most things in life, maybe my life, in particular, things don’t always go as planned and life interferes in unexpected ways. But I think the key takeaway for next year is to plan for illness, especially when it comes to food and treats.
Two Christmases ago I made G&D’s Bacon Dip three times. (Try it. It’s really good.) I also made mini quiche, banana fosters stuffed french toast and more. This holiday season my sick self could barely muster a Balsamic Vinaigrette salad. Two Christmases ago, we ate a brunch meal with steaks, Amazing Creamed Spinach, Parmesan and Chive popovers, Grape Tomato Provencal, and a salad. Totally yum. This holiday the pre-sickness plan was to cook a roast and serve it with Perfect Mashed Potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, roasted vegetables, and orange pot de crème. The special holiday meal turned into an abbreviated affair two weeks later – a roast made in an Instant Pot. It was delicious, super easy to prep and cook, and leftovers turned into Italian Pulled Beef Sandwiches. Both meals turned out great but the Instant Pot meal took very little effort and leftovers turned into delicious sandwiches. Had I kept it simple in the first place and factored in illness, I would have saved time and energy.
When sickness factors into the equation, the special holiday meal goes right out the door and quick and easy is the name of the game, especially with sick parents and kids who need to eat. If you don’t plan for sickness, as my mom can attest, there’s a possibility that you may miss a special lobster dinner and never want to smell lobster again. (the horror!) For us, not eating meals due to illness meant the majority of the holiday produce went right out the door in garbage bags or to the compost heap. Next year, “keep it simple” is my new mantra. Sick people don’t eat much. Sick people eat simple, straightforward fare. Sick people don’t want to cook. Sick people make other people sick. Plan for sickness. Keep things simple.
The only thing we got around to making come holidays and sickness was Ultimate Tomato Basil Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. This is the second Christmas that we’ve served tomato soup. It’s a great kid-friendly option that can be made ahead, even frozen, and then reheated. It’s now proven to help with sickness and is a meal that others can make if the main cook is laid up in bed. New this year, we learned leftover soup (and leftover appetizer meatballs) can be turned into a delicious Cheesy Tomato Soup Pasta that effectively masks its former leftoverness, a nice trick for those sick ones who want nothing to do with tomato soup or meatballs, and it’s a great option for when sick parents need an easy dinner for hungry kiddos.
Takeaway: We had a couple “feeling sick, don’t wanna cook” takeaway meals. One was a delicious bitter melon soup from Kolap that made our bodies and bellies infinitely happy. (Here’s a NYT review of it) Another was some Ethiopian food, and the kids kept asking for more fish. Both meals hit the spot. Holidays should be fun. Take a break, cook fewer meals, keep it simple. Future self: please remember this for next year.