I truly love big festive gatherings and delicious food. However, I am not a big fan of the pressure that can come with entertaining. While large family gatherings are festive and fun, we have found we often value carving out intimate family time with just our kids. Sometimes for the holidays we choose both, most often we choose one or the other.
As Covid-19 numbers continue to rise and health officials strongly recommend no large gatherings, we felt some new traditions might find a home with your family.
I evaluated our family’s mindset last autumn…we were living in a half finished house, we were dealing with fatigue from me being in nursing school, and needed some time to reconnect. Then I evaluated what I like about holidays…I love cooking, music, a glass of wine in my hand, hanging out with the family. I don’t like timing meals (I NEVER do it well) and the pressure of a dish not turning out (my kids are very used to one burnt item for dinner). My kids don’t like formal sit down meals that much, but they like to cook. They don’t like dressing up, but they do like relaxed happy family time.
Viola! The pros and cons list led us to the idea of a progressive Thanksgiving meal.
I decided I would cook all day, serving the dishes that were hand picked by each kid every couple hours and culminating with the famous “leftover” turkey sandwich. It is the favorite of so many, why not have it be the main course instead of the day after? This allowed me to not have to cook an entire turkey and prepare the side dishes throughout the day which made everything so much easier.
The only rule for the day was that kids had to come help prep the dishes that they requested. Since we were going to eat multiple small meals that day (apparently we are hobbits), our kitchen ended up having a beautiful ebb and flow of energy and interaction.
Mimosas for us and orange juice for the kids
Freshly baked biscuits with jam and honey
Citrus cranberry sauce
Mac n’ cheese
Pear and gorgonzola salad
Holiday punch (a special Cooper concoction)
Roasted sweet potatoes with parmesan cheese
Roasted turkey breast with gravy (goes well on those biscuits!)
Garlic mashed potatoes
Want to find some other fun recipe ideas? Try out Girl Meets Kitchen! Julia is so creative!
As you make items like the cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes, call family in to have a small helping (make it the ultimate of fancy by saying it is a chef’s table testing!), then set the rest aside. Have chips, dips, veggies, cheese, and snacks out if you have giant appetites in the family and need some filler. Then for the official dinner time, rewarm the dishes from the day, slice some artisan bread and make leftover turkey sandwiches!
An added bonus, we didn’t feel stuffed to the point of bursting at the end of the day.
Everything on the menu was made from scratch, and some were completely new to us, which added to the adventure. Making things from scratch helps ensure foods match with dietary restrictions, but there is no rule saying it has to be done this way. Want to try a progressive dinner with all boxed items? Go for it! This concept is about what makes things fun, interesting, and enjoyable. We bought turkey breast so we didn’t have to prepare a whole turkey, plus it was pre-seasoned and brined, making things much more manageable. Music was the consistent tie in the whole day with kids having the freedom to chill with a movie or play a board game when they wanted. The dog enjoyed getting extra long walks and everyone got extra snuggles.
Traditions can be comforting and treasured, but they can also weigh down and intimidate. Thinking outside the box can create new memories and traditions and take the pressure away from the holidays, especially right now…I’m all for less pressure.
The medical side of this article:
The covid 19 virus has changed the landscape of how we interact with others and feel human connection. While it is so difficult to not have the large gatherings and casual time with friends that used to be our normal, I hope it brings you comfort to know that by isolating you are doing your part to do what is best for the country.
If you need to be with other family units for the holidays, please set a verbal agreement ahead of time that everyone isolates for two weeks before meeting. If possible, get a rapid test a day or two before the gathering. Be honest and do not go if you feel any symptoms or think you may have been exposed. After your time together, isolate again for another two weeks. It takes effort, but it is the responsible thing to do.