Dakota Travel Nurse Home Care

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5 Tips to Make Holiday Baking and Food Preparation Easier

woman drawing into flourI think we can safely assume that all caregivers, whether family members or professionals, are very busy during the holidays. There is comfort in continuing family traditions, especially our favorite foods, no matter what our current circumstances happen to be. In addition to unusual time constraints, we might also have to consider the dietary needs of our patients and loved ones.

Question: “How do we make the time to prepare the comfort foods our families love and expect during the holidays?” Here are 5 Tips for how to get the job done without caregiver burnout.

  1. Plan ahead. Make a specific menu for each holiday meal where you are in charge. Make a list of all the ingredients that you will need for each dish on the menu. Check to see if they are already on hand or if they need to be added to your shopping list. Return trips to the grocery store can be very time-consuming and frustrating, especially if the missing ingredient is discovered when you’ve already started make a certain dish.
  2. Spread out food preparation over several days. There’s no reason why you have to make everything the day of or even the day before your meal. Look at your menu and note which dishes could be prepared in advance and refrigerated or frozen. Even something like a turkey or a ham can be cooked and sliced in advance, refrigerated and then reheated with no one being the wiser and the mess cleaned up long before the first guest arrives. Put cooking days on your calendar.

I serve a non-alcoholic slush punch that can be made days, weeks or even months ahead. Because the recipe makes enough to serve 30 people, you might be able to serve the same batch at 2 or more events.

Holiday Punch

In a 4 – quart pan, combine 2 C. sugar with 4 C. water. Boil until sugar dissolves; cool to room temperature. Add 1 6-oz can frozen orange Juice, 1 6 oz. can frozen lemonade, 1 large can pineapple juice, 5 bananas mashed (can use blender). Stir and freeze in plastic containers (1 qt. size is ideal). Set out to thaw 1 hour before ready to serve. Chop up 1 qt. in 5-6 qt. punch bowl. Mix 1 qt. of slush with 2 liters of 7-Up or Sprite. If all the slush is used, you will need 6 2-liter bottles of 7-Up. Serves 30.

  1. Schedule a Family Baking Day. It has become a tradition in my family to make the day before Thanksgiving a Family Baking Day. With some of the baking already done, grandchildren and parents who can come are invited to learn the family secrets, such as how to make flaky pie crust from scratch and practice their baking skills. Depending on the ages of the participants, this can require careful planning in order to save time and not cause additional exhaustion.
  2. Assign guests to bring a family favorite. Why do all the work yourself when most guests are willing to bring something to the feast! You can ask what they would like to bring from your menu, or ask if they have a family favorite they would like to share. Be sure those who are bringing food know about any dietary restrictions a guest or family member has.
  3. Keep it simple. When you are a caregiver, now is not the time to use complicated recipes or even things you haven’t tried that seem like they are risky. Nowadays, if you don’t have your own, it’s easy to find simple recipes online (Google It or go on Pinterest.com, for example). Check out this Food Network link for Quick and Easy Holiday Recipes.

I have a brownie frosting recipe that is easy to make and always gets rave reviews. No one can believe that the brownies under the frosting came from a family-sized brownie mix! The brownies are very rich. One pan can be cut into 40 rectangles that you could serve with something easy like ice cream or other finger-food desserts. The secret is to use real butter and real vanilla!

Brownie Confections (adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cook Book, © 1962)

Bake and cool family-sized brownie mix in an 11 x 14 pan. (Don’t over-cook. Use High-Altitude instructions as needed.) Melt 6 T. real butter in a non-stick pan. Remove from heat. Blend with 3 C. powdered (confectioners’) sugar. Stir in 3 T. milk or cream and 1 ½ tsp. real vanilla until smooth. Immediately spread frosting on brownies, being careful to spread in one direction with each stroke, in order to not mix with brownie crumbs. Melt 1 ½ sqs. unsweetened bakers’ chocolate (1 ½ oz.) and 1 ½ T. butter in a double-boiler, or even just a cup floating in boiling water.) Carefully spread a thin layer over the entire surface of the frosting. Cool until chocolate is set. Cover pan with foil and freeze or refrigerate until ready to serve. Thaw, as needed, and cut into 40 rectangular pieces, 4 cuts lengthwise and 10 cuts from side to side (about 1 x 2 inches per piece).

Please feel free to share your tips &/or recipes with our readers in the comment box, or send a link to where they can be found, e.g., Pinterest or your website.

Happy Holiday Cooking!

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