Stressed? My Christmas Dinner Tips

One year, I wanted to have what I called a “Victorian Christmas.” I watched “A Christmas Carol” once too often and decided I wanted to replicate the goose, the plum pudding and the whole bit. I invited not only my family, but my husband’s family to dinner.

In our area, we had turkeys at the stores so I had to go to a butcher for the goose. I ordered it beforehand and on Christmas eve I picked it up. He gave me explicit instructions on how to cook it, which I promptly forgot the minute I walked out of his store.

I also purchased plum pudding in a can and hard sauce to go with it. Being an American, I had no idea what plum pudding was or that it had to be cooked. I envisioned myself with a fully cooked goose, all the trimmings and last but not least, bringing out a flaming plum pudding with the holly stuck in it for all to gasp in awe.

This was my first Christmas cooking as a bride. My parents and grandmother came over to help. I insisted that the goose only needed 20 minutes to cook. My grandmother said this was impossible, but hey, what did she know? She had only been cooking for 60 years. I made an orange sauce that came out of a recipe book that my mother had to keep stirring. I made stuffing. I made potatoes and vegetables. I had egg nog and even caviar an imported cheeses. It was sort of an upscale Victorian Christmas.

I also had plenty of liquor and the egg nog was spiked. And it was a good thing, too. Because when dinner was finally announced (at the dining room that had been immaculately set) that goose was raw. I had a house full of people and no main course.

Fortunately, they all had plenty to drink beforehand and no one noticed as I tossed the raw goose into the trash. Victorian Christmas was still coming, though. After we ate our vegetarian Christmas dinner, I rose to get the plum pudding. I didn’t realize that I had to cook it and had no idea how to do this. So that went in the trash, too. Fortunately, someone brought over a pie. When it was all over, my in laws stumbled out the door and we actually laughed about this.

Over the years, I have learned to cook poultry and have made some splendid Christmas dinners. I even replicated the “Victorian Christmas” the next year, but my in-laws begged off. The goose was cooked this time, but I didn’t care for it – it was too greasy. The plum pudding was like fruitcake and not to my liking at all. I stopped the idea of the “perfect” Christmas and cooked stuff that my family liked.

Here are some tips on how I de-stressed Christmas dinner through the years:

1. Get a turkey with a pop up timer. It will pop up when done. Cook it 20 minutes to the pound at 325 in the oven. It is the easiest thing in the world to make. Be sure to remove the giblets, neck and heart. They are in bags, usually. Cook it in the morning, wrap it in foil leaving it on the carcass until you are ready to slice it and it will not be dry. Baste it often.

2. Use pre-made stuffing and a tube of breakfast sage sausage. Mix it together and stuff it in the bird. It makes an excellent stuffing with the home made touch.

3. Make some greens, some corn and plenty of mashed potatoes. I also make roasted potatoes. My father is Irish and my kids are ¾ Irish. We like our potatoes.

4. Buy the pies from the grocery store. One year I made a pumpkin pie from the pumpkin. Okay, it was good. But not good enough to pass up the convenience of the store bought pie. Quit stressing. Pie is pie and the grocery store makes good ones.

5. Buy egg nog. I made egg nog from scratch one year and it was very thin. We all preferred the store bought variety.

6. Skip the caviar. No one but me ate it every year and even I was choking it down. Get shrimp rings instead.

7. Have plenty of liquor on hand. No one will notice the food, especially if you are inviting my ex in-laws as guests.

8. Order the meal from the grocery store. Many stores will give you a fully cooked meal for what it would cost to make it. I did this one year and everyone loved it.

9. Start your own weird tradition. After watching “A Christmas Story” I decided it would be fun to have Chinese food for Christmas. So we had that for two years in a row. My kids still remember this strange occurrence and it sure saved me time.

10. Use the heat and serve rolls. Every year, I always forget the rolls. So I started using the heat and serve rolls to make up for this constant lapse of memory.

Christmas dinner is about being with your family. Give thanks that you are all together for this Christmas Present. Wish for more Christmases yet to come. Be happy that you are all inside a warm home and enjoying your time together, even if you have no main course.