Always Room at Our Table
Cooking up a fun and festive Christmas Day
Christmas Day is the Christmas Kitchen is in its glory!
First, it supplies something wonderful for waking up . . . coffee to sip at the crack of dawn, savory cinnamon rolls for munching while children check their stockings, maybe something more substantial (scrambled eggs, anyone?) for sustenance while your family’s Christmas morning gets underway.
Perhaps you hear squeals of delight as little ones discover what Santa has left.
Perhaps your morning begins with a gentle stirring as teens or housemates gradually awaken to the big day.
Maybe there’s a scurry to get ready for church.
Or your Christmas Kitchen might welcome the excitement of one relative or friend after another arriving—big hugs, warm greetings, gifts changing hands.
No matter what the morning holds, eventually the preparation for Christmas dinner must begin.
It’s the best meal of the year . . . and I believe it’s meant to be shared. With family of course, and I’ve always had a big one. But even if your household is tiny, I urge you to approach Christmas dinner with a spirit of “the more the merrier.”
Open your eyes: the possibilities for sharing the best meal of the year are endless. Look for students who can’t go home, young people on their own, single parents and their kids …anyone in need of a little extended family. Or if you happen to be at loose ends yourself, make a point to join forces with others for a Christmas Kitchen extravaganza—a lavish potluck or a shared kitchen.
Don’t forget to share the preparation—that’s part of the fun too. The joys of the Christmas Kitchen begin long before the loaded platters reach the table, and as the saying goes, many hands make light work. In fact, I urge you to include a game plan for delegating tasks as part of your Christmas-morning strategy.
• Choose a menu that can be made ahead as much as possible! (I will be posting a killer Christmas breakfast wreath soon!)
• Clean out your refrigerator several days ahead, using up leftovers and throwing away old food to make room for Christmas dishes. If refrigerator space is limited, perhaps a neighbor who is leaving town will let you use his or her fridge. Or if it’s cold outside, store food outside or in the garage or unheated storage room (in animal-proof containers...hey I live in Colorado!).
• Run your dishwasher early in the day, hand-wash any remaining dishes, then empty the dishwasher and put all the dishes away. Starting dinner with an empty dishwasher simplifies after-dinner cleanup enormously.
• Slow cookers are your friend. Many dishes (mashed potatoes, carrots, gravy, even ham or turkey slices) can be made well ahead of time and kept warm in the cookers until serving time. Borrow extras from friends if you need to. Many have removable inserts that can come to the table as serving dishes.
• If you weren’t able to set the table the day before, do it as early in the day as possible—and delegate the job if you can.
• As soon as breakfast is over, get everything ready for after-dinner coffee—water, filter, and coffee in the pot, sugar dishes and creamers filled, teabags ready if you’re offering tea as well, cups and saucers and spoons ready. (For an afternoon or early evening dinner, I simplify things by serving only decaf rather than offering a choice.) When the time comes to serve, ask someone else to distribute the cups and saucers while you start the coffee and prepare to serve dessert.
• Prepare a list (even if it’s just a mental list) of tasks you are willing and able to delegate so that when people ask, “What can I do?” you’ll know how to answer. Some ideas: taking guests’ coats and putting them away, setting the table, lighting candles, filling beverage glasses, transferring food to serving dishes, serving dessert.
• Place pitchers of water on or near the tables before the meal starts so glasses will be easy to refill. I like to add sliced lemons or oranges and fresh mint to the pitchers—or for a refreshing change, try a combination of sliced cucumbers and citrus.
• After dinner, you don’t have to clean up everything right away. Put away the leftovers, set the pots to soak, and get the first dishwasher load started, but then linger over dessert, enjoying the glow of yet another beautiful Christmas meal, complements of the Christmas Kitchen.
And more than anything enjoy the moment! Celebrate the joy of God's greatest gift to us!
Merry Christmas dear friends...