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How to Cook a Traditional Meal Stress-Free

We show you 6 tips to keeping your holiday stress-free as you cook a traditional meal at the cabin.

This Amazing Colorado Ski Cabin Might Be Where Santa Vacations   BY EMILY HARE

We show you 6 tips to keeping your holiday stress-free as you cook a traditional meal at the cabin.

Holidays at the cabin are when joyful moments are shared and cherished memories are made. However, the holidays can also be a bit chaotic, if your family is anything like mine. Our large family has traveled hundreds of miles to gather for nearly every Thanksgiving at my parents’ cabin in northern Wisconsin. The humble, two-bedroom cabin is quickly overrun by 10 adults, five kids, four dogs and a partridge in a pear tree (not really, but it seemed appropriate). It’s crowded and loud, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The great thing about having so many people under one roof is that there are plenty of hands available to help prep meals, set the table and wash dishes. On Thanksgiving, we spend all day in and around the kitchen, prepping side dishes and desserts for that evening’s turkey dinner and just being in each other’s company. Cooking a holiday meal for so many people can be daunting, especially if one person has to do all of the work. The key to minimal stress is divvying up tasks and getting everyone involved to make the process more enjoyable for all. Here are a few tips for how to do it:

1. Plan ahead.

Calculate how much food to buy and figure out how long each meal will take to prepare. Some parts of a meal may take longer to cook than others, so you’ll have to plan ahead to make sure everything gets done on time. Short on oven space? Fire up the grill, as in the Ham Glaze recipe on p. 51.

2. Keep it simple.

Choose a few recipes that feed a crowd but are easy to prep. Your weekend sous chefs are unlikely to have Master Chef-level skills. The Toffee Bars on p. 53 are perfect for holiday cookie swaps; they are super easy to make and require only four ingredients.

3. Try a potluck approach.

If most of your guests live relatively close to the cabin, you could ask each of them to contribute an appetizer, side dish, dessert or beverage for the meal. Another option: To cover multiple meals over the course of a weekend, have each guest family plan and prepare a full meal, including purchasing ingredients. Just make sure the weekend menu has variety and that everyone knows how much to make.

4. Get all ages involved.

Even younger guests can get involved in meal prep. If they are old enough to use a knife, they can help chop ingredients. They can also help with non-food tasks, such as setting the table or using their artistic skills to create fun place cards for everyone.

5. Play to their strengths.

If someone is known for making fabulous desserts, then by all means assign that person to dessert duty. If another person can’t be trusted not to burn a casserole, then have them work on dicing vegetables or arranging a platter.

6. Be flexible.

Things may not all go according to plan; just roll with it. Also, many families have traditional holiday meals, but the actual food may vary from household to household. Be open to incorporating new menu items and ingredients to help everyone feel at home. The Maple Apple and Sage Stuffing (p. 52) is a great twist on classic turkey dressing.

Raise your spirits.

Nothing eases family tension and makes cooking feel like less of a chore than a well-appointed beverage. Your guests will gladly help themselves to Cranberry Orange Punch or Winter Sangria, two great drinks that are made in a slow cooker. No matter what occasion is being celebrated at the cabin, the most important thing is that everyone enjoys themselves and makes lifelong memories. From my experience, some of the best family bonding happens in the kitchen!

Cook a Feast this Holiday with these Traditional Recipes: