Holiday Meals with Company: What Worked for Us this Year

Over Christmas this year, we were privileged to host several extended family members in our own home, which was such a thrill for us since we are usually traveling for the holidays. I knew that with 6 adults and 5 children to feed at various stages throughout the week, I would need to have a firm meal plan in place ahead of time, so I made a detailed grocery list and away I went. All in all, I think that everything worked out quite well, and I only needed to make a couple of additional grocery store runs when we ran out of milk, fresh produce, bread, and red wine :) Here are the meals that I made, easily adapted for children, and many of which I froze ahead of time in order to allow more afternoons spent having fun with our company!

Christmas dinner: Pork tenderloin, oven-roasted potatoes, green beans, rolls

Thursday: Pasta with bolognese sauce (frozen); salad

Friday: Roasted butternut squash and sweet potato soup (frozen); broccoli; Pizza for the kids

Saturday: Chili (frozen); Cornbread souffle; Broccoli; Mac & cheese for the kids

Sunday: Dinner at a casual Italian restaurant

Monday: Grilled chicken fajitas with lots of toppings; Broccoli

Additional grocery items: Lots of bananas and apples; Different cereals and oatmeal; Plenty of coffee and creamer; Wine; A variety of raw veggies and hummus; Brie and crackers; Cookies; Frozen waffles; Almonds; Extra eggs; Bread and lunch meats; Extra peanut butter

What are your go-to meals when you have company staying with you? Which grocery staples do you make sure to have on-hand for your guests?

Many blessings to you and your family as you prepare to enter 2014. Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us!

  • J’

    Those are great ideas…I’ve just this year been getting the hang of doing meals ahead and freezing and just adding a salad or veggie, and it works like a charm even without company in town! There are a ton of healthy casseroles that can be made two or three at a time and frozen to use over a couple weeks, and then taken out same day and popped in the oven, and then you can also do a ton of crock pot preparations ahead of time, freeze, and just pop in the crock pot the morning of for crowds. Breakfasts you can do w/ overnight oatmeal, making pancake batter or pancakes ahead and just warming them, or doing a egg breakfast casserole the night ahead and making breakfast a ton easier too. The biggest thing, as you said though, is planning it all out ahead to avoid stress, so I second that!!!

  • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com/ Kellie

    I do a crock pot pot roast with a nice salad and potatoes for company. Everything but the salad can be made ahead of time. Have company bring a nice dessert or bottle of wine and the meal is great!

  • Lisa

    Kat- thanks for sharing – this is such a helpful post. I have a few ideas to share, and then several questions for you and J.

    Ideas- I have 2 staple side dishes thy are great for hosting. Roasted asparagus could not be easier – rinse, cut about an inch off the ends (easiest to do before taking off the rubber band they come in), throw them on a sheet pan, throw on olive oil, salt and pepper and put them in the oven. Done. No chopping, no prep. A bit expensive, but worth it for the time saving. My other staple- sugar snap peas. Buy them pre washed, put in a skillet w olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper and voila. I leave them sautéing for about 5 minutes at a time before going back to stir. Both are yum and require no attention/prep.
    My question is on freezing foods. How do you store things like pasta sauce – is there a trick to freezing them so they don’t get watered down when they thaw? That’s always my concern.
    J – you mentioned pre making and then freezing casseroles. How do you store them once assembled? Do you just put the Pyrex in the freezer covered with foil?? And when you bake it, do you have to adjust the cooking times and or temp to account for it previously being frozen? Also any specific casseroles you’ve done this with that work well? And any crockpot meals you’ve also found worked well w the pre-freeze? I’ve heard of people doing both of these, but have never gotten specifics on how to actually do it.
    Thanks ladies! Happy new year!

    • Katrina

      Most soups (including chili) and sauces, as well as many casseroles, do very well when frozen, and if you do a good job sealing the food before freezing you should not have a problem. I think that the main reason for watered-down foods after freezing is that moisture enters the container and ice forms on the food, which then turns into water when thawed.
      My favorite containers for freezing are the Pyrex glass dishes with the snap-top lids. I haven’t had issues with moisture when using them. When using other containers in the freezer, I often place plastic wrap directly on the food before putting the lid on the container – this does a good job of keeping moisture out. If I’m freezing a bread of some kind, I wrap in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, to keep moisture out.

  • Queen B

    Way to go, Kat. Being the hostess is such a great honor and responsibility, but it is hard to do it without being a stress ball. It looks like you did a splendid, graceful job. I can imagine your family having a great time at your house. Thanks for sharing your strategy!

  • Mary Alice

    These are great suggestions. I didn’t have company for the holidays, but with 9 people eating in the house, we wanted to have cozy family meals without spending much time stuck in the kitchen, especially because we were out skiing until late afternoon most days.

    Len and I cooked together several nights after the kids were in bed, so dinner for the next day was prepped or even finished. Here are a few things that worked:

    chili (classic, but I also love to do Ina Garten’s chicken chili) — we froze in gallon ziplock bags and reheated in the slow cooker a few days later, with chips, greek yogurt and cheddar cheese

    bolgnese sauce — we go to Mass on Saturday night, and we have learned that we can make the sauce and then leave it in the slow cooker on warm for the hour or so that we are gone, so that all we have to do is boil water for pasta when we get home. Sometimes I even put the pot full of water on the stove so that I can just turn it on and then tend to the baby, etc.

    chicken pot pie — this was amazing! I made the filling to the Ina Garten chicken pot pie one evening, and froze it. I also had puff pastry frozen in the oven. I defrosted the pot pie filling on the stove in a pot, put it in a pyrex with the puff pastry on top and baked for 20 minutes. It was super yummy and easy. The kids also said that they would like a thinner version of the pot pie filling as a cream of chicken soup/stew sometimes

    a huge pot of soup — we made Manhattan Clam Chowder and had it on Christmas eve, and then it was available for quick lunches or hearty after ski snacks for the next few days. We liked it so much that when it ran out we made another batch!

    At home, I am too tired to cook in the evenings, but I want to do more of this planning and cooking ahead, because it made for such a nice week!


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