Dear Misery Loves Cookery,
My spouse and I had a large number of relatives over for the Thanksgiving holiday. Hosting was fun, but we spent the day before prepping our house and meal. With Christmas coming, we’ll be doing the same thing again. Can you suggest something quick but still healthy and hearty that we can make for ourselves while prepping for a holiday? So we don’t have to eat take-out again?
‘Tis the season for making extravagant amounts of food for a holiday meal…and starving while preparing them.
I feel your pain, friend. We had the exact same situation this Thanksgiving, and will again this Christmas. As I mentioned in response to a reader looking for easy Christmas breakfast ideas, it isn’t unusual for everyone but the cook (who is tasting everything) to starve while awaiting a holiday meal.
The breakfast casserole I suggested may work well for you in this situation—it is certainly quick and hearty, and its healthiness is easily adjustable depending on which extras you put into it.
My usual go-to solution—when I actually think of it ahead of time—is to splurge on some good cold cuts, so family members can make a sandwich when they are hungry. Now, our family is not really a big sandwich-eating group, by nature, so this isn’t always welcomed.
My ugly confession: I am usually so focused and busy prepping holiday dishes, I bark something at them like, “Can you PLEASE just make a sandwich? I bought lunch meat…can’t you see how busy I am? I can’t cook a lunch and make this meal. Don’t you want [insert holiday meal?]” I then gripe that they are in my way while making the sandwiches they don’t really want but I guilted them into preparing.
Yeah, I’m not super proud of this behavior. Seems like I made need a better solution, too.
Here’s a brainstorm: how about crockpot chili? You could either make your favorite chili recipe the day before, then keep it warm throughout the holiday prep day in the slow cooker, or just dump all the ingredients in the slow cooker the night before your prep day, set it to low, and have chili ready (and simmering) by the morning.
Chili is quick, hearty, and healthy, especially if you load it with vegetables, and family members can serve themselves whenever they are feeling peckish without needing to get to the stove, fridge, etc.
As you do your holiday grocery shopping this week, think about picking up:
1 lb lean ground beef, turkey, or chicken
Chili seasonings (Whatever you like, whether pre-packed or your own mix; we always add extra cumin.)
Chopped veggies like onions, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, corn, etc.
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans kidney, pinto, or black beans
Throw everything but the beans into the crock pot in the order listed above (meat first, then seasonings, etc.), add 1-2 cups water or broth, and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8. Add beans 1/2 hour before you’d like to serve.
If you want to be fancy, get accompaniments like cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, oyster crackers, hot sauce, chopped jalapeño, etc. Be aware that your family retrieving these extras will mean they are likely to get in your cooking space. Try to be nicer than I am in this situation.
The slow cooker has its cooking foibles, but cooking chili (and keeping it warm for all day eating) is one of its strong suits. If you haven’t used your slow cooker in awhile, this is a great opportunity.
I hope this solution works for you. Heck, I hope this solution works for me, too! Family, if you are reading this, get ready for some Christmas chili.