How to Host a Stress-Free Holiday Meal

Updated 11/5/18

The holiday season is my favorite time of year, but it can be really stressful if you’re hosting dinner. Getting all the food ready to serve while it’s still hot and making sure all your guests are comfortable while doing it… that’s a daunting task! Over the past several years of hosting holiday meals, I’ve learned a few tricks to make the process go more smoothly. I can serve a delicious meal AND enjoy myself!

6 steps to help you plan a stress-free holiday meal so you can actually enjoy your day.

1 | Plan your menu in advance

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a step I’ve glossed over in the past. Sure, I knew we were eating turkey for Thanksgiving, but I didn’t think through all the sides ahead of time. Instead of shopping sales or prepping food ahead of time, I was left doing everything at the last minute. Planning the menu for your holiday meal allows you to save money, time, and stress.

2 | Delegate responsibilities

Just because you’re the hostess, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Once you plan your menu, ask guests to bring side dishes that can be reheated before dinner. Desserts and appetizers are a great option if you really like to have control over the menu. I’m not super confident about making gravy so I always put my dad in charge of that task.

If you have a large group, be specific about what they should bring so you don’t end up with repeat dishes. It’s not hard (or unreasonable) to send an email asking guests to tell everyone what they plan to bring.

Give your kids cleaning duties. Even younger ones can help unload the dishwasher or run a vacuum before guests arrive. I’m not super confident about making gravy so I put my dad in charge of that task.

3 | Prepare food ahead of time

Many side dishes can be prepared ahead of time and reheated prior to dinner without affecting the quality. Potatoes, stuffing, rolls and desserts can all be made a couple days ahead.

Be sure to account for reheating time to ensure you have room in your oven. Vegetable sides should usually be made the day of, but you can still wash and cut your veggies earlier in the day.

4 | Make a timetable for day-of cooking

Write out your full menu, noting the oven temperature and cooking time needed for every dish. Figure out which items will fit in the oven and can be cooked at the same temperature.

Then, counting backwards from the time you plan to sit down to dinner, determine when each item needs to go in the oven. With this masterplan in hand, you won’t need to worry about dishes not being ready in time or sitting out until they’re cold.

5 | Set your table the day before

Iron your tablecloth and napkins. Lay out place settings and your table decor or centerpiece. Set up extra tables and chairs if necessary. By doing these tasks the day before, you’re freeing up your time on the big day for cooking and spending time with guests.

If you need to use your table the day before a gathering, delegate as many of  these tasks as possible to family members. You can find some beautiful inspiration for your Thanksgiving table decor HERE.

6 | Plan outfits & lay them out the night before

If your holiday gathering is completely casual, you can skip this step. If you have a more formal celebration to attend or certain outfits in mind for your family, save your time and sanity by laying out these items in advance.

Prepping ahead not only ensures that clothing is definitely clean and presentable, it also eliminates the time spent picking out clothes or debating choices with a child (not that this would ever happen in my house lol.)

What are your tips for a stress-free holiday meal?

Five tips for a stress-free holiday meal.
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10 Whole30 Holiday Recipes

Here are ten delicious Whole30 holiday recipes to help you celebrate and keep you feeling good. Avoid the foods that make you feel lousy and eat well too! #whole30holidayrecipe

As the holidays approach, you’re probably already thinking about what to serve for dinner. Maybe you’re not hosting, but you’ve been asked to contribute a dish. Good food is a huge part of celebrating the holidays for me, but I also know that I feel so much better when I avoid certain foods. So this year I’m trying to find a balance of traditional and Whole30 holiday recipes for the holidays.

There are so many delicious Whole30 recipes to choose from. If you’re not familiar with the Whole30, you can read more about my experience here and here. Keep in mind that many of these recipes also fit Paleo guidelines, either as is or with some minor substitutions.

*Please pin images from the original source OR you can find all pins from sources HERE.*

Breakfast

We typically skip lunch and eat an earlier dinner on major holidays. A delicious and filling breakfast is essential to hold us off until appetizers are ready. I assure you this breakfast casserole is super yummy! Do some of the prep the night before to save time in the morning.

Breakfast Casserole

Sweet Potato Hash

Appetizers

It’s always good to have something to nibble on while dinner is cooking, especially if you have guests. Here are some tasty snack options on the healthier side.

Baked Zucchini Cups

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Healthy Carrot Fries with Curry Dipping Sauce

Main Dishes

Roasted Turkey 

Rosemary & Garlic Roast Beef (Substitute ghee for butter to stick to Whole30 rules.)

Sides

I love holiday side dishes almost more than the main event sometimes. Potatoes are my jam, you guys, but often it’s the carb-heavy sides that get the attention this time of year. I want to be sure to have some tasty vegetable options as well.

Crispy Roasted Broccoli

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts (If you’re doing the W30, be sure to use sugar-free bacon.)

Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots & Almonds

Desserts

If you’re following a strict Whole30, you already know the bad news. Whole30-friendly desserts do not conform to the spirit of the program. Eating pie is eating pie, even if it’s made using substitutions that technically adhere to Whole30 rules. If you’re going to stay compliant over a major holiday, first of all, I’m super impressed. That takes some serious discipline and dedication. If you don’t want to feel left out during dessert, try some fresh fruit with a dollop of coconut cream.

If you’re more about eating the Whole30 way in general and not sticking to the program 100%, here are a few Paleo dessert options.

Classic Paleo Pumpkin Pie via Paleo Running Momma

Paleo Pumpkin Cake with Maple Frosting via Paleo Gluten Free Eats

Toasted Marshmallow S’more Tart via Against All Grain

Paleo Apple Pie via Bakerita

You can also find all these Whole30 holiday recipes on my Thanksgiving Recipe board here!

Delicious Whole30 Thanksgiving and Christmas Recipes.
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Turkey Pie – The Ultimate Holiday Comfort Food Made Easy

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers, am I right?? My aunt taught me how to make this super easy version of a classic comfort food. A lot of people call it Turkey Pot Pie, but that name bothers me for some reason so we just call it Turkey Pie. You can also make this dish with leftover roasted chicken and it’s equally yummy.

Wondering what to do with all those yummy Thanksgiving leftovers? Turn them into a quick and easy turkey pie.

A little background… my husband and I started dating in October so it wasn’t long before the holiday season was approaching. To avoid an awkward conversation about whether we should spend Thanksgiving together, I simply made plans to visit a friend in San Francisco. The weekend before Thanksgiving, my then-boyfriend invited me to dinner at his house with a couple friends. When I arrived, I discovered that he had cooked an entire turkey dinner ON HIS OWN so that we could still celebrate Thanksgiving together. It’s one of my favorite memories!

After my sweet husband had made such a sweet gesture, I wanted to return the favor by whipping up an easy turkey pie with the leftovers. The beauty of this recipe is that you can sort of throw in whatever you have left from a turkey dinner.

Super Simple Turkey Pie

2 – 2 1/2 cups shredded turkey or chicken (cooked)
2 pre-made frozen pie crusts, thawed
1 cup corn (frozen is fine and doesn’t need to be pre-cooked)
1 cup peas (frozen works too)
1 1/2 cups pre-cooked potatoes, cut in 1 inch chunks
1 1/2 – 2 cups gravy (you can use store-bought if you don’t have any leftover)
anything else you want to throw in such as onions, carrots, celery (all pre-cooked or frozen work best)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 and take your pie crusts out of the freezer. Let them sit while you round up and prepare the other ingredients – shred the turkey/chicken, chop veggies, cut potatoes.

2. Use one of the pie crusts as the base for your pie. They usually come in a foil pie plate which will work just fine.

3. Put the turkey and veggies into the pie crust and pour the gravy on top, mixing gently with a spoon or fork. Be careful not to tear the crust.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers with this quick and easy recipe for turkey pie.

4. Carefully remove the other pie crust from its tin plate and lay it on top of your pie, pinching the edges to seal them. Try not to tear it, but don’t stress if you do. Just sort of pinch it back together. It doesn’t have to look perfect to be delicious!

Use store-bought pie crust to turn your Thanksgiving leftovers into a deliciously comforting turkey pie.

5. Put the pie plate on a cookie sheet and put it on the center rack. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. The crust should be a nice golden brown. I sometimes turn on the broiler for just a few minutes at the end to make it crisp up.

Take your Thanksgiving leftovers to the next level with this simple recipe for turkey pie.

Hello yummy deliciousness!

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