How to Handle Holiday Stress in the Kitchen

Enjoy the calm before the storm; Christmas is only 2 weeks away! If you plan on having family over for a holiday gathering, know that food preparation will only be a small portion of your stress this season. 13_HolidayStress

Thankfully English professor of the University of Connecticut and a columnist for the Hartford Courant, Gina Barreca, has came up with five essential tips gauranteed to make this upcoming season the most satisfying for everyone on your holiday list.

Whether they’re sitting at your hearthside table, crossing the threshold of your festively decorated doorway or banging their fists on the reinforced glass of your stenciled windowpanes screaming “LET ME IN! I’M YOUR BLOOD RELATIVE!” these tips should help smooth the lumps in everybody’s seasonal sauce.

You might have heard these before, but perhaps you’ve taken them literally and applied them only to food in your kitchen. I think they have applications far beyond granite countertops and stainless-steel sinks, however, and should be invoked as the rules of engagement during all get-togethers, whether formal, casual or savage.13_HolidayStress121312

1. Do prep work in advance: The last thing you want is to wallow in chaos, so if you’re going to take on a large project—such as making tarte à la poire anglais or dealing with your manipulative sister—start sooner rather than later.

Remember: It’s almost as tough to get a convenient appointment with your therapist in December as it is to get a supply of ripe yet unbruised Bartlett pears after Dec. 20.

Remember, too, that prep work means sharpening your tools and getting your chopping block all ready, just like for a beheading. While celery, onions, carrots and guest lists can be cut at the last minute, it’s often best to accomplish these tasks swiftly and in a timely manner in order to minimize the mess. (Trust me: There’s always a mess.)

2. Check expiration dates: Some things get old, worn out and taste funny. Some things turn sour, go bad and become toxic. “Things” in these instances can range from the lightly rusted containers of ginger, cloves and turmeric that haven’t been touched since the Reagan administration all the way to personal relationships that have also remained untouched since the Reagan administration.

If the single reason you haven’t already tossed what you don’t use is because you think one day it might come in handy, try to remember the last time it was an essential ingredient. If it was so long ago that you can no longer recall when it added flavor, texture or something special, let it go and make room for something new.

3. While being conscious of everyone’s needs, remember it’s your kitchen: You’re the one who decides what you’re offering; you can let others decide for themselves what they take.

You can no more force somebody to be happy than you can force him or her to love lima beans; you can no more demand that someone relax than you can demand that they have dessert. And remember that just because somebody isn’t choosing the item doesn’t mean you’re required to remove it from the menu.

4. Accept help, assign tasks and offer gratitude: Learn to say versions of the following three statements: “Oh, yes! It’d be great if you cut those Bartlett pears into extremely thin slices because I had an appointment to see my shrink and didn’t get a chance do it earlier,” “Please, would you carry these 87 virtually antique and no doubt noxious spice tins to the trash for me?” and “Thanks a million for bringing the lima beans! Don’t worry if Uncle Nosebag starts whimpering when he sees them. He’s a little phobic. It doesn’t at all mean they shouldn’t be at the table. Really!”

5. Clean up as you go: Get into the habit of the Three C’s: Clearing, cleansing and containment. It’s easy if you do it a    little at a time. Keep fresh water and clean towels handy. Spills and breakage are part of life, but do try to avoid boiling over, tearing up and destroying, irrevocably and entirely, everything precious and lovely that crosses your path simply because of the tension created when loved ones gather in a small space, whether that small space is a studio apartment or Rhode Island. But hey, if a conflagration happens, it happens. You can always wipe the slate, as well as the counter, clean.holiday-stress-2011

Finally: Make sure all flames are extinguished; in other words, do not to leave unattended what needs attention.

And, please, don’t let this be you:Holiday-stress

Happy Holidays!

Celebrate the Season with an Outdoor Holiday BBQ Cookout

By Angel Beltran

Whether we’re ready for it or not, the holiday season is rapidly approaching. That, of course, means family, friends and food!

Due to the dip in temperature during the fall and winter seasons, holiday dinners are typically hosted within the home. However, a non-traditional form of holiday fare can take place in the backyard or patio.

firepit-fpt-2500

Entertaining guests in the backyard or patio encourages a more laid back atmosphere. Combine that with good food and company, and you’ve got the recipe for a successful holiday dinner party! Most outdoor/patio gatherings occur during the daylight to prevent extreme cold from ensuing on your guests. If the party continues into the night, a bonfire or fire pit provides heat and visibility for your guests, as well as an excuse to make s’mores!

Decorating amongst natural foliage can enhance the look and feel of your outdoor holiday get together. Hanging twinkling lights from your patio will have a dramatic effect at dusk. You can also make your own garland by attaching cut outs onto a string: bat shapes for Halloween, leaf-shaped cutouts for Thanksgiving and snowflakes for Christmas. Simplicity is key!

Outdoor umbrellas don’t only provide shade during the day, but also help define your outdoor dining room space. If wind is an issue, you can weight dishes by placing a treat on your guest’s plates as a welcome gift, try a candied apple for a Halloween party! Setting up tables in different locations throughout your patio or backyard with food on one table, and drinks on another, will encourage guests to roam and be more convivial. Simplicity will make your holiday dinner a success and take the stress out of hosting a formal dinner.

firepit-fpt-h401

The best part about hosting an outdoor holiday fare is the ability to grill your meal on an authentic grill. Several traditional holiday recipes have been given the rustic treatment and translated into barbecue. Favorites such as corn on the cob, sweet potatoes and even whole turkeys can be prepared on an outdoor grill.

Cooking on an outdoor grill will give you more versatility than cooking on a traditional stove top oven, which is essential while preparing a holiday dinner. The direct heat and indirect heat an outdoor grill produces allows for a variety of cooking styles to occur at once. Direct heat is identified with cooking meats, while indirect heat provides the ability to steam or even bake some of your favorite side dishes. Imagine cutting down your holiday cooking time in half! That means more time to spend with family and friends!

calflame-grill-2

Whether you enjoy a succulent steak fresh off the grill, or seek comfort next to a cozy bonfire, Cal Flame can help you host your next gathering. Cal Flame has the ability to customize its wide range of hearth and barbecue products depending on the need of each customer. Ranging from barbecues, to fire pits, and fireplaces, Cal Flame offers products that will entertain guests and turn your backyard or patio into a “Home Resort.”

Since outdoor entertaining means simplicity, once guests have gone home or moved the party indoors, your patio or backyard will be a breeze to pack up. Pre-made desserts and holiday-themed cocktails drinks can be shared once the party moves inside.

grill-a-la-cart-series

Spending quality time with family and friends in a unique setting and Cal Flame products can create a whole new entertaining holiday experience!

For more information about Cal Flame products, please visit www.calflamebbq.com.