By Professional Organiser Maria Patisso of Organise My Life
Christmas has to be my favourite time of the year, when I’m able to showcase beautiful culinary delights, over indulge, and get away with it too! Planning Christmas and the festive menu has perfected over time, when I can now enjoy the day with loved ones, rather than being stuck in the kitchen stressing out, and gobbling down my food ready to start prepping the next course. Does this sound familiar? The festive season for me, is now about having an organised plan, and preparing foods that work within time-frames, budgets and audience. Therefore, follow my festive menu and tips to make this Christmas the best one ever.
PANTRY- When I’m creating make-over pantrys for my clients, I can guarantee that I always find jars of cranberry or mint sauce lurking at the back. Decluttering your pantry, will not only get rid of out of date products, but it will enable you to see what you already have, rather than buying more of the same thing saving you $$$$’s.
FREEZER-In the words of Jamie Oliver “your freezer is your best friend”, and this can’t be truer. Vegetables, roast potatoes, gravy, desserts, can all be made ahead, saving you precious time on the days leading up to, and including Christmas Day. So start eating through your freezer now, leaving it empty for you pre-cooked Christmas dishes, and I promise you won’t regret it.
Firstly, let’s start with how many people are attending, and what dietary requirements they may have; this will enable you to create a menu according to their needs. Are you asking them to bring a dish? Therefore, allocate a dish which will complement the other foods, avoiding double ups. For example, I also consider what cooking facilities I will need; is an oven sufficient? Will I have room in my oven? Or will a BBQ need to be used as well? If so, delegate someone to look after the BBQ on the day, or consider a meat that can be barbequed the day before.
We are so privileged living in a country full of international flavours and traditions, so the world is your oyster when it comes to the menu, but consider your budget and time.
So what’s cooking in my house? Firstly, a beautiful Christmas anti-pasto platter for when guests arrive, followed by cold seafood before having a rest and opening some presents. So far both of these dishes were put together the day before, allowing me to concentrate on the next courses.
In addition, when it comes to meats, the day before I glaze and cook a ham on the BBQ and serve cold, and a turkey will be roasted in the oven, sliced and then warmed with gravy on the day.
I make and freeze a Salmon Wellington a month in advance and finish off in the oven on the day, and I will also serve another roast meat hot. This is the only meat I will cook from fresh, leaving space in my oven for warming veggies and potatoes.
When it comes to sides, I’m a sucker for pigs in blankets, crispy potatoes and other roasted veg. Besides, this can all be made in advance, frozen and simply finished off in the oven. Salads can all be pre-prepared the day before, but avoid adding dressings or cut tomatoes until served.
Desserts? There is an array of desserts that can be made and frozen ahead of time. Namely, Cheesecake and an Ice cream cake are firm favourites in our household, followed by a cheese and biscuit platter, and a nice drop of port.
My make-ahead favourite recipes for my festive menu:
Having a beautifully decorated table is a must in my house. I enjoy creating a colour scheme and working everything around it. Your table must be functional, and there must be space to put your dishes in the middle.
Try using height to create two levels on your table. Firstly, I love the Black Onyx Pantry Helper shelf, which allows me to place a dish on top, and a smaller dish/condiment underneath. I’ve also adapted their two-tier fruit bowl for prawns and sauces, allowing space for other things. Additionally, a lazy susan is fantastic for larger tables, and means your guests have everything in easy reach.
In addition, if you are eating outside, consider using food cover nets, or halo dish covers, to keep those pesky flies away. Thus, planning all these things early on will ensure your day runs smoothly, without anyone having to dash to the heavily crowded shops.
I used to spend ages, wrapping leftovers in cling wrap and foil, or placing things into plastic containers, but the Silicone food wraps and Halo dish covers have been my saving grace, and great for the environment too. For instance, simply pop them over your dishes and place into the fridge.
Your festive menu is done! Now time to relax, let your dishwasher do the work, and delegate someone else to do the tidying up…you’re done!
Maria Patisso of Organise My Life, is a Sydney based professional organiser, who works with clients to improve the quality and efficiency of their life and home. Moreover, she specialises in stunning pantry transformations, and publishes a weekly “how to” video on her own YouTube channel, providing life hacks, organisational skills, and budgeting ideas. Maria also has a successful lifestyle blog My So-Called Lifestyle.