Happy New Year! I hope your 2019 is off to a great start!
For me, 2019 started in a way unlike any other year. Not only was this my first new year as a mom but it was also the first time I hosted a large holiday dinner.
Now two weeks into the new year and fully recovered from the holidays, I wanted to reflect on my experience.
First, you may be wondering why I chose New Year’s Day to host my first holiday dinner.
New Year’s was always the most important day of the year to my late grandfather. To him, it seemed to be more important than any other holiday. I have so many positive memories of New Year’s Day as a child. Unfortunately, the tradition of gathering everyone together for New Year’s faded quickly after his passing eight years ago this May.
Now that I’ve started my own family, and with a few members of the family going through rough times, it felt more important than ever before that I take over this tradition. Perhaps my grandfather’s reasons were different but for me, it was nice to know I could bring everyone together and offer a happy start to the year.
Once I decided I was going to host New Year’s (at my grandmother’s house), it was time to work on a menu. I changed ideas a few times but in the end, I made the following (recipes provided where applicable):
- Turkey (with stuffing) – instructions were on packaging
- Ham – cooked with a drizzle of maple syrup and covered in pineapples
- Mashed Potatoes
- Green Bean Casserole
- Brussel Sprouts – boiled and covered in olive oil and salt
My mom provided dinner rolls and homemade cranberry sauce, as well as pumpkin pie and a plate of cookies for dessert.
I was a little overwhelmed at first, moreso about the turkey than anything else because I’ve never cooked one before. I created a schedule so that I could prepare everything in advance and spend the greater part of day with family instead of in the kitchen.
For the most part, my preparations were a success! Despite a few hiccups, cooking a turkey was much easier than I’d thought it would be and it turned out well.
I picked a turkey that seemed to be too heavy for the pan I bought, which caused a tear in the pan and turkey drippings all over the inside of my oven. When I noticed, I was worried the turkey was going to be dry. Thankfully, it wasn’t. The stuffing was a bit dry but my mom suggested I add some chicken broth, which was a perfect fix.
I cooked the turkey two days in advance along with the green bean casserole. The day prior to dinner I chopped up my veggies, and the morning of dinner I cooked everything. I could have cooked and stored more ahead of time but just prepping worked well this time.
By lunchtime on New Year’s Day, we packed up the car with five large aluminum pans filled with food and drove to my grandmother’s house (around the corner). I let everything heat up for a few hours, checking every half hour to make sure it wasn’t over or under heating, and spent the rest of my time hanging out with family.
With a half hour to go, I threw the dinner rolls in the oven to heat them up, started the corn and gravy, and began pulling everything else out of the oven – with my grandmother’s help.
Everyone enjoyed dinner. Plates were loaded with food, and sometimes refilled. Laughs were shared around the table and everyone’s bellies were full. The few leftovers were split among everyone and, thanks to using aluminum pans to store everything, cleanup was minimal.
For a first time hosting, and balancing prepping and cooking with my duties as a mom to an eight-month old, I think it was a success.
And I think (and hope) my grandfather would have been proud – and happy to see all of us together.