Friday, November 20, 2009
Relieving holiday panic with easy dinners!
Has it hit you yet?
You know, holiday panic.
It hits early for me - it actually hit me last week. I had to drop everything, and sit down in seclusion with my dayplanner, to try and get a grip on the next 5 weeks. There is always that moment of panic, then relief comes, once I sit down, pray, strategize, make various lists, and plan appropriate times to get it all done. Once I do that, I can breathe. All this is because I have one goal: to not get caught up in all the superficiality and lose my focus. Let's face it, we all have obligations to fulfill for Christmas -and they can be wonderful things- but collectively they can become a fatal distraction.
Don't get me wrong. I am not a bah humbug! I love Christmas. I love the whole season, in fact. But, there is that very real pressure to get everything done. Decorate, cook, shop, wrap gifts, entertain...the list goes on. So, I panic. Every year I panic.
I sometimes wonder if this holiday panic is sort of a self-imposed panic, actually. There must be a name for it; I really am very phobic of being in the "holiday rush." Some people fly by the seat of their pants and shop days before Christmas, feeling no stress about it whatsoever, humming along to the piped in Christmas music. It is as if some people actually enjoy that! But, oh, not me. My worst nightmare would be my own poor planning and having to join the rest of the world, who apparently forgot that CHRISTMAS IS ALWAYS DECEMBER 25th, in a long line at Target. Therefore, I strive to shop early, menu plan early, even stock my freezer full of convenience items to ward off that busy day syndrome of "what is for dinner?" That last one is a biggie for me. If my world of food is under control, then I am.
The other day, the guy at Trader Joe's looked at my cart, piled high as the sky, and asked, "So, how long has it been since you've eaten?" Ha. I explained to him that stockpiling was one of the things I do to avoid holiday stress. He mumbled an answer something like, "Whatever works for you," but I'm pretty sure he wrote me off as a crazy woman. It wasn't even Thanksgiving yet, and here I had a dozen bottles of Sparkling cider and had wiped out most of the frozen section.
So, do the normal, everyday things such as making dinner cause you stress during the holidays? If so, here are a few suggestions for some of my favorite easy, fast meals this season from Trader Joe's. Most of these ideas are items that can be kept in the pantry or freezer, ready when you need them.
-Sauteed sausages (TJ's has many varieties - slice 'em for faster cooking) with fake, in the box (gasp!) mashed potatoes. Don't judge me - they are so fast and actually taste great. Trader Joe's sells garlic ones, and Costco has a great brand, too (Costco's are even all natural - nice). I dare you to buy fake mashed potatoes and try them. Once you get past the embarrassment of having them in your cart, you're home free.
-Think "soup and sandwich." If you mix up the selections, you can pull this meal off several times a week and your family will love it. TJ's has their "boxed" soups that are all great on their own or can be used as a base for additions. Grilled cheese & avocado on sourdough with creamy tomato soup is a winner at our home, or do a melt with turkey or ham and one of TJ's great cheeses.
-If you haven't discovered TJ's Frozen Orange Chicken, you haven't lived. It bakes up fast and is almost as good as Panda. Make some rice, and serve with steamed broccoli and you have a great meal much faster and cheaper than drive-thru. If you have a little more time, add TJ's potstickers to your meal. This is one of my standard easy dinners.
-Frozen meatballs are life-savers! Make your own and freeze for a busy day, or pick up a bag in the frozen section of TJ's. Just warm them up with some marinara sauce, (I like TJ's in the green can) and serve with pasta. Or, make hearty meatball sandwiches with crusty rolls and provolone cheese on top. TJ's frozen fries (garlic fries or sweet potato fries are awesome) are a great side to the meatball sandwich.
-I like to have frozen breaded chicken tenderloins on hand. You can make a quick Chicken Parm by baking off some chicken, topping it with marinara and some mozzarella and broiling the top. Just serve with a side of pasta. Another thing you can do with those chicken tenderloins is just make a fast and easy sandwich -to a nice roll, add avocado, lettuce and tomato with a little Ranch dressing - delish.
-Fish tacos. The ingredients are so simple: TJ's frozen breaded fish, corn tortillas, and shredded cabbage. I like to make a little sauce with sour cream and a little seasoning (I like to throw in some chipotle powder). Serve with a side of beans.
-Tri tip -get one of the marinated ones. Cook one or two up, depending on your family size - make enough to have leftovers. One night, serve slices with baked potatoes, and steamed veggies, then chop and use the leftovers to use with quesadillas another night. Try goat cheese in quesadillas - it's awesome. One combo I like is TJ's frozen roasted corn kernels, tri tip, and goat cheese. Be creative with whatever you have on hand. Just think beyond plain orange cheese!
Happy Holiday season!