Planning a smaller holiday dinner

Simple tips to keep the festive cheer- even from a distance.

Just because holiday meals will be smaller this year, doesn’t mean they need to be lacking in flavour or variety. Here’s everything you need to know about reducing the size of the celebration, while keeping it as delicious and memorable as those in the past.

General tips for enjoying a socially-distanced holiday meal

If you have a large extended family and plan on chatting with them online while you’re eating, think about spacing the visits over several smaller meals so that everyone has the opportunity to converse and be heard. For example, you can arrange to enjoy meals together on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (or any other day that calls for festivities.)

Some of the best conversations occur while dinner is being made and when it’s time to tidy up the kitchen (not to mention, the company is always a nice distraction from any domestic task.) This year, chat with family members on the phone or via your preferred video conferencing program to keep this very important tradition alive.

Take some of the pressure off by ordering your holiday meal for pickup or delivery. Not only does this help support local businesses, it gives you the freedom to relax over the holidays (a difficult feat when, historically, you’ve been the person who organizes and hosts the big dinner.)

Don’t feel limited by traditional holiday foods. Instead, make or order your all-time favourite comforting foods, even if they’re a far cry from the type of meal you would normally be eating.

Celebrate with a festive beverage

Set the stage for a meaningful meal with a generous cup of cheer, either in the form of a cocktail, a glass of wine, a flute of bubbly or a special non-alcoholic beverage. If you’re dining alone or with one other person, look for half-size bottles of regular and sparkling wine (or freeze leftover wine for future cooking endeavours.) Check with the resident mixologist in your family or group of friends for tips on creating a beloved cocktail or mocktail — and be sure to give a virtual “cheers” to your loved ones as you enjoy your drink.

These celebratory beverages are perfect for chilly evenings:

Hit all the holiday dinner tasting notes with appetizers

Instead of making full-sized versions of all your favourite holiday dishes, scale down the size and make festively flavoured appetizers using holiday-inspired ingredients. If you can’t part from tradition and want the full festive experience, make (or buy!) several appetizers in place of dinner. Likewise, if the thought of roasting an entire turkey or ham is overwhelming or way too much food, make a turkey- or ham-based appetizer such as meatballs or prosciutto-wrapped melon or veggies.

Prepare a smaller cut of meat or poultry

Unless you have ample room in your freezer, preparing and roasting a turkey or large pork roast isn’t practical for one or two people. Consider roasting a chicken or other small bird if you want the stuffing and gravy accompaniments, or roast a whole or half of a turkey breast. Pork tenderloin is also on the smaller side, and is considerably leaner than pork butt or shoulder (it also cooks in a fraction of the time.)

Make single-serving desserts

Aside from being a practical choice for small groups, there’s something extra special about enjoying dessert when it’s been made just for you. Use ramekins or muffin tins for cakes and puddings (or any dessert that needs to be baked), for cold desserts use stemware, teacups or regular drinking glasses. If you like prepping for meals ahead of time, opt for a chilled dessert that needs time to set before it can be enjoyed.