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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

Hosting the Holiday Meal

Posted by Jenna Smith - Holidays

If you're like many families you probably wonder each year where you and the spouse are spending the holidays. His parents? Your cousins? Oh, it would just be easier to have the holiday get-together at your house. But does the thought of all that work have you too nervous to mention it?

Don't worry; if you have a plan and are well-prepared you will do just fine. First, plan out the meal. Flip through cookbooks or boards on Pinterest to get ideas, but make sure you always test the recipe before the big day! Be sure to include at least one family or traditional recipe, such as mashed potatoes or green bean casserole. Then, if you feel brave, throw in a dish or two of non-traditional foods. Second, don't try to do everything yourself. Count on guests to bring certain side dishes or desserts. Also, consider buying pre-made dishes or ingredients. A rookie mistake is thinking everything must be done by scratch! But buying a pie crust, frozen bread dough, or canned cranberry sauce can save you time and worry without compromising on taste.

Third, take a head count. Make sure to have plenty of food available, but at the same time, don't over-do-it. Leftovers are great, but it can also mean more work and expense if you're making too much. Count on one pound per person when buying a turkey. However, a small gathering of 5 or 6 people may mean you don't want to mess with a big bird, but rather stick to a smaller entrée. Either way, the fourth point is to focus on the main entrée since that's usually the star of the meal. If you're cooking a turkey find tips at University of Illinois Extension's "Turkey for the Holidays" website:

Fifth, do as much prep work as possible beforehand. Shop for ingredients well before the big day and double check you have everything so you're not scrambling to the store at the last minute. Salads, pies, and deviled eggs can be made a day ahead, and put together the casserole the night before so that all you have to do is bake it the next day. But this leads to the very important question: Do you have enough oven and stove top space? You may need to cook over the stove top, but then keep it warm in a slow cooker to make room. Following these tips can help you avoid the tales of the holiday meal disaster.

Cranberry Gelatin Salad

1 (16 oz.) can jellied cranberry sauce

1 (16.5 oz.) can pitted dark sweet cherries, drained

1 (10.5 oz.) can crushed pineapple, packed in juice

1 (0.3 oz.) sugar-free cherry gelatin

2 cups boiling water

1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)


In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the cranberry sauce. Cut the cherries into pieces and add them to the melted sauce. Stir in the pineapple with its juice. Remove mixture from heat. In a medium bowl pour the boiling water over the gelatin. Stir until gelatin has dissolved. Add the gelatin mixture to the cranberry mixture and stir. Stir in the nuts (optional). Pour into a 9x13- inch pan and chill until set.

Yield: 12 servings

Nutrient analysis without nuts: 100 calories, 35 milligrams sodium, 26 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram protein, 0 grams fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol


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