For What It's Worth

Q: I love the holidays because my kids return from college and family comes to visit. The only problem is that it seems like I spend all of my time in the kitchen either preparing or cleaning up after meals. How do I continue to be a good host but free up time to spend with my family?
A: I have two words for you…Hamburger Helper. If you buy several boxes and find a deal on ground hamburger and paper plates, you are set for a week of family fun. Pizza delivery places typically have some great coupons around this time of year too.
In all seriousness, my mother-in-law started doing something a few years ago that I thought was brilliant. She got sick of missing out on visiting with family and started having her Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts catered. They come early in the morning to set everything up and return later in the evening to clean. She doesn’t have to lift a spatula or dishtowel, and we get the pleasure of her company.
Many local food stores, such as Central Market, try to reduce the stress of the holidays by offering complete dinners including a fully cooked turkey or smoked ham, whipped potatoes, dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy and rolls. It’s not super expensive, but for many home chefs, the convenience is priceless.
If your guests spend weeks looking forward to your special sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie or world-famous stuffing and you feel like you would be letting them down if you didn’t do the cooking, try to plan a meal with several make-ahead items. There is no shame in reheating.
Personally, I believe that the person who cooks the meal shouldn’t be the same person to wash the dishes — even if the football game is on or the turkey has put family members in a tryptophan stupor.