We’ve all made the rounds of back to school sales. We’re counting down the days until our kids head back to their classrooms. We’re ready to take a few days “off” (as off as it can get for a parent, anyway) and then get back into gear because Halloween isn’t that far away. And Thanksgiving and the rest of the food-based holidays are right behind it.
That’s right: you’re about to find yourself in food prep 24/7 mode.
Okay, fine: as a parent, you’re kind of always in food prep 24/7 mode. The difference here is that your focus won’t just be limited to your own family (who, ostensibly, can be told “eat this because this is what I made”). You’re going to be making and baking for friends and neighbors and community members. Here are some tips to help you get through it without giving in to the urge to throw a dough-enhanced tantrum.
Maybe this year, instead of driving yourself crazy and forgetting what life is like when you aren’t covered in flour, you should order your holiday treats from a professional. Think about it: wouldn’t it be cheaper to simply order treats from the professionals than to keep buying baking supplies? And, if you order early–according to the blog at Bon Pastry, a French bakery, you’ll want to order your treats at least a week or two in advance–you could have all of your holiday gifting done in just a few minutes!
Buy in Bulk
If you insist on doing everything the old fashioned way, buy your ingredients in bulk so you don’t get stuck a half a cup of brown sugar shy of what you need for your current recipe. Head to your nearest Costco or Sam’s Club to buy those big containers of baking supplies. The other added benefit of buying in bulk is that it is often cheaper than running out and buying the individual or even the family sized versions of your ingredients–especially when you figure in the cost of the gas you’ll need to buy as you drive back and forth from the store!
Survey Ahead of Time
There are always at least a couple of people who are constantly trying some new diet that forbids them from eating some basic foodstuff or other. Send out an email or a social media blast to your recipients. Tell them that you’re going to start working on the fall and holiday goodies and you want to make sure everyone can eat what you make. Ask about allergies, food preferences, dietary restrictions, etc. Include a statement that is a friendly version of “if you don’t respond, don’t complain.”
Take your responses and put them into a spreadsheet. This way you can organize your baking by type of goody instead of by person or family. You’ll save time and effort.
Unfortunately, you cannot do all of your cooking and baking months ahead of time (sure you can freeze some dough but those treats never taste as good). You can, however, start perfecting your recipes–especially those that cater to diet restrictions you haven’t had to work around before. Enlist your kids or (even better) the parents of your kids’ friends as a tasting committee to help you figure out which taste best.
This is also the perfect time to trade recipes with your friends and to teach friends who are new to treat making the skills they’ll need to get through the holiday season (better to have lessons when things are calm than when you’re trying to make treats for a few dozen people).
One of the biggest complaints about the fall is that all of those food based holidays focus on candy and food that is really bad for you. Now, nobody is going to tell you that you shouldn’t indulge at least a little bit. Indulgence is half the fun of the season!
At the same time, hiding nutritious and healthy stuff in your treats is a great way to indulge guilt free! For instance, try switching out white flour for whole wheat or almond flour. When baking pies, bake savory pies. Rhubarb and sweet potato and pumpkin are better than chocolate and other super sweet sugary pies.
You can also find delicious vegan recipes out there that are great ways to make treats with mostly healthy ingredients.
Food is what drives us and giving homemade treats (or specialty catered treats) is a fantastic way to share your love of food with your love of your friends. Treats made or chosen specifically for their recipients are a surefire way to delight your loved ones this fall and holiday season.