With travel restrictions still in place, a lot of people who usually jump on a plane for the holidays will be picking a nearby local destination instead this year. Renting a cottage or other property with plenty of indoor and outdoor space (and ideally a fireplace) is going to be a popular option, whether you’re self-isolating or not—especially for families still planning to get together in person.
For those of us staying home this year, it’s important to make the season feel just as festive as always. Enjoying a special menu can help do just that.
But planning a week (or even just a weekend) of celebratory meals can be an organizational headache without also trying to keep things healthy. Add to that the complications of packing and transportation if you’re heading out of town or have limited access to food, and “ho ho ho” can quickly turn into “no no no.”
One option to make your holiday meal planning easier is to buy all of your groceries in advance, which can help avoid lines and minimize exposure to others. But it can also add significantly to the weight of your luggage if you’re travelling––and your calorie intake if you’re buying a lot of ready-made products.
That’s why these recipes call for lightweight and time-saving ingredients that you can stock up in advance. Dried fruit, spices, mushrooms, lentils, grains, and high quality bouillon powders are the secret ingredients of many a gourmet getaway and quarantined foodie, adding decadence back into dinner without the excess sugar, sodium, and fat.
Chopping ingredients smaller will make them cook faster, while minimizing the number of pots and dishes you use reduces cleanup. That’s why these recipes all call for diced or sliced vegetables and only one or two pots, so you can sit back and relax by the fire a little sooner.
The best part of these rich and comforting recipes is that they’re also hassle free, so you’ll be able to spend more time relaxing and enjoying company (even the digital kind)––something we could all use a little more of.
This year, depending on how much your plans change, you might find yourself having to create some new holiday traditions. Without the usual calendar of parties, you might also need to find new ways to entertain yourself and your family, whether that means indoor or outdoor activities for the kids or reaching out to local organizations on your own behalf or that of others.
From Topsail Beach Bluff in Newfoundland to Fish Lake outside Whitehorse, there are all levels of paths and trails from coast to coast to coast for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or hiking (with crampons if necessary). For kids, there are also the lost arts of the carrot-nosed snowman (snowperson), snow forts (oftentimes with a natural moat if you’re in temperate Newfoundland or Vancouver), and the character-building challenge of shovelling a frozen-over lake for skating.
Whether quarantine or weather keeps you inside, take advantage of the fact that you can break out a classic board game in person instead of downloading an app. Or, support a local small business by buying a new game or puzzle. In the kitchen, there’s a world’s worth of healthy holiday cookies to bake, or recruit the kids for our Home for the Holiday recipes––from measuring the spices for Saffron Chicken to grating the cheese for Wild Mushroom and Tarragon Risotto.
’Tis the season for giving
Though less enticing, it might be the perfect time to clean out your basement, attic, or garage. The effort will be worth it when you donate those old toys and books to local charitable organizations. Or, work your way through a Canadian cookbook (or the wealth of recipes at <alive.com>) and deliver meals and treats to isolated seniors or others who can’t celebrate the holidays as they normally might. Contact local meals-on-wheels programs or other nonprofits to see what specific items they need or for rules governing donations or volunteering.
On your own for the holidays
If you feel isolated, lonely, or unable to access healthy food, don’t be shy about contacting a local organization. A phone call with a friendly stranger or getting assistance to buy groceries can make all the difference in the world. If you find it hard to connect with family, schedule phone and Zoom calls in advance so you can look forward to them. You can always cook these recipes together over Zoom or Skype, even if you can’t physically be together.