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December 8, 2020

Celebrating with Intimate Holiday Gatherings

By Avance Care Registered Dietitian Mindy McCullough, MS, RD, LDN


The 2020 holiday season is in full swing and this year’s celebrations look a little different than years past. Playing it safe with smaller gatherings, outdoor celebrations, and video calls help keep traditions alive in 2020.  Even with all the changes, food still plays a constant role when celebrating the holiday season. This year is no exception.

Preparing food for large crowds, baking cookies for office cookie exchanges, and gifting leftovers to neighbors may not be in the cards this year, but you don’t have to hang up your oven mitts and cancel traditions.  Check out some of the tips below for adapting your 2020 holiday celebrations.

Pare down your holiday menu:

When planning your holiday meals try to focus on the must-have dishes.  Maybe that means keeping the stuffing but kicking the green bean casserole to the curb.  Whatever you choose, aim to create a meal that preserves the tradition without excess leftovers and food waste.

Cut recipes in half:

No extended family this year, but still wanting to create a feast?  Try cutting recipes in half! Also, consider purchasing a turkey breast or a smaller ham to decrease leftovers. You will still find enjoyment in making the meal without the worry of eating corn casserole for the entire week.  Tip: On a separate piece of paper write down the recipe with ingredients halved.  This way you do not accidentally half the flour, but not the baking soda. 

Get creative with leftovers:

Accidentally swimming in leftovers? Try a homemade Thanksgiving burrito. All it takes is a small amount of stuffing, leftover potatoes, turkey, and cranberry sauce or gravy wrapped into a small tortilla.  Feel free to heat or enjoy cold as a lunch or dinner the next day.  No tortillas or wraps? Make a beautiful bowl using the potatoes as the base, top with leftovers, sauce, and pair with a vegetable.  Too much ham or turkey?  Put a new spin on a classic, such as turkey noodle soup with vegetables. You probably have some celery and carrots hanging around from making the stuffing.

Use your freezer:

Most cooked leftovers, such as turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and baked beans can be frozen for later.  It is a great way to prevent food waste, but also brighten up the cold months of winter with some holiday fare. Tip: Immediately divide and conquer the leftovers by placing into freezer safe air-tight containers.  This strategy will ensure you won’t be staring down the leftovers all week.

What about desserts?

The holidays are just not the same without desserts but having an entire batch of sugar cookies hanging out in the kitchen can make it tempting to eat past satisfaction (not sure about this edit here… but an idea).  So, how do you have your sugar cookie and eat it too?  Many of the tips from above can be used, such as only choosing your favorites and halving the recipes to limit leftovers.  Using the freezer can be a great way to decrease leftovers and extend the joy of those holiday sugar cookies.  Key is to only bake the amount you desire and then freeze the rest of the dough to be baked later. 

Tip: Individually roll enough dough for one cookie into a ball and place onto a baking sheet.  Once done, place the baking sheet into the freezer for 30-45 minutes until frozen.  This prevents them from sticking together making it easy to only bake 1-2 cookies at a time.  Once frozen, place the cookie dough balls into a freezer safe container.  No need to defrost the dough before baking.  Preheat the oven to the recipe’s recommended temperature.  Once ready, set the timer for 2-3 minutes longer than the original cooking time.  Cook until done or slightly browned. 


We hope these tips help you tackle your leftovers and enjoy the holidays safely!

    Mindy is a Registered Dietitian working at the Central Raleigh location.  In her free time, she enjoys exploring new area parks and greenways with her dog, Reese.  She also loves to travel and experience new cultures.  Many weekends you can find her watching hockey or hiking in the North Carolina mountains in search of waterfalls. 

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