It can be difficult this time of year to prioritize getting together with friends. With the pressure to plan, prep and attend every office get-together, how do you get to your to-do list without neglecting your besties? A few years ago my BFF proposed we all get together and collectively check items off our lists one-by-one. She suggested we can all bake and cook together, and then equally divvy-up the creations, creating a unique dessert platter and a few take-home freezer meals.
At first, I was skeptical. Sometimes involving others with holiday prep can simply add to the stress and distractions, but over the years we have perfected the approach to tackling the holidays; and I am excited to share them with you, dear readers!
First, choose a night that works well for everyone. A simple poll in FB messenger works great for us and reduces the back and forth – this holiday get-together is all about efficiency, after all! By default, the friend with the most spacious kitchen, hosts. From there you need to decide who brings what. Everyone is encouraged to bring ingredients for two baked goods (large batch) and one slow cooker meal. Need some inspiration? I love mini candy cane biscotti, cherry brownies and a simple yet hearty beef and barely soup! Of course, the true point of the get-together is to connect with friends before we all get too busy, so we always pack a little snack and a bottle of wine or ingredients for a festive cocktail such as a spiked hot chocolate or a simple cranberry martini.
Once everyone is assembled cue the holiday music playlist, review each attendee’s recipes to see which ones can be baked at the same time and which ones need longer cooling times before frosting or decorating. Assemble your slow cooker meals, set them on high for the evening and get to catching-up! It always proves a great way to share hosting, gift and general holiday tips while putting some much needed cheer into your to-do list! In between the chatting, baking and sipping, feel free to wrap presents. This is especially a great idea if you have kids and are worried about them sneaking a peek as your wrap!
As the cookies cool, the squares set and the soups have thickened, bring out the freezer bags and reusable containers to equally share all creations between friends. My best tip for this portion of the night is to cut the baked goods small as these treat trays are meant for grazing at future holiday parties and a little goes a long way. Soups and stews can be divvied-up into lunch sized portions for the evenings you are too busy to assemble a lunch or in larger batches for the after work, pre-event rush.
This is also the perfect way to give back. Ask each attendee to donate a couple of nonperishable food items for donation to the Christmas Cheer Board or local food bank! Choose a group that means the most to you. Collectively, the group can make a large impact on your stress levels while helping out families in need this season.
Amanda Bibeau is a Winnipeg-based food blogger who is passionate about affordable food for all and ‘food without judgment.’ Amanda enjoys hiking, exploring Winnipeg's craft beer scene and working her 9 to 5 as a sr. recruiter with RBC.