Christmas Dinner Preparations - Feeding Fussy Eaters & People on Special Diets
Family Christmas meals should be happy, joyful occasions but, when huge amounts of time have been spent planning and preparing these feasts, there's nothing more disheartening than watching "fussy" eaters toying with their food. In my experience, it's always been my kids that have been pushing foods around on plates or trying to hide leftovers under napkins or Christmas cracker wrappings. In some respects, it's not worth spoiling a celebration or getting worked up over problems caused by picky eaters in the family and advance planning the Christmas Day menu can solve many problems.
Before the Meal
It goes without saying that kids (or adults!) who stuff themselves on sweets or chocolates prior to any celebratory meal are more likely to toy with food. Ensure sweets, selection boxes and snacks are hidden on Christmas morning so children don't begin to feed their sweet tooth from early in the day. I try to make breakfast a light meal and we'll eat it early in the day as well. Of course, as my kids are older they often just skip breakfast nowadays.
Planning & Preparing Christmas Meals
No matter whether you're serving a traditional Christmas lunch or alternative meal, pay due consideration to the preferences, likes and dislikes of kids and any invited guests. For 2013, I'm catering for my son's vegetarian girlfriend and will serve her a nut roast but I also need to ensure none of the ingredients in other served foods contain animal extracts or products.
Christmas Dinner can be a Wonderful Occasion
My mum is allergic to onions, so, when she's a guest on Christmas Day, I have to make sure none of my accompaniments or sauces are seasoned with onions. Checking out guests' food sensitivities prior to any meal is always a good idea.
My eldest daughter doesn't like turkey. I've watched her toy with it on several occasions, we've also had drawn out battles at the dinner table in the past. Now, though, it's just a case of "going with the flow". I generally serve at least one alternative meat anyway. Either pork or gammon. So when turkey's on the menu, I just don't bother giving any to her. I've found the kids much prefer duck with orange sauces or stuffing as the meat is far more moist. Rather than piling their plates with slices of turkey, I'll serve a smaller duck in sauce because I know they'll enjoy it far more.
None of my kids like brussels sprouts or bread sauce, so I don't always serve them with Christmas lunch. If I've invited guests over, I will serve sprouts and, in the past, I've cooked them, chopped them up and served them hidden inside cauliflower cheese. But, in all honesty, is it worth going to this trouble?
Kids often take a dislike to traditional desserts like Christmas pudding. Offering a quick and easy alternative like a simple and creamy apricot cheesecake gives them another dessert option.
To Serve or Not to Serve?
Festive Christmas tables look fantastic when food's arrayed in attractive dishes or on platters so diners can help themselves. I suppose this is particularly the case when guests are invited but have to say it's a licence for kids to dictate the celebrations. I've had the experience of sitting down to Christmas lunch and discovering there's no more roast potatoes, as my kids have taken the lot. It wasn't because I didn't cook enough potatoes but purely because of the kids' "eyes are bigger than their bellies" syndrome and at the end of the meal excess food was left on plates. So, rather than dashing in and out of the dining room laying out steaming dishes of foods, I've found it easier to serve Christmas meals on plates.
Eating out on Christmas Day is a fairly popular option, the beauty of this choice is the wider selection of available meals. We have celebrated Christmas in pubs and restaurants on a couple of occasions, but I've been fairly disappointed with these meals on the whole. Of course, it's nice to select a meal that's ideal for fussy or faddy eaters but this may well not be traditional Christmas fare and I don't find the quality of food or cooking is particularly high. I guess it depends where you choose to eat and prices you're prepared to pay. Half the joy of Christmas for me is preparing and serving meals to my family, so eating out does detract from that aspect. What's more, when restaurants are busy there may be added time constraints to eat quickly so new arrivals can be seated. The positive side to eating Christmas lunch out is that it's a relaxing family meal, with no pressures to cook, serve or clear up.
Opinions on Eating Out on Xmas Day
Would you have Christmas Dinner in a restaurant?
Maybe I take the easy way out when planning Christmas meals, but knowing my kids' and guests' food preferences does enable me to serve a meal that's generally appreciated and, for me, that's one of the most important aspects of my festive celebrations.
© 2013 Dawn Denmar