How to make the perfect Christmas Dinner

This is not an instruction manual.

This is a plea for help.

You see, for 49 years I've managed to avoid being in charge of cooking Christmas dinner.  I am very good at avoiding doing things I dislike.  I don't dislike cooking, just the idea of Christmas being my sole responsibility on a day when I'd rather relax.  So I've always happily eaten a dinner cooked, or part-cooked by someone else. 

When I was growing up Christmas was magical and also predictable: Santa presents, brunch, a family dinner with the grandparents, then more presents, board games, Christmas cake, Dr Who and then bedtime.  My other memory is that my Mum found the day incredibly stressful, so perhaps that is why I have avoided it.  It improved for her once she replaced the traditional dinner with Coq au Vin and her wonderful trifle - trifle sponges soaked in sherry, topped with sliced peaches, real custard, whipped cream and toasted flaked almonds - Yum!

Once I got married we had the traditional split between the two families.  Christmas in Wales changed little, but Angel and her cousin made sure that it was endlessly entertaining.  And Christmas in Dublin was a whirlwind of Mass, visits to the extended family, dinner at Nanny and Grandad's and walking home through the crisp December air.  

With the loss of my parents and the ending of my marriage, those options have gone.  Finally, my time has come and I am not exactly looking forward to it,  Perhaps I shouldn't bother?  There will probably only be the four of us.

But my children are expecting a wonderful day.  So what should I do?  How do I reinvent Christmas for them?  Two of them are going to see their Dad and his family in the morning, and I'm hoping to take Smiley out for a walk.   How do I fill the rest of the day?  

And making the perfect Christmas dinner will be the most difficult thing of all to resolve...

Smiley will want mashed potato, gravy and vegetables.

Aspie boy doesn't know what he wants but normally he won't eat turkey, ham, mashed potato, roast potato, gravy or cranberry sauce.  He will eat the vegetables.

Angel loves her protein and carbs.  If I cook a traditional Christmas dinner it will be largely for her, and she will pile her plate high with meat, potatoes and gravy.  She doesn't really like vegetables but forces herself to eat a little every day ... she did listen in home economics....

I'm hoping to get some ideas from Listography and Ella's Carnival. But if you have any, please don't keep them to yourself...


  1. Oh my...this does sound like a bit of a dilema.
    Keep it small and simple -

    Maybe a turkey breast with veggies and your side can be something that you will typically have that all the children like?

    Make your own traditional Christmas meal :)

  2. Forget the turkey, have chicken instead... much easier! Just do your standard roast meal and everyone will be happy! Does that help? :)

  3. Save yourself time, money and stress by asking what their ideal meal would be and then playing to those ideas. That is what we do. Why force them to eat things they don't like just to maintain some tradition?
    You do have the option of creating your own family traditions so enjoy that freedom this year. Do it your way - that will be special to them

  4. @AutismWonderland - simple would be good :)

    @Di - I'd love too, but I feel it should be a bit will be Christmas after all..

    @Kate - I'm afraid that might mean a roast dinner with Domino's pizza on the side lol and me with the smoked salmon and champagne...

  5. I think AutismWonderland is on to something with the idea of the traditional Christmas dinner, just scaled down in volume. A turkey breast or crown, maybe, with the appropriate amounts of veggies and spuds to go with.

    We've tried a non-turkey Christmas dinner once or twice and, like you, find that it doesn't feel quite the same.

    Good luck :)

  6. No worries, our Christmas is all topsy turvy anyway, hot and humid, which probably makes our food choice somewhat different to yours! Whatever you cook.... enjoy your day! :)

  7. Chicken or M&S turkey crown. Buy in lots of posh nibbles and champagne for yourself. Get some good movies lined up. Visit a church (for mass or not)on the day - always adds a sense of purpose...and if all else fails break out the port and stilton. Hope it goes well for you all. xx

  8. @doalty - I've seen turkey crowns in the shop, will take a second look :)

    @Di - I hope you'll post about your dinner? It would be interesting to know how you handle hot and humid x

    @Kate - the thought of nibbles, champagne, stiltonand port is putting a smile on my face already xx

  9. Roast a chicken with vegetables and potatoes in the roasting pan to make it simple. Make gravy with the sauce when it's done and transferred to another dish. Make mashed potatoes for everyone who wants. And, if they want it, a plate of pizza slices on the table - why not?

    Buy dessert.

    Buy yourself whatever you fancy (like smoked salmon) for brunch when the two kids are out.

    Get a movie or two for after dinner and have plenty of nibbles (crisps, chocs, sweets, whatever they like) to have while watching.

    Put the lights low and sing some carols together (is that ridiculous?)And tell some stories (made up or family history). Ask each child to remember a highlight of the past year, or something special. Then each make a wish for next year. Just some suggestions to create a family tradition.

  10. We just went through this with Thanksgiving. Now granted you kinda have to do the turkey for Thanksgiving but you can tone it down for Christmas. Just do a small bird with potato's (from a box!) and green beans and a pie (again from a box) and then my kids had corn dogs and chicken nuggets since they don't eat turkey!!!

    That's what we did, I hope it helps!!!

  11. You still have plenty of time to cook ahead. Do the turkey (and gravy) on a day when you have plenty of time and prep to reheat. We find mashed potatoes reheat very well, too. Then perhaps you need only cook the veggies while two of your children are visiting their Dad.

    Doesn't Angel do some cooking already? Could she do the dessert the day before Christmas.

    Wishing you a blessed Merry Christmas! Barbara

  12. Do whatever is easiest for you, sounds as if you can make a Christmas meal and they will all eat part of it and then go to town on the desserts - it is Christmas after all!!

    Lots of nibbles, something delicious for you and a large glass of mulled wine for when you get back from your walk.

    I think that it can sometimes be more fun to make your own traditions than to go along with everyone elses.

    Whatever you do I know you will make it fun so enjoy. :) xx

  13. *** First of all, this is a last minute panic because I only lost my Dad a few weeks ago and it's only just been decided what is happening and also apologies to anyone popping over from Listography: I'm so stressed that I completely forgot the list part of this! ***

  14. @Midlife Single Mum - those are great ideas, thank you, I will certainly add them to the list I'm putting together.

    @Lizbeth - yes I plan to have chicken nuggets in the freezer just in case x

    @Helen - I'm hoping it will be fun too xx

  15. Don't both with a turkey; its so much hassel. As others have suggested, go for either a crown or a chicken. I would also raid a supermarket and stock up on prepared gravy, stuffing, sausages etc. I've done this. Also, have you thought about a different meat - we're also cooking gammon as two of our children wont eat turkey or chicken. I shall be cooking the gammon in the slow cooker the day before to save time and energy.

    But whatever you do, I hope you can find your own Christmas traditions and enjoy the day. Deb xx

  16. Oh, don't know how I missed this! Well, I think you should just adapt and cook a speciall meal to YOUR family's taste and create your own Christmas traditions.

    In the early years when it was just us 3 and my boy didn't eat. Anything. We had fillet steak! Suited me cos I had NO idea how to cook turkey and ham and no need to know! Now I can do it and don't mind all that effort on Christmas Day. It;s the build up that I find extremely strssful every year!

    xx Jazzy

  17. I agree - make it simple. Bit of turkey breast or a turkey crown (less waste!!)
    Bags of pr prepared veggies. Sounds expensive, but if only a couple of bits of brocolli or whatever you might save time and effort.
    Oh - and son't beat yourself up looking for perfect - just enjoy!!

  18. @Deb - I'm now planning to head into town with Angel tomorrow and we're going to choose the dinner together :) M&S is going to do well I think, though I plan to cook a fair bit of the dinner from scratch xx

    @Jazzygal - I hope you don't get too stressed xx

    @Julie - I hope to and I hope the kids will too x