How to Survive the Holidays *Guest Post from Meredith Kimelblatt

How to Survive the Holidays
It happens every year – just as you’re adjusting to the transition from shorts and flip flops to sweaters and boots, the holiday season sneaks up on you. Once the ghost decorations and pumpkin lattes start popping up in every store and coffee shop, the holidays get into full swing and don’t seem to stop until around Easter.

This is not to say that the holidays aren’t great; whether it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day, the holidays are always filled with fun times, great company and lots of delicious food. The only problem with large amounts of company and food is that entertaining and feeding a crowd can get expensive and unhealthy quickly, not to mention stressful.

So is it possible to play the role of gracious hostess or good guest without breaking the bank or busting out of your pants this holiday season? The answer is, luckily, yes! The following tips will help you prepare for the holidays in a healthy and budget-friendly way that will save you unnecessary stress, calories and money:

• Plan ahead
If you’re hosting a dinner or get-together, don’t try and do everything the day of or start thinking about what to serve the night before. A week or two before the holiday, make a list of every dish you want to make and everything you’ll need to buy so you can get the ingredients together beforehand. Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it; this way you won’t be crazed when your company arrives. Also, try to prepare as much as possible beforehand so that all you’ll really need to do during your event is pop dishes in the oven or on the stove to cook.

• Keep it simple
Generally, holiday dinners and big family dinners are not the best times to experiment with fancy new recipes or innovative cooking techniques that you’ve never tried before. During the holidays, people love getting treated to the traditional favorites they grew up with, and you certainly can’t go wrong with simple favorites! Don’t choose recipes with unusual or expensive ingredients that will cost more money or take time to locate, and instead pick recipes that use basic ingredients you already have on hand.

Additionally, more is not always better when it comes to holiday cooking. Holiday dinners tend to get out of control in terms of how much food is served, so cutting out a side or dessert you don’t really need will save you time in the kitchen and reduces the amount you’ll eat. I promise you’ll still have more than enough to go around!

• Clean as you go
Dirty dishes pile up quickly when you’re cooking for a crowd, so don’t save them all for the end of the night. Clean bowls and utensils as food cooks to keep your kitchen uncluttered and organized. Before you put food on platters or in serving bowls, spray the dishes with a little cooking spray so the leftovers will slide right off; it’ll save you lots of scrubbing at the sink! And after the meal, have your family and friends help wash plates so you’re not doing it alone after everyone leaves. Ultimately, you’ll have more time to spend enjoying your company and you won’t have to spend all evening stressing about cleanup.

• Set limits for yourself
Holiday foods are not known for being extraordinarily healthy, which is why they’re considered such treats. It’s completely acceptable to indulge in your favorite holiday goodies (it’s impossible to resist foods like sweet potato casserole and pie!), just be conscious about how much and what types of food you’re eating. Set limits for yourself in terms of how many servings you’ll let yourself have, along with how many desserts you can nibble on. Loading your plate up with vegetables before you take meats or other sides will also help keep down your calorie and fat intake, and keep you feeling good during the holidays.

These mini pumpkin cheesecakes are the perfect solution for a busy holiday gathering where you don’t want to spend all evening in the kitchen. Spend 20 minutes doing the hands-on steps, then just chill them in the fridge until you’re ready for dessert! They’re perfect for feeding a crowd and at just 138 calories per serving, they won’t do any damage to your waistline. Happy baking!

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes (from Reddi-Wip)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
Serves: 18 (2 mini cheesecakes each)
Calories per Serving: 138
1 cup ground walnuts
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Fleischmann’s® Original-stick, melted
2 pkgs (8 oz each) 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
1/2 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar substitute
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash ground cloves
Dash ground nutmeg
2 eggs
Reddi-wip® Original Dairy Whipped Topping
Ground cinnamon, optionalDirections

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