The thought of preparing Shabbat dinner or any holiday dinner may be intimidating. There are many shortcuts you can take to make it a task that can be accomplished with ease.
Create a menu. Search online or in cookbooks for traditional Shabbat (or other holiday) recipes. Start a list of possibilities or stop when you find a recipe that looks good. A traditional meal may include challah, soup or gefilte fish, an entrťe of chicken or brisket, a salad, a vegetable kugel, a grain and dessert. Look for recipes that can be prepared beforehand and warmed up just before the holiday begins.
Start simple. Make things as easy as possible. For example, you can buy a pre-made boxed soup by Imagine or Pacific Natural Foods and add a garnish instead of making soup from scratch. Get together with friends to make several loaves of challah for the freezer. Then when youíre ready for your Shabbat dinner, you can take what you need out of the freezer.
Make a shopping list. With your gathered recipes in hand, make a shopping list of the items you need. You can either go through your pantry as you make your list or you can write everything down and then cross off what you already have. I like to do the latter because it makes me feel like Iíve accomplished something before Iíve even started.
Plan your shopping strategy. I donít have long enough blocks of time to shop and cook on the same day, so I shop the day before I cook. I have friends who donít like to spread the work out over more than one day. Try to combine Shabbat shopping with your weekly shopping. With your list of needed items in hand, you are less likely to buy impulsively. Itís much easier to know what you are making before you go shopping then to try and decide once you are at the store.
Create a cooking routine. Budget your time for cooking and manage it as you would manage anything else. If youíre going to prepare more than one dish at a time, make sure you will be able to multi-task. Set timers. Make lists with cooking times. Nothing is more frustrating than ruining a dish because you are doing too many things at once. Save the easiest things for last. That way, when you are tired and bored with cooking, the simplest tasks will be all that remains.
Relax. One reason I like to complete my cooking on Thursday is so I can relax on Friday. I donít have the pressure of having to be ready by a certain time. On Friday, I can leisurely set my table, get my children ready and warm up my dishes in plenty of time before Shabbat begins.
Creating a meal for Shabbat can feel like it takes all week long. By adapting some of the above suggestions into your routine, you can conquer Shabbat meal preparation with little hassle.