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Savoring the moment helps reduce holiday stress

By: Marci Seither, Colfax Record Correspondent
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With holidays just around the corner people are pulling out favorite family recipes or combing magazines for new culinary treasures. But, local caterer Barbara Winnie believes creating the perfect holiday meal is more than just combining the right ingredients. It’s about learning to savor the moment. “Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday,” said Winnie, who lives in Alpine Meadows with her husband, Darrin and their two sons. Not only does she spend a lot of time making every dish special, but Winnie also invites her 5-year-old twins, Aaron and Jacob, to join her in the kitchen. “They can help peel carrots and clean celery,” stated the busy mom. “Last year we did something really fun. Aaron and Jacob made the butter for the bread by shaking cream in a jar. It was so easy!” “It took forever!” giggled Aaron. “Yeah,” added Jacob. “I love doing the big meal. The fact is,” said Winnie. “I have always loved food!” Winnie credits her time in the Army as being a springboard of learning about new foods and cultures, including picking fresh ingredients for the meals she prepares for her family and clients. __________ Tips on creating a stress-free holiday dinner • Develop your theme and menu ahead of time. We have done several themes besides the traditional turkey dinner, such as South of the Border, and Authentic Italian meals. This year we are doing a seafood theme and are hosting a fishing derby the day after Thanksgiving. Instead of turkey, we will be fixing fresh rockfish, salmon and my famous crab cakes. • Have a blind wine tasting. Have everyone on your guest list bring a favorite bottle of wine wrapped in foil. Taste and vote for your favorite. This saves the hostess the expense of providing all the wine and helps add variety to the meal. • Divide your meal among the guests. Have everyone bring one element of the meal, including appetizers and desserts. • Give the kids something to do! Have them help in the kitchen or set up a craft area where they can create custom placemats. • Making dinner doesn’t have to take all day. Cut up the turkey for faster roasting time. If you need to keep things simple, purchase the pies and rolls the day before. • Stock up on favorite music to make clean-up extra fun. • Hold a cook-off! The Friday after Thanksgiving usually involves family and friends, so we have a big soup cook-off. This way we don’t have to fix another big meal and it’s a fun way to use some of the leftovers. __________ Barbara’s Upscale Crab Cakes 1 pound crabmeat 1/3 cup Ritz crackers ½ cup mayo ½ squeezed lemon 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce 1 tablespoon salt 1 tablespoon dry mustard Dash of cayenne pepper 1/3 teaspoon garlic salt Flour for dredging Heat two tablespoons peanut oil in skillet. Form eight medium patties or 16 slider-size patties. Pan sear for 4 minutes on each side. Chipotle Aoili 1 cup mayonnaise 1 chopped chipotle pepper 1 tablespoon capers, chopped ½ squeezed lime 3 tablespoons chopped gherkin pickles Mix well and serve along with crab cakes. Not everyone loves to spend hours in the kitchen. In fact, the thought of tackling the large “Norman Rockwell” meal can be overwhelming. “Thanksgiving is more than just about the food,” Winnie added. “It is something we can look forward to. The kids can spend time with cousins and play football in the yard with dad.” But being thankful, just like creative meal planning, is not something that happens by itself. Sometimes being thankful is a decision. “On Nov. 1, I make a list of things I am thankful for and tape it to my bathroom mirror where I can see it first thing in the morning,” said Winnie who moved to the foothills two years ago after she and her husband, Darrin, lost their home in the Bay Area. “Basically we had to start over,” said Winnie. “It hasn’t been easy, but we have found that our lives are now rich in ways that they weren’t before. I am learning the art of striking a healthy balance and gratitude.” And there will be plenty of gratitude at the Winnie’s Thanksgiving dinner table.