For retired basketball star, Lisa Leslie, the holidays are all about family. The wife and mother of two recently partnered with Boston Market to help families, especially moms, spend less time in the kitchen and more with loved ones.
“My secret is to let the holiday experts at Boston Market take on the time-consuming task of side preparation. I've been a fan of their food for years, so I just pick up my favorite side items – like green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes—and then personalize them with a few simple ingredients when I get home.”
The California native retired from the WMBA in 2009 which freed up more time for one of her favorite pastimes, cooking. “I love to cook casseroles and one of my specialties I think is gumbo. If I had to be in a competition, I would definitely bring my gumbo. I just love cooking and more importantly, I just love bringing my family together,” says Leslie.
As Leslie prepares to entertain family and friends this holiday season, she shared these tips to help take away the stress and keep the focus on the true reason for the season.
1. Make cooking a family affair
Invite all the cooks over to prepare their special dishes that can be prepared in advance two days before the holiday. It makes for great memories and family fun – plus you get a little bit of all of your favorite family recipes mixed into one meal!
2. Start prep early
Prepare fresh vegetables like green beans and collard greens early. Cook them halfway and then freeze them. I often prepare our stuffing early by chopping all the vegetables and storing them in Ziploc bags or airtight containers, baking the cornbread and freezing the stuffing mix. Just don't forget to defrost the night before to have amazing stuffing and vegetables for the whole family!
3. Use prepared sides to help save time and frustration
Cooking everything from scratch can really add to your to-do list. I like to buy a few prepared sides and make them my own. I love using sides from Boston Market to skip a few steps in my family recipes – for example, I'll pick up a side of Boston Market sweet potato casserole and add my own twist! I just crush the pecans, bake them and spread them on top using brown sugar to add that caramelized touch. Then pop it into the oven for about 45 minutes and it's done.
4. Let the kids help.
As a mom, it can be hard to cook that big meal with little ones that need your attention. I always give my kids fun tasks so they can contribute – and I can multitask. For example, the kids will set the table, help decorate the house, or even decorate cookies or cupcakes. They also like to go with dad to run last-minute errands.
5. Don't fret!
Something could go wrong – it wouldn't be the holidays without a few mishaps. Don't let that worry you! Take the time to enjoy the day with family and friends that you don't see very often. If someone adds baking powder instead of salt to your favorite side dish, don't fret– you can always make a last-minute trip to Boston Market for another side.
6. Make the kitchen a welcoming place
Don't fight the tendency for people to congregate in the kitchen. Carve out a place where friends and family won't be too in-the-way, then put some snacks out so they know they're welcome. Think about small jobs you can give to guests who come in asking “what can I do?” They'll feel helpful and it will take at least a couple things off your plate.
7. The dishes can wait
As the host, when you leave the table, you're leaving your guests. All the dirty dishes will still be there later; enjoy the time you have with your family and friends.
8. Think about leftovers in advance
Think ahead about what needs to be reheated and how much oven, stove and microwave space you have. Sometimes I will make a cold side dish like potato salad to save room and time heating.