A Joint-Friendly Holiday Feast

Prepare a delicious holiday meal without causing an arthritis flare.

By Jess Thomson | Reviewed Dec. 12, 2021

From cocktail parties to gift wrapping to the litany of family events, the spirit of the season is always exciting – but also, frankly, exhausting. With chilly weather and a too-busy schedule, November and December can mean flares for many of us. It’s hard to revel in the season’s twinkle when it hurts to hold a cocktail. And when you’re also the one expected to host friends and family for a dinner party, the thought of picking up a knife with those aching joints can be downright daunting.

You’d think that, as a professional recipe developer and cookbook author, I would have figured out a way to slice and dice without aggravating the joint pain that accompanies my lupus flares. But, when I’m cooking for a crowd, I have to juggle my favorite recipes with the reality of how my body feels – which, even for me, means cooking more simply.

I’ve learned that by being smart about how and what I cook when I’m entertaining, I can be the hostess with the mostest without hurting my joints. I start by limiting the ingredients I use for each dish, so my grocery shopping experiences don’t leave me wincing before I even turn on the oven. I rely on friends for the things that take the most effort, which in my case means dessert (I always get in over my head) and wine (carrying heavy bags hurts my hands on a bad day). And I axe the knife work as much as possible, turning instead to high-quality, prechopped, prewashed ingredients. I prepare the meal over the course of a few days, which means that even on the busiest prep day, I don’t need to put in more than about 15 minutes of kitchen time.

The night of the feast, I’m always surprised by how energetic I am after having prepared a glorious meal, and by how little my guests recognize that I’ve taken shortcuts. And as the wine flows and the chatter builds, I’m pleased at just how delicious the meal is, even though I had to pick up the knife only once or twice.

Now that’s a dinner party I can celebrate.

Seven Days to the Feast

If it’s easier on your body to work on your holiday feast a little each night, use the following schedule to plan your prep. If you want to do everything the night before, count on about an hour of active cooking time, plus an hour or so of preparation on the night of the dinner.

7 days ahead: Shop for ingredients. Invite guests for 6:30 or p.m.

6 days ahead: Make Whipped Squash with Honey and Spice.

5 days ahead: Make Balsamic-Dijon Vinaigrette.

4 days ahead: Make Bleu Cheese Butter.  

3 days ahead: Make Herb and Garlic Yogurt Dip.

2 days ahead: Shop for remaining ingredients and crusty dinner rolls.

1 day ahead: Make Bacon-Balsamic Brussels Sprouts.

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