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How to quit cooking holiday meals

5 ways to start new traditions and ditch the old routine, cold turkey.
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This story is part of GoMN's 2017-18 Winter Guide.

An idyllic, home-cooked meal might be an unrealistic holiday fantasy this year. When the oven is busted, the pantry is picked clean, or the wallet is depleted, a fat-breasted turkey or clove-studded ham isn’t always practical or necessary for a happy feast.

In fact, sometimes outsourcing the work is just the thing to ensure a stress-free and jovial time for all. Here are a few places to find unconventional, yet memorable holiday meals.

Chinese Restaurants

Non-Christian families have always kept Chinese eateries in their back pocket to keep the whole family fed on December 25. The tables are large, the food is abundant and inexpensive, and often served family style. You’ll feel like you’re in on a best-kept secret that’s so good, you’ll wish you had done things this way all along. Golden Chow Mein in St. Paul is great.

Hotel Restaurants

Hotels need to be at the ready 365 days a year, which means that you don’t have to book a room to get in on the action. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, in-between, and late night, most hotels are at the ready, and some have added grand feasts to their typical fare. Check websites for details, but a few to recommend include Lela in Bloomington, Mercy in downtown Minneapolis, and Tulibee at the Hewing Hotel in the North Loop.

Pizza

Think takeout pizza can’t possibly feel special? Try it on a holiday when the snow is high, the wind chills are stupid, and everybody else is having dry turkey that no amount of gravy can save. Pizza right out of the box – with good wine, of course – feels like a score. Plus, the only cleanup is stashing the cardboard in the recycling. Many Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Papa John’s locations stay open on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

Grocery Stores

Grab-and-go holiday meals at grocery stores have gotten spectacular. Just bury the cartons in the recycling and serve it on the family china, and no one will even be the wiser. The basics meats, potatoes, veggies, gravy are usually available, but some spots offer free-range turkey and vegan mushroom gravy (The Wedge), cranberry orange relish and chocolate ganache cake (Kowalski’s). You can easily feed large groups, and prices tend to be as affordable – if not moreso – than preparing a big meal from scratch.

Convenience Stores

Major stores are often shuttered or have limited hours on the holidays, but convenience stores can bail you out, if you’re creative. (And you know we love them. See also: The best Twin Cities convenience stores for late-night snacking.) Now, you may not be able to host an entire holiday table with scores from the neighborhood SuperAmerica, but you can certainly get your chips, dips, cheese, crackers, pickles, olives, and even green bean or mac and cheese casserole needs met. Turn on an episode of Chopped, take notes, and no one is likely to be the wiser when you arrive on the doorstep with a vat of hotdish topped with French’s French Fried Onions. 

This story is part of GoMN's 2017-18 Winter Guide.

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