Good Things in Small Packages – How to Downsize Your Traditional Holiday Dinner

Good Things in Small Packages - How to Downsize Your Traditional Holiday Dinner

Many of us realize that our holiday festive meals might not be the same this year. Unless you live with other people or have a large enough “bubble” to feel comfortable gathered around a table with the familiar faces and foods of holidays past, you might feel stymied at what you will be making and eating this season.

Don’t despair, there are ample ways to cook for yourself and one or two others without giving up the sense of the traditional. As always, use the Internet to find variations on the foods that make holiday meals special for you.

Remember Cornish game hens? They were popular in the ’50s and ’60s and seem to be making a comeback, although they never really left. Small chickens, less than 2 lbs. each, can serve one or two people. They are easy to prepare, don’t require a course in carving and give everybody white and dark meat. (Below I offer a unique baste for roast Rock Cornish hen.)

Every year there seem to be new varieties of squash to add color, health, and flavor to fall meals. Several have edible skin and many can be used as a side dish, an appetizer, even incorporated into a dessert.

And no holiday meal would be complete without cranberries! As soon as I see cranberries in the stores, I know the holidays are nearing.

Think about what you have loved eating and sharing at a more “normal” holiday dinner of the past and be creative in adapting it whether it’s a special meal just for you or a few friends and family and start a new tradition.

Rock Cornish hen recipe ideas

These small chickens often show up fresh in November and are usually available frozen year-round.

Like chicken, you can roast, grill, broil, poach, smoke, and fry them. And you can impart flavor through a variety of spices and seasonings. Martha Stewart has some excellent recipes and so do most of the popular food websites including Epicurious, Food & Wine, and Allrecipes.

Here is a baste I have used for many years that will return to my table this year.

Orange-Honey Baste*


  • 1 Rock Cornish hen
  • 2-4 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 3 Tsp. honey

*Enough for one bird. Increase the recipe as necessary.


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Melt butter and add other ingredients overheat
  • Keep warm as chicken roasts
  • Baste every quarter-hour
  • Bake 1 hour and check for an internal temperature of 165 degrees and for juices run clear

Makes 1-2 servings

Delicata or Kabocha Squash with Pears*


  • 1 or 2 Delicata Squash or 1 small Kabocha cut in half rounds
  • 1 or 2 ripe pears (Anjou, Bartlett, or Red)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. maple syrup or pomegranate molasses
  • 2 Tsp. cinnamon or pumpkin spice mix


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cut squash in half vertically
  • Scoop out seeds
  • Depending on the size of squash leave halved or cut into half rounds
  • Peel and halve pears and cut into long slices
  • Arrange pears either in squash halves or draped over rounds
  • Drizzle butter and syrup mixture over everything (you can also toss pieces in a bowl with baste)
  • Bake in for 45 minutes, turning over if in rounds
  • Squash should be easily pierced with a fork or knife
  • Serve warm

Makes 1-2 servings

*Both Delicata and Kabocha can be cut and roasted (smaller squash is easier to cut and are more tender.)

Versatile Cranberries
As always, the Internet is a treasure trove for cranberry recipes and snacking ideas. You will be surprised by the many ways they can be used.

  • Add fresh cranberries to dressings and baked goods for a tart surprise and added texture.
  • Cranberries cook easily for sauces and chop well for salsas.
  • Dried cranberries are great in salads, baked goods, or mixed with nuts, chocolate bits, or on a cheese plate.

Before Rebecca Crichton worked for Boeing, taught leadership development, or became executive director of the Northwest Center for Creative Aging, she was a caterer, recipe developer, and food journalist. She has taught cooking to seniors and others, and she can reel off food ideas and recipes for any part of a meal or event. She believes in easily prepared, healthy, and taste-filled food that delights and satisfies.


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  1. Pingback: Healthy Holiday Eating Tips For Seniors – Sweet Saw

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