Category Archives: Holiday

Make Ahead Christmas Menu

christmas tree

For me, Christmas is about creating traditions that the whole family looks forward to and enjoys.  You know you have done a good job when your children get older and know exactly what we are going to eat, what movies we are going to watch, exactly what we are going to do, because that is our family tradition.  Kaileen is on her own now in her own apartment, but she has been talking about Christmas Eve (watching Christmas Vacation and eating appetizers and snacks all night in the great room) and Christmas Day (starting with Cinnamon rolls and a breakfast bake casserole, then onto the main event) since August :).

buddy

I have made this same menu with a tweak here and there for about 10 years.  For a long time, I made a standing rib roast which is delicious and amazing, but last year I switched to a Beef Tenderloin (I am doing that again this year).  The sauce stays the same, but the cut of beef may change.  What I love about this menu is that it is very special occasion but it can ALL be made ahead.  So, on Christmas Day I can enjoy my family, relax, even have time to go for a run because the food is all ready to go!  Score!

santa

To start, I make a roast beef.  The cut is up to you.  Just make sure you dry age it in your refrigerator for one or two days before and bring it to room temperature before you roast it.  If you do these two things, you will have an amazing Roast.  Now, you can serve the roast however you want, but I have to have the Roast Beef with Red Wine Reduction Sauce.

055

For the best potato side ever, I make Twice Baked potatoes.  I like these for a few reasons:  (1) They have bacon, carmelized onions and cheese.  Do I have to say more?  (2) They can be made ahead and (3) you really can’t over cook them.  One thing I have learned over the years is that no matter when you think your Roast will be done, you are wrong.  There always seems to be a bit of a window.  This way you put the potatoes in the oven with the foil on and they can just stay warm for a long time, so you will have your side ready when your roast decides it is ready.

Twice Baked Potato

For the Veg, I make Spinach Bacon Salad.  The fresh taste of the spinach salad goes well with the rich Beef and potatoes and you can make it all ahead of time!

spinach salad egg

For Dessert, Chocolate Pots De Creme.  I will usually also put out a tray of cookies and sweets that I have made.  The Chocolate Pots De Creme are definitely Christmas worthy, easy to make and can be made ahead of time.  Starting to see the theme here?

Chocolate pot de creme

stockings

Thanksgiving Menu and Entertaining Tips

Well, Thanksgiving is almost here and I am here to help with my favorite recipes and entertaining tips.

Starting with the Table Settings.

030

Menu starts with Bloody Mary Martinis, Deviled Eggs (can be made ahead one day) and Shrimp Cocktail (can be made ahead one day)  Continue reading Thanksgiving Menu and Entertaining Tips

Thanksgiving Table Settings

030

I usually use a mustard colored tablecloth for Thanksgiving but thought I would try something unexpected by using dark green.  I love the way the oranges really pop against the green tablecloth.  This was very inexpensive too.  Bought the gourds for $7 at Sunnycrest farm, picked the pine cones & bittersweet in the woods.  :)  Continue reading Thanksgiving Table Settings

Surviving Hosting Thanksgiving Tips

042

Step 1:  Get lots of wine, Step 2:  Drink wine……………Kidding!

You can survive hosting Thanksgiving and enjoy yourself AND not be stressed.  How can you do that?  My tips on planning and organization is what you need!

Tip 1:  Start your plan early.  2-3 weeks before start thinking about the menu.  Now, before you come up with the menu you need to think about your oven.  Can you fit anything other than the turkey in your oven at the same time?  If not, anything else that needs to cook will have to be done in 30-45 minutes (while the turkey is resting).

Tip 2:  Focus on the turkey, stuffing & gravy. The most essential thing to a great Thanksgiving dinner is a well cooked turkey, great stuffing and good gravy.  No one really cares about anything else, so start your focus on that.  I make a lot of soup with the leftovers and a few years ago, I started buying a smaller turkey or turkey parts that I will cook on Tuesday or Wednesday.  I then make the gravy that day and have my extra turkey meat that I will need for my soups.  Making the gravy before the actual day is a great stress reliever and you can’t have too much turkey leftovers.

Tip 3:  Take others up on their request to bring something.  I am assuming you have invited your close friends & family over and they want to help (if they don’t maybe they should not be invited next year!  LOL).  Assign items that you either don’t feel like dealing with or are not your strong suit.  I for one, am happy to assign the pies to anyone willing!

Tip 4:  If it can be done before Thanksgiving…….do it!  Every possible task that can be done ahead of time, should be.  Polish your silver 2 weeks out, set your table Tuesday, put out all the serving bowls/pans, and utensils ahead of time.  I know this sounds type A, but I have all the platters on the buffet with a sticky that says the item with the serving spoon next to it.  Then, when it is time to go, you are ready and not scrambling around.  Scrambling=Bitchy Host/Hostess, no good!

Tip 5:  Do a Buffet, don’t do Family Style!  I finally convinced my Mom to do this a few years ago and she is sold now!  There are a lot of benefits to a buffet.  First, it is much faster, so everyone’s food will stay hot.  Second, there will be less platters to wash (yippee!!!).  If I am only using my dining room, I will move the kichten chairs to another room and set up the kitchen table as the buffet.  If I am using both the dining room and kitchen tables for dinner, I will set up a portable buffet table (you can get them at BJ’s or Costco for less than $100).  Refer to tip above and put your platters and serving utensils on it ahead of time!

Tip 6:  Have a master timer sheet.  I use an excel spreadsheet (I know, type A) that lists each item, what temp it has to be cooked at and what time it needs to be cooked.  There is nothing worse than cold food because you didn’t get the timing right.  Put this list together on Monday or Tuesday when you are relaxed and can really think it through.

Tip 7:  Have some munchies out when people arive.  Light some candles.  Have some tunes going, or the football game on.  Make some bloody mary’s or Mimosas.  First impressions last with your guests, if they arrive to a festive atmosphere, they will have a good time right away.

Tip 8:  The Turkey ALWAYS takes longer to cook than you think.  Put it in on the earlier side.  I have had days when people are literally hovering over the stove………not good!

Tip 9:  Start Thanksgiving doing a Turkey trot.  Even if you don’t run, there are a lot of walkers.  It is by far and away the best way to start the day.  I have a group of friends that  all do it and after we hit the local pub for a quick bloody.  Yes, I am enjoying a Bloody Mary at 10:00 AM (don’t judge me!) when I have 10 people coming over at 1:00 PM.  I can do this because I did everything ahead of time!