When I got married, back in 1996, I’d never cooked a Turkey – let alone an entire Christmas meal before. How do you cook a Turkey? What side dishes do you make to go with it? How much should I make? Those questions circled inside my head for weeks. Each new day – the anxiety built. Now I know why my older sister called 411 (decades before it was automated or the internet existed) to ask the attendant to help give her instructions on how to cook that big ole bird!
The task seemed rather daunting but I was up for the challenge to impress my new husband as well as my mother-in-law.
So what do you do when the tree is all trimmed, the presents are wrapped, and now you have a crowd coming over for the holiday feast? If you are short of Christmas ideas, let me help you plan the whole menu, from drinks and appetizers to sides and the beast, to the sweet finale which will leave everyone wanting more. Or at least, taking an infamous Turkey-Coma nap on your sofa!
For all you first-timers out there, it can be done and be done well. And don’t worry about fussing over the decor, keep the lighting low with plenty of non-smelly candles around and voila… instant ambiance. 🙂
Here is a check list for you to follow:
Keep the guest list to a manageable number:
Just because every Christmas movie out there has a dozen or more people sitting down to an elaborately decorated table with sparkling silverware and a roasted pig, doesn’t mean you have to. Once you know who’s coming for dinner, plan your meal. It’s good hosting to ask if anyone has allergies, food intolerances or even food preferences, there’s nothing worse than serving roast to a vegan.
Keep the meal simple (and familiar):
A salad, a main with potatoes, and two difference coloured vegetable dishes, plus a dessert.
If you want to start with an appetizer, on a cold night I’d recommend a Hot Cheesy Bacon Dip gooey goodness or go simple and serve chips and Festive Favourite Layered Dip.
Rather than go with the usual green side salad, try a Pomegranate-Quinoa Spinach Salad, it’s not as hard as it sounds.
For the main dish, a lot of people opt for a pork roast or prime rib but my husband prefers Roast Turkey with Sausage Stuffing. I’ve always believed you should have a plate full of colour. Try a Fresh Green Bean Casserole for the greens and Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Carrots for the orange.
Make your dessert(s) in advance, like Rocky Road Chocolate Peppermint Bark or Pumpkin-Praline Layer Cake! Finish the evening up with a Mulled Cherry Warmer or Frosty Chocolate Chip Mochaccino.
In fact, do as much prep as you can in advance so you have less to stress over on the big day. Avoid dishes that require you to constantly be over the stove, stirring and flipping, or adding new ingredients.
Simple is sometimes best.
Take inventory of your cookware and serving dishes:
A week before, go through your cupboards and if you don’t have enough for every dish you’re serving, consider purchasing inexpensive pieces from a discount or thrift store. If you don’t have a roasting pan big enough for your turkey, the grocery store sells disposable aluminum pans.
Create a playlist:
Music can make all the difference with the mood of the evening. For me, I’d mix in the holiday albums of Pentatonix and Michael Bublé with classic crooners like Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and the Rolling Stones.
Laugh it off:
Last but not least, don’t take yourself (or your dinner party) too seriously. Nobody will care if the casserole is ever-so-slightly uneven or the drinks don’t come in hip Mason jars — hey, they’re getting free food, great conversation, and tasty drinks. No need to work yourself up over mistakes people probably won’t even notice and who cares if they do. 🙂
Pat yourself on the back, you’ve just thrown your first kick-ass holiday feast!
I am extremely grateful to Kraft Canada for including me in their What’s Cooking Ambassadorship. It’s been my privilege to have been able bring you great recipes and cooking hacks of the last 24 months. Kraft has been a part of my kitchen for decades, I’m over the moon that I get to share these recipes with you.