Today is a little bit of a teaser. Sorry. Just as I did for Thanksgiving, today I'm sharing a Holiday Dinner Cooking Schedule for my favorite special occasion menu. This menu was my go-to for my catering days - all of my clients' favorites.
The Beef Tenderloin is unbelievable... and so easy. It is a little bit of an investment, but if you go easy on the rest of the meal you can pull it off.
During the month of December, I would have made this 10 times for various holiday parties! I used a worksheet just like this to keep myself organized and to keep everything running on time... and ready at the same time. Timing is key for entertaining and doing a little countdown like this helps you be able to put your brain on auto pilot when your guests are there.
You can find all of the worksheets for downloading (including cooking schedule, bar set up and blank) here in PDF, Numbers or Excel.
I'll be sharing all of the recipes the rest of the week. One of the recipes that I've already shared is the Chocolate Molten Cakes. Not only was this my most popular dessert for my business, it has become my most popular post, as well. They are great for a crowd because they're made in a cupcake pan.
I'll post all of the other recipes and updating this post with links Thursday - Friday! Have a great Wednesday!
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
There’s so much about the holiday season that is exciting, but if you’re hosting guests for the holidays, it can be stressful and overwhelming…even for the most seasoned hosts!
Right now, we only have one full bath, a very small kitchen, and the only room for toys is right in the middle of the living room. I don't let our small home keep us from entertaining - we just have to be creative about it.
For that reason, Hampton Hotels and I have partnered to celebrate little holiday moment makers by providing “Hamptonality” to travelers this holiday season. Whether staying at the local Hampton or with family and friends, Hampton is here to help hosts create those lasting moments that everyone looks forward to around the holidays – reuniting with family, reminiscing about the past, and partaking in general holiday merriment!
Here are just a few holiday hosting tips for this holiday season, which will help hosts create lasting memories for their guests and celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.
Tip 1: Be the best OFF-SITE host ever…
Let’s be honest. You love your friends and family, but cramming everyone into your house for days at a time can be stressful and add to your already lengthy holiday host to-do list! If you simply don’t have enough room to host all of your holiday guests or you just think everyone would be happier with their own, comfortable space, consider booking them at your local Hampton. With more than 1,900 locations, Hampton Hotels is the perfect place to stay no matter where your guests may be traveling from.
Tip 2: Surprise your guests with welcome treats
I always like to make sure my guests know how excited we are to have them for a visit by surprising them with a little treat when they arrive. One of my favorite ways to greet them is with something personalized with their name on it, like a decorated sugar cookie or a festive welcome sign. I love staying at Hampton Hotels because they take a similar approach. They often add a personal touch for a guest’s stay by offering a favorite local snack or fun local item when guests check in.
Creamy Caramelized Onion Dip
Tip 3: Be prepared with lots of snacks
We all get a little grouchy when we're hungry - adults and kids alike! Anticipate those moments by having snacks planned for afternoons and before dinner to keep everyone happy. Be sure to include fresh options like fruit and crunchy veggies, along with dips, filling cheeses and more decadent treats so you have something for everyone!
Tip 4: Post the plan
I post a schedule for everyone to see so they'll know what to expect during their stay. Don't overbook your guests, schedule plenty of free time for them to do their own exploring or relaxing. Channel your local Hampton front desk concierges and be your guest’s hometown concierge by providing them with a list of activities to do in the area.
Tip 5: Make time for exercise and fresh air
We all feel better with some fresh air in our lungs. I'd be lost without my daily walk with Mr. Darcy to clear my head and invigorate my spirit. Invite your guests on a walk with hot coffee (or hot cocoa!) and everyone will feel refreshed! Suggest an evening stroll through your local neighborhood to check out the holiday decorations. Guests at Hampton can also get energized and make time for a workout as most locations boast fitness centers and swimming pools.
Tip 6: Make time for resting
The holidays can be very exhausting - especially for your guests who have traveled near and far. Make sure to schedule down time for resting in the afternoons or early evenings. An afternoon nap can feel like an indulgent treat for exhausted guests.
Tip 7: Plan a daily ritual
I like our guests to feel like they’re on vacation, so after our big breakfast, I let them explore during the day, then invite everyone to meet up for an “at home happy hour.” I play holiday music, have a game for the kids, and the adults can enjoy some nice wine and cheese while everyone swaps stories from the day.
Tip 8: Plan one special night for the adults
The holidays are really all about the kids, but it can be really nice for the adults to get some time for themselves, too. Hire a babysitter for the night for the children (or let the grandparents take over), so the parents can enjoy a special night out on the town. Everyone (even the kids!) will appreciate a night of freedom.
Tip 9: Big breakfasts
Serving a big breakfast in the morning seems to make everyone happy! When we host guests, I prepare big bowls of fresh fruit for nibbling on in the morning, and then make some fresh waffles because really, who doesn’t love waffles?!? Hampton offers a free, hot breakfast every morning with fresh-baked waffles – the perfect thing to get your day started!
Tip 10: Stock up on extras
Don’t forget to stock up on extra necessities like shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, contact solution, and other toiletries that guests tend to forget! Take a cue from your local Hampton and anticipate everything that your guests may need and put a basket chock full of products right in their bathroom or bedroom.
Tip 11: Make your home "help yourself" friendly
Guests oftentimes feel like they are “in the way,” so make sure that your home is “guest-friendly” before they arrive. Set up a refreshment center that is available to them daily – coffee in the mornings, bottles of water to take for the day, portable snacks to have at home or on the road, etc. Make a list of local area “hot spots” with their phone numbers and websites that they can easily reference and tack it on the refrigerator. Make a few sets of spare keys, so that people can easily come and go as they please. Basically, be their “at home” concierge.
Tip 12: Plan fun games
The best memories over the holidays are when everyone is relaxing, laughing and having a great time. You can help orchestrate these moments by planning fun games in which everyone can participate. You can host an Ugly Sweater Contest, A Christmas Carol Sing-Off, or Gingerbread House Competition during one of your “at home happy hours.”
This is my family 20 years ago. I have always been an angel...
Tip 13: Celebrate past holidays
Another sure way to have everyone in stitches is to get out old home videos and pictures. Everyone will love reminiscing about past holidays... the bad clothes and questionable hair styles always make for great holiday conversation and laughs. Perhaps dig up some old holiday photos of your guests and use that as their “personal touch” when they arrive at your home for their stay.
Tip 14: Ask your guests to help
Make your guests feel useful by asking them to help with tasks you know they’ll enjoy. Give your mother-in-law the ultimate compliment by asking her to help you make her famous chocolate pie for dessert. If you're hosting young nieces, ask them to help make the table decorations because they're such great crafters. It’s a great compliment to your guests to make them feel like they are PART of the activities, rather than just spectating.
This Braised Beef & Italian Vegetable Stew is one of my favorite freezer-friendly meals.
Do as much preparation in advance as you can. Plan menus around recipes that can be made ahead of time - freezer-friendly, one-dish meals like lasagna, or a hearty-braised beef stew are great options when serving a crowd. Run a supermarket sweep a few days before for toiletries. Do your own laundry before guests arrive, so that the washer and dryer can be available for them, if necessary. The ultimate holiday hosts know that being prepared is the absolute best way to make your guests feel welcome in your home because you can actually enjoy them while they are there!
*This post was sponsored by Hampton Hotels.*
Hampton on Facebook
Hampton on Twitter
Hampton on Instagram
Tomorrow I'll be back with my ultimate Holiday Dinner Menu (Beef Tenderloin, Brussels, Molten Cakes...). I'm including a cooking schedule just like I did for Thanksgiving so you'll know how to time everything perfectly. Emma and I have been busy getting ready for her 2nd birthday this weekend - I'll also be sharing our menu (and schedule) for our casual family party with a great make-ahead menu (Italian-style!).
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Tessa's blog, and my favorite local bakery. So, I thought they would add a nice effect to the snowflakes this year - less glittery, more earthy. I love how they turned out.
For years, I've done different versions of Snowflake Sugar Cookies on my blog - two years ago I did a pale blue snowflake with white piped lines. Every time I post them, I am asked where I got the cutter. I had ordered mine - a copper cutter - 15 years ago from Martha Stewart (martha by mail?!).
So, when I was stocking my store for the holidays, I knew that I needed to find the perfect snowflake cutter to have available. What I like about this one that is different than others (besides that it is handmade in the USA...) is that it makes a sturdy snowflake. The points on others I've used in the past are too long, making them fragile and prone to breaking. Anyone who has ever made sugar cookies knows there is too much time spent to have them break.
The Copper Snowflake Cookie Cutter is available on my store for $14. You can also buy the entire set of 4 (Reindeer, Snowflake, Mitten & Stocking) for $48.
This is by far the easiest sugar cookie to decorate. Start by filling the base of the cookie with white (or light blue as I did two years ago). Let the icing set for about 20 minutes.
Make three lines that cross in the middle. Then add little accent lines off of the sides.
Right after you pipe the lines, cover the cookie with sprinkles.
Shake it off.
Beautiful! I really love these. I think they are quite impressive - but no real talent required. My favorite kind of decorating.
"Let It Snow" Small Tags in my Kraft Cookie Boxes.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
The girls from 11 Magnolia Lane are hosting a Holiday Open House and have invited me to kick-off their series.
I've included a couple of photos below, but you can see the rest on their blog!
Stop by to see the rest of my home today, and follow the rest of the series through December 13th. Enjoy!
I've told the story before - before Mike and I were even dating, I served warm "homemade" bread at a dinner party at my house, and he raved about it for weeks. Did that lead to him finally asking me out? I guess we'll never know... The Barefoot Contessa has her "Engagement Roasted Chicken" and I have my "homemade" bread.
My secret weapon to "homemade" bread is Rhodes frozen bread dough. (This is not paid, by the way.) It is found in almost every grocery store in the freezer department. Over the years I have transformed the simple dough into Cinnamon Rolls, Monkey Bread, Pecan Rolls, Pizza Bread, etc.
When I saw these Wooden Bread Baking Baskets I knew they would be just the thing to take my "homemade" bread to the next level. I've seen them many times in Martha Stewart used to package gifts and treats, too. I love the rustic element that compliments to the already rustic bread.
This Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Bread is soooo good. I may have eaten half of it warm out of the oven. I'll be giving it to all of our neighbors, teachers and friends this year as gifts. During the holidays it is always nice to have something around the house like this for breakfast, or an afternoon snack with coffee for those last minute pop-ins of friends.
Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Bread
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 loaf of frozen bread dough (Rhodes brand)
3 tablespoons of butter, softened
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
Egg Wash :
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons of butter melted
1 cup of powdered sugar
milk, to thin, if necessary
Let the dough thaw overnight in the refrigerator. You can also use your defrost setting the in microwave if you're in a pinch. Each log of dough will make one loaf. I put a little oil in the bowl, then put in the dough. I flip the dough around a couple of times to coat it with the oil, so as it rises it doesn't stick to the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
I set my oven at 120 degrees, put in a pan of warm water, and let it rise in the oven.
I decided to throw another log of dough in after I took the first photos. This is what they looked like after rising for an hour and a half.
I separated the two, then rolled each out on a floured surface. I had the wooden baking basket out to make sure I was rolling it out to the correct size.
Top with brown sugar and cinnamon. You could also add raisins and nuts.
Roll it up.
And place it, seam down, into the basket. They come with paper liners, but you don't have to use them. The flour on the dough will help them release from the pan naturally... just like authentic bread baking baskets.
I brushed the loaf with a little oil, then let them rise for another hour and a half. Before they go into the oven, brush with an egg wash.
They bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes - or until golden.
Another way to check to see if it is done is to "thump" the bread. If it sounds hollow it is done!
I drizzled it with a simple mixture of melted butter, powdered sugar and milk to make a quick glaze. I let it harden, then packed them up.
Products Used :
Large Wooden Baking Basket
5/8" Grosgrain Ribbon - East Hampton Hedge
Large Cello Bag
Frasier Fir Large Tag
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I've waited as long as I can - it is finally time to share the rest of my holiday products! You can see all of the products, here, and read about some of my favorites below.
The cutters make fabulous gifts, too. I've packaged each cutter with a recipe card of my favorite Sugar Cookies and wrapped them in a cello bag with a bow and a tag - ready for gifting.
Copper Cookie Cutters
$14 each or $48 for all 4
This year I'm hosting friends for a cookie decorating brunch and plan to give them these copper cutters as gifts to they can start to grow their collection, too.
The Copper Cutters are handmade. As they have to be ordered months in advance, I only have a limited number available.
I have also stocked a new set of Kraft Cookie Boxes in two sizes - Medium (7x7) & Large (10x10). They are nice and sturdy boxes perfect for homemade treats.
This is the Medium Cookie Box filled with Natural Krinkle filler. I decided to add this color (in addition to the Kraft Kinkle) for the holidays because I thought it would make the brown Reindeer standout against the Kraft box.
This is the Large Cookie Box which is a nice size for multiple cookies - it would easily hold 3-4 cookies.
I've designed three different versions of Printed Holiday Tags & Cards, each in three sizes.
This snowflake cookie is featuring my "Let It Snow" Small Tag (20 for $8).
This is the "Fir Tree" Collection of Printed Tags & Cards in the Large Tag size (10 for $8). Classic and traditional, this Fir Tree printed in "Frasier Fir" green, will compliment any holiday theme.
The tags are perfect for attaching to homemade goodies, packages and gifts - I love how this size looks hanging from the Monkey Bread gift.
You can bake right in these wooden baskets that come with paper liners - just place them on a baking sheet in the oven.
"These tapers are handcrafted using the purest bayberry wax. Bayberry wax is the rarest and most prized of all candle waxes, and has a warm, earthy, spicy aroma. According to tradition, to bring good luck, you must burn a Bayberry Candle on Christmas Day. If the flame burns bright and the light shines clear, then heaven will bless you throughout the year."
Genuine Bayberry candles are made from the wax of the berries of the Bayberry shrub that are found in the New England area. Bayberry candles were among the most prized candles in colonial America because of their clear, more consistent light and pleasant scent. One of the first written accounts of bayberry candles was in 1698 and exclaimed that instead of "stinking" they really do "perfume like incense."
This pair of lightly-scented Bayberry Tapers is perfect for gift-giving or decorating. They are available only during the holiday season.
As you can see, the copper cutters are even making their way into my decorating this season. Emma and I will be transforming the house for Christmas tomorrow! I'll be sharing photos next week, along with my all time favorite (and most popular) Holiday Dinner Party menu.
I hope you all have wonderful Thanksgiving!