De Ma Cuisine

Holidays Archive

Tuesday

17

November 2015

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COMMENTS

Thanksgiving Sides

Written by , Posted in Dinner, Holiday, Menu Planning, Sides

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Thanksgiving is a week away. As I wrote in the post about prepping your kitchen for the holidays, now’s the time to finalize your menu. Are you going traditional? Are you mad about mashed potatoes and gravy? Serious about stuffing? Crazy for cranberry sauce? P… p… I can’t think of anything for pie… Pleased! Are you pleased about pie?!

I’ll stop now.

I love a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I want a bit of each component in every bite. But, while I’m a traditionalist with this meal, I think there’s some fun to be had with the menu… if you’re willing.

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Here are my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes, with a non-traditional option for each. And, of course, we can’t forget about the turkey (or for a non-traditional option some Herbed Roasted Chicken Thighs).

Green Bean Casserole: Green Bean Fries

Mashed Potatoes: Twice Baked Potatoes or Crispy Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes: Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potatoes

Turkey Gravy: Mushroom and Savory Gravy or Pumpkin Bechamel

Stuffing/Dressing: Bread Pudding

Rolls: Apple Rosemary Flatbread

Pumpkin Pie: Apple Bourbon Gallette 

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I’ve heard that some throw the entire traditional Thanksgiving menu out the window (gasps… heart stops) and opt for something totally different. If you want to go that route, here are a few ideas.

Taco Bar with Eggplant and Summer Squash Tacos or Vegetarian Soft Tacos (or both!) – Tacos are quick and easy to make, and with guests assembling their own, everyone gets to choose just what they want on their plate.

Beef Stew and Cheddar Biscuits – One of my favorite comfort foods. I’d say that if I had to be without a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, I’d choose this as a substitute.

Red Choi Stir Fry with Tofu and Almonds and Spring Rolls with a Spicy Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce – You could prep many of the ingredients in advance, to make this quick and easy meal lightning fast. The spring rolls could be served as an appetizer (and could be fried or served cold), or with the meal.

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Lasagne!! Two great choices are a Classic Meat and Cheese Lasagne or a Vegetarian Lasagne – I’d serve either with a big green salad (which would probably end up being a Caesar, since that’s one of my favorites).

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After it’s all said and done, you’re gonna have some leftovers… More on that (and a Potato Pancake recipe that I think I could eat every day) the day after Thanksgiving.

Happy Eating!

Thursday

5

November 2015

0

COMMENTS

How to Prep Your Kitchen for the Holidays

Written by , Posted in Holiday, How To

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It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are just around the corner. Is it just me, or does it feel like it should only be June or July? It was just January… wasn’t it? In any case, ready or not, here they come.

Whether your hosting or a guest who’s bringing a side dish, there’s plenty that can be done ahead of time to get your kitchen ready for some holiday cooking. I’m a plan ahead, list making, organization loving kinda gal. I don’t like last minute changes, or coming to a busy time of year unprepared. So I make to do lists and a menu plan way ahead of time.

With this in mind, here are some ways you can feel one step ahead as we roll into the holidays.

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Four Weeks Ahead

Menu Plan

Come up with a rough idea of what you want to serve for your holiday dinner. Jot down a few ideas for other meals around that time too, especially if you will be hosting overnight guests, or people for more than one meal. Then, take a deep breath and jump in. (P.S. You’re so brave. I admire you. Way to go!) If you need some help getting started, I’ve done a menu planning series, plus have a few posts with holiday menu ideas (including brunch).

Invite Guests

Figure out who’s coming with plenty of time to adjust the menu and seating chart accordingly. You’ll want to ask if anyone has dietary restrictions or allergies. If you come across any, and if you’re letting guests share in the cooking load, have those with the restrictions bring a dish that they can eat (and let them know if there’s anyone else coming who eats the same way). This will save you or other guests from buying expensive ingredients that you may only use once. Plus, someone who always eats a certain way is more likely to be a pro at cooking that way. Of course, it’s also nice to have other dishes that they can eat too (just one thing for dinner would be super boring).

Order Meat

One of the reasons you want to have an idea of who’s coming and what you’re making is you need to order your meat ahead of time. Turkeys tend to go quickly, so you don’t want to be serving tofurkey to your carnivores just because you didn’t get your order in on time. If you’re not ordering and are buying from a local store or market, it’s still a great idea to pick up your meat in advance (if you’ve got room in the freezer, or have a friend who could store it for you). There will be better selection than the day before the holiday, and you don’t run the risk of them running out.

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Two Weeks Ahead

Nail Down the Menu

Figure out exactly what you’re going to be serving. List all items, including those being brought by others (and double check that they’re still planning to bring them). Write it down or type it out so it’s not just found in your head. This is a great time to figure out some ideas for what to do with your leftovers too.

Grocery Shop

Everything except the perishable items. If you wait until the week of or even the day before a holiday, you might be out of luck and Auntie Gertrude won’t get her canned cranberry sauce.

Make Your To Do Lists

My brain melts without organization. So, if I was going to host a big holiday dinner, I’d need many many lists of all the to dos. I’d want a list of the food to be served (with a note about who is preparing it, what serving utensils it will require, if it will need space in the oven etc). I’d make a schedule of the week leading up to the event, and the day of. For the day of (and probably day before), I’d go hour by hour with what will be done. I’d have a list of the household chores to be done and who is responsible for each one (guest rooms to prep, bathrooms to clean etc). Since others will want to know what they can do to help (cough, clean the bathrooms, cough), it may be helpful for each person to have a “honey do list”, that they can keep with them and mark things off as they go. Whether you do each list individually, or make one master list is up to you. I’d probably end up doing both, since I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to list making. Do whatever helps you to feel the least stressed.

Stock the Kitchen

Spices – I like to have salt (table salt and a good finishing salt), pepper, cayenne, paprika, coriander, chili powder, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, and ginger (the last four are what I use for pumpkin pie – you don’t have to buy the pre-mixed bottle) on hand. They might not all be used for a holiday meal, but I use them so frequently that they’d at least get used when transforming leftovers into something delicious.

Herbs – Fresh herbs are always my preference. But, if they’re not available, dried will work well too (just remember to use less since they’re more concentrated than fresh). In either case, for the holidays, I like to have basil, rosemary, parsley, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage, and tarragon on hand. I don’t buy poultry seasoning since it can be made with herbs and spices that I have on hand (it usually consists of: thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper, and nutmeg).

The Pantry – You don’t want to run out of olive oil or balsamic vinegar in the middle of cooking for your big dinner. So make sure you have a few staples on hand. I like to have: olive oil, canola oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine or apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, baking powder, baking soda, flour, vanilla, salt, honey, maple syrup, and sugar (brown and white).

The Fridge – Eggs, cheese, dijon mustard, mayonnaise, milk, and yogurt are staples in my home no matter the time of year.

Clean the Kitchen 

Like a good deep clean… It might be a good time to do the same for the bathroom. This way you can clean the week of, but it won’t take nearly as long. I’d suggest cleaning out the fridge and freezer (and using up some of the food to make room for the turkey, made ahead meals, and leftovers), sink, shelves, stove, oven, and other small appliances that may get used (mixer, microwave, toaster oven, blender). There’s going to be a lot of traffic in your kitchen, whether it’s just your own two hands doing a lot, or many others. It’s always better to start with everything clean.

Wash and Fold Linens

This can be done the week of. But, it’s something simple to get off your to do list, and it can be done while relaxing with a glass of something yummy, while watching something fun (and yes, others can help, especially the kids!).

Count Plates, Platters, Bowls, Serving Bowls, Silverware, Serving Spoons, Glasses (water and wine) 

You want to be sure that everyone has not only a plate and cup, but a fork to eat with. Everything doesn’t have to match (unless you want it to), so if you’re not sure you’ll have enough spoons, borrow from someone who will be attending the event (then they can take them home at the end of the night, leaving you with one less thing to do), or who will be out of town (and not needing them for their own gathering). If you’re borrowing someone’s fancy dishes and you have children coming to your event, be sure to ask if they’re ok with kids using them, or if you should have special plates for the kids, rather than risk breaking them.

Prep Freezer Meals

It wouldn’t hurt to have a meal or two in the freezer for two days after your big dinner. You’ll probably have eaten leftovers the day after, but maybe you don’t want to eat the same thing three days in a row. A frozen lasagna or shepherd’s pie would be perfect, and will feed many if you still have loved ones in town.

Prep Breakfast Foods

Breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy. But, if you want to make something ahead of time, your guests are sure to feel extra loved. If you’re not crazy about making even more food, or your freezer is completely full, cereal and toast will be just fine. I mean, your guests have a comfy bed to sleep in and your wonderful company. What more could they really ask for?!

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The Week Of

Grocery Shop for Last Minute Items

Any perishable items that you’ve waited to purchase. Try to avoid shopping the day before or day of the holiday if you can. Selection will be better and your sanity will thank you.

Sharpen Knives

Either sharpen or use a honing steel to realign your blades before cooking your holiday feast. It’s important to keep knives sharp, so don’t neglect them.

Defrost Meat

Be sure to give your meat plenty of time to defrost in the fridge. No one wants to end up with a beautiful outside, but still frozen inside turkey. For large cuts of meat you will need days, so plan accordingly and make room in the fridge. I like to keep meat covered, on the bottom shelf, in some sort of a pan with sides so there’s no way that it will cross contaminate other foods in the fridge.

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Mis en Place

You have your lists made, so you know what you’re going to need and when you will need it. You could save some time and prep ingredients for the big cooking day by chopping and measuring in advance. Things like carrots and celery for stuffing, dry ingredients for biscuits or pancakes, and nuts for green bean casserole can all be prepped in advance and stored in glass or plastic containers (in the fridge or not, depending on what they are). Pie crusts can be made and frozen. Mashed potatoes can be completely cooked and then reheated the day of. There’s lots to do so that the day of isn’t stressful.

The Kids

The kids don’t have to just be cute little observers/distractions/noise makers. They can lend a hand too. Some things that kids can do to help are: tidy their rooms, help with other household chores (sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, and depending on their ages, cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen), doing dishes, setting the table, whisking, stirring, measuring, chopping (depending on your comfort level with them using a sharp knife and their knife skills), coming up with menu ideas (they might be more likely to eat it if they’ve come up with the idea), folding linens, counting silverware, and on and on… lots for the kiddos to do.

With these tips, I hope that everything goes as smoothly as possible and that you’re able to enjoy your time with loved ones – in the kitchen, around the table, and wherever your holidays may take you.

Happy Eating!

Saturday

20

December 2014

0

COMMENTS

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Written by , Posted in Holiday, Thoughts

RachFamInSnow

As we get closer and closer to Christmas, I’ve been thinking a lot about winter. I love the cold, the snow, the frosty windows. Amy Beth, from Abundant Harvest Organics asked me to write down a few things about Canadian winters for a small feature in the winter digital magazine that they’ve just released. I thought I’d share some of those thoughts here too.

Growing up in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, I experienced my share of cold winters. I didn’t think I liked the cold and the snow. I guess you always want what you don’t have. When I had fall and winter, I longed for heat. Now I have heat and I’d love to go back to having real seasons again. 😉 This will be my 14th mild winter (because I lived in Texas before California). Since this is as cold as it’s gonna get, it’s definitely my favorite season.

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During Canadian winters, I love looking out the window and seeing the world covered by a blanket of snow. I love to stand outside, when the snow is up to my knees, and there are huge snowbanks from the last time the streets were plowed. It’s quiet. Peaceful. Beautiful. The air smells cold. There are no footprints, apart from my solitary set. The snow seems to mute the sound, so all that can be heard is the wind blowing through the sleeping tree branches. The world is still, except for the huge snowflakes drifting to the earth. And then I’d fall backwards and just lay there, in the snow, silent, looking up at the flakes as they fall, blinking as they land on my eyelashes. It’s one of the more peaceful, lonely, happy, comforting memories I can conjure up. I’d lay there until I got cold. Or maybe until someone else came outside, their winter boots crunching in the fresh snow. If it’s not too cold, and the snow is wetter, someone might throw a snowball. We’d build forts and mazes, we’d walk over to the elementary school and toboggan down the hill. We’d run up the hill so we could slide back down, and end up pink cheeked and warm, with frosty noses. If it’s too cold for packing snow, we’d make snow angels, and watch our breath turn into white vapor and float away. At Christmastime the whole family tromps through the forest in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Sliding down hills, shaking the snow off sleepy pines so it lands on someone’s head. Laughing, shouting, playing.

Then we get to come inside to get warm.

Mom usually heats a pot of milk on the stove, for hot chocolate. I love sitting by the fireplace with the family, hot beverages in hand, quilts on laps, books to be read. I love being cold, so I can be cozy.

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So with that, and with visions of snowflakes and hot chocolate and laughter, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a blessed New Year. I’ll be back with new posts in 2015.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday

18

December 2014

0

COMMENTS

A Menu for Your Holiday Brunch

Written by , Posted in Breakfast, Brunch, Holiday, Menu Planning

It’s always been a tradition with my immediate family to eat brunch after we’ve opened our gifts on Christmas morning. When we were younger, the brunch took place at a much earlier hour. Now that we’re grown, it’s at a more traditional brunch time. Mainly because we’ve probably been up much too late on Christmas Eve catching up, wrapping gifts, and drinking hot chocolate.

No matter what time we brunch, for as long as I can remember, my mom has always made, what we call a Bread Wreath. It is what it sounds like. A wreath of sweet bread (think cinnamon bun-like dough), topped with frosting (icing in my family), pumpkin seeds, and cranberries. It’s delicious eaten plain or with some cream cheese that’s been mixed with a bit of jam. We also often enjoy scrambled eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, and some sort of fruit. Add some coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and orange juice, and that’s our breakfast. It’s the best. Partly because it just tastes good, mostly because of who it’s shared with.

When it’s just Tim and I for Christmas, or if we’re having our Christmas morning on a different day due to travel, we might change things up a bit. I like to leave the baking to the experts if at all possible (although I’ve successfully baked enough this past year that I think I need to stop saying that I don’t bake). So, our brunch might consist of something more along these lines.

The Main Dish

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I love to have something eggy as a main dish, so I tend to gravitate towards things like a Savory Baked French ToastSweet and Savory Cornmeal PancakesFresh Fruit and Basil Stuffed French Toast, or a Winter Frittata.

The Sides

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Any of those main dishes would go nicely with these sides. I like a Simple Orange Salad, because it’s an easy way to fancy up an orange. I love Paris Potatoes because they remind me of our time in Paris. I always want to remember those weeks, so incorporating Paris in as often as I can is a must.

The Drinks

Coffee, made in a French Press, is always my favorite breakfast drink. But, since I will have probably downed at least two cups during gift opening time, orange juice is a fun treat (especially if it’s freshly squeezed). If you wanted to make it extra extra fancy, you could add champagne or sparkling apple juice, to make mimosas. And of course there’s always tea and hot cocoa.

The Bread

If I’ve opted for something like a Frittata, and I’ve decided to bake something bready, I might like to serve Mom’s Cinnamon Buns. If it’s just the two of us, I might either share the extras with friends, or freeze them for another weekend brunch.

And now I’m hungry for all the foods.

Wishing you the best for this holiday season! And as always,

Happy Eating!

Thursday

20

November 2014

0

COMMENTS

Holiday Dinner Party Menu Ideas

Written by , Posted in Holiday, Menu Planning, Potlucks

It’s getting to be the holiday season. I love this time of year! I love family gatherings with people I don’t see often enough, dinners with friends who are so dear to us (especially being so far from both of our families), hot chocolate with marshmallows on a cold night while Home Alone plays and we decorate the tree.

I love planning the menu for a dinner party, large or small. Sometimes I like to go with traditional – like for Thanksgiving dinner, I don’t want to try something new, I just want the same thing every year. But, for the other events, anything can go.

Here are some ideas for a menu for a holiday dinner or party.

The Intimate Dinner Party

The idea is a small-ish, sit down dinner party. You can let guests bring something, if you’d like. And whatever you end up preparing, most of the ideas for this party can be prepared at least partway the day before.

You could serve a Crudité Platter, Nuts and Seeds, or a Cheese Platter for guests to snack on while you put the finishing touches on dinner.

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Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup for a light appetizer (serve it in small bowls so guests don’t fill up before the main course)

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Chicken Pot Pie made with seasonal veggies (one of my all-time favorite foods)

Warm Arugula and Orange Salad

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Baguettes served with Herb Butter (mix some seasonal herbs with unsalted butter and a pinch of salt) or Honey Butter (mix 1 t, or more, honey, with a pinch of salt, and 1/4 C unsalted butter)

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Apple Bourbon Galette

The Buffet Style Dinner Party

Let guests bring dishes to share. Or, take care of the main two or three dishes, and let guests bring the appetizers, desserts, and sides. Make sure you have warming dishes or crock pots, so hot food stays at a safe and yummy temperature. Below are some ideas for things that you might want to prepare, or suggest to guests who need help with ideas. Having a variety of foods will ensure that there’s something for everyone.

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Fresh Herb and Dried Tomato Bruschetta

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Vegan Roasted Cauliflower and Potato Soup

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Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad

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Chicken and Rice Casserole

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Fish Wellingtons (make them minis) (another one of my favorite foods)

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Roasted Chicken Thighs with Cherry Tomatoes (switch out tomatoes for veggies that are in season, like brussels sprouts, cabbage, or fennel)

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Turnip and Potato Gratin

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Vegan Fruit Crisp (use fruit that is in season, like apples, pears, or persimmons)

Trio of Soups

Soups are a wonderful, easy, comforting way to feed a crowd. Make three of your favorites and ask guests to bring the bread, wine, and dessert. Or, make your favorite and ask a few others to bring theirs. Other guests can bring bread, wine, and dessert.

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Minestrone to be served with Baguettes

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Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup to be served with Mushroom and Prosciutto Flatbreads

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Browned Butter and Four Cheese Broccoli Soup to be served with Apple Rosemary Flatbreads

The Everyone You Know Holiday Party

Make this a tapas party. Let guests bring an appetizer or dessert to share. Depending on how many of each you want to have, you could split the alphabet and have guests on one side bring the sweets, the others the appetizers.

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Grape Toasts

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Parsnip Fries with Dip

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Hawaiian Sliders

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Spicy Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes (cut them in to bite-sized pieces before roasting, follow regular instructions, just on a smaller scale)

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Chard Wraps with Quinoa and Raisins

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Lavash Chips and Guacamole

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Radish and Feta Toasts

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Crostini with Sausage and Braised Greens

However and whatever you are celebrating this holiday season, I hope it’s filled with great food, wonderful friends and family, and lots of laughter!

I’m taking some time off this coming week to be with family, but I’ll be back on December 1st, with persimmons and bacon.

Happy Eating!