The Holidays. Enough said. Just like Charles Dickens said, “It’s the best of times and the worst of times.” It’s the most magical time of year and the most stressful. You have a lot on your plate. You have to make sure you have Thanksgiving outfits picked out (matching if you don’t have teenagers), you’re in charge of sides at your sister in laws house, packing a bag to keep the kids entertained long enough so you can at least eat half of your dinner plate, and picking out the perfect wine because you will need wine it in order to sit next to sweet great-aunt Ethel and listen to how she had to bring Uncle Al to the doctor regarding his hemorrhoids. Make sure you splurge on the better wine, it is the holidays after all. Ahhhhh the holidays. Bring on the spiked eggnog and pumpkin pie.
Whether you are hosting or trying to plan for the perfect side dishes to bring….here’s a guide to help you survive the holidays. We wish you the best of times and hope all that survival wine doesn’t bring you the worst of times.
Setting the Perfect Tablescape
- If you are hosting, you know that the whole day is planned around the big meal that will be had at the big table, and you want it to be perfect. Set your table the night before. That’s right, set your plates, napkins, silverware and serving dishes the night before. I, iron the cloth napkins the night before and fold them on the plate with the silverware underneath until it is dinnertime. You don’t want anything accidentally falling on a piece of silverware and your judgy SIL Tracy saying something about it.
- Create an easy, beautiful centerpiece. Ya know how? Spray paint. Here’s a pic of my table last year. Get a bunch gourds and pumpkins and pick your favorite color combos (I preferably like the matte finish) and paint them outside. Make sure they are dried completely before trying to pick them up and put them on your table. It will take longer to dry in the colder weather, so plan accordingly. If your kids are age appropriate have them help too! It’s a fun activity to get them involved in. Place the pumpkins and gourds on the table how you like and fill in the gaps with silver-dollar eucalyptus and candles. Make sure the eucalyptus is away from the flame of the candle. Add some extra dimension to the centerpiece by adding a pedestal to put a pumpkin on, like I did in the center.
- SHORTCUT: buy already painted pumpkins at HomeGoods or Hobby Lobby and place on the table around a pretty harvest bouquet from Costco in the center.
Crowd Pleasing Sides
Thanksgiving sides are classic and lets face it….delicious. Who doesn’t love some sausage stuffing and creamy mashed potatoes? We are moms and we need easy sides that are also going to be a crowd pleaser. Here are some simple and delicious sides to add the rest of the Thanksgiving Day lineup.
- Creamed Kale. Total time 30 min. Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens. Nov ’18 Issue.
- 2 cups Heavy Cream
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 lb. fresh Tuscan (laminate) or curly kale, stemmed and thinly sliced (about 16 cups)
-In a 4 to 6 qt. pot bring cream to a boil. Cook, uncovered, over medium to high 8 minutes or until cream starts to thicken and is reduced to 1 1/2 cups. Add 1/2 cups onion, the garlic, crushed red pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce to medium. Simmer 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened stirring occasionally.
-Meanwhile, in an extra-large skillet heat oil over medium high. Add remaining 1/2 cup onion and a 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Reduce to medium. Add a handful at a time, stirring until wilted after each addition. Cook, covered, 10 minutes or until kale is tender, stirring occasionally. Working in batches, use tongs to squeeze excess liquid from kale; transfer mixture to cream mixture. Stir to combine. Makes 10-12 servings.
2. Dynamite Salad. Costco has a great organic salad called the Mediterranean Crunch. It’s awesome and already done for you; no washing, cutting, nothing. Throw it in a bowl, add some pomegranates and roasted pine nuts for some extra flare and call it a day. The salad comes with a bag full of goodies to go on top, including cheese, pita crips in place of croutons and a balsamic dressing.
3. SHORTCUT. Buy some butternut squash soup at Dearborn. Put in a crockpot and keep warm for when your guests arrive. Don’t forget to throw away the evidence.
Sounds dramatic, but sometimes its necessary to get through the day, just to decompress and exhale. And it’s definitely required when dealing with PIA relatives. Here are some great inexpensive choices for wine:
- Feudi Montepulciano– this Italian wine is always a crowd favorite; it’s fruit driven and silky, pairs well with hearty side dishes, and drinks well on its own. Find this in most wine shops in the area for $9.99. Ask for a case discount too!
- Le Grand Pinot Noir– the perfect pairing for turkey, this French Pinot Noir is an unbelievable value for the price, around $9.99.
- Alto Livello Pinot Grigio– need something to drink throughout the night to drown out Uncle Larry’s stories about the good old days? This Pinot Grigio is crisp, clean, and delicious. Find it in local stores around $9.99!
- Rich & Creamy Chardonnay– did someone say mashed potatoes and gravy? This Chardonnay is buttery, toasty, and pairs well with wearing yoga pants to dinner. $14.99
- Senor Sangria– we love this Sangria, it really tastes like homemade, and all you have to do is pour it in a glass. They also sell larger 1.5L bottles, which is great if you’re hosting! $13.99.
- SHORTCUT– Get the alcohol delivered… yes, delivered. Here is a list of local shops that deliver those liquid treasures to your doorstep.
Easy as Pie Desserts
In a Fly Apple Pie. Recipe by Pillsbury
- 1 Box Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directions on the box.
- 6 cups thinly sliced peeled apples. ( I use a variety of apples for the different flavors)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Heat oven to 425°F. Place 1 pie crust in ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate. Press firmly against side and bottom.
In large bowl, gently mix filling ingredients; spoon into crust-lined pie plate. Top with second crust. Wrap excess top crust under bottom crust edge, pressing edges together to seal; flute. Cut slits or shapes in several places in top crust.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cover edge of crust with 2- to 3-inch wide strips of foil after first 15 to 20 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. Cool on cooling rack at least 2 hours before serving.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart, Recipe from sea salt + honey blog.
- 10.6 ounces shortbread cookies (usually sold in 5.3 ounce packages)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli, 60% cacao)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Flaky sea salt, to finish (optional)
Heat oven to 350°. Place shortbread cookies in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until ground completely. Add sugar and salt, pulse to combine. Drizzle melted butter over the top and pulse until the dough comes together in clumps. Gently press the dough into a 9-inch tart pan (the kind that has a removable bottom) and place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the crust is set and starting to brown. Let the crust cool completely.
In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shell. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until the filling is set and cold.
Place a small pot of water on high heat. Once boiling, set a heat-proof bowl on top of the pot and turn off the heat. Add chocolate to the heat-proof bowl and swirl with a spatula until melted. (This method—the double boiler—is the best way to melt chocolate.) Add pinch of salt and cream, mixing until smooth. Remove from stove and allow chocolate to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Pour the chocolate over the peanut butter tart. Use a spatula to make sure the chocolate is evenly distributed, then chill for an hour.
When ready to serve, sprinkle the tart with sea salt.
3. SHORTCUT. Buy the dang pies! Delicious Orchards are known for their pies and they got you covered.
Keep Those Kids Busy
- Have them go outside and pick their favorite 10 leaves. Make sure you ask them to get all different sizes and colors. This will occupy some time. It also gets them some fresh air and exercise. Once they have their “best” leaves in tow, have a station set up with lots of newspaper laid out. Let them paint their leaves in their favorite color. Once dry, have them write their names on them so you don’t confuse them. Punch a hole on the top of the leaf an tie a loop with some string through the hole. Buy some window suction cup hooks to hang them from. They will serve as decor on your back glass door for the day and also give the kids something to admire.
- Put on one of their favorite holiday movies, make some popcorn, and get those cozy blankets out with some hot cocoa. Don’t forget the tiny marshmallows. If you feel like it, make some extra popcorn to let them make popcorn necklaces and if you have enough some Xmas garland.
- SHORTCUT. Let them play outside and shut the door…lock it. Just kidding.
Ok folks, now we leave the rest to you. We believe in you. You got this. Seriously, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving with you and yours. These are the days, enjoy these precious moments with your family.
Love and Peace, The Monmouth Moms: Kate and Christa