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Better late than never, right?
I know this is being posted waaay too far after Christmas to be considered inspiration, but I like to record big menus for inspiration for myself later on.
We had a wonderful Christmas this year, with both kids being old enough to get excited about the decorations and holidays (even if the Little One didn’t completely realize what was going to happen) and a house filled with out-of-town family for the better portion of a week. I loved being able to create our own family traditions over the past few years, fusing traditions from mine and my husband’s families. We made the peanut butter balls that his mom made when he was growing up, a little piece of his southern tradition. We make my family Christmas cookie, a Polish cookie.
Making my family’s Polish cookies was the part that I cherished most this year – my daughter, myself, my mom and my grandmother at the counter with rolling pins and frying pans. Even Mr. Nutterbutter was at the counter with a rolling pin, pushing the larger one towards my 80+ year old grandfather so that he could roll out the dough too (at least until he started eating flour by the fistful.) I’m so thankful that my children have been able to experience some of my favorite childhood moments, now with their great grandparents.
Anyway, I hope your holidays were merry and bright, filled with happy memories and good food. And without further ado, below is the menu for our Christmas holidays.
Christmas Holidays, 2016
Friday was a little like Christmas v1.0 for us. My brother, sister-in-law and nephew were here for just a night, so it was our day to do Christmas with them.
Friday: Lunch for 11
Pierogis and Latkes
Friday: Dinner for 11
Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday this year. In my family, we follow the tradition of a meatless Christmas Eve. I’ll admit that our menu doesn’t vary much from year to year, due to picky palates and a general love for these dishes. The main course of crab cakes tends to stay the same with the sides and vegetarian option changing.
Saturday: Lunch for 11
Pierogis and Latkes
served with sour cream and apple sauce
Saturday: Dinner for 11
Onion & Fennel Soup Gratin
Crab Cakes with Creole Sauce
Black Bean Burgers with Avocado Cream
Roasted Butternut Squash
Sunday was Christmas morning. We had a mix of family staying the night or arriving at the house super early to watch the kids open presents, so we had a large brunch followed by an early afternoon supper before people headed for home.
Sunday: Brunch for 11
Mimosas or Sparkling Pamplemousse
Sunday: Supper for 11
Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Sauce
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with and without Bacon
Desserts & Munchies for the Week:
This fall, I hosted a small baby shower for friends. The couple were expecting their second child, and while my group usually only has a shower for first-time parents, my friends missed out with their first. The mama-to-be was on bedrest for much of her pregnancy so a shower just wasn’t in the cards. Thankfully, pregnancy #2 was much easier on her and we were able to give her the celebration she missed out on a few years ago. The mini-shower was a family affair, a dinner with a dozen of the couple’s close friends and children.
To make entertaining easy, I created a menu where pretty much everything was assembled ahead of time, so I had minimal time preparing and cooking while everyone was over. I carried an Italian theme throughout the meal, with a menu full of comfort foods perfect for late fall and winter entertaining.
I chose super light appetizers since the meal was on the heavier side. I did skip a salad for this meal, but adding one would round out the meal quite nicely.
An Italian Dinner for 12
Nuts, Fruit, & Marinated Olives
Caprese Skewers with a Balsamic Drizzle
Cannoli Dip with Graham Crackers
Baby Shower Cupcakes
Note: While this menu was designed for 12, I want to point out that there were half a dozen toddlers as well, most of whom helped themselves to the fruit served with the appetizers and chicken nuggets for dinner (not mentioned above).
Leftovers: There were a few pieces of the spinach lasagna leftover (clearly no vegetarians at this gathering!) but that was it. Although the beef and sausage lasagna was large and quite filling, I think that if I had more of that (and the garlic bread), it would have been devoured.
Last month, we celebrated my daughter’s third birthday. It’s crazy how over the past year, she went from a toddler – sweet and cuddly – to a little girl – opinionated, sassy, and smart as whip. She’s no longer stringing a few words together but speaking whole sentences, learning to write her letters, and learning what sounds each of the letters make. We’re beyond impressed.
It’s been a busy couple of months, so we held a joint birthday party with my daughter’s best friend. We kept the menu simple and mostly store-bought, and instead spent our time and creativity on the small details. We chose to go with a Frozen theme, since the girls love the movie. (Sophie now has an Elsa and an Anna dress. She takes turns wearing them every day after school, with an expression of pure joy on her face. “Mommy, look at me. I’m so beautiful!” I might be biased, but she is the cutest little Elsa/Anna I’ve ever seen.) Anyway, we couldn’t have picked a better them for our little princesses.
A Frozen Birthday Party
Bagels & Cream Cheese
String Cheese “Snowmen”
Carrots and Dip “Reindeer Food”
“Snow & Ice” Rice Krispie Treats
Powdered Donut Hole “Snowballs”
“Elsa’s Magic Wands” White Chocolate Covered Pretzels
White Chocolate Covered Oreos
“Melted Snowman” Water
Honest Juice Pouches
For decorations, I made an Olaf wreath for our front door. We had assorted balloons through the house, a couple of balloon trees (no photos though!), and a Frozen birthday banner.
While the kids mostly ran wild playing with the assorted loose balloons, we did have a few activities for them. We downloaded some free printable coloring pages with scenes from the movie, had a Pin-the-Nose-on-Olaf game, and a Build-a-Snowman station where the kids could build a snowman to eat or take home out of marshmallows, pretzels, mini chocolate chips, and decorating gel/icing.
For favors, we gave each child a small Frozen coloring book, a pair of Frozen socks, a couple of Hershey kisses with Frozen stickers on the bottom, and two Frozen stamps.
Considering it’s been almost a month since the party and my daughter is still talking about her party (almost every night at bedtime, she asks that we talk about it), I’d call it a success!
Invitations: TicketParty Etsy Shop
Thank You Notes: Styles with Charm Etsy Shop
Goodie Bag Items: Amazon and Michaels Crafts
I meant to get this post up – my Christmas week menus – Christmas week, but as usual, life got in the way. My baby got sick, so we spent a few miserable days cuddling as he recovered in time to enjoy lots of family visiting, and, of course, Santa. Since I’m late, I’ll give you the menus, and a little bit about what I’ve been up to, and why it’s been so quiet on the blog over the past few weeks.
So as I said, at the start of Christmas week, my sweet boy came down with a nasty virus and ear infection, making him a pitiful sight. We had a couple of rough days, sleeping all day, eating very little, and trouble breathing at night. Thankfully, Nutterbutter started recovering and returning to his normal, happy baby-self just as family started to arrive.
This was the first Christmas since I’ve been with my husband (8 years) where we weren’t traveling for Christmas. We ended up with a full house – several members of my family came for the holidays, as well as some close friends, our “local family,” as we think of them.
The week was amazing. I LOVED seeing my little ones crawling over and smiling at my 85-year old grandfather, teasing my uncles, begging my brother to color… It was the first Christmas where my daughter understood that Santa was coming, and her reaction on Christmas morning was priceless. She was absolutely speechless, eventually stuttering, “so… many…presents.” We truly had the perfect Christmas.
My mom stayed until New Years Eve, to watch the munchkins while daycare was closed. I love when my mom stays, but it’s always tough – I’d rather be home and hanging out with her instead of working or being productive at home.
Once my house emptied out, I focused on returning life to normal – getting through the laundry, putting away the Christmas stuff, finding a new home for all of the toys, etc. The normal, boring stuff. But most of all, I was knitting like crazy. My sister-in-law’s baby shower was this past weekend, and I really wanted to finish the baby blanket I had started for my first (!) nephew. Knitting was pretty much all I did for the better part of a week, but it was worth it. I finished it the night before the shower, later than I would have liked. I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out, and think both my brother and sister-in-law liked the blanket.
Never one to sit for long, when my nephew’s baby blanket was finished, I turned to organizing my photos (which I slacked on for the past few months) and finishing my son’s 3-6 month photo album. (I’m creating digital scrapbooks, four for the first year of his life.) I’m really making an effort to stay on track with finishing his albums – Nutterbutter is almost 9 months old, and I’ll have another album to start on very shortly. I can’t get behind! My daughter is almost 3 and I’ve yet to do any of her albums. (#fail!) I still have a long way to go on this project, but I feel better having started getting back on track.
So life is returning to normal after all of the winter holidays. I am getting caught up on or finishing some projects, and after a short break to focus on my home and family, I’m ready to get back to blogging. I’ve got a number of posts to finish up, and several new ones I’m planning, so stay tuned for regular updates. Without further ado, I give you my Christmas week menus! (Hey, you can still bookmark them for next year! 🙂 )
CHRISTMAS WEEK MENUS
Sweets for the Week
With unexpected additions from some family members, I decided to skip formal desserts for the week.
Instead, we had an assortment of cookies and candies.
White Chocolate Covered Oreos
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Wednesday, Dinner for 8
Beef & Sausage Lasagna
Garlic Ciabatta Bread
Thursday (Christmas Eve), Dinner for 12 Adults, 2 Toddlers
Crab Cakes with Creole Sauce
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Friday (Christmas), Breakfast for 10 Adults, 1 Toddler
Afternoon Appetizers for 12 Adults, 2 Toddlers
Antipasto & Cheese Platter
Dinner for 12 Adults, 2 Toddlers
French Onion Soup*
Roasted Beef Tenderloin
Green Bean Salad
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
* I wasn’t super excited about the version of French Onion Soup that I made on Christmas Day, so instead I linked to my tried and true recipe.
My hubby and I decided to retire our annual holiday party, after several years of hosting. While we loved hosting, the party started after dinner and was not super convenient for families, who either had to get a babysitter or leave very early. So, we decided to morph our annual holiday party into an open house.
Our first annual Holiday Open House was held this weekend. It began much earlier in the evening and was much more kid-friendly than past events. Since it was our first year with a heavier menu (actually serving dinner instead of just an assortment of appetizers) and because we have a baby and a toddler, I kept the menu fairly simple this year.
2015 Holiday Open House
Event for ~25 adults and ~12 toddlers/kids
Antipasto Tray (with cashews, olives, crackers, and apricots)
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies*
White Chocolate Covered Oreos
Candied Pecan Biscotti
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip & Graham Crackers+
* I linked to my favorite recipes for these dishes, but I will admit that I took the easy way out this year – both of these items were made from mixes to save me a little bit of time and to free up my oven a bit.
+ Dishes brought by friends.
Last year’s annual holiday party did not go as planned. Our heater was being flaky (I’d argue it wasn’t working at all by the end of the week) and I had come down with a cold. Between the two, we had to cancel the party or risk everyone being cold and getting sick. I was super bummed – this has been our big party each year. I plan and look forward to it for months. More than half of the menu, to feed 40-50 people, was already prepared by the time we made the call to cancel. As hard as it was for me, I’m sure I wouldn’t be forgiven if everyone spent their upcoming Christmas vacations in bed with colds.
Even though we didn’t get to host the party last year, I wanted to share the menu I had planned, in case something inspires you. In addition, I wanted to share a few tips and lessons I’ve learned while planning these parties over the last 6 or so years:
1. I plan and execute my menu each year. This sounds silly and might offend some people, but I’ve learned not rely on others (or at least limit that reliance) for contributions. Inevitably, something happens and someone can’t make it, which has the potential of throwing everything off (one year, I had backup appetizers in my freezer, just in case… another year, I wasn’t prepared and had to ask someone to pick up a last minute item from the grocery store on their way to the party because someone arrived without the promised goods). Planning and executing myself means that I don’t worry that something may not go as planned.
2. I’ve learned to dial back on the desserts and increase the savory items. Year after year, my savory items were all gone by the end of the night but I was still left with a number of desserts. Sometimes this is due to guests preferences, other times because people end up bringing cookies and other sweets unannounced.
3. Start cooking and baking well in advance. I usually start cementing my menu in November, about a month away from the party. I start cooking and baking at the same time. Cookies freeze great; candy keeps well at room temperature. I store candies in airtight containers in my basement – cooler temps and not in sight to tempt us! Even some savory appetizers (such as the spinach and artichoke dip and meatballs on the menu below, or mini quiche that I’ve made in the past) freeze really well. This keeps me from feeling frantic in the week prior to the party, and rushing around the day of the party. I’ll even keep a little extra in the freezer in case I need to restock during the party.
4. Know your layout and the flow of guests throughout your house. We’ve always had two floors of the house for entertaining. Currently, our upstairs has a family room, kitchen, dining room, etc. The downstairs has a second family room and pool table. While I set most of the food out upstairs, I usually try to make sure there’s snacks – bowls of nuts, a small cheese/cracker or veggies tray, an extra plate of assorted cookies – in the downstairs as well.
But this final item is equally as important for your main entertaining space. Does everyone tend to hang out in the kitchen and family room? Maybe then, place the food and beverages in a dining room so that people move around the space a bit more. Our formal living room and dining room have been completely empty for the past two years, so we always set up a few folding tables for holding food and beverage stations.
These four tips have helped me kick things off smoothly every year.
This year, we’ve decided to change things up a bit. We now have two young children and the majority of our friends have their own families. While we’ll still hold a holiday gathering, this year’s will be slightly smaller and more kid-friendly than it has been in the past. Come back tomorrow for our first annual Holiday Open House Menu.
Holiday Party, 2014
Beer, Wine, Assorted Soft Drinks
When I had my daughter, several friends highly recommended a join a new mom’s group. I was originally uncertain, but so many different people gave me the recommendation that I couldn’t ignore it. I joined a group run by a local hospital, and it was one of the best decisions this new mommy could have made. I gained not only a support system for those few months but a group of amazing friends that still gets together on a regular basis, two years later.
It feels like just yesterday that we were a group of women with our new babies, and so many questions. Today, this group is moving on – several of us are taking the leap to a family of four (and wondering what we were thinking, as our little ones start the Terrible Twos). To celebrate the first new baby to join our group, a friend and I hosted a nautical-themed baby shower brunch for the mom-to-be this past weekend. We had a blast surprising our friend and being a bit creative.
Below you’ll find the brunch menu we put together for a dozen women (and a couple of hubbies). I didn’t make everything on the menu, but when I could recommend a similar recipe, I linked to it for your convenience.
Nautical-Themed Baby Shower Brunch
Single-Serving Italian Frittatas
Fresh Fruit, Yogurt, and Pecan Granola
Assorted Muffins: Blueberry, Almond Pound Cake, Spiced
Whole Wheat Banana Bread (recipe to come)
Pico de Gallo and Tortilla Chips
Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes
Coffee, Tea, Juice, and Sangria
Since this was a shower for a second baby, we kept it simple – we gave prizes to the winners of a couple of games but skipped the favors. However, I couldn’t resist making “Catch of the Day” goldfish bags for the few kids that were present.
I can’t believe my sweet Sophie is already a year old. It seems like it was just yesterday that she was this teeny tiny baby who used to cuddle with us every evening in front of the tv. And now? Now she is inquisitive and walking all over the place. She loves to be scared and play peek-a-book. And she loves to read. She’ll carry around books for an entire evening sometimes. She likes to flip the pages, sometimes gnaw on the corners. Some nights she’ll sit patiently while we read a full book out loud to her. Other nights she’ll simply look at the photos, trading one book for another.
I absolutely love this photo of Sophie, where she’s surrounded by books and she’s “reading.”
Sophie frequently pulls all of the books off of her bookshelf, spread them out around her, and “read.” We have several well-worn board books and a few crumpled children’s books, including Dr. Seuss’ Alphabet Book, the inspiration for this party.
I decided not to go crazy with matching menu items to the first few letters of the alphabet. Instead, I planned a very simple menu and made name tags to match. I had originally hoped to have a large letter in the background, in color, with the name of the dish across the front, but I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen on our new computer. So instead, I used alphabet washbi tape to decorate the tags.
Sesame Seed Chicken with Honey Mayo Dipping Sauce
Macaroni and Cheese Bites
Veggies & Dip
Fruit & Coconut Cream Dip
“ABC” Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting (topped with letters made out of royal icing)
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt “Cupcakes” (for the babies)
Vanilla Pomegranate Sangria
For decorations, we put out Sophie’s favorite alphabet books, an alphabet abacus, and a few of the alphabet blocks that she received this past Christmas. I also added a frame that I received at my baby shower, with photos of Sophie as a newborn and at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.
We did give Sophie the requisite smash cake (or in this case, cupcake), but she wasn’t really into it. She was curious when I showed her the cupcake, but didn’t like it when she got icing on her fingers. She wiped her fingers on the side of the high chair to get the frosting off, and shuttered every time she tasted the icing and cake. It’s a good thing we had some homemade strawberry frozen yogurt for the birthday girl to fall back on. 🙂
Finally, although we only had a few kids at the party, I wanted an activity for them as well as a favor to take home. These alphabet puzzles served as both. Cute, right?
Invitations & Matching Thank You Notes: MTipsy’s Etsy Shop
Alphabet Washbi Tape: used for accents on invitation/thank you note envelopes and on the tags to label the dishes, by Scotch (from Staples)
Cupcake Tower: Tutorial , supplies from local craft store (Michaels)
Puzzle Favors: Oriental Trading
A little late, but better late than never!
We spent Christmas this year with my family up north. We had a great week of visiting and food. This year, the theme was simple. We wanted to enjoy time with family rather than spending so much time in the kitchen. And I wanted to make sure that the food was as good as in the past, and the menus elegant. Here’s what we came up with.
Super Simple Christmas Eve Menu
1st Course: Potato Leek Soup
Entree: Crab Cakes with Creole Meuniere Sauce, Roasted Green Beans with Lemon, Pine Nuts & Parmigiano, and Crescent Rolls
Appetizers: Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Crackers, Antipasto Platter
Dinner: Salad with Goat Cheese Purses; Ham; Horseradish-Crusted Prime Rib with Horseradish Sauce; Twice Baked Potato Casserole; Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, and Cauliflower; Spinach Salad; Thyme Dinner Rolls; Poppy Seed Dinner Rolls
Dessert: Coconut Cream Meringue Cake