From hearty appetizers to decadent desserts, food is often the “star of the show” when it comes to holiday entertaining. Whether you’re creating a favorite meal for loved ones, or planning to host a large gathering, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the planning and prep.
Here to help is Carla Hall, celebrity chef and co-host of “The Chew,” with a few entertaining tips and tricks that will alleviate even the busiest of hosts this holiday season. And, by using a few of Hall’s entertaining suggestions, you can cut down on the time spent in the kitchen and enjoy more of it with family and friends; whip-up easy and delicious, balanced dishes that will have everyone asking for seconds; and, truly make the holidays the most wonderful time of the year!
Tip #1: Make a list, check it twice.
Hall knows that creating the perfect holiday meal can be time-consuming and stressful if you don’t plan ahead.
“To help things run smoothly, I like to make a five-day plan with a detailed to-do list,” says Hall. “While it seems basic, assigning tasks for each day leading up to the event helps alleviate stress on the day of the event. Whether finalizing the menu, setting the table or confirming guest RSVPs, beginning prep work about a week out provides enough time to tackle both big and small tasks.”
Tip #2: Outsource! (And ask for help if you need it.)
During this very busy time of year, it’s especially important to use your resources and never underestimate the power of asking for help.
“Happy cooking makes for a much better meal! If you feel overwhelmed, raise your hand,” stresses Hall. “The holidays are about togetherness. Let your friends and family share in the meal preparation so it’s an experience and not just another item on your to-do list.”
If a friend or family member asks “what can I bring?” take them up on their offer. Asking each guest to bring a signature dish will make them feel like part of the process and help get into the spirit of giving.
Tip #3: There’s always room for new traditions.
‘Tis the season to enjoy holiday traditions, but also a perfect time to try out a new twist on mealtime favorites.
“People are serious about their favorite holiday recipes, but don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit, too,” says Hall.
She suggests adding Caesar croutons to your green bean casserole, parmesan to your mashed potatoes, or a fruit, such as pears, to your cranberry sauce for an unexpected, yet delicious twist. Hall also suggests mixing up a traditional side dish by serving something new like the Buttery Onion Crumb Brussels Sprouts Casserole, using Country Crock or the new Country Crock Simply Delicious.
Tip #4: Flaunt what you got!
It’s easy to feel the pressure to holiday shop, but it can be even easier to use items you already have on hand for party decorations. Creating a seasonal tablescape is a great way to elevate a gathering – and a little can go a long ways, while showing off your personal decorating style.
“Votives are an inexpensive way to add festive spirit to any table,” says Hall. “Use a variety of colored candles and surround them with seasonal items you might have on hand like pinecones, apples or gourds. And, handmade place cards can add a special touch and are a great way for kids to get involved and feel like they’re part of the fun!”
Tip #5: Get “casseroling” this holiday season.
“Casseroles are another one of my favorite entertaining secrets; if you watched me on Top Chef you know I love them,” says Hall. “They’re so easy to prepare and don’t require a lot of hands-on cook time – just combine your ingredients and pop in the oven!”
Casseroles can help cut down on day-of prep time because they can be made ahead of time; items that can’t be made days beforehand, like mashed potatoes, Hall suggests making them the morning of and keeping them warm in a slow cooker. And don’t forget, casseroles aren’t just for dinner. Breakfast casseroles are another great family mealtime option that can be prepped the night before and ready to greet hungry tummies in the morning.
Finally, use up any leftovers you might have on-hand as a delicious casserole the next day. Hall suggests the Upside-Down Hot Turkey Sandwich Casserole made with Country Crock as the perfect way to use up everything from veggies to mashed potatoes. For more tips and recipes, visit www.countrycrock.com.
Upside-Down Hot Turkey Sandwich
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
4 Tbsp. Country Crock(R) Spread, melted
2 cups prepared mashed potatoes
3 cups coarsely chopped cooked turkey breast
1 cup cooked mixed vegetables (such as peas and carrots)
1/2 cup prepared turkey gravy
1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
2 slices whole wheat sandwich bread, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat 8-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon Country Crock(R) Spread. Spoon in mashed potatoes, then drizzle with 1 tablespoon Spread. Top with turkey and vegetables and gravy. Dollop with cranberry sauce. Toss bread cubes with remaining 2 tablespoons Spread and poultry seasoning and sprinkle on top.
2. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through and bread cubes are toasted.
Nutritional Information (1) serving: Calories 280 , Calories from Fat 80 , Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 2.5g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 50mg, Sodium 490mg, Total Carbs 26g, Dietary Fiber 2g, Sugars 7g, Protein 24g, Vitamin A 8%, Vitamin C 8%, Calcium 4%, Iron 8%
Buttery Onion Crumb Brussels Sprouts Casserole
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
1/2 cup Country Crock Spread, divided
2 cups chopped onions
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
8 cups cooked Brussels sprouts [or thawed frozen], halved
1 cup fat free half and half
1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt 4 tablespoons Country Crock Spread over medium-high heat in large nonstick skillet and cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add crumbs; cook, stirring until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes; remove to bowl.
2. Melt remaining spread in same skillet. Add Brussels sprouts; toss. Stir in half and half and 1/2 the crumb mixture. Pour into shallow 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture.
3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly around edges.
Nutritional Information (1) serving: Calories 110, Calories from Fat 50, Total Fat 5g, Saturated Fat 1.5g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 110mg, Total Carbs 13g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Sugars 4g, Protein 3g, Vitamin A 15%, Vitamin C 90%, Calcium 4%, Iron 4%