For the past few years, I’ve hosted a holiday luncheon for about 40-50 people, kids included. It’s the one big party I have every year to invite the people that have included us in their family celebrations throughout the year and that we see on a regular basis.
The first year or two, the party planning was stressful, mainly because I wasn’t equipped with all of the plates, cutlery, serving dishes, chafing dishes, and coffee maker that I needed and I wasn’t sure about the timing of getting things done. Recently, though, I’ve figured out how to make it as stress-free as possible and I can say that this year’s party was the easiest. It only took 5 years, but that’s okay! If you’re considering hosting some form of holiday party, I hope some of these tips will help:
Tip 1: Give as much notice of the party as possible. I try to give the guests about 3-4 weeks’ notice. Because I hold the party at least 3 weeks before Christmas, most of the guests are still ‘free’ and not caught up in the holiday shopping or other parties. It’s also a fun way for you and the guests to ease into the holiday season.
Tip 2: Start cleaning out the freezer and fridge two weeks before the party. Go through the fridge and freezer and make a mental note of what you can use in the next week or two and toss what is expired. Start buying fewer perishable items like fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products, so that your fridge remains clean and empty. Cook meals that won’t have too many leftovers. And, consider ordering in or eating out for the last two days before the party… bonus for you and the husband and kids!
Tip 3: Bake ahead. Sounds easy enough, but this means that your freezer, from the tip one above, has been cleared out and can handle all of the desserts you are making ahead and freezing. It also means you have made a list of the desserts you are planning on making and that you have on hand storage containers, plastic wrap, waxed paper, and all of the required baking ingredients. Start baking two weeks ahead so the last week can be spent on prepping the house and buying fresh food for the party. Continue reading →
I love tomatoes! And, it’s still tomato season in Ontario. Maybe, like me, you have a few too many in your fridge if you were tempted by the tomato baskets at the grocery store and at farmer’s markets. It’s been hot and dry this season, making conditions perfect for growing beautiful tomatoes. So, I thought I would share a few recipe ideas and links in hopes of inspiring you to try something new.
But, first, let’s take a look at why tomatoes deserve our attention:
Although they have a ‘season’, tomatoes are available year-round (thanks to hot-houses) so they are affordable and you can try different recipes all year long.
There are so many varieties of tomatoes that come in different shapes, colors, and sizes (roma, plum, heirloom, beefsteak, grape, cherry, etc. ) making it easy to mix things up and keep dishes colorful.
Tomatoes make a great snack, especially the smaller ones that can easily be packed into a lunch or for eating on the go.
There are so many ways to use tomatoes: in sauces, in quick salads, and in cooked dishes. My family does not can or jar tomatoes, but I know that many families have the tradition of spending a fun day making tomato sauce to be stored and used all year long.
Finally, tomatoes are easy to serve. They are often my fall-back dish. You can slice them, drizzle them with oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, add some basil, and you have a salad in minutes.
Here are a few of my favorite tomato dishes in photos. There are so many obvious dishes that I haven’t put in here like caprese salad, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, pizza, and green salads. Because the point of this post was to get you thinking about some different tomato uses, I’ve linked recipes rather than including them in full.
It’s the summertime and I want to be outside as much as possible, meaning I want to be in the kitchen as little as possible! Enter lemon spaghetti with shrimp. It’s one of my go-to meals because it takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. Plus, I always have shrimp in the freezer. My family loves this dish and I make it a couple of times a month.
A few months later, we were visiting my sister-in-law and I made lemon spaghetti for dinner when company was coming. Everybody loved it, down to the toddler who ate only the lemon spaghetti! It’s still a favorite at my sister-in-law’s house.
The recipe is so easy that you don’t really need the book. I play around with the measurements sometimes and it still tastes great every time.
The days leading up to Christmas are some of the busiest of the year. They are also the most festive days on which to entertain.
Last week, I hosted a Christmas coffee morning for some of the moms at my kids’ school. It’s something I have done in the past and all the moms enjoy taking time out to relax and catch up before the holiday break.
For me, it is a chance to invite friends over while my house is somewhat clean and orderly! Plus, it’s decorated for Christmas, which makes entertaining that much easier and more fun. It’s also easy in that the season sets the theme for everything from Christmas doilies, napkins and serving dishes to Christmas-themed centerpieces.
On busy school nights, I admit that preparing supper can be a challenge. I am always looking for short cuts and neat ways to shave time off my food prep and clean up. There is a fancy grocery store in my area and, after school, we go in to buy some fresh bread for dinner. Often, there are tasting tables. In particular, there is a tasting table for oils and vinegars. And, my kids and I cannot stay away. Continue reading →
My parents recently visited from overseas for 3 weeks. It was great! They live in a part of the world where heavy meals are usually lunch-time meals and dinner meals tend to be much lighter fare.
Our North American lifestyle was hard to change during this period: because the kids were in school, their lunches were light and so they needed a substantial dinner meal. So, my poor parents had to eat heavy meals at dinner to accommodate their hosts.
On the weekends, I thought I would try and balance things out by treating them to a North American brunch! Continue reading →