Day 13 – How To Plan A Holiday Menu…

It has begun.  The last week before Thanksgiving where turkey’s are bought, pies are made, and people freak the hell out about what to have for dinner.  Here are a few pointers on how to make any Holiday menu a successful one…

  1. Think about your guests –  The very first thing that we do when planning for the holidays is to make a list of the people who are coming, or who we think are coming.  Not only does it give you a general headcount for food quantity, it also gives you some important info about your menu planning.  Do you have anyone with food allergies?  Anyone that really has a specific aversion to certain food?  Any dietary restrictions?  Take all of those things into account when you are doing your planning and try to accommodate your guests as much as is possible.  Make sure you have that kind of soda that Aunt May likes, make those brownies that John raved about last year.  Have one or two vegetarian options or gluten free items if you need to.  Hold off on adding nuts to your pie if you have guests with allergies and don’t cross contaminate your serving utensils,  Allergies are serious things and not something you want to have to be dealing with during the holidays.  Be careful and show you care by planning with your guests in mind.
  2. Visualize the plate –  When you are deciding what to make, think about the room that you have on your plate.  Holidays are typically the time when we like to indulge, but when you have to go back for two plates just to have a taste of everything, it’s a little bit of an overkill.  Not only that, but it will make for more leftovers than you really want.  On your plate you want to have room for your main protein (turkey, chicken, pork, whatever) and then a scoop of each of the sides that you have.  Maybe 4 or 5 sides are really the max in my opinion, but you know your family best so go with your gut and if there are certain things that you HAVE to make in order to make you happy and feeling in the holiday spirit then go for it.  Just be mindful of space and quantity and you will be better off in the end.
  3. Write down your menu –  Write it down.  All of it.  From apps to drinks to the dinner and dessert.  Also include things like paper goods and tablecloths.  You want to have everything that you are going to be putting out for that day in one place so that as you buy your items and as you are getting ready that day, you can check things off your list and know that you don’t run into the problem of forgetting the homemade cranberry sauce that you slaved over in the fridge never to be seen until everyone leaves.  The other benefit of a list is that you can really take stock of what you have and when you see it all on one sheet of paper, you can determine if you truly need it all or if you should make some cuts.
  4. Balance the old and new –  I know in our family there are certain things that we just automatically know we will have on certain holidays.  My mother’s lasagna is one of them.  It wouldn’t be the holidays without it.  You want to balance having some of those steadfast dishes with the excitement and variety of some new items.  It keeps things new and fresh and also leaves room for the comfort of traditions.  Try to find that balance and you will keep everyone happy and interested and wanting to come back next year.
  5. Keep it simple –  The holidays are crazy.  You are cooking a ton of food, for a ton of people, and there is stress associated with that pressure along with cleaning the house, getting the kids ready and also somehow making yourself look presentable and not withered from standing at the stove all day.  It’s not really the ideal time to be trying out that recipe you saw on Food Network that has 25 ingredients and requires 3 pages of recipe notes.  Save that for another time.  Make recipes that are easy, no fuss, and taste good.  Know your limits and don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Unless it’s pie, then bite off lots of pie…

Below are a few ideas for holiday menus.  Many have a pasta course because in our family, you always have a pasta course at the holidays.  You can omit that if you’d like, lots of people don’t include it on their holiday menus, but it’s never a bad idea if you want to start  :)

Festive Cocktails

  • Warm Mulled Wine
  • Spiced Apple Cider with Carmel Flavored Vodka
  • Apple Cider Sparklers (cider with sparkling wine and a slice of apple)
  • Cranberry Martinis
  • Pumpkin Spice Martinis

Easy Apps

  • Chips and Dip
  • Veggies and Dip
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Baked Brie with Cranberry Jam
  • Bruscetta
  • Cheese Straws
  • Sausage And Cheddar Balls
  • Mini Frozen Apps (assorted)

Menu 1

  • Lasagna (1st course)
  • Classic Roasted Turkey
  • Creamy Mashed Potatoes
  • Sweet Sausage Bread Stuffing
  • Brussel Sprouts with onions and bacon
  • Sweet Glazed Carrots
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Green Tossed Salad
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Assorted desserts (whatever your family likes)

Menu 2

  • Manicotti w/Red Sauce (1st course)
  • Garlic and Sage Roasted Turkey Breasts
  • Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
  • Sauteed Spinach and Garlic
  • Corn Casserole
  • Sweet Brown Sugar Butternut Squash
  • Corn Bread
  • Assorted desserts (whatever your family likes)

Menu 3 

  • Savory Pumpkin Soup (1st course)
  • Marinated Pork Tenderloin
  • Homemade Spiced Applesauce
  • Creamy Cauliflower Puree
  • Cornbread Stuffing
  • Roasted Radishes
  • Roasted Acorn Squash
  • Tossed Micro Greens
  • Parker House Rolls
  • Assorted Desserts (whatever your family likes)

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