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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

From our little elves to you and yours  – we wish you a very Merry Christmas and hope you have a fun and entertaining holiday and New Years!

Merry Christmas with a side of potatoes

We are looking forward to an incredible Christmas.  We get to be in our home with no expectations to meet, or places to rush off to, or people to entertain unless it happens to work out.  It means showers aren’t mission critical first thing in the morning, PJs are optional day-wear (but still never outer-wear) homemade cookies and milk constitute lunch and laughter comes a little bit easier. It’s every parent’s dream – minus the sleeping in… and in three hour increments.

Aside from lazy mornings in PJs and long walks exploring Vancouver’s best spots for toddlers (Granville Island for boats and musicians, Main Street for parks and coffee shops, Kitsilano for people watching and toy shopping) this holiday has brought with it some awesome food with little to no hassle.

In my last post I wrote about the sweet treats and cookies that we froze some of so that they could be pulled out throughout the holidays… I did the same thing with easy foods.  Each year at Christmas my job is potatoes, other jobs come and go but I always get to make the potatoes.   I’m so thankful my mom still hosts this amazing meal and I still learn from her each year.  I know I need to make as much as possible before my husband is home for the holidays from work and Matty, our son, is home from daycare.  I made two variations of potatoes this year a few days early- and made a double batch of each – separating the seconds into two smaller dishes to be frozen and pulled out at some point during the rest of the holidays to be served for our little family with leftover turkey or ham or roast beef.

My sister and her fabulous clan will host our family on Christmas Eve and we’ll all enjoy our traditional lasagna and Cesar salad (and pizza for the kids just in case).  I get to make the lasagna. This one I made a few days in advance, and tripled.  Making extra for spaghetti for my family the night I cooked it, and storing away a spare lasagna for the 29th or 30th when I know I’ll just want to pull something out and pop it in the oven – getting to worry far more about dinosaurs and train tunnels that day then making something good and knowing my family would still love the outcome.

All these make ahead fabulous dishes mean I may even have more time when the stars and naps align to peruse Martha’s new Entertaining book, and a couple of new favorites “Classy” and “Very Classy” by Derek Blasberg

I’m sure you have fabulous potato recipes and I’d love to hear about them – below is one we all love – tastes amazing and it doesn’t take too long to make compared to a lot of scalloped potatoes I’ve tried:

prep time: 10-15 min    total time: approx 1 hr

ingredients: russet potatoes, 1/2 cup cream, grated cheddar, asiago and Parmesan cheese (1 1/2 cups total), white onion, 1/2 cup of butter, olive oil, 1/4 cup milk, flour, salt and pepper

  • thinly slice the potatoes and the white onion (about 4-5 potatoes to each onion)
  • saute the white onion with a chunk of butter and a dash of olive oil for 4-5 min
  • to make it extra easy add the cream directly and rest of the butter to that pot on med-low heat and add milk according to how many potatoes you have (ie 6 potatoes 1/4 cup more if you cook more potatoes)
  • add flour to thicken 1-2 TBSP at a time (should take 3-5 mins to thicken)
  • add 1/2 your grated cheese as you pull it off the heat and stir
  • dot bottom of a pan with butter, add a layer of potatoes slightly overlapping, s&p, and then enough of the sauce to cover
  • repeat with potato, s&p and sauce layers until you have 3 layers and finally top with the rest of your grated cheese
  • pop in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes.
  • Can freeze for up to a month easily

Its a Party! … and it starts at 4pm

We have hosted a Christmas party for years. We look forward to it for months. The journey of planning, inviting and baking up a storm is all part of the fun. From hand made secret Santa invitations and a visit from St Nick himself to mountains of festive food and free flowing beverages our Christmas party is a tradition we have enjoyed with our very best friends well into the morning hours…

This year, however, there was an influx of additions to the families of our friends – and to our own family with the addition of our girls. As a result there were some changes to the plan: the seven PM start gave way to a seven PM conclusion, Santa was a spectacle that mystified most of our little guests rather than entertaining our pals with smart smirks at gift giving time, the drink table sported baby friendly cups in addition to wine glasses, and there was a changing area and baby play zone where high boys and coasters with martini mixers once stood.

The changes are temporary – we all look forward to adult parties once again – but with so many little faces it was wonderful to make some adjustments so that we could all enjoy the festive spirit together. We still raised our glasses to toast the wondrous year we had together, we still enjoyed a mountain of delicious sweet treats and holiday appetizers and best of all we enjoyed each other and got into the festive spirit together as we’d done each year in the past.

If you’re anything like me, you want to be creative and make things from scratch but time is like gold so there isn’t a second to waste … Below are a few tips I tried this year that seemed to work, despite having two little babes to enjoy full time and a son and hubby to hang out with in the mornings and evenings. I started planning a couple of weeks in advance – reading through cookbooks and magazines for 3 or 4 new ideas to cook up this year and falling to 4 or 5 of my good old stand-byes. I figured out what could be made how far in advance, what could be frozen, and what ingredients I’d need. I also decided on 3-5 items that I would purchase instead of make this year (like chicken wings, crostini and cheeses, and mini cheesecakes). Next shopping trip I grabbed everything I’d need except the fresh stuff and every couple of days at nap time I made a new cookie, dip, bar or treat.

Thanks to Martha Stewart we tried candied citrus peels this year and I packaged them in tiny brown bags for snacking on. They were labour intensive so I decided to make a triple batch and store some for throughout the holiday. I was lucky to have family in that day to help hold babies so I tripled up and also made caramel chocolate squares and a spinach and artichoke dip similar to one we love from Milestones. I made a series of cookies and traditional bars like nanainmo and brownies in double or triple batches and froze them so that extras could be pulled out from the freezer if friends dropped by throughout the holidays. My awesome friends and mother/mother in law contributed fabulous ginger cookies, shortbread and sugar cookies. I made and stored a series of dips that could be easily popped in the oven at the same temperature throughout the party -covering and labeling them in the fridge so anyone could pull them out and pop them in the oven if my hands were full with babies. The day before the party I made up bruschetta toppings and crostini variations with parmesan and feta, and tried a great new recipe from Giada at Home with caramelized onions, pear and blue cheese.

Things I tried this year and won’t repeat? Using plastic dishes and wine glasses instead of rentals (no one wants to wash dishes after a party esp not with three kids!) so we’ll return to the rentals next year.

The party was great. It was completely different than the Christmas fetes we were used to planning, and I totally look forward one day to returning to the days of a good martini and an evening of not worrying about little ones, but for our lives and for our friends this year it was exactly what we wanted. Merry Christmas and happy planning!