Many feel the crunch that is often unique to this time of
year. This crunch, I believe, comes from trying to become super-human and do
everything within only a human-sized allotment of time. A few friends of the
4smartypants have already been discussing how they might best use their savvy
to accomplish this great fete. Among those we have talked with, much of the
conversation and brainstorming has been focused on trying to attend some type
of religious service in the evening but also wanting to host a traditional
holiday meal immediately following the service. In this post I will share with
you how a smartypants would go about meeting this challenge.
When hosting a dinner party, I always recommend planning
ahead. This includes setting the table and having all essentials ready to go
long before menu prep. I also recommend pre-making some hors devours like
cheese plates, crackers, cold-cuts, veggie plates, etc. Plates like this can be
covered with plastic wrap and stored in the fridge until guests arrive. Beverages
can be prepped by keeping cold beverages in the fridge, ice ready in the
freezer and appropriate cups and glasses arranged nicely on a counter. Desserts
can also be bought or baked ahead of time and covered until it is time to serve them.
Now that everything is looking pretty and ready to receive
guests, all that’s left is the prep work for the dinner. I recommend the
following menu for its traditional qualities but also because it can be
prepared in 30 minutes or less. (Bonus!).
What to make ahead of time…
Salad or soup. Many families serve a traditional oyster stew
on Christmas Eve. This harkens back to a time before iodized salt when families
couldn’t afford to serve foods with iodine on a regular basis. An oyster stew
on Christmas Eve was a real treat and is now celebrated with this tradition. If
this is your plan, I recommend purchasing and then re-heating this starter. If
salad is more your speed, I recommend my salad below. I’ve made it for years
and have always gotten really good feedback.
Cranberry Pecan Salad
½ C Pecans
½ C Dried Cranberries
2 Tbsp Butter (or substitute)
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Head Romaine Lettuce
¼ C Parmesan (grated)
Honey Mustard Salad Dressing (to taste)
In a sauté pan, toss pecans with butter (or substitute), and
sugar over medium heat. Set aside.
Prep then toss romaine lettuce with parmesan, cranberries
and salad dressing.
Sprinkle salad with pecans
The salad above can be prepped ahead of time minus the
dressing which can be added just before serving. For your main course I
recommend honey glazed ham, sweet potato pie and sautéed green beans or green
bean casserole. Don’t worry! This menu still fits into the time frame.
Honey Glazed Ham
Sliced, pre-cooked Ham
2 Tbsp Honey
2 tsp Brown Sugar
Partially separate ham slices and heat through in the
microwave (times will vary pending on amount).
Drizzle honey over ham then sprinkle with brown sugar.
Place ham neatly in casserole dish or roasting pan and heat
in oven at 170 degrees.
Place on serving platter and you’re done!
Sweet Potato Pie:
1 Tube Crescent Rolls
1-15oz. Can Sweet Potatoes
6-8 Tbsp (about 1 stick) Butter (or substitute)
½ C Brown Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Nutmeg
½ tsp Vanilla Extract
3 C (about ½ bag) Mini Marshmallows
Salt to taste
Arrange 2/3 crescent roll dough in the bottom and around the sides of a
greased pie pan.
Bake crescent roll dough (now pie dough) for 12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Cook sweet potatoes in microwave for 2 minutes.
Mix sweet potatoes, butter (or substitute), brown sugar,
nutmeg, and vanilla with hand mixer or food processor.
Add salt to taste.
When crescent roll dough has baked 12 minutes, remove and
add sweet potato mixture.
Twist the remaining 1/3 of the crescent roll dough and place
on outside edges to make the “crust”.
Add marshmallows to the top of the pie.
Bake pie for an additional 12 minutes.
Green Beans or Green Bean Casserole
4 Cups (or 1 bag frozen) Green Beans
1-2 Slices of Bacon cooked and crumbled into bits
2 Tbsp Butter (or substitute)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
¼ Cup White Onion, diced
Salt & Pepper to taste
½ C French Fried Onions
(For Casserole method add one can cream of mushroom soup)
Place beans in microwaveable bowl with 1/4 C water, cover and
steam for 2 minutes.
Sauté onion in oil and butter until caramelized.
Drain beans and add to the sauté pan.
(For casserole method, add condensed soup at this time and
stir until heated through).
Mix in bacon and toss.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer beans into a serving dish and sprinkle French fried
onions over the top.
HINT: A smartypants cook would read through the above
recipes and have all ingredients pre-measured and prepped ahead of time.
So above are some recipes and quick prep tips to help you
pull off your last-minute meal in style. How does a smartypants go about
pulling this off in 30 minutes or less? And how does one cook this meal while guests arriving? Below is a step-by-step guide to pulling this meal off, from the time the savvy host/hostess arrives home to the time everyone is sitting for the meal.
Wash hands and put on music
Set out hors devours
Put crescent roll dough in pan and bake for 12 minutes
Begin green beans
Begin sweet potatoes
Finish sweet potatoes
Finish green beans
Plate all main course items
Change oven temp to 170 degrees and keep all things warm
until ready to serve
Serve starter course
Serve main course (don’t forget your trivets!)
Serve coffee and desserts
All steps should be interrupted as each guest arrives so
that the host can serve each guest their drink of choice. Guests will enjoy
visiting while the good smells of the meal begin to fill the home.
In this post I have given you a fail-safe menu and
entertaining plan in hopes to take some of the hustle out of your bustling
about. All that’s left to do is to kick back and show off your smartypants!