Planning out a holiday meal is one of my favorite things to do. I grab a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning and settle in with my magazines, cookbooks and the internet to search for ideas and make my lists. It's the perfect time to be indulgent and eat all of the rich and luxurious foods that I love before January hits and I start working on my resolutions. I have hosted Christmas Eve Dinner for over 10 years now and here are a few things I've learned along the way:
- Once you know how many guest you will have and a general budget, decide what kind of meal you want: a sit down 5 course meal with lobster, old fashioned roast turkey family style or a seven fish buffet style — this will help you narrow down your options
- Not everyone has the same favorites as you so include options to please everyone. Perhaps there is a vegetarian or someone who doesn't appreciate heavy cream in every dish! I could eat a meal of beef and potatoes and be happy, but an ideal menu with include a variety of all the food groups — including greens. A green salad with a homemade vinaigrette or broccoli roasted with garlic, lemon and olive oil will balance out those rich scalloped potatoes and roast beef.
- While I never make an extra meal for the kids, remember that your dinner should include something your kids love and that will easily incorporate into your meal. For years my kids wouldn't touch mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes so I would make a quick homemade macaroni and cheese to have along side their turkey or roast beef. No one wants to argue with their kids to get them to finish dinner on a holiday and the kids should be able to enjoy more than just the dessert. Quite a few adults ended up digging into the mac n cheese as well!
- Balance out the number of dishes that can be made ahead or already prepared with any time consuming recipes you may include. Make time to enjoy your time in the kitchen without being frazzled. Always assume it will take you longer than you expect and be prepared to cut back on your menu if it means a more relaxing evening. Sometimes a cheese plate and shrimp cocktail from the store is better than assorted homemade appetizers you won't get to enjoy.
- Let people help! If someone offers an appetizer or kid friendly dessert, take it. When you prepare your menu mark off a couple of things you wouldn't mind having someone else bring to lighten the load and you will be ready to offer a suggestion when someone asks, "What can I bring?"
You can find more recipes and menu plans at the Homemade Cravings Christmas Page. This Shrimp with Garlic Sauce and White Beans is a perfect starter for an elegant sit down dinner. The puff pastry, beans and sauce can be made in advance, the shrimp cooked, sauce and beans reheated just before serving.
Shrimp with Garlic Sauce and White Beans
1/2 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 jumbo shrimp (approx 3/4 pound), peeled and deveined (tails on)
1 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 fresh bay leaf
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 – 15 ounce can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper to taste
minced parsley to garnish (optional)
- Heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Roll the puff pastry sheet into an 8 inch by 8 inch square. Cut into 4 even squares and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake according to package directions and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add shrimp and cook about 2 minutes on each side until pink. Set aside and cover to keep warm.
- Add butter to skillet and melt. Add garlic and bay leaf, cook 2 minutes stirring.
- Stir in flour and cook another minute.
- Whisk in chicken stock and cook until sauce thickens. Add beans, cover and lower heat to medium low, cooking 5 minutes until warmed through. Add in shrimp and cook another 2-3 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and discard.
- To serve, place each puff pastry piece in 4 shallow bowls, pour over equal portions of shrimp and beans over each pastry piece and garnish with parsley.
Homemade Cravings is about creating simple, classic, family favorites from scratch. Making delicious and healthy homemade food accessible to all, because food shouldn’t come from a box.
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