Hello and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! I hope everyone is able to enjoy the holidays and take a break from the day to day and be with those you love. Cooking, eating and just being with my family is my favorite part of the holiday and I can’t wait to have my guys all here. We do Christmas Eve dinner and then sit by the fire after and exchange gifts with my father.
I think I’ve written about this before, but my family has a tradition my mom began which is staying in our own homes in our pajamas on actual Christmas. The hardest thing this time of year is thinking about my mom and missing her, but my dad and I started a new tradition where we exchange food after Christmas Eve dinner here. He gives my his famous cinnamon rolls to have for Christmas morning and I give him a lasagna to cook on Christmas day. We’ve done it now 6 years and it makes for a very relaxing day and so nice after all the rush. My dad’s cinnamon rolls are amazing and we pop them in the oven when the kids first get up and we only let them open stockings. Then we sit down to have rolls and juice and coffee. No presents until we have cozy breakfast with candles at the table!
Tonight we are trying something a little different for the Christmas Eve meal. My husband has always loved cheese fondue, but it’s a lot of bread and cheese and I often feel like it’s a bit much with all the Christmas treats. A week or so ago we had some friends over for a dinner exchange we do and we tried out a new menu and set a Christmas themed table. It was the same night I tried out this holiday cocktail on this post that was a hit with my friends. The dinner was so easy and had something for everyone, non meat people also, so we are replicating it tonight and I will set the same table.
If you need some ideas for a Christmas or New Year’s Eve menu and festive table this is what we did..
I had just put up a pink tree in my little den and liked the idea of continuing the theme in the table with pink bulbs scattered on juniper and evergreen branches that I laid out in the center. I added clear votives and a mix of the pink Christmas bulbs I had on hand, small and large and different tones. I found the branches at the grocery store in the floral department, but you can look in your yard or trim your own Christmas tree if you have a live one. I also added pinecones to this mix, which looks great, but I forgot to photograph it.
I don’t have red napkins, so I used some black and pink napkins I bought at Pottery Barn and with the black table, some pretty vintage glassware from my friend Elizabeth, my new plates from Anthro and a cute San Francisco made gourmet chocolate bar as a little gift on each place setting.
The napkins are here-now on sale and these red and green paisley ones would also be cute for a holiday table. I love the idea of taking regular napkins and making them work with the just the addition of matching bulbs in the same colors- so shop your tree (literally) and don’t limit Christmas to just red and green! I used these mini wreaths I found at Joanne’s as napkin rings and tucked a cutting of greenery in each.
- Ginger Marinated Chicken Breasts Sliced and plattered (we do both meats on the grill.) A recipe here.
- Tri-tip with a rub. We often buy it already rubbed at the store, but this California recipe looks good.
- Butter lettuce, pear, persimmon and toasted pecan salad. I whisk together a vinaigrette of 1/4 C olive oil,1 T pomegranate or any fruit vinegar and 1 T maple syrup and a squeeze of any citrus plus sale to taste.
- Julia Reeds’s Gratin de Macaroni (a fancy and so easy take on baked mac and cheese everyone will love.)
- Dessert is Christmas cookies and chocolates we have received on a pretty platter.
As we lost the wonderful Julia Reed in 2020, it’s hard to fins her recipes online and she never had a website. The book I take this from is called Julia Reed’s South and it’s a beautiful book filled with her actual dinner parties and great inspiration. It was a gift from my pal and fellow blogger Juliet who writes Make Mine a Spritzer.
I am copying this directly from the book with her own words to describe. I will never make the usual mac n’ cheese again as this is so much easier than the roux route. Also, if you want to eat lighter, you can change out the whole milk for a lighter fat content and when I made it, I used a whole box of penne (1 pound) and just 1 cup of creme fraiche and it was still super yummy..
Julia Reed’s Gratin de Macaroni
Butter for greasing the
½ pound penne pasta
1½ cups crème fraîche
1½ cups whole milk
1 cup grated Gruyère
¼ cup finely chopped
Italian parsley leaves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black
2 tablespoons grated
from Julia Reed’s South cookbook.
“My mother used to make a noodle casserole with egg noodles,
butter, sour cream, lemon juice, and Parmesan. Neither of us
can find that exact recipe, but I discovered something similar
in-of all places- an out-of-print book on French bistros. This is much
lighter and far speedier than a proper macaroni and cheese made with a
béchamel sauce, and I prefer it, especially with daubes and stews. Feel free
to get creative with the cheeses. I like the way the Parmesan browns on
the top, but I’ve substituted everything from Cabot Clothbound Cheddar
to Thomasville tomme (a buttery Pyrenees-style cow’-milk cheese from
Georgia’s Sweet Grass Dairy) for the Gruyère.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter a shallow glass or earthenware gratin dish
Cook the penne in boiling salted water according to the directions on
the box. Drain and place in a large bowl. Fold in the crème fraîche, milk, and
Gruyère. Stir in the parsley, salt, and pepper, and taste for seasonings.
Spread the mixture in the prepared dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is browned on top and the liquid has
been completely absorbed. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.”
I also wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone who subscribes and visits. I truly appreciate you reading and being here and it’s what keeps me going on this blogging journey of almost 11 years! The connection with you all, and the community that comes from doing this is everything to me. I have finally had more time to devote to this with my sons on their own and I hope it will be more fun and interesting to read in the coming year..
Thank you and I wish you a wonderful holiday season and let’s hope an even better and healthier 2022 for all of us.
Much love and happy wishes from my little spot here in Northern California,
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