A Merry Merry Holiday Menu

Everyone has been asking me what I’m preparing for our holiday celebrations this year, so I decided to share my menus. The one thing that I always talk about is planning. Being organized isn’t just a good idea, it makes serving a holiday feast, or entertaining a crowd so easy! It doesn’t have to be difficult or daunting, it is meant to be fun, especially for the cook! And, don’t be afraid to let guests bring a dish if they offer, whether it’s an appetizer, side dish or dessert, it never hurts to have a little help and it saves room in your kitchen while you focus on preparing the main dishes. My favorite thing about the holidays is the cooking, so, I will do a big holiday dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Call me crazy I know, but I really do love doing it. Here’s a preview of this year’s Christmas Eve dinner which always includes a pasta dish, this year Fettuccine with Brown Butter & Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts finished with Hazelnut Pesto.

I usually start 2-3 days in advance of the holiday just getting little things together to save time the day of. Desserts usually come first. My fig cake is moist and can be baked at least 2 days in advance. The glaze can also be prepared 2 days in advance and kept in the refrigerator, then just spooned over the cake the morning of. And this rich and delicious Pecan Tart can also be prepared a day or 2 in advance. Just store in the refrigerator until the morning of, and bring it out to room temperature before serving.  There’s nothing wrong with re-heating slightly it in the microwave just before serving to bring back the fresh from the oven ooey gooeyness!

The day before is perfect for making salad dressing, cooking side vegetables and potatoes, like mashed potatoes that can easily be reheated in the microwave while the meat is resting, just be sure to bring back to room temperature before re-heating.  Haricots Vert can be blanched the day before, and then heated through in a sauté pan with unsalted butter.  The shallots and fennel can be roasted early the morning of and just left at room temperature until added to the sauté with the beans. These are both staple sides on my Christmas Day Holiday Table.

And, it woudn’t be Christmas without Jeff’s favorite Coconut Creme Cupcakes! His favorite special occasion dessert, so he gets them twice a year, Christmas Day and his birthday.

Coconut Creme Cupcakes

Coconut Creme Cupcakes

That’s it! Fun & Simple yet elegant and delicious. That’s my kind of holiday! Wishing you and you’re a  most wonderful and delicious holiday season and safe, happy and healthy new year!

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Here are some of my favorite tools of the trade for preparing these dishes perfectly every time!







Festive Fun & Simple Ideas for Holiday Entertaining

Festive Holiday Pumpkin-Cranberry Cake

Festive Holiday Pumpkin-Cranberry Cake

Tis’ the season for holiday entertaining, and there’s nothing like being prepared! Holiday entertaining can be stressful, but don’t let the idea of it interfere with your holiday joy! This week I’ve included a few fun & simple holiday dishes that can be prepared in advance, taking all the stress out of last minute entertaining and holiday gatherings. They are all super great appetizers and desserts to take to the party as well!

It’s all about the prep, and by doing things in advance and keeping a few simple things on hand for the holidays, entertaining can be fun…and simple!

Now, let’s get to that cake! This beautifully delicious Festive Pumpkin Cranberry Cake can easily be made in advance and kept in the freezer up to one month. Then, when it’s time to serve just dust with a little powdered sugar and a dollop of mascarpone whipped cream! Fun & Simple holiday entertaining at its best! Pumpkin is my favorite holiday ingredient and combined with fresh cranberries, a dynamic duo.  Add the soothing aroma of warm spices, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, and you have a holiday cake that soothes the soul, not to mention makes the kitchen smell amazing while its baking! Here’s the recipe:

Start with these ingredients:

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease pan with non-stick cooking spray, and set aside.  Mix dry ingredients well, with paddle attachment of electric stand mixer or whisk together in a large bowl, then add:

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Stir until combined on low speed of electric or stand mixer, then mix no longer than one minute on medium speed.  Remove from mixer and gently fold in cranberries. Pour batter into pumpkin baking pan until ¾ full. Smooth with spatula and allow to rest for 10 minutes before placing in the oven. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly on wire rack, 3-5 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan.  Using a smooth bladed knife, carefully loosen the edges and place the wire rack on top of the baking pan.  Invert and carefully lift the baking pan up and away from the cake.  Serve warm or room temperature.

The cake freezes beautifully for up to a month.  Cool completely and store in sealed freezer bags.  When ready to serve, the cake can be heated directly from the freezer to the microwave.  It will taste as if it came fresh from the oven! Then just dust with a little powdered sugar, giving it a fresh fallen snow affect!

I like to serve each slice with a dollop of mascarpone whipped cream! Super simple…In a cold bowl, add

Whip with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer (or regular mixer) until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whip with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer (or regular mixer) until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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If you like nuts, ½ cup of toasted chopped walnuts is an excellent addition to the cake and can be added with the cranberries. You will want to toss them in a little flour also before adding to the batter.

That’s it! Fun & Simple, Gigi Style. I hope you enjoy these hassle free dishes during your holiday seasoning! If you still need a little something for the Foodie on your holiday gift list, there’s still time to have a signed copy of Fun & Simple Gourmet shipped in time for Christmas! You can also download on your devices (iPhone & iPad) at iTunes! In the meantime, enjoy this most wonderful time of year! Wishing you and your family a most fabulous holiday, and remember…

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RELATED PRODUCTS

Leave it to Amazon to have everything you need for holiday entertaining preparation! My favorite organic pumpkin and this great little pumpkin loaf pan, perfect for this Festive Cake. This Kitchen Aide Stand Mixer is a great starter and on sale now at over 40% off. Tell Santa to add it to your Christmas List! I’ve had mine over 20 years and can’t live without it

Holiday Entertaining Tips ~ Fun & Simple Style!

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1.  Casual Elegance is always my motif.  It’s easy, comfortable but still lovely and beautiful.  I want my guests to feel relaxed and content but also special.  I like an eclectic combination of casual and formal, all on the same table, makes it fun and festive without being over stuffy.

2.  Select a theme or color.  Choosing a theme and/or color helps make everything else come together with ease.  Of course, the holidays make it super easy because the main theme is already set. Then it’s down to selecting a color combination. Make it simple and use table top accessories you already have, just make them a little festive. Red, green, silver, gold, all fantastic holiday colors, and there is nothing wrong with simple white napkins, rolled and tied with a pretty gold holiday ribbon.  

3.  Welcome Guests with a Special Greeting. Set the tone with a simple glass of champagne with a rosemary stalk or my festive Holiday Bellini, blood orange, Prosecco and Grand Marnier, that will get your guests in a celebration mood!

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4.  Celebrate the Season.  Focus on flowers or greenery for the table that exude the holidays. Fresh herbs like rosemary stalks and fresh cranberries are a great way to decorate the table. I like using all white candles in hurricanes with fresh cranberries and rosemary around the candles. 

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5.  Fun Place Cards.  Wine corks make great place card holders.  Using a serrated knife, simply cut a ¼ inch slit into the top of the cork and slide the place card into the slit. I sometimes even use the wine corks as the place card by writing the names on the cork with a Sharpie!  Champagne corks are fun place card holders, especially for holiday entertaining!  Another fun and festive place card is a simple candy cane.  Punch a hole in your place card, and tie around a candy cane with holiday ribbon. 

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6.  Fun Water Service. How simple is just adding festive fruit or herbs to your water pitcher or water glasses, it doesn’t take a lot of effort, to make it extra special.  For the holidays I like serving water with apple slices and cinnamon sticks or orange slices with cranberries and sage leaves, even lemon slices with rosemary sprigs, all add flavor and festive décor.

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7.  Little Gifts.  I like to send a little gift home with everyone, even if it is just a simple chocolate holiday candy, a little bag of your Christmas cookies, even a candy cane with a pretty ribbon tied around it or a mini-bottle of their favorite cordial or liqueur.  A little something makes a lovely lasting impression. 

8.  Lastly and Most Importantly! Do as much as you can in advance! This simple task makes holiday entertaining so much easier! Entertaining is supposed to be fun for everyone, especially the host! You can do things like setting the table a few days in advance and a little prep every day really adds up to saving time and stress! Also, it is really not necessary to have several side dishes or desserts. One of my favorite lines, that I use a lot is, "more isn't always better, it's just more!"

Pear-Pomegranate Salad, Creamy Mashed Potatoes & Haricot Verts Roasted Shallots & Fennel

Pear-Pomegranate Salad, Creamy Mashed Potatoes & Haricot Verts Roasted Shallots & Fennel

Pick your favorite salad, potato or starch, and one vegetable that compliment your main dish, and stick with those. And don’t be afraid to let your guests help! It’s fun to cook together, and if they offer to bring something, let them! An appetizer, bottle of wine, even a side dish or dessert, it just makes the main event even easier on you! These are my sides this holiday to be served with my Porc Aux Figues for Christmas Dinner! 

Stay tuned for more holiday menu ideas and recipes! Feel free to reach out with any questions or recipe requests and in the meantime...

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Enjoy this holiday season and have fun entertaining your family and friends! Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a most wonderful year ahead!  Cheers!

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Merry Christmas from 21 Club NYC!

Merry Christmas from 21 Club NYC!