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

5 Perfect Pumpkin Dishes for Thanksgiving!

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Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving…right? Of course it’s one of my favorite holidays because it’s all about two of the my most important things in life…Gratitude and Food! I like celebrating and preparing for Thanksgiving all month long, creating fun new recipes and enjoying preparing and updating some of my old ones.

Pumpkin is one of my favorite foods and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, not to mention the many health benefits of pumpkin!

Vitamin A rich and only 49 calories per cup, pumpkin has little or no fat content, and is high in antioxidants, like beta carotene which protects your cells against free radicals. Pumpkin also has fiber, Vitamins C, B2 and E, Iron, Copper and Potassium. I love pumpkin in lots of dishes over the holidays, but I eat pumpkin all year long.

I've selected five of my favorite pumpkin delights for you to share with your friends and family this holiday season and all year long...enjoy!

Simply click for the recipes.

Pumpkin Risotto   with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Creamy   Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita   with a hint of Amaretti

Creamy Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita with a hint of Amaretti

Pumpkin Ravioli   with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Ravioli with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake  , my go to Thanksgiving dessert

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, my go to Thanksgiving dessert

What’s better than preparing a holiday feast with those closest to you and sharing a day of food, love and gratitude! I can’t think of a single thing! I hope you enjoy preparing these fun & simple pumpkin recipes as much as I enjoyed preparing for you! Please feel free to share and don't hesitate to reach out with your comments and send me your photos! I would love to hear from you! You will find many of my favorite holiday dishes in my new cookbook, Fun & Simple Gourmet! And…it makes a super great holiday gift!

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving! In the meantime,

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5 Great Recipes for a Delicious 4th of July!

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"The second day of July, 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival." -John Adams, July 1, 1776

Independence Day has always been my favorite summer holiday, maybe because it always includes two of my favorite things, fireworks and red velvet cupcakes! On Independence Day we celebrate the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence from the British Empire with parades, fireworks and yes, food! You will love all of my fun and simple recipes to help plan your 4th of July holiday menu, but first, a little history. The Declaration of Independence was finally approved and signed July 4, 1776, officially declaring the United States of America independent from Great Britain. Ironically, John Adams died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration, as well as Thomas Jefferson who also passed on this very same day. The two were also coincidentally the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to become United States Presidents.

How do you celebrate Independence Day? At our house, it's all about the food...of course! I like to change up the menu each year, but one tradition that is always on the menu, my red velvet cupcakes, and John Philip Sousa marches! (click on photo for recipe)

These rich and super moist cupcakes are the perfect 4th of July Grand Finale!

These rich and super moist cupcakes are the perfect 4th of July Grand Finale!

Here are a few more fun and simple dishes on our holiday menu this year! Simply click on the photos for the recipes...enjoy! Don't forget to send me your food pics from your holiday table!

I know I said 5 great recipes for your delicious 4th...I couldn't help but share a couple more! We are celebrating right here at home this year...Hilton Head is such a great place for the 4th! Where are you spending your holiday? Send me your 4th of July photos, including your holiday table!       I would love to share...and feel free to share these recipes and menu ideas!

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The best part about celebrating holidays is that the festivities always revolve around family, friends and food! My favorite part of the 4th of July is the cupcakes, though the fireworks are a close second! From our little island to wherever you are...

Happy 4th of July!

 

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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!

Tasteful Holiday Sides

I love my Le Creuset! It makes holiday cooking easy, fun and colorful!

I love my Le Creuset! It makes holiday cooking easy, fun and colorful!

So, let's make this Thanksgiving thing simple and fun! For me, it's all about the sides and the beauty is that most can be prepared in advance, and then just heated through when its time to serve. Really, once you get the bird in the oven, there is time to get everything else together AND spend time with your family, friends and guests and really ENJOY the day! I love being in the kitchen, and holidays having other people in the kitchen with me, enjoying a beverage, snacking, telling stories, laughing and just having fun! I like having a few appetizer snack plates available as the guests arrive.  Not too much food, in anticipation of a holiday feast, but a few light snacks. I also like to keep the "feast" simple. There is no need for so many dishes on a holiday table, keep it simple, fresh and remember, it's really about the company and the celebration!

My favorite part of a Thanksgiving meal is the sides. I like to go with a theme, and then select sides that compliment each other. This year, there is such an abundance of fresh figs, I put together a rustic Thanksgiving menu for us utilizing these sweet little gems, along with my standard staples, like my Ciabatta Cornbread Stuffing (Jeff's favorite) and Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce

I know I said that the sides were my favorite part of Thanksgiving, but I am a big fan of a bite of something sweet to make a festive meal complete! This year for us, my Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, Georgia Pecan Tart and a moist and delicious Fig Cake with ginger, walnuts and a lemon scented glaze. Please reach out for more recipes, I'd love to hear from you!

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Now, let's talk about wine pairings. We always begin with champagne, it's just a wonderful way to start a celebration. When it comes to pairing wine with a holiday meal, especially with turkey, I like a nice medium bodied Merlot. With its easy tannins and soft finish, Merlot doesn't overpower food, making a fabulous pairing with a holiday meal that usually has many diverse flavors. One of our favorites is this lovely Duckhorn Merlot, comprised of 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc, aged in 100% French Oak barrels.   

 

Wishing you and yours a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We have so much to be thankful for! Cheers to good health, much happiness and a simply delicious holiday celebration! 

Can you believe Christmas is literally 5 weeks away! Stay tuned for delicious food and wine pairings to get you through the holiday season! Until then...

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Summer Travel Series - Celebrating the 4th of July!

Fireworks in historic Boston Harbor. Founded in the 1600's and where the American Revolution began, what a perfect 4th of July vacation destination! While you are there, check out Jeff's audio historic walking tour with 50 historic sites on a beautiful walk through the city.  Click here   to view the tour! Where are your summer travels taking you?

Fireworks in historic Boston Harbor. Founded in the 1600's and where the American Revolution began, what a perfect 4th of July vacation destination! While you are there, check out Jeff's audio historic walking tour with 50 historic sites on a beautiful walk through the city. Click here  to view the tour! Where are your summer travels taking you?

"The second day of July, 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival." -John Adams, July 1, 1776

The Declaration of Independence was finally approved and signed July 4, 1776, officially declaring the United States of America independent from Great Britain. Ironically, John Adams died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration, as well as Thomas Jefferson who also passed on this very same day. The two were also coincidentally the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to become United States Presidents.

Celebrating right here at home...Hilton Head is a great place for the 4th!

Ocean Lounge, Sea Pines Beach Club, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, SC

Ocean Lounge, Sea Pines Beach Club, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, SC

A 4th of July tradition...whatever the holiday menu...always ends with my scrumptious Red Velvet Cupcakes with creamy mascarpone and cream cheese frosting, my favorite part of the holiday!

My Red Velvet Cupcakes... Click Here  for Recipe!

My Red Velvet Cupcakes...Click Here for Recipe!

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The best part about celebrating holidays is that the festivities always revolve around family, friends and food! Though my favorite part of the 4th of July is the cupcakes, the fireworks are a close second!

Happy 4th of July!

 

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Holiday Series Continued - Chateaubriand

If you are still in need of a fabulous idea for Dinner Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, try my Chateaubriand.  It is elegant, yet easy to prepare and simply melts in your mouth.  You will find this and more simply elegant recipe ideas at gigiwilson.com/recipes.

  

A perfect holiday side dish - Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad

Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad

Porc l'orange Gigi Style!  

Porc l'orange Gigi Style!  

Beautiful and delicious roasted fall harvest vegetables make a stunning side for any meal right through the holidays.  A perfect accompaniment to your Christmas Turkey, Roasted Rib Roast, Beef Tenderloin or Crown Roast of Pork.  These gorgeous roasted brussel sprouts, red, yellow and orange beets, shallot and roasted South Georgia pecans, combined with orange segments and an orange-apple cider vinaigrette, will be the highlight of your holiday table...and oh so healthy!  

 

With my Porc l'orange for Christmas Eve Dinner...Absolutely!  More holiday menu ideas coming soon!  

Link to recipe:  gigiwilson.com/porc-lorange