Simply Celebrate Life!
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… and Here’s Some Ideas for All Through Your House!
It was my turn to Host Christmas Eve, and I have to admit I LOVE to host Christmas Eve at my house. Chris and I moved two states away when we were first married and spent many of those first years… alone. I panicked 14 years ago when I had to make my first Christmas turkey, but it turned out great and they have only gotten better since. Because of my great efforts in making those first Holidays special, I have learned to love to cook, and bake, and decorate, and create memories for the Holidays. And nothing makes me happier now than being able to put in those same efforts, and being able to share them with friends and family, and sitting around a dining table and being able to show the ones I love how much I love them by sharing a good meal and great conversation! And like so many of you, we’ve created many of our own Christmas traditions, some inherited from our own families, some created by us, and some adopted from close family and friends!
I’d love to share a few of my ideas and traditions with you… and hopefully inspire you to create some wonderful memories of your own!
I was hosting ten adults and eight children! I am lucky enough to have a dining table in my kitchen as well as a formal dining room to help seat all those people but even with two tables of eight, that still wasn’t enough. So, I brought in an outdoor side table which worked perfectly as my children’s size table, and a small bar height table from another room. Although it would have been easy enough to decorate each table the same, I thought it might be fun to give each table it’s own theme and style, afterall why not?
This was table for the little guys, there wasn’t a lot of space, so I kept it simple, bright, and fun. Green and red paper plates to make cleanup a cinch. I made each child a Monogrammed Stocking sugar cookie as their place marker, they LOVED these!
I actually love this simple place setting, great festive color and simple design, what more could we want?
This is the “Kids” table… I guess I forgot to take pics of this table before we ate. I set this table very simply and somewhat traditional, but with a feeling of being a little “grownup” for the big kids. I used my “Christmas” Holly dishes on top of a simple Holly Berry tablecloth. I made the same monogrammed sugar cookies for the big kids and even found small glass “Champagne” style glasses that were perfect for them. A simple red Hurricane candle centerpiece and we were set! I loved that it felt ‘Christmasy’ in a casual way for me, and a fancy grownup way for them.
My main dining table seats 8, and we had 10 adults. I set a private table just for Sonny and Patty, and it turned out rather special. I used some of my favorite Blue and Silver settings to make it unique and inviting for them, it really felt very cozy and special. Sometimes the best ideas come out of sheer necessity. You can see below that they were still close enough to be part of the main group as well.
Here are Sonny and Patty enjoying their private table for two!
And here is the Main dining table for the adults. I wanted this table to have a classic Christmas feel with very traditional colors but with an elegant twist.
I did not have one main centerpiece, I let the centerpiece flow down and through the table. Instead of a flat runner, I used some beautiful red organza and draped it loosely down the center of the table. On top of that, I used miniature evergreen trees and red hurricane candle lamps. It was simply elegant, perfect!
For my place setting, I based it all with a beaded Gold charger which brought it’s own sense of elegance and sparkle. I always look for great pieces like these at the after Christmas sales. I topped my chargers with a green dinner plate, and topped those with a red Salad plate. They are from completely different sets, but I love to mix and match. I pulled out my nice Silver that I inherited and love to use for special occasions. And for my stemware, I mixed plain glass goblets with green stemmed Champagne flutes. Always plan your table around what you have and what you love! You’ll be surprised by what a beautiful table you can set with just a little effort, and using and mixing pieces you already have! And if it’s really not enough, take inventory of what you have and then decide on what you need and have fun shopping for pieces that you will love to use over and over in many different ways.
Here we are enjoying our wonderful Christmas Eve dinner!
It’s not just about the decorations for me, Christmas Eve is when I make my Big formal traditional dinner and I really love being in the kitchen to create a memorable meal for the ones I love!
A few years ago, I decided to try a Turkey recipe from Wolfgang Puck, and it was amazing! The only problem is that now I have created expectations and I have a reputation to uphold! You can use whatever recipe you like, but my secret in a making a fabulous turkey is in layering the flavors: brining overnight, stuffing with aromatics, and rubbing a compound butter under the skin. I would share my recipe but I always change it a little now, but here is the recipe that started it all. Wolfgang Puck’s Brined Roast Turkey and Pan Gravy
I cook the Turkey, but Chris is definitely the carver, look at that Golden Brown Skin… Drool!!
The other tradition that is required at our house that may be a little different is my Cranberry Dipping Sauce. I tried it on a whim a few years ago, and it gets requested every year.
Here is Alton Brown’s recipe for Cranberry Dipping Sauce.
Another Christmas tradition is assigning my sister Nicole to make the rolls… Every year they come with a story which is my favorite part about them! Just looking at these Orange Rolls makes me want to go make a batch for myself!
When I was a child, we always spent Christmas day at my Grandmother’s. She always had the entire buffet in her dining room set with candy. And every year, my mother makes a large selection of Christmas candy, so who am I to break tradition? I now have certain “go to” recipes and expected treats and I also love to mix in a couple new tries. Here are some of our traditional favorites!
Here is my own version of the candy and treat buffet, ready and waiting for everyone else to bring their favorite treats as well.
We had a family recipe for Toffee that everyone loved, but my new favorite happens to come from Wolfgang Puck, so here is his recipe for Chocolate Covered Toffee!
My daughter Abby asked me to make Peanut Brittle, so we this was our new recipe to try, it turned out great and has been requested again, so this may end up on our new favorites.
Here is the fabulous Peanut Brittle recipe we use now.
I am a little nutty, but I am not a big nut person. My husband loves Walnuts, and I can’t stand them, so needless to say I don’t use them in my baking very often. He also happens to love Fudge, so as a gift to him. I make one batch of Fudge with lot’s and lot’s of Walnuts just for him. Here is my easy and yummy recipe.
4 cups Mini Marshmallows
2/3 cups evaporated Milk
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
12 oz package semisweet chocolate chips (~2 cups)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
Combine marshmallows, milk, butter, sugar, and salt in saucepan. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a full boil. Boil 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add chocolate chips, stirring until melted. Fold in vanilla and nuts. Pour into greased 9″ greased square pan. Chill until firm and cut into squares to serve.
Cake Pops are a big deal right now, so Patty made these fabulous Christmas Cake Pops! Yum!
And once you have a little leftover melted Chocolate, I can’t think of a better use that drizzled over Pretzel Rods, one of my favorite treats!
Apparently, Caleb is also a fan of our Christmas treats!
If a table full of homemade Christmas candy is not enough? Here are the rest of our Sweets and Treats!
Christmas Sugar Cookies are a must. I’m a little weird, and I don’t like them smothered with too much frosting.
These snowflakes ended up being my favorite, they had the perfect amount of frosting and they were so pretty too!
I realize I’m sharing a lot of my personal Christmas traditions and stories, but here is one more. I had an Italian neighbor growing up, and she would bring us traditional Italian Pizzelle cookies every Christmas. Every Christmas we looked forward to them and fought over them and enjoyed them. So a few years ago, when I found a Pizzelle Iron, I pounced! And now I make them every Christmas, and they are my favorite!
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons anise extract
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
Beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Stir in the melted butter and anise extract. Combine the flour and baking powder, stir in gradually. Dough will be sticky.
Preheat your Pizzelle Iron according to Manufacturers instructions. Drop batter by rounded spoonfuls onto the iron. Close and cook for about 90 seconds, or until steam stops coming from the iron. Carefully remove and cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
An adopted Christmas tradition is for my friend Ivanna to make her Flan! Her family is from Argentina and it is their tradition that I will happily expect now every year because it is SO yummy!
I will admit that I love Egg Nog but I also enjoy making my own big pretty Punch Bowl full of it!
6 eggs, separated
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 teaspoons rum extract (family friendly version 😉
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
Separate eggs into two bowls. Beat egg yolks with 1/4 cup sugar until light and creamy.
Heat milk, and salt in double boiler, pour 1 cup hot milk into egg yolk mixture, and then slowly add egg mixture to double boiler and heat gently until mixture coats the back of a metal spoon.
Add nutmeg and extracts, and chill for 2-4 hours.
When ready to serve, whip egg whites until soft peaks form, then add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, and fold into custard. Whip heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar until fluffy, and fold into mixture. Serve chilled, and garnish with more fresh grated nutmeg.
What would Christmas be without a Hot Cocoa bar ready and waiting to be served alongside Sugar Cookies and Pizzelles! Yummy!
Bros! I’m just bummed that I had my camera on some weird setting for some of these pics, OOPS!
One last tradition… new Christmas Pajamas on Christmas Eve!