Thursday, December 15, 2011

Adventures In Preparing Holiday Meals

Nathan and I celebrated Thanksgiving with my extended family, and I only baked a pumpkin cheesecake for that gathering.  We are celebrating Christmas with my in-laws in Nebraska, so I will not get a chance to bake or cook for that gathering.  (It's kind of hard to travel with sweet potato casserole as a carry-on.  And I don't even want to think what would happen if I packed it in my checked baggage).  But I wanted to prepare a proper holiday meal, so Nathan and I recently hosted a generic holiday meal for my parents and sister. 

First off, I don't know how professional chefs do it.  I had so much fun cooking all of the side dishes, and I love preparing big meals for my family.  But holy crap, I was so exhausted, I fell asleep at 7 p.m.  I was lying on the couch watching The Muppet Show with Nathan.  At the end of an episode, I said, "I just need to rest my eyes for a few minutes."  Right.  Just a few minutes.  I passed out, only reviving briefly at 9:30 p.m. to devour a Quarter Pounder with cheese.  (We'd eaten the holiday meal at 2 p.m). I ate that burger as fast as I could because I just wanted to crawl into bed and zonk out for the next twelve hours.    

As I prepared all of the side dishes for the Generic Holiday Meal, I vacillated between Serenity and Panic.  My inner monologue went something like this:

- Oh my god, it's already 7 a.m.!  How am I going to prepare all this food!
- This is so freaking easy.  La de da, I'm going to take a break and watch some t.v.
- What was I thinking?  STUPID STUPID STUPID.  There's no time for television!  We'll be lucky if I finish even one of these dishes.
- Oh, why was I so worried?  I am a Side Dish Goddess.  I can make this stuffing with my eyes closed.
- ^#@&*^*!(_*#_(!)*$)(*!)(*!!!!!!!!!

And so on.  I probably passed out at 7 p.m. from emotional, and not physical, exhaustion. 

But the food was delicious and I was so happy to share the meal with my family.  (If anything, my panic probably made the meal tastier and satisfying for me).  If you are looking for some good holiday recipes, this is what we enjoyed:

- Turkey fried with infra-red technology in The Big Easy.

- Sweet potato casserole with a pecan topping, using this recipe.  This thing is criminally delicious.  I was skeptical because I've always loved yams with marshmallows, but this casserole should be on every holiday table. 

- Stuffing using this recipe.  It was very delicious, but I am not ready to sign up for a committed relationship with this stuffing.  I still want to audition some other recipes.

- Balsamic braised brussel sprouts with pancetta, using this recipe.  Oh, so delicious.  I am in a monogamous, committed relationship with this recipe.  Whenever I want fancy brussel sprouts, I'm inviting these guys to the party. 

- And for dessert, nutmeg maple butter cookies, using this recipe.  We really didn't need dessert, but these cookies are delicious and stay tasty for a week.  They manage to be crispy but chewy at the same time.  I'll definitely be baking these cookies again next December.  (Oh hell, who am I kidding?  I'll definitely be baking these cookies again next week!) 

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