After a day of preparing, scheduling, cleaning, cooking, improvised crafting, eating, laughing, watching football, and cocktailing… I can say I am truly thankful for all of the many blessings in my life. My family and friends, my better half, my furry children, my good health and faculties, my La Belle Hibou readers… so much for me to be grateful! Today reminded me to be humble and to appreciate.
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday weekend!
The holidays are the best time to entertain or be entertained by close friends and loved ones with your best – your best recipes, your best behavior, your best wine recommendations, your best outfits. But in the chaos of holiday planning, we often forget is that it is the little things that really can matter the most. Here are a few of my best ‘little things’ to remember:
- If you are hosting guests, keep in mind the proper host(ess) etiquette. The most important part of hosting may be the organizing part, but it certainly doesn’t mean DOING everything. This is a lesson I’ve had to learn over the years. Your guests are there to spend time and commune together with you, not without you while you remain stuck in the kitchen barking orders at your spouse and
swearing sweating over a burnt side dish.
- Prepare a playlist of music that will help keep the spirit warm throughout the occasion. Remember that if your Aunt Louise hates ‘that rap music,’ you should probably steer clear of the hip hop playlist and artists on your iPod. Instead, select those songs that you love to hear while on ‘hold’ on a call and make you start humming (or full-on karaoke singing at your desk – not that I would know). It’s hard to beat songs from the 50s and 60s, and there’s always the slew of ‘adult contemporary’ from the 70s and 80s. Oh and one more thing: the music should be used as background music, not to drown out your snoring uncle or the football game on TV.
Here’s a sample playlist that I put together to help inspire yours:
- One of my best tips for hosting holidays is to pre-plan and buy extra tin foil and leftover plastic containers to hand out to your family and friends after the huge meal. Every host bemoans the Pyrex or Rubbermaid (or if you’re lucky enough to be the awesome owner of classic forever-lasting Tupperware!) that they lose here or there as a result of parting gifts, so buy some Ziploc or other containers as a part of your prep that you won’t mind never seeing again. Handing out leftovers of course helps alleviate a lot of clean up and fridge or freezer storage space, and also allows your guests the opportunity to enjoy those next-day turkey sandwiches too. Or perhaps you really don’t want the temptation to finish a whole or half of the leftover dessert in the house, so definitely send pieces home with your guests. They may love not needing to worry about cooking much the next day, and may quietly wish they could have had more of that delicious dressing anyway.
- One last small hosting tip to consider is at the very least, right before mealtime, place the dog(s)/cat(s)/pet(s) in a separate room so that they don’t disturb the guests. Even if your guests don’t mind the pet(s), putting your furry children in a separate room temporarily will also keep them from drooling over the food, and keep them from feeling the disappointment of not getting any turkey or gravy. And all can be a little more peaceful without a begging snout staring your guests down, weakening them to guilt through their sweet “look how cute and starving I am, my owners never feed me” face.
Check out Apartment Therapy’s recent reminders as well to help you…
- The best holidays guests also remember a few small important things. One of the biggest tips that shows your true appreciation for all of the hard work and resources your host put in is a small gift. There are the classic suggestions, such as a great bottle of wine, a scented candle or a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers. But why not show your sincere appreciation with a small personal handmade gift? Don’t kill yourself (or your bank account) creating these small tokens of appreciation, but a little thought and creativity speak volumes about your own etiquette and gratitude. Make a trip to your nearby bargain store (ie. 99 store), purchase cellophane paper, small individual tins or containers, some ribbon and name tags or placecards, and bake some homemade cookies or personal size cakes? It’s that personal touch that always makes the holidays all the more memorable.
- award-winning pumpkin bread from family recipe by A. Borg!
- Even though this may be an obvious tip, it is quite often ignored or disregarded because the holidays are chaotic… but offering to help with something small – and then actually doing it – is (almost) always appreciated. This doesn’t have to be offering to finish making the sabayon or chocolate soufflé. But if you see that the trash needs to be taken out as you try to throw away a cup, or if everyone has finished their meal, why not help collect the dirty plates. Your host will certainly at least appreciate the gesture, and it will allow everyone more cocktail time!
- Finally, the last guest tips may be obvious, but are great to remember as well. Just because our gadgets allow total accessibility nearly all moments of all 24 hours of every day, this certainly doesn’t mean we should spend more time staring at our cell phones, texting others or Facebooking (regardless of whether or not you like your fellow guests or family members). Bad guest behaviors also include spending the entire day in front of the TV watching football. As tempting as this may be, you certainly don’t want your host to think your only purpose for attending is to use them for their food, drink and TV. Mingling with other guests will almost always make for a more enjoyable evening, especially when adult beverages are involved. Or better yet, ask the host if they mind firing up their Xbox Kinect or Wii if they have one, and laugh with everyone else while you attempt to dance off some of your dinner.
What are your best hosting and guest reminders and tips??
The biggest reminder of all: have a Belle & Happy Thankgiving!
– La Belle Hibou
Some of you may remember that my previous blog (Moonlighting Foodie) was, obvs, all about food… Well, La Belle Hibou will be about many things, including food as well. And what better time of year than the holidays to talk about food!
Recently, a friend of mine asked me to give her some advice and tips about cooking a Thanksgiving meal. Needless to say, this took top priority in my day! Here are a few of those tips for the essential elements to your turkey dinner this week!
Turkey: the most important part of the meal, but usually the easiest!
- FRESH TURKEY – if financially possible, always buy a fresh turkey, not previously frozen, one or two days before you cook it. Keep it in the fridge until showtime.
- You can either brine the turkey, which involves soaking the turkey overnight (12 hours +) in heavily salted water, or right before showtime, you can slather the turkey in lots of butter. The benefits to brining the turkey are it seasons the meat all the way through and doesn’t require a lot of salting right before putting it in the oven, and it also tenderizes the meat. Brining is definitely the best recommendation for seasoned tender turkey. If you don’t have time to brine the turkey, you can always take lots of chilled SALTED butter and ‘lotion up’ the turkey skin, especially the breasts and legs. Be sure to get the butter underneath the skin as well wherever possible and LOTS OF BUTTER in the cavity. There should be a nice buttery coating all over the turkey when you are done. This will make for very crispy skin when it’s cooked.
- Even if you aren’t stuffing your turkey, you should add large onion pieces (or even large apple pieces) into the cavity of the turkey, enough to just about fill the cavity. This little trick helps hold moisture inside the turkey.
- Another awesome turkey cooking secret that my family uses is a turkey bag. THEY REALLY WORK!!! After you either brine or butter your turkey, take a turkey bag and add a tablespoon of flour to the inside of the bag. Inflate the bag a bit, hold the open end of the bag shut, and shake the flour around the bag so that there’s a light dusting of flour inside. Then, have someone help you place the turkey inside the bag (it’s best with 2 people… less messy). After the turkey is in the bag, add 2 or three sticks of celery, some pieces of onion and two or three carrot sticks into the bag – this also helps keep the turkey moist. Seal up the bag with the little ties from the turkey bag box, and pierce a few holes into the bag as per the instructions on the turkey bag box. GUARANTEED DELICIOUS MOIST TURKEY EVERY TIME!!!!
Dressing: For stove top dressing, my recommendation is always Mrs. Cubbison’s Cubed Dressing. This is a brand you can find at any grocery store. I also recommend substituting BEER (preferably a blonde lager or nutty stout) for the chicken broth that the dressing calls for. This gives the dressing a very tangy kick to the flavor. Just follow the rest of the instructions for the dressing, and leave out any ingredients you may not like. I personally always add chopped black olives, a little bit of chopped celery, and chopped onions. And of course, BEER.
Mashed Potatoes: I think the best mashed potatoes are made with lots of UNSALTED butter (you should add a little bit of salt on your own, not depend on salted butter) and either CREAM (my preference) or milk. In my experience, the best mashing potatoes are either yukon gold or red potatoes, but regular russet potatoes work too, since most of the flavor comes from the butter and cream/milk. Just be sure to boil the potatoes really well, and let them cool before you add the butter and cream/milk. Once they’ve cooled off, use an electric hand mixer to whip them and smooth them out. Add the butter (depending on how many potatoes you use, I would use the butter liberally but within reason, think 3/4 stick to 1.5 sticks). Then add the cream/milk a little at a time – you don’t want potato soup… Too much cream/milk can be disastrous. Not enough cream/milk is too starchy. Whip them with the hand mixer, and you cannot go wrong. For some kicky potatoes, try adding additional flavors like freshly grated horseradish (you can get a piece of horseradish from Whole Foods), freshly minced garlic or wasabi (you can buy some wasabi paste at Whole Foods too). JUST A LITTLE BIT! You don’t want to lose the flavor of the potatoes/butter/cream or milk by overpowering them with the additional ingredient. Any additional kicky ingredient should be added VERY LIGHTLY… for just subtle flavor.
Best of luck, and most of all, Happy Thanksgiving!