One of my favorite moments of the holiday season is when my family is gathered around a table, giving thanks to the Lord for the opportunity to be together, and for the meal in front of us. It’s a moment that we don’t get to share often because of busy schedules and the fact that we live in different cities, but it’s a moment that I treasure deeply.
I have a family of mostly women, so we take entertaining pretty seriously! (My sister spent thanksgiving with just her husband and still added a “signature cocktail” to her menu – yes, for just the two of them!! Another one of my sisters and her husband live in a condo without an oven or a stovetop and she still managed to prepare a Thanksgiving meal made solely on the George Foreman grill and in the toaster oven!) So needless to say, we like to create holiday meals filled with ambience and special touches! I volunteered to host Christmas Eve dinner at my house this year, and I’m excited to make it a special affair!
The Welcome Cocktails:
I always like to welcome guests with a festive cocktail so that they can immediately settle in, relax, and enjoy the evening. After scouring pinterest for holiday cocktail ideas, I found a gem: This beautiful “Bubble Bar”! There is nothing more festive than champagne. It adds sparkle to any holiday, and it feels so celebratory (We are celebrating the birth of Jesus, after all! I think he would appreciate a toast on his birthday!)
This fun bar idea is great for groups big and small. I plan on serving brut champagne, a sparkling rose, and adding a splash of cranberry to a glass to add some holiday color. You can also serve sparkling white grape juice for the children & non-drinkers.
This “bubble bar” would also be a great addition to a birthday party, or a baby shower.
I think a beautifully set table creates such a special mood for the meal. Even if you are serving takeout pizza, it can still feel glam! The easiest and least expensive way to add ambience is with candlelight. You can pick up an entire pack of tea light or votive candles for just a few dollars. I am also a sucker for sparkly mercury glass, so I like to place each candle in a mercury glass votive and use those as part of my center piece.
You can also add pillar candles and tapers to add height and dimension to your centerpiece. But truly, candlelight is all you need for amazing ambience. I love flowers, but if you are on a budget, they can make things add up fast!
For the place settings, I absolutely love this “gift wrap” idea! All you need is some silver ribbon (which you may have left over from wrapping packages!) This feels like Christmas to me, AND it’s not too difficult to create. You can use your simple, “every day” china with this idea too and it will make it feel dressed up!
I like to serve a selection of cheeses with cocktails when everyone arrives. Aside from my love of cheese (and it is a deep, deep love!) It gives the men something to snack on (because if the men in your family are anything like ours, they are always “starving” and ready to eat!)
I also like to serve roasted nuts, seasoned with fresh rosemary and a little cayenne pepper for heat. They smell heavenly when they are in the oven, and the flavors really capture the holidays for me.
For the main course, I’m going to serve beef tenderloin. It is a special occasion meat for us because it’s fairly pricey, but it’s so incredibly tender and good. You can also stick to turkey or ham (total holiday staples!) but after eating turkey leftovers for about a week after thanksgiving, I’m usually a little turkey’ed out by the time Christmas rolls around.
There are so many great recipes for beef tenderloin, but The Pioneer Woman shares a really incredible one! She also takes the guess work out of cooking it (and since you REALLY don’t want to mess up an expensive cut of meat, this takes the stress out of it too!) Another great benefit to serving beef tenderloin is that the leftovers are absolutely awesome and you can make great sandwiches for a few days after!
When it comes to side dishes, I like to stick with the classics during the holidays. We typically eat pretty healthy throughout the year, so I don’t mind making some mashed potatoes with a ton of (real!) butter for Christmas. Plus, I really don’t know anyone who doesn’t like mashed potatoes so they are always a crowd pleaser. Green beans, various salads, and rolls will likely complete our side dishes, but when serving beef tenderloin you can really accompany it with anything.
For your dinner wines, my suggestion is serving what you like rather than trying to pair the right wine with your meal. If you want to drink champagne even though you are serving beef tenderloin, who cares! Go with what you like. I plan to serve a rich Cabernet Sauvignon and buttery Chardonnay with our meal.
A great cabernet pairs perfectly with a beef tenderloin because the tannins in the wine help cut the fats in the meat. If your guests prefer white, a full-bodied wine like a chardonnay or a chenin blanc are your best best. Some special occasion red wines that are crowd pleasers in our house (and they are special occasion because they are fairly expensive and a “treat” for us) are a Silver Oak “Napa Valley” cabernet sauvignon, Gargiulo Vineyards “G Major 7″, St. Helena Winery “Sympa”, and “The Prisoner” by Orin Swift.
And finally, dessert…our house is going to kick off the eve before Christmas with some warm hot chocolate and cookies (that we can also leave for Santa!) Once dessert is served, my mom always gifts everyone a new set of Christmas pajamas and we get cozy and sit around talking about what a year it has been! We also like to watch the Christmas movie “Mixed Nuts” – it’s not exactly a classic, but it’s funny and has somehow become a tradition in our house!
I hope your holidays are filled with lots of laughter, love, warmth, and great meal on your table. Please also remember those who aren’t as fortunate this holiday season. Homeless shelters and food banks really need your help during this time of year. Give what you can, whether it is money, canned goods, or your time and serve someone in need. That is truly the greatest gift you can give, AND receive.
xo, the Womanista