Here we are! It’s so close to Christmas we can almost taste Santa’s cookies, yet there is so much still to be done… If you’re also feeling the panting breath of reindeer hot on your back, we are here with some last minute holiday help. Host an intimate gathering for family and friends with a simple soup bar. Rock around your Christmas tree with our party playlist. Bake cookies for St. Nick and toss up some reindeer food using magical ingredients from your pantry. Last minute gifts and an easy Christmas breakfast? We’ve got you covered.
This time of year should fill your heart with joy– not stress! So slow down, relax and try not to freak when your two-year-old reorganizes all low hanging ornaments and unwraps the decorative gifts under the tree. These days are fleeting, so make your memories simple and sweet.
Host a Chili + Soup Gathering This Week!
Picture it: early evening, twinkling white lights on a simple tree, crisp winter air, cable knit scarves around the necks of good friends, and steaming mugs of soup (topped with cheese, fresh herbs, and croutons) warming your hands. Sounds like Heaven to me. And the best part? Soups, stews and chilis are some of the easiest comfort foods to make. Set up a large table with crockpots or punch bowls filled with your favorite soups. Place your favorite toppings nearby and serve in large mugs or small bowls. Guests can mingle and eat, and you can relax. Try our mom’s Broccoli Artichoke Soup (see here) or one of the great recipes below!
What you’ll need:
- Crock pots (or large serving bowls or punch bowls to accommodate your soups). If you don’t plan to serve them immediately, you can also keep them on the stove in their pots and serve directly from there.
- Large mugs (or small bowls) for serving
- Toppings placed in small serving bowls (shredded cheese, scallions, bacon crumbles, sour cream, fresh herbs, croutons or soup crackers, or whatever you love)
- Friends and family
You can also set up a drink station with juice boxes, water, and egg nog for the kids- and a signature sip for the adults. Let each guest bring a dessert. Have fun with it! The goal of this type of gathering is to enjoy one another. Our family invitation was sent via text and the dress code is Christmas Pajamas or Ugly Christmas Sweater (best dressed wins a prize!). Simple, delicious, and such a great time.
Browned Butter Cauliflower Soup (via Love & Olive Oil)
1 head (approx. 2 pounds) cauliflower
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved and thinly sliced
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
salt & pepper
4 1/2 cups water (I used 2 cups chicken broth & 2.5 cups water)
1/2 teaspoon white wine or sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh chives, snipped
- Trim the cauliflower, removing any green leaves and leaf stems. Remove stem and core; trim and slice into thin pieces. Cut 1 1/2 cups of small florets and set aside for later. Coarsely cut the rest of cauliflower into thick slices and chunks.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter into a large saucepan set over medium low heat. Add onion, leek, and a pinch of salt and saute until softened, about 7-10 minutes.
- Add water (or chicken broth) and increase heat to high. Add the half the cauliflower chunks and the stem pieces; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Let simmer gently for 15 minutes, then add other remaining cauliflower chunks and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is crumbly and tender.
- Meanwhile, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter in a pan. When butter is melted and frothy, add the reserved florets. Cook over medium heat until the florets and the butter are both browned, stirring occasionally, about 12 to 14 minutes minutes. Transfer the florets with a slotted spoon to a small bowl; toss with vinegar and coarse sea salt. Pour browned butter into a small bowl and set aside.
- Ladle soup into blender and puree until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Return soup to the saucepan over medium-low heat until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Additionally, you may choose to add up to a 1/2 cup more of water if desired for a thinner consistency (I had to do this). To serve, ladle into serving mugs or bowls and garnish with florets, snipped chives, and freshly ground black pepper; drizzle with browned butter and serve.
Mitch’s Chicken Noodle Soup (thanks, Jackie!)
- 1 Whole Chicken
- 3 qt. low-sodium chicken broth
- 6 carrots
- 4 stalk celery
- 3 medium onions
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 clove garlic
- 10 sprig parsley
- 2 sprig thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 4 leeks
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
- 3 c. medium egg noodles
1. Make the stock: Place the chicken and chicken broth in a large stockpot and set it over medium heat. Roughly chop 2 carrots, 2 celery ribs, and 1 onion and add to the broth. Add the peppercorns, garlic, 2 sprigs of parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and enough water to just cover the chicken. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the chicken is very tender — about 1 1/4 hours — skimming the surface periodically. Remove the chicken and place in a large bowl. Strain the broth through a very fine sieve into a large, clean bowl or stockpot. Discard the vegetables.
2. Make the soup: Skim any fat off the top of the strained broth and discard. Slice the remaining carrots, celery, onions, and leeks into 1/4-inch-thick pieces and set aside. Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken, cut meat into 1/2-inch pieces, and set aside. Chop the remaining parsley leaves and set aside. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook until the onions are translucent — about 7 minutes. Add the chicken, the reserved broth, salt, and pepper. Simmer the soup until the vegetables are tender — about 1 hour. Stir in the egg noodles and parsley and cook until the noodles are tender — about 10 more minutes. Serve hot with crusty bread and fresh parsley.
Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups milk (I like fat free half & half, use your favorite. The higher the fat content – such as heavy cream – the creamier and richer your soup will be)
- 3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian)
- ½ onion, diced
- 3-4 cups chopped broccoli florets (just the bushy tops – discard the stems or use them for another recipe)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 2 ounces cream cheese
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (yellow)
- 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
- 1-4 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
- optional: extra cheese for topping
- In a large sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. When melted, stir in the flour until mixture clumps up. Very gradually whisk in the milk until all milk has been added and a thick white sauce forms.
- Add chopped onions, broccoli, garlic, Italian seasoning, and cream cheese to your slow cooker. Add the sauce from the pan, and the chicken broth. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 4-6 hours.
- Uncover soup and add the sharp cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir until the cheese melts into the soup. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve warm and top with additional shredded cheese if desired. Enjoy!
Chili For a Crowd (from Real Simple Magazine)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 12-ounce bottles lager beer
- 2 19-ounce cans kidney beans
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- kosher salt and black pepper
- corn bread
- toppings (such as sour cream, radishes, scallions, avocados, jalapenos, cilantro, Cheddar, and toasted pumpkin seeds)
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
- Add the beer, beans, the tomatoes and their juices, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with the corn bread and toppings as desired.
Mood Music for the Holidays
We’ve asked our staff to provide their very favorite holiday tunes, and here they are!
- The Christmas Song / Nat King Cole: Beverly
- So Let it be Christmas / Alan Jackson: Laurie
- So this is Christmas: Darlene
- Away in a Manger: Lisa
- The Christmas Song / Catherine Feeny: Andrea
- Christmas Shoes / Jason Yeager: Sally
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas / Frank Sinatra: Sandy
- Baby, it’s Cold Outside / Dean Martin: Raquel
- White Christmas / The Drifters: Jackie
- I’ll be Home for Christmas / Sarah McLachlan: Sarah
- It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas / Michael Buble: Shannon
And here are some others we like:
- Winter Wonderland / Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett
- I’ll be Home for Christmas / Michael Buble
- I’ll be Home / Meghan Trainor
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas / Tony Bennett
- Angels we have Heard on High / Jewel
- Little Drummer Boy / Faith Hill
- O Holy Night / Glee cast
Magic Reindeer Food
Ingredients: 1 cup cereal flakes, 1/4 cup raisins, 1/4 cups nuts, 4 tablespoons green sugar, 4 tablespoons red sugar
Step 1: Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
Step 2: Store in a zip-lock bag (and make extra baggies for neighbors and friends– attach the poem below).
Step 3: Spread on your lawn Christmas Eve or place in a cup next to Santa’s cookies. Leave a note for Santa so he knows it’s for his reindeer.
Magic Reindeer Food Poem:
Sprinkle on your lawn Christmas Eve night. The moon will make it sparkle bright. Santa’s reindeer fly and roam. This will help them find your home.
Cookies for Santa
We slice and bake around here (ha!) then let the kids decorate with icing and sprinkles. If you would rather bake something more impressive, here’s a great recipe that Santa will surely appreciate!
Snickerdoodles (by Emeril Lagasse):
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.
With a handheld or standing mixer, beat together the shortening and butter. Add the 1 1/2 cups sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and blend until smooth.
Mix the 3 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll the dough, by hand, into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar. Flatten the balls into 1/2-inch thick disks, spacing them evenly on unlined cookie sheets. Bake until light brown, but still moist in the center, about 12 minutes. Cool on a rack.
Last Minute Gifts They’ll Love
If you still need gifts for the loved ones in your life, it is probably too late to order them online (even Amazon Prime!). Never fear, there are plenty of options available locally– wherever in the world you are.
Here are some of our favorite gifts:
- Cashmere infinity scarves and gloves: these are available in most department stores and boutiques– even T.J. Maxx sometimes. Cashmere is pricier than other options, but it is warm and luxurious. Tie them up with twine and a decorative bell for a cozy treat.
- Simple jewelry: available at most boutiques and department stores in a range of prices, necklaces and/or earrings make a sweet gift. Go classic with a dainty gold or silver chain and teeny cross or semi precious stone. Package in a simple kraft box tied up with baker’s twine for an easy (and elegant) look.
- Gift certificates: they may seem impersonal to you, but your the recipient will LOVE having the gift of choice! For the man in your life, J.Hilburn will customize a shirt (or pants and suits!) to his exact measurements. They’re pretty awesome, even for the pickiest guys. Through the website you can find a stylist in your area who will measure and place your order (thanks, Candy, for keeping Seth well dressed!).
- Monthly Clubs: From pears and nuts to wine and cigars, there is a monthly club for everyone. Google his or her favorite thing and you’ll likely stumble upon a delivery service for it.
- Magazine Subscriptions: Who doesn’t love magazines? Relatively inexpensive and the gift that keeps on giving!
- Homemade food items: When all else fails, bake! People love to receive homemade goodies. Or step it up a notch– bake cookies and attach the family recipe with baker’s twine. Do you make the world’s best ribs? Whip up the rub, toss it into small mason jars and gift them along with your recipe. Present a casserole in a lovely dish meant for keeping. So many options, and so much to love.
- Coloring books and nice colored pencils: yes, even for adults! The gorgeous selection of adult coloring books is huge (and growing). Give the gift of creativity and stress relief!
- Wine: the ultimate hostess gift. Add a pretty wine stopper or glass decanter for an even more special presentation.
- Flowers: Another great hostess gift! Arrange store bought flowers in a large mason jar. Cut stems to make the arrangement appear fuller. Instant ambiance.
- Coffee & Mugs: Grab your favorite coffee and 6 pretty mugs. Stash them in a pretty basket with stirrers and scones.
We know you have even more ideas and we would love to hear them! What are your go-to gifts?
Now that we have presents and parties covered, let’s move on the Christmas morning breakfast! Shannon says this casserole is easy and DELICIOUS! Sounds like a winner to me!
Christmas Morning Casserole
- 1 package of crescent rolls
- 1 package of maple breakfast sausage (ground)
- 1 stick of cream cheese
- 1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese
Cook sausage in a skillet until browned. Add stick of cream cheese and stir until well blended. Flatten crescent rolls in a single layer on the bottom of a pan. Pour sausage / cream cheese mixture into crust and cover with shredded cheese. Place more crescent rolls over the top and bake at 350 until rolls are browned.
Think that about covers it!
We truly hope you have the happiest holidays making precious memories with your friends and families. We cannot wait to see you in the new year. ❤