Creamy Bolognese Pasta Sauce Recipe

Entertaining guests is something hubby and I love to do year round, but there’s really something special about hosting a holiday. While we don’t host Thanksgiving or Christmas, Christmas Eve is our one night we get to host a special holiday for friends and family. I love to take the approach of a more casual evening, with simple foods and flavors that really warm you up and make you feel cozy.

This year’s menu is so super simple – shrimp cocktail, this creamy bolognese sauce, a few simple side dishes and mini pumpkin pies. It’s all about the company. Well, and a little bit about the music, too.

The mix of beef and sausage brings a little something extra special to the dish, and if you wanted to really shake it up, you could use spicy sausage – watch out! I should note, too, that any ground meat could work, so you can change it up based on what you like. I recently saw a bolognese with lentils, must try that next!

5 Cute Cookies & Milk for Santa Sets

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is leaving cookies and milk out for Santa (and carrots for Rudolph, of course), along with a letter to Santa. I remember every year really thinking about what I hoped Santa would bring and tuck under the tree for me, writing it in a letter, putting it out along with cookies (a bribe?), and waiting for the magic in the morning to see a bite taken out of the cookie and the milk gone. A little dose of magic and such a sweet memory!

I love these little cookies & milk sets for Santa, and what a cute little gift to give to our friends with kiddos with my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.

 

Vineyard Vines Set, $65.00

Stocking Stuffers for Foodies

Can I tell you a secret? The Christmas Stocking is my favorite part of Christmas! It’s my favorite to open and my favorite to gift and I actually have a strategy for gifting it. Well, not a real strategy, but my favorite way to gift a Christmas stocking is to pick a theme and run with it.

Last year, my husband gave me all little cooking tools in my stocking and it was his best yet – he actually learned something from me!

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Dog Treats Recipe

What does one get the dog who has everything?! Or really, what does one get a dog for Christmas? Homemade dog treats!

Can I just start by telling you, our dog, Mudbrick (named after our favorite winery in New Zealand), was freaking out over these treats? He was air sniffing, offering up every trick he knows to try to score one, and doing this little growling thing he does when he wants something.

These are so fast and easy to make, you’ll be dishing out treats for every single dog in your life! And the ingredients are really quite simple, just make sure you use an all natural peanut butter. There are some with add ins that doggos’ stomachs can’t process.

I of course made pretty boy sit patiently and wait while I could snap a few pictures of the dog treats packaged up for his neighbor pals!

11 Cookbooks for Gifting

Want to know a secret? Cookbooks are my favorite. I mean it, I can sit and just read cookbooks all day long! I think they’re also a really fun gift for basically anyone on your list.

I think the best way to pick a great cookbook as a gift is to think about what that person really loves – are they into sweets? Do they just love brunch? Are they a little bit sassy? Do they love the science of cooking? Maybe they love to watch movies. There’s a cookbook for everyone and every personality!

  1. Cravings. A classic, non?
  2. Salt Fat Acid Heat. For the person who really loves the science of it all!
  3.  Whiskey in a Teacup. So super cute and who doesn’t love Reese?
  4.  The Perfect Cookie, for the bakers and sweet lovers.
  5.  What’s Gaby Cooking, which is also in our Gift Guide: For the Cook round up. Just love that Cali-cool vibe Gaby has!
  6.  Eat What You Watch – for the move lover!
  7.  Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. I love Bourdain and anything by him. This one is a preorder!
  8. Meathead, which is also in our Gift Guide: For the Pitmaster.
  9. Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics is always a solid choice!
  10.  Magnolia Table, because Joanna is just my favorite.
  11. Better Baking, which is also in our Gift Guide: For the Baker round up!

 

Gift Guide: For the Pitmaster

If there’s one thing I wish I was really good at, it’s BBQ. I always feel at a loss and admittedly, a bit intimidated by the whole cooking-over-a-flame and the whole this-thing-is-like-500-degrees. I do have such an appreciation for the people in my life that have so much talent on a grill, and kept them in mind when thinking about this gift guide!

  1. A wood fired pizza grill. 2. A set of BBQ rubs from Williams-Sonoma, which are always a hit and such great quality. 3. Omaha Steaks. I know a box of meat feels a little random, but it’s such a great gift for someone who loves to BBQ! 4. Canvas apron. 5. iGrill mini thermometer – one of our FAVORITE gadgets. It’s bluetooth, and will tell your phone when you’re a few degrees away from your set target temperature. Meat will always be perfect! 6. Charcoal chimney starter. 7. Grilling tool set. 8. A great grilling cookbook.

Gift Guide: For the Foodie

Okay, I know we are all probably foodies here, but stay with me. This gift guide is for the one who is really more into the eating food than cooking or baking (promise, I’ve got a gift guide right around the corner for the cook and the baker!). Surely, you’ll find some overlap for anyone on this list, but really it’s been put together for that I-love-food-but-I-can’t-really-cook gal or guy.

  1. Who doesn’t love a little gift set?! Your recipient will only need to add pasta & cheese to this crate (or include a really pretty pasta and a nice block of parm!) 2. Cheese markers & some nice cheeses. 3. A wine bag (stashed with some bottles!) 4. Or combine that wine bag with a Vinebox subscription. 5. Cute ornaments, like an avocado or slice of bacon. 6. This book that literally makes me want to go out to eat every single weekend and not cook a thing. 7. Foodie dice, so cute! 8. Really, really good olive oil for dipping.

Gift Guide: For the Hostess

Gift giving is my love language – I wish I had bags of money hiding under the mattress just so I could give everyone little gifts! This year, we’re kicking off the gift guide with the hostess in mind. Some of these are great for actual hostess gifts, and some for the hostess with the mostess in your life.

  1. Whisky Truffles, for a little gesture. (Or up the ante with a nice bottle of whiskey & some glasses). 2. Record player. I love playing old vinyl when we have company. 3. Apron, oven mits. Can you have too many? 4. A chic ice bucket. 5. Chemex coffee maker. 6. Rewined candles. Any scent, but Champagne is my fav. 7. A baguette cutting board/server. For all the even pieces you could want! 8. My go to: cheese knives. Really lovely hostess gift but also great for the hostess in your life. Pair with a nice cheese and cutting board to amp it up. 9. A gorgeous corkscrew. 10. A fondu pot. Legit such a great gift for the go-to house in your circle!

A few more ideas for hostess gifts:

  • A nice bottle of wine in a cute cloth bag.
  • Flowers in a pretty vase.
  • A pie, in a leave-behind pie dish.
  • Flowers scheduled to arrive the day after an event. (Bouqs are my fav!)
  • Serving platter, cheeseboard.
  • A basket with cheese, jams, nice crackers.

What are your go-to hostess gifts?

Thanksgiving Playlist

The food is bought and prepped. The table is set. The wine is chilled. The turkey is roasting away in the oven. Don’t forget about the music!

Here’s our Thanksgiving 2018 playlist. If you follow it on your own Spotify, you can ask Alexa to play it by just saying, “Alexa, play my Thanksgiving 2018 playlist on Spotify!”

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

 

Thanksgiving Dinner Tips

I always used to feel stressed and anxious going into hosting a dinner. Getting the timing right, making it look effortless, enjoying it. I wanted to share a few tips and a few round ups of tips that I think will help you get through Thanksgiving dinner, or any other dinner party.

  1. Make a timeline, working backwards. What time do you want to serve your main course? Work backwards from there, allowing time for each recipe. I assume an extra 10 minutes for everything I’m making which allows me to:
  2. Clean as you go. The kitchen, when preparing for a holiday meal or dinner party, can become so unruly so quickly. If you clean as you go, you won’t be stressed 5 minutes before guests arrive trying to clean up in a panic.
  3. Set your table the night before. I even set out the serving dishes with sticky notes to remind myself what I wanted to use the dish for.
  4. Make sure you have a list. This seems so obvious, but make your grocery list well in advance and tick things off as you go. This will save you from the “honey-go-get-me…”.
  5. Make sure your menu makes sense. And isn’t overwhelming. I start with a huge list, then get practical and scratch things off. I also always, always try to mix in hot and cold things for appetizers, knowing my stovetop and oven will be occupied. I always make sure I have a few things that I can make the day prior and reheat the night of. Write the reheating instructions on your containers and account for reheating in your timeline!
  6. Be prepared for your guests arrival 15 minutes before. And account for it in your tasks for the day. Make sure the wine is chilled, glasses are out, music is playing and all your candles are lit.
  7. Make a playlist!

 

Here are some other Thanksgiving tips that will help you get to the main event with a smile on your face:

The Kitchn’s Thanksgiving Tips

Martha’s Thanksgiving Tips

Pioneer Woman’s Tips

Food52’s Thanksgiving Hotline

And of course, the Butterball Turkey Talk Line: 1-800-BUTTERBALL