I have tons of stuff to do. It's so overwhelming. I decided that I'd blog the whole process. I doubt many readers care about every detail of Christmas dinner, but I am hoping that by keeping an account I will keep my sanity, and perhaps stay better organized.
It's Thursday morning and I probably could use this day off to relax, go riding, and take a breather before the real stress, but I decided to stay home and start putting dinner plans in motion. The more I spread the chores out over the next three days, the less overwhelmed I feel.
Right now my to-do list consists of:
Buy coffee, milk, and ice
Buy wrapping paper
Iron table linens
Bake two kinds of cookies
Bake one cake
Make chocolate pudding
Clean the house from top to bottom
Prep anything I can prep ahead of time for dinner
My menu for Christmas Eve:
Cheese and pate` tray
Chianti risotto (another imitation of Italy)
Beef Rib Roast (using this method Susan recommended)
Shrimp roasted with lemon and herbs (Thanks to Sir Pickypants, I can't have a seafood-free Christmas Eve)
Green beans sauteed with garlic
Duck Fat Smashed Potatoes
Dark Chocolate Pudding in Snickerdoodle cups
I'm taking two desserts to Mom's house:
Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Cookies
Emily's Chocolate Eggnog Cake
Right now my house looks like this.
I do have my trusty guide containing all recipes and a game plan for what needs to be done and when I should do it. I didn't get fancy and bind it this time.
10:05 AM - Just did a big sweep through of the house, revealing my dining room table and trashing (via recyling of course) any excess paper. My goal is to simply be rid of anything that doesn't need to be there.
My next stop is CVS. I need more wrapping paper and gift bags. This time of day it shouldn't be too crowded. We shall see...
1:40 PM - I checked out our wrapping paper supply. We did, in fact, have two large rolls of it, but the large rolls were bent to fit into a small drawer, crushing the paper and leaving it in deplorable condition. I decided to buy some new paper anyway. I finally have all of the gifts wrapped and under the tree. I confess that during my lunch break I did some extended time in front of the Idiot Box. I watched Gorden Ramsay and was reminded to stay in line and cook good food on Saturday.
I had to hit the supermarket as well. At first I thought all I needed was ice, but then I realized I had very little coffee in the house (I only keep it around for guests, so I don't keep track of the supply). While I had heavy cream, half-and-half and eggnog, I had no milk. I also noticed I had very little Windex and a very dirty bathroom mirror. The store was suprisingly quiet and uncrowded today.
I cam home to find my Christmas gift from my BFF had arrived.
But I won't. (evil grin ensues)
My next stop is to work out. How else will I maintain this girlish figure during the holidays?
3:20 PM - RIP to my trampoline. I decided I needed to shake up my cardio routines a bit and that I hadn't used my trampoline in a while. I pulled out my Urban Rebounder DVD and did two of the workouts on it (they're short). I heard something snap while I was bouncing around. I assumed it was just the elastic on the mat cover and thought nothing of it. I would just pull off the matt cover and trash it after my workout. After I was finished, I turned the trampoline over to take the legs off and put it away when I saw that one of the springs had snapped off. If the spring next to it had snapped off, the mat would have pulled away from the frame and probably would have caused a broken bone somewhere. My trampoline is no longer safe if the springs are going to be breaking off. I'm afraid I had to send it to the compactor room. :-(
9:00 PM - I think I have accomplished everything I want to do today. I did laundry, cleaned the hardwood floors and ironed all of the table linens. I feel uncommonly exhausted. How will I feel tomorrow after hours of baking and more cleaning? Find out in the next liveblog entry.
8:45 AM - Last night I tucked myself into bed with my annual reading of Paul Theroux's A Christmas Card. It's the best children's Christmas story ever. It's about a little boy whose family gets lost on their way to their new home. They are given shelter for the night in the home of a strange and mysterious old man who disappears the next day, but leaves them with a Christmas card that seems to have magical powers.
I slept kind of fitfully, which is why I'm up so late. I have taken my ingredients for my first batch of cookies out of the refrigerator and I'm going to work out while I wait for them to come to room temperature. I'm a little angry with myself since I neglected to print up one of my other cookie recipes. Good thing I was going to come here and live blog since I was going to be at the computer anyway.
Every muscle in my body aches right now. I wonder how I'll survive another day on my feet. A good workout should get the blood flowing.
11:15 AM - Just baked my first batch of cookies. My chocolate chip-cranberry cookie recipe made so many that I had to bake two shifts. That is setting my day back by quite a bit. One would think all of the cookie dough I ate would keep the number of cookies to bake down. ;-)
I wanted pictures of them, but my camera battery died. I'll be charging the battery while I head out to buy some more liquor, some toilet paper (the supply is way too low in the house for 8 guests) and take a shower (I did just work out after all).
1:05 PM - Made a batch of cookie dough that is chilling in the refrigerator. You'll have to wait to see my plans for it. Then I headed to the liqour store. I just wanted some spiced rum for my cakes and a bottle of white zinfandel for my mother-in-law to drink at dinner, but ended up with a very pleasant surprise . There sitting on a shelf was Brolio Barone Ricasoli chianti! To think I had trudged all the way to NYC for a bottle of that stuff and it was right there in my neighborhood! I asked if they carried it regularly. They said they had just gotten it in and didn't know if they would continue to carry it. I snatched up a bottle right away. Let's keep those memories of Italy going!
Time to indulge in less fun activities like cleaning the guest bathroom and dusting.
4:10 PM - Just had my first flop of the holiday. When I decided to serve chocolate pudding for my dessert, I realized I had nothing nice to serve it in. I had some small, ugly bowls. I also had nice ramekins, but only 4 of them. Should I go out and buy some nice dessert cups?
Then I had an inspiration. I saw an idea online where you bake cookie dough over an inverted muffin tin to create little cookie cups. There was my solution. I could serve my pudding in cookie cups. I had been planning to make snickerdoodles on the side since the pudding is garnished with ginger and the cinnamon cookies would make a nice accompaniment. I figured I could just bake my snickerdoodles into cups.
After I had baked them, I realized I should have used a recipe that was specific to being baked this way. Any old cookie recipe just doesn't cut it. My cookies spread way too much and were thin on the top (where they needed to be thickest) and thick on the bottom.
I didn't want to waste all of that butter and sugar, so what was I to do?
I have since been inspired. I will take some of my small highball glasses and layer the cookie pieces with the pudding in them - like a freeform pie or parfait or trifle. This is not the first time I have destroyed a cake or cookies and had to use what I had salvaged creatively. I think it's going to turn out well
My cranberry-chocolate chip cookies are excellent though. Now that the camera is charged, I got a photo.
6:05 PM - Pudding done and successful. I made up my little snickerdoodle parfaits and wrapped them up and put them in the fridge. Tomorrow evening all I have to do is top them with the whipped cream and candied ginger. They don't look beautiful, but I think they are a fine example of making lemonade when life hands you lemons.
Waiting for the hubs to come home from the barn. I'm sure he's going to hit terrible traffic over the Tappan Zee Bridge tonight. I have told him that I'm NOT cooking. He said, "Why should you?" I said, "That's exactly right." Takeout for us tonight. The Christmas TV special for "Wait Wait, Dont' Tell Me," is on tonight too. Have to chill out and watch that.
Tomorrow will be super busy. I'll have to jump out of bed and start prepping veggies. I have to keep everything on schedule if I want my roast to cook properly and my meal to be served on time.
7:05 AM - The countdown begins! Last night we ended up going out instead of takeout so we missed "Wait..Wait". Oh well. I'm staring down a few veggies that need prepping right now. Then there is laundry to do, a master bathroom to clean, and a kitchen to clean. I want all of that done before the roast goes in the oven.
12:05 PM - Just got back from Mom's to pick up some extra folding chairs - which I will have to return to her tomorrow for her holiday dinner. Master bathroom is clean, laundry is done, and veggies are prepped. I just took my roast out of the fridge to let it come to room temp. I'm doing the same for the eggs and butter for the cake. Then the kichen will need a good cleaning. Once I finish that, all I need to do is set the table and wait for the guests to arrive. Hard to imagine the idea that things could be this close to finished!
2:00 PM - Kitchen was tidied up and roast went in the oven. Right now I'm defrosting the shrimp and waiting for the cake to cool before taking it out of the pan. I'm afraid it was a little overbaked, so I hope it doesn't crumble to pieces when I take it out.
4:30 PM - Guests are due to arrive in 30 minutes. My husband isn't even home from the barn yet. I have the roast in the oven doing its thing. Everything else is prepped to be cooked in its own time. Let's hope it all goes smoothly.
As for transforming the house....
My appetizer table. I have cheeses, pate`, and various accompaniments. See? I didn't need to put out my new salami. I have plenty of other good options (and it has nothing to do with the fact that I managed to polish one of those salami off myself in the past 3 days - nothing at all).
Now I have to actually cook dinner!
9:55 PM - Dinner is over and everyone has gone home. I think I was right to start dinner early and go through each course at a leisurely pace. No one felt rushed, but the folks who shouldn't be up too late were able to leave at a reasonable hour.
I never took a picture of my chianti risotto. Sadly I didn't make enough of it though. The hosts had to have rather measly portions.
The meat was PERFECT. I can't say enough good things about how wonderfully tender and perfectly cooked my rib roast was. That cooking method was amazing.
Let's see how tomorrow's Christmas dinner goes!
8:00 AM - Christmas morning. I'm the kid who can't sleep. Husband is still in bed. He had a long day (and a big disappointment after seeing the Jets lose yet again). We'll open up each other's gifts soon. I have one more cooking thing to do and that's make the frosting for Emily's cake. I have my cream cheese and my butter softening up in the kitchen right now.
11:50 AM - I frosted the cake. Doesn't look as pretty as it does on Emily's blog, but I'm sure my family will eat it anyway. Just finished my workout, so now all I have to do with my day is hang out till dinner. Sounds like a plan!
7:30 AM - So I came home a bit late to blog about Christmas dinner, but I will say it was a huge success. My desserts went over well. We also had a trifle provided by one of the guests.
Dinner offerings included beef tenderloin, lasagne biachne with mushrooms, mashed poatoes (high-fat Pioneer Woman style), Cajun turkey breast, and brussels sprouts.