Monday, December 19, 2011

It's A Family Tradition!

Besides the spirit of giving that fills hearts around the world (and all the clearance sales,) the reason why I love the holiday season so is because of the repetition of tradition! Traditions are constants we can count on, despite what the year has given or taken away from us- we can find a sense of comfort and routine in our family traditions that we hold so dear. For those of you who know me, you are aware that I live in a Hallmark card. Every day is a holiday and every day deserves to be celebrated! Between me and my tremendously talented teacher of a mother, the Dostal/Thornton household has acquired a bountiful bevy of holiday traditions and cultural customs throughout the decades. Some stem back from my mother's childhood, growing up in a modest country home in rural Georgia while some were passed down from ancestor to ancestor in my father's Czech lineage. One tradition that my sister and I developed as youngsters is that we would spend the night under the Christmas tree every December 23. We loved falling asleep in our flannel PJ's, tucked away in our Coleman sleeping bags in the electric glow of thousands of multi-colored lights. That to us was Christmas Magic at its finest...Granted with changes in our lives such a marriages and babies, this routine has been tucked away for the years but not forgotten. We hope that one day; we can pass along this tradition for our children and their children to uphold. Food is generally a huge part of family traditions and holiday get-togethers. The recipe below I am sure has been re-written and re-vamped throughout the years to personal preferences but the ritual ultimately stays the same. As soon as everyone is awake (we are not morning folk), we all gather at the breakfast table still in our pajamas for Mimosas and Christmas Morning Breakfast Casserole. Take a peek at the recipe below- hopefully it may appear in a new family tradition for you!

Christmas Morning Breakfast Casserole


1 can of crescent rolls

1 cup grated cheese, (Swiss is my mother's preference, but I like a Sharp Cheddar/Mozzarella blend)

1/2 cup grated cheese, additionally for topping after casserole is cooked

1 sleeve of hot breakfast sausage, cooked and drained of fat

1 sleeve of mild breakfast sausage, cooked and drained of fat

2 cups of milk or half-n-half

6 eggs

Butter for greasing casserole dish

Cracked salt and pepper, to taste


Pre-heat oven to 350*. Grease casserole dish with butter. Press crescent roll dough in the bottom of the casserole dish, forming a crust. Dump both drained sausages into casserole dish and top with 1 cup of grated cheese. Beat eggs, milk and salt and pepper together, pour over sausage and cheese mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes and top with remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheese before serving. Casserole is best warm!

Cherish your own special traditions you share with your family- hold them close to your heart. Even though every day is not a calendar holiday, there's no excuse not to celebrate it! Life is so precious and goes by so fast...Enjoy the magic and wonder of this Christmas season and here's to creating some new traditions of your own! Happy Holidays, Y'all!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Successful Soirees of the Season

Like the song says, here we are in the most wonderful time of the year! Parties, people and presents- can it get any better? The holidays hopefully are a time of joy, appreciation and reflection for you, but for many it can mean STRESS! There are gifts to be wrapped, stockings to be hung and of course, family to be entertained and celebrations to be thrown! With so many things to tend to in the month of December, it's no wonder sugar plums are dancing in our heads! We have included a few pointers below that will hopefully make your holiday party planning just a little bit merrier and much less hairier!

You Are Cordially Invited: Holiday party invitations can be offered up in paper post, email blasts, or a warm phone call to your favorite friends. No matter the media, ideally a party invitation should be sent out no less than 2 weeks prior to the event date. A good tip is to invite 20% more than the number of guests you wish at your gathering. Since the holiday season is already busting at the seams with parties, get-togethers and family vacations, you can safely count on 70% to 80% of your invitees attending. Invitations are the perfect way to set the theme and style of your fabulous fete! If you find yourself in a Christmas conundrum and just can't settle on a theme, first find an invitation that tickles your fancy. You now have a color palette, design and motif for your event- let the invitation be your inspiration!

Don't Shop Till You Drop: Plan your party shopping in a couple of trips so you can start with food preparation days in advance. This will also allow you to keep track of how many RSVP's you are actually shopping for to prevent over spending. Lists are so necessary! Plan your menu, and then devise your shopping list based off of your pre-selected recipes. Group the products together in order of the aisles they appear in the supermarket. If possible, avoid weekend shopping excursions or the after-work dinner rush. Orchestrating your grocery run during "off-times" will save you time and a holiday headache!

Food for All: Prepare a menu around a variety of dietary needs. So many people have food allergies and a gracious hostess is sensitive to these needs. Acknowledge guests who may have nut allergies, gluten free diets, vegan/vegetarian life styles and even dairy intolerance. If you have a guests attending whom you know has one of these special dietary needs, you may want to give a courtesy call to review menu with them and let he/she know you have made arrangements for them. Not only will they feel warm and fuzzy, but you can rest assured that everyone will be able to eat, drink and be merry at your holiday bash!

Safety First: Be mindful of food safety by keeping platters small and replenish often. Consider covering platters with plastic wrap right until the very first guest arrives. One rule of thumb in catering is that food held outside of temperature, either hot or cold, must be used within 3 ½ hours or discarded. That means your clams casino cannot hang out on the buffet all evening. Offer hand sanitizer in the restroom and encourage your guests to pick up a clean plate before hitting up the food table again.

Liquor Laws: Everyone likes to imbibe in a cup or two of "Christmas Cheer" during the holidays! When serving alcoholic beverages, be sure to include a variety of food that will prevent punch-drunk party guests. High-protein foods and complex carbs are your best bet. Consider offering an antipasti tray with a variety of meats and cheeses, a carving station with lean proteins such as turkey or pork tenderloin, or a crowd favorite, jumbo shrimp cocktail. Fruits and vegetables containing Vitamins B and C are also great defenses against ho-ho-horrible hangovers. Towards the end of the your swinging soiree, offer rib-sticking treats such a mini-grilled cheeses, breaded mozzarella sticks, hamburger sliders, etc. as send off snacks. These naughty nibbles will be much appreciated by your guests that night and their morning after. Consider ordering custom water bottle labels and setting up a tub of chilled bottled waters by the door. Encourage your guests to take two or three as "party favors" as you send them off. If a guest is not capable of driving home, set up the Aero bed for them in the spare room or arrange for a taxi to take them home. As always, safety first!

Be YOUR Guest: This will be a hard pill for all of my divas to swallow! We sure do love our D.I.Y. projects and concocting all of our favorite recipes, but sometimes you just have to surrender! Consider paying a maid service to come in both before and after your party to take care cleaning out all those hidden nooks and crannies. You may also want to look into having your party catered or perhaps you provide the dessert or your family favorites and entrust a caterer to provide food and service. During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, find some time for you to relax and enjoy the company of your family and friends. This will be money well spent.

We hope these soiree suggestions help make your yearly yuletide gathering a memorable and stress-free occasion for you. Keep in mind however, if the pigs in a blanket burn or if the cupcakes collapse, let it go. Do not stress! Try to focus on the positive and remember, at the end of the day it's all about creating the friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.

Happy Holidays, Y'all!