Metro’s Holiday Entertaining Guide by Sweet Potato Chronicles
The holiday season can be a very busy (and stressful) time of the year, but we’re making it easier with help from experts Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh, national bestselling co-authors of The Sweet Potato Chronicles: How to Feed a Family and bloggers from the Sweet Potato Chronicles.
In this, the perfect entertaining guide, they’ll share ideas for delicious host or hostess treats, baking and cooking activities with the kids, and tips for creating the perfect turkey dinner.
Enjoy an effortless holiday season with a little help from your local Metro.
1. The Cookie Exchange
Maybe it’s nostalgia for childhood Christmases, but nothing kicks off the start of the holiday season for us like cookies. Baking them, setting out a tray when friends stop by, giving them as gifts – they just make people happy. But there isn’t always time to go into the large-scale production we’d like to each year, which is why we’re such a fan of the cookie exchange. The idea is simple: you work together with some friends or family, everyone baking several dozen of their favourite cookie recipe and then get together and divvy up the treats. It’s a nice way to connect before the busy-ness of the season, plus come away with all the cookies you’ll need for the season. We like to a batch into the freezer to keep them fresh. Then take out what you need, as you need them.
These cookies will make a tasty batch:
Prep time: 1 hour 10 minutes / Total time: 2 hours 10 minutes
- 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I used ground.)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder
1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat the brown sugar and butter on medium. I don’t have a stand mixer so my hand mixer did the trick.
2. Beat in the molasses, egg and vanilla until completely combined. Gradually add the flour until just combined. Divide dough into two balls and wrap each in plastic. Place in refrigerator for at least two hours. Preheat oven to 375 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
3. Roll out one ball at time on lightly floured parchment paper until 1/8 inch thick. Cut cookies. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet and place back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Excess dough can be rerolled out two more times.
4. Bake one sheet at a time on center rack for 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool on sheet for about 15 minutes and then move to a rack to continue cooling. Be gentle. The boys are fragile.
2. Wine & Cheese
When considering entertaining over the holidays, it’s easy for even the most experienced host to get psyched out. Which rare ingredient should you be shaking into cocktails? Which culinary technique should you have mastered? What trend should you be ahead of? It’s enough to take the fun right out of the party. A far better plan is to keep things simple. A wine and cheese party is easy, elegant, and honestly much more fun for your guests than something you’ve overthought. Choose three wines – something white, a red that’s light and a rich, deep red. Complement your wines with an assortment of cheeses, both firm and soft. You can put a platter together yourself or do what we do and stop by your local Metro and pick up one of their excellent prepared trays. Then, all you have to do is add a few fresh elements to the mix and you’re an entertaining superstar. We love these simple, impressive hors d’oeuvres. They come together in minutes and leave you lots of time to enjoy your guests and the fantastic party you’re throwing.
Add this to your holidays to get the party started:
Pears with Goat Cheese and Cranberries
3. Winter entertaining for the kids
our kids are home for the holidays or are back from a long day of school and rather than plop them in front of the TV or tablet why not give them something creative and delicious to do with you and their after-school friends. Relying on the comfort of classic pairings, it’s what gives the warmth to even the coldest winter. Don’t take our word for it, just ask anyone who has enjoyed a bowl of creamy tomato soup alongside a grilled cheese sandwich. With a produce section full of fresh produce and homemade prepared soups, Metro can help satisfy all your winter cravings. After all, isn’t that what winter is all about—creating the perfect winter meal scene, in the comfort of your own homestead, with family, of course.
Try this easy recipe with the kids:
Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
- Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup
- 8 plum tomatoes, halved
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- sprinkle of sea salt
- pinch of pepper
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/2 cup of chopped sweet onion
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon spelt flour
Grilled Cheese Croutons
4. Turkey & Sides
Everyone’s got a tried-and-true, roast turkey recipe for their holiday celebrations or a slam-dunk glazed –ham that glistens from the centre of the table. If you have neither, your mother does and she’s just a call away. There’s nothing quite like that moment when the show-stopping main gets placed on the table. But what is a star without the supporting roles? The sides – all those delicious extras – are what truly make the dinner plate, not to mention the killer leftover sandwich the next day. Sides are also a chance to add a little something new to a mostly traditional meal. We love stopping by Metro to pick up armloads of fresh produce and add some creativity to a holiday feast. This winter salad is the perfect example – it lightens and brightens up a major meal, with sweet beets, bright citrus and crunchy greens. It might just be good enough to steal the show.
Try these sides to spice up the festive meal:
- 3 medium beets, washed and trimmed
- 2 blood oranges, supremed
- 1 head of Boston, bibb or even romaine lettuce (something with some crunch)
- 5 or 6 leaves of radiccio lettuce
- 1 head of Belgian endive
- 1/3 cup of pecans, chopped
- 1/3 cup of feta, crumbled
- 5 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 4 tbsp. Chile Gourmet Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp. plain yogurt
- 1 tsp. Dijon
- salt and pepper to taste
1. Start with your beets. You can either boil or roast beets. I slightly prefer roasting them and if the oven is already on for something else then all the better. But sometimes I don’t want to have the oven on 350 degrees for 40 minutes for three little beets and then I boil them and honestly, it’s fine. Either way, wash and trim them.
2. If they’re going in the oven, wrap them in foil and put them in some kind of baking tin in case they get leaky. Roast them for between 35 to 40 minutes — poke them with a fork right through the foil and when you can feel that they’re tender in the middle, they’re done. Let them cool a bit before taking the foil off. If you’re boiling them, slip them into boiling water and let them simmer for about 30 minutes. Again, give them a poke with a fork to check them.
3. Allow your beets to cool well before peeling them. The skins should slip off quite easily but you might need to make a small cut to get it started. Yes, your hands and cutting board are going to be stained. Chop your lovely beets into, say, 1 inch cubes, and set aside.
4. Okay, now your blood oranges. You could use regular oranges if you don’t the blood variety at the store but you’ll be so happy if you do find them, their colour is spectacular. Slice a tiny piece off the top and bottom, just enough so that the orange can sit flat on your cutting board. Now, take your sharpest knife and cut the rind off. You’re going to slice down the orange, following the curve of the fruit, just inside the rind and the pith (that white stuff under the rind) so you expose the inside of the orange. See above, on the left? Like that. Work all the way around your orange until you’ve taken off all the rind and as much pith as you can. Don’t worry about the odd little bit. Now hold the orange in your hand and, again, with your sharpest knife, cut into the orange just inside the lines that divide the segments. Follow the slight angle of the segment to the centre.
5. Cut one side of the seg-ment and then the other and the perfect, little skinless piece of orange will pop out into your waiting bowl. It sounds fussy but it’s really is easy once you’ve started. The only tricky part is once you’ve worked your way around the orange it gets floppy and hard to hold firm. Please be careful! Phew. Set aside your oranges (there will be a fair bit of juice and you can drain it just before assembling your salad). Wash, dry and chop your lettuces into bite sized pieces. I really hate it when a salad comes with pieces of lettuce that require cutting, don’t you?
6. Toss the lettuces together so you get a nice mix of colours and arrange in your bowl or platter. Now scatter your beets pieces over. Drain your orange pieces and place them on next. Put all of your salad dressing ingredient in a used jam jar with a lid and shake it up. You whisk in a bowl or use Jamie Oliver’s excellent Flavour Shaker but I find the jam jar method works best. Use about half of your dressing to cover the salad and with your fingers or salad tongs, toss your salad so everything is lightly dressed. Push things around to make sure it’s evenly distributed.
7. Now just sprinkle over with cheese and nuts. You can put the rest of the dressing in a little serving dish on the table in case anyone wants a bit more. Et voila! It’s festive, it’s pretty and hey, it’s pretty damn healthy, too