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.
Prep time: 15 minutes / Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 2 1/2 cups spelt flour
- 3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
- 1 cup pecans
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1. Place your oven racks in lower and upper third position and then preheat to 350 degrees. You’ll need 2 cookie sheets lined with parchment. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cardamom, cinnamon and salt. In a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup of sugar and the pecans until they become a course meal.
2. In another bowl, beat together butter and vanilla with an electric mixer for a few minutes until the mix-ture is light and creamy. Now blend in your nut mixture. Shake in your dry ingredients and combine well. Remove the dough from the bowl and place in on your work surface. Kneading it 4 or 5 times, forming it into a ball.
3. Ready to make crescents? Here we go. Each one should be about 1 tbsp. of dough. First form it into a ball between your hands, then roll it out into a l 1/2 inch log. Now bend your log into a crescent shape and gently pinch each end to make them taper. Place the cookie on your prepared baking sheet. Repeat and repeat and repeat!
4. Place the sheets in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes — rotating your sheets at the 6 minute mark — until they are golden on the bottom. Remove from the oven. Sift 1 cup of powdered sugar in a wide shallow bowl. Roll the warm cookies in the sugar to coat them well. Transfer them to a rack to cool. Roll the cookies through the sugar again once they’re completely cooled.
Prep time: 1 hour 10 minutes / Total time: 2 hours 10 minutes
- 1 cup spelt flour
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar as well as holiday sprinkles, silver dragees, crushed candy cane, mini chocolate chips for adornment
1. Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter, maple syrup, milk and eggs and stir until all ingredients are combined. Shape the dough into a ball and cover. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a bowl. Place the other toppings out in small bowls.
3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and scoop a tablespoon size and roll it into a ball. Drop the ball in the confectioners’ sugar and coat the outside. Then place it on the prepared cookie sheet. Slightly flat-ten it with the palm of your hand and then press your thumbprint into the centre. Fill the centre with your choice of decoration. Repeat until dough is finished. Be sure to space the cookies two inches apart.
4. Bake the cookies until puffed and slightly cracked, about 10 minutes. Let cool 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to rack to cool completely.
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
- 2 pears, cored and cut into two dozen slices
- 1/2 cup goat cheese
- 2 table-spoons pistachio pieces
- 2 table-spoons cranberries
- 1 table-spoon orange or lemon juice
1. Core pears and cut into slices. Toss in orange or lemon juice to keep from browning. Spread cheese on widest part of slice and then shower cheese with cranberries and some pistachio pieces. Arrange on platter and serve.
2. The green and red combination of this hors d’oevre looks festive and they require very little preparation. You could practically pull it together as people come up your walkway. It’s also not a heavy nibble that fills guests up before they even sit down at the table (I’m talking to you baked brie. Oh, how I love thee.)
3. In other words, this munchie will help make your next event. Don’t forget the home cooking served with a healthy dose of hospitality.
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
- Two slices of multi-grain bread
- 6 shavings of ched-dar cheese
- 1 teaspoon of butter
1. Pre-heat oven to 400. In a large baking dish, arrange tomatoes and garlic and then drizzle with olive oil as well as salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes for one hour, stirring occasionally. Remove dish from oven and allow to cool. In the meantime, put 2 tablespoons butter into a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and rosemary and sauté until onions are translucent.
2. Add broth as well as tomato mixture to pan. Cover and allow to simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Working in batches, transfer soup into a food processor to puree. (You can also use an immersion blender.) Return soup to saucepan. In a small, separate frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over low heat. Add flour and whisk continuously until blended and then add to soup. Blend roux into soup and season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for another few minutes. Meanwhile, butter two slices of bread and arrange cheddar cheese on one slice and then grill sandwich in a warm, greased pan.
3. When cheese has melted and bread is gold brown, remove from pan and slice into small, bite size pieces. Place three grilled cheese cubes on top of each serving of soup.
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
Artichoke, Gruyere and Spinach Savory Bread Pudding
- 2 tbsp. butter, divided
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 tsp. Lemon Sea Salt Flakes
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 can artichokes hearts packed in water, drained and chopped
- 2 thick slices of crusty country bread cut into 1-inch cubes
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups packed chopped spinach
- 1 1/2 cups grated gruyere
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped basil
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Divide one tablespoon of butter between 4 10-ounces ramekins and place them on a baking sheet. Put them in the oven on the middle rack and allow the butter to melt. Remove baking sheet from oven and swirl the butter around in the ramekins, up the sides and across the bot-tom. Set aside.
2. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and add the shallots as well as the salt and pepper. Cook until they soften, about 3 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, toss the bread, spinach and cheese. Add the shallots, artichoke hearts, milk and eggs and mix. Sprinkle in the basil. Spoon the mixture into prepared ramekins.
3. Place the baking sheet of ramekins back in the oven and cook until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove baking sheet from the oven and allow ramekins to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve in ramekins or run a paring knife around the edges to loosen the pudding and turn out onto plates.
4. Serve warm with a side salad.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Pear Soup
- 2lb. Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2 inch chunks
- 3 shallots, quartered
- 3 heirloom carrots, cut lengthwise and then in half
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
- 3 cup vegetable broth
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup apple cider or water
- 3/4 cup pear puree
- pinch of Rosemary Sea Salt Flakes
- Sour cream or Greek style yogurt for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 400. Place squash, shallots, carrots and garlic in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
2. Spread vegetables in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender. Let cool for 5 minutes. Place vegetables and 2 cups of the vegetable broth into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour the puree into a large sauce pan over medium-low heat and stir in the last cup of broth, milk, water or apple cider, pear puree and the remaining salt. Allow the soup to cook until hot for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Serve with a dollop of Greek style yogurt or sour cream mixed into soup.