Archive for the 'Menu Ideas' Category

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

Happy Thanksgiving!  Last Thursday, (Thanksgiving Day) Eric and I hosted our first Thanksgiving (and cooked our very first turkey!)  I know I am a few days late writing this post, but the past week I’ve had hardly any free time to sit at my computer and work on it.  I’ve been busy Christmas shopping, cleaning, visiting with family & friends, decorating for Christmas, and doing other important holiday-related things like watching Elf (my favorite Christmas movie :) )

As I was saying though, we hosted our first Thanksgiving this year.  I had a great time planning, preparing, and cooking for this meal.  I love cooking and entertaining, so hosting this holiday was great fun for me! :)  We had quite the crowd to feed – 16 adults plus 3 kids.  Thankfully, I had lots of help, both from Eric and all of our guests.

I started planning the menu about a month before the big day.  Once my menu was finalized, I gathered all of my recipes and put them into a folder so that they would be easily accessible and all in one spot.  I also shopped for/borrowed all the supplies that I didn’t already have (things like a gravy separator, card table, extra wine glasses, and place cards).  About a week before Thanksgiving, I wrote out a timeline to keep me on track with all of the cooking and pre-Thanksgiving errands/tasks.  This was very helpful and it allowed me to divide up all the prep tasks over several days so that I had plenty of time to get everything done.  I also went through my recipes and made 2 grocery lists (1 for the non-perishable items, which I purchased a week ahead of time, and another list for the perishables, which we picked up the day before Thanksgiving).  It was so nice to have everything so organized, and now I can refer back to this information the next time I cook a Thanksgiving dinner.

Here is a copy of my Thanksgiving Menu:

Thanksgiving Menu


–        Fresh fruit platter with grapes, blackberries, apples, and clementines

–        Artichoke nibbles

–        Crostini with kalamata olive tapenade, tomato & basil bruschetta, & cannellini bean spread

–        Parmesan breadsticks and pita chips

First Course: Golden Winter Soup with chive garnish

Main Course: Herb Roasted Turkey with Gravy

Side Dishes:

–        Cloverleaf rolls

–        Mashed russet & yukon gold potatoes

–        Roasted carrots

–        Sauteed green beans

–        Sweet potato soufflé with marshmallow topping

–        Sweet potatoes with sage butter crumb topping

–        Old-fashioned bread stuffing

–        Cranberry orange relish


–        Pumpkin pie served with sweetened whipped cream

–        Apple pie with raisins and crumb topping (served with vanilla bean ice cream)

–        Turkey shaped sugar cookies


–        Red & white wine

–        Holiday beer

–        Sparkling apple cider

–        Coffee

Like I said before, I had a lot of help with the cooking.  My Mom brought the fruit platter and made both of the sweet potato dishes.  My sister-in-law made the artichoke nibbles, and my mother-in-law made the cranberry relish, stuffing, and gravy.  My sister, Kristine, made both of the delicious pies that we served for dessert.

I am planning to post the recipes for the kalamata olive tapenade, cannellini bean spread, golden winter soup, herb roasted turkey, cloverleaf rolls, sugar cookies, and roasted carrots on my blog.  The cranberry orange relish recipe that Eric’s Mom made can be found on the back of a package of fresh cranberries.   My Mom found the recipe for the sweet potatoes with sage butter crumb topping on the blog Annie’s Eats.  You can find the recipes for both pies on my sister’s blog, which I linked to above.

I didn’t use a recipe for the mashed potatoes – whenever I make them I just use 2 parts russet potatoes and 1 part yukon gold potatoes.  (I think that the yukon gold potatoes help make the mashed potatoes extra creamy.)  After the potatoes are peeled, cut them into ½ -inch cubes and place them in a large pot of cold water.  (You can salt the water if you want).  Then bring the potatoes to a boil, and cover and simmer them until they are fork-tender.  After that, drain the potatoes and then mash them, adding melted butter, warmed milk and salt and pepper to taste.  (I use a potato ricer to mash them, but a mixer or potato masher works fine too).

For the green beans, I just trimmed the ends off, washed them, and then placed them in a large sauté pan with a little bit of water.  Then I covered them and cooked them over medium heat.  This caused the water to boil, which sort of steamed them.  After they were fully cooked (and the water evaporated), I seasoned them with a tiny bit of butter and salt and pepper.

Below are a few photos from our Thanksgiving dinner!

The kids table


Fresh fruit platter

Artichoke nibbles

Cannellini bean spread, tomato and basil bruschetta, & kalamata olive tapenade (this was served with toasty baguette slices)

Golden Winter Soup

Herb Roasted Turkey


This is what my kitchen looked like on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving – I made 48 dinner rolls from scratch, which was a quadruple batch. They were all rising in 4 different bowls on top of my stove. (Note for next time… we didn’t need that many. A double batch (24 rolls) would have been sufficient!) I also made the sugar cookies that same day. My kitchen felt like a bakery! :)

Cloverleaf Rolls

Mashed potatoes

Roasted carrots

Sauteed green beans

Sweet potato soufflé with marshmallow topping (top) & Sweet potatoes with sage butter crumb topping

Old-fashioned bread stuffing

Cranberry orange relish

My plate - I had a little bit of everything!

Turkey-shaped sugar cookies

Pumpkin Pie

Apple pie with raisins and crumb topping

Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!


Anniversary Dinner Menu

Last Sunday, October 3, Eric and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary.  It’s hard to believe that our wedding was already a year ago- the year went by so fast!  We stayed in town for the weekend, but made it a point to pretend like we were on vacation, and do activities we don’t normally do, so that it would feel more like a celebration.  On Friday we visited San Francisco and had a delicious lunch at the Wayfare Tavern.  I ordered the halibut, and it was served on top of a tomato-artichoke puree- it was so good!  I also had a yummy glass of sauvignon blanc with lunch, since we were celebrating.  I highly recommend this restaurant!  After lunch, we spent some time shopping around Union Square, and then went out to a local Italian restaurant for dinner.

On Sunday (our actual anniversary) we went out for brunch and then went to a local spa for a couples massage.  It was so relaxing!  We arrived at the spa early and spent some time reading magazines in the relaxation room.  It definitely felt like we were on vacation!  After that, we came home and spent the evening cooking dinner together.  It was a fun way to spend the evening, and it was nice to be at home, where we could cook and eat at our own pace.  I planned the menu in advance, and I wanted it to be more special than an ordinary dinner, yet still easy enough to prepare in a couple hours.

Here is a copy of the menu:

It was a lot of food, but we kept the portions small, and each dish was fairly simple to prepare.  It was fun to make a multi-course dinner at home – it felt like we were at a nice restaurant!   And to save time, we ordered a cake from our wedding cake baker, so I didn’t have to make dessert.  Originally we had planned on just eating year-old cake (we saved the top tier of the cake from our wedding), but decided a fresh cake would taste better.  We also shared a bottle of champagne that we had saved from a recent trip to Napa, and used our pretty toasting flutes (a wedding gift from my sister, Lisa).  It was the perfect way to spend our first anniversary! :)  (Oh, and I am planning to post the recipes for the squash soup, salad, and roasted potatoes sometime soon- they were delicious!  The mushrooms were just okay so I probably won’t make them again.  And for the filet, Eric just used a standard steak rub and cooked them partially in the oven and then finished cooking them on the cast-iron grill pan – super easy & yummy!) Enjoy!


Eric brought me beautiful white roses!



Winter Squash Soup



Arugula Salad



Filet Mignon



Pan roasted red potatoes with rosemary



Wedding Cake – The pretty cake stand was an anniversary gift from my parents. I love it!



Meyer lemon mousse, lemon curd, and ollalieberry filling


And just for fun, here are a few photos from our wedding…


The centerpieces






Honeymoon in Hawaii



The gorgeous view from our hotel room


Mother’s Day 2010

Mother’s Day 2010

Yesterday Eric and I hosted Mother’s Day dinner for our Mothers and my Grandma (as well as the rest of the family!)  It was so much fun!  I really enjoyed planning the menu and doing all the prep work.  Over the years I’ve learned how helpful it is to plan everything out a few days beforehand for a large dinner party.  That way, during the party you can relax and spend more time with your guests instead of being really busy cooking in the kitchen.  When cooking for a crowd, I think it’s also helpful to stick with recipes that you are familiar with so that there are no last minute surprises.  Since my family loves Italian food, I chose an Italian-inspired menu:

  • Appetizer: Toasted Crostini (combination of white and wheat baguettes) with two toppings- Bruschetta with Tomatoes & Basil and Kalamata Olive Tapenade
  • Salads: Fruit Salad with Strawberries, Kiwi, Clementines, & Grapes (courtesy of my Mom) and Green Salad with Spinach, Romaine, Strawberries & Kiwi, Feta Cheese, sliced Almonds, & Strawberry Vinaigrette (courtesy of my sister, Kristine)
  • Main Course: Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Tarts and Italian Sausage, Red Pepper, & Mushroom Risotto
  • Side Dishes: Steamed Broccoli; sliced bread with butter
  • Desserts: Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing and Angel Food Cake with Whipped Cream & Raspberries (courtesy of my Mother-in-Law)

I decided to make bruschetta and olive tapenade as appetizers because they are both easy to make and can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.  Then, at the last minute all you have to do is slice the baguettes and toast them in the oven for a few minutes.

My mom and sister were kind enough to bring salads.  Both salads were delicious!  The fruit salad was so colorful, and I loved the combination of spinach, mixed greens, kiwis, strawberries, and almonds in the green salad.

I kept the side dishes simple, and just made steamed broccoli and bread with butter.

For the main course, I made two of my favorite recipes:  Risotto with Italian Sausage, Red pepper, & Mushrooms and Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Tarts.  I first discovered this risotto recipe a few months ago and have made it a couple of times since then.  I did all of the prep work for the risotto a few hours before my guests arrived- this entailed chopping the onions, red peppers, basil, and mushrooms.  Then I just stored all of the pre-cut ingredients in little plastic containers in my fridge.  The second main course was a Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil tart.  It’s sort of like a pizza, only better!  (At least I think so!)  Since there were 13 of us, I made 2 tarts.  The tart dough consists of a garlic and basil crust, and it’s topped with a little bit of tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes, basil, and parmesan.  My father-in-law doesn’t care for garlic, so I made one of the tart crusts without garlic, and one with.  This is a great recipe, and I think it would also be good to serve as an appetizer.  Yum!

For dessert I made my favorite sugar cookies, and my mother-in-law was kind enough to make a delicious angel food cake with whipped cream and berries.  It’s a recipe that was passed down from Eric’s Grandmother, and it is fabulous!

Be sure to check back for upcoming posts with photos and recipes for the Kalamata Olive Tapenade, Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Tarts, and Sugar Cookies!  Hope everyone had a Happy Mother’s Day!

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