the makings of a holiday dinner

In my first year here, I made a big dinner for my student staff to celebrate their accomplishments and wish them "happy holidays!"  Since then, it's become a tradition. Every year, I get a Honey-Baked Ham from the store and make a bunch of sides to go with it.  It usually means some time spent searching through my recipe notebook and cookbooks, to find a nice assortment of recipes that will form just the right buffet of foods.

This year, I was super-pleased with how the spread turned out (even if the picture - taken hastily - turned out so poorly)! I always have a hard time judging appropriate quantities, and even now, when I look at this picture, it doesn't seem like that would be enough food to feed fourteen people.  But it was just the right amount - with a little bit of leftovers, but not so much that it felt wasteful.

And of course, I wanted it to be a delightful meal made a little more special by serving it on china and with my silver.

Instead of a ham, I opted for a roasted turkey breast, since three of my students don't eat pork. And truthfully? I liked this a lot more. The meat was delicious, and there wasn't a hambone with lots of meat scraps left to contend with. (And yes - I know there are some people who would have all kinds of things to do with that hambone. I am not one of those people.)

For some reason, a bowl of fresh fruit felt necessary - to the point that, on Friday, I enlisted Wildcat Guy's help to track down fresh strawberries when we didn't find any at the grocery store the night before.

I also had the interesting challenge this year of including as many vegan options as I could. It actually was simpler than I expected.  I made a vegan pasta dish that I knew would be appealing to vegans and non-vegans alike...used almost an entire tub of butter substitute for things like the stuffing and a small dish of glazed carrots (the large dish of which I had to make with regular butter simply because I ran out of the substitute)...and yes, used a very simple idea by including a bowl of steamed corn.

Even dessert was a successful endeavor - substituting pumpkin for the eggs and leaving mini marshmallows off one of the hot chocolate cupcakes. And truly - I absolutely adore these cupcakes, with their marshmallow-y tops and the classic candy cane adornment.

All in all, dinner was a wonderful occasion, and the students seemed to enjoy it all (including this melt-in-your-mouth peanut butter fudge that I can take no credit for, but am so thankful one of my students brought to share).  Because gathering good people at a table of good food is always a treat and blessing.

Where I am: home
What I'm reading: In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White


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