How can you not love a holiday that is all about counting your blessings – friends and family, lots of good food and wine and not at all about presents? Well, at least that’s the way it is in my world. I have strict rules about letting Thanksgiving be it’s own stand-alone holiday, and most people around me know it. No Christmas decorations and definitely no Black Friday. As far as I’m concerned the Christmas holidays (as much as I love them) begin on December 1st, and not a moment sooner.
Anyway – aside from that little rant – what I really love is the feeling of community with friends, and the way traditions play out year after year. Like most people, there are a couple of dishes I make, without which it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving. There are also some well-loved traditions in my family that we honor – the last of the pie for breakfast on Friday morning, and a dinner of pooled leftovers with one of our favorite families on Friday night after the Tree Lighting Ceremony (oops! there was a tiny bit of Christmas slipped in there, I know! But the kids do love it…and after you’ve stood in the cold rain for 45 minutes waiting for Santa to arrive and getting the tree to light up, you have the perfect excuse to go home and warm up with a lovely, dark Manhattan).
This year was very much like every other: All the good stuff, almost to excess. Out-of-town guests, lots and lots of cooking and food and good company and cheer (oh there was that random stomach bug that put my family of five out of the game for 24 hours, but it was short – and certainly not sweet).
Then it was Sunday and time for the last gathering of the weekend. This was really the crowning moment of my excessiveness. Another person might have said, “gosh we’ve had this stomach bug and it’s already been a busy weekend – maybe we really shouldn’t have people over tonight”, instead I did the opposite, I threw out a few more invitations! A friend I haven’t spent much time with lately, and her new date, were already scheduled. I could easily have cancelled, but somehow I just got a bee in my bonnet and thought, these kind of thoughts to myself “I’ve always wanted to have these people over” and “This little family had their new baby three months ago already!” Texts were sent, the responses came back, and all of sudden we were a party of 20! I had already decided that we were having Mexican, and I knew my recipes could easily be doubled to feed a crowd.
I wish I had taken more pictures, as it was a fun, festive and super laid back evening. But I didn’t. Oh well. You’ll have to take my word for it.
This is what I made on Sunday afternoon, while my kids did their homework at the Dining Room table – a perfect menu for a casual winter party. It is a full day of a cooking, to be sure, but the beans and the beef simmer unattended for a long time. And lots of the condiments can just be purchased and laid out on the buffet – so easy!
Menu for a Casual Winter Party
Salsa, Guacamole and Chips/Homemade Margaritas
Slow Roasted Spicy Beef for Tacos, A Big Pot of Black Beans, Brussell Sprout and Lime Slaw, Roasted Squash Soufflé with Goat Cheese and Roasted Garlic, Tortillas and all the Fixin’s
Apple Crisp with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
The Slow Roasted Spicy Beef is so easy and delicious. I’ve made it many times and I promise you’ll love having it up your sleeve. Leftovers are welcome too. And I confess, I didn’t make the ice cream, a friend did and it was left over from Thanksgiving dinner. This Sunday night party may just become a tradition – I have to be careful with my excesses though, otherwise we might be 40 instead of 20!