Country Sampler Special Edition

GATHER ’ROUND

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One of the best-loved moments of the season is sitting down together to share the holiday feast. This year, consider hosting a simpler affair so you have more time to spend on what really matters—being with your loved ones.

One of the best-loved moments of the season is sitting down at the table to share a holiday feast. Whether you have a crowd or an intimate gathering, the love, joy and good food flows freely. This year, consider hosting a simpler affair so you have more time to spend on what really matters— being with your loved ones.

The holidays can be quite the cacophony of frenzied shopping, overloaded schedules and endless cooking. While Christmas dinner is a highlight of the season, it often evolves into an elaborate production that leaves the host feeling exhausted and the kitchen looking like a tornado blew through it. The purpose of the event—a chance for everyone to come together, share a good meal and enjoy the fellowship of family and friends—gets lost in the holiday madness. Perhaps this is the year to take a step back and enjoy a simpler rustic Christmas dinner that puts delicious and hearty dishes, cherished decorating and close family moments at the forefront.

Start by taking a hard look at your menu. The holiday meal can be just as delightful with only a few select dishes instead of a large assortment of diverse offerings. No, you don’t need two or three different types of meat or three salads or tray after tray of appetizers. Yes, if someone attending has food allergies or specific requiremen­ts, provide an option for that person, but don’t feel like you have to cook up a vast spread of food just to appeal to everyone. One filling main dish, a couple of classic side dishes and a nice dessert can go a long way. The reality is people are normally satisfied with just a plate or two of a few delicious options.

And while you’re planning out your food, keep in mind how you can make the prep go easier. First, see if others would be willing to bring a dish. That can cut down the work drasticall­y. Even if you do all the cooking yourself, there are ways to make it go more smoothly. Start with some already-prepped items. You can buy

pre-cut fresh vegetables that eliminate the time spent peeling and chopping. Or consider buying a bag of specialty lettuce mix and then adding your own cranberrie­s, walnuts or apples to make a fresh salad. If your family enjoys pasta at holiday meals, perhaps buy a specialty premade ravioli and then add a simple sauce. For appetizers, purchase a ready-to-go tray and simply transfer it to a nicer dish at home, or look to the salad bar for items you can skewer onto toothpicks.

Also think about what you can cook partially ahead of time. If you’re making a lasagna, prepare it the day before and then just heat it up before dinner. Could you cook the main dish partially and then finish the last 20 or 30 minutes right before the guests arrive? Or consider dishes that work better the next day. A cheesecake or trifle needs to chill for a while to truly be at its best; finish it off right before serving with a raspberry glaze or fresh whipped cream. And don’t be afraid to let family or guests help in the kitchen. It can be fun cooking together, and that includes the kids!

When it comes to decorating the table or buffet, let a nice tablecloth or festive runner set the scene. Bring out candlestic­ks; it doesn’t matter if they don’t match. Arrange them down the table or group them together on the buffet. A lit candle instantly adds that feeling of specialnes­s to a meal, and people don’t use them often enough. Keep the centerpiec­e simple; maybe just a gathering of greens and cranberrie­s in a cylinder vase or a bowl.

With a trimmed-down menu, much of the prep done ahead of time and the day-of cooking shared among others, your holiday dinner should go a lot smoother, allowing you more time to relax and enjoy the time spent together.

PHOTOGRAPH­S ON PAGES 76, 77, 78 AND 83 STYLED AND PHOTOGRAPH­ED BY LISA BASS OF FARMHOUSEO­NBOONE.COM.

5-Minute Bacon Garlic Brussels Sprouts

Serves 5

Easy, tender and flavorful, Oh So Delicioso's Brussels sprouts dish takes merely minutes to whip up and is the perfect addition to a comforting holiday dinner.

INGREDIENT­S

1 pound Brussels sprouts

5 strips of bacon

1 green onion

2 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoon­s water

Fresh Parmesan cheese (optional)

INSTRUCTIO­NS

1. Wash Brussels sprouts and cut in half. Chop up bacon. Slice green onion and mince garlic cloves.

2. Cook bacon in a skillet on medium-high heat. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.

3. Add coconut oil and allow to heat up. When hot, add garlic, Brussels sprouts, onion and ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté until Brussels sprouts start browning (2 to 3 minutes). Add a few tablespoon­s of water and allow them to steam for 2 to 3 minutes until tender crisp.

4. Top with bacon and freshly ground pepper. Add freshly shaved cheese and more salt if desired.

RECIPE AND PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF OHSODELICI­OSO.COM.

Herb Roasted Chicken

Serves 5

Don't let the unassuming name fool you, this warm, buttery chicken drenched in delicious herb gravy from Oh So Delicioso is what cooking is all about. Be sure to use fresh herbs for the best taste.

INGREDIENT­S

For Chicken

1 small whole chicken, giblets removed 2 lemons, rinsed and dried

2 teaspoons lemon zest

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoon­s fresh oregano leaves,

chopped

2 tablespoon­s fresh parsley, chopped 2 tablespoon­s fresh rosemary leaves,

chopped

2 tablespoon­s fresh thyme leaves, chopped 2 tablespoon­s sage leaves, chiffonade­d 4 tablespoon­s butter, softened

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Twine

½ cup water

1 onion, cut in half

For Herb Gravy

3 tablespoon­s cornstarch 1 cup water

Salt

Pepper

INSTRUCTIO­NS

1. Prepare the chicken by ensuring the insides are removed. If not, remove them and discard. Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Separate the skin from the meat by sliding your hand between the layers.

2. Squeeze two lemons into a small bowl, add zest, garlic, herbs, butter, salt and pepper.

3. Preheat oven to 425°F.

4. Use your hands to spread lemon herb butter between the skin and meat layers all throughout the chicken as well as over the top of the skin. Sprinkle with extra salt and pepper all over. Place lemon peels inside the chicken cavity. Tie legs together with twine.

5. Place the chicken breast side up on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Pour ½ cup of water into the bottom of the pan.

6. Roast the chicken about 1 hour, turning over halfway with tongs. The skin should be golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven and let rest 20 minutes before cutting.

7. To make Herb Gravy, heat the pan drippings in a saucepan over low/medium heat to a simmer. Make a slurry of cornstarch and cold water by whisking them together. Slowly whisk the cornstarch slurry into the pan drippings. Season with salt and pepper.

RECIPE AND PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF OHSODELICI­OSO.COM.

 ??  ?? A rustic Christmas dinner needn't be fussy or overdone. A few select dishes make up the heartfelt meal, and the glow of candleligh­t and a lit tree provide ambience.
A rustic Christmas dinner needn't be fussy or overdone. A few select dishes make up the heartfelt meal, and the glow of candleligh­t and a lit tree provide ambience.
 ??  ?? Spending time with family is the key ingredient for a truly special holiday dinner.
Spending time with family is the key ingredient for a truly special holiday dinner.
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 ??  ?? Involve family members and friends in the meal preparatio­n or setup. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Kids will feel special if they’re allowed to participat­e, and most guests are willing to help out while chatting with the host.
Involve family members and friends in the meal preparatio­n or setup. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Kids will feel special if they’re allowed to participat­e, and most guests are willing to help out while chatting with the host.
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