During the Holidays, Preparation is Key. How I’ve Done It.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Christmas Day is a week away. I started decorating the house just before Thanksgiving.  We bought our tree a little over a week ago.   The major cleaning of the house is done.  The table linens are washed and ironed.

The tree is lit up like Luna Park–and I wish I had a Dustbuster to pick up the needles instead of carting the vacuum around!

Bonaparte and I had time to run to the KOP mall on Saturday to run last-minute errands, and do much of the food shopping.  We dropped Chippy off at the doggie day camp, and by 9:30 AM we arrived at the mall for the early Holiday opening.

I couldn’t wait to wear my new LOL sweater that I ordered from J. Crew.  But–as is my luck, the second I put this beautiful creamy white sweater over my head, I got a winter nosebleed. Nothing says “Winter” more than that first nosebleed of the season.  After completely disgusting my refined French gentleman of a husband, my nose dried up and we were off!

Our first stop was the mall.  We arrived at the mall so early that nobody was waiting to see Santa.  He saw me stop to take his pic and yelled out what did I want for Christmas.  I yelled back. “I want Trump to be impeached”.  That got a laugh and a “Ho, ho, ho”!

Bonaparte may have been disgusted by my bloody nose, but he was proud when I announced what I wanted for Christmas!!  Please Santa. Make my wish come true!

The Mall’s tree is pretty spectacular this year..

And this bright reindeer is very popular with the Kodak Moments. Wait?  I don’t think Kodak Moments are relevant anymore.  I should say iPhone moments!

This is how I like my mall visits.  Empty!

After hitting the mall, we headed to Wegmans which was a feat upon itself.  Everyone and their brother was there for Christmas food shopping.  I had a headache when we left.

I’ll be driving to Philly airport later this week to pick up Oona—she’s flying in from Cincinnati.  I’ll be picking up Jake at 30th Street Station on Thursday and I think I’m picking Roman up in Paoli on Friday. No. Wait. The plans have changed.  I’ll be picking Oona up at the airport in Philly–her plane arrives at 3:00 PM.  The boys have informed me that they will be at the 30th Street Station at 3:45.

I’m planning for a stress-free Holiday. I said I’m planning. You know that there will be delays and to make it from the airport to Center City in 45 minutes ain’t gonna happen!

At least my food is somewhat prepared.

So what did I prepare?  I’ll show you!

The majority of the baking is either done or prepared.  The freezer is jammed with baked goodies—cookies are baked.

The Momofuku Corn Cookies have been baked and are protected in bags and are in the freezer..

..as are the Chocolate Chocolate cookies…

…and the compost cookies.

I also have bags of cookie dough that haven’t been baked yet.  You never know how many I’ll need for the week!

More uncooked cookie dough packed away.  Even if they aren’t baked any time soon, they will keep for months!

The cake for the Buche de Noel is baked and frozen but  the Ganache frosting and the Chestnut filling are in the fridge.

Inside this freezer bag, underneath the foil is a layer of plastic wrap. Under the plastic wrap lies the genoise cake for the Buche de Noel…

I made the chocolate ganache frosting earlier yesterday.  Very easy.

I took two cups of heavy cream, 16 oz of semi-sweet chocolate, and vanilla (Ina will kill me. I didn’t use GOOD vanilla!)…

Added the chocolate to heated heavy cream and vanilla…

Then whisked like crazy till all was well-blended and glossy..

Poured into a plastic container and into the fridge to set. It’ll become thick and harden somewhat to be the perfect frosting!

Next I prepared the chestnut filling for the inside of the Buche.  Chestnuts–either you love ’em or you can’t stand ’em.  I love them!

Tray Joe’s has the best price on chestnuts!  Two packs of these…

…pulsed in the food processor with a bit of grapeseed oil and a touch of Kosher salt to make a butter…

I then emptied the contents of the food processor into the bowl of my KitchenAid stand mixer.  To that I added one softened stick of unsalted butter and confectioner’s sugar. I added about a cup and a half to two cups of sugar and blended until all ingredients were incorporated and smooth.  I also added vanilla..

Chestnut filling–into a container, in the fridge.  On  Friday evening I’ll make the Meringue mushrooms to embellish the cake.  On Saturday, I’ll assemble. Everything is prepared!

Are you familiar with Ina Garten’s French Nougatine dessert?  I’ve written about it in past blog posts.  This light and airy dessert will be one of the desserts served along with the Buche de Noel.

Inside these double-wrapped loaf pans sit French Nougatine.  The surprising thing is that this is THE most requested dessert in the house. Everyone loves it.  Oona asked me yesterday if I was making it.  Bonaparte insists I make it.  It’s the weirdest thing!  But it is so easy to make!

Biscotti is baked and in bags.  Luckily this doesn’t require being placed in the freezer. I have it hidden in a stock pot! 

Candied nut clusters are in Mason jars and waiting to be eaten with cocktails.

OK. So with the Nougatine, I needed egg whites. But–I feel like it’s a sin to waste food, so I took the yolks and made lemon curd. This will be a great spread on toast or on the…

Shortbread that I made. Y.U.M.–with a cuppa tea–it’s heavenly!

I have a little bag filled with profiteroles–they will come in handy for a quick dessert during the week. I can melt the leftover chocolate ganache as a topping and add either ice cream or whipped cream!

And last but not least–the gougeres.  Little choux pastry cheese puffs to be enjoyed with aperitifs.   Light and not stuffing–leaving plenty of room for the dinner!

This guy.  He’s already lickin’ his chops in anticipation!

By preparing much of the work, it’ll leave me free to concentrate on the actual dinner we’ll have for Christmas!

So that’s about it for the prep.  I need to vacuum and wipe the blinds and I’m done!

Oh. And I’m preparing to go back to…..

As soon as Christmas is over!!  How about you?  What are you cooking for Christmas?  Have you baked?  Whatja baking?

OK.  I have a guilty pleasure.  Hanson.  I love those MMMBop brothers and have remained a fan.  Their Christmas CD “Snowed In” is one of my favorites.  Yes. It is!  Now they have another Christmas CD. “Finally It’s Christmas”.  I love these guys!!!  XOXOXOXO

About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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34 Responses to During the Holidays, Preparation is Key. How I’ve Done It.

  1. pasunejeunefille says:

    I took my daughters to KOP yesterday. I thought that we were safe going during the Eagles game, but it was still a mad house.

    I never bake at the Holidays; isn’t that why God invented bakeries? Seriously though, all the things you made look wonderful! I hope that everyone enjoys them.

    • Catherine says:

      Ohhhhhhhhhh..Jane. KOP Mall on Sundays during Holiday Season! Yikes! My plan is attacking that place the second it opens!! Hope traffic on the turnpike was not bad though!!! XOXOXOXO

  2. angelin2014 says:

    If I was doing a traditional Swedish Christmas buffet I would be working my butt off at this moment:) but I’m not. Son prefers a stuffed turkey so my main concern is if I’ll find one! Over here it is smörgåsbord for Xmas with a big ham as main attraction and a selection of small dishes (a huge selection!). Well, I’m doing the turkey and Sticky toffee pudding with a caramel sauce. Easy!

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Angelin! That’s so funny your son wants a stuffed turkey! I like ham, but only on sandwiches–it’s weird. That sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce is right up my alley. I would eat a ton of that!!! Have a great Christmas!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  3. One of my desires for the coming year is to attend a workshop hosted by one or two of my favorite authors. As much as I enjoy your writing (a fan since the beginning) I am putting you on my list the day you open your home to host a weekend of enjoying your divine creations with libations as we all sit and request Bonaparte to read “anything” aloud to us, in his French accent 🙂 I am awed by your well thought out preparations.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Arabella!! I think we would definitely have a “full house” with standing room only if Bonaparte read aloud. LOL. My family adores his accent and makes him recite their names aloud because they sound much better in French!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  4. Debe says:

    My dinner is ordered and will be picked up on Saturday. My friend is baking my cookies I just pay for the supplies. Cleaning crew here on Wednesday. My 4 loverly ladies who clean so well you can perform heart surgery in my bathrooms.

    Life is good! And what time are we all to show up by you???? Haaaa silly you are amazing as always!

    Have a super holiday!!!!!

  5. hipchick66 says:

    Are you sure you’re not Italian? Because we Italians always make enough food for an army, and you certainly have done so! Lol. I’m so jealous…where I live, in NE Philly, we have no Wegman’s, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s. We just have Acme, Shop Rite and Giant. As for holiday cooking, since it’s just Mom and I, I’m making stuffed shells on Christmas Eve and we’ll eat the leftovers on Christmas Day. And I’ve discovered the joy of not baking cookies from scratch and just using the packaged bake and eat Tollhouse cookies. 🙂

    • Catherine says:

      Lori. It’s so funny because my mother had a fear about not having enough food for guests so she made a ton. I guess it’s genetic!!! Oh..when I lived in NJ, I was loyal to Shop Rite. I freaking LOVE that store. Wegmans gets on my last nerve because they are constantly manipulating the placement of their items and half the time, their product placement makes no sense. It drives me nuts. Acme is really expensive and I used to shop at Giant when they were dirt cheap.
      Tee hee–those pre-made Toll House cookie doughs are sinful because the unbaked dough is so good!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  6. Momcat says:

    My husband will fetch my 91 &92 yr old parents from Toronto…very excited to meet their first great grand child (although Mom keeps forgetting and thinks he’s mine..Ma I am 62!!) We will celebrate two birthdays (Thing 2 on 21st(his champagne birthday) and Thing 1 on 24th) Christmas Eve is always traditional French Canadian with toutiere but also seafood casserole because we are not Québecois but Acadien so the Maritimes have to get a nod..besides the birthday boy is a pescatarian no meat but fish and seafood are ok.Christmas dinner is the usual turkeystuffingmashpotatogravygreenbeanssquash offering. It will be quiet with just the seniors,the junior seniors(us) and our baby who is 21. His brother, partner and little elf will have Christmas at other Gramma’s house. On the 26 we have a big CASUAL! brunch for friends so we can get rid of the left overs!! The rest of the week I am off and then we return the elderly back to Toronto…I will come home, take everything down and get ready for a partial colectomy the end of January. So I am not really considering the impact of any weight gain this year I figure I’ll lose it during the recovery period. Yes attending Weight Watchers would be easier but Mr. Colon and I have been fighting for six months so time to end the relationship…anyway the only place he takes me is to the ER. So boring!!!!
    Your tree looks great, your cookies and desserts are WOW! You are the New Martha! The Real Martha:) Enjoy your family and the Holiday!

    • Catherine says:

      Hey Momcat. Have a GREAT Christmas, but take it easy. You’ll have a recovery period where you’ll need to be cautious. Sounds like you will have a full house but you’re lucky that you have YOUR seniors!! Have a great, great Christmas and many fond moments with the baby and the elders!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

    • Juliet says:

      Congrats on the new baby and good luck with the op, your comments are always my fave

  7. Margaret says:

    All of these goodies look fantastic Catherine, I wish I had as much energy as you to make so many things. Your family certainly is lucky! I’ll be hosting our Italian Christmas Eve dinner with the 7 fishes, and will try to put as many as possible in the Cioppino. I’m so tired this year
    and had such a hectic past few months that I’m looking forward to when the holidays are over.

    Your tree looks great, so pretty! I miss having a real tree, we got tired of the falling needles too. I also get those winter nosebleeds at the drop of a dime and am going to try the My Pur Mist handheld vaporizer, the doctor said it might be helpful.

    Congrats on your YouTube channel, I look forward to watching and catching up here too. Have a wonderful Christmas, and a Happy & Healthy New Year too!

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Margaret!!! Thanks so much!! I wanted to make Cioppino for Xmas Eve but I’m going to make home made gyros instead. I’ve got a great pita bread recipe and tomorrow I’ll go get the ground lamb and prep with the spices, etc. Merry Christmas!!!!!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  8. Fiona says:

    I made two and a half dozen mince pies today and that’s the extent of my Xmas baking. I’m working all over the festive period and the mince pies will be for my colleagues.
    Btw I read somewhere that J Crew have 40% off at the moment but I guess you know that already.
    Your baking looks marvellous, how lucky are your family? Xx

  9. Denise says:

    Much as I share the same Christmas wish as you, the successor isn’t any bargain 😏

  10. ejsna says:

    Happy Christmas from The Netherlands!

  11. bone&silver says:

    Omg you are SO organized I can’t believe it 😬😑

  12. HelloIm50ish says:

    Wow Catherine you did a lot of baking!
    I wish I lived in New jersey such so I could pop over and try one of your cookies!
    I wonder if your “compost cookie” is the same as the “kitchen sink cookie”?
    I also miss Wegmans too. There is not a grocery store that can hold a candle to Wegmans in my opinion.

    Merry Christmas!

  13. Peggy says:

    Been baking all week. We give away about 25 trays. Would love to have your recipes for cookies!
    I am wishing the same with Santa!

  14. Juliet says:

    Oh yummy – you had me at nougatine if not before. I generally bake NZ classics (but not pavlova as it just doesnt do it for me), so afghan biscuits, yo yo biscuits stuff like that. I like making choux pastry so some sort thing based on that and then I’ll make pannacotta. There will probably be a nougatine and some baking from Ottolenghis book “Sweet” – it is one heavenly book. Growing up with a Christmas in summer we always had roast pork for the day (mum was cooking so she cooked what she liked – and it was always delicious, she has always been one phenomenal cook), pavlova (meh) and then mountains of garden produce. New Year meant a huge baked ham – and that meant endless picnic sandwiches thereafter with a side of devilled eggs, I guess mainly as it was an easy time saving way of dealing with irritating kids wanting food for our “expeditions” – my sister and I would pack our bike bags and then pedal off from one end of Chch to the other, usually to the beach but not always. Here we always have bradan rost (it is a big meaty slab of smoked salmon from Loch Fyne up in Argyll, rich and unctious and really beautifully flavoured), basically the kids both agree on it (Madam can actually eat it – she cant eat wheat or milk product or she ends up like a poorly wee puffer fish), then dessert will be loads of fresh fruit and some pannacotta and stuff like that. Dinner in the evening is probably french onion soup and open sandwiches and stuff.

    If you can get Santa to get rid of Trump can he also get rid of the heinous Maybot over here – she seems hellbent of destroying any relationship with Europe, the idea of Brexit is bad enough but her utter stupidity and obnoxiousness seem likely to make us the country with no bluddy friends anywhere, och she is awful

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Juliet! Those biscuits sound like a fun bake. Pavlova…I’ve made it in the past and it’s fine–not something I would want to make for guests either. It’s an odd dessert, it is! The ham. Strangely, I don’t like ham as a meal but love it on sandwiches. How odd is that.
      Merry, Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  15. bluetulips says:

    I have been baking with my mum, last week we made 3 different Greek sweet treats. Tomorrow we will finish off soaking the Melomakarona and diples in honey then covered in walnut and cinnamon.
    Will post on instagram when they are complete.
    For Christmas lunch, mum is doing a small pork and lamb marinated in wine, garlic, herbs and roasting with potatoes. She makes great dips, taramosalata and garlic dips, maybe even an eggplant one as well as home made bread. We will stuff ourselves then flake out and have an afternoon siesta. lol. Being summer here I also look forward to the fresh cherries. We usually get a 5kg box straight from the cherry farm and it is normally gone within a few days.

    I got to give it to you Catherine, you have got to be the most organised food prep person I know 🙂

    Wishing you a wonderful Christmas xxxxx

    • Catherine says:

      Dianne. You and your mom will be so proud of me! My Christmas Eve dinner is going to have a Grecian theme. I’m making my own gyro meat. It took me over an hour to drive around the damned Philly suburbs to find ground lamb–but I did it! I am going to make a tabouleh salad, Tsatsiki (don’t mind my spelling) home made Pita bread and I’ll serve hummos but if you have a great dip (like with eggplant,) let me know. Since I’m doing so much cooking for Christmas, I thought I would go easy on Christmas Eve!
      Those Walnut and honey thingies that you made sound so incredibly delectable!! XOXOXOXO Have a great Christmas!!!

  16. J says:

    You amaze me with all your preparation and baking! Christmas Eve is my daughter’s 19th birthday. On their birthday, my kids get to determine the menu for the day. For brunch (she will sleep until noon, no doubt) she wants pancakes, some blueberry, some chocolate chip. In the late afternoon, spaghetti carbonara. In the evening, nibbles of this and that and red velvet cake. It’s not very labor intensive but very festive. I have been on Weight Watchers since a little before Halloween and have lost over 15 pounds and love it! But my daughter’s will be me first planned splurge. We are super casual since it is just me and the two kids, so we really just graze on Christmas day after a big breakfast and wear pajamas all day.
    Much happiness to you and yours and a very Merry Christmas!

    • Catherine says:

      Hi J! I like your casual way of Christmas! Happy Birthday to your daughter–19 is a great age!! LOL–I’m going back to WW meetings beginning in January!!! I gained about 10 pounds!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  17. Irene says:

    I love your Christmas tree, I do mine pretty much the same way with family memories. I really don’t care for the designer type decorations. I do some baking but no way near as much as you do. Merry Chrisrmas and enjoy your kids visit!

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