How to survive the holiday season.

I didn’t get much Christmas season this year as I spent the first three weeks of Advent in a hospital center and hiding in a library studying. (They did decorate the hospital very nicely, though. I appreciated it at 6am every morning.)

But now it’s definitely Christmas season, and that always presents its own challenges. But here! I’ve solved them all for you! Next up – packing tape that doesn’t stick to itself as soon as you try to unwrap it from the roll.

Challenge: Simple Evening Dessert You’re having a few friends over to celebrate the season and you just want one little dessert to round the evening off. Nothing peppermint, nothing chocolate – that’s been done. Why not try an old-fashioned English Sticky Toffee Pudding? It worked for Charles Dickens.
Challenge: The Gingerbread Dilemma Someone, somewhere, has just demanded that you help make a gingerbread house and you cringe at the idea, because the gingerbread that they use resembles pastewood, and you know real gingerbread is quite possibly the best thing on earth. Guess you’ll just have to enlighten them.

Challenge: Too Many Candy Canes So the food’s been just a little heavy over the last few weeks, and you’ve eaten an entire pound of fudge and that prime rib dinner stuck to your ribs just the way your grandmother always told you it would. Fresh, flavorful, light, crisp Thai Cucumber Salad to the rescue! Even better? It’s a fast meal.

Challenge: Dessert to Impress Quick! Your husband/ wife/ sister/ neighbor/ randompersononthestreet’s holiday party is tonight, and you need to bring dessert. What to do? Duh. Make this Tarte Tartin. I’m not even joking. Make it. I’m tempted to bold this entire paragraph just so people pay attention.

Challenge: Be A Cookie Hero Cookie platters. They are ubiquitous. They always have sugar cookies on them. They usually have fudge. Those are all good, but diversity never hurt anyone. You know what else they should have? Millionaire’s Shortbreads. It’s okay, go ahead a be a cookie hero.

Challenge: A Holiday Meal on a Non-Holiday It’s not Christmas, it’s not Hanukkah, it’s not even New Year’s Eve, but somehow, you’re still hosting a festive party. Turkey? So last month. Prime rib? Expensive. Plus, what if a guest doesn’t eat red meat? Fondue – can you ever get that cheese to melt smoothly? No, what you want is Cornish Game Hens with Braised Leeks.

Challenge: Too Many People, Not Enough Space Somebody is staying at your house. It’s your kid’s college roommate, or your mom, or your co-worker, or an awkward cousin. Or you’re the awkward cousin staying at someone else’s house. Either way, make Plum Kuchen for breakfast and there will be peace and joy for at least as long as it takes to devour.

Challenge: Too Many Cooks, Not Enough Food It’s Christmas Eve dinner, your main dish is in the oven, your sister-in-law is putting the finishing touches on her side and you’ve forgotten a vegetables. What’s a cook to do? Quick, wrap some asparagus in prosciutto and goat cheese, broil it and win a Michelin star.

Challenge: Keep The Paper On the Presents Til After Breakfast Kids have been sneaking down to see what Santa left since about 1am, coffee has yet to start gurgling in the percolator and already, people are clamoring for Christmas Breakfast because cereal just won’t cut it. Don’t worry, you’re prepared and a caramel draped Monkey Bread is already baking in the oven, filling the whole house with the scent of cinnamon and butter.

Challenge: Another Salad to Another Party You’ve been asked to bring a salad to your neighbor’s Boxing Day party, but somehow, plain lettuce and a little ranch just doesn’t sound good right now. The rest of the table will probably be salted nuts, peppermint truffles and pigs-in-a-blanket. Surprise everyone with this sophisticated, vibrant, and simple Orange Salad with Pickled Red Onions.

Challenge: Survive the Post Christmas Apocalypse You’re stressed, the stores won’t take back the duplicate sweater your aunt gave you and your kids have already broken their toy train. Take a break for yourself from the hectic days of post-Christmas parties, the awkward week of work sandwiched in between two major holidays, sit down, and enjoy a bowl of this warm, filling and comforting mushroom soup

Challenge: Water Into Wine aka Hors d’Oeuvres into…? People are milling around, eating your carefully concocted hors d’oeurves, the wine is flowing and the music is perfect for ringing in the New Year. Just then, you spot it. Your buffet table is unexepectedly and drastically empty. What do you do? Make a few batches of Scrubbed Toast, of course, and remind everyone that’s it’s French and oh so chic.

Challenge: New Year’s Day Syndrome Yeah, it’s New Year’s day and either you stayed up later than you normally do or that one extra champagne toast turned into three or you over-dosed on cheese curls. Either way, your head hurts, and you need sick-day chicken soup to make you feel better. Plus, it has avocados and lime. Win-win-win.

Challenge: We Now Return You to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming Oh my gosh. It’s January 3rd and life has to start again. Somebody somewhere made a resolution to lose weight this year, and you can’t stand anymore holiday leftovers. Plus, you’re going to have to eat something for lunch today, so why not a savory, vegetable infused Sesame Soba?

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