How to Prepare a Christmas Dinner Party

How to Prepare a Christmas Dinner Party

Holiday dinner 101 for novices So you’ve bought all the presents, the Xbox Ones and iPads for your closest friends and family, and maybe a Rolex Cosmograph for someone really special. You’ve sent out Christmas cards to everyone else, and it would seem like your holiday obligations are done. That said, Christmas isn’t about “obligations” at all, but rather about spending time with the people you care about. One of the best ways to do that is to hold an intimate Christmas dinner party for you and your loved ones. Throwing a dinner party isn’t as daunting as some people make it out to be. Even if you’re a beginner, as long as you have things all planned out, and as long as you keep preparations within realistic expectations, hosting a great yuletide meal shouldn’t prove too hard a task. The first – and probably most important – thing to do is to know who you want to invite and what their food preferences are; this information will be the basis of your dinner. Take note of which things your guests love to eat, and more importantly, which things they can’t eat due to health or dieting reasons. As far as the number of guests goes, a good rule of thumb is to keep it at five people or less, otherwise the intimate atmosphere might get lost. Next comes the menu planning. Using the information gathered from the step above, plan out the courses of the evening, from appetizers to the main dish to desert. For the novice host, try and keep the meal simple. Also, make sure that the recipes are...
Valentine’s Day Photo Gallery

Valentine’s Day Photo Gallery

Thank you all for sending me such great photos of your sweethearts and sweet treats! Here are some of the people, pets, and food celebrating Valentine’s Day. Keep emailing me your photos until February 18, when I’ll choose a $50.oo gift card winner

Tijuana dogs with homemade buns and memories

Tijuana dogs with homemade buns and memories

We saw Tijuana dogs – aka TJ dogs – all over San Diego last month, from the Marriott’s Tequila Grille to Little Italy’s Craft + Commerce to the food vendors on the walkway next to the otherwise staid USS Midway Museum.   Tijuana dogs are the ultimate street food – basically a bacon-wrapped hot dog with toppings. I’d never heard of them before, and from I could taste was definitely missing out. . . they are much better than you’d think, a perfect bite of salty, savory, tangy, and hot. For all you uninitiated, here’s a great Tijuana Dog graphic from food writer and cartoonist Hawk Krall that explains all the delicious possibilities:   One of the best things about traveling is finding, then trying to copy at home, those wonderful new tastes you discover along the way. TJ dogs were no exception, although I assumed they’d be hard to recreate, and wasn’t fully inspired to try it out until I discovered el Salchichero butcher shop in Santa Cruz, where chorizo bacon and handmade perro calientes spoke to me: We can become the Tijuana dogs of your dreams; our spicy salty goodness bringing back plumeria-scented memories of bike riding on Coronado Island, of gazing in wonder at enormous golden zodiac heads, of strolling through the Gaslight District and Little Italy in the twilight with your family . . . I think that’s what they said, anyway. They were convincing, nevertheless. And it turns out Tijuana dogs are a super-simple thing to make at home. Just start by wrapping a slice of bacon, spiral-style, around a hot dog.   Now put your raw...
Bacon jam – the best recipe yet

Bacon jam – the best recipe yet

December 14, 2011. My 21st anniversary of meeting LL and the 20th anniversary of our engagement. An occasion that called for – at the very least – a dinner treat – but dinner was elusive that night. Kid Two had a 6:00 keyboard lesson, his first with a new teacher, former Doobie Brother Dale Ockerman. While he was making music I drove to Whole Paycheck – I mean Whole Foods – to find something to make for dinner. The pizza boys were too busy shuffling around looking busy to help me out, the salad bar was a bit wilted, and the fish department smelled fishy. Feeling put out, I left, mentally figuring out Plan B. We stopped by Gayle’s Bakery on the way home but the Blue Plate Special had sold out by 7:30 and I didn’t feel like ficelles and twice-baked potatoes. So. I dropped Kid Two off at home and went for the big splurge – take-out from Bittersweet Bistro. Turned out to be a serendipitous choice  . . . one of their dinner specials was Bacon Jam Pizza! I’d already made two batches of my own bacon jam in search of the perfect recipe, and finally something to compare my effort to. And Bittersweet’s pizzas are nicely done; a plate-sized pie with thin crust and tasty toppings applied sparingly. So I loaded up, and by 9pm – on a school night –  we finally all sat down to dinner: sliders for Kid Two, steak sandwich for Kid One, Mediterranean pasta for Mija, beef stroganoff for LL. Sadly, though, my bacon jam pizza manifested itself as a Bacon Chicken...
What to do with that Halloween candy

What to do with that Halloween candy

Never mind your leftover Halloween candy – what are you going to do with all those candy wrappers? If you’re one of the few among us with a more rarefied vision of the world, you may already be saving them to create some objects of beauty like the M&M Matador: It’s stunning! Shimmery and perfectly constructed, it made me feel . . . Ole! – as opposed to “melts in your mouth and not in your hands.”  Artist Charlotte Kruk specialized in wearable art made from candy wrappers and other miscellanea that may otherwise line a landfill. Check out this video; I especially love the Peach Nectar dress at 1:35: embedded by Embedded Video The M&M Matador was part of the eye candy at Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History last Friday night. The place was hopping; some of the artists from UCSC’s Digital Arts and New Media were there for a one-night showing of their work. Kid Two really liked the interactive surfboard:   A camera superimposed Kid One’s washed-out image in the video of big waves breaking. His perfect balance on the board was rewarded by a perfectly pitched version of “Wipe Out.” Less centered people trying it heard a sped up, slowed down, or otherwise warped version of the song; imagine if your Wii Balance Board was somehow in sync with your iPod and the pitch and tempo of your music changed as you got off track. Totally rad. Kid Two was also, surprisingly, into the Guerilla Grafters demonstration. It may be the next logical step in a collective culinary consciousness after community gardens and...
A Big Sur Thanksgiving, 1939

A Big Sur Thanksgiving, 1939

Knowing how to brine a perfect turkey is not as important as the ability to remember what, exactly, to give thanks for. Here is novelist Lillian Bos Ross’ description of her 1939 Big Sur Thanksgiving meal. Lillian Bos is one of my heroes; read on to find out more about her.

Traditionally Halloween

Traditionally Halloween

What are the traditions – new or old – you do at this time every year? For me, the process of creating and carrying on traditions is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting for me, in part because my energies and interests don’t always match what the calendar and drugstore displays tell me it’s time to do. We’ve made some progress, though; click to hear how.