As much as we love the holidays and spending time with friends and family that many of us only see once a year or less, it can be very overwhelming to plan the perfect Thanksgiving feast. Renowned chef, television host and entertaining expert Ceci Carmichael is an expert in the kitchen, but even she can feel overwhelmed during the holiday season. Ceci was kind enough to join me for an interview yesterday to share some of her favorite tips for throwing the perfect holiday party, and how to take the stress out of holiday planning and still have a delicious meal your friends and family will rave over for years to come.
Candace Rose: What are some of your favorite tips for throwing a holiday bash?
Ceci Carmichael: “Candi, every year, what’s my mantra? Get as much done ahead of time as possible. I have over the years – I think everybody’s the same way – you have your arsenal of go-to products that you know are going to be reliable, that are going to taste great and cut down on your time. It’s also things as simple as getting your platters out.
Early on when I was first doing Thanksgivings on my own, my first Thanksgiving and not having enough serving platters or bowls or plates, and doing a recount on everything that you have, so that when the day comes you’re not a fork shy or a plate shy, or you have to have somebody eating off of a plastic plate or anything! It’s just simple stuff and streamline it, and having products and things that you can reach in the refrigerator and serve them as is or customize them. I have a lot of things here to talk about today that are that way and you can serve on their own or zhush it up.”
Candace Rose: What are some of your favorite appetizers to feature at your gatherings?
Ceci Carmichael: “Well, I think appetizers sort of set the tone for the whole meal. When people come in they’re kind of peckish, they’ve got a wine and you don’t want them to pass out – it can be as simple as a hummus. I love hummus. Sometimes I make it myself, but normally not because Sabra does it so much better than I do, and they’ve got over a dozen flavors. It’s no fuss, no mess – this is what I’m talking about, one of those products that you just reach into the refrigerator and serve it as is with your crudite or your chips. I even put it instead of mayonnaise in my deviled eggs. I’m addicted to deviled eggs! I put it in guacamole – they’ve got a spicy chipotle hummus that I put in guacamole. Again, there’s an example of how you can just serve it as is, put it in a bowl or make recipes with it – make it your own!”
Candace Rose: How can we simplify holiday cooking?
Ceci Carmichael: “This year, I’m not embarrassed to say – I’m going down to my mom’s for Thanksgiving and I don’t have time to cook. I’m getting there at the 11th hour. I’m think I’m going to be able to manage the turkey, but I don’t have time to pre-prep all the sides, so I’m going to stop by Boston Market, they basically do holiday every day, if you think about it. Their stuff is fresh and has amazing ingredients in it. When I say I’m getting all my sides from Boston Market, I’m not kidding! I’ve got mashed potatoes and dressing, cranberry relish, rolls and gravy. I’ll get home and put it in a beautiful bowl and maybe put a little roasted garlic in the mashed potatoes, and it’s delicious and no fuss. If you get in a complete panic – if I’m really, really late I might just pick up a turkey.
They’re offering this entire spread for 12 people (please see video above for details) for under $100. I don’t even know if I bought all of the ingredients that they put into everything here and made it from scratch that I could do it for under $100. It’s a really nice option so that you know you’ve got it in your back pocket if you’re worried about getting all the shopping done and everything. You just go pick it up, heat it up and you’re good to go.”
Candace Rose: How can we put a spin on classic desserts?
Ceci Carmichael: “Talenti Gelato is available everywhere, it’s not in any specialty markets, it’s everywhere. I discovered it about a year ago, the flavors are amazing. This season they’ve come out with three seasonal flavors for the holidays, the great thing about Talenti is they put a little somethin’ somethin’ in each flavor. The pumpkin pie has the pumpkin and the cinnamon and the nutmeg, but they also have pieces of pie crust so you’re eating it and you’re going what was that, that’s amazing!
They’ve got the Old World Egg Nog flavor, and then the Peppermint Bark has got chunks of dark chocolate in it. These are stand alone, these are so delicious and rich and good. They look beautiful just in a bowl with some cookies and some fruit – you’re done. If you’re feeling a little bit more ambitious, you can bake a pie or buy a pie and you’ve got a Tahitian vanilla that’s out of this world and put it on top. It’s 30% less calories than ice cream, so you can have seconds!”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Ceci Carmichael: “If you go to Videopump.tv, you can get a list of everything that we have here and recipes.
Give yourself a break, if you’ve got too much on your plate, let other products, other people do all the work for you, and just enjoy your family is the biggest tip.”