Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 39 Issue 1 • Nov 23, '09 - Jan '10
now in our 39th season

The Holidays

by Jenn Farmer
Sous Chef at Bartlett's Farm

I was enjoying a cup of hot cider this morning, while watching the most magical sunrise.  There was a nip in the air, and the colors of autumn are slowly giving way to winters’ muted tones.  Then the realization that the holidays were upon us hit me.  I felt a rollercoaster of emotions.  Nostalgia and excitement mixed with nausea, and anxiety.  My heart raced, I got butterflies in my stomach, and the palms of my hand became clammy all at once.  

I enjoy the slower pace of the island during the winter.  There is finally time to appreciate the island, and all the amazing people here.  It is such an enormous change from the hectic summer months.  The holidays seem to magnify the warmth and camaraderie of the community.  They also bring some stress.  There are events to attend, social expectations, obligations, and of course lots of entertaining. 

So I have made a pledge to myself this year, I intend to enjoy my holidays!  I think it is a better promise than some New Year’s resolution that will inevitably get chucked out the window in a matter of weeks.  I pledge I will not get sucked into the drama, and I will make things easy on myself when committing to a party or event.  Isn’t that what this time of year is supposed to be about anyway—appreciating what we have, and who we have in our life?  So I have compiled some of my favorite quick, recipes, and tips for your entertaining and party going pleasure.

I frequently get asked questions about amounts of food/ beverages necessary for parties.  Here is a simple list of important ratios to remember, and hopefully save some time and energy. 

There are 10-15 ice cubes per pound of bagged ice.  For a cocktail party plan on 1 to 1-1/2 pounds of ice per person (unless your friends are like mine, then plan on 2 pounds plus per person—alcohol melts ice quickly!).

Hors d’oeuvres for a cocktail party are about 10-15 bites per person.  Plan on 20 bites for big eaters like construction workers.

For a dinner party, plan on 6-8 bites of appetizers per person.

One quart of dip is good for about 150 crackers or pieces of crudités.

Two cups of salsa with 2 bags of chips serves about 8-10 people.

It is always better to plan a little too big, and have some left over food, than not have enough food.

Since we are talking about appetizers, there are so many quick and easy dips to make for crudités platters.  I have always gotten compliments from blue cheese fanatics on the following dip. 

Blue Cheese Dip

  • 2 cups sour cream (or plain yogurt that has a thick texture, like the Greek strained varieties)
  • 1 T.  Worcestshire sauce
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • Black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients except blue cheese together, and then fold in the cheese.  Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.  To make this into blue cheese dressing, add a little buttermilk to thin it out. 

Another easy favorite is my dipping sauce for fruit platters, it is relatively healthy too!  It is so creamy and rich, people never believe me when I tell them it is yogurt.

Brown Sugar Dip for Fresh Fruit

  • 2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt (I prefer to use Greek strained or whole milk for the best texture)
  • 3 T. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Mix all the ingredients together, taste and add more brown sugar or lemon if necessary.

If you are planning on serving turkey plan on about 2 pounds per person (this is at two servings each).  It may sound like a lot, but there will be some shrinkage and water loss during roasting, and there are a lot of inedible bones etc. also.  This amount should also give you a few leftovers.  If you have big or small eaters, adjust the amount accordingly.

Also remember to allow the meat or poultry to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before slicing it.  Slicing hot protein will cause all the wonderful juices to run out and contribute to a dry entrée. 

If you are like me and have a busy schedule and always forget about parties until the last minute, quick breads and cookie platters may become your best friends.  Most recipes are simple, can be prepared quickly and far in advance, or even frozen ahead.  Unbaked cookie dough freezes nearly as well as baked cookies, and can be baked off in large or small batches as you need them.  Cookies that have been baked and frozen thaw very quickly and are great to have on hand for last minute invites, or if a party becomes bigger than expected.  Baked oatmeal cookies are especially good for freezing.  They seem to retain their texture and moisture better than most.

Pumpkin Freezer Cookies

  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 pound butter (at room temperature)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup cooked pumpkin or winter squash (fresh, frozen or canned)
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/ 4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raisins and/or nuts and/or coconut flakes (optional)
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour, 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cups oatmeal 

Cream together the sugars and butter.  Mix together all the “wet” ingredients and set aside.  Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Add the wet and sifted ingredients alternately to the creamed butter.  Add the oatmeal and chips or other additions by folding them carefully into the dough.  Cover the dough in the bowl, and refrigerate for a few hours or until the next day.  Drop by tablespoons onto cookie sheet, and bake at 375 degrees for about 7-10 minutes.  Cool and place in tightly sealed bags or containers, and freeze.  Pull from freezer as necessary.

Another tip I have for entertainers it to make it easy on yourself by making soup.  Soup is fast, easy, warm, comforting, and a great way to use up any leftovers you may have around.  I always toss my turkey carcass or ham bone into a pot following Thanksgiving dinner, and make a quick stock with onion, celery, and carrots scraps, fresh herbs, and water.  I let it cook for an hour or two and then strain and discard all the solids.  The stock can be cooled, frozen, and used straight from the freezer as you need it.  Just add some meat, vegetables, and noodles, barley, or rice, and you have dinner in a pot.  What a great thing to have as a base for quick turkey or split pea soup.  Add a nice salad and a crusty loaf of warm bread to your soup, and you have yourself a nice meal. 

Good luck to all in their entertaining and party endeavors this holiday season.  Most importantly take it easy and enjoy!

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