Can you believe it’s November?! Thanksgiving will be here before we know it! Planning ahead and having a holiday game plan is the best way to avoid stress and weight gain. I discussed this topic with Pilates Studio City client, Annie Campbell, who owns her own catering company. Her food is delicious and her parties darling! Check out her blog for tons of recipes and party theme ideas:
1. Annie, tell me a bit about your company. What inspires you and why do you love cooking and party planning?
It all really begins with my childhood. My mom is my personal Martha Stewart. Our house was the home that was decorated for every holiday and where everyone gathered for celebrations. Our family meals were rituals: lamb for Easter, chili before trick or treating and every Christmas Eve is oyster stew…cookies for dessert. Birthdays always had a theme (teddy bear bingo was a highlight) and after school snacks were ever-changing tasty creations. It all made life fun. Really fun. Rituals like a dinner of popcorn, cheese and apples (plus cans of 7-up) for decorating the Christmas tree made each year memorable and each month special. And the thing was, it never felt like stress. It felt like love. My mom stuck to what she knew and always planned ahead, prepping the night and week before. I feel really lucky that I had such a wonderful mom and such an extended family and hope to help inspire people to create their own traditions. It could be Chinese take out for New Year’s Eve or root beer floats every Father’s day. Life should be full of celebrations
Several years ago I decided to change careers. Unfulfilled in the entertainment business, it became increasingly clear that I was at my happiest while making parties. Do what you love! I loved cooking, entertaining and, of course, a theme. My best friend Amy owned a men’s clothing store and referred me to her clientele. My first call was for a dinner for 65 less than twenty-four hours later. I said yes. I called my mom, we planned a menu and after pulling an all-nighter, I arrived to the job. After a buffet of short ribs and mac & cheese, they booked me for their next party. That next party started a snowball of a word of mouth business. It also gave me confidence and started my growing portfolio. Since then, I’ve continued to pay attention to the details, keep up my enthusiasm and work hard. Alongside my husband Greg, I’ve put together a team of good people who also care and deliver a higher level of service than the norm. We’re all loose, confident and dress & act like we’re at the party, rather than slaves. I think it makes people more comfortable. So, they keep having us back.
2. Can you share with us a few ways to make this years Thanksgiving less stressful and lighter on our waistlines?
ANNIE: “Well, I do think that the Thanksgiving meal gets a bad rap! I mean, it’s only one day a year and it involves a lean protein, lots of vegetables dishes and dessert (what holiday doesn’t?!). I think the key is to really enjoy the things that you love and skip the things that you don’t care about. For instance, my family does dozens of dishes…I don’t need to try them all. I’d way rather enjoy lots of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce but I’ll often pass on mashed potatoes because they’re not my favorite. Similarly, instead of having a taste of every dessert, have one big, satisfying piece of your favorite pie (pumpkin being the healthiest).
But if you do want to make an especially healthy dish, make a vegetable dish. Simple brussel sprouts are an easy go to. Trim the brussel sprouts of any browned leaves. Blanch the brussel sprouts in boiling water for 4 minutes and drain. (this can be done the day before). To serve, sautee the brussel sprouts in olive oil with plenty of salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of maple syrup. Super easy and a great crispy texture.
Also, put out an appetizer platter with crudit?s, pickles and yummy dips (I like green goddess dressing) to snack on while cooking so that you’re not starving when you sit down. Another crowd pleasing appetizer: rosemary cashews. Here is a recipe I recommend:
Also, order a heritage bird from your favorite farmers market or get one online.
And of course, go to Pilates the day before and take a walk on the day of!”
3. Here are a few of Annie’s best tips to plan your Thanksgiving party & dinner.
Plan all your menu, write your grocery lists and pick your recipes at least one week in advance. Shop for all of your dried goods and dairy up to a week in advance. Shop for all of your produce at the Sunday farmer’s market to avoid awful parking lots the day before.
Don’t be afraid to delegate. A potluck is more fun. Assign people to bring wine, appetizers, desserts and sides.
Make your pie-crusts and freeze a couple of weeks in advance. If you’re serving a soup (I love a kabacha squash & fennel soup), it can be made and frozen well in advance. Defrost in the fridge the night before.
If you’re cooking for a large group, make two smaller turkeys (instead of a large one) or cook the turkey cut into parts. Either method yields much moister meat than a big bird.
I always set my table the night before. For Thanksgiving, simply lining the table with small white pumpkins and lots of votives is simply and easy.
For cocktails, I freeze a bag of cranberries and then place the cranberries in champagne glasses and top with sparkling wine. Super easy and pretty. Pomegranate seeds also work. For dinner, serve American wines.
Here is a link to a Thanksgiving post I did last year and it includes my great-grand mother’s pumpkin pie recipe:
Be sure to follow Annie!