Holiday Hosts & Holy Crap!

Being the Holiday Host takes time & practice.  I’ve had my share of distractions & disasters on the day of — power outages, waylaid guests, defective ovens and birds that refused to defrost.  Over the years, the holiday meal and the preparation thereof, has evolved. How? I’ve added new traditions, stripped away some old, but held onto just enough for good measure.

Thanksgiving is only 2 weeks away and my goal this year, and every year, is to have more fun and less stress!

If you've got something pretty .. use it. What are you waiting for?

Here are my 5 Survival Steps to keep sanity in check as a Holiday Host:

1. Make it your own.  Just because Mom served turkey & turnips doesn’t mean you have to.  If your family prefers pizza or meatballs, by all means have them!  I choose to serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal – you know roast turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, dressing, etc.  But it’s the “etc” that I’ve changed up over the years. I steam sweet peas and fresh carrots because that’s what Grandpa and I like. Hubbs and son#1 get their beloved asparagus and we round it off with a tossed salad for our daughter in law and son #2. I’ve stopped serving rolls, yams and jellied salads. Why? No one ate them.  D’uh!   There’s no law written that mandates what we should load up on … just have what you like and enjoy being together.

Don't be a turkey; let others help!

2. Let others help.  This was a hard one for me to learn. For years, I insisted on doing it all and ended up exhausted.  I’ve learned that letting others help lets them feel like they’re part of it all and isn’t that the feeling we’re aiming for anyways?

3. Make ahead/do ahead.  In the days leading up to any big Holiday get-together, I do as much ahead of time as I can.   I tidy up the house, clear the counters, and wash & dry my favorite “pretty” platters (a few heirlooms but most are from yard sales).  I empty the dishwasher and assemble place mats and decorations. I cut up all fresh vegetables and make my world famous cheese balls *see recipe below. Lastly, I write out the menu in a timeline format – pick your meal time and count backwards.   I.E. If you’re planning to serve the meal at 4:00 pm and the turkey (size) you picked takes 4 hours to cook, put it in the oven at 11:30 am (allowing ~30 min for the bird to sit before carving).  Potatoes should be peeled and boiling by 2:30 and so on.

.. so funny, so good. Image from

4.  Be kind to yourself.  Get your rest, drink water, take a stroll through the neighborhood and for goodness sakes, eat something – No one wants a faintly, cranky cook snarling at them from the kitchen.  My favorite go-to snack?  1 cup of Greek Yoghurt with 2 tbsp of Holy Crap stirred in – this is a high protein, high fiber and energy inducing treat!  (for more about the world’s most amazing breakfast cereal please visit

5.  Have fun.Hubbs insists on taking me out the night before a major holiday and I never protest.  We visit with friends, have a few drinks, and enjoy getting waited on.  It makes for a relaxed and happy cook (me!) and he’s just a darn hero for coming up with the idea … every year. Hee hee.

Duh duh duh!! It's SuperHubby!! Underdog image from

It’s my privilege to have loved ones to host and I don’t often find cooking to be a chore.  It’s a gift I give, with my whole heart, to those I adore most.  It’s creative, meaningful and the effort feeds my soul. And that, to me, is what hosting a Holiday meal is all about anyways.

MJ’s Marvelous Cheese Ball

  • 2 blocks of cream cheese
  • 2 packets of Carl Buddig Smoked Ham, chopped (sold in the deli meats section)
  • 1 envelope of dry ranch dressing seasoning
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped with some green, too
  • About 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of curry (I don’t measure, I just give it a liberal shake)
  • About 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of Mrs. Dash regular or onion (I don’t measure, I just give it a liberal shake)
  • About 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • If you want to “fancy  it up” you can roll the cheese ball in chopped pecans or walnuts before wrapping.


Bring cream cheese to room temperature OR microwave until soft. Stir in seasonings: ranch dressing, curry, and Mrs. Dash.

Stir in chopped onion & ham. Lastly, stir in shredded cheddar.

Divide into 3 cheese balls and wrap in Plastic Wrap; wrap in 2 layers. Refrigerate immediately.

Best if made ahead of time and these can be frozen although they will be crumbly vs. creamy when defrosted.

Serve with your favorite crackers & stand back (I prefer to take it the cheese ball out of the fridge about 15 min before serving so it has time to soften).

How about you? Are you a Holiday Host or a Holiday Guest? Any tips to share?

Categories: Family, Food, Holidays, Life, Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 26 Comments

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26 thoughts on “Holiday Hosts & Holy Crap!

  1. I know this is hard to believe, but I’ve never cooked a Thanksgiving meal. And I’ve never cooked an ENTIRE turkey – just a turkey breast. So I don’t have any tips. But it sounds as though you have this whole thing figured out. And hooray for your hubby for taking you out the night before!

    • They’re actually pretty easy to cook — I either slather the bird with butter & seasonings and cook it in a deep roaster (tightly covered in foil) OR do the same prep + use one of those Reynolds Turkey bags – easy peasy! I only have “ours” figured out .. and its taken me years not to be so ridiculous about it. Yep, Hubbs gets the hero card for taking me out (he knows if I’m here I’ll just obsess over it … ) Happy (early) Thanksgiving to you, MM, Marshall & Sundae, MJ

  2. You shared the cheese ball recipe with the world, oh my! Yummo.

  3. My husband loves enchiladas at Thanksgiving. Craziness…

  4. Absolutely #2, let others help. Last year at a friend’s insistence I included “Key Lime Cake” among the pies. It was different…so greeeeen…but she was right. It was delicious and eaten up by the end of our day of grazing. We usually have a houseful of 20-30. This year we’ll be at my mother’s which means everyone has to pitch in. Joy and fun!

    • Ooh. I’d love to learn how to make Key Lime Cake. I love anything lime-y. Your holiday sounds so fun and exciting .. can’t wait for updates 🙂 MJ

  5. Laughed out loud about your favorite little treat: Holy Crap
    I say the little phrase all the time but not when I’m being sweet

    Also since we are in the season of bounty here is a quick and delicious snack – Apple Dip
    Apples – green or red
    1 8 oz package of cream chees ( I use light)
    1 jar of carmel or butterscotch ice cream topping – I use Mrs. Richardsons
    Place cream chees in microwave for about 30 seconds – stir in ice cream topping till smooth – slice apples/sprinkle with lemon juice
    Or if you want to really be easy – place whole apples in bowl with several knives laying around and have guests chop their own
    Prayers for your day

    • .. My sister and I had great fun shopping for that when I was home in Saskatoon in September (it’s not sold in the USA). I bought 5 bags and she made me carry them all .. then, anyone who looked my way, she’d laugh and say “that girl has a bit of a problem” – ha! Despite the name, it’s a wonderfully crunchy cereal made with chia and buckwheat (I think) and packs a powerful punch!

      Thank you for the recipe .. now that looks scrumptious and I will try it. Thanks Susie!

  6. Great advice! I have a similar cheeseball recipe and tradition, which I think you’re familiar with 🙂
    Can’t believe we are thinking about the holidays already!

  7. Excellent advice, thank you! And thanks for the recipe. Mmm, mmm good!

    • … that’s what works for me. I have had my share of moments with the window open and my red face in the cool air looking for a respite! 🙂

      The recipe is easy and very yummy, have to say it’s a favorite around here.
      Cheers! MJ

  8. I was just going to comment when I saw that Teri Spaulding beat me to it…. I CAN’T believe you shared your cheese ball recipe with the world?! 🙂

    To the rest of her readers, I can verify that it is an AMAZING recipe. Make one for guest and one for yourself…to keep…and not share…with anyone. 🙂

    • … well, thank you Kelli. The thing is I’m getting older and it’s time to start letting a few things out of the vault … thanks for the compliments, I know you enjoy it and I’m glad your family does as well 🙂

  9. Mmm, that cheeseball sounds awesome.

    • It is. It’s easy, portable and can be made low-fat if you choose. My boys hover over it like a pair of vultures and, before I know it, it’s time to take out another!!

  10. I love your survival tips. A few years ago I started making nearly all the Thanksgiving side dishes for my mom, who cooks the turkey. She always felt that she was putting me out because she always felt stressed making an entire dinner. But the truth is I love doing it. So I can see how beneficial your “ask for help” is.

    • That’s a wonderful way to help, Leah. I would love it if I had an offer like that!! My kitchen is pretty small so someone would have to make it ahead but that’s OK – we’d take it 🙂

      Cheers to you,

  11. Great post, MJ — filled with helpful advice and humor. And I’m going to try the cheese ball recipe, but without the ham. Thank you!

    P.S. Mom served turkey and turnips? Turnips?

    • Thank you and yes you can easily leave the ham out … Some choose to skip the onions, too … whatever works. It’s the curry & other seasonings that gives this one it’s punch.

      Turnips – ugh!!

  12. Another great looking recipe from your file! I’m with you on the roasting bag. It keeps the bird moist and I usually add an apple, onion, and celery to the cavity. I prefer the dressing baked in its own dish anyway – more little crispy bits. You sound like you have this all figured out, which I envy. I have to make myself a list so that I can schedule what needs to cook when or isn’t all ready at the same time. I’m looking forwar to the pictures from your party!

    • Thank you, Renee; I’m with you – I prefer the dressing cooked on the side so it can be on the dry side. It was only via a conversation with a friend that I realized I even had 5 go-to tips … mostly, it’s whatever works for you and that which helps you feel happy and not stressed.

      Cheers! MJ

  13. I alternate between being hostess and guest and find that I am often fairly stressed when I’m the hostess. You have some good ideas for keeping calm. I will definitely utilize these next time I’m entertaining!

    The cheeseball sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    • … we rarely get to be guests and as much as I “think” I would like it, the truth is I think I’d be a little out of sorts if I wasn’t comandeering the kitchen 🙂
      Make the cheeseball a few days ahead of your crew arriving .. it’s a great late night snack, too.
      Cheers to you, Terri. MJ

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