Holiday Entertaining

Samantha Schwalm







Whether you are hanging ornaments on your tree or lighting a menorah, it is time to toast the holiday season! Bust out the champagne flutes as the most champagne is consumed this time of year. With parties to celebrate the season abound, champagne pairs so well with the holidays. It can be served with appetizers at a cocktail party, a toast for Christmas Eve Dinner or making a quick drink with friends that much more special.

Growing up, my parents hosted all of our family and friends with an open house cocktail party in our home on Christmas Eve. People were invited with all of their family and friends, regardless of who was in town for the holidays. I remember my grandmothers holding court, one always with a full glass of Chardonnay and the other with Old Granddad’s on the rocks. My mother would have the dining room table full of traditional holiday dishes from meat balls and spinach pies to a homemade yule log, meringue mushrooms and all. The party on Christmas Eve became a tradition for our family and our friends and remains one of my favorite memories of the holidays.




My husband’s family loves dinner on Christmas Eve. Sometime they would reload Thanksgiving, with a big turkey and all of the trimmings. Other times they would do surf and turf, with beef tenderloin and crab legs, or even a pheasant pot pie or Turducken from a local Chicago meat market. No matter what was on the table to eat, there was always Tom & Jerry’s for a drink post dinner. While once a drink considered synonymous with Christmastime since the early 1800’s, it remains an annual tradition in his family. The drink consists of a batter made up of beaten eggs, sugar and vanilla. A healthy scoop of the batter is added to a cup. Then you add equal portions of hot water (brandy, rum, or whiskey). Sprinkle with nutmeg, and you have a traditional Tom & Jerry.

I love having friends for a quick drink before heading to evening events. If friends decide to pop by unexpected or a plan comes together late in afternoon, I usually try to have the necessary ingredients to be put together a quick cheese and meat tray. Good friends of ours always plan ahead and have a fun specialty drink that we always anxiously look forward to upon arrival. The drink is a wonderfully festive way to begin the evening. The last one this summer was a grapefruit and vodka drink, which was unique and refreshing. It is nice to have the ability to connect in a smaller setting before heading out to a larger party where intimate conversation can become more difficult.

It is important to remember to keep the old family traditions alive while allowing room for new ones. No matter if it is a large celebration or just a few friends catching up, we all have reason to celebrate with the ones we love.












Easy Beef Tenderloin:

1 Beef Tenderloin

Salt and Pepper to Season


*Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

*Trim fat off the beef tenderloin.

*Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the tenderloin.

*Place tenderloin on the broiler rack and place in oven.

*Immediately after placing the tenderloin in the oven, turn the oven down to 325 for 40 minutes or until desired doneness.


***Use a meat thermometer to test meat temperature***



Pheasant Pot Pie:

Makes 4 individual pot pies


3 T butter

1 Medium Onion Small Diced

2 Cups of Sliced Button Mushrooms

3 T Red Wine

2 T Flour

1 Pound Cooked Pheasant Meat

3 Cups of Chicken or Pheasant Stock

1 Egg for Egg Wash


*Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

*In a Dutch oven put the 3 tablespoons of butter.

*Then add sautéed onions and mushrooms until liquid from mushrooms dissolves.

*Add 3 tablespoons of red wine, and cook it off.

*Next add the flour, stock, and pheasant. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer until sauce thickens.

*Place filling in individual ramekins and cover with pie crust.

*In a separate container, lightly beat the egg and add a little water. Brush the top of the pies with the egg wash, and poke a hole in the top of the pie crust.

*Place them in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.