Stress Free Holiday Entertaining

By Marilyn Lazar

Advice on holiday hosting complete with recipes from the THE Claire Tansey! 

Her first book is titled “Uncomplicated: Taking the Stress Out of Home cooking”. First published in 2018, it was followed up two years later by “Dinner Uncomplicated”. Do you sense a theme here? 

Allow me to introduce Claire Tansey, home chef and cookbook author with a mission to make people more comfortable in their own kitchens, improving health, finances and family relationships in the process.

With a Masters in English followed by stints as Food Director of Chatelaine Magazine, test kitchen manager and restaurant critic peppering her twenty-plus years of experience, you can bet Claire’s recipes are rigorously tested. She firmly believes in very specific language, instructions and quantities, a quality appreciated by novice and experienced home cooks alike. (If I experiment, I want it to be by choice!)

From cooking classes to coaching, Claire believes in the joy that home-cooking delivers. She even hosts a free “De-Stress Dinner Challenge” on social media. So it’s no surprise that Claire believes holiday entertaining should not be a source of anxiety. She agreed to share some holiday recipes and hacks for making entertaining easy and having fun at your own party.

KARMA COOP:  Claire, can you please give us your top tips for successful holiday recipes?

CLAIRE TANSEY: Around the holidays, the two questions I get asked the most by readers and students are 1) How do I make really good mashed potatoes? and 2) There’s a vegetarian coming to my holiday dinner, what should I serve? Here are my answers!

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Peel 8 medium or large Yukon Gold potatoes, then cut each one in half and place in a large pot. Cover with lots of cold water and season with about 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes or until very tender. Pass each potato through a ricer and into a large mixing bowl. Mix in 1⁄4 cup room-temperature butter and 1⁄4 cup milk or cream, then taste for salt. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl. 

Potatoes can be made ahead and kept chilled up to12 hours. Reheat in a microwave on high at 1 minute intervals, stirring often, until piping hot. Serves 4 to 6

How to video: https://youtu.be/mH8BCQJSxno

Kale and Feta Spanakopita Pie

Prep time 35 minutes | Ready in 75 minutes | Serves 6 to 8

I often get asked about vegetarian party dishes. Whether it’s a big family Christmas dinner or a neighbourhood potluck, a special vegetarian entrée isn’t just a welcome addition anymore—it’s often required! Whatever the occasion, this is your new go-to dish, because, truly, it’s unforgettable.

If you’re a phyllo novice, don’t fret. It looks terribly fussy but it’s really very forgiving. You can stack it, crease it and rip it, but as long as you brush it with enough butter, it will end up crisp, golden and delicious. If making this recipe for a party, you might consider making two, since you’ll have the phyllo thawed anyways. It will be gobbled up by vegetarians and meat eaters alike, and it’s even fabulous heated up the next day.

Make it ahead: The filling can be mixed and kept in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

285-g bag chopped kale

300-g package frozen leaf spinach, thawed

250 g cream cheese, at room temperature

2 eggs

4 green onions, finely chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup crumbled feta

4 sheets phyllo pastry (thawed—see Tip below)

¼ cup butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the kale in a large pot. Add several spoonfuls of water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the kale cook gently, until it is very soft, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander then rinse with cold water. Add the spinach to the colander, then squeeze as much liquid as possible from the greens (squeeze handfuls of the mixture as hard as you can).

2. Chop the greens finely. Combine them with the cream cheese, eggs, onions, parsley and salt in a large bowl and stir very well until combined (you can do this with an electric mixer if you prefer). Stir in the feta. Reserve.

3. Place one sheet of phyllo on the counter, then brush it with butter using a natural bristle brush, covering the entire surface lightly. Take another sheet of phyllo and place it on top of the first sheet, rotating the top sheet 90 degrees so it’s perpendicular to the bottom sheet. Brush the phyllo with butter. Place a third sheet crosswise over the first two and brush with butter, then add a fourth sheet of phyllo perpendicular to the third sheet. Brush the top with butter.

4. Brush a 9-inch pie dish with butter. Transfer the buttered phyllo to the pie dish, tucking it into the corners and letting the extra hang over the sides. Add the kale mixture and smooth into an even layer. Fold the overhanging phyllo loosely over the spinach mixture. Brush the top with the remaining butter. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the phyllo is deeply golden all over. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

TIP: To use phyllo pastry, first thaw it in the package, either overnight in the fridge or on the counter for an hour or two. Unroll the package of phyllo and unfold it so all the sheets are in a single layer. Transfer one whole sheet to the counter to brush with butter as above, and cover the remaining stack of phyllo with a slightly damp tea towel. Once you’ve used what you need, reroll the phyllo, wrap it very well with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for up to a week.

To learn more about Claire, visit…

Check out my virtual cooking classes here.

Dinner, Uncomplicated (National bestseller)

Uncomplicated: Taking the Stress Out of Home Cooking (2018)

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