We adore the fresh, seasonal fare crafted by Canal House duo Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, but we might be even more enamored with the effortless lifestyle that they showcase in their waterside kitchen. Because the holidays can be a bit hectic, we asked this laid-back pair to share some tips for a full and festive season with minimal stress. They offered five ingenious ways to prepare your home for holiday guests in the weeks leading up to Christmas, so the day itself can be spent celebrating.
Build a Holiday Bar
Prepare for holiday gatherings by stocking your liquor cabinet. Splurge on some special varieties, pick up your friends’ favorite brands, and add a bottle of unusual gin to your collection. Also, keep a case of prosecco chilled on the porch-- you’ll have something festive to open anytime surprise guests stop in.
Once you’ve made your selections, arrange everything on a pretty tray in the space where you entertain the most. Finish off your bar with a mixed but complementary assortment of thin, elegant glasses and beautiful pitchers to make your drinks feel especially festive.
Finally, mix up a batch of homemade milk punch and store it in the freezer inside a pretty pitcher. When guests arrive, simply break up the punch with a wooden spoon before serving. Milk punch tastes even better than eggnog, and looks much more special than nog poured from a paper carton. Find the recipe here.
Hard Boil a Batch of Eggs
Keep a stash of hard boiled eggs in the fridge to make spontaneous and simple hors d’oeuvres. Devil the eggs traditionally, or save time by “buttering” the halves with mayonnaise. Top with bacon, scallions, chives, smoked salmon, caviar, sardines, or other savory garnishes. Hard boiled eggs are a versatile starting point for being creative with what you have on hand in the pantry.
Present an assortment of garnished eggs on a beautiful platter. With their colorful toppings, they look like festive jewels on a holiday table.
Find the recipe in Canal House Cooks Every Day, available in terrain stores.
Make a Christmas Eve Ham
Christopher and Melissa “believe in the ham” as a holiday gift that keeps giving. Cooking a big ham on Christmas Eve is surprisingly simple, and you’ll have enough food no matter how many guests stop by. If you don’t finish it on Christmas Eve, leftover ham is also easy to incorporate into Christmas Day breakfast as a layer for Eggs Benedict, or in sandwiches with freshly-baked biscuits.
Bake Sugar Cookies for Impromptu Gifts
Make a big batch of sugar cookies for gifts or party treats. Package the cookies in cellophane bags and tie them with a length of pretty ribbon. Always keep a few of these easy presents on hand, so you’re never short of a gift for a drop-by visitor.
Preserve Lemons in Weck Jars
For a simple and practical gift that wows recipients, preserve whole lemons in weck jars. In early winter, Meyer lemons are just coming into season in warm climes like California. Salty and a little sour, preserved Meyer lemons are perfect for adding salt to any recipe. They also add a splash of tropical color to the winter months when displayed in glass jars.
Preserving lemons is very simple—you just need a jar, the fruit itself, and some kosher salt. Jars of preserved lemons make no-worry gifts because you can keep them for up to a year if you don’t give them all away. Also, the weck jar is as beautiful as the lemons inside, and the recipient can use it again after their lemons are gone.