Stress-Free Tips and Recipes for Holiday Entertaining from The Lazy Gourmet
When I wanted to get the low down on perfecting the art of holiday entertaining, I turned to local expert and catering guru, Susan Mendelson, owner of The Lazy Gourmet.
While working towards a degree in social work at UBC, Mendelson began catering events for the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, where she worked as the house manager, in order to make a little extra money.
Her food was such a hit (she was the first commercial purveyor of Nanaimo bars in 1979) that after completing her degree, she opened The Lazy Gourmet and is now celebrating her 33rd holiday season in business—a business that offers take-away meals, catering services and event planning.
“The Lazy Gourmet started as a place where people could bring in their own baking dishes to be filled with fantastic lasagnas and casseroles (and go home and take all the credit if they wanted),” says General Manager Kevin Mazzone, “and over the years, it has evolved to become Vancouver's premier catering and event company.”
Best Ingredients Make the Difference
The Lazy Gourmet's holiday salads, like the Winter Panzanella salad above, are sold by the cup (with a minimum of 10 cups). (Image: The Lazy Gourmet)
Customers can purchase a range of frozen dishes to take home from the “Gourmet to Go” menu, like lasagna, shepherd's pie, gourmet macaroni & cheese and Nanaimo Bars.
The Lazy Gourmet's catering services include everything from corporate breakfasts, lunches and holiday parties, to private in-home dinner parties, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and even summer barbeques.
The Lazy Gourmet Events and Gift Baskets
Their event planning services can cover as little or as much as the client wants, down to the very last details (floral arrangements, audio-visual equipment, ice sculptures, etc.), and they are able to recommend a large number of private and public local venues.
The Lazy Gourmet has also launched a new line of gift baskets, 'Sweets' or 'Everything', that come in two different sizes each.
The 'Sweets' baskets contain treats like brandy cakes, biscotti, and holiday cookies, and the 'Everything' baskets come with the sweet treats plus antipasto, artisan crisps, a selection of cheese and peach habanero jelly.
The Lazy Gourmet Menu
The braised beef rib croustade hors d’oeuvres are new to The Lazy Gourmet's holiday catering menu. (Image: The Lazy Gourmet)
The Lazy Gourmet’s holiday catering menu has plenty of drool-worthy items, including the ridiculously delicious and adorable mini turkey dinner hors d’oeuvres (turkey, cranberry, smashed yams and sage on winter-spiced toast), and the brand new braised beef rib croustade with celeriac puree (pictured above) and mini eggplant parmesan (pictured in the main image).
Tips of the trade
Mendelson, who’s also the author of almost a dozen cookbooks, including the latest compilation of her best recipes, Mama Now Cooks Like This, offers her tips for stress-free holiday entertaining.
- Plan ahead – The most important thing for any party is for the host to have fun. So get all the prep work done ahead of time (like making the shortbread cookie recipe below), so you can enjoy the party along with your guests.
- Get help – Every host needs a helping hand, so make sure you have someone to help you serve, get drinks, clean up spills, etc. Recruit your friends or your kids, or for a flawless and stress-free holiday event, hire The Lazy Gourmet!
- Prepare a variety of food – The key to everyone enjoying a party is having food that appeals to everyone's tastes. Try as much as possible to take into account your guests' likes, dislikes and allergies, and make sure you have a wide variety so there's something for everyone to enjoy.
- Don't break the bank – Getting friends and family together for the holidays shouldn't require you to take out a second mortgage on your home. You've supplied the food and the venue; don't be afraid to ask guests to BYOB.
- Serve a holiday punch or sangria – By serving a punch or sangria, you can take the stress out of making drinks at the party (giving you more time to have fun). There are a lot of great recipes for holiday punches (see The Lazy Gourmet's holiday sangria recipe below) or for a cold winter's evening, consider serving a hot mulled wine or cider.
Recipes from the Lazy Gourmet
Lemon chiffon cupcakes with meringue icing are one of over a dozen desserts featured on The Lazy Gourmet's holiday catering menu. (Image: The Lazy Gourmet)
The Lazy Gourmet’s Christmas Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
- 1 cup butter
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 300F.
- In large bowl, blend butter, icing sugar and vanilla until creamy.
- Add flour and pecans, stir until well combined.
- Roll dough into small balls and arrange on two baking sheets.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Sprinkle with icing sugar immediately.
- Let cool and then roll in more icing sugar.
The Lazy Gourmet’s Winter White Sangria
Makes about 10 cups
- 2 bottles white wine (The Lazy Gourmet recommends Le Vieux Pin or La Stella, both local wineries in the Okanagan)
- 2 oz Triple Sec or Cointreau
- 1 can lychees in syrup
- 2 tangerines, thinly sliced into rounds
- 1 grapefruit, juiced
- 1 pear, cored and sliced
- 1 apple, cored and sliced
- 1 bunch fresh mint leaves
1 bottle sparkling water
- Combine all ingredients in large punch bowl, gently stirring to combine.