fbpx Holiday Entertaining Guide

Holiday Entertaining Guide

Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on Nov 29, 2016

Original article featured in House & Home.

Parties & Prep

'Tis the season for holiday parties and endless entertaining, which means it's time to get organized! Whether you're an established entertainer or prefer company over party prep, my recipes and table-setting tips can help you wow every guest. If I'm being honest, time is not a luxury I have to cook culinary masterpieces, so I firmly believe the easier the recipe, the better! I'm on a mission to help you save a little time and host a simple, stylish get together. So grab an apron, step into my kitchen and let's start cooking! If you're still hungry for more at the end of this article, just pick up a copy of my latest book At Home: Sarah Style for infinite design inspiration and 45 easy recipes that taste delicious all year round.

Kitchen Vibes

Our house was built in 1965, so the architecture and overall vibe are modern. The spare, streamlined look of the kitchen suits our taste perfectly and is authentic to the house. Because the layout is so open, I wanted it to be calm, classic and timeless, hence the palette of white on white on grey. 

Sarah Richardson's Holiday Entertaining Guide
Sarah Richardson's Holiday Entertaining Guide

Domestic Goddess

Like many, I always dreamed of having a giant island as the anchor for cooking, entertaining, and family life in the kitchen. But it never worked with the original house layout. The driving force for our recent renovation was to make the house live up to its full potential and work in "forever" terms. To get better space and use out of the cooking and eating areas, we reconfigured the powder room and front-hall closet to enable an open-concept kitchen and dining room. It was less difficult to achieve than I imagined, and the new configuration is next-level awesome. Entertaining is easier making for one very happy chef!

My six-burner gas GE Monogram stove was the first thing I committed to in the kitchen. Packed with power and ready to deliver delicious results, this gorgeous range was a good investment that delivers daily dividends. 

Vintage Candlesticks

As a little kid, I loved having guests for dinner. I always put myself in charge of setting the table and would pull out all of the fanciest things I could find. It resulted in a lot of ironing for my mom, but she graciously indulged my love of all things sparkly and fancy. Some of these vintage silver candlesticks were given to us as wedding gifts. I love them for the sparkle they add to the dining room.

Vintage flatware

Today, I use the fine antique china, sterling silver and crystal often — if it breaks, so be it! A mix of treasures new and old, like these antique bone-handled knives, are hallmarks of my tabletop.

Sarah Style Napkins

I enjoy dressing up my holiday table with subtly patterned linens made of 100% cotton. The muted palette and natural fibers help create a relaxed ambience. The grey marbled napkins you see here are a part of my home textiles collection available in my online shop. I've made dressing your table easy with fully coordinated napkin and placemat ensembles - a total of 8 pieces for just $50. Shop now>>

Sarah Richardson Entertaining
Sarah Richardson's Holiday Entertaining Guide: Georgian Bay Gin Sunset

Georgian Bay Gin Sunset

I love serving this Georgian Bay Gin Sunset to guests. Our cottage is on Georgian Bay, and a friend of ours started Georgian Bay Gin. The gin is made with local juniper berries, and blending it with citrus and cranberries makes this cocktail festive and delicious.

    •    1 orange peel strip (about 2″long)
    •    1 lemon peel strip (about 2″long)
    •    1 tbsp fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
    •    1 tsp granulated sugar
    •    1 cup ice cubes
    •    1 1⁄2 oz. Georgian Bay Gin
    •    1⁄2 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
    •    2 oz. tonic water

Directions (serves 1):

Muddle Ingredients
    1.    Place orange and lemon peels, cranberries and sugar in a cocktail shaker and muddle.

Mix & Serve
    2.    Add ice cubes to cocktail shaker. Pour in gin and orange juice. Cover cocktail shaker with lid and shake vigorously until drink is thoroughly chilled, about 30 seconds.
    3.    Pour drink, with peels, ice and berries, into an 8-oz. glass and top with tonic water.

Herb-Marinated Chèvre

My mom started making this over 20 years ago, and I still love it today. It’s the simplest and quickest hors d’oeuvre – it’s great with a salad at lunch, and it’s even tastier the next day … if there are any leftovers!

    •    2 pieces chèvre, about 1 1⁄2″ thick
    •    2 tsp herbes de Provence
    •    2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
    •    10 basil leaves
    •    Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    •    Ciabatta baguettes or crackers for serving

Directions (serves 8):
    1.    Place chèvre in decorative serving bowls.
    2.    Sprinkle herbes de Provence over chèvre. Drizzle oil overtop.
    3.    Finely chop basil and mound on top of chèvre. Season with salt and pepper.
    4.    Serve with fresh ciabatta baguette slices or crackers.

Sarah Richardson's Holiday Entertaining Guide: Herb-Marinated Chèvre
Sarah Richardson's Holiday Entertaining Guide: Festive Arugula Salad

Festive Arugula Salad

This salad is in constant rotation on our table because it’s easy to prep and always a crowd-pleaser. Peppery arugula, crunchy pecans, juicy pomegranate seeds and nippy blue cheese are just a never-fail flavor explosion.


    •    1 tbsp butter
    •    1 tbsp brown sugar
    •    1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    •    1 cup pecan pieces
    •    6 cups baby arugula
    •    1 175-g pkg. blue cheese
    •    3 green onions, thinly sliced
    •    1⁄2 pomegranate, seeds removed

    •    1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    •    3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    •    1 tbsp lemon juice
    •    Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions (serves 6 to 8):

Candy Pecans
    1.    Melt butter in skillet over medium. Add brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Stir quickly to combine, being careful not to burn mixture.
    2.    Add pecans, stirring to coat well, and sauté for a couple of minutes. Stir constantly until coating on pecans begins to caramelize. Transfer pecans to bowl to cool.

Assemble Salad
    1.    Place arugula in large salad bowl. Slice blue cheese evenly over arugula. Top with green onions, pomegranate seeds and cooled pecans.

Make Dressing
    1.    Combine ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid. Shake well, and drizzle over salad. Toss salad and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mustard & Za’atar Barbecued Turkey

For me, cooking is just playing with food, and you can never go wrong by trying. I came up with the idea for barbecuing the turkey years ago while hosting Christmas at our farmhouse. I was struggling to fit everything into my oven, so my mom and I decided to try barbecuing it. I haven’t roasted a turkey in an oven since! Inviting people over to share a meal is a special experience, and any effort will be appreciated, so just enjoy yourself, open a bottle of wine, and let the good times roll.
(Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that consists of thyme, sumac, roasted sesame seeds, marjoram, oregano and salt. Since this recipe requires indirect heat, it is suitable for gas barbecues but not charcoal ones.)

    •    3 tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
    •    3 tbsp Dijon mustard
    •    3 tbsp olive oil
    •    3 tsp za’atar
    •    Zest of 3 limes
    •    1 12-to14-lb. fresh or frozen (thawed), grade A or free-range turkey, giblets and neck removed
    •    2 lemons, halved, divided
    •    1 onion, halved
    •    5 whole sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
    •    Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions (serves 8 to 10):

Prepare Marinade
    1.    Mix mustards, oil, za’atar and lime zest in medium bowl to create paste.

Prepare Turkey 
    1.    Spread paste evenly over turkey skin.
    2.    Stuff 2 lemon halves, 2 onion halves and 5 thyme sprigs inside turkey cavity.
    3.    Season turkey with salt and pepper.

Barbecue Turkey 
    1.    Turn gas barbecue on high. Once it reaches 500°F, turn off burner that will be directly under turkey.
    2.    Place marinated turkey and remaining 2 lemon halves in large roasting pan.
    3.    Place roasting pan with turkey above burner that is turned off. Close lid. Barbecue turkey until skin looks crispy and golden, approximately 11 minutes per pound, or until instant read thermometer inserted into meatiest part of thigh reads 165°F and juices run clear when turkey is pricked with a knife.
    4.    Turn off barbecue and let flames go out before removing turkey from grill. Transfer turkey to cutting board using pair of large barbecue forks. Carve turkey and serve.

Sarah Richardson's Holiday Entertaining Guide: Mustard & Za’atar Barbecued Turkey
Sarah Richardson's Holiday Entertaining Guide: Cranberry-Apple Crisp

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

Everyone likes a little something to finish off a holiday meal, but anything too rich can be too much. This dessert satisfies your sweet tooth without leaving you feeling overstuffed.


    •    3 cups tart apples, such as Granny Smith, chopped into 1″ cubes
    •    3 cups frozen cranberries
    •    Zest of 1 lemon
    •    1⁄3 cup dark brown sugar, such as demerara
    •    1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
    •    Pinch nutmeg
    •    1⁄3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
    •    1 cup dark brown sugar, such as demerara
    •    2 cups organic oats (not quick-cooking)
    •    1⁄3 cup maple syrup, divided
Directions (serves 6 to 8):
Make Filling
    1.    Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2.    Toss apple pieces and cranberries with lemon zest, dark brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in large mixing bowl.
    3.    Place oven-safe ramekins on a baking sheet. Divide mixture evenly among each ramekin.
Make Topping
    1.    In separate mixing bowl, slice butter into small pieces. Add dark brown sugar and oats to butter and blend with hands until mixture is crumbly. Mix in half of maple syrup.
    2.    Distribute topping evenly over ramekins. Drizzle remaining maple syrup overtop.
Bake And Serve
    1.    Bake until topping crisps and turns golden and fruit juices are bubbling around edges of ramekins, about 25 to 30 minutes.
    2.    Serve with ice cream, or for a healthier alternative, Greek yogurt (mix 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with 1 tbsp brown sugar to sweeten).