Celebration Cheat Sheet

Tips to take you from Thanksgiving into 2020

If the stress of the upcoming holidays is already starting to creep in – keep reading, and start planning. Monica Hart is a Pacific Northwest design, recipe, and entertaining expert, and she has clever ideas to make you look like a holiday superstar. So grab a glass of wine, and take notes as we show you drinks, dishes, desserts, and designs.

Giving Thanks

Whether you’re hosting a friendsgiving or a classic extended family feast – here are some ways to put a creative twist on turkey day.

The Drink 

Caramel and Orange Moscow Mules

Store-bought caramel sauce

2 ounces good vodka

1 ounce freshly squeezed blood orange juice

3 ounces ginger beer

Orange slices for garnish


Drizzle a scant amount of caramel sauce into a lined, ice-filled copper mug. Add vodka and blood orange juice, and stir to combine. Top off with ginger beer, and drizzle more caramel if you like it sweet. Garnish with a dried orange slice. 

The Dish

Sweet Potato Stack with Herbs and  Goat Cheese

6 sweet potatoes, skin left on

3 ounces unsalted butter

3 ounces goat cheese

Olive oil

Fresh thyme

Salt and white pepper


Cut off the sweet potato tips on either end, and slice each potato in half, lengthwise. Using a mandoline, thinly slice the sweet potatoes — lengthwise — and stack them horizontally and upright in a baking dish. (For this recipe, Hart used 6 small potatoes for a 9-by-9-inch baking dish.) Dot the potatoes with torn bits of butter, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with torn thyme, salt, and pepper. 

Roast in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the potatoes begin to caramelize. Finish the dish with a light drizzle of olive oil and fresh thyme.

The Dessert

Personal Pumpkin and Ginger Beer Cakes

TIP: You will need a mini round cake pan, six well — it sort of resembles a cupcake pan.

Go online to southsoundmag.com for this recipe!

The Design

Thanksgiving Table Talk 

Natural, seasonal elements combine to make for a warm and inviting Thanksgiving table.

Layer nuts and fresh pumpkins into a tall candle holder, and top with a pumpkin candle.

Add fresh, mini pumpkins and DIY feather candle holders.

Opt for a plaid lamb’s wool throw topper, and layer on additional plaid details like cozy blankets at each place setting, plaid dish towels, and glassware.

Whip up a magnolia wreath with leaves, berries, and filler in floral aqua foam.

Go for mixed metals, from pewter to copper and gold. 

Use vintage ice buckets to
hold floral
arrangements on the bar.

Create easy willow and nut napkin rings with craft store finds.

Add vintage leather books to
give your table a “study” vibe.

Create a thrifty, fresh floral table runner with seasonal branches and market flowers, popped into mason jars.

Make Fresh Wreaths with Friends

If I’m making a beautiful holiday wreath, I want it to last. That’s why I’m a fan of wet foam wreaths. You can add water throughout the season to help keep your wreath fresher longer.

You will need:

A wet foam wreath (I used a 15-inch wreath, available online.)

Plenty of sprigs of fresh cedar cut into 6- to 8-inch pieces and plunged into a water-filled bucket

6 to 8 Nigella pods

Eucalyptus cut into 6- to 8-inch pieces

4-inch potted succulent


Soak the wet foam wreath in water for 20 minutes, and then tip it up in a sink to drain.

Working in one direction, add sprigs of fresh cedar, one at a time, starting at the outer base of the wet foam. 

Start adding the next layer of cedar in the same manner. As you work your way to the top of the wreath, occasionally layer in sprigs of eucalyptus and pods.

Add ribbon, and hang. A few times a week, pull down the wreath and add a bit of fresh water to the foam. Allow the wreath to drain before rehanging.

Homemade Hot Chocolate 

Per Cup Ingredients 

3 ounces dark semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup whole milk

1 star anise seed pod

1 dried chili pepper

Splash of good vanilla


In a pan, bring the milk to a simmer. Add the chopped chocolate, star anise, dried chili pepper, and vanilla. Simmer and whisk as the chocolate melts away and the flavors combine. Strain out the chili and star anise. Pour hot cocoa into simple white bowls, and dress up with gold straws and peppermint sticks.

Deck the Halls

The holidays are fun – and that should hold true even for the host. Here are some ideas!

The Drink

Sparkling Lemon Sorbet Christmas Cocktails 

Makes two cocktails

This classic, swoon-worthy, Italian lemon cocktail is so pretty, yummy, and frothy, thanks to the lemon sorbet. In a bowl, add 1 cup of chilled Prosecco, 2 tablespoons vodka, and 1/2 cup lemon sorbet. Whisk the cocktail ingredients until the sorbet begins to get frothy but hasn’t entirely melted. Ladle into coupe glasses, garnish, and enjoy!

The Dish

Special Seafood Fettuccine 

Makes 5 servings 

1 cup chopped fennel

2 large garlic cloves, minced

Extra virgin olive oil

Pernod (French star anise spirit)

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Several torn fresh basil leaves

2 lemons

2 28-ounce cans
crushed tomatoes 

3 tablespoons of concentrated tomato paste 

17 ounces dried fettuccine

15 prawns

15 mini clams

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Splash of dry white wine

In a large pot coated with olive oil and a few drops of Pernod, sauté the chopped fennel. Next, add the minced garlic, and cook for a few minutes longer. Add red pepper flakes, crushed tomatoes, and concentrated tomato paste and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 17 ounces of dried fettuccine in salted, boiling water. Cook and drain. Reserve a few cups of the starchy water. Toss 15 prawns in olive oil and the juice of half a lemon and salt. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Simmer 3 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of parsley, and a splash or two of dry white wine, salt and pepper to taste. Place clams into the broth and simmer until they are open and tender. Discard unopened clams. Plate up pasta; drizzle with olive oil and a splash of reserved water. Ladle on the red sauce and arrange seafood in each bowl. Drizzle a bit more sauce, add a splash of clam broth, and top with torn basil, salt and pepper, and lemon zest.

The Dessert

Elevated Ice Cream

The quick combo of pistachio ice cream topped with pomegranate seeds is the perfect light holiday dessert. Serve alongside biscotti and pots of warmed Nutella hazelnut and cocoa spread for dipping.

Bring on 2020!

Cold winter nights call for impromptu January gatherings. But after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I’m looking for easy entertaining inspo. 

The Drink

Champagne on Decorative Ice

Create a fresh floral ice ring using a gelatin mold. Place a handful of edible flowers in the bottom of the mold, and add just enough water to cover the blooms, then freeze. Once the first layer is frozen, fill the mold with additional water, and freeze. Release the ice ring by dipping the bottom of the mold in warm water. Champagne never looked so pretty. 

Pro tip: Create a Champagne bar so guest can help themselves. Include glassware, sparkling sugars, freshly squeezed lemon juice, pomegranate seeds, fresh berries, and citrus curls. 

The Dish

Platters and Dips

With earthy dips, an artfully arranged crudités platter, and grilled pita triangles, you’ve got yourself yummy, quick bites for easy last-minute entertaining. Arrange a crudités party platter with an assortment of colorful veggies, like rainbow carrots, radishes, and purple and green cauliflower. Grill up some pita bread triangles in a stovetop grill pan brushed with olive oil, then roast up a head of garlic. Serve with your favorite dips. Easy!

The Dessert

Citrus-Topped Chocolate Cupcakes

Bake up your favorite chocolate cupcakes, and top with this quick and tangy citrus frosting. 

1 cup unsalted butter,
at room temperature

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed
orange juice

13/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 grapefruit, sliced


Place all of the ingredients in a bowl, and blend together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Slather frosting on cupcakes, and top with a small triangle of fresh grapefruit.

The Design

Repurpose and Transform

Post-holidays, hang on to those willow wreaths, pinecones, candles, and a few strands of lights. Swap out fir branches for real ferns, then add fresh florals for a pretty pop of color. OK; maybe it’s over the top, but I tricked out my Champagne glasses with fern fronds, adhered with removable double stick tape, too.

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