Holiday Prep and a Cranberry Sauce that isn't Scary


The holidays are upon us. Sometimes I swear it sneaks up on us, but with Thanksgiving just three days away, they're here. Today I want to cover a couple of the things that most freak out my clients when the holidays sneak up on them as well as the cranberry sauce recipe I bring to my own family function every year.

I'm hosting people in my home.

If your home is a hot mess and you haven't dealt with it yet, never fear. You're not too late. The name of the game here is just getting the excess out of the house. Whatever you do, do NOT throw everything into a box or basket to deal with "later." One, later is now. Just deal with it. Two, I recognize these boxes as soon as I see them and they never take that long to deal with. They're usually trash. Don't panic. Face it now.

  • Take some time every day between now and Thursday to trash, recycle or donate what is no longer serving you.
  • Start at the front door. Work your way systematically around the room going either clockwise or counterclockwise, then top to bottom. Touch an item - do you need it or not. If not, stick it in a pile for donate, a trash bag or recycle bin. Keep going in this fashion around the room. Do this for every room guests will be in. Then get everything out of the house immediately.
  • If the main rooms are fine, don't freak out. Nobody cares about the scary back bedroom. We're not worrying about final homes for these things or organizing systems. Just creating space. When you get rid of the excess clutter, you instantly create the image of a neat and tidy home.

However, if the scary back bedroom is supposed to be housing a guest, then do the same process in that room.

I have to cook

Whether it's a couple of dishes or the entire shebang, these few tips will make it a little easier.

  • Plan the menu and pull the recipes.
  • Look through the ingredients you already have in your pantry. Make a list of what needs to be purchased. With this list, you're going to the items by store and then where they are in the store. Seem excessive? Sure. But you're going to save a lot of time from not wandering around through the store. Not to mention the money saved from not making impulse purchases because you weren't wandering.
  • Now look at what can be made ahead. Block out time in your calendar for when you'll go to the grocery store (when they first open is the best time to go) as well as when you'll cook the things that you're cooking ahead. You can even get really OCD about it and make a day of prep list with a timeline of when things need to be started, popped into the oven, etc. I've seen it. I've done it. It gets everything out of your head so you don't have to think about it any more. It's glorious. Embrace the list.
  • Get to cooking.

I only have to show up.

  • Awesome! Bring wine and whiskey with you for the others that have been running around like chickens with their heads cut off for the week.

And now my favorite part of Thanksgiving (besides the wine)...a cranberry sauce that isn't scary. That canned stuff frightens me. If this looks familiar it's because I post it every year. It's just that good. (click on link to see recipe with process pictures.)

Cinnamon Port Cranberry Sauce

adapted from Bon Appetit


  • 1 cup ruby port

  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar


  1. Bring ruby Port and cinnamon sticks to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer mixture 5 minutes.
  2. Add dried cranberries to saucepan; simmer until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add fresh cranberries, 3/4 cup water, and sugar; bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until cranberry sauce thickens and is darker in color and berries collapse, stirring often, about 20 minutes.
  5. Transfer sauce to bowl; cool. Discard cinnamon sticks.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

There are tons you can do with the leftovers on this one – warm it up for a topping over ice cream or cake. I love it on waffles for breakfast. Pop it in one of your leftover turkey sandwiches. The possibilities are only limited by your tastes and creativity.