Tag holiday ideas

Holiday Spirit Beyond The Holidays: Giving Back Year-round

The holidays are fast approaching. This Thanksgiving, as you mull over what you are thankful for, really give it some thought. What will you say? Your answer might just inspire you.

For those who have not had the best luck in life, or who may have fallen off the path they were meant to stay on, there is hope. Programs and organizations like Homeward Bound of Marin, Episcopal Community Services San Francisco, Delancey Street Foundation, and Chicago’s Inspiration Corporation are godsends. They provide quality meals, culinary training, job placement, and second (or third) chances.

There are the well-known kitchens that have volunteers serve Thanksgiving meals to the homeless, in addition to those open on a more regular basis. These are great assets to a community! The exceptional Inspiration Café in Chicago takes this concept a step further, giving homeless individuals –who make the required reservation through social services –the opportunity to be waited on by volunteers and treated like royal guests. Should the guests feel so inclined –as they sometimes do just for the heck of it –they can even send dishes back to the kitchen to be redone. Who doesn’t like to flex a little power now and then?

Some organizations invest in a brighter future, offering great culinary training programs for homeless individuals. Inspiration Organization offers general food service training and job placement. Fresh Starts Culinary Academy and CHEFS (Conquering Homelessness through Employment in Food Service) teach homeless individuals culinary skills to get them off the street and into stable jobs. The process is completed with the help of the many restaurants that employ program graduates, though graduates can (and do) return for guidance after they leave.

What easier way is there to give back to the community than to EAT? There are fun dinners like the recent Homeward Bound fundraiser, “Celebrating the Lamb”, which featured San Francisco’s very own “Dave the Butcher” Budworth. But you don’t have to wait for a special event to support those in need. Come in to San Francisco’s Delancey Street Café or Delancey Street Restaurant anytime, and you’ll enjoy a great meal with friendly service! These are just two of Delcancey Street Foundation’s MANY enterprises (with almost 40 years of service, and 6 facilities nationwide) that help keep the foundation’s doors open. You can also place a larger food order from Fresh Starts Catering year-round, where all proceeds support Homeward Bound’s programs for people working their way out of homelessness.

Of course, this is just a small sample of the many great organizations out there. If you’re familiar with another program, let us know! Spreading the word is a simple step that makes a difference.

Top Thanksgiving Recipes and Tips for Holiday Success

Thanksgiving is approaching so bring out the seasonal garland, gourds and get ready for the tryptophan induced food comas!

One of tastiest turkeys I have ever had was created from our Parties That Cook team. This brined turkey recipe calls for soaking the whole bird in a brine which is essentially a solution of salt and sugar, flavored with spices. Brining the turkey helps even the white meat stay moist and flavorful when roasted to perfection. But if you don’t have time or the space in your fridge, our easy 3-step turkey breast is the perfect solution. You’re guests will not believe how quick and easy this dish is!

Can’t decide which side dishes to create? Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes that are a delicious departure from the traditional spread of pureed root vegetables and pearled onions:

Sweet Pea Galettes with Bacon and Sour Cream Recipe

Butternut Squash and Cider Soup with Sage Crème Fraiche Recipe

Easy Spinach and Roquefort Bread Pudding Recipe

And the gravy! Quite possibly the best part of Thanksgiving (a three-way tie between the turkey and stuffing of course). Try this recipe: Pan Gravy with Bourbon Recipe

In my opinion, the food alone serves as the perfect Thanksgiving decoration, but here are some easy tips to spruce up your spread:

Place Cards: HGTV.com has created the perfect touch for your table with these printable place card designs. Print them onto cardstock and write your guests’ names for each table setting.

Fringed Tweed Table Runner: Tweed is not only a fall trend in fashion, but in holiday tabletop decorations as well. This rustic design from the craft guru herself, Martha Stewart, is an inexpensive and simple design element for any table.

Gourds, Gourds and more Gourds: Of course, the quintessential fall decoration cannot be overlooked! Gourds and pumpkins add the finishing detail to your Thanksgiving spread. Place them at your front door and use Indian corn or acorns for an extra autumn touch.

Got any favorite tips and recipes? Share them with us! Check out the rest of our favorite recipes. Until next time, bon appétit!