How To Host Your First Holiday Dinner

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Holiday season has arrived! Oh how I love this time of the year. This past weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada and we spent it with my family around the table telling stories, laughing and eating more than we do during any other time of the year. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie…all the fixings. If you’re hosting your very first Holiday Meal, this ones for you. Today I’m going to share my recipes for the best sides: Cranberry Sauce, Sage Stuffing, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Pecan Brussels Sprouts and Pumpkin Pie.

PHOTO BY Jennifer Pedraza Richardson

If you’re in the U.S. , Thanksgiving is just around the corner and all these recipes can be used for Christmas as well. No canned cranberry sauce or stuffing from a box, just my tried and true from-scratch Holiday sides. Get your aprons on and pour yourselves a glass of Prosecco, it’s time to cook!

PHOTO BY Jennifer Pedraza Richardson

Cranberry Sauce

This recipe will yield 8 servings. Double up for larger groups.


  • ¾ Cup of sugar
  • ½ a cup of fresh orange juice
  • ½ a cup water
  • 3 cups of fresh cranberries rinsed
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon
  • 1 /2 a teaspoon of orange zest
PHOTO BY Jennifer Pedraza Richardson


  • Add the sugar, orange juice, and water in a pot over medium heat. Stir to allow the sugar to melt.
  • Add the cranberries, a pinch of salt, the cinnamon stick, cinnamon powder and orange zest.
  • Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently.
  • Continue cooking, for about 20 minutes. You’ll notice the cranberries start to pop open. Keep stirring until the sauce begins to thicken. Don’t worry if it’s a little runny before taking if off the stove, it will gelatinize once cooled (like a jam).
  • Let cool for at least 30 minutes or cover and store until it’s time to serve. It will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.



I always make lots of stuffing so that there’s leftovers for everyone. This recipe will yield at least 10 – 15 servings.

3 medium onions chopped

4 cups of chopped celery

3 stick of butter

1 1/2 loaves of bread (I used Rosemary olive oil bread loaves from Terra Breads)

2 cups of chicken broth

a handful of chopped parsley

2 teaspoons of smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon of poultry seasoning

6 garden sage leaves chopped (I used the sage from my garden)

PHOTO BY Jennifer Pedraza Richardson

Instructions: (Can be made the day before)

The night before, tear the bread into bite sized pieces and leave out to dry overnight in 2 pans.

Heat the oven to 375

In 2 separate pans over medium/high heat, brown the onions and celery in 1 Tablespoon of butter each (from the sticks of butter). Once soft and cooked through, transfer to 2 separate large bowls and let cool then add the dried bread pieces into the same bowls.

Melt the remaining butter in a medium pot then pour 1/2 over each bowl with bread followed by the parsley and paprika. Slowly start adding the broth mixing into the bread. I mix with my hands to really get the broth soaked into the bread. You want the mixture to start to clump together when you hold it in your hand, if not, add a bit more broth. You may not need all 2 cups of broth. Now it’s ready to bake.

Spread stuffing into 2 pans (scoop a little out of the centre so that it bakes evenly) and bake covered with foil for 30 minutes. Remove the foil after 30 minutes and brown for an extra 15 minutes. Serve right away or let cool and store in the fridge overnight in an airtight container.

PHOTO BY Jennifer Pedraza Richardson


Who doesn’t love mashed potatoes? I make mine loaded with garlic.

Ingredients: Serves 8

10 Russet potatoes peeled and chopped into quarters

1 whole garlic bulb + sea salt and olive oil to roast



dried dill weed

almond milk (or cream/milk)

3 Tablspoons or sour cream (mayo works too)


Heat the oven to 400. Slice the entire top off of the garlic bulb, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil then wrap in foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Add peeled and chopped potatoes to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook until done. Drain and return to pot. Place on stovetop on low heat and add salt to taste, milk, butter, sour cream/mayo and sprinkle with dill weed. Squeeze the roasted garlic into the potatoes and mix. Using a masher (or a hand held blender) mash potatoes adding extra milk and butter until potatoes are creamy.


Ingredients:  (serves 8)

4 cups of brussels sprouts,  halved
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans halved
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

PHOTO BY Jennifer Pedraza Richardson


Heat the oil in a skillet.  Add the Brussels Sprouts and season with salt and pepper.  Sautee for about 8 – 10 minutes.  Stir in the pecans so that they toast a bit.  A few minutes before the Brussels Sprouts are at a consistency to your liking (I like them with a bit of a crunch),  add the cranberries,  the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup and mix well. Serve immediately.


My sister Sandra is a wonderful baker, something I am not. So one year, wanting to try my hand at a Pumpkin Pie, she kindly shared her super easy recipe with me. I’m not kidding when I say it’s easy and so tasty.

Ingredients: This will make 1 pie (8 servings)

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
  • 1 small can of Pumpkin puree
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1teaspoon powdered cinnamon
  • 14teaspoon ground ginger
  • 12teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1⁄2teaspoon salt ( I used a little less)
PHOTO BY Jennifer Pedraza Richardson


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and allow the Pie Shell to thaw if frozen for at least 15 minutes on the counter before filling.

Mix the Pumpkin puree and all the ingredients in a bowl then pour into the pie shell. If you are keeping the pie shell in the metal tin it comes with, then place it on a baking sheet and bake for 30 – 40 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you sink a butter knife into it and the knife comes out clean. Allow to cool and serve with icecream or whipcream.

Set the table with a festive centrepiece, lots of candles and your best dishware. I like to print out famous quotes about the season and place them on everyone’s plate, then we take turns reading them out , feeling all the holiday vibes. Music is a must, I have playlists I’ve made specifically for dinner parties. Some have NYC piano jazz, others top hits from different decades and for Christmas, all the classics. Being host can be stressful and I hope that these recipes to make your first Holiday Dinners fun and relaxed. Just remember the most important thing is being in the company of friends and family.

PHOTO BY Jennifer Pedraza Richardson

We spent the day after Thanksgiving walking in the forest; what better way to burn off all that delicious food. That said, we came home and had round two because what’s better than Thanksgiving dinner? Leftovers! Happy Holiday’s.

I so appreciate you joining me today. If you feel so inclined to buy me a hot chocolate so that I can continue to create content like this, you can do so here.



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