The Hutchinson Leader is hosting its first Home for the Holidays Show on Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Hutchinson Event Center.

Jump-start your holiday season with this event, which features:

  • seasonal decorating ideas with plants and greenery by Master Gardener Joyce Hochsprung;
  • holiday beverages by Candace Wood, manager of the Liquor Hutch; 
  • holiday appetizers, main course and desserts by local food instructor Chris Schlueter; and
  • vendors for shopping featuring health and beauty to gifts.

General admission tickets are $10 and go on sale Monday, Oct. 7, at the Hutchinson Leader office, 170 Shady Ridge Road N.W., Hutchinson.

Schlueter, who is the star of the TV show "Cooking in the Country with Chris" on HCVN and teaches a variety of cooking classes, shares her thoughts about holiday entertaining in this Q&A.

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What can people expect at the Home for the Holidays Show?

The holiday show is giving you a glimpse of how I do things in a kitchen, how one can alter recipes, make things quick and easy, no fuss and keeping healthy additions in mind. It is going to be a fun night with all of our presenters giving you ideas that you can use to make your holidays less stressful and get you excited about Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

If you are out of ideas on what to serve, this will give you a jump-start on your holiday plans. You will also see how little details can make a dish more special. It is truly my passion and I want to encourage you all to try these recipes and share them, or come up with your own ideas. I want to inspire you and get you thinking of how important food is in your life and how it will always be a part of your life that you can control and also share with others.

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How did you pick the recipes you'll be preparing for the Home for the Holidays Show?

That was not an easy task as I love to make so many recipes and have quite a collection. I wanted something that was easy yet looks elegant, and something that would appeal to most everyone. If you start with one item, you can vary it so many ways that you can use the same basic recipe, and by changing it with other compatible ingredients it looks like a whole new dish. Now the internet makes it even better, you can search by ingredients and browse unlimited recipes that you want to try. You need to make your recipes at least once before serving to guests, nothing would be worse if something is a flop and you could have changed the recipe to your liking if only you had planned ahead.

The recipes I am demonstrating are flexible and you can use any variety of ingredients to really change them up year after year. You can tweak them to what your family likes. Everyone has different tastes, so make it your own.

Another thing I considered is what would be something you could prepare a couple days in advance that leaves the day of the event with only a few things to do on the cooking side, and concentrate more on the decorating and table scheme on the day of your event.

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Growing up, what holiday food traditions did you enjoy each year?

In my family we did not celebrate Christmas, so I really embraced the holidays when I was a part of the Schlueter family. There were many traditions that started there. I started my own with making cookies of all kinds with my children, and we always tried something new every year. I also had to make my grandma’s pfeffernusse cookies, which I love with coffee or tea.

The Christmas evening meal is always a festive event with the works: cloth napkins, decorated table, china, napkin holders and so on. Christmas morning was a brunch with a different menu every year with cinnamon rolls always on the menu. This is where I always tried new recipes with egg dishes, pancake ideas. I was a big fan of cookbooks and PBS cooking shows. The planning is the most fun, and looking at recipe books and online sources such as blogs, Instagram, Pinterest are all part of the excitement.

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What food traditions do you enjoy today?

There are many food traditions we do at home. We try to eat home-cooked meals as much as possible and lower the amount of meat we eat. Dinner time is a good time for all of the family to come together or have Sunday dinners.

Share food with friends, neighbors and family. Entertain more, don’t wait until holidays to have people over. Our society has drifted from that and it is very important to include get-togethers more often. Have more potlucks, have game nights, invite friends over for appetizers and cocktails. Building a good social circle around you will help you physically and mentally, and food brings everyone together.

For the holidays, try to start or carry on traditions in your family, something you can pass on to future generations. Don’t focus on one kind of food or meals, learn to expand your horizons and embrace all cultures, it makes you appreciate all people of the world. Americans always eat so fast, they do not linger as much as other cultures do, and sometimes you just need to slow down and not have such a busy schedule. Take time out now as life can change fast.

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What advice do you have for anyone hosting a holiday party or dinner?

Preplanning is essential in any type of gathering. You need a plan, so write it down, then break it down to all the foods you can prepare ahead and do prepping as much as possible so it is ready to put into the oven or crock pot or instant pot. All chopping of vegetables, serving dishes laid out are a great help.

If you have time to set the table before hand that really helps. If not, I put all items on a card table or cart and then just get it ready a couple hours before the dinner and put the card table away after all is set up. Be sure you have a tried-and-true recipe or try a new dish prior to your event so you will have no disappointments.

Do you have a food philosophy? If so, what is it?

I think food is medicine. It is necessary to eat every day. You don’t need a lot of other supplements if you eat good to begin with. Pay attention to labels and buy good quality ingredients. Not everything has to be organic, but purchase wisely those ingredients that have the most pesticides. It is scientifically proven they cause many diseases.

If you really think about what you eat and include more veggies or eat at home more, you will notice a change in your life. Food is part of a healthy lifestyle and should be an important part of your day. Research your food sources and prices. Don’t fall into paying for a high-priced item if you can find it cheaper. Don’t just eat to eat. Eat to nourish your body, have relationships with others and enjoy someone’s company. Eating and socializing is all part of a good eating experience.

You must hear the same questions over and over, so what do home cooks want to know?

Now that you ask me that, it is really funny to hear things over and over. Here are a couple that I get quite often:

  • How do you know what herbs or spices to use? I answer by saying you can use most anything. Some are just meant to be in every dish, such as parsley, onion, garlic, chives. Then you can go by what kind of meal is it — Italian, Greek, Asian — and that will tell you what spices will make it even better. Look up the basic spices of those countries online and then make yourself a journal with your favorite spices with chicken, beef, chili and so on. Don’t be afraid to try new spices. There are so many out there that I am sure you have never tried, and now I wonder why wasn’t I more brave to try them before. One of these is Zatar, a Mediterranean spice that is intensely aromatic and an ancient spice blend. All you have to do is search for recipes with just that spice listed and start cooking to see what you have been missing.
  • How do you plan a menu? Making a plan for dinner is easy if you stick to it every week. Preplan each week. It needs to be written down somewhere. Do basic meals and add different salads and side dishes. You can look online for weekly menu ideas. Try having a spaghetti, taco, soup, Asian night each week and find recipes to fit those categories. Try making breakfast for dinners. Get the family involved with making meal decisions. You will find they are more apt to eat them.

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