holiday cooking
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With so many people having small holiday events this year, we asked local chefs Mitchell Murphy owner of Five Senses and Steakhouse Five in Murfreesboro, and Jo West of Jo’s Cakes and Catering in Smyrna about ways to make the season special after such a hard year.

1Offer Appetizers

“Something I really enjoy about our family Thanksgiving is the pre-meal,” said Murphy. “My mom always has all kinds of things out for everyone to graze on: pimento cheese, olives, pickles, cheeses, raw veggies and dips, hummus, crackers, salami, and more.”

Jo West suggests putting roasted garlic on the appetizer menu as a spread served with homemade sourdough bread. It is a powerful antioxidant, which we can all use as we try to keep our immune systems strong. “However,” she says, “you can only reap these wonderful benefits if you cook [it] properly. When choosing your garlic, always look for plump, strong bulbs that clearly have tight cloves. These will give you the best tasting garlic. Roasting garlic releases the sugary, caramelized flavors we all love!”

2Have the Family Work Together

“Our whole family gets involved in making the meal,” said Murphy. “We snack on the pre-meal, we cook, and we all help in the preparation of the meal. It’s a great time to catch up and really appreciate the time to be together. It definitely makes our Thanksgiving special each year.”

3Don’t Be Afraid to Use a Caterer

If your family doesn’t cook together, West suggests that this might be a good time to pass the spatula. She is making whole meals for some of her clients and for others just one or two dishes that her customer doesn’t want to make. “If you don’t want to roast that turkey,” says West, “we can do that for you and slice it, too.” If you have a unique, non-traditional dish – like spicy cheesy spätzle – she can do that, too.

4Use Local Produce

Now more than ever it is important to support local businesses, including local farmers. “There is the market at G and W Hamery on Saturdays,” said Murphy. “They have great sweet potatoes, white potatoes, greens, lettuces, and meats.”

5Make the Day Special

Be it Thanksgiving or Christmas, make the day special. Bring in fresh greens from the yard and place them in vintage family vases or silver pitchers. Or use special collections, like hand-made snowmen on the center of the table.