Tips For The Holidays In Dallas

Every year, my husband cooks up a storm for Thanksgiving. It's always delicious. It's always too much food. And it's always exhausting for him, as well as for the rest of us who serve and clean and sous chef for him.

This year, with 12 people total at our table and more than half of them coming from halfway across the country, we decided to make it easier on ourselves by doing two things — using paper instead of china and using a caterer instead of cooking, for a number of dishes anyway.

Before you turn your nose up at the paper plates and napkins, let me tell you, our table looked gorgeous with all-matching pieces from the Martha Stewart Collection that JC Penney did this year in beautiful fall colors. We even had a matching "Happy Thanksgiving" garland and napkin rings. It looked just like a magazine spread.

My husband still prepared a number of side dishes and I baked a pumpkin pie and my family-famous chocolate chip cookies. But we turned to chef Kent Rathbun to fill the rest of our festive table. For Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, he is offering a holiday menu that I have no doubt will delight every palate.

The main event offerings include a small or large hickory-roasted turkey that chef Rathbun brines in salt and Creole seasoning and then bakes with fresh herbs, celery, and onions and serves with green chili red eye gravy. There's also Niman Ranch pork loin with dried cranberry-orange demi-glaze, molasses black pepper glazed spiral ham, and hickory grilled beef tenderloin with marsala mushroom sauce.

We opted for the large turkey. It was more than enough meat for all of us for dinner and days to come. Word to the wise, though. Have a working meat thermometer on hand. Ours was on the fritz on the big night and the turkey was still raw when the thermometer beeped that it was ready. But once that baby was done, it was moist and delicious.

As for sides, chef Rathbun is offering Texas sweet corn pudding baked with cream, eggs, garlic, cornmeal, and fresh herbs; chunky garlic whipped potatoes; brandy glazed baby carrots baked with pearl onions, brandy, honey, orange juice, and butter; French green bean-portobello mushroom casserole; Vermont maple sweet potatoes with candied pecans; butternut squash gratin baked with sage, brown sugar, nutmeg, cream, and spices, topped with cornbread and Grana Padano; aged gouda mac and cheese; and smoked chicken-toasted pecan cornbread stuffing.

The whipped potatoes, carrots, squash, and mac and cheese all graced our table and were all, as expected, amazingly delicious. The serving sizes were more than enough for our table of 12 and they heated up without issue using the excellent directions provided.

There are desserts offered as well, sweet potato-maple pecan pie with cinnamon-nutmeg crust and pumpkin cheesecake with vanilla caramel sauce. But we opted to do dessert ourselves. My family will only tolerate so much outsourcing.

All of the food was packed and ready to go when we picked it up on Wednesday. There are several pickup locations throughout the Dallas area. The containers were awesome for heating the food and storing the leftovers. Rathbun makes the whole process as convenient as it was delicious. Very impressive considering the volume work he does. And he's taking orders for Christmas — or any holiday dinner for that matter — as we speak.

Skipping the china and inviting in these prepared dishes were two of the smartest things we did this Thanksgiving. The third smartest thing we did? Taking the whole family to The Perot Museum of Nature and Science on Friday. Everyone had a great time, from my senior dad to my 2-year-old niece. It was a great idea to get everyone out of the house. And it was an even better idea to walk off all of that celebrating we had done the day before.

For more holiday cheer, visit The Daily Meal's Ultimate Guide to Christmas!