Christmas Hacks & Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale

I seem to be acquiring a fascination with life hacks. Now, you ask, “What exactly is a life hack and what does it have to do with having a sane Christmas?” Well, a hack is any simple tip that changes your life for the better … or at least some tiny aspect of it. These clever, little tricks won’t change the world; they just make day to day life easier. Especially during the holidays.

Here are a few thoughts and tips for a saner Christmas:

1. Do you have a passel of grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and/or friends’ kids hoping for gifts? More important, is shopping for them impossible at best? I get it. Who can remember who loves pink (did she mean Pink!) and who will or won’t wear Converse? Not to mention sizes.

Take it easy on yourself; get them all the same thing. Fun and funky socks, hand warmers or caps for skating and sledding. Beanbag chairs or popcorn poppers for dorm rooms. Don’t forget, music gift cards (or almost any gift card for that matter). They fit every shape, size and taste.

2. While we’re on presents, remember two important words – GIFT BAGS. Instead of spending hours and hours wrapping, slip everything into a cute and colorful bag. Okay, you’re right; they are more expensive so don’t throw them away. A new tag and they’ll be just as beautiful and easy next year and the year after.

3. Save a trip to the florist. Instead, take a walk in the woods for greens for the mantle and door. (The fresh air will do you a world of good.) Fill bowls with shiny ornaments and hang more decorations from the chandelier for a festive table. Combine children’s blocks or Scrabble tiles to spell out festive notes of holiday cheer. Add lights; lots and lots of sparkling, little white lights.

4. Make choices. If you love to bake then have at it with cookie after cookie, batches of brownies and pies to die for. If not, head for the nearest cookie walk. You’ll find them at craft fairs and church jumbles. Order pies from your favorite bakery or let your sister bring dessert.

If cooking truly is your thing, don’t hesitate. Go for it with a Christmas Eve feast of the seven fishes, a fabulous Christmas breakfast and/or even more fabulous dinner. But, if you are like my mother, choose your dishes wisely or organize a potluck.

I still remember the shocked look on my grandmother’s face when Mom threw caution to the wind and announced she was serving rib roast for Christmas dinner. Turkey with all the trimmings is a loads of work and she’d just done it for Thanksgiving. A roast beast, beef or pork, is a lot easier and just as delicious. Although Mom tossed a longstanding tradition to the curb, no one stayed home to protest. Dinner was absolutely delicious and fixed in half the time. Go Mom!

It’s okay to share the work with family and friends. Invite everyone to bring a dish. Just let them know your plans and suggest an appetizer, side dish or dessert to bring. If your cousin can’t cook to save her life, ask her to bring wine or a pie from the bakery.

5. Give yourself a gift. The gourmet coffee you love but is too expensive for every day. A new scarf because, as we all know, you can’t have too many scarves. Indulge in a great hat, a favorite artist’s new CD or a facial at your favorite spa. Enjoy a guilt-free nap, take a walk, meet an old friend for tea and a chat … you get the picture.

Have fun and enjoy a great holiday! Bon appétit!

Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale
Take your pick – this festive side dish is great with beef, pork, lamb or poultry. Enjoy!
Serves 8-10

4 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups mix of wild, brown and red rice
2-3 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds whole mushrooms, stems removed
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
About 1 pound baby kale, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
Garnish: fresh chopped parsley and chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the chicken stock in a pot, bring to a boil, add the rice and 1 tablespoon butter, season with salt and pepper and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Reserve.

While the rice cooks, put the mushrooms in a roasting pan, lightly coat with equal parts olive oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the mushrooms at 400 degrees, cup side up, for 15 minutes. Turn the caps and roast for an additional 10 minutes or until nicely browned.

Set aside until the mushrooms are cool enough to handle and then chop and reserve.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion, carrot and celery until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the kale and continue cooking until it wilts. Add the white wine, raise the heat to medium high and simmer until reduced by half. Add the mushrooms and toss to combine.

Can be made ahead to this point, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate separately for up to a day. If prepping ahead, reheat the vegetables in a large skillet before continuing.

Add 1-2 tablespoons butter to the vegetables, melt and stir to combine.

Add the rice to the skillet and toss to combine and sauté until piping hot. Transfer to a serving dish or individual plates, sprinkle with fresh parsley and pecans and serve.

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One Year Ago – Maple-Nut Sundaes
Two Years Ago – Rosemary Cashews
Three Years Ago – Greek Stuffed Mushrooms
Four Years Ago – Ginger Crème Brûlée
Five Years Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Six Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Seven Years Ago – Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Penne

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite sanity saving holiday tips? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

2 thoughts on “Christmas Hacks & Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale

  1. I enjoyed this post – all common sense, which as we know is more rare than brains, and a good reminder. I was just flogging myself over not having made mince meat. I realize that good bought mince probably won’t be noticed by my family as being any different from mine. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

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