A Feast for Three: Making Holiday Dinners Easy and Intimate

While Christmas is often a time for families to gather and for everyone to embrace the lovely chaos of having cousins, siblings and grandkids all at once, it's also wonderful to share an intimate dinner with family in which everyone can share stories at the dining table, where all the candles are lit, the fireplace is warm and a joyful Christmas music fills the air. 

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While I personally love the chaos having come from a large extended family back in the Philippines and where Christmas is celebrated as our biggest "national holiday" (we eagerly celebrate Christmas as soon as the "ber" months arrive and traditionally wait until past mid January to pull down the Christmas decor), I also welcome a lovely intimate holiday dinner for it allows us to create our own family tradition and truly reflect the meaning of the season. 

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To create a nostalgic dinner, set the right atmosphere. For us, this means lighting up the Christmas tree as well as setting up the table with glittery decor and vanilla-scented candles. Although we now live in a warmer climate where a fireplace is no longer a necessity, we still yearn the warm glow so we turned on Netflix's "Fireplace for Your Home" to help set the mood. A joyful Christmas music makes a whole lot of difference to add cheer while prepping for dinner. Make this experience a family affair so it has meaning to all. While Brian was in charge of the kitchen, Ariana and I baked caramel walnut cookies and decorated the dining table. 

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Make sure to add a centerpiece to the dining table. It doesn't have to be an expensive Pottery Barn decor, but a large candle on a gold oversized charger will do the trick. In fact, for this centerpiece, I simply used a silver tree ornament and recycled a wire pom-pom ribbon to add a little accent to an otherwise non-holiday candle. Glitter-dusted Christmas balls help finish off the overall look.

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Make every detail count. To help carry the gold theme throughout the dining table, I used gold chargers which provided a lovely contrast against a plain white plate. For a romantic touch, I wrapped the silver utensils with doilies and added a pine cone ornament on top.

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Although it's easy to get tempted to over-complicate the menu, make it festive but fuss-free by opting easy-to-fix recipes. A delicious soft Brie cheese appetizer topped with apricot jam and crushed roasted cashew nuts, for instance, makes a lovely wine pairing without the need for cooking. Plus, it's a wonderful prelude to the honey-glazed ham that is traditional during Christmas dinners.

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Ah, the desserts! Instead of store-bought pastries, Ariana and I decided to bake at home so we can have a bonding moment. Topped with ice cream, this Ghirardelli chocolate brownie with walnuts and caramel topping was the perfect way to finish off a lovely Christmas dinner!

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Finally, after an intimate family dinner, we've made another Christmas tradition by recreating Ariana's first photo by the Christmas tree. Oh goodness, it's crazy to see how time flies and how much our little one has grown! It reinforces the importance of creating a family tradition that we all can fondly remember as the years go by.

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How about you? What are some of your Christmas family traditions? While Brian thought a simple, candle-lit Christmas dinner was nostalgic of his own childhood, Ariana enjoyed the intimate family dinner really well. In fact, as I tucked her in for bed that Christmas night, her bedtime words were: "Tonight was the best night ever!" Hope yours was just as lovely. Happy holidays! 

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