I’m more at home hiking mountains than I am in the kitchen. Preparing to cook for large groups gives me anxiety, at least it did until I got some serious pointers from my good friend, Heather Schlueter. Heather is a lifelong friend, literally! I met her the day she came home from the hospital. Over the years, I have been amazed at how she can do anything and I mean anything she puts her mind to. From being a championship diver to successful litigation attorney to CEO of a large medical practice. She has mastered the art of entertaining all while raising five children. She is now a bestselling author of two cookbooks for Instant Pot!
A few years ago Heather created her successful blog, The Spicy Apron.
This blog is fun, easy to read and has recipes and entertaining tips that are perfect for anyone looking for inspiration.
When I found out I was going to be cooking for a large group of extended family for Christmas, I quite honestly felt a little panicky. I immediately thought of Heather and wanted to get her advice. Her advice was so good that I wanted to share it with my readers.
You have always been my number one influence when it comes to cooking! Who inspired you to become a master in the kitchen?
I have two sources of inspiration for my love of cooking – my mom and my sister-in-law from years back. Dinner time was family time when I was growing up. No matter how busy our schedules were, my mom always made sure we sat down to family dinner – complete with home-cooked, well-balanced, and delicious meals all set out on a beautifully decorated table, complete with candles. Yes, dinnertime was when we all connected as a family and that was never lost on me. As I started my own family I was lucky enough to live next door to my very talented and very Greek sister-in-law who knew pretty much everything there was to know about cooking. She could rifle through her pantry or freezer, and in about 20 minutes she could whip out food so amazing you’d think you were in a five-star restaurant. She made it look so fun and easy. I’m pretty sure she never even owned a cookbook. She’s just a natural. I’ve tried to combine my mom’s gift of family dinner time with my sister-in-law’s gift of fun and easy cooking to give my own family those same gifts. I’m not nearly as talented as either of them, but I am most definitely inspired by them.
When you first told me about the Instant Pot, I couldn’t possibly understand how anything could be that easy to use and create food that was delicious. I became a convert after you served a gourmet masterpiece the last time you had us over for dinner! Tell me about your connection to Instant Pot and how you came up with so many recipes.
I was contacted by the head of marketing of Instant Pot a couple of years ago. She had come across my blog The Spicy Apron and thought an Instant Pot may be a good addition for my readers. I wasn’t convinced at first. But then I tried it and I was sold! I’m not even a “kitchen gadget” kind of person, but I was truly amazed by what the Instant Pot can do. I knew it was a product and brand I could stand behind and genuinely recommend. I wrote a couple of blog posts with some Instant Pot recipes and she asked if she could put them on the Instant Pot App. Not long after that, we began discussing a book and she enthusiastically gave me her endorsement to “get a book deal” that she would label “Instant Pot Authorized.” The rest, as they say, is history. I connected with a great publisher and have put out two Instant Pot Cookbooks (we are currently in discussions for a third!). The first is called Cooking with Your Instant Pot Mini (this is specifically for those who purchased the 3 quart Instant Pot).
And I’m so excited about the newest publication The Instant Pot Holiday Cookbook. It’s full of 100 fun and festive holiday recipes (that, quite honestly are great throughout the year). There’s even a section on “gifts from the kitchen,” which was tons of fun to create. It’s such a great book for entertaining – appetizers (I particularly like the Warm Bree with Honey and Apples), main dishes such as Duck A l’Orange, pork roast, and of course turkey, holiday cocktails (maybe my favorite section – peppermint vanilla lattes, hot buttered rum, and many others), holiday gifts, such as spiced nuts, homemade vanilla, and limoncello, and of course all kinds of desserts. Each book has 100 recipes – lots of research, imagination, and trial and error has gone into these books. But I’m so excited and proud of them, and I am thankful for the opportunity.
I’m cooking Christmas dinner for about 20 people this year. What are your top three tips to help me relax and enjoy the experience and be able to serve a meal everyone will enjoy?
Holiday entertaining is really just an extension of the whole “family dinner time” that I grew up with. It’s a gathering of people you love and want to connect with. And there’s no better way to connect than through food and drink. It’s why holiday entertaining season is my favorite!
- My first and foremost piece of advice is don’t stress out about throwing a holiday party or gathering. Even if the food is so-so or you burned the dinner rolls or the green beans are slightly overdone, people won’t care. What they care about is being included and enjoying time with people they know and love.
- My second tip is plan accordingly. Let’s face it, even if all will be forgiven, you really don’t want so-so food, burned dinner rolls, or mushy green beans. So take the time to plan – plan the menu, and plan the time it will take to prepare. Then you won’t be scrambling at the last-minute (which, of course, leads to stress, which of course violates tip #1.)
- Finally, make sure to take the time to enjoy and interact with your guests. That’s why they came in the first place. Don’t rob them of that opportunity by burying yourself in your kitchen. Take a break, grab a drink (or two), and step out and enjoy the moment.
I’m taking Heather’s advice and have already begun planning my menu and making a shopping List. The first thing on my list, has been completed, I bought an Instant Pot!