GP staff knows how to throw extravagant parties, but they also know how to kick back, relax and throw great parties of their own. Here are some of our staff’s favorite traditions with their families – and tips for an easy, breezy holiday at home!
Eat and Drink:
Kaitlin Walsh, Design Manager:
We always make 5 or 6 kinds of Christmas cookies at once. When my cousin comes from L.A. we always do it; it’s a fun little tradition. Since my aunt passed, we use her recipes and some from my grandma too. We use food as a way to keep people alive in my family.
Tip: Use multiple bowls with a stand mixer for easy clean up (no washing bowls between uses!)
Leticia Santana, Kitchen Administrator for
Every year we a host a cookie fest: everyone brings a cookie, and we end up with about 300 cookies! We have three KitchenAids working at once, and it’s an all-day event. Each year we introduce a new cookie.
Tip: Order in for your meal, and focus on the cookies!
Randy Ballesteros, Event Design Manager:
My family has a lovely, decadent day-after-holidays recipe to re-purpose Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey. Mix leftover cornbread with egg in small ramekins, basically making little muffins. Top with a slice of leftover turkey. Bake these in the oven, and make a hollandaise sauce with thyme (so good with the lemon!) to drizzle on top. I almost want that more than Thanksgiving dinner!
Tip: Get creative with leftovers. It gives you another excuse to sit together and enjoy family time!
Every Christmas Eve we have Wigilia - a Polish meatless dinner. My mom makes pierogis - 3 kinds from scratch - and fish. It's pretty relaxed.
Tip: A low-key holiday is the way to go!
Morgan Golumbuk, Catering Operations Manager:
I always make a bourbon apple cider at home in San Diego. God bless San Diego "winter!”
Tip: Batch cocktails with no more than four ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about being a mixologist! People can serve themselves.
Samantha Pagan, Director of Programs for The Sylvia Center:
My family meals have become a globetrotting experience! Every year my dad makes coquito; I don't have the recipe but he's been making it for 40-50 years. Some gets shipped to Puerto Rico. My mom makes latkes and rugelach. We have Dominican empanadas and my grandma's rice and beans recipe.
Tip: Every meal should be a journey of flavors; you don't need traditional turkey or ham for it to be delicious!
Liz Neumark, CEO of Great Performances:
I grew up in a Chanukah household. Our traditions included lots of gifts, yummy latkes and family gatherings that were actually fun. My mom loved entertaining and I think she coveted decorating a Christmas tree – but alas, no tree in our tradition. Instead, she turned to the large crystal chandelier in our dining room and went all out. Dangling from the branches were Chanukah ornaments – dreidels, gold coins, miniature menorahs along with glittery garlands and other festive touches. The apartment windows were sprayed with snow like foam, not quite typical for a Jewish household, but they conveyed winter wonderland. Not quite traditional but you make your traditions.
Tip: When life gives you potatoes for the centerpiece dish, turn them into latkes!
Jessica Petrini, Catering Operations Manager:
I live with my brother, and every year we go Christmas tree shopping with a group of friends. We call my brother "The Christmas Tree Whisperer" because he finds the best trees! After that we paint ornaments at a shop in Forest Hills; my mom and I always made crafts growing up: bird houses, paper towel holders, pots and pillows, so I think it comes from that!
Tip: If you can't go home, find a fun holiday activity to do with friends!
Devin Parker, Senior Marketing Manager:
My family’s most unique and lasting tradition surrounds the placing and setting our Christmas tree. While all of our friends and neighbors begin decorating their homes, yards, and Christmas trees the day after Thanksgiving, the Parkers wait until the eve of the big day. Apparently the idea is that we put the tree up on Christmas Year and take down on The Feast of Epiphany, which is 12 days after Christmas on January 6. According to my mom, this tradition is not exclusive to our family, though I have yet to come across it anywhere in life or Internet browsing.
We also like to go Christmas tree “hunting” on the 100-acre property of my parent’s home. While a fun activity, this tradition inevitably leaves us with a Charlie Brown tree – ugly, but full of character.
Tip: It's not the tree; it's the journey.
The Gift of Food:
Heather Royal, Assistant to CEO:
I make tons of walnut and peppermint biscotti to bring to parties in a tin or nicely wrapped plate. I had to make them for a project for Italian class in middle school, and decided to do it every year since! I tweaked the recipe because they weren’t dry enough, and I use applesauce instead of vegetable oil. I also use almond extract instead of anise oil - and add the same amount of vanilla extract.
Tip: Apple sauce keeps it moist enough but not greasy. Parcook, then cut and continue baking for the perfect crisp biscotti!
Emily Bird, Assistant Event Director:
Every year I make a bunch of Chex treats (Muddy Buddies, White Trash and more!) to hand out to friends. White Trash is basically a dessert form of Chex Mix, but it’s SO GOOD, easy to make and very pretty. It’s great to put in cute packaging and share as a gift.
Tip: Pick a fun and easy recipe to make in bulk - one you can snack on yourself too!