12 Easy Ways to Make Christmas Gatherings More Enjoyable

Christmas time is here and its coming up in a few days. I am sure by now you have finished your shopping and figuring out what to do. Here are ways to make your Christmas gatherings a fun and enjoyable one where you do not have to spend a lot of your time in the kitchen. Spend more time with your loved ones instead of being on your feet the whole time. You need to enjoy it too and not just do all the work. A helping hand does go a long way. When others ask to help you or takes the initiative, let them.

Here are the 12 Easy ways:

1. When you know you are having a big gathering at your home and invited people over, the most important thing is to do the baking and dessert’s a day or 2 before. Nothing will go wrong with it. If it needs to go in the fridge or freezer nothing will happen to it. Don’t leave to the day of.

2. The day before, set the table, cutlery, napkins, plates and add centrepieces to your table, but not too big so your food dishes can fit on the table.

3. Don’t go over crazy to cook so many different things. 4-5 different things for dinner is good enough. If you serve chicken, turkey, roast, pork chops, ham. Go with one or 2 of them from the meat list, and then choose salad and rice or whatever you want to make or whatever is part of your Christmas tradition. Plus if you want to make gravy. Cook all of this stuff except if you are making salad or rice. That can be cooked and prepared before the guests start arriving and then have all the other food cooked from the morning. It can be heated up after for 10 to 15 minutes, then you take to your table and voila. — Don’t go over the top. Chances are you will eat left overs for the next week or so. Don’t want that.

4. Putting chips, assortment of nuts(If no one is allergic), salsa, nachos, guacamole, dips, veggie platters, finger foods in the beginning will get your guests full. People will over indulge, so its not a good idea to put so many things out in the beginning. Don’t spend too much time with putting these before the hard work you went through cooking all that food for dinner. Take them out after dinner along with dessert.

5. When others bring something when it comes to food, dessert, a bottle of wine or something like a gift, It is customary and proper etiquette to open and serve them too. Unless, they advise you otherwise, then its ok to keep it for yourself to open privately, but again open whatever is brought to you and in front of the people who brought them. It makes them feel good to see your reaction.

6. have coffee/tea ready — before just add the water to the machines and measure extra water and coffee grinds on the side in case you need to make more and then just go back and press the button and then continue on entertaining your guests and spend time with them until it is done.

7. Clearing plates and everything for dinner is great, but end it there. Don’t start washing and sorting, drying and all that. It takes a lot of quality time away from your loved ones. If they want to help, that is fine. I am sure they won’t let you clear away the table all on your own. They will help with everything and bring it to the kitchen and everything else will be dealt with after.

8. When you have a lot of people, disposable cutlery and plates are the way to go. If you have more than 10 to 15 people or more, its a good idea. You don’t have to spend time washing dishes.

9. Plan the Christmas week.. Plan a day to do your grocery shopping, and then make sure you have all the ingredients needed to make it. Sometimes getting extra ingredients are better in case something goes wrong which it can in some cases. Never leave anything to the last day.

10. Be efficient and organized as well as making sure the house is clean, the kitchen and all that.

11. ***Always monitor how many drinks your guests have. Don’t let them drink and then drive later. Make sure to call taxis if need be or allow your guests that are impaired to sleep over and go home the next day or if they come with another person who has not had anything to drink, they should be the designated driver. It is your responsibility if they drink and drive because they are driving from your home. Be the elephant in the room and don’t permit them to go. Police have RIDE Spot checks out more during the holidays and don’t put yourself or others lives in danger on the roads because of a careless wrong doing***

12. breathe and don’t be stressed out. Christmas gatherings should be fun and enjoyable as it can be. Don’t panic if some things go wrong. It will be a memory you will laugh about as the years go by.

Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a blessed, happy and healthy New year of 2018!

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

Dear All,

I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas to all my family, friends, friends I met online/in person, my fans, my readers and everyone who celebrates Christmas. Although The Armenian Christmas is on January 6th, it is also great to celebrate on December 24/25th. Wishing everyone all the best. ❤ ❤ Hugs and Kisses to all.

I also celebrate on January 6th where its my Armenian Christmas too. This is an exciting time of the year.

Happy Holidays with great health, happiness, and great things. Best wishes always.

Cheers to you and your loved ones. 🙂


Talin Orfali

A Highlight,

This Christmas, It was my first time marinating and cooking my very first turkey…. The end result — SUCCESS!! 🙂
I usually cook chicken, and other meats, but it was my first for turkey. I am so proud of myself and I did it all on my own. 🙂 – I also cooked the whole Christmas dinner..

Talin’s Mouth-watering 2 Layer Penne Lasagna

I know you are probably thinking Penne Lasagna? I’ve made that possible. Who says that you always need to put Lasagna dough sheets to make Lasagna? Not to me. As long as you have Pasta Noodles of any kind that is large to mid size. I am not saying the Acini De Peppe, Orzo, and small noodles you use for soup and all that. I am saying Penne, Spaghetti, even Rotini. I have tried, tested and tasted. It is delicious! Well, let’s get started.

Depending on the number of people that you are serving in your family or your friends. It is in your preference.
This is for a family or friends of 4 or 5.

You will need:

– 900g of Penne Rigate Package (depends on your pan size as well and number of people)
– **Onions or Garlic are Optional. (It is your choice)**
– Oregano
– Basil
– Tomato Paste
– Tomato’s
Mozzarella Cheese
– Parmesan Cheese
– Cottage Cheese
– Extra Lean Ground Beef
– Sea Salt – (Never use table salt) **To your added preference**
– Grinded Black cracked Pepper
– All Spice

To begin:

1) Mash the extra Lean Ground beef into small pieces, cook it well done in a pan. That is where you will add just the Tomato Paste and Sea Salt. add about 4tblsp full of tomato paste and 1 and a half tsp of sea salt. (Add water, but not too much) You do not want your Lasagna to be Soggy. Add just enough to mix the tomato paste with them together.

2) In a separate small mixing bowl add 1 tbsp Oregano, as well as Basil, and all spice – Mix them together

3) Wash and Slice 4 fresh tomato’s – use Tomato on a Vine or Roma Tomatoes. put them aside.

4) In a mixing bowl add the grated Mozzarella Cheese and Cottage cheese. Mix it together.

To make the Penne:

1) Make sure you put a little more than half a large pot of water

2) Boil the water and put Sea Salt and as soon as it boils, add the Penne. (Never put any kind of noodles in a non-boiled water, it will stick to the bottom of the pot and stick to the other noodles)

3) Immediately stir the Penne so that all the noodles will become tender evenly and keep mixing ever 2-3 minutes. Let it boil on medium heat for about 10 minutes. If it needs more time, then go to about 11-12 minutes. MAX. (Do not overcook and make it mushy. Take it out while it’s al dente)

4) Drain and set aside to make 2 equal parts of the Penne Rigate, but first Mix the ground beef/tomato paste mix with the penne before Parting them. Add the Oregano, Basil and All spice mix with them as well.
In a Medium to Large Pyrex Pan:

1) Add cooking oil spray to the whole pan.

2) Add the first layer of the Penne and even it out.

3) Add the cheese mix – then Put Parmesan Cheese

4) Add the layer of the Tomato’s

– **for the Last layer – Repeat Steps 2-4 but add #4 first, then #3– Add the Parmesan Cheese last.


Oven Settings:

– Bring the Oven to Convection – to 375 degrees before you put the Lasagna in.

– Let it cook for 30 Minutes

and there you have it.
Penne Lasagna. Bon Appetit! Enjoy!

Party or Function Table Etiquette

Have you been to parties and functions where appetizers, the main course and other foods are put on the table and you see some inconsiderate people who take a huge chunk out of the food on that plate that is put on the table and by the time the plate comes to you, you have nothing left or a small bit that barely goes down your throat?

I have been to numerous amounts of parties and functions especially weddings or something where I have witnessed that happen all too much. Not only observing on my table, but others around too. Some people do not think of the other people who are sitting on the same table as them and think they are the only ones with eating the food. I find that to be very selfish and a terrible trait. People paid to eat and have fun, and those who are hungry. It is not nice to hog the food.

The people who plan these functions make/order only enough food to last for each person. I know that it is good to carry extra supply of the food that is being provided in case people ask for more, but whatever is put on the tables, people should be mindful and think of others as well, but unfortunately that is not the case over 90% of the time. maybe more.

It has happened to me a lot. I am usually the one to pass around the plates as respect and thinking of others before I serve myself. As the plate began circling around and came back to me of 9 people and I am the 10th, It either had nothing left or a very small speck of it when the whole plate was so full. I was so mad and I felt weird asking the server for more of that food, where they had put enough to last the whole table. I try not to make a big fuss about it, but it is a big fuss. It is disrespectful, inconsiderate and absolutely terrible to do that. Some people’s eyes are bigger than their stomach.

I see peoples eyes jump at the food as soon as the host of the party or function says its okay to eat, or after a prayer or something. People jump at the food before its okay to do so. Some people look and act like they have never seen food or ate it before. They become so wild that they don’t even acknowledge others around them.

To learn proper etiquette is to take small portions of each item and allow others to have a chance to eat it. Some people may skip that certain type of food, but again its good to ask, “are you sure you do not want it”? if the response says, “yes I am sure I do not want it, you can have it”, then you take it, but other than that it is not fair for people who want them.

So, next time you go to a function or party, just watch and observe your table and the way people take their food and how much of it and you will see what I am talking about. People may not even pay attention to those details, but it is important to learn from mistakes and correct them. Etiquette is so important that some people do not take seriously and who do not respect it. Etiquette and manners are crucial and so imperative to have and possess.

Just look out and see.

My Sweet 16 Birthday that Never happened

When I was in high school and about to turn 16, I have heard about the sweet 16’s birthday parties and the fun those people had, and planned their birthdays that it was perfect, the people who had gone to those parties, the decorations, the planning all kicked off perfectly.

Even though I did not have friends back in the day, and those who I thought were somehow, I decided to throw a sweet 16 birthday party for me. As I had invited 20 people from my school. So now when it came toward the last couple of days to my birthday, I assured people to ask if they are going to be attending my birthday and they said yes we will be there. I got so excited. I remember it was April 28, 2001, on a Saturday and Monday is my real birthday on the 30th, and decided to have it 2 days early because of School on the right day.

As I had begun decorating, and had ordered the cake and the food, as well has putting some games so people can play. As the time was nearing for people to come, I got so excited that I stood by the door to wait for them to come, my anticipation was growing deeper. As I looked at the time again and it was 2pm where the time said on the invitations, I look at the clock and it said 2:15. I said ok its ok, they are running late. Then one person came around 2:30, I welcome her into the house and she decided to wait with me. then it became almost 4pm, and it was just her and I was devastated, humiliated, embarrassed, and crying so much.

That one girl who came to my party wiped my tears away and said it will be ok. Don’t worry, I am here. lets enjoy together. Who cares about the rest that stood you up? I said yeah you are right. So we enjoyed the food, and desert and cake and watched a couple of movies until it was time for her to go home. She hugged me and said, Talin, do not worry about anybody else, they are cowards. God is watching them. Then she left as her mom came and picked her up. My heart shattered to pieces. It was a feeling that I never wish on anybody else.

After her leaving, I let out a huge cry. I said, I cannot believe this happened to me and my mom comforted me and told me, don’t worry God will punish them. So Monday came and I was still crying and devastated. I did not enjoy my real 16th birthday, but I did go out to dinner with my family, which made everything better. I actually skipped school for a couple of days and just stood home. I just didn’t feel like seeing anybody. Then I decided to go to school on the Wednesday, and none of them said I am sorry and did not bother to give me an explanation as to why they did that. All the planning, food and everything went to waste, however we kept the food and ate it throughout the week.

From then on, I didn’t care about interacting with anybody and I just went about and studied, did my homework, attended all my classes, and then once school was finished, I’d never waste another second and just go home. I was so disgusted. That one girl changed schools the year after because her family had moved somewhere further, and that really made me even cry more. She was the only one who really cared. It was so nice of her. I still have the give she gave me 14-15 years later.

As I reached another milestone this year. At the end of April on the 30th of 2015, I will be celebrating my champagne birthday turning 30 on 30 and it is coming up so quickly. As I almost say Goodbye to my 20’s, I am truly hoping that I can have a sweet 30th birthday that will make up for the sweet 16th birthday I never had. I know it is not good to expect it, but when you’ve never had a birthday party reaching a milestone, it makes you wonder how and what might have been. I just want to have a great time with my lovely and beautiful loved ones I have in my life which really matter to me more than anything else.

Have you experienced a disappointing turnout at a party or function you have had? I am sure you felt humiliated and distraught. Have you had a similar situation where people didn’t bother to show up and not telling you why and not having the common decency to call and explain? If you have, I am so sorry to hear that. I know exactly how you feel. It is not a good feeling at all.

Hopefully nobody has to go through what I went through. Best wishes to you and may your dreams come true, because everyday is our birthday and celebrate it by the gift of breathing and living through another day. We are blessed and that is what matters the most.

Talin’s Ultimate Couscous Salad Recipe

I would like to introduce to you a very healthy, flavorful, Couscous Salad recipe, which is full of essential nutrients, which will get your taste buds active and will want the whole salad bowl to yourself. Yes, it is that good! Couscous is one of my favorite things to add to vegetables, and add so much flavor with it. Excellent choice to serve at dinner parties, or regular dinners, for lunch, for dinner, anytime. Here is The Ultimate Couscous Salad Recipe.

Couscous Salad Recipe
Serves: 4 or more. depending on how much quantity you would like to prepare. play around with the amount of ingredients to your desire.

• 1 1/2 to 2 cups pearl couscous
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1 teaspoon honey
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
• 1 full cucumber, diced (about 1 cup)
• 1 large tomato, diced…. preferably tomato on a vine…
• 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs (any combination of fresh parsley, cilantro, arugula, basil, dill or mint)
• 1/3 cup raisins or more to your tasting
• 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted or not. you can just add them in.
• Freshly ground black pepper and salt

To Prepare follow these instructions…
1. In a large saucepan, bring about 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Add couscous and cook until tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain with a strainer — preferably thin holed strainer so the couscous will not fall through.

2. While the couscous cooks, in a small bowl, mix the oil, mustard, honey, lemon juice and zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
3. Add cooked and drained couscous to a large bowl, and then, pour dressing over warm couscous, mix well. Let it cool completely
4. After cooled completely, Add cucumber, tomato, herbs, raisins and walnuts to the couscous and stir. Taste for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper as needed.
5. Enjoy it when its cold – cover then refrigerate, about 1 hour. Better to eat cool…
Bon Apetit!

Pasta Lovers Unite – Loving All Kinds

I have been loving pasta for as long as I can remember. I remember when I was 8 years old. I made my very first pasta dish with of course the supervision of my mom. She started getting me in the cooking mode since I was 7 years old and she taught me the basics from making pasta sauce from scratch and how long to boil the pasta for and then as I got older when I was 14 years old, I began to do it all myself without supervision anymore and they love my pasta’s I make. Now I do an assortment. I do lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo and a whole bunch of other styles of Pasta. I love tortellini, rigatoni, fuccilli, elbow macaroni, linguine, and among other really awesome styles. For all those connoisseur’s for pasta, I am sure you can all relate to the passion. I think all of us pasta lovers have this different type of food passion and I am sure all of us can eat this everyday. 

Too many carbs though, but I do not care, Pasta is good for you. You may not believe it, but it really is and a good nutrition factor. There are some people who go overboard and go to extremes when dieting, I believe that nobody should diet. All it is, is to watch your portion control and who cares if you have a little more, but pastas have durum semolina, and all kinds of nutrition packed into it.  God bless this food. :) Spaghetti, Penne Rigate, Tagliatelle, Cannelloni. I have come up with so many recipes, and different styles of how to create and make that perfect sauce, and that perfect blend of tastes. Some can be done with Veggies, an array of meats, Seafood pastas, cheese pastas, pasta salads, Olive oils, vinaigrette,  I would love to get the accessories to make pasta from scratch for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, but its so expensive to buy, So for the time being I want to try and do different pastas on my own and get the dough recipes and then cut the dough into Tagliatelle Nests, and get them all pretty. There are also small shells, linguine, and so many several types.

In the world, mostly Italy and few other places, pasta, spaghetti is very well know around the world, and different people make it different ways. what are some of your favourite pasta dishes? What do you work with? I would love to venture off to Italy and go on a Food Trip tour and taste and get the feel of how important Pasta is to those regions and to the cultures. I would love to go on a culinary adventure and get more personal with top chefs, Pasta Experts and so much more. The possibilities are endless and its such a beautiful thing.

  P-A-S-T-A …. yum yum yum. Bon Apetit…..