Though you may still be reeling from the weekend whirlwind that is Thanksgiving, it is nevertheless time to plan for your December holiday celebrations. Whether you are setting out a Christmas dinner or planning a get together for New Year’s Eve, there are some holiday menu tips you should keep in mind. These tips and the following recipe come from J.R. Brown who serves as the executive chef for Houston’s E & P Catering.

Related: Holiday Recipes From Houston Chef Manuel De La Mora

J.R. Brown
E & P Catering
16231 FM 3083 Road
Conroe, TX 77302
(936) 231-3437

E & P Catering provides full catering services to Houstonians and those in the surrounding area. Customized menus and fresh ingredients are the hallmarks of E & P Catering’s high-quality service. J.R. Brown created the cheesecake that would lead to the founding of J.R.’s Cheesecakes in 2002, from which sprang E & P Catering.

Holiday Menus Do Not Have to Be Traditional

Most holiday parties serve the same types of foods that grace the tables of the main meals. By the time Christmas Day comes, you may already be sick of ham and turkey that were served up at the many holiday parties you attended. Don’t be afraid to serve something different. Chef Brown noted that one of the standout menus served during the holidays last year by his catering company featured green chile pulled pork sliders and escargot in puff pastry among 30 appetizers for the event. He recalls how fondly the appetizer assortment was received by the guests who were excited to taste something a little different.

Related: Best Pumpkin Dishes In Houston

Keep Your Guests’ Special Needs in Mind When Menu Planning

In most instances, you will have at least one or two guests at your holiday gatherings that may have special dietary needs. People may be vegetarian by choice or require gluten-free foods or allergen-free foods to preserve their health. Take these factors into account and make sure that you have at least one or two dishes in which everyone at your party can partake.

Keep It Simple

If you are the one preparing the food for your party, you should make it as simple to fix as possible, otherwise you will spend the entire event stuck inside the kitchen finishing up dishes that you are serving. Choose recipes that can be made in advance or at least prepared to the point of cooking before the day of the party. If you plan out how you will prepare the meal, you can have a lavish menu of 10 dishes, but for last-minute events, consider just making three of your specialty dishes to keep your menu simple and help you keep your sanity.

Seasonal Stuffed Pork Chops

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups diced Granny Smith apples
  • 2 cups dried cranberries
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 boneless pork chops, 1 inch thick
  • Kosher salt
  • Course ground black pepper
  • Granulated garlic
  1. Reduce balsamic vinegar over medium heat in a heavy-bottom sauce pan until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Combine apples, cranberries, onion and minced garlic in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté until onions are tender and begin to caramelize. Allow to cool.
  3. With a sharp boning knife, cut a pocket in each pork chop and stuff with apple, cranberry, onion and garlic mixture.
  4. Once stuffed, brush pork chops with olive oil and season with kosher salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.
  5. Place pork chops on unlined baking sheet and cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit is reached
  6. Allow to rest lightly covered in foil for 10 minutes.

*This dish can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until ready to cook.

Crystal Hessong ia a freelance writer and a lifelong, fourth generation Houstonian. Her work can be found at