From cocktail parties to gift wrapping to the litany of family events, the spirit of the season is always exciting – but also, frankly, exhausting. With chilly weather and a too-busy schedule, November and December can mean flares for many of us. It’s hard to revel in the season’s twinkle when it hurts to hold a cocktail. And when you’re also the one expected to host friends and family for a dinner party, the thought of picking up a knife with those aching joints can be downright daunting.

You’d think that, as a professional recipe developer and cookbook author, I would have figured out a way to slice and dice without aggravating the joint pain that accompanies my lupus flares. But, when I’m cooking for a crowd, I have to juggle my favorite recipes with the reality of how my body feels – which, even for me, means cooking more simply.

I’ve learned that by being smart about how and what I cook when I’m entertaining, I can be the hostess with the mostest without hurting my joints. I start by limiting the ingredients I use for each dish, so my grocery shopping experiences don’t leave me wincing before I even turn on the oven. I rely on friends for the things that take the most effort, which in my case means dessert (I always get in over my head) and wine (carrying heavy bags hurts my hands on a bad day). And I axe the knife work as much as possible, turning instead to high-quality, prechopped, prewashed ingredients. I prepare the meal over the course of a few days, which means that even on the busiest prep day, I don’t need to put in more than about 15 minutes of kitchen time.

The night of the feast, I’m always surprised by how energetic I am after having prepared a glorious meal, and by how little my guests recognize that I’ve taken shortcuts. And as the wine flows and the chatter builds, I’m pleased at just how delicious the meal is, even though I had to pick up the knife only once or twice.

Now that’s a dinner party I can celebrate.

Holiday Menu

• Crudités with Herb and Garlic Yogurt Dip

• Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Bleu Cheese Butter

• Bacon-Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

• Whipped Squash with Honey and Spice

• Bottom’s Up Green Salad

• Crusty Dinner Rolls

You can start this meal up to a week in advance. It serves eight, requires about an hour of preparation, and ingredients (see the “Grocery List” below) will cost approximately $150 to $200.

Grocery List

 Produce Section:

*Prewashed baby carrots

*Prewashed broccoli florets

*Prewashed cauliflower florets

*1 pint grape tomatoes

1 (3/4-ounce) package dill

1 (3/4-ounce) package chives

3 pounds prechopped, peeled butternut squash

2 pounds Brussels sprouts

*5 ouncesprewashed greens

Prechopped garlic


1 pint 2 percent Greek-style yogurt

2 sticks unsalted butter

5 ounces crumbled bleu cheese


*1 (31/2-pound) beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied

4 slices thick-cut bacon

Dry Goods:


Ground ginger

Ground cardamom

Curry powder

Balsamic vinegar

*Dinner rolls

Toasted pumpkin seeds

Dried cherries

Extra-virgin olive oil

Dijon mustard

Kosher salt

Ground black pepper

*If you’re preparing the dinner over the course of the week, purchase just a day or two before the meal.