Margot Quinn, Holiday Cooking

When somebody told her they had a fundraiser at school and sold about $5000 worth of products, Margot Quinn said, “Let me give that a try!” Margot, a CPA with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and single mom with two kids getting ready for college, was looking for ways to increase her income. The fundraiser, which featured kitchen products by Pampered Chef, was just the solution Margot sought. She got the start-up kit and hosted her first in-home product demonstration and tasting party. That was just before “the Big Game” nine years ago, and Margot has enjoyed getting and sharing kitchen tools, tips and recipes ever since. “Who doesn’t love a good tool?” she asked. “I love a good tool that makes me feel like I can cook.”

Margot admits her partner Mark is the better cook. She and Mark belong to a group called dinner denizens, where the men do the cooking and the women do the clean-up. “His favorite tool is a good Santoku knife,” Margot said. “I like gadgets. I am a gadget aficionado. I love the food chopper (a hand-pumped, spring-loaded, rotating cutting blade) and the Mix ‘N Chop ( a beveled pinwheel blade) that turns ground [meat] into crumbly items of deliciousness in your pan. It works just great, it’s reliable, and if you carry it around, it could be used as a weapon,” she joked.

Margot’s other favorite tool is time, so she’s always looking for ways to make cook-time faster and more efficient. She likes to use her Quick Cooker, her Deluxe Air Fryer, and her Deluxe Cooking Blender. “The Quick Cooker changed my world. It’s replaced the rice cooker, slow cooker, and you can also sear on it. Then they added the Air Fryer. So much fun! I love fried foods. Fried foods can be so comforting. It feels healthier if you’re not using any oil and it’s not deep fried. It also dehydrates so you can make your own fruit roll-ups, jerky, roasts, and rotisserie chicken. It opens like a little oven. I’ve even made little pies. It’s nice when I don’t want to heat up the whole kitchen. 

“We have a cooking blender, the item you didn’t know you needed. I make my own peanut butter. Take three cups of salted, roasted peanuts, hit grind, and you have your own peanut butter without any added ingredients. I’ve made my own jam. Put in the fruit, and hit the jam setting. It slowly grinds the fruit and slowly cooks. I’ve made soup in my blender, and smoothies. It’s going to blow your mind. Just drop in chopped vegetables or fruits. It’s amazing!” 

Margot’s other tip for getting food on the table quickly is to use recipes that cook in 30 minutes or less. Her favorites include homemade pizza and one pan lasagna. These recipes and many others are available on her website. “You can make fresh pizza dough in 30 minutes,” she said. “You really feel accomplished if you make your own pizza dough. Stretch it out, put in on the pan. Throwing it together is so easy. I use jarred pizza sauce and ready-made toppings. It’s so cheesy, so comforting. I also love skillet lasagna, one pan lasagna. Just egg noodles, ground meat, and jarred sauce. From raw to delicious in one pan. Time is my main ingredient. How soon can I be consuming this food?”

Before the pandemic, Margot enjoyed vendor shows and home parties. It was a fun way to meet people, share tips and tricks, do demonstrations with the latest tools and gadgets, and sample new recipes. She finds her target audience by asking, “‘Do you eat?’ Everybody raises their hands. It’s for men, women and children. You have to get the kids into the kitchen and turn the responsibility to be fed over as soon as possible. Everybody needs to cook, everybody needs to eat.” Home parties were themed: “Five Appetizers in 15 Minutes”, or “Soup and Slippers” (where guests were invited to come in their pajamas, with their best slippers and worst spatulas). “I miss in-person parties. I miss you, Shows. They were fun. We’ll be back.”

“They come for tips. I give tips, but I learn a lot from everybody,” Margot admits. Instead of having everyone watch her perform in a theater-style show, one tool or recipe at a time, Margot invites participants to get their hands on the products and create their own dishes from the recipes and ingredients provided. “I want to show them you can do it all.” Often guests will work in groups. At one brunch party, a group made stovetop granola, another made baked apple fritters, another made “quick sickles” (frozen strawberry-banana smoothies), and another made a lemon meringue cake. The dessert is light, like lemon meringue pie, but the meringue is made of marshmallows. The first time she made it, she used the hostess’s new oven. With her hand on the door, instead of watching the rapidly rising marshmallows, she turned to the guests, to engage in their conversations, and answer their questions. “You know what happens to marshmallows next to a broiler? Would you believe that the marshmallow dome touched the broiler?! If you like flaming marshmallows–well, it was just short of flaming,” she laughed. “And then I did it a second time! Lessons learned: Use the timer, keep your hand on the oven, and always watch the cake.”

Here are some other useful tips from Margot:

  • Breathe. If you can.
  • Start early. Start now. Make your list of what you want to have.
  • Look for sales. If I don’t use it now, ‘I’ll see you in January.’
  • Do the work when you have the time and energy. Anything that can be prepared and frozen, do it now. 
  • Share the wealth. If people want to help, let them help. Imagine you had a dinner party and someone says, ‘What can I bring?’ Instead of asking them to bring a dish (‘Please bring twelve rib eyes. I would appreciate it,’ Margot dead pans), ask them to just get something out of the pantry, or parts of a salad: ‘Could you just bring an onion?’
  • Divide and conquer. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a party where other people do all the work? Once you have all the ingredients, invite people to work at stations. Everybody has the job of getting food on the table.
  • Make your plans. The day of–or the night before–set out the serving bowls and organize where you want to put them.
  • If you need to go with the prettiest paper plates, you do that. Save room in your dishwasher for the [cooking utensils], pots and pans.
  • Assign a clean-up crew.
  • Try to enjoy it. I had to change my whole attitude from, ‘We’re going to be spending days prepping, and it’s going to be gone in 20 minutes,’ to ‘It’s a gift of your time.’ That’s the way I come to the day. It’s going to be a quick meal, so focus on the time together. Try to enjoy the day, because it goes so fast. Just don’t let the holiday get you down. It’s all in the way you come at something. Your attitude can be ‘It’s an upcoming burden’, or ‘It’s going to be a fabulous time, no matter what. Burning food or not.’ It’s not the food, it’s the gathering, it’s coming to the table, memories made at the table–hopefully all good ones. Food is just an accent piece to it. Think of it as nourishment, as fun. 

For more tips from Margot, as well as recipes, product catalogs, information about fundraisers, gift registries, hostess benefits, shared reward programs, outlet shopping, warranties and replacement parts, and a new, innovative, interactive, online kitchen party called Table, follow the links below:

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