Ask A St. Louis Expert: Compiling The Perfect Holiday Menu

December 4, 2013 6:00 AM

St. Louis-area culinary nutrition experts Ed and Juli Pilla share tips on compiling the perfect holiday menu and their favorite butternut squash recipe.

pillas Ask A St. Louis Expert: Compiling The Perfect Holiday Menu

Courtesy of Ed And Juli Pilla

Ed And Juli Pilla
Simply Feel Better
28107 Rangeline Court
Warrenton, MO 63383
(636) 359-5926

Ed and Juli Pilla are local culinary experts who left restaurant ownership and now are educating people about the nutrition value found in foods. They currently teach classes on how to simply feel better through making healthy nutritional choices with a goal of educating, guiding and supporting clients through the physical choices and changes toward a healthy lifestyle. Between the two instructors, they are certified Loomis digestive health specialists, certified natural health professionals, enzyme nutritionists, psychology of eating mentors and certified Reiki Masters. They want to give their clients the tools needed for these individuals to take ownership of their own health through dietary choices. Ed and Juli shared some helpful tips for compiling the perfect holiday menu as well as a healthy recipe to enrich the lives of others.

Tip 1

Follow the first helpful tip that comes from a well-known entertainer who was born in Missouri, Walt Disney. Approach the holiday gathering with an attitude of serving your guests. In the words of a song from a Disney movie, “Be our guest, be our guest.” The suggestion sounds simple, but is so important. Put your guests first, and the rest of your holiday plans are sure to fall right into place.

Tip 2

Match your food choices and preparation to the occasion. Will it be a sit-down dinner for an intimate few or an appetizer social mixer for a large group? Both require thoughtful considerations and preparation. However, one will mean preparing separate courses of varied foods along with holiday-themed table decorations while the other will involve choosing several different kinds of finger foods and displaying them on your choice of decorative platters.

Tip 3 

Before you sit down to decide on a menu, take your guests’ interests and needs to heart. Ask your guests if they have special requests that you can accommodate. A vegan, for instance, would not want to sit down to a steak dinner. A Jewish friend may prefer something kosher. Work around their needs to create a pleasing array of foods that everyone will enjoy. The following recipe is a safe bet for most guests and is rich in nutrients.

Related: Top Vendors At St. Louis Soulard Market

butternut squash Ask A St. Louis Expert: Compiling The Perfect Holiday Menu

Butternut Squash Soup (Courtesy of the Pillas)

Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

  • One 2- to 3-pound butternut squash, peeled and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 cups of chicken stock
  • Nutmeg to taste, probably about a teaspoon
  • Salt to taste, probably about a teaspoon
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste, probably about a teaspoon


  1. Peel the squash. The trick to peeling a butternut squash is to slice it into 3/4- to 1-inch slices, like a cookie. Then, peel with a paring knife.
  2. Cut the peeled squash into 1-inch chunks and set aside.
  3. In a large pot, melt butter.
  4. Add onion and cook until it turns translucent, or for about 8 minutes.
  5. Add the squash and chicken stock.
  6. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, or for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Remove diced squash with a slotted spoon and place in a blender to puree, or use an immersion blender.
  8. Return blended squash to pot.
  9. Stir and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Plate on a pretty holiday dish of your choice, and serve to six awaiting guests.

Related: Top Pumpkin Dishes In The St. Louis Area

Tere Scott is a freelance writer and author of e-books and two educational blogs. She loves to research information to share. She currently resides in St. Louis. Her work can be found at

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