Thanksgiving dinner was challenging this year. I’m used to cooking for a crowd. Although I must admit, cooking for Dave is like cooking for a small group, he eats a lot.

Like Thanksgiving, this holiday will be a little different for many people. Frankly, I want family and friends in my house eating food and drinking eggnog. But, it will be another quiet holiday for us and for many other people. Christmas will be different. We must be positive and know this too will pass.

I’m doing things a little different this year — I’m having dinner for two catered by some of the best restaurants in the area. No fussing in the kitchen and still have plenty of leftovers! Here are some wonderful restaurant owners and chefs who can make your holiday fuss-free:

JR’s Chicken

Jan Bullock, the owner of JR’s Chicken, is offering a delicious heat and eat dinner this holiday season – dinners include a choice of smoked turkey breast, pit ham or roast pork. All of which come with sweet potatoes, dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy and rolls. Dinner for two to four people is only $44.99; dinner for six to 10, $109.99.

Guests must order their dinners by Dec. 20, with pick-up from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 24. JR’s will be closed on Christmas Day.

Kankakee’s location is at 135 East Bourbonnais, Kankakee. Call 815-933-3347. JR’s Bourbonnais is at 161 East Bethel Dr. Call 815-929-0735.

Jimmy Jo’s BBQ

Jim Johanek, the owner of Jimmy Jo’s BBQ, Bourbonnais, is ready to fire up the smoker for some excellent holiday fare.

What’s on the menu? Jim has a succulent smoked pork loin garnished with roasted apples. This will serve 10 to 12 people for $49.95.

To really celebrate, order one of his delicious smoked prime ribs, slow-roasted and served with Au Jus and horseradish sauce. This entrée will serve 10 to 12 people for $229.95. Or for a smaller group, order the half prime rib for $139.95.

There is the more traditional dinner of an applewood smoked turkey that comes with homemade cranberry relish. A 22-lb. turkey that serves 10 to 12 people is $79.95; the half turkey breast serving six to eight people is $49.95.

Many families serve ham for Christmas dinner, so why not try a smoked bone-in glazed ham? The half ham that serves six to eight people is $49.95; the whole ham that serves 15 to 20 people is $89.95.

For those who want a beef entrée, Jim’s smoking an entire beef brisket; smoked for 12 hours over apple and hickory wood. This includes his famous BBQ sauce, too. The brisket is offered in two sizes – a whole brisket serving 12 to 15 people is $139.95; sliced, $149.95.

We’ve read about the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but how about a feast with just one beautiful smoke North Atlantic salmon? This can be served warm or chilled. The salmon serves six to eight people for $54.95.

Jim is also preparing sides that include mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole and cornbread stuffing. Order early before they are sold out. Some items require 72-hour notice! Holiday hours for Jimmy Jo’s BBQ are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 24 and 12 to 2 p.m. on Dec. 25.

Jimmy Jo’s is located at 665 N. Convent, Bourbonnais. Check out their Facebook page or website for a complete menu at jimmyjosbbq.com. Call 815-933-7500.

The Bennett-Curtis House

The folks at Bennett-Curtis are planning “Heat and Serve” holiday meals for their guests this year. Not only are they going to help prepare meals for you, but they are hosting another “Holiday at Hogwarts” in December and January.

The chefs at Bennett-Curtis House will be using premium, high-quality products to prepare food. Let the chefs do the cooking while you are enjoying the holiday with your guests. The dinner will serve four to six people for $79.99; the dinners come cold and be reheated at your convenience. The Holiday Feast includes homemade tomato bisque soup and freshly baked dinner rolls.

Guests will choose from several entrée selections:

Order a premium turkey entrée that will be served with cranberry relish. Order a half or whole turkey that will be cooked, carved and ready to heat and serve. How easy is that!

If you are tired of turkey, try the glazed ham that will be garnished with pineapples, just like Grandma used to make. The ham is already cooked, sliced and ready to heat and serve.

Or step out of the box and try a roasted pork loin served with their homemade cranberry sauce. The loin is slow cooked, sliced and ready to heat and serve.

Not only will you get a delicious entrée, but your choice of four sides including mashed potatoes, twice-baked potatoes and gravy, au gratin potatoes, candied yams, stuffing, whole green beans, corn green bean casserole, mac and cheese or mostaccioli marinara.

But wait – there’s more! Guests get a choice of one dessert: a whole pumpkin pie, apple pie or homemade bread pudding, which is fabulous!

They have so many other items to order as well. It’s as easy as their apple pie! To order, visit BennettCurtis.com or call 815-465-2288.

More on Holiday at Hogwarts in my next column.