'Tis the Season for Holiday Parties

Ready for the guests!

Ready for the guests!

Aloha friends!

The holidays are just around the corner! If you are hosting a holiday party and you are still contemplating what kinds of eats and treats you want to serve, then you will want to check out the suggestions below.

Unfortunately, the weather had to be a brat and cancel my annual Christmas party this year.....womp womp. However, the food could not go to waste and I put my local friends to work... errr well their stomachs that is. I think it is safe to assume everyone left with full, happy tummies! The good news is that I can share with you easy ideas to make your holiday party a hit. Let's get to it:

1. Mulled Wine: This is the perfect drink to hand your guests as they first arrive at your house, particularly if it is a blistery snowy day! With all the spices simmering over your stove, you also have the best air freshener. The smell is heavenly and will be welcoming as your guests arrive.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 750ml bottle Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz
  • 2 oz brandy, optional
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup cranberries 
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 orange, sliced rounds

Directions: Simmer simmer over the stove.

Note: There are so many variations of mulled wine. You can use cranberry juice instead of apple cider, you can add in limes, sugar instead of honey, etc. You can play around with the flavours and make it your own! 

mulled wine.jpg

2. Cheese and fruit platter: Who doesn't love cheese!? Well maybe your vegan friends, but for the most part, putting out cheese and fruit with fresh bread is usually a big hit.  My go-to's are usually brie, goat cheese, hard cheddar, and Boursin (annoying commercials but so delicious). Since I knew my guest list was going to be small, I only served two types of cheese paired with grapes, dates, sun-dried tomato baguette and a festive edible glitter jelly spread. I always love using wooden platter boards to make my cheese board, and this time I garnished with rosemary that I dipped in sugar to give it a crystalline look. If you want you can also add a variety of cured meats, and viola, you have a delicious charcuterie plate.

Note: To get yourself a jar of the edible glitter spread check out Wildly Delicious. I used the Limited Edition "Christmas" Glitter Spread. My guests were like little kids, their eyes widening with excitement at the fact that the spread had glitter.

3. Guacamole: You may be thinking this is an appetizer that is best for summer days, but let me tell you, it is ALWAYS  a hit. I swear my friends are practically licking the bowl dry! Apparently I make mine very peppery, and this goes over well with my friends. All you need is: avacados, fresh limes, red onion, grape tomatoes, salt and pepper. I just add in all the ingredients and go by taste, but I suppose it is safe to assume I put a whole lotta pepper!!!

4. Pulled Chicken or Pork: This is so incredibly easy to make and it does not last long with party guests (they typically go for seconds or thirds). Throw all the ingredients in a slow cooker and let it do its job -- simple! Put out little buns, some sauces, and perhaps some sort of topping. Check out our previous post for a pulled chicken recipe. This time around I made a red cabbage recipe I saw by Jamie Oliver as a garnish or side.

Ingredients

  • 1 red cabbage 
  • 4 rashers of higher-welfare smoked streaky bacon
  • olive oil
  • 2 eating apples, cored and chopped
  • 1 pear, cored and chopped (my addition)
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Handful of dried prunes, pitted
  • Handful of dates (my addition)
  • 1 clementine
  • 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • splash of red wine (my addition)

Directions:

  1. Take off any outer leaves of your cabbage that don't look so great, trim off the base and cut the cabbage into wedges so you can finely slice it.  Chop the bacon and put it in a large deep pan on medium heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil.
  2. When the bacon is crispy add in the rosemary leaves and stir for 1 minute. Remove the bacon and rosemary and save it. 
  3.  Add the fennel seeds, diced apples and pears to the pan, then add in the prunes and dates. Stir and fry for 2 minutes, then finely grate in the clementine zest and squeeze in the juice.
  4. Add the vinegar, wine, and cabbage and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
  5. Cook with a lid ajar on a low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through and a pleasure to eat, stirring well every 5 minutes to help intensify and mix up the flavours.
  6. Serve sprinkled with the crispy bacon and rosemary leaves.

Note: I didn't have smoked bacon so I just used regular bacon. I also added in dates, pears and a splash of red wine.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/red-cabbage/

5. Gingerbread Cookies: These cookies are a staple at this time of year. You can make the dough ahead of time and leave it in the fridge up to a week or freeze it. Then when you are ready to bake, just grab the dough and go! I baked these cookies about ~1hr before my guests arrived and I found the recipe in the holiday Chatelaine magazine.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup fancy molasses

Directions:

  1. Stir flour, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium, for 2 min. Beat in egg and molasses.
  3. Gradually add flour mixture. Divide dough into 4 portions. Form into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out 1 disc of dough on a floured surface to ⅛-in. thickness. Cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Transfer to prepared baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Bake at 350F until deep brown around edges and firm to the touch for ~7-10 minutes depending on the cookie size. 
  6. Sprinkle with icing sugar.

Note: I ran out of ginger so I only used 2 tsp and I used pumpkin spice in place of allspice, since I was out of allspice. 

http://www.chatelaine.com/recipe/desserts/christmas-cookies-gingerbread-cookie-sandwiches/

gingerbread.jpg

6. Meringue Swirls: I also saw these swirls in the holiday Chatelaine magazine and had to make these since they looked so festive. I put them on a plate with Rice Krispie squares I had made and I also used the swirls to decorate the cupcake platter.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract, (optional)
  • Red food colouring

Directions:

  1. Stir sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
  2. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted for ~ 2 min. Gradually beat in sugar mixture, 2 tbsp at a time, until stiff and glossy peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 3 min. Beat in peppermint extract.
  3. Fit a piping bag with a medium star tip. Dip end of a wooden skewer into food colouring and paint 2 thin vertical lines opposite each other inside piping bag. Fill bag with meringue. Pipe 2-in.-wide rosettes about ½ in. high onto parchment, 2 in. apart.
  4. Bake in top third and centre of oven at 200F, switching and rotating sheets halfway through, until tops are firm and bottoms are dry for ~ 2 hrs. Turn off heat and let stand in oven for 1 hour more. Transfer to racks to cool completely.

Note: Meringues will keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Do not refrigerate or freeze.

http://www.chatelaine.com/recipe/desserts/christmas-meringue-swirls/ 

chocolates.jpg

7. Black Forest Cupcakes with Baileys Icing: I don't know why I have not thought to add Baileys to icing, since I am sure this is not a new concept. But I did not know what I was missing! The icing was so delicious that I could not stop eating it from the bowl. I'm surprised any of the icing actually made it to the cupcakes. Check out our previous post for the cupcake recipe. For the icing use 1 cup unsalted butter, 4 cups icing sugar, and a splash of Baileys.

8. Hot Chocolate Bar: If you google or Pinterest the hot chocolate bar, you will find so many variations. The fun part of having one of these is that you can make it however you want. I didn't make mine too fancy, but I did have different hot chocolates to choose from and a bunch of fixings to add.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season.

Happy Hosting!!

xoxo Michelle

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