The holidays are the perfect time to get together with friends and family…and it used to be that the thought of having the get together at my house scared me to death. I’ve come up with a few easy ways to make it less overwhelming and lots of fun – for both me and my guests.
First, pick a theme. While it sounds like something that should be reserved just for your kid’s parties, it’s one of the keys to reducing stress. Picking a theme like Italian, Mexican or Barbecue will help focus your food, drink and decoration choices. It will also help you decide whether you’re up for a sit down dinner or more of a family/buffet style type setting.
One safe appetizer is a cheese platter. Offer three choices of cheeses – mild, medium and strong (we call it ‘stinky’). In this photo, the ‘mild’ cheese is Brie which is a soft, generally mild cheese made from cow’s milk. The ‘medium’ cheese is an Applewood smoked cheddar. The strong (or stinky) cheese is Gorgonzola but you can use a Bleu Cheese.
*tip – when looking for a stinky white cheese, the more blue marbling the stronger the flavor*
I add fruit and various nuts to a cheese platter because the sweet fruit and the crunch of the nuts gives a nice contrast to the creaminess of the cheese. The best fruits would be sliced pears or in this case grapes. Pears are really better but I always forget to douse them in lemon juice to stop them from browning and honestly, nothing’s more unappealing than brown fruit, right? For the nuts, pecans and walnuts (preferably unsalted) are always good choices.
Choose mild flavored crackers like water crackers or most grocery stores offer an “entertaining assortment” of crackers. To save money, get the generic store brand because no one will know the difference.
One of the most popular appetizers by far are Pie Crust Circles. I saw them in a magazine awhile ago and they’re super easy and appeal to every (picky) palate. Buy premade pie crust in the refrigerator section in your grocery store. Cut them into circles using a round cookie cutter or an upside-down drinking glass. Press the circles into the bottom of a muffin tin and bake at 450 for about nine minutes. You can top them with ANYthing! Chopped up tomato, garlic and basil and it’s a bruschetta bite. Top with a small piece of beef and a dollop of horseradish or a piece of shrimp with a little cocktail sauce. Top with a meatball and marinara sauce…the ideas are endless.
If you’re short on time and pick up a ready made vegetable tray – which is always a hit – take all the food out of the plastic tray and put it on something of your own. It will look nicer and will make your guests feel like you put a little extra thought into their visit.
Keep your drinks to:
1. A theme drink – again it can match whatever the menu is…margaritas (non-alcoholic if desired and Sangria or Italian sodas)
2. Beer and Wine. A party punch is always nice, again it helps give your guests the feeling that you’ve put some thought into their visit and made them something special.
Resist offering a full bar! A full bar will not only overwhelm the guests but completely overtake your budget. Remember your guests are there to enjoy time with you and do not need a full bar to have a good time.
Remember to breathe, smile and have fun. If you are having a good time, your guests will relax and have a good time too!
For dinner suggestions go to Christmas Party Food Menu Ideas.