HOLIDAY PARTIES!!! WOOH! Good food, good company and lots of fancy holiday cocktail cheer! It should be a relaxing and enjoyable time to get together with those you love, but often the unsung host gets lost in translation, catering to everyone's needs and doing last minute prep work in the kitchen. It's a sad thing when you spend lots of time and effort and can't enjoy the fruits of your labor. From my little bit of experience this season I have picked up a few tips for hosting parties so you can make your cake AND eat it too.
1. PLAN AHEAD: Sit down at least a few weeks in advance and make a game plan. What you are planning to make, what you are planning to do with the venue, when you are going grocery shopping, what you need to pick up, when to start preparations and a 'day of' schedule. Make things in advance! This will save you time and stress.
2. GO EASY: On the appetizers, plan things that are simple. It is always nice to have something to nibble at with cocktails and drinks, but there is no need to go above and beyond. The real star of the party should be the main course, so allocate your time and resources to that.
3. DON'T GO IT ALONE: Ask for help! Yes it is your party, and you want to be the all-star-host, but you don't have to do it all alone. Have guests bring side dishes or mini desserts. Also, don't neglect store bought quick-fixes. Add your own special touches and no one will know that it wasn't from scratch.
My appetizer picks:
--Spiced Nuts: So easy to make and impressive. I like cinnamon sugar roasted almonds: beat an egg white, toss almonds to coat, add cinnamon sugar and mix, spread out on a baking sheet and place in the oven at 250 for 45 minutes (stirring half way through the baking process).
--Crudites and Dip: Mixed [eppers, broccoli, carrots and celery provide a colorful and light appetizer. I like to serve them on a platter around a bowl of hummus. It is a light and crunchy bite that is no-fuss and no mess.
--Cheese: Have three or four cheese and cracker combinations. Make sure to take the cheese out of the fridge an hour or so before to come to room temperature. A cheese board never fails to satisfy and having a variety looks like you spent time on it. Add some dried fruits and grapes as garnish.
--Dips: There are so many pre-made dips that are perfect for parties. Have two or three bowls with a variety of dips (put small spoons in the dish so people don't create a mess ) and surround with blue, red and yellow corn chips. It looks fantastic!
--Crab Cakes: It is always nice to have some sort of fish on an appetizer spread. Shrimp is easy, but dull and overdone. If you are going to go above and beyond on one appetizer make crab cakes. You can make them in advance and they only take about 10 minutes on broil in the oven to finish. They can sit out for a long time and are little bites of flavor.