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Add fun, easy recipes to holiday buffet
Happy Thanksgiving. Today is a day to give thanks for all the good in our lives, to enjoy that big beautiful turkey with all the trimmings, family, friends and hopefully lots of delicious pie.
Many of you will be planning the traditional day of shopping tomorrow. It is too late to share my Thanksgiving recipes, so let's talk about the upcoming holiday parties.
Enjoy this time with family and friends, because in a week, the parties begin. It seems there is a party for every occasion: one for school, one for co-workers, one for spouses' work, one with girlfriends and one for each group you belong to. The hectic pace of parties can make you want to stay at home and throw your own.
What do you remember most about the holiday parties you have attended? Is it the food, the decorations, the songs that were sung or the people you shared it with? I would like to share one of my most memorable holiday parties, but we must go back in time quite a few years.
I was about 6 years old and we had gone to the family ranch in Eagleville for Christmas. Usually we would go for Thanksgiving, but this year Mom and Dad said we would be spending Christmas with Grandma at the ranch. As with all children who travel on Christmas, my biggest fear was that Santa Claus might not find us at my grandmother's house. Mom and Dad reassured us over and over on the 12-hour ride that the elves would let Santa know where we were.
We arrived and the snow was falling. Grandma said there should be enough on the ground to ride to the Christmas Eve party at the Grange Hall in the sled pulled by Coco the horse. The excitement of that ride overtook the fear of Santa not finding us. I remember watching out Grandma's big windows as the snow kept falling, until the trees in the apple orchard were coated with snow and you could no longer see the green of the grass. Dad said if it did not melt, tomorrow we would be riding in the sleigh just like Santa did.
The next morning, there was snow everywhere. That afternoon, Dad pulled the sled out of the barn to prepare it for the ride to town. There was a special harness lined with bells. Dad told us how his father had made this to be used on Christmas, New Year's and weddings. Grandma and Mom had been baking all day on the wood stove. Cookies, cakes, candy and popcorn balls were placed in a basket to take to the party. Bundled up in the warmest of our clothes, Dad lifted us up into the sled. With the sleigh bells ringing, the snow falling and my Dad holding the reins, we took that magical one-mile ride to the Christmas Eve party.
In a small town like Eagleville, everyone comes to the parties. The whole town was there. We bobbed for apples, played games, sang Christmas carols, danced and ate the many goodies that each family had prepared that day to share. At midnight we all walked across the lane to the church where midnight services were held. Coming home after the service was just as magical. The sky was clear and the stars were bright. I don't remember arriving home after that special Christmas party, only the feel of my dad's strong and safe arms carrying me upstairs to bed. And yes, the next morning Santa had found us.
As this holiday season approaches, remember to take time to enjoy the reason we are celebrating. As I help people plan their parties, I find that many are so busy shopping and going from one event to the other that everyone is forgetting to have the fun that the holidays are meant to be.
If you do plan to host a party this season, make it as easy on yourself as possible. You do want to enjoy the event and your friends. Make lists, lots of lists. Who is invited, decorations you will need. Will you be preparing the whole menu, and what will you serve? The more details that you work out before the day of the party, the more you will be able to enjoy when the party day arrives.
When planning your party, you may even want to include a few of my clients' favorite party foods:
Roasted Stuffed Mushrooms
48 mushrooms about 1-½ inch round
1 package chopped frozen spinach (10 oz.) thawed and squeezed dry
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
4 ounces feta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
¼ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375.
Clean and then pop the stems out of the mushrooms. Place in bowl and lightly coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place rounded side down on sheet pans that have been lined with foil. Bake mushrooms until centers fill with liquid (about 15 minutes). Turn mushrooms over and bake another 10 minutes.
In heavy skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of oil, sauté onions until tender. Transfer to bowl and mix in spinach, feta, cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and crushed red pepper. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper.
Fill mushrooms with a heaping teaspoon of filing. Bake until heated through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to platter and serve.
Stuffed mushrooms can be prepared a day ahead; be sure to cover and refrigerate.
Orange Caprese Salad
(Adapted from Taste of Home)
I did a Taste of Home inspired dinner for NIE. One of the recipes I used was beautiful, fresh, tasty, and everyone loved it. I used navel oranges instead of the blood oranges as the ones I found were just too tart for my liking. This salad will be my salad of choice for this holiday season. You will have leftover dressing; so far I have found it wonderful on ice cream and pancakes.
1 cup pomegranate juice
2/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Fresh greens for each salad
4 medium oranges, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch slices
6 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan, combine the pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half. Remove from the heat. Stir in brown sugar. Cool to room temperature.
Line six salad plates with lettuce; top with orange and cheese slices. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil and 2 teaspoons pomegranate syrup. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and salt.
Two fun desserts for your holiday buffet that are easy enough to include the children:
Pioneer Woman's Easy Caramel Sauce:
1 packed cup brown sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Mix the brown sugar, half-and-half, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker. (I like to dip grapes in to see it the sauce has thickened enough to stick to grape.) Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further.
Once the caramel is made, place green grapes on toothpicks and dip into the caramel. Have a bowl of ground up peanuts to dip them in and a fun unusual dessert is done. I like to serve these on peanuts so if anyone at your party might be allergic to peanuts, there will be no doubt in their mind that peanuts are involved with this dessert.
White Chocolate Peppermint Bark
This is so easy and quick to make, not only will you have it at your party but maybe make bags of it for the guests to take home. Can also be made with dark chocolate or milk chocolate.
Crushed candy canes, to yield 1 cup
2 pounds white chocolate
Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller.
Place chocolate in microwave-proof bowl. Microwave for one minute, take out and stir. Depending on the strength of your oven, another minute may be needed.
Once chocolate is melted, add candy cane chunks and stir Pour onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and let set till firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces.
Karla Billdt is owner of Karla's Kreations, A Personal Chef and Catering Service. Her web page is www.chefkarla.net and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.