Archive for the ‘Holiday Entertaining’ Category

Halloween Entertaining For Adults – Keep It Lighthearted And Fun

November 4th 2010

halloween

Who says Halloween is just for kids? It is also one of the most fun nights of the year for adults too. You can thrill your guests with a frightful meal and entertainment while the kids are out trick-or-treating with their friends. You can make your party as silly or upstanding as you want depending upon whom you invite.

Since most people expect the outrageous on Halloween though, it’s a great time to abandon the stuffy dinner parties and cut loose for the night. That helps if you decorate your home with spooky accessories like giant spiders, glowing skulls, and detached arms. Have your dinner guests wear costumes so they understand the evening will be lighthearted.

This is not the occasion for your good WMF flatware and dinnerware though. In fact, you can buy delightful disposable plates and utensils created in Halloween colors with cute graphics. Disposable dinnerware will make your clean-up job a lot easier too. There are all kinds of interesting foods you can serve at a Halloween party. A quick search online will have your head spinning with ideas.

Not only can you get creative with the food you serve, you can also create some interesting drinks and cocktails that fit in with the occasion. When it comes to Halloween entertaining, lighthearted and fun is the way to go. It is the one time you can relax a little and not worry about what dinnerware to use or how to make interesting small talk.

If you are not very experienced at entertaining or hosting dinner parties, then Halloween is a great time to start. No one will expect you to be perfect and thanks to the nature of the holiday, you can let your quirky side shine through without offending anyone. That means you will have less stress and more fun at your party.

Posted by admin under Halloween & Holiday Entertaining | 1 Comment »

Have a Healthy Valentine’s Day

February 10th 2010

heart Have a Healthy Valentines DayInstead of braving the crowds out at the finest restaurants, try making dinner at home. You know that it’s not a romantic to be in a huge crowd of people all trying to woo their spouse at the same time.

Long waits and rushed service makes this day one of the worst to eat out on anyhow. At home you have complete control over what goes into your special meal.

Instead of wine or alcoholic cocktails buy a flavored sparkling water. Make a mock-tail using organic juices and fresh herbs. Try a mock mojito using lime sparkling water, lime juice, and fresh mint. It’s just as good as the original.

Start out with a low calorie shrimp cocktail. You can  buy some pre-cooked frozen ones, and it’s as simple as thawing them out in the fridge. Fancy it up by placing them around the rim of a Noritake Kona footed bowl. Add a dollop of cocktail sauce and your appetizer is ready to go.

Get some bagged field greens and top with dried cranberries, goat cheese, and slivered almonds. This makes a beautiful salad and really dresses up your table. Serve with a low fat balsamic dressing and a whole wheat dinner roll.

Pasta always has a part in a romantic meal. In stores it’s becoming easier to find whole wheat pasta. At my local Whole Foods store they have a low fat whole wheat cheese ravioli that’s amazing. Warm up a bottle of organic marinara. Toss in some veggies to make this another pretty plate. You can even use a frozen bag of California mix that contains broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Of course, any fresh veggies you have on hand will work. The veggies add great nutrition and fill you up, so try to have extra veggies whenever you can.

You can cheat a little on dessert and get a couple of individual flour-less chocolate cakes. Trader Joe’s has them. They aren’t expensive and you can pop them in the oven at any time during your meal. My favorite option is fresh berries. They are a special treat in the winter. Fresh raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries make a colorful dessert all by themselves. Add a spoonful of whipped cream and elevate them to a perfect Valentine treat. Make it from scratch and add a few drop of vanilla extract.

After a candle lit dinner at home, you may find yourself staying in more often for special occasions. It will save you money and keep you healthier all through the year!

Posted by Myriam under Holiday Entertaining & Hostessing & Occasions & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

Breakfast on Christmas Morning

December 23rd 2009

jgs christmassparkle  Breakfast on Christmas MorningWe can all remember waking up on Christmas morning when we were little. It’s always magical to wake up with the sun and run in to see what Santa left you under the tree. But we’re the grownups now and while that doesn’t dampen the excitement, it does mean we need to think about making breakfast!

If you’re a planner you can put on a slow cooker of cranberry-orange oatmeal in the slow cooker. Serve it with some toasted pecans and extra dried cranberries on the side. If you normally pour milk over your oatmeal, try using orange juice instead. Another great variation is to make a spiced oatmeal, top with eggnog and freshly grated nutmeg.

If eggs are more your style try making a southwest breakfast casserole that has eggs, sausage, peppers and cheese. It needs to cook for 8 hours, so you can put it together the night before and wake up to a hearty breakfast. You could also cook up a quiche a day or two before and serve it warm or at room temperature with some sliced oranges, pears, and apples.

Of course you can make waffles or pancakes. They don’t take that much time to make from scratch and the varieties are endless. Try making gingerbread waffles or chocolate chip pancakes topped with minty crushed candy canes.

If you want something sweet that’s even easier French toast may be the answer. My favorite holiday variation is to mix the eggs with eggnog and nutmeg.  Then dip the thick sliced bread in. You could also use slices of stollen or panettone to soak up the custard for an interesting twist.

Muffins are always a favorite in my house. I try to freeze a few from my weekly batch so I can just heat up homemade muffins whenever I need them. Gingerbread, cranberry-apple, apple topped with candied walnuts, chocolate-banana, the sky’s the limit. Take a look on foodgawker.com and do a search on muffins. I’m sure you’ll find a few combination you would have never thought of.

Another favorite of mine is breakfast burritos. I stuff mine with scrambled eggs and potatoes mixed with a smokey chipolte salsa. Make sweet quesadillas by spreading the tortillas with nutella and then toast them in your pan. It’s similar to a crepe.

No matter what you make serve it up on your best Noritake dinnerware. You’ll feel elegant even if you’re in your fuzzy slippers.

Posted by Myriam under Holiday Entertaining & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

The Season of Giving

December 22nd 2009

bow The Season of GivingIt’s easy to keep your head down, hold your breath, and just get through the holidays to the other side. Sometimes the season just doesn’t seem as much fun as it did when we were kids. We let our obligations remove us from the enjoyment.

Don’t try to do everything and don’t try to do more than you really can. We are all Martha Stewart wannabes, but remember that you don’t have a staff of people like she does.

Hanging out with your friends can help drag you back into the holiday spirit. Often the holidays become more about marking things off a list than really giving of yourself. Talk to your friends about volunteering together for the holidays. You could serve food at a mission or soup kitchen. They always need extra help around the holidays. Another option is to help out a food pantry by scheduling some time there. This year the food pantries have been hit hard serving more people than expected.

Of course, you can always donate money if time is not an option. The purpose of this is to get that spirit of loving your neighbors and helping those who need it, anyway you can.

If you are handy you could look into Habitat for humanity or another organization that helps elderly people do painting and repairs on their houses. Or maybe you want to start something that can last all year. Check out idealist.org for hundreds of opportunities you can search for by location and type of skills required. Another wonderful source is Volunteermatch.org.

You and your friends can also adopt a family to bring presents and Christmas dinner to. Children who would go without if you don’t help. Most of us have so much in our lives and it only makes it better when we share it with others.

Posted by Myriam under Holiday Entertaining & Occasions | No Comments »

White Elephant Exchange

December 19th 2009

elephant White Elephant ExchangeI love to do a white elephant exchange at my holiday get togethers. You want to have at least 5 or 6 people to make it fun, but there is no limit to have many people can participate above that. Each person needs to bring a wrapped present so it’s a surprise for the person opening it. As people arrive you will put all the gifts on a table to be picked later.

It’s often more of a funny gift exchange that happens at most holiday work parties. You can do a gag gifts if you want, but you can also tell people a theme and to bring things they would really want to take home themselves. As in any gift exchange you will want to set a price range so everyone is on the same page.

Personally, I love the funny kind. In the past I’ve gotten usb fuzzy-bear-hand-warmers, a ceramic moose, and boxes of chocolates. Watching someone open a silly gift can really bring laughter back into this stressful season. You’ll be surprised at what becomes the most wanted gift!

The white elephant exchange starts with each person picking a number from a bowl. There will be a table with all the gifts wrapped up for people to select from so people don’t know what’s in them. After all it’s supposed to be a surprise.

The person who picked number one will pick a gift from the table, open it, and show it to everyone. The next person (#2) gets to decide if they want to ‘steal’ number 1′s gift or pick one to unwrap themselves. If number 1′s gift is taken they choose another gift from the pile and starts all over.

There are a few rules and you may find that some people feel strongly about their variations. I say go by the host’s rules. Everyone has a rule that states that you can’t steal back a gift that was just stolen from you. Meaning if person 1 can’t immediately steal back their gift if person 2 took it. This continues throughout the numbers people selected.

One variation is that after all the gifts are open person 1 gets to decide if they want to keep their gift or steal someone else’s. If they steal one then that person steals one, and so on.

Most people agree that the third time a gift is stolen it’s out of the game and with a really large group of people it’s important. As you can see this game can take a long time if people keep stealing from one another. But that’s part of the fun!

Posted by Myriam under Gifts & Holiday Entertaining & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

Secret Santa Party

December 16th 2009

santa cat Secret Santa PartyShow your friends that you’re thinking of them this holiday season without breaking the bank. It’s nice to buy presents for everyone if you can afford it, but there are ways to spend less money and still have a ton of fun.

The traditional secret Santa requires a little planning but it’s not too late. Each person only buys one present and everyone leaves with something just for them. I like secret Santa because you can match people together and all but assure that everyone’s holiday will be a little happier. Of course you can also leave it up to fate and have people draw form a bag (or you can download a program that duplicates it right on your computer).

Either way you can send out email to let people know who they are buying for. It’s best to have a price range. Usually under 20 dollars, but if someone is making something make sure they take their time into account too. In fact if your friends are crafty you could have a completely handmade exchange.

You can arrange your party around an exchange theme if you want. Exchange ornaments, liquors, funny shirts, anything that you think all of your friends would like. This year I’m focusing on handmade items for my friends. Check out instructables.com or http://blog.craftzine.com/ for great crafty ideas.

Have everyone bring their favorite holiday dish for a nice buffet spread and put out on your bright red Pimento sengware dinnerware to create the perfect table. Ahead of time mix a nice drink with a bottle of sparkling wine and Chambord in a pitcher for a festive red drink. Also grab some lime sparking water and add some cranberry juice for your non-alcoholic alternative that’s just as pretty.

Send out an evite about your little soirée and give all the pertinent details to your friends. No matter how you decide to exchange gifts you will all enjoy celebrating the holidays together.

Posted by Myriam under Gifts & Holiday Entertaining & Occasions & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

Food and Cooking Holiday Gifts

December 9th 2009

gift Food and Cooking Holiday GiftsI love to give gifts and try to sprinkle them in all during the year. Buying gifts can be one of the hardest tasks during the holidays if you didn’t plan far enough ahead. One of the things I do is start filling up my gift closet the day after Christmas to prepare for next year. (And all the birthdays in between!) It also spreads the cost across the whole year. I don’t know about you but I have to buy for 4 birthdays in early January in addition to Christmas presents.

But it’s December now, and you can’t go back in time and have all your shopping done. Avoid breaking the bank with some of these inexpensive gift ideas.

Gifts from and for the kitchen are always welcome. Think about your friend and what they love to have in their kitchen. A collection of hot sauces for a chili pepper lover, fresh herb seeds or a few herb plants for the locavore in your life, or even a slow cooker for someone that’s having trouble fitting cooking into their schedule. An inexpensive slow cooker and/or rice cooker can really help out a spread-thin Mom everyday to cook for her whole family.

Don’t forget that a tin of holiday cookies or gingerbread can bring the holiday smells into a house that might otherwise go without. This is especially welcomed by elderly relatives or neighbors, students, and new parents. If you know that someone really likes your special muffins or another signature dish of yours, make a nice recipe card for them and include it in a basket of the ingredients to make the dish.

If you have a sick relative or even just an overwhelmed friend, you could fill their freezer with individual homemade microwave dinners. Make some extra for your freezer too and you’ll be assured to start the new year off eating right.

If you have a friend that was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, a great gluten free baking book like ‘Babycakes’ would be a huge help. A basket full of gluten-free holiday goodies would go pretty far too! It can be really hard to avoid wheat during the holidays, so you’ll really be giving them the holiday they didn’t think they would have this year.

The old stand by of coupons for one of their favorite home-cooked meals is still a perfect gift. The most important thing to keep in mind is that a gift supports the person’s lifestyle and hopefully makes it just a little bit easier.

Posted by Myriam under Gifts & Holiday Entertaining & Occasions | No Comments »

Make Holiday Cards with Your Friends

December 3rd 2009

christmascard1 Make Holiday Cards with Your FriendsAs you already know, I love to combine things. Almost any chore can be be made fun with a party and friends to work around. In fact, sometimes I even go grocery shopping with friends! Holiday cards can be a tough task for people like me who aren’t so good at getting things into the mail.

Selecting a card can be just as bad. So many boxed cards are geared to specific holiday traditions that aren’t necessarily appropriate for all of your friends. That’s why I’m having a holiday card making party this year.

You’ll need to get a few basic supplies at your local craft store. You can buy paper that is already cut and folded into a card size, or you could buy plain paper and make them in any size and shape you can think of. You can also buy ready made envelopes or make your own.

Pick up a few holiday themed stamps and colored stamp pads. If you have it in your budget, pick up a glue stamp pad and some glitter. It’s awesome to add somebling to your card. You could make paper snowflake cut outs and glue onto your card.

Still not feeling so inspired? Try looking at some of Martha’s cards, which are always breath taking.

This is a perfect party to have your friends bring the kids along. They love to create things and will inspire all your guests – including the adults. Have a sparkling cider or pour sparkling water into a glass half full of cranberry juice for some dressed up drinks for the kids. Go ahead and pop the cork on some champagne for the adults. Have a little Chambord to top the adults sparkly drink for an extra burst of flavor.

You may want to avoid the finger foods or you’ll find grease stains on your beautiful cards. If you think it’s a must, have the finger snacks before or after the card making session. I usually tend to have a cornbread topped chili pie or something thick that you eat with a fork. Of course, the kids should eat before they start making cards no matter what you are serving.

Ask everyone to bring Christmas stamps and you can address the cards and send them all off together in the morning. Have a nice dessert to celebrate your completed cards with. A super quick mousse can be made with a box of silken tofu, and a large handful of melted chocolate chips all blended in a food processor. Add a tablespoon of your favorite liquor and take it to the next level. I promise you, no one will know that it’s a healthy dessert and it takes less time to make than instant pudding!

Posted by Myriam under Children & Holiday Entertaining & Hostessing & Occasions & Party Food & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

Throw an Ornament Making Party

November 30th 2009

dinnerware ornament Throw an Ornament Making PartyEver since I was in college I’ve hosted an annual Christmas tree decorating party. I’d buy a live tree and all my friends would make ornaments out of things they had around the house. You’d be surprised at how creative you can get when you don’t have the money to run out and buy ornaments. Cotton ball snowmen with felt cut out for their faces, paper cut out snowflakes, fresh oranges with cloves stuck in them all make an unique tree.

Now I have a whole supply of crafting supplies and tools, not to mention access to half price Michaels’ coupons. You can still make popcorn balls, string fresh cranberries, and create paper doll angels. But there’s a wide variety of crafting ideas for you to choose from. You can make ornaments from wire, cereal boxes, silk flowers, beads, yarn, and more. Need some help getting you ideas into reality? Disney’s Family Fun site has a ton of great ornament tutorials. I love the felted wreath one myself.

Decide on a few specific ornaments to make and purchase the supplies ahead of time. It’s a good idea to cover your dinner table with plastic bags and tape them securely underneath. If you will have kids at the party, you might want to put down a drop cloth too. It won’t make you happy if you have red paint on your beige carpet. But with the right precautions, there will be nothing to worry about.

Put on Christmas music to set the atmosphere. If your prefer play a few old Christmas movies or cartoons. Either way it will set the mood for your party. Make a Crockpot full of hot apple cider. Add cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, whole peppercorns, and orange rind to make it taste really special. You can have a nice rum or bourbon for adults to add to theirs if they want. Next year I bet someone will ask you to make it again. It’s always popular at my house during the holidays.

People work up an appetite creating ornaments, so you’ll need to make some snacks. A tray of finger sandwiches is always a welcome sight. Make sure to include something for vegetarians, and make a few lettuce wraps if you have any friends with a gluten allergy. You can use the same fillings in the lettuce wraps. Bib lettuce or iceberg hold up the best as a wrap. They will all look beautiful arranged on a Noritake holiday plate. Assorted bar cookies are another winner. Peppermint brownies and cranberry blondies are beautiful additions to your spread. Your table will be all dressed up for Christmas as well.

Posted by Myriam under Decorations & Holiday Entertaining & Hostessing & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

Throw a Leftover Party

November 27th 2009

dinnerwareturkey Throw a Leftover PartyChances are no matter where you were yesterday for Thanksgiving, you have leftovers. Even if you didn’t host dinner, you probably had a bag of leftovers packed up and sent with you. Relatives and friends alike love to think they’re helping us out. Especially when they are overwhelmed with leftovers themselves.

You could heat and eat the same old meal. Or you can think of each dish as a single ingredient and create some new dishes in a mini Iron Chef competition with yourself. By creating new dishes you’ll stretch your food budget, and surprise yourself with your creativity.

Have a pizza shell in the fridge or some dough in the freezer? Try making pizza with some of your leftovers. Try bbq turkey with shredded turkey, pre-made bbq sauce, chopped onions and bell pepper. Add some drained, canned pineapple if you’re feeling adventurous. You could also toss some turkey in pesto sauce spread over a crust, top it off with crumbled goat cheese and some leftover cranberry sauce. Make a vegetarian pizza with sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce on a crust covered in a garlic butter sauce.

Pasta is another great option. You could make a left over casserole with whole wheat ziti, turkey, leftover veggies, Use leftover gravy or a mushroom sauce to bind everything together. Toast leftover dressing and crumble over the top.

Turkey lasagna with a sweet potato cream sauce and spinach is another favorite. Or try egg noodles combined with turkey and green bean casserole – add a little milk to loosen it up if needed.

Have some leftover creamed corn? Try mixing it with diced pepperoncini peppers, and some turkey or grilled shrimp. Toss the mixture with angel hair pasta. Creamed corn is also the perfect base for a corn chowder. Just add milk, diced red peppers, cubed potatoes, more frozen corn if needed, and some fresh thyme. It’s my favorite cold weather soup.

If you made the turkey at your house this year, you can use the carcass to make turkey broth. It freezes great. You can put it in quart containers, or freeze in ice cube trays and store in Ziploc bags. It’s great to be able to take out a few cubes of stock at a time. Much better than opening a carton of stock for a few tablespoons worth.

Don’t forget the power of omelets. Any of the mixtures above would work great. Turkey and goat cheese is one of my favorites, but you can use any cheese you have on hand. Omelets are perfect for using up the tiniest leftovers.

Take these ideas and invite some of your friends over for a Thanksgiving leftover party. It just may be the least expensive party you’ve thrown all year!

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Holiday Entertaining & Hostessing & Occasions & Recipes | No Comments »

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