Host A Holly, Jolly Party


If you’re in the mood to host a holiday party but think you don’t have the time — or the budget — think again.

“You don’t need to spend a lot of money to throw a fabulous and memorable event. Keep it simple and special. You and your guests will enjoy it even more,” say Dawn Sandomeno and Elizabeth Mascali, founders of and authors of “Plan to Party” (Yorkshire Publishing 2010).

Here are some tips that will help you throw a stylish, low-stress party that will make your guests merry without spending a bundle.

Go with the Grape — Instead of an open bar, offer a selection of wines that will appeal to different tastes. Try setting up a home wine bar and let guests serve themselves. Provide sparkling water with lemon slices as a refreshing non-alcoholic option.

• To stretch your budget without sacrificing quality, consider wines that are packaged in 3L casks, which offer significant savings over the same wine in bottles. Many premium wines are now available in this format. The Octavin Home Wine Bar collection offers distinctive artisan wines in bottles and casks from France, New Zealand, Germany, Spain and South Africa.

• Plan on serving about two glasses of wine per guest every two hours. A standard 750 ml bottle of wine holds about 5 servings, while a 3L premium cask yields around 20 glasses. The cask has the added benefit that once opened, the wine stays fresh for up to six weeks, so any leftover wine won’t be wasted.

• Have plenty of glasses available and provide festive colored wax pencils so guests can mark their glasses. Inexpensive stemless glasses make for a casual option and work well for all beverages.

To learn more about the Octavin Home Wine Bar Collection, visit www.Octavin

Keep it Simple — Guests won’t be expecting a meal, so set out a variety of appetizers you can prepare well in advance. Determine budget per person ahead of time and try to stick to it. Last minute shopping is always more expensive.

• Stick with finger foods — they’re easier for guests to manage, which lets them mix and mingle. And because they don’t require utensils, you have less to clean up afterward.

• Don’t go overboard — 3 or 4 types of appetizers are plenty. Plan for each person to eat around 8 to 10 pieces over two hours.

• Set out a cheese plate with 3 or 4 cheeses of different textures and flavor profiles. Include some fruit and good bread, along with spiced nuts.

• Bite-sized desserts put a sweet finish on the evening. Holiday cookies, festive cupcakes or mini-cheesecake bites let guests indulge without over doing it. Or, ask guests to bring holiday cookies to share.

Make it Special.

• Sounds of the season help set the mood and can be had with a click. Free online sites like Pandora offer playlist options like “Classical Christmas” and “R & B/Pop Holiday.”

• Most importantly, keep out of the kitchen. Set out all the food and drinks before your guests arrive so you can relax and share the holiday cheer with your guests.

• When it comes to decorations, Sandomeno and Mascali advise using what you already have and supplementing with a few inexpensive basics such as candles, glass vases and gold accents. “The simple combination of candlelight and gold makes everything shine,” say the party experts.


Family Features photo

Roasted Rosemary Cashews

Roasted Rosemary Cashews

Time: 15 minutes total; makes 3 cups

1-1/2 pounds roasted cashews

3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place nuts on ungreased baking sheet and bake for around 10 minutes until warm. Combine fresh rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and butter in a bowl and add in the warm nuts. Coat completely. Serve warm.

Suggested Wine Pairing: Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc

Source: Octavin

When it comes to celebrations, there’s no season quite like the holiday season.

The celebration experts from Wilton share party tips and irresistible recipes to help create a fabulous cocktail buffet complete with all the trimmings.

“It looks like it would take lots of time and effort, but it really doesn’t,” says Nancy Siler, vice president of consumer affairs at Wilton. “We’ve worked out all the details to make it easy, elegant and delicious.”

Siler suggests setting up a beverage station so guests can serve themselves, or recruit a friend to help prepare and serve your signature cocktails — sugar-rimmed Cheery Cranberry Mojitos and colorful All Aglow Melon-tinis that twinkle with sparkle gel. And for a warm beverage choice, offer rich, thick hot chocolate garnished with frosty snowmen, peppermint curls or chocolate candy-coated marshmallows.

“When it comes to the food, a mix of savory and sweet is a must,” Siler adds. “Tree-shaped Merry Mushroom Bites and tiny Savory Southwest Donuts piped with avocado to resemble a wreath will wow both the eye and the palate. For another unexpected twist on tradition, stack peppery spritz crackers in a clear glass canister.”

And for the sweets, beautifully decorated snowflake shaped holiday butter cookies are displayed on stacked pedestal plates alongside a bowl of truffles adorned with festive candy drizzles and luminescent pearl dust. Both treats make a fitting finale — and can be made in advance.

For more holiday recipe and decorating ideas, visit

Parmesan Pepper Spritz Crackers

Makes about 7 dozen crackers

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In small bowl, combine flour, black pepper, white pepper and salt. In large bowl, beat cheese, butter and garlic until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture to cheese mixture. Mix until dough forms a ball. Gradually add milk, mixing until fully incorporated. Shape into small logs and place in Cookie Master Ultra II. Using desired disk, press crackers onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet on cooling grid. Remove from sheet and cool completely. Store in airtight container up to 1 week.

Merry Mushroom Bites

Makes 24 bites

1/3 cup diced yellow onion

3 tablespoons butter

12 ounces portobello or baby portobello mushrooms, coarsely diced

4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1-1/4 teaspoons black pepper

3 eggs

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1-1/4 teaspoons salt

1 package (4 ounces) of your favorite snack crackers

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

Chopped rosemary or parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare Bite-Size Silicone Tree Mold with vegetable pan spray.

In large skillet, cook onion and butter over medium-low heat stirring occasionally until soft, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, rosemary and black pepper; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes; cool slightly. Transfer mixture to food processor. Add eggs, flour, and salt. Pulse until mixture is pureed with no large pieces of mushroom or onion. Fill cavities of silicone mold completely with mushroom mixture, patting flat.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until top of the mushroom mixture is firm. Cool in pan 15 minutes; carefully remove and place on cracker. Top with sour cream, sliced red pepper and, if desired, rosemary. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Family Features photo

Beautifully decorated holiday sweets will delight your guests.

Savory Southwest Donuts

Makes about 36 mini donuts

1 tablespoon ground paprika, divided

1-1/2 cups cake flour

1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 garlic clove, finely minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro


1 ripe avocado

1 teaspoon lime juice

Salt to taste

Additional chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray Mini Donut Pan with vegetable pan spray. Lightly sprinkle wells with some of the paprika.

In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder,

cumin, chili powder and salt. In second bowl, whisk together milk, egg, oil, garlic and cilantro. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until flour is moistened. Fill each donut cavity about half full.

Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until the top of the donuts spring back when touched. Let cool in pan 4 to 5 minutes before removing. Wash pan, dry thoroughly and prepare with pan spray and paprika. Repeat with remaining batter.

For topping, mash avocado with lime juice and salt; stir until smooth using a whisk or in a food processor. Pipe avocado mixture over top of cooled donuts. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve immediately.

See step-by-step instructions for Mint Chocolate Chip Truffles, Chocolate Raspberry Chip Truffles and Snowflake Shortbread Cut-Out Cookies on

All Aglow Melon-tinis

Makes 1 cocktail

Wilton Red Sparkle Gel

2 ounces green melon liqueur

1 ounce lemon flavored vodka

1 ounce bottled sour mix

2 ounces club soda

Maraschino cherries (optional)

Squeeze Wilton Red Sparkle Gel around the inside of a martini glass.

In cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine melon liqueur, vodka, sour mix and club soda; shake well. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

Cheery Cranberry Mojitos

Makes 1 cocktail

6 fresh torn mint leaves, plus additional sprigs for garnish

1/2 lime, cut into four wedges

1 tablespoon dried cranberries

2 tablespoons Wilton Red Colored Sugars, plus additional for garnish

2 ounces rum

3 ounces cranberry juice

2 ounces club soda

In tall glass, thoroughly muddle mint leaves, lime wedges, cranberries, and red sugar. Add rum, cranberry juice and club soda and stir. Add ice and additional club soda to fill glass.


Family Features photo

Peppermint Blitz Hot Chocolate

Peppermint Blitz Hot Chocolate

Makes about 4 servings

1 quart (4 cups) milk

1 cup (about 6 ounces) Wilton Dark Cocoa Candy Melts, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

3 ounces chocolate liqueur (optional)

1 ounce peppermint liqueur (optional)

In a large pot over medium-low flame, heat milk and Candy Melts, whisking frequently, until boiling. Remove from heat. Stir in extracts and liqueurs, if using.

Garnish with peppermint sticks or curls or snowman decorations and serve immediately.

Source: Wilton Enterprises

From Family Features


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