Throw a lavish holiday party the easy way

  • By Alison Ladman Associated Press
  • Thursday, December 12, 2013 2:55pm
  • Life

Fantasizing about throwing a big holiday bash but fearful you’ll spend the whole party — or worse, the whole week — in the kitchen prepping? We’ve got you covered.

We’ve assembled an easy mix-and-match approach to holiday entertaining. An hour or so of prep and you’ll have enough nibbles to feed a crowd in high style.

Here’s how it works: We’ve divided the menu into 10 “base” ingredients. Each ingredient is paired with three simple suggestions for dressing it up for the party. All you need to do is pick enough base ingredients to feed your crowd, then decide how you’d like to prepare each. A little shopping, a little prepping, then you’re ready to party.

Many of these options make easy dips, spreads or other toppings for bread, so when you make that trip to the grocer, round out the menu with a variety of crackers and baguettes or pita bread that can be sliced and toasted.

Brie

1. Top a round of brie with purchased fig jam and toasted pecans.

2. Top slices of brie on a platter with a quick fresh herb sauce (puree ½ cup parsley, ½ cup chives and ¼ cup cilantro with ¼ cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, season with salt and black pepper).

3. Place a round of brie in a small, shallow baking dish. Bake at 250 F for 10 minutes, then top with fresh berries and drizzle with warmed orange marmalade.

Goat cheese

1. Spread on slices of baguette, then broil for 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Top with sliced strawberries and black pepper.

2.Stuff into Peppadew or sweet cherry peppers.

3.Top a log of goat cheese with crumbled bacon and thinly sliced scallions.

Manchego cheese

1. Skewer cubes of manchego with Castelvetrano olives and grape tomatoes.

2. Stuff pitted dates with a piece of manchego, then wrap each date with half a slice of prosciutto. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Make a slaw by slicing fennel paper thin, shredding manchego, then tossing both with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar, salt and black pepper.

Asparagus

Start by arranging the spears (bottoms trimmed) on a baking sheet, misting them with cooking spray, then roasting for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Then:

1. Toss with thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes and a bit of the oil from the jar they were packed in.

2. Toss with a vinaigrette made from 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 2 cloves minced garlic, salt and black pepper.

3. Toss with hoisin sauce and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions.

Roasted red peppers

Save yourself time and trouble by using jarred. Just drain them well and pat dry with paper towels.

1. Finely dice and toss the peppers with the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano and 2 cloves minced garlic.

2. Slice and mix with 4 mashed anchovies, 2 tablespoons rinsed chopped capers and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes.

3. Make a roasted red pepper chimichurri pesto. In a food processor, combine a 12-ounce jar of red peppers (drained), ½ cup fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, ¼ cup fresh mint, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Pulse until finely chopped.

Pitted Kalamata olives

1. Marinate 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives in 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, the zest and juice of 1 orange, and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.

2. Finely chop 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives and mix with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic, 2 tablespoons chives, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spoon over purchased hummus.

3. In a food processor, combine ½ cup olives, 4 ounces cream cheese, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, salt and black pepper.

Grapes

1. Roast red grapes on a rimmed baking sheet for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Toss with 1 tablespoon balsamic glaze, 1 tablespoon honey and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint.

2. Cut green grapes in half, then toss with marinated artichoke hearts.

3. Freeze individual grapes on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with cinnamon and sugar.

Shrimp

Start with chilled cooked, shelled shrimp.

1. Toss with diced mango, cucumber, lime juice and minced jalapeno.

2. Serve with a light dressing made of mayonnaise, roasted garlic and Dijon mustard.

3. Toss with purchased pesto and diced sweet bell pepper.

Cooked chicken breast

1. Shred and toss with barbecue sauce spiked with smoked paprika and diced apples. Serve warm.

2. In a food processor, chop together 1 green bell pepper, 2 stalks of celery, 2 scallions, 2 tablespoons fresh thyme and ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Mix in finely chopped chicken breast, 2 tablespoons olive oil, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, salt and black pepper.

3. Thinly slice cooked and cooled chicken breasts crosswise to form thin medallions. Spoon hot pepper jelly onto each piece, then sprinkle with chopped salted peanuts.

Roasted mushrooms

Start by roasting 8 ounces of crimini or button mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet for 12 minutes at 450 degrees.

1. Make a mushroom pate by blending the mushrooms in a food processor with ¼ cup heavy cream and a hefty pinch of salt and black pepper. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme and ¼ cup minced salami.

2. Stuff with a blend of crumbled cooked bacon, chopped walnuts, feta cheese and minced fresh marjoram.

3. Whisk together 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and a hefty pinch of black pepper. Toss the mushrooms in this mixture.

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