Stuffed deer heads on walls are bad enough, but it’s worse when they are wearing dark glasses and have streamers in their antlers because then you know they were enjoying themselves at a party when they were shot.-Ellen

December 16, 2008

The holidays are closing in!  I’ve got three gifts so far, haven’t done my cards, and have one day off between now and then.  I’ve got three Christmas parties, my honey’s birthday, and a vet visit and a furniture delivery to squeeze in between now and then, and I’m having the family over on Christmas Eve.  The rest of it may be a bit stressful, but I’m not really sweating having the family over.  Why?  Because I know how to entertain without having to work too hard, or spend too much time in the kitchen when I could be having a glass of wine with my guests!  You don’t have to be a great cook or have a fabulous home to make your holiday entertaining a success…let me teach you a few tricks!

Who, me…cook?!

There are some wonderful, SIMPLE things you can make that will ensure your guests will be eating (and enjoying) while you spend your time socializing.  After all, isn’t the sit down dinner best left to other people to do?  I know I’d rather do the noshie thing and let people wander and chat!  So let me let you in on some of my favorite party recipes (perfect for those who are cooking impaired)!

Fried ravioli

Prepackaged frozen ravioli, eggs, olive oil, bread crumbs, red sauce, grated cheese.  Take the frozen ravioli and cook in boiling water until they star to float.  Remove from water, dip in beaten raw egg, coat in bread crumbs and fry in oil til slightly browned.  Sprinkle lightly with grated cheese and serve with red sauce.  Add sprig of parsley or basil if desired. Total time 20 minutes.

Zucchini poppers

Small zucchini, goat cheese, sundried tomato, sliced black olive, olive oil, baby basil sprigs.  Cut zucchini into 1/4″ slices.  Place on baking sheet brushed down with olive oil.  Take goat cheese and blend with sundried tomato for about one minute.  Place small scoops onto each slice, top with sliced olive and small basil sprig, bake in 375 degree oven for 10 minutes, and serve.  Total time 20 minutes.

Stuffed bread

Pillsbury bread dough, pepperoni, ham, mozzarella cheese, spinach, garlic.  This is one of my favorites!  Not only is it easy, but fast!  Open the bread dough, slice it down the middle and flatten .  Add your favorite meats and cheeses, roll back up, place on baking tray and bake according to directions.  Looking for something on the sweeter side?  Instead of meat and cheese, stuff the bread with semisweet chocolate, cream cheese, nuts and cranberries.  Perfect for the cake and coffee crowd!

Seafood avocado salad

Avocados, shrimp/crabmeat, chili powder, limes/lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper, fresh tomatoes (grape/cherry, halved; sliced and cubed, salted and drained on paper towel).  Drain a few limes so you have about 1/4 cup of juice.  Save peels.  Peel avocado and cube, mix with all ingredients (to taste) EXCEPT tomatoes.  Spoon tomatoes into the bottom of a rocks glass.  Spoon avocado mixture over tomatoes and garnish with lime peel.  Total time 10 minutes.

Port mulled fruit over ricotta

Ruby port, plums/cherries/berries (or any seasonal fruit that would lend itself to cooking in wine), ricotta, honey, vanilla extract.  This one always gets raves and it’s so easy!  Pour 2 cups port into a saucepan.  Slice fruit (pit cherries or plums) but leave skins on.  Place in saucepan with port over low to medium heat and stir occasionally, until it takes on a syruplike consistency.  In a bowl, mix ricotta, honey, and vanilla extract.  Stir well until thoroughly blended.  Keep cool until ready to serve.  Pour mulled fruit mixture while hot over cool ricotta and serve right away.  Total time 10 minutes. 

You’ve got the menu…now what?

Before guests even get to your home, create an atmosphere with smell and light.  Candles are a wonderful way to create a mood.  The honey and I got some yummy gingerbread scented candles at Michaels, priced at 2 for $7.  A few hints about candles…you always hear about trimming the wick to 1/4 to 3/8″–do it!  The candle will burn slower and closer to the wax, creating a more satisfying experience.  Another hint–DON’T stick your nose right in the candle to see if you like the scent!  Smell the lid–the true scent of the candle will be there, NOT inside the jar.  Scents like vanilla and sugar cookie are almost universally liked, create a cozy ambiance, and stimulate the appetite.

Music can be a tough call.  Usually at the holidays, you will have a crowd of varying ages and tastes coming together.  Your gathering should be more about the people than the music…and you certainly don’t want to offend anyone–OR, be constantly running to the CD player to change discs.  Do yourself a favor and burn a disc with a mix of songs that will play for a long while.  Mix the styles–Nina Simone, Massive Attack, Johnny Cash, and Calexico can all live happily on the same CD.  After all, it’s just supposed to be background music…

Pets, plants and so on…

Your furbaby may be your best friend, but not everyone may be so enamored.  Do your best to contain your pets in a room that is relatively off limits to guests.  Not only will you spare your guests the added bonus of fur on their clothes, but your pets will be less stressed as well.  (Anyone who thinks that their pet will revel in having guests at the house might be shocked to see aggressive behavior from their ball o’ fur when meeting someone new.)  Make sure that they have plenty of food and water and are able to relieve themselves (I mean the pets—but that goes for the guests as well!).  You’ll ensure a much happier pet that way.

funny pictures of cats with captions

There are certain plants pets find irresistable, and with a house full of greenery, it’s entirely possible that your furbaby may decide that the balsam you’ve worked so hard to decorate would make a great nom-nom.  (That’s something to chew on for all you non-cat people out there).  Most Christmas plants are NOT poisonous (contrary to popular belief and all those websites with people stating that pointsettia, etc…kill animals), but will cause gastric distress (i.e.; puke).  Do yourself (and the environment) a favor.  Get a potted tree and put it on your deck instead.  You can plant it when the holidays are over!

In the “spirit” of Christmas…

In an earlier post, I had mentioned how to put on a “cheap wine party”.  It’s a great way to break the ice and get everyone chatting.  Another way is with adult party games (get yer mind out of the gutter!).  Click here for a huge database of grown up games that will get the crowd going!

This has nothing to do with throwing a party, but I found this article today while trying to look up a phone number!  Anyone who thinks Patchogue is a hard drinking town will get a laugh out of a trial held for a couple of local barkeeps during the temperance movement this week back in 1886!

This just in…

The Harbor Crab is hosting a very special holiday event!  This Wednesday, they will be hosting a fundraiser where three very deserving families will be “Kris Kringled”!  Admission is FREE, there will be great food and music as well!  It’s a hard year for a lot of families out there…won’t you do your part to help?  Donations will also be gladly accepted.

All for now…if I don’t post before Christmas, have a wonderful Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Diwali, Ramadan (I know some of these passed, sorry!), and know that the best wishes of the season are going out from me to you!


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