How to Host a Low-Stress Holiday Cocktail and Appetizer Party

Katie Workman - Discover, a blog by World Market

You did it! You invited people over for a holiday party! Now you just have to figure out what you want to make. No biggie.

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But seriously – don’t stress. Some of us love to think about menus for entertaining, while others just want someone to TELL THEM WHAT TO MAKE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

So, if you want to just not think a minute longer about your next holiday party, then here’s what you are making:

Roasted Cumin Jumbo Shrimp

Go with either shelled and deveined shrimp; try to get them with the tails left on, to use as little handles, otherwise, pick up some cute skewers to serve them with. If you need to clean the shrimp, do that earlier in the day, or even the night before. Make the Honey Lime Dipping sauce up to a day ahead, and keep it in the fridge.

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Crostini with Shredded Brussels Sprouts and White Bean Puree

Either buy pre-shredded Brussels sprouts, or sliver them up to three days ahead of time. Then, sauté the Brussels sprouts a day or two ahead. Make the white bean puree up to three days ahead of time. Keep both of those items in the fridge.

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Toast the crostini up to a day ahead, and place them in a tightly-sealed container. Bring the white bean puree to room temperature before topping the crostini with it. The Brussels sprouts can either be brought to room temperature, or if you prefer, warm them slightly in the microwave or in a pan before finishing up the crostini. Assemble them just before serving, so the toasts don’t get soggy.

Roasted Beet Hummus

This can be made up to three day days ahead. You also can roast the beets up to four days ahead, then make the hummus when you’re ready. The pita chips can be made up to two days ahead and stored in a tightly-sealed container. Bring the hummus to room temperature before serving; if you want to make it even smoother and creamier, give it another whirl in the food processor just before spooning into a serving bowl.

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Grapefruit Basil Martini

Make the simple syrup up to a week ahead of time. Stir up the cocktail an hour or so before guests arrive, and have the basil leaves ready to garnish the individual glasses.

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Prep For the Party the Night Before

One of the things I find the most helpful in terms of making a party come together smoothly and stress-free-ly is to lay out all of the servingware the night before, and label each item with the dish it will hold. This means as you get your food ready to go there is no last minute “What should I serve this in? Where is that platter? Oh, crap, I have to wash that first…”

Laying out everything the night before means you know where everything is so you can put everything in its place. Don’t forget to put out the serving utensils next to each platter or bowl.

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Then, figure out what plates you’re going to use, what napkins, and what other utensils are needed; glasses and pitchers, too. If you are using a tablecloth or a runner, get that out, and see if it needs a quick iron. Put out candles, and take care of the flowers.

Chill white wine, sodas, mixers, and sparkling water. If you are going to need lemons, limes or oranges, cut them into wedges already, and tuck them into the fridge in a container. Done and done.

Lists are a host’s best friend. Run through all of your recipes, create shopping lists, parse out what needs to be done when, and assign tasks to your family or helpful friends. Then you’ll be ready for the unparalleled satisfaction that comes with crossing tasks off of each list – truly one of life’s greatest pleasures, in my biased opinion.

And once you’ve got everything ready to go, you get to enjoy another one of life’s greatest pleasures – a glass of wine before the guests arrive, celebrating your job well done.

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