Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmukkah 2013: Tips for Entertaining

Sorry for being lame and going so long between posts, but I know you'll understand, because everyone's so busy! This late Thanksgiving thing really puts the squeeze on holiday entertaining!

It's been crazy around here, and we actually had Christmukkah earlier this year than usual, since Hanukkah was so early.  I have to admit that I didn't do anything very original this year in terms of food, but I'll post links below to everything I made.  This post is going to be more about tips for entertaining than actual cooking, because, honestly, what's better than having family and friends over, talking and laughing over good food?

So here are my tips for entertaining:

1) Don't worry so much about your house -- how clean it is, how "undecorated" it is, or anything else. Why? Because your friends won't care.  And if the people you invite over are going to judge the type of furniture you have or the size of your house, are they really worth keeping as friends?  Personally, I don't spend a whole lot of time actually cleaning before people come over, because everything's just going to get dirty again anyway. Which leads me to my next tip:

2) Don't waste your time washing the floor and cleaning under the refrigerator (people actually do that).  Just do a once-over with with a dust cloth and the vacuum, and wipe down the bathrooms with Chlorox (or other cleaner) wipes. I do, however, put away as much clutter as I can, so people have places to set their drinks or plates as they walk around. Save the really big cleaning for after everyone leaves.  :-)

3) Do make sure bathrooms have extra toilet paper and clean towels/guest cloths, for obvious reasons.

4) Do make more food than you think you'll need.  Every year I end up with food that I don't even put out on the table because people bring food with them.  However, I know that the one year I under-provide will be the year that everyone brings wine and beer instead of food (would not be a horrible party in any case, but still).

4a) make sure the extra food is shelf-stable (crackers, smoked fish, pickles) or freezable.  That way, if you end up not using it, you can keep it until your next get-together.

5) Consider your guest list and match it to the size of your space and the "feel" you want.  Christmukkah has turned into a nearly neighborhood-wide event, which is why we turned it into an open house at this point.  The first couple of years we kept it small and actually had real food and sat down to eat, but as our guest list grew, we've had to switch the format to accommodate more people.  I'm a "more the merrier" type of person, so more people showing up makes me happier than fewer.  BUT, that type of entertaining isn't for everyone, so think about what you want to get out of it, as well as your guests.

6) Match the types of food you'll serve to the amount of people invited. What I mean by this is, the more people you have coming, the simpler the food prep should be, with dishes that can be made ahead of time being REALLY important.  There is no shame in having a nice cheese platter or vegetable tray, especially if you have some interesting cheeses/crackers or dips to go with it.  Not everything needs to be individually served and elaborately hors d'oeuvres-y.

7) Focus on one "wow" offering (if that's your thing). This year, mine was going to be the Zucchini Cakes with Smoked Trout, but I never got to serve it...Going back to tip 4a, the zucchini cakes are freezable and the smoked trout came in tins, so I'm saving it to serve on New Year's Eve.  See how that works?  That being said, everyone was happy, and eating and drinking, so I didn't sweat it that I didn't get to put out my "fancy" hors d'oeuvres.  :-)

8) This is supposed to be fun, and no one will be happy if the host is not having fun.  So be sure to enjoy yourself, and if that means serving lasagna and salad because you can make it all ahead of time, then so be it.  If you thrive on wow-ing your guests with something elaborate, go for it.  But you shouldn't stress out about having people over, since, like I said, it's supposed to be fun and enjoyable.

So, my advice to you is to just start having people over more.  It's fun. It's less expensive than going out for a meal, plus you get to pick your own music.  :-)

I forgot to take pictures during the party (are you really that surprised?), but I did get a snapshot off of the food tables before people got here. Plus I took a couple of pictures of some foods I made, after the fact.  Sorry, but I was having too much fun talking to my guests.  LOL

Cranberry Cheesecake                                                 Cardamom Thumbprint Cookies

Christmukkah 2013 Menu:

Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce (I used the recipe from "Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland". The lingonberry sauce was store-bought, 'cause nobody got time for makin' lingonberry sauce from scratch…especially when you don't have access to lingonberries)

Picture of Lemon-Garlic Chick Pea Dip with Veggies and Chips Recipe

Lemon-garlic Chick Pea Dip

Zucchini Cakes with Smoked Trout recipe

Zucchini Cakes with Smoked Trout

Stuffed Dates - I did change this up a little and used orange peel, rosemary and thyme in the goat cheese. Since dates are so sweet, I wanted to cut through that a little bit. Also, instead of nuts, I did do the pomegranate seed variation.

Cranberry Cheesecake Recipe

Cranberry Cheesecake

Almond Cardamom Thumbprint Cookies

All of these were delicious (the photos are copied from the linked websites -- they're too nice to be my work!) and I would make any of them again.

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