Easy entertaining may seem impossible during the harried holiday season, but an elegant yet simple cocktail party allows you to host a festive gathering with minimal fuss. All you need are four to five hors d’oeuvres, one signature cocktail (try the festive ruby-red pomegranate martini below) and a few bottles of wine.
Hors d’oeuvres may sound fancy, but they are just small bites that your guests can nibble on while holding a drink. To guarantee easy entertaining, I always consider two factors when planning my menu: 1) the hors d’oeuvres need to be hearty enough to satisfy my guests, and 2) most dishes should be delicious at room temperature so that I can spend my time mingling in the living room rather than fussing in the kitchen.
A cheese plate is a sumptuous no-cook option. The key is to incorporate a variety of flavors and textures with a hard, a soft and a stinky cheese. Balance the salty and creamy cheeses with sweet grapes and a fig spread (my favorite is the Organic Adriatic Fig Spread by Whole Foods). For an elegant, budget-friendly presentation arrange crackers and the rest of the ingredients on a wooden cutting board in varying heights.
Cocktail parties are fun because your guests can sample a variety of foods so include vegan hors d’oeuvres such as Roasted Vegetable Skewers. Cut zucchini, squash and red bell peppers into chunks. Toss these in a baking sheet with olive oil, minced garlic, and rosemary. Roast the vegetables for 20 – 25 minutes until they are tender yet firm enough to hold their shape. Alternate the vegetable pieces on small wooden skewers, and lay them in a row on a long rectangular plate.
Other fantastic easy entertaining recipes are Eggplant and Tomato Bruschetta and Pan-Fried Chive Dumplings. Both can be made the day before, and served at room temperature. If you want to serve dessert bites try Fitcentrik’s Not-So-Forbidden Fruit Tower. You could make a quick dipping sauce by mixing thick greek yogurt, honey and vanilla.
How about your meat loving friends? Barbecue is the ultimate meat dish. However, instead of serving messy, sticky ribs try a twist on the classic. Spicy Meatballs elevate barbecue sauce out of your backyard and in to your living room.
Barbecue sauce is a delectable combination of sweet, spicy, smoky and tangy flavors created by sweeteners such as brown sugar or molasses, chilies, spices and vinegars. This recipe is a variation of the sweet, thick, tomato-based Kansas City style barbecue sauce. This style is more of a glaze because it is too thick to penetrate the meat. Other regional styles include mustard, hot sauce and whiskey based barbecue sauces.
In this version, chipotle chilies provide the spicy, smokiness while the adobo sauce (tomato, vinegar and other chilies) and ketchup (tomato, vinegar and sugar) add depth of flavor. The ketchup also adds a gooey, viscous consistency to the glaze along with the brown sugar.
This barbecue sauce could do double duty at your party as a dipping sauce for crispy chicken tenders. And if there is extra, you could add it to chicken wings or chili for dinner the next day.
Hosting a holiday cocktail party can be a breeze with these easy entertaining recipes. And since you have more time to spend with your guests, they will not only remember the good food, but the good friends and laughter as well.
Spicy Cocktail Meatballs
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
2 tablespoons adobe sauce (from can of chipotle peppers in adobo)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
To make the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients, except the canola oil. Shape heaping teaspoons of the mixture into 1-inch balls. In a Dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, wiping pan in between, saute the meatballs, turning frequently for even browning, until cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Place on a paper towel-lined plate.
To make the sauce: Heat oil in the same Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and cook 1 minute. Stir in the remaining ingredients and reduce heat to low.
Add the browned meatballs to the Dutch oven and toss gently to coat with sauce.
Chic & Easy
by Mary Nolan
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) citron vodka
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) pomegranate juice
1/4 ounce (1/2 tablespoon) simple syrup
juice from a quarter of a lemon
Shake all of the ingredients with ice in a shaker, strain and pour into a martini glass.
Combine equal parts water and sugar in a pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves.