At Our Holiday Social 2009

So we’ve made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas is knocking on our collective doors. The holiday season is in full swing, and it’s time for the holiday socials to commence.

The secret to planning a great menu for a holiday social is to choose options that require little prep and give you more time to spend with your guests. Although I am normally against “grocery-store chefs”, in this instance I would suggest grabbing a sandwich platter or deli tray from your favorite market, and making homemade dishes as accompaniments. As I discussed in this blog, if you can stick to dishes that don’t need to be reheated you will save a lot of time trying to keep items warm, and you won’t risk overcooking your food, which can be disastrous.

To minimize on your efforts in the kitchen, host a potluck style social. When hosting a potluck event, it’s best to have a rough layout in mind of your menu, i.e. what type of meats you plan to have, how many vegetable and starch sides you want to serve, and what desserts will round out your meal. The host should be responsible for a main entrée, and should prepare one or two sides in case your contributors are late arriving to the party. If you have a very specific menu in mind, don’t hesitate to share it with your guests and ask them to choose a dish from the menu to contribute. For your guests who may not be as comfortable around a stove, there are always non-food items that are needed – or ask them to be on the clean-up committee!

If you don’t want to worry about a lot of cooking but still want to have a nice event, here are a few options that will make your social the hit of the holiday season.

Dessert Social – If you don’t want to worry about a lot of cooking but want to have a nice event, host a dessert social. Provide heavy hors d’ oeuvres for your guests, and present a fabulous selection of sweet treats that will send your friends into a sugar-induced frenzy. You can even visit your local wine store and pick out some nice dessert wines to pair with your offerings.

Wine and Cocktail Social – If you don’t want to deal with the hassles of cooking or baking, why not host a wine and cocktail social? Invite a group of friends over, serve some sandwiches and other light fare, and feature a few cocktails and some of your favorite wines to share.  Be adventurous with your cocktails – forego the standard drinks and do some research for some interesting recipes to try with your friends! Most wine retailers will give a discount when you purchase wine by the case. Food, wine, cocktails, and good conversation – the ingredients for a great party!

Cookie Social – Cookie socials are always a great time, and you can be versatile in how you approach the event. One option would be to provide recipes for two or three different kinds of cookies. Mix the dough and prepare one dozen cookies for each recipe (this can be done in advance or as a group). Use plastic wrap to package the leftover dough into rolls and send them home with your guests as gifts. Be sure to include the recipes for the cookies so that your guests can enjoy them throughout the year. As a special touch, make up some quick holiday labels for each cookie roll and include the name of the cookie and heating instructions.

Who doesn’t like a little kitchen competition? Host a cookie bake-off and see which of your friends has the best cookie recipe! Have each person prepare their cookie recipe and package 3 cookies per person. Choose three friends who will not participate in the contest to serve as judges. Everyone will swap cookies and the judges will select the winner. A nice touch would be to collect everyone’s cookie recipes before the event and have them bound in a booklet as a memento. Your guests will appreciate the small gesture to remember a special event.

Get your family and friends together and celebrate the Holiday season!

Happy Holiday eating!

The Fab Foodie