Just in time for holiday parties, a reader sent in a frequently asked, and sometimes tricky, question about entertaining. AM in Michigan writes:
I’m tentatively planning appetizers for an “around the world party” – how many different apps. should I have for 4 adults (and 1 child)? One adult has a severe food allergy (no dairy, and no most kinds of meat), so I want a least a couple options for him, but I do like cheese so I want other things as well.
What a great theme!!
A great rule of thumb for a cocktail party is, “make 3, buy 3.” So 6 different apps gives a good variety while not being overwhelming for either the hostess or the guests. Plan at least 4 pieces of each app per guest – more for the options that your allergy guest can consume, since he will have fewer options.
Hope this helps!! Enjoy the party!
If you ever have a question about party planning, home decorating, gift giving or smart living, please post your questions on the Facebook page.Read More
Putting together your own snacks mixes takes just a few minutes, and you have complete control over the ingredients. Substitute dried fruit and nuts of your choice, add cereal pieces … it is all up to you! This seasonally–minded mix is perfect as a festive nibbler for those holiday parties. It pairs well with everything from hot mulled cider to sparkling wine!
1 16 oz. bag of pretzels (use the square waffle-like pretzels; they catch more chocolate)
6 T. butter, melted
1/3 c. sugar
1 ½ t. cinnamon
½ c. cinnamon sugar* (see below)
1 c. white chocolate chips or melting disks
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. shelled pistachio nuts
1. Pour the pretzels into a large microwave-safe bowl. (I divided them into two large mixing bowls.)
2. Whisk together the melted butter, sugar and cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the pretzels. (Divide the butter mixture evenly if you’re using more than one bowl for the pretzels.) Gently stir the pretzels until they are completely coated with the butter mixture.
3. Microwave the pretzels on high power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave for another 45 seconds.
4. Pour the pretzels onto a parchment-lined tray in a single layer. Sprinkle generously with the reserved cinnamon sugar. (If you have any leftover cinnamon sugar, save it in an airtight container and sprinkle it on toast or oatmeal.) Allow the pretzels to cool completely.
5. Microwave the white chocolate morsels or disks in a microwave-safe bowl on high power in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment, until almost completely melted. Stir until it’s completely melted.
6. Using a tablespoon, drizzle the melted chocolate generously on the pretzels. Top immediately with the cranberries and pistachios, so the toppings stick to the chocolate. When cool, break into pieces and pile into a serving bowl or divide to use as favors or gifts.
*To make the cinnamon sugar, combine 1/2 c. granulated sugar and 1 t. cinnamon in a small bowl.
- Make it a party favor: package the mix in clear cellophane bags tied with a festive ribbon and a Christmas poem or verse.
- Package the mix in mason jars; use scrapbook paper to make labels; top it with a bow.
One of the secrets of effortless hostessing is to create a signature cocktail for your party. This reduces the amount of mixers and liquor that you have to purchase, helps reinforce a party’s theme, and makes it easier to mix and serve beverages.
This cocktail combines the flavors of fall in a rich and creamy, slightly spicy concoction. I call it the “Chai Thanks-a-Latte.” Get it??
1 c. Chai Cream Liqueur
1/2 c. vanilla vodka
1/2 c. half and half, cream, or milk
Cinnamon sugar (optional)
Combine the liquid ingredients over ice in a large cocktail shaker and shake well to blend. (Alternatively, mix the cocktail in a pitcher and shake/strain individual servings as needed.) Strain into martini glasses rimmed with cinnamon sugar if desired. Serves 4.
Note: This recipe may be easily converted to single servings; simply use a 2:1:1 shot ratio for the ingredients. So, for every 2 shots of Chai Cream Liquer, for example, use 1 shot of vodka and 1 shot of cream.
To make cinnamon sugar, combine ½ c. granulated sugar with 1 T. cinnamon. Spread a layer of sugar on a saucer or luncheon plate. Rub the rim of a martini glass with a lemon peel, an apple wedge or dip in water. Immediately coat the rim with the sugar.
Any leftover cinnamon sugar may be stored in an airtight container and used in tea, on cereal and grapefruit, or broiled on toast.Read More
With the holiday season drawing near, I’m continuing my series of posts on entertaining essentials: those indispensable items that every home entertainer needs to make any gathering look and feel effortless. Previous entries in this series include setting up the essential bar and essential utensils for the home chef.
Today it’s time for the goodies! Whether you plan to bake up a storm or you have unplanned visitors arrive for a quick holiday chat, keeping these items on hand will allow you to spend more time with your family and friends, and less time running to the market or searching the cupboards at the last minute.
Tips: Keep nuts in a zipper bag in the freezer; they’ll keep longer. Keep baking supplies together on a shelf or in a basket or bin, so everything is in one place when you’re ready to bake.
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Brown sugar (light)
- Light corn syrup
- Evaporated milk
- Sweetened condensed milk
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Cocoa powder
- Baking (bittersweet) chocolate bars
- Semisweet chocolate morsels
- White chocolate morsels
- Vanilla extract
- Pecans (unsalted)
- Walnuts (unsalted)
- Fruit pie filling
- Refrigerated pie crusts
- Butter or margarine
For impromptu entertaining:
- Salted or seasoned nuts (pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios)
- Snack mix
- Water crackers
- Flavored crackers
- Cheese straws
- Assorted olives
- Tapenade or other spreads
- Smoked salmon
- Imported butter cookies
- One box of assorted frozen puff pastry appetizers
- One or two bottles of wine
With a selection of these items in your pantry, freezer and fridge, you will be on your way to less stressed holidays. Check what you already have on hand, and add any remaining items to your shop-ping list. Make sure to replenish items as you use them over the season.
For more entertaining essential ideas and tips, follow my board on Pinterest here.Read More
One of my top tips for gift giving is to shop “where” you are. Of course, it helps if where you are has a variety of departments or merchandise!
And that is definitely the case with The Tree Lot at Crate and Barrel, a pop-up shop that opened Oct. 29 at Town Square. The 6,700 square foot space is located just behind Brio, adjacent to the central park.
The Tree Lot is filled with items from Crate and Barrel’s Holiday 2013 collection and features a wide selection of globally sourced, exclusive home decor, gift items, entertaining/tabletop wares, tree trimming essentials and confections. Oh, the confections!!
“This year, we were inspired by the tradition of Christmas tree lots and we wanted to bring the joy and sentiment of that experience with our holiday product and visual display,” said Marta Calle, President and Chief Merchant of Crate and Barrel.
Calle’s Columbian roots bring a fresh, new perspective to Crate and Barrel and that is evident in The Tree Lot, with many rustic textures and ethnic elements from stuffed wool critter tree ornaments to garlands made from sari fabric. One of my personal favorites from the tabletop collection is this ceramic serving tray with a woodgrain texture ($19.95).
Many ornaments have a handmade quality. The store’s selection includes penguins, deer, dachshunds and foxes along with glittering bells, balls and snowflakes.
One hot new trend is a tree ring. These oversized rings ($59.95), available in galvanized metal or hand-braided native palm, slip over the tree stand and eliminate the need for a skirt. (Although the store still offers tree skirts as well.)
Customers who purchase rolls of Crate and Barrel wrapping paper ($7.95) may have their purchases wrapped by a store associate at no additional charge. This year’s washi tape craze hits holiday wrapping with a selection of “ribbon tape” ($4.95 to $9.95) from Japan in a variety of widths and designs from a cute mouse to “no peeking.” Wrap your boxes with tape instead of traditional ribbon!
I’ve been buying C&B Christmas confections for many years, so I was pleased to see that The Tree Lot has a good selection of this year’s sweet treats, from traditional hard candy to homemade marshmallows from the Butter Baked Goods bakery in Vancouver. (Try the gingerbread marshmallows!) Bourbon balls, peppermint bark, English toffee, organic hot chocolate mix and the popular mini melts are just a few of the tempting offerings.
Shoppers at the The Tree Lot will find plenty of holiday home accessories, including an array of bright pillows, cozy throws, vases and candle holders. The Jingleberry bowl filler ($9.95) caught my eye, and would be perfect mixed in with my usual pinecone display.
Many of the items highlighted here would be a wonderful holiday gift (and I’ll put together my top 5 hostess gift ideas in another article), but The Tree Lot has a dedicated display of interesting, unique and downright quirky gift items for everyone on your holiday shopping list. Even things for your pets! But what interested me was a stack of Japanese notepads. I thought, why on earth would there be a stack of notepads? Well, I felt the paper and it’s sumptuous — like no paper I’ve ever felt, and it’s graph paper.
Now, who on my list is a paper aficionado? There has to be someone!
The Tree Lot will be open through Dec. 31. The pop-up concept is a first for Crate and Barrel, who is trying the holiday stores in three other locations that do not have a Crate and Barrel retail store. While there’s no concrete plans to bring a permanent store to Las Vegas, we can cross our fingers that The Tree Lot is a good market test!Read More
Look in the Halloween aisle of any discount department store, home store, or craft store this year and you’ll see a “witch books” accessory item – a faux stack of books about spells and potions and the like.
Usually crafted of resin, these decorative accessories will set you back at least $17 (the cheapest I found) and as much as $30 or more!
You can get the same look (actually, a more authentic look!) literally for pennies a book with your printer, some self-adhesive paper and some printable book labels (see below).
One of my friends saw these in my “Witch’s Kitchen” vignette (using my Macbeth Bottle Labels) and thought the “Curses, Charms & Hexes” book was real. For a brief second, I think she thought, “Is Deanne really a witch?” She seemed a bit concerned asking, “Um … is this real?”
The “spell” for creating these charmed accessories is just 1-2-3.
Step 1: Choose your books!
Create as many books as you’d like, keeping in mind the “odd number rule” for creating vignettes. (Groupings of items look best in odd numbers, like 3 or 5.)
The secret to this project is using well worn, hard cover vintage books; find them at your local library book sale, a thrift store, or a second-hand bookstore. I’ve collected several over the years as they make great additions to bookcase displays. If the binding happens to be black (like my “Charms” book, which was my dad’s civil government book copyright 1928!) you may use it as is; otherwise, cover the book very simply with black paper or cardstock. This will help create a cohesive look.
Step 2: Print the labels!
For the labels, I experimented with light colors, a parchment background, and clear labels. Ultimately, though, I thought the best look was achieved with the darker labels. You can take your pick and download either or both!
I used Avery® removable full sheet labels (no. 6470) to create the labels with my color printer. A package of 10 full sheet labels will run about $16 at an office supply store. I used two sheets, so I’m about $3.20 in for this project. I like these labels because they are easily repositioned if you have an air bubble or need to adjust the placement, and they come off easily with (in my experience) no damage to the surface. (But that doesn’t mean you should go putting these on irreplaceable or sentimental antique books!)
Simply print the labels on the Avery® label sheets, cut the labels out and place them on your books. How easy is that??
Step 3: Style up!
Here are some styling and decorating tips for your terrifying tomes:
- Group with witch’s brew ingredient jars and an open “spell book” featuring the spell recipe from “Macbeth.”
- Display with black, silver and white pumpkins.
- Place next to a cauldron or witch doll.
- Create a spooky black and white display on a bookcase inspired by this Pinterest pin.
- Top off your stack of books with a skull, a crow, or crystal ball.
Of course, feel free to come up with your own labels, too! I’d love to see how you make this project your own; please share your photos on the Facebook page!Read More