This month on FBC we are forgoing our weekly menu plan for something different - with a festive twist! A whole week of holiday entertaining menu plans! Be it a cocktail party, a Christmas brunch, a New Year's Eve fete, to name a few, we've got 5 great FBC Members who will be sharing menu plans and entertaining tips so you'll have your holiday parties covered. And it's all with a little help from Egg Farmers of Canada!
Our first holiday menu plan is for the classic cocktail party and we have Jan Scott from Family Bites here to share some of her favourite cocktail party recipes and tips. For more entertaining recipes and ideas from Jan, be sure to check out her new book with Julie Van Rosendaal, Gatherings!)
Walnut, Pear, and Cheddar Cheese Dreams
When I worked in catering one of the most popular items on the cocktail menu was something we referred to as cheese dreams; bite-size quarters of gourmet grilled cheeses stuffed with caramelized onions, bacon, and cheddar. They were a party-goers food fantasy for late-night snacking, especially those who've consumed a few beverages over the course of the evening.
Flatbread: Five Ways
Flatbreads are fun for parties, especially a cocktail party, where you want to set out something for people to graze on, while you pass around other small edibles. Feel free to get creative with the toppings, using any of the suggestions within the post, or put a seasonal spin on the dish by topping the small bites of bread with mashed butternut squash, goat cheese and sage, or sliced pears, blue cheese and a drizzle of honey.
Sweet and Spicy Walnuts
Here's what I like about making spiced nuts at this time of year: they work well as both a holiday appetizer and hostess gift, they taste decadent but are dead simple to make with Canadian eggs, they're gluten-free which is a rather important consideration when it comes to hosting guests these days, and best of all, everyone loves them.
Seven-Layer Greek Dip
This seven layer greek dip is perfect for a cocktail party because you can plunk it down in the middle of the table and leave your guests to nibble while you tend to the drinks and other foods that may require passing. This style of dip is best when it's had the chance to firm up in the fridge, so I encourage you to make this at least two hours in advance of serving. These types of dips tend to take on a mangled appearance after the first ten to twelve bites, so keep the serving containers relatively small, using two or three different dishes instead of one large one if feeding a big crowd. When the first batch begins to look a little battered, simply replace it with a fresh one so your food looks nice throughout the evening.
Red Sand-Dusted Devilled Eggs (From Egg Farmers of Canada)
Everyone's favourite appetizer from Egg Farmers of Canada. Devilled eggs are a timeless classic that captures everyone's attention when they are placed on the table or on a tray coming out of the kitchen. They are so easy to make but look like you slaved over them for hours. The recipe for Red Sand-Dusted Devilled Eggs comes from 1st and 2nd generation egg farmers and has been part of many family celebrations!
Homemade Fruit and Nut Crisps
I used to snatch up boxes of those popular Raincoast crackers to add a little something extra special to my cheese platter, but at almost $9 per package, it was high price to pay for not a lot of servings. This homemade version of fruit and nut crisps yields nearly 8 dozen pieces and is made from things you likely have on hand in the cupboard, making it ideal for serving to your friends and family throughout the holiday season.
Cheesecake Mousse Shots
Every cocktail party should end with a something sweet, and these cheesecake mousse shots are a popular option for any type of gathering. Feel free to replace the raspberry with a seasonal fruit, like pomegranate arils, fresh cranberries, or pieces of tangerines, and pass them around on a tray with small spoons for easy eating. Side note: shot glasses can be picked up at most dollar stores and are sold in packs of 3 or 4.
How to Make Three Easy Gluten-Free Appetizers for the Holidays
Each of these dishes are suitable for most eaters, swift in their execution, and friendly for the wallet, which is essential when feeding a lot of people in December. The fact that they are all naturally gluten-free is just an added bonus, because even those who don't need to watch their grain or gluten intake will welcome a break from the bready appetizers that tend to make their rounds during their holidays.
Sparkling Sugared Cranberries
Sweet and tangy, sugared cranberries have rolled their way to the top of my must-make list for the upcoming holiday season. They're ideal for topping festive deserts (like the cheesecake mousse shots), look pretty sitting in a bowl beside a bottle of your favourite bubbly, and are a tasty little pop-in-your-mouth treat that's bursting, quite literally, with flavour. Additional uses for this festive garnish include sliding a few frosted cranberries onto small cocktail skewers and serving them alongside a drink, or adding them to a cheese board for a dose of much needed colour.
Entertaining/Decorating Tips for a Cocktail Party:
- The food and cocktails should be the centre of any cocktail party, so the decorating doesn't need to be fussy or overly flashy. In fact, simplicity is key; pick a colour scheme or theme, and carry it through from the tree decorations to the table decor.
- Ideally create three or four focal points within the space, as opposed to decorating the entire area. Highlight important areas like the Christmas tree, food table, and fireplace mantle, if you have one. Light a working fireplace if possible, or fill a table/mantle with plenty of candles to create lots of light and visual interest.
- Hang a wreath on the front door, or from a big mirror, or decorate with some simple garland instead.
- Use as many natural elements as possible (evergreen sprigs, berries etc) as it will complement most spaces.
Don't forget the mistletoe - it looks lovely when hung from the ceiling with a festive ribbon!
Jan Scott is a well-known Canadian food writer, and the creator of Family Bites, a blog devoted to tasty family-focused recipes and easy-to-execute entertaining and party ideas. She’s the food editor for The Savvy Mom Group, and has had essays and articles published in a variety of print and online publications. Prior to making the transition to food writing, she was an event planner for a private catering company. Her first book, Gatherings: Bringing People Together with Food (Whitecap) was published in 2014.
The Whole Holiday Entertaining Series
- Monday - The Cocktail Party (Jan Scott of Family Bites)
- Tuesday - The Casual Open House (Marlene Cornelis of Life Through the Kitchen Window)
- Wednesday - The Holiday Sweets Table (Lisa Bolton of Food Well Said)
- Thursday - The Christmas Brunch (Jacqueline Delisle of Cooking With Jax)
- Friday - The New Years Eve Party (Brittany Stager of My Daily Randomness)
The Holiday Entertaining Menu Plan is brought to you by the Egg Farmers of Canada.