How to be a Happy Host
Along with the holidays come holiday parties, and all the party-planning pressure that comes with them. Too many holiday hosts stress themselves out to the point of spoiling their shindigs. But with a few simple tips, you can streamline your to-do list and actually enjoy your time with your guests.
1. Keep the drink menu simple. Don't empty your pocketbook to stock a full bar. Your guests may be overwhelmed by too many choices – and you don't want to be playing bartender all night, either. So leave the mojitos and Irish coffee to the barkeeps and offer a simple selection of wine, beer, one or two good-quality spirits such as vodka with mixers, and a bottle or two of champagne for the new year. To make it even easier on you, keep a few great bar tools at hand as well. We love the Oster Wine Opener for tricky corks and the OXO bar set for mixing simple cocktails without the mess.
2. Prepare all appetizers in advance. Create a finger food menu that is easy to prepare and can be made a days or even hours in advance that will keep in your fridge until you are ready to serve One of our favorite time-saving treats are the Barefoot Contessa's Savory Palmiers (also known as Elephant Ears) See recipe below, but feel free to get creative with your own favorite flavors, as the possibilities are endless. Make more than you need so you won't have to disappear into the kitchen to make more – you'll be glad to have the leftovers to munch on when cleaning up the morning after.
1 Package frozen puff pastry, defrosted
¼ cup pesto (store bought or homemade)
½ cup crumbled goat cheese
¼ cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes
¼ t Kosher salt
1. Preheat oven 400˚ F
2. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment
3. On a lightly floured surface carefully unfold one sheet of puff pastry
4. Roll pastry lightly with a rolling pin until it is approx. 13" square
5. Spread the pesto evenly all over the pastry, then sprinkle goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts and salt evenly as well
6. Fold each end halfway to the center. Then fold each side again towards the center, repeat until folded edges touch. Then fold over half over the other half as though closing a book.
7. Wrap in plastic and chill for about 45 minutes (this makes the dough firm and easier to cut), but can also be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days. You can also freeze for a couple of weeks.
8. Slice dough into approx. 1/4 inch slices, and place each slice flat on lined baking sheet.
9. Place in oven and bake for 14 minutes until golden brown.
3. Keep smiling! Tiny mistakes and inconveniences won't ruin anyone's fun, but dealing with a rushed, irritable host will. Remember that your guests are there to see you. If you keep your party plans simple, your guests will leave with happy memories – and won't even remember that you ran out of clean wine glasses.
We wish everyone happy hosting, and a healthy and happy new year!