Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Party, Party, Party!

The thing I love most about the holidays is how often I get to see friends and family.  By that, I mean how often I get to see them at holiday parties!  I absolutely love holiday parties, and the holiday season in general.  B and I go all out with our decorations- we even chop down a real Christmas tree and put it up in our apartment (it usually takes up half our living space, but who cares)!  Because we (and by we, I mean mostly I…) did such an awesome job decorating this year, B and I decided to throw our own Christmas party for our friends.  It’s been ages since we’ve hosted a party, so we went all out with the food, drinks and decorations.  We tried some new recipes, and our friends contributed some yummy treats, for which I need to get recipes (hint hint ladies!).  Our menu consisted of butternut squash soup shooters, mini pigs in a blanket, roasted sugared almonds, a veggie tray, Italian mini meatballs, (semi-)homemade margarita pizza, stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto (oh how I wish I could claim credit for those!), and mini pot pie biscuits (ditto!).  Our specialty cocktail was cranberry champagne to match the season. Oh, and Christmas cookies, of course! 

I must say, B and I have gotten party planning down to a science.  We’ve been host to many a party and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Read on for our party tips and the recipe for my butternut squash soup!

JM and B’s Party Planning Tip
  • Start Early!  Clean your house/apartment the day before, and put together your menu at least a week in advance to give yourself enough time to go shopping.
  • We are big fans of Evite- it’s easy to send out, add guests to the list, and keep track of who has responded.  Send it out a month in advance, with a reminder follow-up a week out.  Schedules fill up quickly around the holidays, and reminders are essential!
  • If guests ask if they can bring anything, let them!  It’s great to be able to add a few extra appetizers or drinks without adding the extra work.  Just make sure you don’t scrimp on your menu because you’re counting on everyone else to do the work for you.
  • Prepare your food early.  I do my cookies at the beginning of December and freeze them.  As for the rest of the menu, we assemble everything early in the day so that it’s ready to be cooked and the dishes are already clean and put away. 
  • Don’t put out all the food at once.  It gets cold that way, and guests tend to trickle in a few at a time.  You want to be able to keep the food hot.  We start with 3 or 4 items and then add new dishes throughout the evening. 
  • Serve your guests their drinks; don’t make them get it themselves!
  • Turn off the TV and turn on some background music.
  • Make sure you socialize with each guest, and introduce people that don’t know each other (tell them something they have in common to spark conversation).
  • Attend to your guests, but don’t spend the whole evening cleaning up after people. 

Butternut Squash Soup Shooters
Adapted from recipe by Giada de Laurentis
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 1/2 poundbutternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. dried sage
  • Salt and Pepper
In a Dutch oven, add the butter and oil and melt together over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the squash and the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the sage. Continue to boil until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Let cool for 5 minutes, then ladle (in batches) into a food processor and blend until smooth (you’ll want to pour each batch in another bowl until finished).  Return blended soup to the Dutch oven, season with salt and pepper to taste, and keep warm over low heat until you are ready to serve.
To Serve:  Turn off heat.  Using a turkey baster, put soup in shot glasses and serve to guests.