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Holiday party a resounding success!

December 24, 2010

Yep. It was pretty awesome. We had about 15 people in our little house and I literally cooked and baked all day. At one point, I was freaking out because the buns wouldn’t rise – it was too cold in our house! So I put the oven on low and put the dough inside.

At any rate, here was what officially made the menu:

  • Creamed chicken with sweet cream biscuits
  • Vanessa’s dinner rolls
  • spicy pretzels
  • roasted garlic white bean dip with melba toasts
  • veggie tray with ranch dip
  • Ruffles chips with french onion dip (for a VERY picky coworker)
  • baked ziti (brought by a friend)
  • pumpkin custard (recipe from the back of Libbey’s baked in a casserole)
  • chocolate cake with peanutbutter frosting (leftover from another event)
  • chocolate bark
  • candied nuts
  • clementine oranges
  • butterscotch haystacks (brought by a friend)
  • white chocolate macadamia nut cookies (friend)
  • candied caramel chocolate apple (friend)
  • mulled “wine”
  • Second Horse Punch
  • a variety of sodas and wines
  • plus more!

Everyone was stuffed silly! Here’s the spread:

Minus the baked ziti, which was in the oven, this was pretty much the savory spread.

And here are all the sweets! Well, almost. A few others got added later. That’s the boy pouring ginger ale into the Second Horse Punch.

Here are some of the recipes I used:

Spicy Pretzels

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder or granulated garlic
1 oz. ranch mix or 1-2 tablespoons ranch spices
1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 16 oz. bag pretzel sticks
1 16 oz. bag pretzel snaps

Mix oil and spices together in a very large bowl. Add pretzels and stir to coat. Or, pour over pretzels spread on two half sheet baking pans and stir to coat. Bake pretzels (on baking sheets) 1 to 1 1/2 hours at 200 F until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

Chocolate Christmas Bark


1 bag dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
2/3 cups mixed toasted nuts (I used sliced almonds)
2/3 cup mixed dried fruit (sliced or chopped fine – I used apricots, currants, golden raisins, cranberries, and dried cherries)
thinly sliced crystallized ginger (I left this out)
1/8 teaspoon fleur de sel or coarse sea salt (DON’T leave this out! It makes the bark!)

Line a small baking sheet (I used a quarter sheet pan) with waxed paper or tinfoil. Melt chocolate in stages in the microwave, stirring between each 30 second interval. When fully melted and stir-able, pour onto sheet and spread evenly. Scatter fruit and nuts (and ginger, if using) over top, pressing them gently into the chocolate. Then sprinkle with salt. Chill until chocolate is firm, c. 30 minutes. Cut into triangles or break into irregular pieces.

Second Horse Punch

This is an 18th century drink (as the boy works at an 18th century historic site and many of his coworkers attended the party). The stuff we used was aged for 2 years and given to us by a friend.

1/2 pint light-bodied West Indies Rum (we used clear Bacardi)
1/2 pint peach brandy
1/2 pint lemon juice
5 tablespoons Angostura bitters (about half the bottle)
4 tablespoons brown sugar

Stir thoroughly. (Age, if desired) Pour over large block of ice. Add 2-3 pints effervescent mineral water (or ginger ale, which is what we used). Serve in SMALL cups.

Note: Using dark brown sugar will give aged punch a taste of molasses. We used light brown punch. We’ll see what it turns out to taste like!

Candied Nuts

4 cups whole nuts
2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons water (1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Bake nuts at 250 F for 8 minutes. Bring all other ingredients to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Pour mixture over nuts (putting them in a large bowl is helpful) and stir quickly as the syrup will crystallize. Or at least, mine did. Spread on lightly greased cookie sheet or parchment to cool.

If I made these again, I would add slightly more water or cook the syrup for longer, as it seemed to start to crystallize almost immediately after being taken off the heat. I chose this recipe because it didn’t involve watching temperatures or adding sour cream or anything like that. The nuts are addictive, but some got more coating than others. I doubled the batch and maybe would do two batches next time instead of doubling.

Also, I used almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, and hazelnuts. I liked the almonds best, with pecans in close second. I would maybe use a spice mix instead of just cinnamon next time.

The party was lovely, as were my decorations! I bought white pine tips and incense cedar and made arrangements in a milk glass vase and a creamware pitcher I picked up recently. With taper candles (which the boy loves, by the way), all the greenery, the christmas tree lights, and the fireplace ablaze, it was beautiful and cozy. So cozy that we had to turn down the heat when our house was stuffed with people and froze when they all left!

And now I have to go finish laundry, do dishes, and start packing! Tonight the boy and I head upstate to his parents with our haul of presents and party leftovers. Merry Christmas to all! Try to find some fresh greens and open flame this Christmas Eve – you won’t regret it!

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