If your holiday season is anything like mine, then you are standing in the midst of a half decorated house and saying “what do you mean Christmas is only 2 1/2 weeks away???”. Thanksgiving came so late and since HG headquarters moved the week before the same time, I find myself a bit behind … kerfluffled … and looking for EASY ideas in the next few weeks.
We’ve got this. My motto this holiday is not to kill myself trying to cook everything from scratch. I want to enjoy the holiday and my guests too so I am being very focused with my recipes and then using some of my favorites to complement the dishes.
1. My first recommendation is to USE WHOLE FOODS CHEESE PEOPLE. Thanksgiving arrived 3 days after my move ended and I had guests coming 4 days in a row. I went to the Whole Foods cheese department to make a lovely cheese plate and what a SCORE! Here at the Whole Foods Boca, we have a great Cheese Department and I let them help me. We paired Raincoast Crisps Fig and Olive Crackers with a DIVINE Danish Bleu Cheese and Truffle Honey. And there you have a whole beautiful tray of quick bites that will have your guests gasping with delight. They come in several flavors and are my new favorite go-to for entertaining.
Some of my other favorites from the Whole Foods cheese area and a few beyond:
Truffle Tremor from Cypress Grove Chevre – a flavor-FULL truffle goat cheese
Manchego Cheese – Manchego is a great hard cheese that you can dress up with Dalmatia Fig Spread, Dalmatia Sour Cherry Spread (Whole Foods) and/or New England Cranberry Chutney (Whole Foods). The chutney is outrageously good – I used it in place of cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving!
Anything from Beehive Cheese – this is one of my favorite cheese companies from Utah and now I can get it here in Florida at my Whole Foods. You cannot go wrong with any of their cheeses.
Best salami in the world? Creminelli and the Tartufo Salami (with black summer truffles) could create an addiction. I know this for a fact. The Sopressata and Wile Boar are also exquisite. Whole Foods usually carries at least one or more.
Creating an elegant and palate-stunning cheese and charcuterie board makes your life easier and it goes sooooo well with wine!
2. Think about easy appetizers and quick bites that can be prepared ahead of time and then served with a flourish:
Creamy Pumpkin Chanterelle Mushroom Soup – I use the mini bowls from Pier One and serve trays of soup. I can make it ahead, keep it warm on the stove and then dip and garnish to serve. Same with the sweet potato soup below and you can see the mini bowls in action.
Lamb Meatballs with Fiyah Jelly & Chive Yogurt Dipping Sauce – Fiyah Jelly can spice up any kind of meatball. Feel free to change lamb out for beef, chicken or turkey meatballs.
Piquilla Pepper Crostini with Seafood Stuffing and Black Salt – Carmen & Lola is another online go-to for really creative specialty foods. These pepper crostinis were gone within minutes and super easy to get onto a plate and in front of guests. Check out all of their offerings online at Carmen & Lola.
Fennel Salad with Quinoa, Pomegranates and Mint – have a big group coming? This recipe is make ahead and serve with vibrant pomegranate nibs to make it more holiday!
Pesto Potatoes – One of my easy recipes that everyone loves is to roast potatoes with Fennel Pollen from Pollen Ranch and then make a tangy pesto sauce to go with it. Provide toothpicks and guests can dip away!
Better Cheddar Dip – a family favorite that is awesome for holidays and game days!
Lemon Goat Cheese Caprese with Fennel Pollen – this is an elegant presentation and the lemon goat cheese from Montchevre. All of the goat cheeses from Montchevre are excellent and their crumbles are great for garnishing!
Prosciutto Honeydew with Thyme Crusted Goat Cheese and Fennel – Sprinkling Fennel Pollen from Pollen Ranch elevates this appetizer and just about any recipe.
Parsnip Hummus – this was a hit at a Thanksgiving dinner and was perfect to make ahead and then serve with fresh, organic vegetables.
Scallops Wrapped in Bacon with Sriracha Dipping Sauce – Make ahead and then bake and serve! The Sriracha sauce can be made easily in advance.
Garlic Aioli – Take a good variety of interesting veggies like brussel sprouts, beets, cauliflower, potatoes, parsnips and roast them with Zensational Fennel Pollen blend. Serve with aioli for dipping and you will have a happpppy group of guests.
Conch Ceviche Recipe -conch can be tough to get, even here in Florida so swap out conch with cod or another whitefish for a delicious and unusual appetizer.
Spicy Roasted Chick Peas – think healthy, spicy popcorn that isn’t popcorn but just as addictive! You can do a big tray of these and season and serve! My two favorite seasonings are Brown Dog Riba Riba Cocoa and Chile Mole Rub from Mom’s Gourmet (Lip Smacking Gimme More Burn) and the final was Spicy Fennel Sea Salt from Pollen Ranch.
Fennel and Pear Crostini – I have served this at several holiday parties and here is one important tip – save a few for yourself because by the time that you serve and circulate, they will be gone.
3. Elevated Munchies – I like to have a mix of items for guests to graze and I am totally into opening a few bags of ELEVATED MUNCHIES and strategically placing the bowls. Some of the best elevated munchies are:
Tyrells Crisps – I have a salty, crunchy need in my soul and Tyrells satisfied it. They have fabulous flavors – I highly recommend: Veg Chips (bag will be gone in 15 minutes!), Mature Cheddar and Chives, Lightly Sea Salted, and Worcestershire Sauce & Sundried Tomato. All the flavors are so unique and delicious but I bonded with these. Yes … bonded.
BoomChickaPOP and Angie’s Kettle Corn – this is not microwave popcorn. Just to be clear. Bowls of fluffy mounds of the BEST popcorn are not remiss for any party or movie night. Sea Salt is my hands down flavor but also love the White Cheddar and Sweet & Spicy.
Lord Nut Levington Peanuts – these are CRAZY GOOD peanuts and my source of all that is delightful is the Rebel Mary – Spicy Bloody Mary peanuts. I know. You’re welcome.
Just a few quick ideas for you, my Darlings! I will also be posting the Holiday Cheer Guide this week for cocktail and bar tips and the Holiday Dinner Special for dinners. Stay Tuned and may your season be MERRY AND BRIGHT!
If you need assistance in finding any of these items for your holiday parties, let me know and I may be able tohelp. Many of the companies listed here have sent me free samples over the past year to try so this is all first bite knowledge! xoxoxo HGH