Holiday parties are great and all, but the pressure of hosting can sometimes be a drag. The planning, the decorating, the playlist making–that’s the fun part. The real hassle comes when you’re actually wearing that cute outfit you picked out, surrounded by friends throwing back champagne and you’re standing in the kitchen…sweating over the oven?
Let’s face it–that doesn’t sound like fun to anyone. But in the quest to make everything look (and taste) nice for your friends and family, hostess hell is an easy trap to fall into. I grew up attending our annual family Christmas party, which crams 90 friends and family into our home in early December each year for drinks, laughs and lots of food. My Mom was always a master at playing hostess–you’d never catch her frazzled, with food on her blouse or burning something to a crisp (ok, well that’s happened once or twice…). The trick? She always had a few key appetizers in her back pocket that were as simple as they were delicious. So I’ve got three for you to add to your arsenal–whether you’re hosting just a few couples or a whole slew of friends from college, they’re sure to be a hit. And get this–you’ll get to enjoy them, too.
5-Minute Parmesan Toasts
These are my favorite. You can make the topping the morning before so all you have to do pre-party is bake it up. Pro-tip: always make a bigger batch than you think you’ll need–they go super quick, and they great for leftovers the next day when you’re too tired (hungover?) to make lunch.
You’ll need (makes about 24 mini toasts):
- 6 slices Pepperidge Farm Very Thin White Bread
- 1 container parmesan cheese
- Hellman’s Mayonnaise
Slice the bread into four mini toasts, placing them on a cookie sheet in one layer (you might need to use two sheets depending on how big yours are). Put into the over and allow to brown for about 5-7 minutes.
In a bowl, mix together the parmesan cheese with the mayo. There are no real measurements here, but don’t freak out–it’s really easy to eyeball. Essentially you want to add enough mayo so that all of your parm binds together into a paste-like consistency. It shouldn’t be dry in any spots, but also not too goopy that it doesn’t “stick” together. Take your toasts out of the oven, flip them over, and put about a 1/2 tablespoon of the cheese mixture on top. Throw ‘em back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes, or until the cheese has browned and looks a bit crispy in spots.
Stuffed mushrooms are a holiday party classic, no? And for good reason–they’re so easy, and definitely a crown pleaser. Some people make theirs with sausage, but we stick to good old breadcrumbs.
You’ll need (this is party-sized, which is why it seems like a lot!):
- 3 packages of white mushrooms, washed and with the stems removed (but save them!)
- 1 large onion, cut small (I like spanish onions, but a white onion is fine too)
- 6 slices of white bread
- parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
- parsley flakes
- 1 stick unsalted butter
Put your chopped onion in a sautee pan with 1 tablespoon butter, cooking until it begins to turn translucent. Add in the mushroom stems (chopped tiny) and another tablespoon of butter, cooking on low like you would traditional mushrooms.
In a food processor, process the sliced bread, adding it to the frying pan along with a bit of salt, pepper and parsley flakes, and cooking until the mixture is thick and somewhat dry–not greasy. Stuff the uncooked mushrooms (it helps to pile it on a spoon, then invert the spoon over the mushroom, pressing it into the hole created by the stem). Cook on a greased baking sheet for 8-10, or until the mushrooms are tender. Serve warm.
Baked Brie (aka a cheese fan’s nirvana)
Give me anything with cheese and I’m on board. Baked brie is deceptively simple–it looks fancy, but really requires so little effort. I love mixing it up with different chutneys and spreads!
- One wheel of brie
- 1 sheet puff pastry
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- preserves or chutney (I used strawberry preserves)
- 3 basil leaves, sliced
Preheat your oven to 350. While keeping the brie in it’s “skin,” place it on a pastry sheet. Top is with whatever you’d like (Literally! Nuts or sauteed kale or something of the like would be delicious too). and fold the pastry over like below:
Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the brie oozes out when you cut into you. You can serve alongside some extra bread…because who doesn’t need a double dosing of carbs, amiright?