Holdiay Food Guide

Holiday Entertaining: Fancy but Frugal

By Terese Allen, Organic Valley Food Editor

I had one of those “blink of the eye” experiences the other day--you know, the feeling of “What?! The holidays are here again, in just the blink of an eye.” All of a sudden it’s time to haul out the decorations from the attic, put together a guest list and throw a gala feast. 

The feast part sounds fun—a festive cocktail hour, a big beef roast, that log-shaped layer cake studded with meringue mushrooms. But as we all know, it’s the planning, shopping, and fussy cooking that can do a party host in. Not to mention the stress of extra expenses when you’re in the grip of a recession.

If ever there was a holiday season to keep things simple and affordable, this is the one. Instead of a sit-down, multi-coursed meal with all the bells and whistles, why not an open-house gathering that features easy-to-make finger foods--the kind of event that won’t break the bank, or your back.

Choose a mixture sweet and savory nibbles; just two or three types of each will feel plentiful to guests. Round out the array with hot apple cider and reasonably priced wines (or ask your guests to each bring a bottle, and tell them to keep it under $10).

Instead of shelling out big bucks for pounds of shrimp, buy one chunk of smoked fish and blend it with real whipped cream into an airy appetizer mousse. Forego the expensive trays of imported cured meats and foreign cheese, and let a little organic bacon and blue cheese go a long way atop tiny open-face sandwiches. (People love it when you walk around with a platter and serve these directly to them, hot out of the oven.) Even basic bread and butter can be fantastic when it’s pasture-pure butter mixed with fresh herbs and spread on a bakery-fresh artisanal loaf. 

In the sweets department, you’ll get big flavor with little effort from a pan of cranberry walnut bars or a batch of mocha mini-muffins. And since just a morsel of homemade candy tastes decadent (think chocolate truffles or hand-wrapped caramels), you can stretch quality ingredients like organic cream and European-style butter to feed many.

This month we offer holiday recipes to keep your entertaining sane and affordable. (Just don’t blink your eyes.)

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