Instead of the usual hustle and bustle of holiday travel to see family over the next few months, most of us are staying home. This year has been challenging for everyone, but fortunately we can innovate and adapt to capture the spirit of the season and celebrate from afar with loved ones. The countdown is on with Thanksgiving just nights away, Christmas right around the corner, and the jubilee of ringing in a new year not far behind. ‘Tis the season to find joy in being home for the holidays.
I love entertaining for friends and family — but I also focus on entertaining that is easy and efficient. Whether you are celebrating with your immediate household, hosting a virtual party, or planning a socially-distant Friendsgiving with your neighbor, keep it sweet and simple. Check out these four ideas for easy entertaining and holiday fun this year.
Host a virtual cookie decorating party
Try this sweet idea for a bit of virtual family fun! Have each family unit gather a dozen sugar cookies (or bake your own!), sprinkles, and icing. Push play on the Christmas songs, set a timer for 15 minutes and start decorating. When time is up, post your cookie creations on social media and have your friends be the impartial judge. Whichever set of cookies gets the most “likes” — or votes — is the winner. If you want to up the competition, send the best cookie decorator a gift card to their favorite bakery.
Hold a socially distant tea party
This is my favorite holiday event on this list — a Christmas tea. Our current guidelines allow for gathering of up to five people, and this is the perfect way to relax, enjoy the holiday spirit, and revel in plates of holiday cookies and breads and candies. Have each guest bring their favorite treat — peppermint scones and snowdrop cookies are always a hit. For the tea, try a holiday chai, cinnamon apple spice, white chocolate peppermint, or even a specific Christmas tea mix from your favorite brand. Add to the festivity and flavor by using candy canes to stir instead of spoons.
Play elf in your neighborhood
In this season of social detachment and distance learning, everyone could benefit from a little more holiday fun. Spread some neighborhood cheer by acting as a Christmas elf in your community. Fill a bag with sweet treats, simple toys, or small holiday activities. Leave the bag for your neighbor with a fun message and request that they keep giving going.
You’ve Been Elfed!
‘Tis that special season of the year,
Christmas time is drawing near!
A merry elf left this gift for you,
And hopes you’ll spread some joy and cheer too!
This year especially, I could use a favor,
Leave a treat for your neighbor.
But hark, be fast!
Don’t get caught, be sure to dash
Another Christmas tradition has just begun,
This elf hopes you enjoy the holiday fun!
Plan a stress-free holiday dinner
This is the big one — Thanksgiving or Christmas day, or both. My primary rule for holiday entertaining and cooking is to contain the mess to a minimum and to spend as little time as possible working, so I can spend more time celebrating with friends and family. Check out these three main tips for hosting holiday dinners:
- Prepare your side dishes and desserts in the days leading up to the event. Cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, sweet potato pie, pumpkin cheesecake bars – most things keep be assembled ahead of time and simply popped in the oven to cook on the big day. Pick two dishes to prepare per day the week of the occasion.
- If you are expecting a few guests, share the load. Have each person bring their favorite side dish and favorite dessert. This also ensures there is something that everyone likes on the table.
- Complicated does not always mean better. When I first started cooking for the holidays, I would try to make elaborate dishes, but often I would wind up sweaty, tired, and with an aching back by the time we sat down to eat. The best flavor and request for second — and sometimes third — helpings can often be found with just a few ingredients and a little love.
FIG & PROSCIUTTO APPETIZER
Dried or fresh figs
Optional: Toasted walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cut figs in half and stuff with goat cheese.
Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each stuffed fig.
Place on a baking sheet lined with foil and drizzle with honey.
If using dried figs, bake for 3-5 minutes.
If using fresh figs, bake for 10-12 minutes.
Top each fig with toasted walnuts or pecans, if desired.