Simple Holiday Hosting
The Local Table
Written by: Bradley Jean
I was raised in a home where the back door was always open at Christmas and my mother was gitty to bake all the goodies for friends, neighbors and even my father’s local barber. My mother hosted with ease and joy as friends dropped by for evening cocktails or perhaps just a quick card exchange and a hug before Christmas arrived. The food was always a hit and the laughter in my parents kitchen was end-less.
My mother kept it simple and always fun. I don’t recall her panic or pressure to do it all, what I do recall are all the memories and good vibes in the Holiday season.
With Christmas just days away and a New Year around the corner, can we host simply and still maintain all the good Holiday joy?
My dear friend Tiffany Denson says yes! In her home, hosting friends and family is a must during this festive time of year.
Tiffany is full of fun and laughter and her kitchen skills are on point. Her dishes are always inventive and tasty and she makes an incredible hostess. Tiffany is warm and kind and will have you laughing before you can take a sip of your first cocktail.
“I’ll never turn down a party in the holidays,” says Tiffany. She’s proof that this season is made to enjoy and celebrate another year with the ones we love.
“Hosting friends and family should be simple and something you look forward to. I think the biggest challenge is mindset. While entertaining can be ‘all in the details’, the details shouldn’t overwhelm you to the point of not enjoying yourself or your company.”
Tiffany is all about the feel and the atmosphere of the occasion, making guests feel at home.
“One of those details is music. No one wants to walk into a party of dead silence. A good play list or Pandora station can set the mood the entire evening. Another detail is flowers and/or orchids. Not only do they make me happy, but they also make for an effortless look of having it together in your home.”
Tiffany also says candles are a must. She recommends one signature scented candle in the powder room or entry and then use votives. She keeps a stash on hand, most from Ikea, that she can pull out at any moment.
Last, Tiffany uses versatile, year round serving pieces. “Several years ago I invested in a collection of simple white, off-white and glass platters that can work throughout the year. They don’t have to be expensive. Many of mine came from Ikea or Target. I also keep a collection of bamboo paper goods on hand. The bamboo looks fantastic but can be tossed right into the trash when finished”
Tiffany is a strong believer in keeping it simple and seasonal and doing as much as you can ahead of time. You can do a little here and a little there when you’re in the kitchen the days leading up to your party. You’ll have less stress and more time to enjoy your home and friends.
“I love hosting all year round,“ says Tiffany, “but there’s something special about the Holidays. Partly because it’s a great excuse to host a party and invite friends and family you don’t see throughout the year.”
Bourbon Milk Punch
1½ ounces Kentucky bourbon
2-3 ounces milk, whole
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (use pure vanilla for this)
½ ounces simple syrup
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated, as garnish
1 scoop Vanilla ice cream
In a shaker with ice, combine all cocktail ingredients. Shake very well, for at least 30 seconds. Garnish glass rim with the mixture of grated spices. Pour cocktail into the glass filled with crushed ice. Add scoop of ice cream. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg
Good-For-You Rosemary Nuts
2 cups pecan halves, unsalted
2 cups shelled walnuts, unsalted
6 ounces whole natural almonds, unsalted
2 ¼ tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons crushed dried rosemary
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place all nuts in large bowl. Pour in melted butter and coat well.
In a small bowl mix remaining ingredients. Sprinkle rosemary mixture over nuts and mix together well.
Spread nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Toast in oven about 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful not to burn. Serve at room temperature and store in airtight container.
Hot Cheese Bites
Makes about 40 bites
2 cups (8 ounce) sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup (2 ounces) slivered almonds
6 slices of bacon, cook & crumbled
1 small onion, grated
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 (8 ounce) jar good mayonnaise
½ loaf good quality white bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix together cheese, almonds, bacon, onion, Worcestershire and mayonnaise.
Remove crusts from bread and cut each slice into 4 triangles or squares. Spread one side with cheese mixture.
Place on cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Serve immediately.
Note: These freeze well. Before baking, place cheese bites in single layer on cookie sheet and freeze. When hard, remove from cookie sheet and put in large zip loc freezer bag. Store in freezer until needed.
Steamed Fresh Asparagus with Mills Mayonaise and Tomato-Basil Dip
2 lbs fresh asparagus
Cut off tough ends and cut asparagus in equal lengths. Prepare large bowl of ice water. Blanch asparagus in boiling water 3-5 minutes. Immediately immerse in ice water to stop cooking and chill vegetables. Cover with paper towels. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
**note: I also use green beans, broccoli, carrots or other seasonal vegetables.
3 teaspoons dry mustard
3 teaspoons paprika
juice of 3 lemons (approx. 6 tablespoons)
3 cups good mayonnaise
Mix dry mustard and paprika in lemon juice to make thin paste. Add to mayonnaise and mix well. Store in airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 3 cups. (may want to cut in ½ if making more than one dip)
1 cup good mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
Whisk together all ingredients until blended. Store in airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 1 ½ cups.
Cheers friends! And happy holiday hosting!
Photography: Amy Leigh Thomas
Content: Bradley Robertson