I am just reentering the real world after a trip to Vail, CO, where their trees look like this. One day they were just, you know, trees. And the next day we were living in a patriotic LED forest. In addition to designer trees I had three days of life in the VIP tent at the base of the race course, a fantasy world I hope everyone can experience at least once.
Here’s what goes down in the VIP tent:
Pretty women in puffy pink coats pass glasses of champagne filled at the outdoor bar, where Bloody Marys are also mixed to order. Next to the bar juicy burgers are grilled up, nestled into buttered buns and wrapped up so you can grab them if you’re the outdoorsy type. Inside, tables are laden with fruit, cheeses and nuts, fresh baked breads, a Veggie Nirvana of salads, a Carnivorama of roasted beasts, coconutted shrimp, and steamy soups topped with mini grilled cheeses. And then comes the dessert table which is completely off the hook. I never even made it to dessert because another roving server appeared with a tray of whipped cream-topped hot chocolate with vanilla vodka, which sort of ended the lunch conquest.
I’m not going in to such detail to be mean, but to establish the high bar going in to prime, party intensive, holiday season. If you need some ideas for what to bring to your next soiree, here are just a few ideas from the Bring It! repertoire.
Bringing the cheer:
Cut to the chase and get the party started by bringing a premixed, seasonal cocktail like these ones we had at Thanksgiving. If you are going to be outdoors bring a Thermos of hot cocoa or tea and the hootch to add. Dark rum is a solid go-to for hot drinks and, as noted above, apparently so is vodka. Fixin’s for a big batch of mint chocolate milk will build your snack cred with all ages.
Apps for a crowd?
You can’t go wrong with Sue’s marinated shrimp and artichoke number, or the ever-festive, ridiculously easy Funitella Bruschetta. Below see a basic recipe for the cheddar cheese rounds that make their way into every spiral-bound community cookbook for good reason. (Bonus feature: they can be made with ingredients procured at any mini mart.) Bacon wrapped dates? Yes, have some! And really, putting that fondue pot in a tote bag with a big bag of grated cheese, and firing up some Guinness fondue is always the right thing to do.
DIY Hostess Gifts/Party Fare:
Bottle up some ginger simple syrup that goes in our previously mentioned cocktails, or get creative with help from the full simple syrup tutorial here. Go Mediterranean with a jar of Sicilian Caponata, go healthy with a loaf of Life Bread (thinly slice it and toast it for a tasty snack foundation), sweeten the deal with Salted Caramel Cholliesauce orrrrrrr, get nutty with some sweet and spicy roasted nuts. Oh-so-sophisticated thyme honey walnuts are pure gold on some lusty soft cheese. If you’re shamelessly vying for a quick hit of popularity bust out the Crackle.
Wrapping it all up:
Remember wrap master Boot Camp Bonnie? ‘Tis the season to revisit her tips for packaging brilliance.
You’ve got the week to prep for this weekend’s shenanigans, and a whole lot of joy on the calendar, so let’s do this holiday thing!
Can’t Go Wrong Cheddar Crisps
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
- 1 cup flour
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (some curry powder is also good if that’s your thing)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup Rice Krispies cereal
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, cheese, flour, cayenne and salt until it forms a ball stuck lightly together. (Use your hands or a wooden spoon to fully incorporate all ingredients.) Gently fold the cereal into the dough. Pinch off nickel-size balls and roll tightly between your hands. Place them about an inch apart on an ungreased cookie or baking sheet. When all the balls are rolled, flatten each one with the tines of a fork. Bake 15 minutes.
Cool crisps 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the pan to serve. Leftovers may be stored in a tin up to 1 week. Makes about 4 dozen.
Note: Alternatively, you can roll the dough into a long log, wrap it in plastic or waxed paper chill. When ready to make them, slice log into ¼” (or so) rounds and bake as directed above. They’ll take a bit longer so just watch them. The whole make ahead, roll and chill (or freeze if needed) thing comes in handy and the end result looks pretty pro.