Christmas is our favorite time of year, and when we’re not traveling, we love welcoming family and friends to our home. Today we’re sharing some of our decor and entertaining tips and tricks as well as a few of our favorite party food recipes. Come on in and stay awhile!
Decide what type of entertaining you want to do, pick a date, and send out the invitations! We enjoy having our friends and neighbors in for come and go open house type parties which avoid meals but include heavy hors d’oeuvres along with drinks and sweets. Our timeframe is usually from 7:00 – 10:00 in the evening, but with open houses anything goes. Think: brunch, cookies and cocoa, s’mores in the back yard, desserts only, or let your imagination run wild. In the following sections, we will show you how we do it at our house.
We put a table in an out of the way area of our living room away from the food and non-alcoholic drink tables. This is to keep traffic flowing and keeps the hard stuff away from the kid-friendly areas. Keep extra ice in a cooler hidden away in the garage, or outside. Tucking a box containing extra mixers under the bar makes them easy to replenish and keeps the bar top from being cluttered with too many bottles and cans.
Our bar includes one bottle each of scotch, blended whiskey, bourbon, tequila, gin, vodka. Mixers include still water, tonic and mineral water, ginger ale, and mini cans of Coke, and Sprite. Add cups, a bucket of ice, straws and/or swizzle sticks, napkins, a bar mat, and lemon and lime wedges for a great self-service bar.
Ranch Water: In a highball glass pour 1 shot of tequila, add ice and mineral water (Topo Chico is the brand we use), then finish with a squeeze or two of lime juice, stir and enjoy.
We serve chilled wines in the kitchen, along with reusable acrylic wine glasses, napkins, and a corkscrew. Finally, we fill a galvanized tub with ice and beer and keep it in the kitchen too, along with an attached-to-the-tub bottle opener, a towel to wipe down the bottles, and plenty of napkins.
Party tip: Don’t chill bottled water. We have found that it cuts down on wasted bottles when guests have to pour it over ice in a cup.
Non-Alcoholic Drinks Bar
One of our newest holiday traditions is a hot cocoa bar, and now we’re including it in our parties. Try this delicious hot chocolate recipe. (Thank you, Diane!) Keep cocoa hot in a crock pot on low or warm but stir occasionally, then transfer to an airpot for serving. Accompaniments include Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips (it’s possible that you will never drink hot chocolate without them again!), peppermint stick stirrers, and mini marshmallows. Serve unsweet iced tea (or hot tea, cider, or coffee) and add a tray with sugar, artificial sweetener, and spoons for stirring. Provide guests with a dish in which to place used spoons.
Party tip: Bar mats under your drink dispensers will keep messy drips off of the table.
Bring On the Food
In this section, we’re sharing some of our favorite dishes to serve on a Christmas open house buffet along with their recipes. Nothing we serve requires silverware.
- Mini shrimp cocktails served in shot glasses. Pipe about a tablespoon of cocktail sauce in the bottom of the shot glass, add two chilled shrimp per shooter, and serve on a tray of ice.
- Make ahead mini cheese balls with pretzel stick handles. Buy ready-made cheese balls, then use a spoon to scoop out enough to make a 1″ ball. Roll into ball with your hands. Insert pretzel sticks just before serving. Two medium store-bought cheese balls should make about 2.5 dozen.
- Make ahead caprese skewers. Alternate grape tomatoes and mozzarella balls on bamboo skewers. Just before serving, drizzle with store bought balsamic glaze (not vinegar) and sprinkle with fresh chopped or dried basil.
- Cocktail Meat Balls: 16 oz jar of grape jelly, 16 oz bottle of Heinz chili sauce, 32 oz package of frozen meatballs. Mix jelly and chili sauce together in slow cooker, add frozen meatballs and stir until coated. Cook on low 3-4 hours. Provide toothpicks for serving.
- Smoky bacon wraps: 1 lb sliced pre-cooked bacon, 16 oz package of little smoky type sausages, 1/3 cup brown sugar. Cut each bacon slice into thirds and stretch to wrap one piece around each sausage. Secure by poking a toothpick through the sausage to hold bacon in place. Place bacon wrapped sausages in a large foil lined baking pan or cookie sheet and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until bacon is crisp and sausage is heated through. Note: we use the pre-cooked bacon because it crisps better and faster than uncooked, but uncooked bacon may be used with a longer cooking time. (Consider doubling the recipe because these will be gone in a flash.)
Party tip: Place a large, labeled tray near your kitchen sink where guests can set reusable items such as the shot glasses and wine glasses.
Grab a Plate
- Meat and cheese tray. Serve along with mustard, mayonnaise, and slider buns for make-it-yourself sandwiches.
Party tip: If guests will be making their own sandwiches, leave a space on the buffet table for them to set their plate down.
- Veggie Tray with store bought ranch dip. We slice the vegetables and arrange them ourselves. Try carrot and celery sticks, three different colors of bell peppers sliced into sticks, mini cucumbers, radishes, sugar snap peas (blanch then refrigerate sugar snaps before adding to the tray).
- Seven-layer Taco Dip. Layer: one large can of refried beans, one large tub of guacamole dip, one large container of sour cream mixed with 1 package of mild taco seasoning, 2 cups of shredded cheese of choice, chopped tomatoes – blotted dry with paper towels, large can of sliced black olives – drained, sliced green onions including tops. Serve with tortilla chips. (Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated but wait until just before serving to add the tomatoes, olives, and green onions.)
- Chunky Cranberry Salsa: 12 oz package of fresh cranberries, 1 cup sugar, 6 green onions – chopped, 1/2 cup cilantro leaves – chopped, 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and finely chopped, 8 oz package of cream cheese – softened. Pulse cranberries and sugar in food processor until coarsely chopped. Stir in onions, cilantro and jalapeno. Refrigerate at least two hours but better if refrigerated overnight. Place cream cheese block on serving plate, drain salsa then spoon about half of it over the cream cheese. (The remainder will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, but don’t expect it to last long because this stuff is addicting!) Serve with crackers and/or tortilla chips.
Party tip: Place a lined trash can near each drink and food area so guests can easily dispose of their trash.
Other Buffet Table Ideas
- Mixed nuts and/or mints
- Chips and salsa
- Dips, spreads and assorted crackers
- Pickle/relish tray
Oh, How Sweet
Desserts don’t have to be fancy, so we keep ours hand-held and simple. Here are some of our favorite store or bakery bought desserts.
- Assorted chocolates arranged on a tiered serving tray
- Brownie bites or fudge – place in pretty Christmas themed paper baking cups and arrange on a tray
- One bite petit fours or mini cupcakes on a cake stand or tiered tray
- Christmas cookie assortment
We are fortunate to have a little countertop in our dining room that works perfectly for a small dessert buffet. Dessert buffets can be set up anywhere though. Think: kitchen countertop, coffee table, entry table, desktop, bookcase etc.
Thank you so much for allowing us to share our Christmas entertaining tips and recipes. Whether you celebrate Christmas or other holidays, we hope we’ve given you some ideas that can be used for any party or family get together.
We hope each and every one of you are blessed with a joyful and safe holiday season.
Mike and Kellye
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!)