THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO HOSTING A PARTY DURING THE HOLIDAYS: 5 Festive Recipes + 7 Simple Solutions That Minimize Stress and Maximize Success - Part 2


A party is deemed successful if the host remains calm and accommodating, guests feel happy and full, and the foods and cocktails are eye-catching and delicious. 

Which is what brings us to....


Part 2: 5 festive recipes that are all manageable for hosts to prepare, impressively 
delicious for guests to enjoy, and made with seasonal flavors perfect for all holiday gatherings.


My goal is to provide 5 recipes that fit the above description, adding delicious victory to any holiday party. Reviewing recommendations from the stress-reducing solutions and effortless party-hosting tips discussed in part 1 helped me narrow down menu choices conducive to my goal. To simplify things further, a list of practical kitchen tools and convenient seasonal snacks are provided at the end of the post.

To promote a less chaotic experience for holiday party hosts, 
the 5 recipes shared below are all:

Quick to Make: it takes roughly 1 hour of active prep time to prepare all 5 recipes.

Uncomplicatedaside from kitchen staples like utensils, mixing bowls, and measuring tools, a food processor is the only required large appliance for all 5 recipes.

Prepared Beforehand: offering the option to prepare recipes before the day of the party lessens worry and creates more free time on the party day.

Free of Most Common Allergens: all 5 recipes are free of gluten, wheat, soy, corn, dairy, eggs, shellfish, and peanuts, lowering host and guest concern for adverse food reactions.

Made with Minimal Ingredients: only 28 ingredients are needed to make all 5 recipes, with many used more than once.

Made with Products Available to Purchase Online: 25 of the 28 ingredients, along with the food processor, can be purchased online from one place; Vitacost.

Festive and Flavorful: all 5 recipes are prepared with holiday-inspired flavors and colors, making them suitable to serve at any holiday celebration.


Sparkling Cranberry Holiday Cocktail
(perfect for any holiday gathering)

Impress your guests with this light, refreshing, and bubbly beverage perfect for both Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. The cocktail's vibrant colors and seasonal flavors will have party-goers believing this memorable concoction required hours of time to create. What they don’t have to know is it takes only 5 minutes to prepare and is incredibly easy to make; just pour, stir, and serve. An equally impressive alcohol-free version is also provided in the notes section.

Active Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Makes three 64 ounce pitchers
Serves 24
1 serving is 1 cup of cocktail
Needed kitchen items: three 64-ounce pitchers, measuring cups, a cutting knife, and a large spoon.

Ingredients

9 cups cranberry ginger mixer, divided (3 bottles)
2¼ cups orange juice, divided (see notes)
12 slices of orange, divided
15 cinnamon sticks, divided
5¼ cups (14 oz.) rum, preferably light rum, divided (see notes)
9 cups unsweetened sparkling water, divided
Optional: mint leaves, orange slices, and cinnamon sticks for garnish

Method

Complete steps 1-2 one day before the party.
1. Pour 3 cups cranberry ginger mix, ¾ cup orange juice, 4 orange slices, and 5 cinnamon sticks in one pitcher. Repeat this step for the second and third pitchers.
2. Stir and place pitchers in the fridge.

Complete step 3 the day of the party.
3. Add 1¾ cups rum and 3 cups sparkling water to each pitcher. Stir, Serve in a tall cocktail tumbler filled with ice. Garnish with mint, orange slices, and cinnamon sticks if desired.

Notes:
- alcohol-free option: omit the rum and add an additional 1¾ cups sparkling water to each pitcher.
- use fresh or bottled orange juice in this recipe. If you enjoy drinking fresh-squeezed orange or grapefruit juices or would like an easy way to extract fresh citrus juice, I recommend a citrus juicer, like this one. They're incredibly convenient and easy to use!
- you can also substitute rum with vodka.

Sweet Potato “Cheesecake” Parfaits
(perfect for any Thanksgiving gathering)


Unlike a traditional cheesecake, these sweet potato cheesecake parfaits are no-bake, fun to make, easy to assemble, and leave no reason to stress about the dreaded crack appearing. Guests will wonder if these parfaits are rich with dairy and eggs by their delectable cheesecake texture and flavor. Let them know they’re vegan-friendly and made with simple, whole ingredients, which will pleasantly surprise the entire holiday crowd. Pumpkin is a staple ingredient on Thanksgiving day, and switching things up at the party by offering a dessert made with sweet potatoes will definitely please many individuals who are sick of pumpkin. 

Active Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Makes 24 four-ounce glass cups
Serves: 24
1 serving is one 4 oz. glass cup
Needed kitchen items: food processor, can opener, large mixing bowl, measuring cups, measuring spoons, regular spoon, and twenty-four 4-ounce cups.

Ingredients

Cookie Crust Layer
3 boxes vegan toasted pecan cookies, crumbled (see notes)

Pumpkin Cheesecake Layer
6 cups unsalted, raw cashews
2¼ cups canned sweet potato
1½ cups coconut cream
1 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons unsulfured molasses 
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground ginger

Whipped Coconut Cream Layer
6 cans coconut cream (see notes)

Method

Complete steps 1-2 two days before the party.
1. Soak cashews in water for at least 6 hours, preferably 12.
2. Place 6 cans of coconut cream in the fridge.

Complete steps 3-12 the day before the party.
3. For the cookie crust, place the cookies in food processor and blend until a cookie crumble forms. Set aside.
4. For the pumpkin cheesecake, drain the cashews and add them to a food processor along with the rest of the cheesecake layer ingredients.
5. Turn processor on and blend until mixture is smooth and creamy, about 4-5 minutes. Stop to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times, or as necessary. Pour mixture into a bowl.
6. Place the cheesecake mixture in the fridge while you make the whipped topping.
7. For the whipped topping, scoop solid portion of the coconut cream into the food processor.
8. Turn processor on and blend coconut cream until smooth and fluffy.
9. To assemble, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the cookie crust layer into a 4 oz. glass. Next, spoon about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin cheesecake layer on top of the cookie crust layer. Then, spoon about 2 tablespoons of whipped coconut cream layer on top of the pumpkin cheesecake layer. Repeat this process until two of each layer is formed in one serving glass.
10. Sprinkle with cinnamon and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Notes:
- this recipe makes a lot! If you have a 12-cup food processor or smaller, I recommend preparing half of the recipe at a time.
- feel free to use your favorite cookie for the crust. To keep it seasonal, look for cinnamon, pecan, or spiced vanilla cookie flavors.
- to save time, look for your favorite dairy-free whipped cream at your local grocery store to replace homemade whipping coconut cream.

Walnut and Pumpkin Seed Cranberry Spread
(perfect for any Thanksgiving gathering)




Every party host needs a dish that’s versatile, tasty, and quick to make. Luck has it that this Thanksgiving-inspired spread fits the bill! Ditch the utensils and serve it with a variety of foods, from crackers and cheese to turkey, fruit, toasted bread, and cornbread. The different textures and sweet and salty flavors make it both a thanksgiving party necessity and an ultimate crowd-pleaser.

Active Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes
Makes 6 cups
Serves 24
1 serving is ¼ cup spread
Needed kitchen items: oven, chopping knife, large mixing bowl, large spoon, measuring spoons, measuring cups, and zester

Ingredients

4 cups walnuts
2 cups pumpkin seeds
¾ cup olive oil
½ cup orange juice (about 3 oranges)
¼ cup maple syrup
Zest of 1 orange (about 1 rounded teaspoon)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (see notes)
1½ cups dried cranberries

Method

Complete steps 1-4 the day before the party
1. Toast walnuts in an oven set to 350F for 8 minutes, or until fragrant, stirring once at the midway point.
2.  Chop toasted walnuts into small pieces. You can also use the food processor to pulse the walnuts until you get desired sized pieces.
3. Pour walnuts into a mixing bowl along with the remainder of ingredients. Stir well to combine.
4. Spoon mixture into serving bowl. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

Notes:
- for added heat, add more red pepper flakes until desired taste is reached.
- choose soy-free vegan cheese to keep this dish free of dairy and soy.

Spiced Caramel Fruit Dip
(perfect for any Christmas celebration)



Don’t waste time searching endlessly for a seasonal fruit dip that actually tastes good and isn’t loaded with junk! Instead, prepare this junk-free fruit dip made with seven easy to find, nutritious ingredients. It will without a doubt please both adults and kids with its addicting sweetness and smooth texture. Caramel, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger are used to create a flavorful must-have dish for all Christmas celebrations. The serving options are endless since these flavors pair nicely with a variety of foods.

Active prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Makes 4 cups
Serves 32
1 serving is 2 tablespoons

Ingredients

4 cups unsalted, raw cashews
2 cup dates, pitted
1½ cups pure maple syrup
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt

Method

Complete step 1 two days before the party:
1. Soak cashews in water for at least 6 hours, preferably 12.

Complete steps 2-4 one day before the party.
2. Drain cashews and add to a food processor along with the remainder of ingredients.
3. Mix until dip is smooth and creamy, about 8-10 minutes. Stop to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times during the mixing process.
4. Spoon dip into the serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Homemade Dairy-Free Coffee Creamer – 2 Ways
(perfect for any Christmas gathering)



Offer ways for party guests to spruce up a cup of joe with one, or both, of the two dairy-free homemade coffee creamers. The peppermint mocha creamer satisfies chocoholics, and the cinnamon sugar Christmas cookie creamer satisfies vanilla fans, providing tasty flavors for everyone to love. Both creamers are equally delectable and free of unwanted ingredients commonly found in store-bought coffee creamers like refined sugars, soy, preservatives, and artificial flavors. Add a fun element to the coffee station with topping options like festive sprinkles, chocolate syrup, crushed candy cane, whipped cream, and marshmallows.

1. Peppermint Mocha Coffee Creamer


Active prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Makes 4 cups
Serves: 16
1 serving is ¼ cup creamer
Required kitchen items: food processor, can opener, measuring spoons, measuring cups, and spoon.

Ingredients

Offer optional toppings so guests can add extra YUM to their coffee.
2 (15 oz.) cans light coconut milk
½ cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup cacao powder
2 teaspoons peppermint extract

Optional Toppings: Mint Chocolate Chip Marshmallows, Chocolate Syrup, Whipped Cream, Red Sprinkles, Green Sprinkle

Method

Complete all steps as early as 3 days before the party
1. Blend all 4 ingredients together in a food processor (a or blender) until smooth.
2. Pour into serving container and store in the fridge.
3. When ready to serve, gently shake and swirl to ensure ingredients are mixed evenly.

Notes:
- a large mixing bowl can also be used in place of a food processor. Put all ingredients into the bowl and whisk until smooth and well combined.

2. Cinnamon Sugar Christmas Cookie Coffee Creamer


Active prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Makes 4 cups
Serves: 16
1 serving is ¼ cup creamer
Required kitchen items: food processor, can openermeasuring spoons, measuring cups, and spoon.

Ingredients

2 (15 oz.) cans light coconut milk
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Optional Toppings: Marshmallows, Whipped Cream, Caramel Sauce, Red Sprinkles, Green Sprinkles

Method

Complete all steps as early as 3 days before the party
1. Blend all 4 ingredients together in a food processor (a or blender) until smooth.
2. Pour into serving container and store in the fridge.
3. When ready to serve, gently shake and swirl to ensure ingredients are mixed evenly.

Notes:
- a large mixing bowl can also be used in place of a food processor. Put all ingredients into the bowl and whisk until smooth and well combined.


A List of Kitchen Products Available on Vitacost

Cut time and effort during the holiday season by shopping online for kitchen needs, especially since crowds and traffic are at an all-time high this time of year. Luckily, Vitacost has a wide assortment of kitchen staples, from food to common appliances and gadgets. Below are products I found on Vitacost that are useful when preparing the recipes in this post, plus recommended products that I personally find valuable in the kitchen. All of the recipe ingredient links are located at each recipe’s ingredient list.

Kitchen Appliances:

Cold Brew Coffee Maker: I LOVE this product. I never had a simple way to make cold-brew coffee, but this has been a lifesaver for me. It stores easily in the fridge and has a clean, modern look.
8-cup Food Processor: the one large appliance needed for all 5 recipes. Click here to browse other options.
Citrus Juicer: I use citrus juice often in recipes. Drinking fresh OJ is also a favorite of mine. This just makes extracting fresh citrus juice little easier. 
Mini Cupcake Maker: I couldn’t help myself but to share this. I listed these pumpkin muffins below as an idea for the holiday food table – and this cupcake maker would be a convenient way to create mini cupcakes! I think it would also be so fun for a little kid baker, too! Maybe a Christmas gift idea?!
Click Here to browse other useful kitchen appliances 

Kitchen Tools:

4 in 1 Can Opener: has a wrench for grip twist, pull-tab lifter, pop-top opener, and can opener.
Mixing Bowl Set: 3 mixing bowls that are BPA free and made in the USA from 100% recycled #5 plastic.
Measuring Set: 4 stainless steel measuring cups and 4 stainless steel measuring spoons.
5 Piece Bamboo Set: these are my favorite tools to use when I cook. 
Salad Spinner: a must-have for anyone who eats lettuce and salads. I use mine all the time. It helps keep lettuce fresh for longer period of time, too.
Click Here to browse other useful kitchen tools 

Additional Food & Beverage Ideas for the Holiday Celebration


Seasonal snacks are a host's best friend, 
providing easy options for the party food table. 


Pictured clockwise, from left to right:

Pictured in the center: Coffee with Mocha Peppermint Coffee Creamer (recipe shared in Part 2) topped with






Thanksgiving Themed Snack Ideas:

Sweet Potato and Apple Fruit Strips: a festive treat that kids will love.
Pumpkin Seed Cheddar Crackers
Sprouted Crackers: I topped these with cheese and my walnut and pumpkin seed cranberry spread. Yum!
Pumpkin Muffin Mix: my whole family loves these muffins. These would be fun to bake in the mini cupcake maker mentioned earlier.
Maple Pumpkin Butter: toast slices of baguette and top with goat cheese and this pumpkin butter for a quick and yummy hors-d'oeuvre.
Dairy-Free Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer: add this 3rd coffee creamer next to the coffee for the pumpkin lovers.
Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Bark
Pre-Brew Coffee Pumpkin Spices: offer hot coffee infused with pumpkin spices by simply adding this to fresh ground coffee before brewing
Chai Pumpkin Spice Tea: a festive option for those who prefer tea over coffee

Click Here to browse all things pumpkin
Click Here to browse all things sweet potato
Click Here to browse all things apple

Christmas Themed Snack Ideas:

Mint Chocolate Chip Marshmallows: place these next to the coffee for a fun topping that pairs perfectly with the mocha peppermint coffee creamer
Chocolate Mint Mix: a healthier choice for a vegan hot cocoa mix. Have these at the beverage table for a kid-friendly option.
Chocolate Brownie Mix: add peppermint extract to the batter for a mint chocolate brownie treat
Cranberry Trail Mix: It’s as easy as pouring in a bowl and setting it on the food table for a seasonal snack option.
Cranberry Fruit Spread: add on top of warm brie cheese (or your favorite soft cheese) and serve with crackers for tasty Christmas hors-d'oeuvres. If you’re not a fan of cranberries, this orange marmalade is another yummy option to serve on top of warm brie.
Gluten-Free Sugar Cookie Mix: free of all major food allergens.
Gourmet Candy Canes: if you decide to make goody bags, these would make a sweet addition. Or set these by the door for people to enjoy as they depart.
Candy Cane Green Tea: a seasonal tea perfect for a Christmas gathering

Click Here to browse all things mint chocolate
Click Here to browse all things cranberry
Click Here to browse all things peppermint candy



32 comments:

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