Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Entertaining

By Fine

'Tis the season to be jolly! Gather your friends and family, and share some holiday cheer with these entertaining ideas.

Decorate Naturally

It's time to deck the halls! For your holiday gathering, create a festive atmosphere in your home, but forego those store-bought decorations. Do it simply and naturally with real boughs of holly, ivy and mistletoe. According to, holly represents immortality and is a plant of good omen; ivy is thought to bring good luck and happiness; and mistletoe offers protection, peace and bestows life and fertility. It'll give your home a festive, earthy feeling - plus that mistletoe just might give your guests something to talk about!

Holiday Scents

A great way to welcome friends into your home is through the aroma of simmering mulling spices. You can steep the spices in either low boiling water, allowing the scents to fill the air; or you can use it for mulling wine or cider, and serve as a warm winter beverage. Make your own mix by simply combining cinnamon sticks, whole nutmeg, dried orange and lemon peel, allspice, berries, cloves and crystallized ginger. Place in double layers of cheesecloth and then get brewing! Visit our link for recipes.

Go Potluck

Want to entertain without all the stress? Throw a potluck dinner. Try something different and encourage guests to bring one of their favorite holiday dishes. Traditional favorites include turkey and stuffing for Thanksgiving; Christmas pudding and oyster stew for Christmas; sufganiyot (donuts) and latkes for Chanukah; and sweet potatoes and banana custard with raisins for Kwanzaa. To find a variety of delicious recipes, visit our link.

Seasonal Spills

When you invite people over for a festive gathering, chances are something is going to spill. If red wine stains your carpet, first blot it with a clean cloth, then sprinkle a little bit of salt on the area. Leave it until it has absorbed the stain, and when it's dry, vacuum it up. Or, if you find water rings on wood, use a combination treatment of an abrasive and lubricant, such as an auto-polishing compound, to buff and polish it away. We've got more holiday quick fixes for you.,,165864_548542,00.html?arrivalSA=1&arrival_freqCap=2

Hostess Gift

Got a full social calendar during the holidays? If you've been invited to someone's home, bring a hostess gift. It's not obligatory, yet it is a thoughtful way to give thanks and show your appreciation for their hospitality. Try to think about your host's interests, such as bringing a nice bottle of wine to the oenophile or aged balsamic vinegar for the gourmet. We've got some great ideas that won't break your bank, especially when there's a party every weekend!

Serving Beverages

Raise your glass and toast the holidays! When you have people coming over, interior designer Sheila Bridges recommends premixing your cocktails so you can spend your time mingling; keep drinks on ice in galvanized steel or plastic containers; and use unique containers for a creative look. To get into the holiday spirit, skip the eggnog (too heavy!) and warm the cockles of their hearts with holiday cocktails such as Hot Buttered Rum, a classy Kir Royale or Gingersnap Punch. We'll get you mixing in no time.

Tree-Trimming Party

This season, invite friends over for a tree-trimming party. It's a fun and interactive way to celebrate. You supply the tree, your guests supply the ornaments. Go eco-friendly and choose a potted version, such as a deciduous or evergreen tree. This way you won't have to throw it away when the season is over. Make sure the pot is proportionate to the size of your tree; it should have a drain hole; and try to find a potting mix that is equal proportions of compost, shredded bark, leaf mold and sand. For a list of trees that thrive in containers, visit our link.,1785,HGTV_3644_1390120,00.html

Festive Finger Foods

At your soiree, be sure to serve a variety of finger foods. Minimize your time in the kitchen by serving room temperature items that can stay out on your table during the duration of the event. According to, professional caterers estimate 10-12 items total per person for appetizers. Before you entertain that crowd, explore our link for a variety of savory foods, including White Bean Hummus Dip, Grilled Eggplant Bruschetta and Herbed Spiced Nuts.,1801,HGTV_3115_1383352,00.html

Sending Invitations

So, you've chosen a date and marked your calendar for your festive fete. Now it's time for the invitations. If it's a formal event, send custom printed invites four to six weeks in advance. Going casual? Use store-bought invites and mail them two weeks in advance. Be sure to include the day, date and time of party; the place; suggested dress (casual to formal); and a phone number for RSVP. Visit our link for more holiday planning ideas.

Throw a Holiday Party

Long on friends but short on square footage? Why not invite friends over for an open house where guests simply drop by at different times during your soiree. If you stagger the arrival of each guest, you won't be overwhelmed with too many people in your home at the same time. Now even apartment dwellers can invite the whole clan. For more tips, visit our link.

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Easy Chicken Pasta

Easy Chicken Pasta

What's For Supper Ya'll?

White Beans, Pasta and Chicken
8 ounces dried cavatappi, fusilli, rotini, ditaloni, or other short pasta tubes
1 15- to 19-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
12 ounces cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional - I usually skip it)
Olive oil (optional - but I recommend at least a little for moisture)
1. In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions; drain well and set aside.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine 3/4 cup of the beans and the chicken broth. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Place bean puree in pan used for cooking the pasta; bring to boiling. Return pasta to pan.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook garlic in 1 tablespoon hot olive oil for 1 minute. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining beans, shredded chicken, snipped parsley, pepper and salt. Heat through.
4. Add the tomato mixture to hot pasta; toss to cost. Top with parsley sprigs and additional olive oil. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Posted by Stacy Nelson, Easy Dinner

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