Holiday Hosting Recipes and Tips

We recently threw our 5th (should have been 7th) Annual Fakesgiving. The tradition started back in 2009 when I was faced with hosting Thanksgiving for the first time. I decided that having a friend version would be a fun way to do a test-run of recipes and practice hosting a large group for a sit-down dinner.


After that first year (or maybe it was after the second?), we switched it up and made it more of a cocktail party, with Thanksgiving-themed appetizers and hors d’oeuvres. We have missed two years along the way, once because Nolan had a stomach bug and once because Will was born. Kids…

I quickly learned that anything you can make ahead, or at the very least prep ahead, is key to enjoying yourself during a party. The catch is, the hours and days leading up to the party are totally consumed by preparation. For this year’s Fakesgiving I did everything ahead of time, and with the exception of making cocktails and taking a few things out of the oven, I ate and drank and chatted the whole party. But…not including the grocery shopping, I spent two ENTIRE days, cooking and prepping. I didn’t take any shortcuts in most cases, so I’ll indicate below where you could save time by doing that.

Here are a few recipes I used. They would be great year-round but they’re especially good for fall and winter parties.

Baguette with Goat Cheese, Walnuts, and Honey – adapted from Epicurious

1 baguette, sliced into half-inch slices (about 36)

6-8 ounces of goat cheese, (remove from fridge at least 30 minutes before using)

1/2 cup of chopped walnuts

honey, for drizzling

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Cover a large baking sheet with foil. Spread goat cheese on each bread slice and line up on baking sheet. (NOTE: Don’t be skimpy with the goat cheese here.When these cook in the oven, the cheese loses some of its strong flavor and it melts into the bread a bit.)   Sprinkle the walnuts and a little salt and pepper over all the slices and then bake for about five minute until everything is warmed and the walnuts have started to toast.

Remove from the oven and generously drizzle the honey over each piece. Serve immediately.

MAKE AHEAD TIPS: Cut the baguette the day before and store the bread in a ziploc bag, Chop the walnuts and store in a tightly closed bag or container. This dish was probably the only one I made that required any right-before-the-party steps.

Spinach, Bacon, and Onion Dip – Martha Stewart

Over the years, I’ve made a few different hot and cold spinach dips.  I think this might be my new favorite. It was gone very quickly, so I think in the future I would double the recipe and just use a larger dish. I followed the recipe exactly and wouldn’t change a thing! I served it with pita chips, which I made the mistake of making myself. While they’re tasty, it’s a step I would probably skip next time.

MAKE AHEAD TIPS: I prepared the dip early in the day (up to the oven step) and stored it in the fridge. I removed it from the fridge about an hour before I cooked it so it could come to room temperature and then followed the cooking instructions.Because it was probably still a little cold, I baked it for a few extra minutes before turning on the broiler.

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms – Barefoot Contessa

Let me preface this recipe by saying I don’t like mushrooms and I’m not crazy about sausage. That being said, I think these are ridiculously good. The recipe calls for 16 extra-large white mushrooms and I purchased 24. Apparently they weren’t as large as they should have been, because I increased the amounts by 1.5x and I had so much filling left over. A  party guest took the rest home to enjoy. With the exception of leaving out the marsala wine (I think it’s disgusting) and lining the pan with foil (easy clean up!), I follow the recipe exactly.

MAKE AHEAD TIPS: I made the filling the day before and stuffed the mushrooms a few hours before baking them. Again, remove everything from the fridge around an hour before cooking so it can warm up a bit.

Apple Thyme Martini – Adapted from The Stripe

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 10.33.25 AM

Makes 2 cocktails

4 ounces vodka

4 ounces apple juice or apple cider

2 Tablespoons thyme simple syrup*

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake for 20-30 seconds and serve.

*Simple syrup is the best way to sweeten up a drink. It can be flavored in so many ways! This thyme simple syrup is perfect for a fall drink. Combine 1 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat and boil for two minutes. Add a few sprigs of thyme and boil an additional 2-3 minutes. Cool and refrigerate.

I hope you can use some of these recipes at your holiday gatherings this year. I have a few more up my sleeve that I’ll try to share before Thanksgiving!





Beef Brisket

Brisket is a great meal for entertaining because it’s meat and vegetables all in one dish, AND you prepare it ahead of time and let it cook for about three hours. Beef brisket = happy hostess.

This is adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe which is designed for ten people. The preparation below serves between four and six (depending on the crowd).

3lb beef brisket – get it from the butcher, it makes all the difference
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 lb of carrots, peeled and cut into two-inch diagonal chunks
4 stalks of celery, well cleaned and cut into two-inch chunks
2-3 yellow onions, peeled and sliced in half rings
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of  black pepper
1 teaspoon dried (NOT fresh) oregano leaves
23 ounces of tomato juice (low sodium if you prefer)

Take the meat out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking to bring it closer to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get started on the rub. Combine the 2 cloves of minced garlic, tablespoon of salt, teaspoon of pepper and teaspoon of oregano in a small bowl and mix them all together.

Bleck! The lighting in my kitchen is terrible! Peel and chop the carrots, chop the celery and slice the onions.

Put the brisket in a medium roasting pan and pat it dry with a paper towel. Cover it with the rub you made before. This brisket was a little too fatty on top; you can ask the butcher to trim the meat however you like it.

Pile the veggies on top of the meat and pour the tomato juice over it until the juice is three quarters of the way up the meat. Lay the bay leaves on top of everything.

Apparently aluminum foil and tomato juice/sauce don’t mesh. Therefore, you have to cover the meat with parchment paper (buy it in the same section as the aluminum foil) BEFORE you wrap the roasting pan in aluminum foil.

Stick it in the oven and leave it alone! After three hours it should be done. Word to the wise: use an oven mitt to remove the foil because the steam that escapes from the pan is a million degrees and will burn you (as it did me). The meat should be easy to cut through when it’s done.

Remove the meat to a pan or cookie sheet and cover it tightly with foil. Put the roasting pan with the veggies and sauce over a burner (or two if the pan is large) and cook over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes,or until the sauce thickens.

Slice the meat and pour veggies and sauce over it. Be sure to discard the bay leaves before serving! Word to the wise #2: Even if you’re not serving all the meat at once, slice it up. Once it’s refrigerated, it’s nearly impossible to slice.

Printable Version