From edible gifts to festive cocktails, Cooking Channel stars Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark have the helpful lowdown on holiday entertaining.
Rule of thumb for holiday entertaining:
Don’t be afraid of shortcuts! The holidays are full of travel and stress and shopping and in the chaos to make everything perfect, it’s easy to make yourself miserable. So plan ahead and know what you’ll be serving, but don’t be afraid to make things easier by buying side dishes from your favorite deli instead of whipping them all up yourself, or don’t be afraid to serve one cocktail instead of having a full bar set up. You can even skip getting dessert and ask a few guests to bring their favorite pies or baked goods. In essence: don’t kill yourself. No one wants you to be exhausted and grouchy.
Simple appetizer idea:
A simple no-cook appetizer that we love is nutty, whole wheat crackers topped with goat cheese, sliced dried apricots, and a drizzle of honey. They’re elegant and easy, and are the perfect snack while your guests are mingling.
No-fail holiday cocktail:
Bourbon is the quintessential holiday liquor. It’s warming and robust, and using warm coffee as the base makes for a perfect winter cocktail. Below is our Cafe Cinnabourbon, which uses the Skinny Latte Macchiatto from Nescafe Dolce Gusto, so you can save your calories for the important stuff (see below).
1 oz bourbon whiskey
1/2 oz cinnamon liqueur
1 Nescafe Dolce Gusto Skinny Latte Macchiatto
Add the first two ingredients to a mug and stir lightly. Brew one Nescafe Dolce Gusto Skinny Latte Macchiatto over the mixture. Stir lightly, dust with cinnamon and toast to coziness in liquid form.
Festive holiday dessert:
Our favorite holiday dessert is a trifle: which is a fancy way of saying: take some stuff and layer it in a pretty dish. This way, your cake doesn’t have to be perfect: it just has to taste good. Layer a fluffy white cake with whipped cream, toffee bits, espresso-spiked pudding and repeat until you fill up the dish in a pretty parfait. You can get creative with whatever combinations of custard, cake and whipped cream you like. Dust with cocoa powder or powdered sugar and serve onto plates. Note: make a second one for yourself for after the party because there will not be leftovers.
Must-try cookie for holiday exchange:
We made a really wonderful spicy holiday cookie using chai latte in the icing and it’s perfect for dipping in coffee (or a warm cocktail) or enjoying on its own. Trust us.
Spice Cookies with Chai Tea Glaze by Alie & Georgia
For the cookies:
2 ¼ cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. black pepper
⅛ tsp. ground cloves
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup molasses
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves. Set aside.
2. Beat the butter for 2 minutes until fluffy, then add the white and brown sugars and continue to beat for 3 minutes at medium speed. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and molasses and beat until all ingredients are incorporated. Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat on low just until dough has formed.
3. Roll 2 tbsp. of dough into balls and place well spaced on an ungreased cookie sheet, about 8 per sheet, then bake for about 13 minutes until the cookies are brown and crisp. Let cool on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack while you make the glaze.
For the chai tea glaze:
1 pod Nescafe Dolce Gusto Chai Tea Latte, tea pod only
2 ½ – 3 cups confectioners sugar
sea salt for finishing
1. Prepare 1 tea pod of Nescafe Dolce Gusto Chai Tea Latte, setting aside the milk pod for another use.
2. Add confectioners sugar, ½ a cup at a time until 2 ½ – 3 cups, and beat with a hand mixer until desired consistency is reached. The glaze should be thickened and creamy but not stiff.
3. Spoon glaze over each cooled cookie and spread so that the tops of every cookie is covered (about 2 tbsp per cookie).
4. Let the cookies set for about ten minutes, then sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt crystals.
Giftable food item for kids’ teachers and neighbors:
One of our favorite kitchen staples is unctuous umami truffle salt. It takes dishes to a whole new level, and gives your favorite foods that extra umpf. You can find small jars at specialty stores, and wrapped in butcher paper and tied with twine, it makes a perfect little practical gift that everyone can use. For a little something extra and rustic, tuck a small wooden or ceramic spoon into the twine.