Gourmet Entertaining On A Budget
With all those guests lining up for your holiday party, you quickly may feel like a gourmet chef at the most popular restaurant in town — or worse, a short order cook holding off the lunch crowd. You needn’t spend tons of time in the kitchen to churn out a gourmet holiday party. Nor must you empty your pockets to fill your guests’ stomachs. And you don’t have to resort to chips and dip! “Nut blends, cheeses, flavorful oils and chocolates are great items to have on-hand to easily and cost-effectively dress up holiday fare,” says Josh Schroeter, co-founder of Sahale Snacks, a producer of healthy, all-natural snack foods. Here are some tips for turning ho-hum holiday entertaining into hooray crowd pleasers: * Make Finger Foods Sparkle: Choose different types of nut blends and glazed nuts for when guests arrive. Put each type in its own colorful bowl. Providing different flavors adds interest. Pair the nuts with sparkling cider or champagne to get the festivities started. * Liven Up Cheese Platters: Assemble three kinds of cheeses on a platter: one creamy , one aged and something unlike the other two . Instead of just plain fruit, sprinkle the platter with an exotic nut blend, like Sahale Snacks “Soledad Almonds,” with apple, flax seeds, dates, balsamic vinegar and red pepper. * Dress Up Your Sides: Drizzle truffle oil over ordinary potato casserole and you’ve transformed it into a gourmet dish. Experiment with different additions to your meal using herbs, spices and oils that pack a punch without costing a bunch. * Transform Winter Salads: Even if you don’t prepare your entire meal by hand, make a good impression with an easy, elegant salad. Start with a bag of spinach, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and sea salt. Toss the leaves, then add olive oil until well coated. Crumble blue cheese or goat cheese and add a handful of nuts and dried fruit, like Sahale Snacks’ “Valdosta Pecans” with black peppered pecans and cranberries. * Make It A Brunch: A holiday brunch may be perfect to fit your guests’ busy schedules that already may be packed with nighttime parties. Making a weekend brunch also can be easier on your wallet. And nothing says gourmet like a bevy of brunchtime benedicts featuring ham, smoked salmon, spinach and more. * Just Desserts: Nothing’s easier than an all-dessert party. Assemble winter fruit, nut and cheese dessert platters, adding artisan dark chocolate squares. Try this tasty combination: a buttery, triple-cream brie paired with squares of dark chocolate, persimmons or orange slices and a “Pomegranate Cashews” nut blend. Or pair a hard cheese with dried figs, semisweet chocolate and pistachios. For more holiday ideas and recipes, visit www.sahalesnacks.com, or facebook.com/sahalesnacks. “You need to get resourceful when entertaining on a budget. But that’s half the fun,” adds Schroeter.