Cheers and Nibbles
The Chili - Your Choice
The Breads - Your Choice
Desserts - Choose One or More!
Soup Du Jour
- Serve chili another night. Try one of these regional American soups for your casually elegant supper:
Tables, Seating and Centerpieces
- Succulent plants or pots of herbs in neutral pots or wrapped in handmade paper, and arranged on a platter or tray are casually elegant and can be enjoyed well after the holidays.
- Gather coordinating vases or pitchers from around the house and fill with evergreens. Add a decorative piece, like a bird, reindeer or snowman. Arrange on table runner with a few chunky candles.
- Mix-and-match neutral dinnerware and linens. Add color with ribbon used to tie the napkins; tuck in sprigs of fresh herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme or add tags with guest’s names.
- Borrow soup bowls and soup spoons if you’ve not enough. For a stand-up or eat-on-your-lap casual evening, consider serving soup in over-sized mugs.
Gather Friends for a Seasonal Ale Tasting
- Casual gatherings like this one are perfect for holiday reunions with out-of-town friends who are home from work in other cities or university. If age allows, a tasting of seasonal ales might be just the way to mix and mingle.
- Many microbreweries and regional brewers offer seasonal ales during the holidays. If beer is part of what you enjoy drinking, look for some to share.
- Here’s some Seasonal Ale Tasting advice:
- Everyone has an opinion. Tasting a selection of seasonal ales gives guests a way to mix and mingle when they may just be getting acquainted. If you know each other well, you will know how competitive your friends like to be!
- Tasting seasonal ale can be as simple as offering a variety of brands to having a formal tasting, like you would with wine. There are many online sources for setting one up. Making your selections based on regions of the country or brewers you favor is fun, making this our choice for an informal tasting that won’t put newer friends on the spot.
- Offer four small tasting samples all offered at the same temperature, offer a chunk of bread between sips and evaluate for color, aroma, taste, mouth feel and drinkability. Choose a favorite.
- Even if you don't have an open fire, consider roasting and munching on chestnuts at a casual gathering like this; it’s an often-overlooked seasonal treat.
- Prepare the chestnuts by making a cut through the flat side of the shells, then place them cut sides up on a cookie sheet. Roast in a 400°F oven for about 20 minutes or until they are tender (test by poking a fork through the cut in the shell).
- Place the roasted nuts in a heatproof bowl for guests to peel—the aroma is earthy and warm.
- Here's a little chestnut trivia: Nutritionally, they're the only nut with any vitamin C, offering 43 percent of the Daily Value in a 3/4-cup serving. Chestnuts are lower in fat, too. A 3/4-cup portion of chestnuts contains 2 grams of fat, compared to 50 grams for peanuts or almonds!
Up to 1 Week Before
- Decide which chili and dessert you’ll serve to make Grocery List.
- Make and freeze Frozen Cranberry Margaritas.
The Day Before
- Make selected dessert—unless made even earlier using recipe’s Do-Ahead Tips or directions! Cover Key Lime Yogurt Pie after set. Wait to add chocolate drizzle to Maple Pecan Pie until closer to serving time; refrigerate cooled pie.
Early in the Day
- Prepare selected chili. Those in a slow cooker need the time and others always taste better when reheated! Or wait to make those not in slow cookers until closer to serving. Just follow the recipe directions.
- Prepare Cheese & Olive Appetizer Tree ahead, if you’ve room in your fridge!
Up to 3 Hours Before Dinner
- Make Festive Ham and Cheese Wreath (if served), using recipe’s Make-Ahead Tip.
- Make Southwestern Dip; cover and refrigerate.
About 45 Minutes Before Dinner
- Make Green Chile Cornbread (if served).
- Bake Festive Ham and Cheese Wreath.
About 10 Minutes Before Serving Appetizers
- Spoon Southwestern Dip into serving dish; add to platter or shallow basket filled with tortilla chips.
- Set out Cheese & Olive Appetizer Tree.
- Set up drinks serving area.
As Guests Arrive
- Serve Frozen Cranberry Margaritas.
- Offer seasonal toast to guests; enjoy appetizers with them!
Last-Minute Dinner Prep
- Reheat any made-ahead chili.